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Choosing a Destination
Having never been abroad before, I was not sure what to expect from my first experience. We chose Mallorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain, because it was a short flight, and because we can all speak a little Spanish (although the majority of people spoke English to us anyway). They speak Catalan in Mallorca.
My eldest son (R) has been to several countries, as he has enjoyed cruises with his father and grandparents. This was his first time traveling by aeroplane, and it was my youngest (F) and my first time in another country.
Of all the countries I had thought I'd like, Spain was not really on my radar. It was somewhere I had always thought very 'touristy'. I have friends who seem to go to the same Spanish resorts where they lay about by a pool, drinking English beer in an English-speaking environment. Personally, I'd rather enjoy the native culture.
It's not always easy to cater for teenagers. R is 19 and is happy to try most things, so it's a bit easier with him. F is only 14 so he's often too old for 'children's' things, and too young for 'adult' things. He's also less inclined to indulge in anything too active. Our holiday turned out to be just right for all of us, I think.
When I asked my children where they would like to go, R said he didn't mind, and F suggested Spain (because he can speak Spanish). It made sense to go somewhere close by as none of us knew how we would be on a flight.
I went to one of the local TUI shops where I was assisted by a very helpful young lady. I told her what sort of things I'd like in a holiday—somewhere suitable for teenagers, somewhere quiet, but with things to do. It was more costly than the holidays I have had before, but of course, it would be. It was a packaged deal, so that included all of our flights and transfers, as well as the all-inclusive hotel deal—room and three meals a day for seven nights. Then we had to pay for insurance, and a tourist tax was payable at the hotel.
The destination that we picked was Eix Lagotel in Playa de Muro. This is in the North of the island, between Alcudia and Ca'n Picafort.
Playa de Muro
Compared to Alcudia and Ca'n Picafort, Muro is quite a recent addition to tourist destinations. There are plenty of hotels, but it is still a fairly quiet area.
Playa de Muro is separated into four sectors along its Blue Flag beach. The Blue Flag is a very well-deserved accolade for this little district. The beach can get quite busy, but there is still room to move around, and some parts are busier than others. The sea and beach are clean, the water is clear and safe to swim in.
The sea is home to fish that don't seem to mind humans around them. They can be seen clearly in the blue water, and they venture very close to the beach. On our last day, the fish surrounded R as he paddled in the sea while the tide began to come in.
Playa de Muro is quiet compared to some of the other towns. There isn't loads to do, so if you're after somewhere lively then this is not the place. There is a boat trip that goes from the beach, and there are opportunities to hire pedalos, or to have a massage on the beach. For the more adventurous types, there is a chance to go parasailing—I would love to have done that, but it was a little out of our budget, and F wouldn't have enjoyed it.
Enjoying the rocks and the sea
There are so many stunning views in and around Muro. We took many more pictures than we realised.
The rocks in the picture above are about half an hour's walk away from where our hotel shuttle bus drops off at the beach.
There are a lot of shops along Muro's main road, most of them selling souvenirs, ice-creams, and alcohol, as well as some that sold clothing and jewelry. There is an evening market where various handmade items are sold, and there are plenty of restaurants.
While we were happy to walk everywhere, there are a number of places offering bikes and cars for hire. There are shops that offer various excursions from wine tours to aquariums to caves. We didn't make use of these, but we did book an excursion to Marineland through TUI—their app was really handy.
We chose the all-inclusive option, but different board types are available. The main reason for our choice was because I wasn't sure what to expect from our destination in regards to amenities and costs. It made sense to me that we would always be able to have a meal at the hotel.
While we did have a few meals out, I am glad that we chose the all-inclusive option this time. Next time, perhaps, we will go half-board instead, and I'll be a little more confident in exploring!
Sunrise over the lake
The hotel—Eix Lagotel—was OK. I didn't really know what to expect from it. We stayed in a first floor room with a balcony overlooking Lake Gaviotas. The views were lovely. The room was very clean and bright, and had a kid's den (which was just a smaller room within the main room). The main room had twin beds, a desk with TV, a sofa, and a fridge. We were not impressed that there was no kettle in the room! Kettles were available to hire, but we just waited until breakfast and had a cup of tea in the restaurant.
