While I was out cycling around Mallorca with my family, we visited the Magaluf resort area. It’s the off-season, and while there are plenty of cyclists about; the bars, clubs, and hotels of Magaluf are mostly closed for the winter.
This feeling of unsettling vacancy is really strong in Magaluf, although it’s present in the background in the rest of the island. You can see features clearly designed to handle large volumes of tourists over the summer. The roads leading out of Palma are dual carriageways, and the traffic on them is sparse. The airport has unusually wide corridors, rows and rows of unmanned baggage screening stations and passport control points. It’s Spain’s third-busiest airport, but you wouldn’t know that from looking at the small groups of travellers gathered in the waiting areas.
I’m still really interested in the way we value these sorts of holidays. It’s clear that Magaluf is there to provide pure entertainment. People go there to get drunk, and dance about in hot weather. That’s fair enough, and Peter suggested there might be something cultural about cheap British seaside getaways which is reflected in Magaluf. It’s the Blackpool Pleasure Beach of the Mediterranean.
The cyclists (myself included) are not too different from the party crowd. We’re not there to visit places or explore, we’re there to follow a route, do lots of cycling in a nice warm climate, and that’s all.
You see cyclists congregate for breaks at cafes in all the little towns. The cafe-owners have caught onto this market and they’ve made an effort to put out bike parking and ‘cycle friendly’ signs.
The storefronts around Magaluf have a Wild West look about them.
Just nearby here there was a police station, to keep a careful eye in case the parties get out of hand.
Along from here there was this huge glass-bottomed pool, on the top of the Calviá Beach hotel (and combined shopping complex).
There are a lot of doctors sticking out from the array of steakhouses and karaoke bars.
Our guess is that these are for people who want some difficult medical procedures done. You get your surgery, and then you’ve got a week to recover by the beach.
There’s an EastEnders-themed karaoke bar, across the road from the ‘King William Pub’. They’ve got Sky TV, so you can still watch football in the pub, like at home.
Up above, there are these thin tower blocks.
The hotels are designed to maximise the sea view, resulting in towers which look like tall viewing galleries. I figure the balconies are about a third the size of the hotel rooms.
Here’s the beach itself, where we stopped for lunch.
Magaluf is very hyper-real, it’s a place of consumption and gratuitous enjoyment. We can be very post-modern about it, but social reality still cuts through the spectacle. I saw this anti-gentrification graffiti on the outskirts of Palma.
Likewise, in Palma I also spotted a poster from the Bloc d’Unitat Popular.
Their aims are
…to bring together the whole spectrum of groups and individuals for a decent future for our island. A future as a sovereign island, without being subjected to a repressive state that crushes every voice it does not want to hear. A feminist future, rejecting fatal patriarchy. A future outside the tourist monoculture, based on the uncontrolled exploitation of our own resources. A future that puts life at the center, far from a system that privatises profits and collectivises spending.
Magaluf is a weird tourist playground, but there is life there if you look closely.