Travel Thoughts By Kim
Let’s go on an adventure together…for the Rest of the Story
Let’s finish out the series of articles from my Mediterranean Adventure with my sixth and final post of the series. This post will focus on the last three ports on the cruise: Mallorca, Barcelona, and Corsica.
The first of the last three ports was Palma de Mallorca. The name originates from an old Latin phrase “insula major” that means “larger island”. The Romans and Spaniards would use this phrase in ancient times to refer to the island because Mallorca is the largest island in all of Spain. Over time, the phrase was mispronounced – the British pronounced it Majorca while the rest of the world pronounced it Mallorca, causing it to eventually have two spellings for the same island. I Googled the two spellings and read that Majorca is the Anglicized version of the Spanish spelling Mallorca. Interesting! It is actually pronounced “My-orca” and is located in the Western Mediterranean and is part of the Balearic Islands.
The shore excursion I chose was a bus tour through Palma, time exploring the village of Valldemossa, and a stop at Bellver Castle – a medieval fortress with a distinctive circular shape. Mallorca is famous for its pearls – both natural cultured pearls and exquisite manufactured pearls. So, it was wonderful that the free time spent in Valldemossa included access to a high quality pearl shop with some of the most stunning pearl jewelry I’ve ever seen…..and, a discount for the cruise ship passengers.
I really enjoyed our time in Valldemossa. It began with a walking tour of the most famous landmark in the village: Valldemossa Charterhouse. The original complex dates back to King James II of Mallorca who built a palace for his son, Sancho. It became known as the “Palace of the King Sancho”. In 1399, all the royal possessions of Valldemossa was yielded to Carthusian Monks and turned into a monastery. Saint Catherine of Palma – Patron Saint of Mallorca – was born at the monastery in 1533 and died there in 1574. The monks made changes and additions to the complex and resided there until 1835 when it changed to private ownership. After the Monks were expelled from the property in 1835, individual cells became available for rent. Composer Fredric Chopin and his lover, French writer Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, better known by her pseudonym George Sand rented a three room cell with a garden in the winter of 1838-1839. Chopin composed many of his great works while living there and Sand later wrote “A Winter in Majorca”. On the drive to and from Valldemossa and Bellver Castle, we saw a lot of the beautiful country side of Palma de Mallorca – lots of olive and almond groves and mountainous landscapes. It was a lovely day.
The next port was Barcelona – the capital and largest city in the Catalonia community in Spain. The Port of Barcelona is a transport hub and one of Europe’s principle seaports and busiest passenger ports. It is located on the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula facing the Mediterranean Sea. Sadly, I wasn’t impressed with Barcelona – but, I only have the shore excursion I chose to blame. Another perfect example of why you really need to understand what the tour includes and the importance of a good guide. The description sounded like just what I wanted – a good overview of the city with some entertainment. It was supposed to be a city bus tour with stops at some of the most iconic sites in Barcelona, time in a Spanish village, and a Flamenco show. Nice, right? Well…..the bus tour really didn’t show us much of the city – just what we saw as we drove through to our one actual stop and it didn’t venture outside the city at all. The guide didn’t talk much about what we were looking at – to be fair, he did tell us some interesting things and pointed out a few points of interest, but not like most guides who talk non-stop about their city. He did point out the location of the 1992 Summer Olympics that was held July 25 – August 9, 1992 in Barcelona.
The only stop we made on the drive through the city was La Sagrada Familia Church – STUNNING!!! We learned that it began being built in 1883 and is still not done. The city of Barcelona has the original designs and specifications and is finally working to complete it. It was gorgeous!!! So much detail – incredible. Unfortunately, our tour didn’t include going inside and it was Sunday morning, so when we got there, we could just look at it from the street.
After we left the church, we went to “A Spanish Village”. The excursion description sounded like we were going to an actual village, but it was a tourist attraction. Once inside, there were several “neighborhoods” that represented the various regions in Spain. It was actually very nice and informative, but very touristy – I would have preferred to see some of the actual places that were replicated. It was there that we saw the Flamenco show and were served chips, crackers, water, and sangria. It was a cool stop, so I tried not to be too disappointed in the touristy nature of it.
Our last port on the cruise was Ajaccio, Corsica. Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 18 regions of France. It is the fourth-largest island in the Mediterranean and is located southeast of the mainland of France, just north of the Italian island of Sardinia. Corsica is the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte – he was born there in 1769 and he became one of the most important impacts on the history of France and Europe in general. The tour I chose was cancelled, as were most of the tours for this port. Apparently, the issue of staff shortages is world-wide – we experienced it in Scotland earlier this year and again in Corsica with the tours not having enough guides and drivers to lead them. The two tours that remained were full and, frankly, not ones I was interested in. So, I chose to stay on the ship and spend the day lounging pool side.
So, that, my friends, is the end of my Mediterranean Adventure – two days in Rome and a seven day cruise. It was the thrill of a lifetime and checked so many dreams off my adventure bucket list. I am so glad I experienced it and now have so many amazing memories.