The hotel has an activity timetable. Well, they have three, as they cater separately for adults, teens, and younger children. I think it's good that they catered for teens, but not so good when you want to spend time together. One of the things that attracted us to this particular hotel was that they advertised archery. Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to take part in that, as it was limited to two hours per week at times we were out exploring and enjoying other things. The hotel also advertises an arcade, a gym, and a salon. Treatments and hair cuts are available on request—the salon is only open by appointment. I used the gym on one occasion. It is small, but holds two treadmills, two weight machines, and a number of free weights.
Outside, there are two pool tables and an air hockey table. The pool tables were always busy, but we did have a couple of games of air hockey.
There is a sports pavilion where guests can play mini golf as well as various racket sports. These are all at an additional cost. As well as these sports, there are three separate pool areas: main pool with two connected pools—one deeper and one shallower—and a splash pool; Breezers pool, which is across the road from the main site and boasts another three pools—again, there is a deeper pool, a medium pool, and a splash pool; finally, there is an adults-only pool, which is to the side of the main hotel building, shut off from the other facilities. There is just the one pool, but it is larger and has a Jacuzzi. During the day, it is also possible to get drinks and snacks from the poolside bars. Throughout the day and night, other drinks are available in the main bar while three main meals are served at certain times in the hotel's large restaurant. The variety of food, laid out in buffet style, was impressive. I did feel, however, that such a quantity was at the expense of quality. There was plenty of fresh fruit, and some of the dishes were quite nice, but a lot were not. The 'hot' foods were cold. At breakfast, guests can use the hot and cold drinks machines for juice, tea, water, coffee, and hot chocolate. At all other meal times, only cold drinks are available and they have to be ordered from the waiting staff.
Going all-inclusive meant that all of our main meals were included. Some snacks and drinks were included. We could have hot drinks, fizzy drinks, juices, and water. Some alcoholic drinks were included too—house wines and half-pints of lager, as well as a small selection of cocktails. The drinks that weren't included were quite expensive. There was a menu of snacks available by the pools. Again, there were a few things included, but many were extra and quite expensive. Staff seemed to want to put us off buying the non-inclusive items.
During the evenings, guests can play bingo and sit outside to watch a show on the outdoor stage. This entertainment was not really to our taste—bingo and low-budget tribute acts. We preferred to take a stroll in the evenings—not that there was much to do, but it was peaceful besides the music from hotels.
I don't want to seem like I am being negative about the hotel. It was a nice enough place and the room was lovely. If you're the kind of person who likes to go on holiday to spend all of your time in one place, then this would be a perfectly nice place to do it. For us, though, it would have been nice to have the included activities during the evening. One pool was available until 9 PM (the others closed at 6 PM) as were the sports facilities. I am glad that we chose all-inclusive as the food and drinks would have been very expensive otherwise.
Across the lake
We enjoyed a couple of evening walks. This picture was taken as I sat with R on a bench just watching the lights reflect in the water.
While much of the fauna was familiar, R and I were quite fascinated by the little lizards we saw on our evening walks.
Parc Natural de S'Albufera
Other than the beach, shops, and restaurants, there isn't a lot in the way of entertainment around Play de Muro. There is, however, a nice nature park. S'Albufera (which, I discovered, is Catalan for 'lagoon') is an extensive nature reserve, home to various birds, fish, and insects. There is no cost to visit, but you do have to get a permit from the shop. Behind the shop, there are some toilets. Behind the toilets is a drinks machine.
Around the reserve, there are a number of hides and viewing platforms. There is information on the hide walls about the types of birds and insencts you might spot. Maps are located around the park, and four trails are indicated—some shorter and some longer. We followed one of the shorter trails.
A lot of insects have a home at S'Albufera. Ladybirds, bees, damselflies to name a few.
The park is also home to a small natural history museum. Within the unattended museum, visitors can read about the wildlife that inhabits the park. The information therein was only in Catalan. However, the small guide book is offered in various languages including English and German.
