The suburbs of Es Jonquet and Santa Catalina are to the west of Palma’s old town. They were the first two areas of housing built outside the city wall and Santa Catalina is now a thriving centre of day time and night time entertainment. The inland area was given to the Bishop of Barcelona following the conquest of Mallorca by King James of Aragon in 1229. However, the coast was made a communal zone so fishermen could make use of it.
The rest of Palma’s suburbs are filled with late 20th century apartment blocks but these two districts are reminiscent of an Andalusian village with streets lined with two and three storey houses with elegant balconies, intricate carvings and green window shutters. The combination of contemporary architecture and the wide range of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars means Santa Catalina is a special part of the city where you will never get bored.
Es Jonquet sits on top of a crag overlooking the bay and it became well known for the line of seven windmills which have lined the cliff top since the 1400s. It was so named because the dry hillside was popular with migrating birds from African called the Junco or Jonc locally. Work started on the area in 1865 and most of the people who moved here were fishermen or ship builders. They built their house in a southern Mediterranean style, of one or two storeys, and painted them white.
Palma’s expanding population and an increase in diseases in the crowded city meant the city council held a town planning contest for the expansion of Palma in 1897. Bernardo Calvet won and he envisaged build low rise buildings around wide streets. He wanted light, airy suburbs in contrast to the dark, narrow streets inside the walls and Santa Catalina was the result.
To visit the area, start in front of Bar Cuba. The elaborate facade of the 1904 building was designed by Gaspar Bennazar. Legend has it that the bar was a centre of Mallorca’s tobacco smuggling in the past.
Head south, towards the quayside, and turn right into Plaza dels Rentadors and climb the steps to the right, behind the city laundry where the fishermen’s wives did their washing in the nearby moat. At the top of the steps follow the narrow street behind the windmills for 150 metres, past the Andalusian style cottages.
Turn left along an alley, where the street turns sharp right, to see a magnificent view over Palma Bay. The vista stretches from the cathedral to the west across to Bellver Castle in the east. We are also next to the windmills, some of them in a poor state of repair. The mills were named after their owners to begin, such as Toni Trosses with but the titles changed over the years. Some of the other names are In God’s Name Mill, the Wharf Mill, the Flake Mill, the Jealousy Mill and the Races Mill. There is a mill museum the Garleta Mill and it opens Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
Look down onto the gardens dedicated to St. Dominic of Caleada who died in 1109. The hangars of Aero-Sea Company of Mallorca occupied the sea front before the Paseo Maritimo was built in the 1950s. Seaplanes belonging to the French Air Post Company stopped off here en route from Toulouse to Casablanca and Rabat; they also flew to Barcelona.
Follow Calle Molino de Garleta behind the mills and it brings you out in Plaza of the Virgin Miracle, in front of Sant Magi Church. Monks wanting to escape the city built a chapel here and dedicated it to Saint Magin after a bone (called a relic) they worshipped. They later built an orphanage to look after the children with no parents.
Ramon de Salelles gave the area its name after he nearly lost his life at sea in 1343. He promised to open a hospital for sailors and fishermen and he dedicated it to Saint Catherine. The building we see today is called the Church of the Immaculate and it was started around 1870 and was completed by 1894.
The Theater Mar I Terra (Sea and Earth Theatre) opposite opened in 1898. Legend tells us that the author Jules Verne visited it in the past. It was taken over by Franciscan nuns who turned it into a school but it was recently restored and turned into a school of theatrical studies.
Cross the square, heading north, and follow Calle de Mir for 75 metres before turning right onto Calle de Servet. Head east, noting the shuttered windows and balconies which give the area a real Mediterranean feel. You pass the Market Hall in Navigation Square, an old style covered market in the heart of the Santa Catalina community. Continue to the end of Calle de Servet to return to your starting point.
What’s On February
14th: Valentine’s Day. Not a Mallorcan thing but remember it if you do not want to get into trouble!
1st: The Opportunities Fair in Porreres where local businesses sell their wares at discounted prices.
2nd: The Almond Blossom fair in Ses Cases de Ca s’Hereu in Son Servera
10th: Sa Rua in Palma is the celebration which marks impending period of giving up things we like for the start of Lent. There is a children’s parade in the morning and an adult version in the afternoon.
19th: Sa Rua and the burial of the sardine in Marratxi also relates to the start of Lent.
Other towns and villages hold their own Sa Rua festivals which mark the start of Lent. Check out the Majorca Daily Bulletin’s ‘What’s On’ page for more details nearer the time.
Andrew Rawson, Mallorca Days Out
www.mallorcadays out.com and email@example.com