Well, after careful consideration, I decided I would go away for Christmas and with a family recommendation I’m heading for Palma de Mallorca for a week and will rent a car to see a bit more of the island while I’m here. I’ve completely forgotten how to pack and found the new rules about cabin baggage confusing – for an extra 20 quid I can take a big and a small one – one for the locker, one under the seat. Hooray no waiting at the carousel!
As the flight is at 07:10, I’ve booked into the Premier Inn North Terminal at Gatwick with a week’s parking with Purple Parking. So out of practice, I go to the hotel first and check in only to be told that I should have parked first and come in on the shuttle bus. As I go to retrieve the car there’s a security guard on his walkie talkie summoning the bomb squad. He admonishes me “Never leave a car unattended in an airport”. I grovel and set off. It transpires that Purple Parking is halfway to Brighton and I have a vague recollection of using it under a different name once before when Dee, Jacque, Toddy and I set off for the Copa de Ibiza in 2004, my only other venture to the Illes Balears. A short wait and a bus takes three of us to a stop outside the terminal from which the only route to the hotel appears to involve dicing with death with drop-off traffic. I make it, have a beer and supper and retire fairly early with the prospect of a 05:00 alarm. I was concerned that extra security and health checks might make the security/check-in process even longer than usual. It was not too bad and soon I was at the gate where my bag option also conferred ‘speedy boarding’. a real bonus. The flight was busy but not full so distancing and masks were easily possible. As we took off and headed out across the channel the sunrise was amazing (and a bit sharper than the through the window phone shot).
The flight was pleasant enough with solid cloud over most of France until the Auvergne and the eastern Pyrenees showed a light touch of snow. We even arrived ten minutes early – just as well as getting out of Palma airport is a task of IKEA-like proportions. A bus into town, walk to the Hotel Amudaina where, despite it being 11, they kindly allowed me to check in rather than just leave my bags which is what I had expected. Having declined EasyJet’s breakfast offerings, it was dump stuff in the very pleasant and spacious room and pop next door for my first orange juice, croissant and an excellent café solo doble. Refreshed I decide to go and explore. It’s not long before I get confirmation of where I am.
Next to this is the Lotja, the old stock exchange which with its barleytwist pillars and fine ceiling reminded me of the similar building in Valencia. That evening I was to say to a friend I met later on that much of Palma reminded me of Valencia – no bad thing in my book.
So I continued to walk around the city with occasional breaks for coffee and beer. I found the cathedral which I plan to visit tomorrow and the market – Mercat del Olivar – I love the colour, the smells and the constant babble of chat in Spanish markets and had some tapas in a bar inside it. The Plaza de Espana was a bit sprawly and dull, the Plaza Mayor very elegant but spoilt by Christmas market stalls – what have the Germans done to the worl.
The old town is filled with narrow streets and occasional delights of modernisme architecture. Feeling I’d had a good first orientation I went back to the hotel to change into more suitable garb for a concert at the Palacio de Congresos where I was to meet my friend Rosa Pascual and her mother. As it happened Rosa’s mum wasn’t feeling too well so I had the pleasure of Rosa’s company, and no need to confess to my lack of Catalan, for a concert in a fine new auditorium.
It was given by the massive forces of the Orquestra Simfonica dels Illes Balears. The programme opened with a festive overture by William Grant Still which was unknown to me and quite lively if a little rough at the edges as the band settled down. We then had Handel’s Water Music and a suite from the Nutcracker at which I kept wanting Matthew Bourne’s dancers projected on a screen behind them. It then went a bit poppy and Hollywood before concluding with a special arrangement of some Catalan carols which nearly had Rosa joining in and which we both really enjoyed. Rosa thought the conductor had made a very sensitive treatment of some old favourites. She then kindly dropped me off at the hotel but couldn’t stop for a drink as she had to drive back into the middle of Mallorca along dark and twisty roads to a villa she’s staying in.
I went for a walk around the neighbourhood, was declined entry by one restaurant which said the kitchen had closed so ventured a little further and supped in La Bodeguilla with a great atmosphere, far too much food and my first taste of a local Mallorca wine OBAC de Binigrau which was a blend of several grapes, lightly oaked and most acceptable but I think they should leave off the subtitle if they want to export it. It had been long, varied, exciting and lovely day – and I’m abroad!