As we walked around the park, F did get a little grumpy at being too hot. R enjoyed himself, though. In hindsight, we should have taken lots to drink, and perhaps a picnic.
Other than a grumpy teenager, it was a nice visit to a beautiful area. A canal runs past the park and heads into the sea.
There were various excursions available through our tour operator as well as from other outlets. We chose to book through TUI. It may have been cheaper to book through another, though.
Our booking cost us £138, which included transport and the 'Plus' ticket for Marineland. We did have a good time at Marineland, but didn't really get value for money by paying for the Plus ticket. It gave us priority entry to the dolphin show, and a photo with a parrot. It would, perhaps, be worth it for families with younger children, as there is more included for them.
Of course, a large part of our cost was for the transport, and adult prices are payable for age 12 and over. This made our trip more expensive with having to pay adult price for a 14 year old.
Marineland is advertised as a 'dolphinarium and marine zoo'. It is quite a small place, but there are different enclosures. We spent a couple of hours there. We would have spent more time, but our visit was cut short due to adverse weather conditions. As Marineland is an open air attraction, it is best enjoyed in good weather.
As well as dolphin and seal shows, visitors can watch a parrot show. Different species of parrot, including the hyacinth macaw, provide entertainment as they play games, talk to the human hosts, and show off their other skills.
There is direct access from Marineland to a beach on Costa del Calvia. Due to the weather, we did not get to visit the beach on this occasion.
Marineland is also home to penguins, stingrays, carp, flamingos, and other birds, and sea life. Sharks and a giant turtle share the aquarium with several species of fish. There is a small aviary, and different reptiles and amphibians can be seen in the tropical house. Visitors can also enjoy a meal in the restaurant.
Glass Bottom Boat
Many of the excursions offered were at the other side of the island from where we stayed. Alcudia Sea Trips offered a number of boat trips that picked up from a few places. Trips can be booked online either directly through Alcudia Sea Trips or via third-party sites. If there is space available on the day, it is also possible to pay at the pier—this is what we chose to do.
Words could not do justice to the views we had. Here is just a small selection of the pictures taken from on board the boat.
The glass bottom boat trip takes approximately two hours, and includes a stop for swimming. The ship journeys along Alcudia's bay to Coll Baix. Amazing views can be seen all the way along the coast, passing For Alcanada with its lighthouse dominating this tiny island.
Guests are able to walk around the ship where there are two levels of seating. Below deck is a small area with 'submarine vision'. This consists of a few small windows through which the bottom of the sea can be seen.
Alcudia Sea Trips also offers excursions such as cave tours and dolphin watching. We chose the glass bottom boat as we had seen it there, and it was the cheapest at €20 each (another one where age 12+ pay adult prices). A small selection of snacks and drinks is available on the boat.
Alcudia is a short bus ride away from Playa de Muro. We chose it mainly for its cathedral. Saint Jaume Church is built into the medieval town walls, and dates back to the early 14th century. When we visited, it was not possible to go inside, so we took a short walk to the site of some Roman ruins.
Ruines Romana de Pollentia
This name translates as Pollentia Roman Ruins. Also known as Ciutat de Romana Pollentia, which means Pollentia Roman City.
If you are interested in Roman history, then this is a lovely place to visit. Excellent value at just €4 per adult, there is a discounted price of €2.50 for young people under 25. Traveling with a 14 and a 19 year old, this made a very pleasant change from having to pay adult prices for my 14 year old.
The site is quite large and includes information boards. These boards provide details of their respective areas, and include a QR code to access further information online.
There is a free car park next to the site, and a small building to purchase tickets. Visitors can then spend as little or as long as they wish exploring the ruins of this ancient city. Some seating is available for a rest stop or picnic. It is just a short walk into the town, and it is possible to exit the ruins from both the entrance and near to Saint Anne's Church, which also forms part of the site.
Upon entry to the ruins, we discovered that the ticket price also included Museu Monografic de Pollentia. Once we had left Pollentia, we decided to wander back into the town and look for the museum. It is a small, single room with a few exhibits. These exhibits include carved figures, tomb stones, and various artefacts that have been excavated from the site.
