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Friday March 27, 2015

Palma's popularity knows no bounds

Palma is the new jewel of the Mediterranean

There has been a frisson of excitement – even genuine surprise – that Palma has been declared the best world city in which to live. Beating 50 overseas destinations to the coveted top spot, it’s as if Majorca’s capital has suddenly been reborn when for the cognoscenti and those of us who actually live on the island, its charms have always been apparent.

For some years I had an apartment in Palma right in the heart of the old town, just a few doors away from the palatial home of Jaume Matas, the island’s disgraced former president. It was a wonderful airy space above a famed bar for old hippies and nighthawks, and a hop and a skip from the capital’s Es Baluard modern art museum.

The joy of Palma lies in its low key splendour. It’s a vibrant city crammed with glorious architecture, galleries, original shops and bodegas, tapas bars and some seriously good gastronomic bolt-holes but it’s not pretentious. There’s the Gothic splendour of the ancient cathedral and Almudaina Palace hovering above a vast modern water feature and park by the sea, and yet Santa Catalina district, a brisk walk away, is all about understated tapas bars and restaurants, quirky retail outlets and a lively market.

One of my weekend indulgences when living in the antique quarter, was to pop by the historic and much loved Ca’n Joan de S’Aigo café for a cup of piping hot chocolate in the winter or home-made almond ice-cream during the summer. It has an old world authentic charm about it which is why so many Majorcans gravitate there as much as tourists. And then there is the broad and shady Las Ramblas, home to stallholders and flower sellers, and the noble El Borne with its sprawling cafés and bijoux boutiques.

The enduring appeal of Palma for holidaymakers is that it is just 15 minutes by car from the airport and is in easy reach of the island’s most popular attractions and landmarks. It is fringed by sea and mountains and has some excellent beaches nearby as well as the perfectly formed and circular Bellver Castle, a 14th century Gothic masterpiece.

So I suppose I find it curious that Palma, a mere two hours flying time from the UK, has only just appeared to hit the psyche of some of the British press. Lest we forget, writers such as the prolific English scribe Robert Graves and the likes of Gordon West were wont to wax lyrical about its many attributes as far back as the twenties, and it has long been the playground for international royals, celebrated artists, writers and actors.

Let’s hope that with its re-discovery there will be renewed interest in Majorca’s golden city. Still, for my money Palma has always been a city hard to match and I’m glad that the UK has finally recognised the attributes of this jewel of the Mediterranean. As they say, better late than never.

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