By Shirley Roberts
‘Nan’s days out’ have been a feature of my life since I became a ‘Nan’. I was very young at the time…
My granddaughters, niece, nephews, Godchildren and other lovely friend’s children, have accompanied me on many of them. From trips to the Zoo in London, to the razzamatazz of Christmas Fairs at Covent Garden to museums and walks over Hampstead Heath. Trips with children are a very happy part of my life.
Twenty-five years of life in Mallorca, as a second homeowner and then a resident, have focussed many of my trips on this island. Those of you following the stories will know the tales. Some of you follow in my footsteps and use my words as information for your own ‘days out’.
This week ‘Nan’ was doing a bit of research and travelling alone. All the children in my life were at school, university, in full time employment in London and Los Angeles or just living their best lives on this autumn day in 2023.
The point of my journey was to get the bus trip to Lluc before the season ends. The 231 TIB bus connects Soller to Alcudia, via the mountains, from April to October each year. This is a fabulous route for walkers and those heading for Lluc and beyond to the beaches of Alcudia. With just a few days before it stopped for the season, I jumped aboard at the bus stop on the main road.
I was amongst a group of walkers waiting for the bus hoping it wouldn’t be full when it arrived at our stop from the Port. A full bus was the 9 am experience, and off we went…
This is a glorious journey up the mountains via Cuber and Gorg Blau reservoirs, the Military base, goats and the odd lost sheep or two. Maximum respect to the bus driver negotiating the bus round bends which never expected to have coaches, buses and oversize vehicles travelling the route. To stop the bus to allow vehicles to pass is a feature of the journey.
An hour and a quarter of mountain roads and then the arrival outside the entrance to Lluc Monastery. Time to have a coffee and a wander in Lluc, which hadn’t quite woken up yet. Just a few visitors and a working group or two. I came across old friends, part of the team preparing a new Toy Exhibition for Lluc. Not ready yet and everything in the early stages. I was permitted a sneak view, and it is going to be an impressive place when it opens next year. It was a privilege to meet the curator. This one had collected a treasure trove from all over the world and was excited to have this great location to share from.
I love the gardens of Lluc and the walks which surround it, but my favourite place is to sit in the chapel of the Black Madonna. For a little while I was the only one there and then the queue started to form. The story of Lluc starts from the cheeky Madonna.
The legend goes that Lluc has been a centre of pilgrimage since the 13th century when an Arab shepherd boy, newly converted to Christianity, discovered a dark wooden statue of the Virgin in a cleft in the rock. He took this to the priest who moved it to the nearest church.
The next day it was gone and found back in its original rock. Again, it was moved and again it returned. This went on several times until the priest believed he was being told to create a Church at the place the Virgin wanted to be. This is said to be the beginning of Lluc as a monastery and a spiritual site. The cheeky Madonna has been revered ever since.
Lluc is a community with its own Town Hall and Police Station. A weekly boarding school for its choristers and a hotel created from the monk’s cells of the past. No seasonal closure here as the church is open daily for Mass with special services to mark the high and holy days of the Catholic Church. At weekends there are often markets and fairs of local produce. The Church and cloisters are used for concerts and gatherings. The grounds include one of the few campsites of Mallorca. They never forget they are a pilgrimage site. Pilgrims cover all ages and stages in life and all income levels. No-one needs to be turned away because they can’t afford a hotel room. Tents and mobile home camping are welcomed.
Chats to people doing the same as me revealed tourists, and many more having meetings and spiritual retreats. A quick burst of a crowd at the coffee break time in their itinerary and then it was back to the studies and subjects which had brought them here.
Time past and I walked and talked to myself. I reflected on the peace of that place when the world around us is not peaceful. I was fortunate to have that opportunity.
Then it was time for the return bus. Front seat with a glorious view from the window. I had the best seat in the house and was one of 5 people on the bus as it made its way back to Soller. I have often driven this route but never been a bus passenger in it. I saw so much unseen before. The majesty of the mountains and the isolated lives of those living in the occasional house and farm. I saw skies which went on forever out to sea, and mountains which could not have been made by man.
Nan’s Day Out ended and I had done my research for another day when the grandchildren are home for the holidays. We can then do it all again. Happy days…