Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Heaven and Hell

Once upon a time there was a beautiful island off the coast of Spain. It's still there of course but it has an interesting history which has changed what might once have been paradise into a mixture of money and greed, sexism and tourism. The island is of course Majorca.
Majorca was on the wrong side when the Spanish civil war raged.  And when they lost Franco decided that Majorca did not need any money, any input and you can still see the effects when you start off in a bus from Palma airport.  There are empty houses in the dry fields, there are long stretches of nothing much at all. As you go north the climate is wetter and there are wonderful trees, lots of olive groves, vines. Almonds and oranges are harvested here. There are two factories on the island which make pearls and in the north there is prosperity and when you get to Alcudia, right at the top, there is a contrast which startled me.
To the east there are 30,000 beds and the tourists from Scandanavia and Europe flock here because of the mild Spanish climate. But the old town of Alcudia is still there. The locals call it heaven and hell and it is easy to see why. From the enormous hotels which stretch forever only eight kilometres away there is the charm and the history which stretches back to the thirteenth century.
The hotel where I stayed. Gorgeous, good food, lovely rooms, excellent wine, if you are going with small children the perfect place to stay. Iberostar Albufera Playa.

I took a taxi to the old town. There is a wall which still stands most of the way around the little town. It was built in the thirteenth century by James II to keep out the pirates!  As you do, of course. As walls go this is the best and beside it one of those unforgettable churches, all blue and gold and full of the kind of pictures which you love at the time but you are glad don't follow you outside into the sunlight.

The beautiful wall.

The story becomes even more interesting. Small farms were given to the children when their father died, the boys got the good fertile fields, the girls received the fields on the coastline and so I thought how hard for a girl who doesn't marry or who is obliged to marry a man who is not a farmer's son and we all know what happened after that, don't we?
So which is heaven and which hell and perhaps greed depends on what you do with what you are given and a bit of luck and the times. I look at all those hotels and I think good luck to those girls who made their fortunes and to the boys they had their farms and so you can have both if the times are right, you can have the sun and the sea and the sand and then you can have Alcudia with its history and its tiny shops and its lovely lovely wall.