Look out for Michael Douglas and the Dalai Lama

Travel

Justin O’Toole finds an island where you can have a great family holiday and still find the kind of adventure that would make even Michael Schumacher nervous.

In May 2009 my wife Ciara and I, our two children Oisín and Ava and my mother-in-law and father- in- law Sheelagh and Brendan set off for a week’s self booked holiday in the beautiful Island of Majorca.

We flew to Palma de Majorca Airport which was a leisurely two hours and 30 minutes flight from Dublin, not too long for the little ones, and on arrival picked up a hire car at the Airport. From there we set off on our 64 km drive to our final destination which was a self catering 3 bedroom apartment in the pretty fishing village of Puerto Pollensa.

Justin O’Toole and son Oisín
Justin O’Toole and son Oisín

Majorca is the largest island of Spain and is situated in the Mediterranean Sea and part of the Balearic Islands. It is an extremely popular tourist destination where package tourism started in the early 1950s and by the 1960s there were 500,000 visitors travelling to its shores. In 2008, nearly   23, 000,000 passed through the doors of Palma de Majorca Airport – not bad for an Island just 3600 square kilometres.

Puerto Pollensa is the most Northerly town in Majorca. It is extremely laid back and very popular with families. It has a small harbour, a main square which leads to the seafront and various side streets with an abundance of bars and restaurants. There are several beaches that mainly have an easy gradient which make them ideal for swimming, water sports and fishing. Every Wednesday there is a vast market at the square where you can purchase anything from fresh fruit and vegetables to “designer handbags”.

The very narrow roads seem to rise and wind endlessly hugging the cliffs and there are very narrow rock tunnels to navigate

What surprised us most about Majorca was that, for an Island of its size, there are vast amounts to do. You could quite easily spend the summer months enjoying the sights, culture and many activities that the fantastic weather affords you. Or you could just laze around the various beaches and eat out and drink very reasonably.  It has it all.

If you prefer to sight see, a car is a must and very reasonable to rent. In the main, the roads are excellent and it is easy to drive. Cap de Formentor is the most northerly point of the Island and its highest point is 384 metres above sea water. It is simply stunning, but beware, this is where the driving does get tricky. It is not for the faint hearted, especially in a people carrier. The very narrow roads seem to rise and wind endlessly hugging the cliffs and there are very narrow rock tunnels to navigate. Add in about a million cyclists and this would make even Michael Schumacher nervous. However, even on the shorter drives you are rewarded with spectacular views and a gorgeous beach where you might bump into the likes of Michael Douglas or The Dalai Lama, who have been previous guests at the Hotel Formentor.

The town of Pollensa is located around 6 kms from the port and consists of many narrow streets surrounding the main square, Plaça Major and the 13th century church Esglèsia de Nostra Senyora dels Àngels  is definitely worth  a visit. The square is a perfect place to stop and have a bite to eat, Try the Tapas, or a cool drink, especially if you have just climbed the 365-step stairway north of the square which this leads up to a chapel on top of the hill known as Calvary.

Puerta Pollensa is also a short drive from Alcúdia. Alcúdia is the main tourist centre of the island and is not only famous for its beach, which spans 9.7 km, and waterpark, but also for its old town and the remains of a Roman town complete with theatre.

As we had an evening flight home at the end of our holiday, we decided to drive to the capital Palma to spend our last hours in Majorca.  And we were very glad we did. This is a beautiful city with a stunning port full to the brim with amazing motor boats, yachts and cruise liners. It is also home to La Seu Palma Cathedral which began construction in 1229 and was not completed until 1601. In 1901 Antoni Gaudí, who was famous for his work on Plaça Reial and Sagrada Família in Barcelona left his Gothic mark during a restoration project. This Cathedral is a must visit and just left us with enough time for lunch overlooking the harbour and a visit to a free fun park where Oisín spent a bouncy hour in a Castle.

Majorca is without doubt worth a visit, the next time will just be a longer trip.

Justin O’Toole is an auctioneer