Murada Medieval d'Alcudia
'Murada' translates from Catalan as 'wall' and from Spanish as 'murated' or 'walled'. This defensive wall, with the Church of Saint Jaume incorporated into it, surrounds the Old Town.
Within the walls, visitors can read museum style boards that tell the history of Alcudia and its town wall. It is free to access, and being open air, can be enjoyed any time.
According to Alcudia's tourism website, the construction of the walls began in 1298 during the reign of King Jaime II. Twenty-six towers make up this impressive structure.
Food and Drink
While we had most of our meals at the hotel, we did venture out a few times. Many of the restaurants were quite expensive. R and I will try most things, but F is more fussy. We wanted to find somewhere that served a variety, which would satisfy all three of us.
Bike Point Cafe
The first meal we had outside of the hotel was at Bike Point Cafe. At first glance, their menu seemed rather expensive. Some of the dishes were pricey, but they have a large menu, and their three-course meals are excellent value.
The service at Bike Point Cafe was lovely. We were served by a very friendly lady who seemed genuinely happy to be there. She chatted with us in both English and Catalan, and had a laugh with us when we were being silly.
We enjoyed the food and the service, and the meals were excellent value. After our meal, we were offered Schnapps.
On our last day of the holiday, we decided to go to Bike Point again. Our first visit came about as we happened to come across it on the way back from somewhere. Our second visit was planned. F was given a small non-alcoholic cocktail while R and I enjoyed the Schnapps again.
Picco was OK. Again, a little on the pricey side. The service was nowhere near as good as Bike Point, but it wasn't bad. We chose Picco because they serve different things. I had really wanted some sushi, but the boys don't like it. Picco serves sushi, pasta, noodles, and pizzas, so there was something for everyone. I had butterfish sashimi and a tuna sushi roll. R had yakisoba, and F had a pizza—the pizza was called 'Uncle Sam', and it was huge.
On our walk from the hotel to the beach, one of the first places we found was Desde Italia Con Amor. This is a gelateria offering ice-creams, drinks, and other desserts. There is an impressive selection of ice-cream flavours including mint chocolate, strawberry, almond, hazelnut, mango, and other fruit and nut flavours. Prices are quite reasonable, and the ice-cream is delicious and refreshing.
Desde Italia Con Amor is Italian for 'From Italy With Love'. The same phrase is written on the walls in various languages. We had some fun working out which languages they were. This was another place where we chose to make a second visit.
There is a shuttle bus provided free of charge for guests of Lagotel. It is just a short walk from the hotel to the beach, but the shuttle bus is handy, taking just five minutes.
There is a regular local bus service. We used the local number 352 bus between Muro and Alcudia. Some of the drivers were helpful, others less so. The cost for our journey was around €10 for three of us there and back.
The 'Mini Tren' can be used to travel between 12 different points around Muro. Passengers can spend the full hour on the train as a tour, or choose to get off at any stop.
We chose to spend part of our final day in Muro on the land train. It took us from the stop by our hotel, along the main road near the beach, past the town hall, and towards S'Albufera before returning.
The train operates hourly during the day, pausing for a couple of hours mid-afternoon. The complete journey is quite a nice, relaxing way to spend an hour.
While Playa de Muro is not what you might consider a bustling or exciting place, it did do very nicely as our first trip abroad. Both of my teenagers were happy. F enjoyed the quiet, and it was certainly nice that nowhere was crowded. R enjoyed everything. If we go to Mallorca again, we'd perhaps stay on a different part of the island, Muro is lovely and it did fit exactly what we wanted—somewhere quiet, suitable for teenagers and adults.
So often places are designed for either adults or for children, while teenagers get left out. It is common to cater for families with young children, but there is rarely a lot to do that can be enjoyed by families with teenagers. Although we did travel out of Muro a couple of times, it was a good base for it, as well as having its own attractions such as boats and a multitude of restaurants. It is a very beautiful place.