A Travellerspoint blog

Palma : an autumn visit

A brief visit to Majorca with a memorable visit to Alfabia Gardens.

sunny -17 °C

Trip Diary Palma September 2007

I like Palma in the autumn ; the weather is usually fine and the crowds are gone. This time I was lucky to miss some freak weather (possibly a tornado ; high winds damaged an industrial area on the edge of Palma. blew tiles off many roofs and downed several trees on the island). There was some rain during my visit but it occurred at night or during my nap time, so I was not bothered by it.

First morning out I walked through the small park near the Rosamar Hotel which leads down to Paseo Maritime. This is the place to see all the yachts and some rather grand hotels. Near the Tryp Bellver Hotel the pavement was blocked by a group doing a photo shoot. The subject proved to be a blonde in lingerie ; I love my photo in which the people seem totally oblivious to this nearly naked lady walking around at 10:30 am.

My friend Leif told me about two interesting exhibitions : one at Gallery Pelaires (the commercial gallery) and the other at C.C.C. Pelaires (the Foundation or museum).

The main pedestrian street connecting the shopping area with the cathedral (Pasieo Born or Passeig des Born if you prefer Catalan). It was closed for nearly a year while they refurbished it and the results are stunning. Huge sculptures by Manolo Valdes seemed to be drawing interested residents and visitors alike.

I returned to Palma Cathedral (LE Seu) to get better photos of the Barcleo chapel which I enjoyed so much during my visit last June.

The Diocesan Museum has been extended and now fills a lovely old mansion behind the cathedral. There is great variety of art works (I admit that religious art is not my favourite). There is a striking 18th Century sarcopagus for King Jamie II (who died in 1311) a crown sits on a pillow on top the tomb .. it was amasing to see that the pillow is out white granite so fine that it looked like fabric. I also enjoyed a close-up look at some of Gaudi’s fixtures for the cathedral (lectern, seating, etc.)

On Tuesday my friend Leif took me out to a garden I have been waiting to see for several years – Jardin Alfabia on the road to Soller. It is not easily accessible by public transport.

“This was once the estate of Majorca's Moorish governor and retains features from the fifteenth century, including a courtyard fountain and a canal with criss-crossing jets of water. There are seventeenth century additions and also a romantic nineteenth century garden.”

There are a few features which reflect its Moorish history but mostly it seems to be a Baroque building. The gardens are fascinating because they are rather dense, filled with water features and have a romantic air about them (certainly they are not over manicured .. there is a hint of decay and of the site being almost abandoned.

The Jardins at Soller are on the edge of the town, easily accessible by walking and altogether a more straightforward botanical garden. It seems to be expanding all the time ; there were new areas which look slightly raw but I’m sure they will develop in time. The display of mushrooms at the house (which is part of the site) tweaked my curiosity.

We had lunch at a lovely old fashioned hotel El Guia next to the railway station. Stuffed marrow as a starter, delicious tongue of veal followed by a ice cream dessert covered with a scrumptious chocolate sauce (honest, I only had a spoonful – being allergic to diary products). An attractive and relaxing place but not for those in a hurry. The waiters are older are seem to be operating as if it were 1880 when the place first opened.

On my arrival in Palma I learned that a festival (Week of the Historical Organs of Mallorca) was underway. I was only able to attend one recital (Iglesia del Socorro) and was sorry that my short visit (5 nights) did not permit me to attend other recitals.

Practical Details

Centre Cultural Contemporani Palaires
Calle Can Veri, 3

Sala Pelaires
Calle Pelaires, 5

Pelaires
[url: http://www.pelaires.com/frames_01.php?flash=si/url]

Note: The street sign is in Catalan (Paraires)

Hotel El Guia
Calle Castanyer, 2
Soller

The set menu is 20 Euros and house wine 10 Euros a bottle.

Note: I will add photos to this entry when this Website increases its capacity .. currently I have exceeded this month's limit ....

Posted by MarshallC 03:46 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Durango Colorado

Overnight at the historic Strater Hotel and then the steam train to Silverton

-17 °C

We arrived in Durango around 5pm and checked into the historic Strater Hotel .. family owned and in immaculate condition. Dinner in the Belle Diamond Saloon and a walk around town and an early night as we were scheduled to catch an early train.

