Last day of fun in the sun

On my way to get the car from the convenient parking garage I stopped to photograph one of the many sculptures that decorate the streets of Palma. This is a Joan Miro piece called ‘Personnage’ and I was struck also by one on the trendy Passeig de Born with its built in watery reflections and fabulous title.

I decided to have a lazy day at the beach and I did get good beach time but travelled a few kilometres on the way. I hadn’t yet seen much of the east coast so headed off up the central spine Ma13 to the popular port of – guess what it’s called. As I arrived I found a convenient parking lot and could see no machines so I ask a fellow parker if we have to pay. “No, es gratis,” she replied and seeing my pleasure added a cynical “ahora, pero no se por quanto tiempo.” Whether she was indicating that the summer season would see charges introduced or that it would just be an opportunity for the local town hall to monetise its land was unclear.

I had a walk round the harbour, a coffee and thought it was a pleasant enough holiday resort with modern blocks of four to five storeys and loads of restaurants, bars, boat trip vendors and shops. Now for some open coast. I set off southwards and had my comparison of Palma with Valencia the other day reinforced by the fact that there’s a major wetlands natural park S’Albufera similar to the one south of Valencia. I decided to give it a miss on this occasion and then drove on with the frustration that frequently accompanies coastal drives in many areas of Spain. The main road is just inland from the coast and has a variety of apartment blocks, holiday homes and shopping parades obscuring your view of the sea, bar fleeting glimpses down side streets. So I turned left at San Baulo which was where the built-up strip seemed to run out, parked in a residential street where sounds of music, chatter and laughter showed that there were people living or at least staying here for the holidays. There’s a splendid promenade with an interesting piece of sculpture out on the rocks and a large pointy tower labelled ‘Military Edifice’ with no further explanation. It’s now 21 degrees and I’m pleased with my decision to head for the seaside. It’s a very pleasant stroll looking out across the Mediterranean and thinking ‘next stop Sardinia’ where, if I recall correctly, there is a Catalan-speaking enclave still.

It was great to smell the sea and wander along in the sun, but there’s more coast to explore. I pass a number of enticing turnings but then see this sign which after Christmas Day’s rather unfulfilling quest for Talaiotic sites, how could I not take this turning?

The promise of a whole village! My Catalan knows that much.

Setting off on the Ma 4021, I was a bit worried that, given previous experience, it might prove quite elusive. No worries! It is substantial and bang in the centre of S’Illot. First excavations began in the 1960s and 70s by archaeologists from the University of Marburg. They found both square tower-like structures and the circular sanctuaries we saw vestiges of on Christmas Day. There are helpful signboards and apparently much more to excavate especially towards the sea. Shame for the shops and blocks in the way! I’ll just add a few pictures here and for anyone who has some Catalan there’s a website and a YouTube video takes you on a tour of the site. It’s quite humbling to see what people could construct with limited tools and technology nearly 3000 years ago.

Scrambling through the stones and up the ramps is thirsty work and I also need a loo so it’s time to find a bar. I head to the sea and turn left. Lots of closed cafes, children’s playground and signs of a lively summer resort with this stunning white sand beach.

350 metres of sandy beach at S’Illot

I retrace my steps and find the perfect place to satisfy my needs. A beer, a view out to sea and some delicious gambas al ajillo made for a very happy tourist.

I’m due to get the car back to Mallorca airport by five o’clock so the remainder of the afternoon involves a series of drive by visits to a few towns in the east. Cala Ratjada and Capdepera look interesting and I was tempted to join the folk in the main square at the latter and visit its impressive castle. On my way back inland Artà and Manacor both looked like places worth a visit on another occasion. It had been a good last day exploring the island further and after depositing the car, there was a fabulous sunset from the bus that took me back to the Passeig de Mallorca two minutes from the hotel. My route took me past a lovely pastry shop from which I had been asked to procure goodies to take back home. Packed in a sturdy box I hope they survive the flight.

My negative test result is back so I can go home, mild disappointment there! Now it’s time to fill in the UK’s impenetrable Passanger Locator Form. The Spanish health declaration on the way out was so simple, why did completing the UK version take hours and refuse to let me either upload an image of or photograph my Covid passport but let me complete it when I eventually gave up and ticked ‘unable to upload image’? Eventually done and so packing was next and a light supper out in the old town again before returning for a final nightcap of that rather nice Mallorcan brandy Suau I’d discovered on nochebuena with a final view over the city from the terrace of the Skybar.

I got to the airport in good time after a final visit to the hotel breakfast buffet and checked in with all the right documents on my phone. I suppose the one good thing about being non-EU citizens is that you now get stamps in your passport – I used to love collecting those. A quick flight back to Gatwick, off to retrieve the car from Purple Parking’s country location and then back to my daughter’s to deliver the ensaimadas I’d been asked to bring back from the local pastry shop. Ensaimadas are to Mallorca as custard tarts are to Lisbon. It was here that I had to confess that I had not fully heeded Jo’s injunction to be sensible and not fall over. I did fall quite badly on the slanted steps outside the Museu EsBaluard last Thursday and badly bruised my left wrist and right elbow.

My downfall on these rather hard stones on the terrace.

I can’t get my right hand up to my mouth yet to drink so have to drink left-handed which I think Jo would have noticed. Rosa’s mother certainly did. She looked at my very puffy hand and enquired ‘Mala circulacion?’ To which I confessed I had fallen and bruised it. Pepita was instantly to the rescue with a tube of San Bernard anti-inflammatory cream which has certainly helped the swelling go down and the pain diminish. Still no stitches and no hospitalisation this trip so things are getting better. They say things come in threes so I’m hoping this is my last of the series. I might be allowed out again.

Bones Festes! Felices fiestas! Happy New Year!

The joy of Christmas travel

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).

A corner of Sussex as the sun comes up.

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.

This sign is on the waterfront where there are lots of posh yachts and in the distance those apartment blocks of cruise liners that flock to the wonderfully curved harbour.

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!