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G + 17 : Almudeina - Long Echoes of History

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

The Almudaina Palace and the Cathedral to the Right at 8 pm in the Morning

La Palma is not a town of early risers. At 8 am, cleaners dominate the roads. Moving in their little electric trucks, they wash the streets and collect last night's rubbish. The sunrays play with the small water puddles. It is quiet in the old town. Nobody is out yet. Not even delivery trucks. They come at 9 am. Coffee shops and green grocers are still closed. Their outdoor chairs and tables piled on each other. The umbrellas still folded. Nothing is open. The Almudaina, the Royal Palace, and La Palma’s Cathedral open at 10 am. We are early.

The Sea Side of the Almudaina Palace

We had breakfast at seven to avoid the heat of the day. Temperatures will reach 32 Celsius by midday and humidity levels 73%. Also, we plan to leave Mallorca by lunch time. The cruise to Ibiza takes 6 hours. We do not want to arrive at night. Sunset is at 21.05 h.

Entrance to Jewish Quater with a Juliette Balony

Being early proofed actually to be good. We walked over to the old Jewish quarters north of the Cathedral. The narrow streets still follow Arab building patterns even though the town is since 1229 under Christian rule and the Jews were expelled in 1391. The houses are organized around court yards. The heavy main doors are open to let the water dry from the cleaning earlier in the morning. We got an unexpected peak inside. It is amazing how long the echoes of history last.

Court Yard of the Santa Clara Convent

A good 20 minutes into our walk, we reached the court at the Convent Santa Clara which is still an active monastery run by nuns. The Convent was built in 1250 on the remains of an old Muslim school on the approval of King James I. It thus shares the history of La Palma’s Gothic cathedral which was built on the site of the former Mosque. The cathedral is one of the few churches oriented towards Mecca rather than to the East. I guess the construction team was in a hurry. The Santa Clara Convent is a quiet oasis of peace. One nun permanently prays in the Adoration chapel where the host of the Holy Spirit is exhibited.

So many Juliette Balconies in the old Town

Back in the streets, we ventured towards the medieval town hall where the first coffee shop just opened. We had 3 minutes to take a few photos before the first delivery trucks rushed in. One after the other. It was delivery rush hour. Seems the drivers get out of bed all at the same time. We had Coffee Contrado, a mini cappuccino. No croissant though. We get so spoiled by our Chef Clea, we can't have breakfast twice.

La Palma's Town Hall 30 Seconds before the rush hour

Next on the list was the Llotja area. It is the former commercial district. In the Gothic Llotja Hall once local and overseas tradesr met. It has its own style – somewhere between a church, a royal reception hall and a fortress. It reminded me of the Royal Exchange in London. The Llotja Hall is fully covered. Commercial activities take place in door. In the Royal Exchange it is half indoor, half outdoor. Only the arches provide cover. Of course it was closed when we showed up. It opens at 10. 30 am. Seems commercial activities can not start before the opening of the cathedral.

Llotja Hall opens for Business once you said your Prayers

The surprise today was the beauty of the Royal Palace, the Almudaina. As the name says, the building is inspired by Arab architecture. The simplicity and clarity of the design does not require much decoration. A few wall carpets and some furniture is all it takes to make the interior look elegant.

The Elegant Lions Court in the Almudaina Palace does not need much Decoration

It reminds of the Alhambra Palace in Granada – albeit built a few centuries earlier and thus less elaborate. The Aragon Kings refurbished and expanded the old Emir’s Palace. Most of Almudaina was built by Spanish workers and architects – design and style are Arab though. Spanish Kings loved Arab designs. Cross-cultural inspiration.

The Lion could easily sit in the Alhambra in Grenada

We skipped the visit to the Cathedral – a ticket price of EUR 20.- per person seemed to be high-way robbery. We had already seen the beautiful, modest church of the Convent Santa Anna. The dignity was impossible to topple. La Palma’s tourist board has to do without our contribution. Back to the taxi stand then.

The Parents must love the fact that they can send the Kids to Sailing School in Summer

20 minutes later, at the port, we watched a group of ten-year-olds getting their lasers ready for the daily sailing class. The teachers instructed the kids to climb into the boats from the water. Some made it – others fell back. Accompanied by shrieks of schadenfreude when someone dropped into the water.

Did somebody just fall back into the Water? Hahahahaaaaah!

The lesson was essential though. If the boat topples, the kids have to be able to get back. Kind of amazing how omnipresent these schools are around the Mediterranean. We saw them in Greece, Dalmatia and - over the last two weeks - in Italy and France. Children learn to sail at a young age – as we Swiss learn to ski when still toddlers. The upside? Every teenager has a sailing license before they are allowed to drive a car.

The Weather for the Crossing was so so - at least the Winds did not pick up

After refuelling, we went to Ibiza, the last island to visit this year. It was a Phoenician colony from 900 – 200 BC. Amazing that these people from today’s Lebanon and Israel sailed such distances so early in history. They looked for tin and fish in Spain. Could not find out whether there was anything they procured from the Baleares. Or whether it was just a stop on the way. Clearly, they brought wines and olive trees to the islands and cultivated them. There is more research to do.

We made it - after six hours we reached the Cala Longa in Ibiza

We eventually secured a place in Ibiza harbor for the next three nights. The weather turns sour on Thursday so it is better to have a safe place. We will do day tours with the boat. The hull of our boat is too flat for rough seas – the big difference between sail and motor yachts as we learnt last week during the Mistral.

Arrived in the Port of Ibiza - the old Town with its Ramparts reminds me of Calvi in Corsica

NB: it is 1 August today - Swiss national day - Time to celebrate!

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