Sunday

I overslept which made for a hectic departure, but we got out tickets and found our seats for the 2 hour + journey by steam train to the old mining town of Silverton. I was pleased that I had opted for a closed carriage (there are open carriages called gondolas which are good for sightseeing and taking photographs, but exposed other elements). The Durango and Silverton Railway website emphasised the classic steam train, restored carriages, etc. I expected that to be the main feature of this trip but it was the incredible landscape and the thrill of a railway cutting through a canyon and the thrilling views down to the river crashing down from the mountains above.

The line goes up 2000 feet to Silverton and the train stops at least twice to take on water. It was exhilarating ; especially when we saw the massive Needle Mountains in the distance. During the last half hour of the journey rain put a damper on the whole thing, The people in the open gondola behind us looked miserable ; rain was blowing all around.

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Silverton is like a movie set but with frequent showers, we were simply keen to find a place for lunch. Larry showed ingenuity by asking a shop owner where the best burger in town was served and we got there to find lots of locals and few people off the train. We had a good lunch and did a bit a window shopping in antique stores and visited the old jail before rejoining the train.

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On our return journey we were traveling First Class in a Victorian carriage with small tables are chairs which we could move from side to side to catch the best views. The attendant (a local woman) gave a commentary on the train and the scenery and served up drinks during the journey. Some people took a coach back to Durango assuming that a return journey on the same line would be redundant, but we really enjoyed the return journey because there were some new views and we could savour those spots we’d enjoyed on the trip up. The rain continued and a mudslide as we got close to Durango meant that we had to stop and going a walking pace for a few hundred yards. Near Durango A small fire high in the forest (said to be started by lightening) showed that a fire in this part of the country is a very serious matter .. the fire was in a tree which was not easily accessible.

Posted by MarshallC 09:18 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Colorado Canyons

Box Canyon at Ouray.. a hidden small gem and the incredible BLack Canyon of the Gunnison (watch out Grand Canyon - you have competition)

-17 °C

We were headed through the San Juan Mountains (destination Durango .. what an evocative name). The autumn leaves were obvious even in the car park of the post office as we set out from Cedaredge .. not sure what the tree was but the yellow leaves against the white trunk was subtle and pleasing to the eye,

First major stop was at Ouray Colorado, “the Switzerland of the America”.Just off the main highway, Box Canyon Falls is a small (by Colorado) gem. Nothing in the small car park and entrance building prepares you for the dramatic view ahead. As you walk toward the falls you can hear the sound of crashing water. There is a sturdy steel walkway which takes you around a corner and right into the canyon. It is about three flights down to the river (slightly dizzy making as the steel grid is open mesh) .. look ahead ; don’t look down is my advice. The river drops within the jagged rocks so there is only a relatively short bit that looks like a traditional waterfall, but this is really a fascinating sight. Twisted steel and the occasional steel cable hint at the history of industrial works on this site.

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http://www.ouraycolorado.com/Box+Canon+Falls+Park

Our next stop was arguably the highlight of my trip:

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National park

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The park is centred on the most scenic 14 miles of the 50 milers of this deep canyon. Apparently is called black because the sun penetrates the walls of the canyon so briefly that much of it is in shadow ; the native Americans considered it a haunted place ; I can see why ; it is truly awe inspiring. We were so high(2600 feet at one point) that I found it almost impossible to see people kayaking on the Gunnison River below .. they were simply specks on the white foam of the rapids. The here are interesting short trails and viewpoints perched out over the canyon .. exciting stuff. I concur with The National Park Service website which says:
No other canyon in North America combines the narrow opening, sheer walls, and startling depths offered by the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Perhaps it is not a good thing to analyse an experience too much, but three things occur to me ;

• Nothing in the approach through beautiful high country prepares you for the surprise of this dramatic scenery

• The relatively short distance between rims of the canyon add to the effect.

• The schist stone of the canyon seems has lovely veins in it and the whole aesthetic is far different from the sedimentary layered rock on the canyons of Colorado National Monument (for example).

http://www.nps.gov/blca/

Posted by MarshallC 09:14 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Grand Junction Colorado

Wide streets with a touch of sophistication

-17 °C

Ramada Inn proved a winner with its shuttle van providing a timely trip to Union Station for the 8am train to Grand Junction. The ‘Amtrak boarding system’ seemed designed to create maximum tension and confusion. Even though it is supposedly a Reserved Seat ticket, the seating is open and you finally figure out that you are assigned to a car where you find a free seat. Because single travelers have the lowest priority I was wondering if I’d be standing (British Rail style). In the event, there was a lot of space and I had found a seat with a good view and legroom. This is a most spectacular rail journey. Volunteers from the USA Park Service gave a running commentary during the trip.. I learned that the old freight cars on one huge curve were there to protect the train from the high winds which had blown a train off the tracks in the 1960s. the cars were filled with dirt and by now, had full grown tress in them.

