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Friday, July 31, 2009

Musings on Mallorca: part 2

So what did we not enjoy about Mallorca? Well, Mallorca is not for everyone. Sure, that could be said about a lot of places, but there are some destinations that few people dislike: Paris, Italy, Thailand for instance. And perhaps it's just that - despite the stunning landscapes, fascinating people, beautiful hotels and fabulous restaurants - Mallorca is not for me. Would I go there again? To work, absolutely. I'd happily go back and talk to the island's talented chefs or write about its burgeoning wine industry. Off-season though. Would I go there on holidays? No, most probably not. And for us, that's one of the criteria we use to judge a destination. If it's the kind of place where I think "I'd prefer to be lying on that beach than writing about it" or a place I make a mental note to return to one day, then I place it fairly high on my list of great destinations. But it's more complex than that. There are other things I disliked about Mallorca. Mainly, that Mallorca did not feel like Spain. Nor did it feel Catalan. Juxtaposed with Barcelona, where we spent five days after Mallorca, that was even more apparent. Barcelona is a cosmopolitan, multicultural city, immensely popular with tourists, with a reasonable-sized expat population - yet it's still retained its unique Catalan identity and essential Spanish-ness. Mallorca, sadly, has lost a lot of the characteristics that make it Mallorcan. They are still there, of course - the language, cuisine, arts and crafts, traditional customs, etc - they're just very hard to find. We located them of course - because that's what travel writers do - but I continually wondered how tourists there for a week fared. Mallorca is a place where you most definitely need to use a quality guidebook, follow some good local blogs, have a local guide, or quickly make local friends, if you want to experience the 'real' Mallorca - or as the Mallorquins like to say, 'the other Mallorca'. Unfortunately, for most tourists visiting the island, the closest they'll get to Mallorcan culture are artificial experiences (as fun as they can be) like La Granja, pictured.


jessiev said...

so interesting, because you'd think that the average traveler should be able to find SOMETHING of a culture in a week. food for thought...

Lara Dunston said...

Well, the average tourist in Mallorca is on a package, so they don't really leave the hotel, or the town the hotel is in. If they do, they tend to do a hop-on-hop-off tour into Palma and see the main sights (the cathedral, Arab baths etc), or do a tour to a place such as La Granja (above). But most people don't go in search of the true local culture. It even took us a while to find it, to find out where the locals live and hang out. This is an island heavily focused on tourism as its main source of income, one that has bent over backwards to please tourists over the years, unfortunately.