Charming Villages and Delicious Dishes: Sailing from Palma de Mallorca, Spain to Madeira, Portugal

Leaving Rome, we set course to Palma de Mallorca, which we have visited before, but enjoyed again. Here, the Catedral de Mallorca is the star; its flying buttresses and towers seem to be visible from every corner of the city, and its soaring interior somehow seems able to happily accept its startling Gaudi-designed altar.

Sail-in to Palma with Cathedral

This is a haven for summer residents and tourists, and we were thankful to be here in off-season, when the weather remains perfect, but the crowds are gone. On our second day, we explored the island’s interior, including the charming village of Santa Maria, and visited several craftsmen: glass artists blowing and manipulating red-hot goop into tiny animals and grand vases; a ceramicist who designs and creates custom dinnerware for chefs (and her fabulous husband who whipped up some delicious Mallorcan dishes served with wine from the vineyard down the road); and one of the few remaining traditional weavers of the famous flame fabric.

The 100+ year old looms, impossibly noisy and cranky, but still capable of producing a superlative product.

We couldn’t help but notice that rainbows were materializing everywhere during this segment – not just because luck was with us, but also because of the difference in coastal and mountain micro-climates existing on many of the islands. In just minutes, as you climb from the waterfront, you can experience bright sun, invisible mist, then a downpour. 

One portrayal of this phenomenon

Alicante on the southern coast of Spain proved an unassuming and amusing stop with its Copacabana-style marble mosaic promenade, fascinating architectural details and Santa Barbara castle, but it was the next stop, Madeira, that captured our attention. An unexpected delight, this island boasts San Diego-type weather, it’s impeccable, laid-back, and friendly, and at least in November, uncrowded. We were fortunate enough to spend a day with a native Madeiran who took us from the old fishing village of Camera de Lobos (where Churchill famously painted in 1950) to the agricultural suburbs (as nearly all fields seem smallish and affiliated with adjacent homes), to an overlook from a 580-meter cliff straight down to the sea, and finally for a treat of “Boco del Mel,” a honey-rum-nut cake that you must eat by breaking off a piece with your hands – never cutting it with a knife.

The terraced lands, here with banana crops replaced by vineyards as the rising altitude brings cooler temperatures.

On our second day we took the tram to the small village of Monte, where deluded tourists allow out-of-shape men to propel them down a steep street in rickety wicker toboggans on wooden skids — some claimed it was great fun – we will never know, but the view was great. We also explored the historic center with its narrow cobblestone streets adorned with painted doors and countless restaurants, all with freshest seafood and inexplicably delicious potatoes.


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