There are 43 tunnels between Denver and Grand Junction and it was exiting to come out from a tunnel into the light and a new vista. The railway line was cut through rock for much of the way and the mountains are beautiful as the train climbs up to the Intercontinental Divide.

My nephew Larry and his wife Brenda met me at Grand Junction ( I was slightly late). We went to a very good Italian restaurant in Delta, near their home. Real food in a friendly atmosphere and after my second glass of red wine I suddenly realised there were people waiting for tables, so we left and went to Larry and Brenda’s home in the mountains outside Cedaredge. Oh dear, this is really ‘off the grid’. A few miles from a small town and then down a road to their 18 acre spread. A vast house (certainly by English standards) .. but oh dear, the views. Mountains in the distance a large meadow in front of house .. as if on queue, three deer came to drink from the bird bath, seemingly oblivious to the lights in the living room. Larry and Brenda said that a buck deer will often come up to window and stare in. All manner of smaller animals are present, depending on the time of year. My immediate thought was that no matter how beautiful this place was, it was a long walk to the nearest pub or tavern. I later learned that it was not walkable and was a long drive.

After our trip to Durango, we came back to Grand Junction for a day's touring there. Monday

We drove up to the mountains above Grand Junction

Colorado National Monument

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By this time I was running out of superlatives (or was I just out of words because of the altitude?). Different from the Black Canyon because it was bigger in scale, wider and with sedimentary rock which have eroded to leave isolated rock formations standing all along the 23 mile drive on the rim of the canyon. I had difficulty getting my bearings because of the huge scale of this park .. at first I thought we were looking at the same canyon from different viewpoints but actually there are many canyons which make up the vast park. There were multiple places to park and walk along trails to dizzy making viewing platforms. In the process we became familiar with the most amasing juniper trees whose gnarled trunks are sculptural .. and a beautiful called Morman tea (aid to have medicinal values) ; both of which seemed to flourish with even the smallest amount of soil, appearing to grow right out of rock.

Dinner was a special treat at a fine restaurant in Grand Junction, The Winery. I had a heft New York Strip steak ; Larry and Brenda had halibut steak and we were all pleased with the meal.

Tuesday

I spent the morning doing chores including Internet and shopping ; we met for lunch at a super little Italian sandwich shop on the edge of town. All freshly made – Larry and Brenda are both trim (maybe hard work and exercise play a roll) and their choice of restaurants was a reminder to me that the USA is not all fast food and there are good inexpensive places with real food. The train to Los Angeles was two hours late but after we had a little walkabout I was all installed in my ‘roomette’ for my trip to San Francisco.

Just west of Grand Junction the train went through Ruby Canyon in Utah .. which proved that ‘when you have seen one canyon, you ain’t seen them all’. Fairly wide and not as high as Colorado , the canyon had red, purple and ruby colours in its sedimentary rocks, with occasional flashes of dense green from the trees growing along the river rushing through the canyon floor.

With great regret I made my way to dinner as the sun was setting … but what a pleasing image to retain on the final day in the great South West of America.

It was a two day trip to San Francisco (where most of the time was spent soicalising).

Posted by MarshallC 09:12 Archived in USA Comments (0)

San Francisco bound

The Amtrak journey to San Francisco - a two day trip

sunny 26 °C

. The train to Los Angeles was two hours late but after we had a little walkabout I was all installed in my ‘roomette’ for my trip to San Francisco.

Just west of Grand Junction the train went through Ruby Canyon in Utah .. which proved that ‘when you have seen one canyon, you ain’t seen them all’. Fairly wide and not as high as Colorado , the canyon had red, purple and ruby colours in its sedimentary rocks, with occasional flashes of dense green from the trees growing along the river rushing through the canyon floor.

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With great regret I made my way to dinner as the sun was setting … but what a pleasing image to retain on the final day in the great South West of America.

It was a two day trip to San Francisco (where most of the time was spent socialising).

Posted by MarshallC 09:10 Archived in USA Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

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