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Mallorca: The Island Of Tranquility

Compliments of Holland America Line

Mariner Magazine

LYING SOME 60 MILES OFF THE COAST OF SPAIN, MALLORCA is the largest of the Balearic Islands, with some 310 miles of sparkling coastline. The ideal climate and strategic location have attracted a variety of outsiders over the years, enriching the island with Roman, Arab and European influences.

People here still take life slowly, with time to sit in the shade, take siestas and enjoy the outdoors. And what outdoors they have to enjoy! The pine-covered slopes of the Tramuntana range soar majestically to the sky, leaning towards the sea to ward off the harsh north wind of winter. They also provide the island with plenty of fresh water, nourishing valleys, hillside terraces of lemon, orange and olive groves and lush vineyards.

They also provide the island with plenty of fresh water, nourishing valleys, hillside terraces of lemon, orange and olive groves and lush vineyards. In valleys all along the coast you'll find little fishing villages tucked away, with narrow winding lanes leading past cozy stone cottages and old Moorish estates. Part natural beauty, part glamour - no wonder writers, painters and musicians have found inspiration here.  

An intriguing past.

Located on the trade routes of the Mediterranean, Mallorca blends cultures as varied as the ingredients you'll find in a hearty paella. After Bronze Age cave dwellers came the first Romans, who established a military post here to stamp out pirates. Later came the Moors, who dominated the island from the 10th to the 13th centuries. You can still see evidence of their occupation in the dry stone walls forming hillside terraces, and in irrigation tanks, wells and channels built to water the farmland.

The language, too, is a mix: the native tongue is Catalan, but almost everyone speaks Castilian Spanish, which sounds like a cross between Spanish and French.

Haven for jetsetters old and new.

Mallorca has become a favorite escape for the rich and famous, from Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas to tycoon Richard Branson and supermodel Claudia Schiffer, all of whom have residences on the northern end of the island. They weren't the first to discover the island's charms, either.

When Frédéric Chopin and George Sand spent their famous "winter of discontent" on Mallorca in 1838-1839, Chopin was mesmerized. "Here I am in the midst of palms and cedars and cactuses and olives and lemons and aloes and figs and pomegranates," he gushed. "The sky is turquoise blue, the sea is azure, the mountains are emerald green. All day long the sun shines and it is warm, and everybody wears summer clothes."

Today, Mallorca holds those same attractions along with many more, including magnificent Gothic landmarks, delectable beaches and intimate tapas bars.

Capital by the sea.

Palma de Mallorca is the capital of the Balearic Islands and makes a dramatic impression on those who arrive by sea. Palma's skyline is punctuated by the city's Gothic cathedral, known as La Seu, and Gothic Bellver Castle. In fact, much of the city retains a Gothic feel.

Palma Cathedral is one of Spain's most breathtaking buildings. Built over a span of 400 years, it was completed in 1601 and includes an interior remodeled by Antoni Gaudí, whose bizarre wrought-iron canopy soars above the altar. Gargoyles adorn the outside of the church, and the massive eastern window is composed of over 1,200 pieces of stained glass.

Dreamy mountain villages and coastal towns.

Throughout the island you'll find sleepy towns with their own stories to tell. Picturesque Deiá, where the writer Robert Graves lived much of his life, visited by celebs such as Alec Guinness, Peter Ustinov, Ava Gardner and Anaďs Nin. Sóller, with its Gothic church and ancient stone houses, once the homes of rich fruit merchants. Fashionably chic Andratx, with yachts at rest in the harbor. And Pollenca, with its Moorish estates. Then of course there is Valldemossa, where Chopin wrote his Raindrop Prelude in the cell of a Carthusian monastery.

Mallorca is an easy place to spend enchanted hours strolling down narrow cobblestone streets, browsing the shops along the boardwalks or adventuring by foot or bicycle farther afield. Indeed, with its lush natural beauty and historic charms, Mallorca fascinates at every turn.

Find your inspiration on the isle of Mallorca.

20-Day Mediterranean Mosaic
Roundtrip Rome, ms Westerdam
May 20; Jul 10, 30; Aug 19, 2007

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Shore excursions reveal the magic of Mallorca.

You'll have time to explore many aspects of local culture and scenery. Here are just a few examples of ways you can spend your day.

Paella in Palma: Learn how to select the best fish and vegetables for making paella as you accompany your chef/guide to the local market. Watch paella being made in the traditional manner in the open air, along with a suckling pig. Then comes the best part of all - tasting the delicious meal you've helped to create!

Caves of Drach: Visit a series of mysterious caverns that hide the world's largest underground lake. Stalagmites and stalactites reflect the eerie lighting and intense colors of the lake. On your return, you'll stop in Manacor, famous for its inlaid olive wood furniture and its Majorca pearl industry, with time to browse at the pearl factory.

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