AT this time of the year, one of the nicest walks in Palma is along the sea front, with the city's old walls, the Cathedral and other historic buildings in full view on the other side of the Parc de Mar. But believe it or not, until 1960 where you can walk today was still the sea as it swept in to break against those old walls. One of the attractions of this walk, which will take a couple of hours at a leisurely pace and with the sea breezes to keep you cool, is that it leads through both ancient history and the changes of the past half century that have altered the face of our fine city -- remembering that as recently as the 1930s the population of Palma was just over 80'000, compared to the 401'000 listed in the most recent official census. After the horror of the 1936-39 Civil War came a time of recovery, from hunger poverty and sorrow. Great public works were undertaken such as the western dock at Porto Pi, and the Paseo Marítimo. And with the influence of the tourist boom a new airport was needed as the one in use at Son Bonet, near Pont d'Inca, was not big enough for the growing number of visitors, already getting close to one million a year, and the size of the aircraft. In 1960, it was decided to change over to Son San Juan, until then used by the Spanish Air Force, and which nowadays receives from all over the world more than 20 million passengers every year. Looking forward, the planners knew that a fast road link would be necessary between Palma and its new airport. It is a tribute to them that fifty years later the new road -- the Ronda del Litoral -- still serves its purpose very well indeed. However, it was not built without controversy. In front of the Cathedral it had to be constructed on reclaimed land that would hold the sea back from the city walls; there were many protests that it would end Palma's symbolic link with the sea and eliminate the beautiful reflection of the Cathedral in the Mediterranean. But the advantages of the new route were obvious; giving direct access to the Paseo Sagrera and Paseo Maritimo and connecting with the Avenidas, while at its other end beyond the airport it led to the Autovia de Levante, the Llucmajor motorway. In 1972, three years after the opening of the new Ronda del Litoral and the Autovia de Levante, the Ayuntamiento of Palma received the rights from the Spanish Ministry of Works to the reclaimed land between the motorway and the Cathedral, in order to build a park. A jury was formed to choose the best plan; among its members were celebrities like Joan Miró, one of the world's greatest surrealist painters, and José Luis Sert, architect, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he had initiated the world's first degree programme in urban design. In 1978, after much consideration the jury chose a project, later modified, whose main feature was a lake in which the Cathedral would once more be reflected in nearby waters. There was further delay due to those kind of problems that generally appear with large scale public works, but the Parc de Mar, as it was named, was inaugurated on the 12th of October 1994.

AFTER this introduction, it's time to start our walk, perhaps in the evening to be able to enjoy the sea breeze, and a magical sunset. Starting at the sea front, near the old harbour of Palma, on the left we have the most beautiful historic buildings of the city, the Palacio de la Almudaina, a reminiscence of the Arab domination, La Seo, the Cathedral, with its magnificent Mirador doorway, the Bishop's Palace, and Casa del Marqués de la Torre, near the La Portella gateaway from which is now once again possible to swim in the sea as it was long ago. Behind on the skyline can be seen the bell towers of many of the churches and convents of the old quarters, like Santa Clara, Santa Eulalia, San Francisco, Montesión and others The walk stretches along, in parallel with the Muralla, the old walls, on the opposite side. Then, after crossing the main road, there are two choices: to walk back, either through the Parc de Mar, with its trees and flower gardens and children's playground, to reach the lake, or to follow the walls up to the Baluarte de Berard from where there is a fine view of the Bay of Palma. Incidentally, many British people may not know that in 1932 the Royal Navy's Home Fleet, with over two hundred and fifty vessels, manned by 80.000 sailors and officers, among them the Prince of Wales, assembled in the Bay. One can imagine what it meant for Palma -- it is said that not a single post-card was left. In the Parc de Mar there are sculptures by contemporary artists like José Maria Sirvent, Enrique Broglia, Amador Magraner, Ben Jakober, Andre Alfaro, Alfonso Sard, and Josep Guinovart. Of special interest is Joan Miró's giant mural, which is conveniently near a nice cafeteria, a good place to rest after the walk in front of the lake, with its jet fountain and Alfaro's sculpture, “ A line to the wind”, and with the Cathedral standing proud above the old city walls. This park, created with much debate and some controversy, has in the end succeeded in linking Palma's great past with its vibrant presence.