Saturday, February 02, 2013

Lost Expectations: Alcúdia's Mile

Magalluf, so we have been reminded many, many times over the past few weeks, is not just one street. The resort's notoriety may be confined mostly to Punta Ballena, but notoriety rubs off. There is sympathy for the offence that those in other parts of the resort take because of this damned-by-association, and some of it exists in Alcúdia. Magalluf and Alcúdia are both examples of resorts with different faces but which get branded because of one face. Alcúdia's "Mile" does not have the notoriety of Punta Ballena, but it is the Mile and its environs that dominate the way in which a dog can be given a name: sometimes bad, but not exclusively. Alcúdia is its port with the brand new ship terminal, its wide promenade and award-winning marina. Alcúdia is also the old town of mediaeval walls and Roman ruins. It is the sleepy hamlet resorts on the bay of Pollensa and the mountainous area of La Victoria to Coll Baix and Cap Pinar. But for most, Alcúdia is the Mile, what the Spanish have long dubbed "dollar street", one where the pavements are lined with the gold of tourist loose change.

Dollar street lost its dollar some time ago. Not completely, but gone are the days of high tales of how the street - Avenida Pedro Mas y Reus, to give it its official name - used to be so full of people in high summer that neither you nor vehicles could move during the evenings. The Mile is still the centre of tourist activity, but market changes, notably all-inclusives, have altered it. Personally, I haven't lost my affection for the Mile, for its fun, its bustle, its vague air of British seaside campness. But it has grown tired. The days of cheap and cheerful have passed. We are in the era of the nouveau tourist, one in which the "mature" resorts of Mallorca must give themselves a makeover. Hence, the brilliance of some of what is happening in Magalluf.

Alcúdia doesn't have a sugar-daddy hotel chain like Meliá to transform its Mile. Meliá has one hotel, just off the Mile, but that is all, and it, like much of the area, looks fatigued. There are other hotel chains, but the Mile, its rows of servile restaurants and bars, is brooded over by the manor houses of Miss Haversham. Bellevue. Poor, poor Bellevue, the symbol of lesser or lost expectations, a complicated complex of years of changing management, financial and ownership confusion and now all-inclusivity. Upwards of 5,000 places, and few of the inhabitants spending dollars on old dollar street. Its lost expectations are made more heart-breaking by its location by the great lake of Alcúdia. The Lago Esperanza. Lake of hope. Lake of expectation.

The town hall is spending a quarter of a million euros on improving pavements, lighting and other infrastructure along the Mile, including the bridge, created over 20 years ago and forgotten ever since. The bridge, too steep, too dangerous because of cars that can travel too quickly and too blindly because of the steepness and because of the lumbering lard-loaded trikes and other touristic transport paraphernalia that zigzags across the Mile, came into being as a response to the great inundation at the start of the 1990s. It is hard to see if it has even had a lick of paint ever since, so the investment is welcome, but what of the rest?

Too many formulaic, uninspiring units of aluminium struts and too little real investment reveal the developmental apartheid that has occurred in Alcúdia. The port has had this, as has the old town, but the money-spinning, dollar Mile has been deprived of it for too long. Time has caught up with the Mile and caught up, therefore, with Alcúdia's principal centre for extracting dollars from tourists who have been treated with less than total respect by unthinking and complacent indifference. A whole architectural re-assessment needs to be made; facades of some uniformity and attractiveness applied to the faceless units. The lookies need to be hounded out (but won't be), but might lose a good chunk of their market were consideration given to perhaps making the Mile pedestrianised in the evenings and throwing it open to its own street market, replete with street entertainers, folk dance (which ne'er ventures away from the port and the old town), competitions.

But whatever might be done and whatever is being done with new flagstones, new street lights, these can't disguise the cobwebs that shroud the Haversham manors, so long - for forty years - exposed to the sun but for too long out of the sunlight of development.

Any comments to please.

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