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!

World of wonder

Christmas Eve has a special meal planned at the hotel but first there’s some boring admin to deal with. So after breakfast: Book a PCR test for Monday two days before flying home. Check 7 minutes walk from hotel, walk in service no appointment needed. Brilliant.

Christmas Day visit to Rosa and lunch out in the country will need a car. None available in the city but I can pick one up at the airport tomorrow and it’s on the way anyway. Check. So now to the real business of the day – a trip to the Fundacio Pilar i Joan Miro.

The location is out in the western suburbs of Palma in an area called Cala Major and it takes about fifteen minutes in a taxi from the hotel. One of the things I wanted after the grey of London was some blue sky. Not yet in Palma but today as I walk towards the entrance the cloud lifts and there is a good-sized patch of blue. And of course with Miro there will be more sun inside.

My visit was a little truncated as a large part of the building was closed for repairs and remodelling but both in the extensive gardens where big sculptures were displayed and in the studio where the stacked canvases there were ample testaments to the genius and prolixity of Joan Miro. He and his Mallorca wife Pilar, lived on Mallorca from 1956 until his death in 1983. He used a small building Finca San Boter while his friend Josep Sert was designing and building a purpose built studio, now known as the Sert Studio. Up in Boter it’s fun to see the remains of Miro’s sketching in charcoal directly onto the whitewashed walls and also to note the eclectic collection of everyday objects he took inspiration from.

The Sert Studio is a fine building from the outside with a fluted roof either echoing waves or clouds and slanted tiles to allow filtered light and air into the capacious balconied studio. I was utterly gobsmacked by the sheer number of canvases leaning against each other and the walls. While there are strong similarities in Miro’s basic mark selection and palette, each canvas has a different atmosphere and you wonder what the finished articles would have looked like. It’s always fascinating to see artists’ work in progress and there’s plenty of it here.

There was also a rather good fifteen minute video about his life and work on Mallorca which after climbing and descending the many steps to Boter studio I was happy to sit for a while and watch. I was very pleased I’d made the trip out here and as I left wondering where I’d get a taxi, I came upon a bus stop that said Route 46 went up the Passeig de Mallorca which is very close to the hotel. It also had a QR code that informed me that a bus was due in ten minutes so I decided to wait. Well worth it! It headed off in totally the wrong direction according to my understanding of where Palma lay, but eventually came to a terminus in Genova, waited for a while and then returned me through bustling suburbs including one that must have been close to the more infamous areas of Mallorca as there were adult only entertainment bars, sex shops which I found a bit surprising next to supermarkets and pharmacies. However it did pitch up where I wanted and I had a stroll back to the hotel with a few stops for liquid, but little food refreshment as a six course meal was planned for nochebuena in the hotel. This began at nine o’clock began with cava, a delicious fish soup, crispy octopus and fillet of sea bass accompanied by frequently poured Verdejo and after a short pause and change of glass, a Rioja went nicely with the lamb stuffed with foie gras (apologies vegans!). I declined the tiramisu with red fruits but did have some home made turron (nougat) with my coffee. By now I was chatting to my neighbours Carl and Cristina, Swedish fiancés who were here for Christmas before heading to Andorra for skiing where they had become engaged this time last year. Sampling a copa or two of Mallorcan brandy, we got on well and I have an invitation to their wedding in Stockholm in August. I may just be too busy with centenary celebrations at Watford to attend however. But what a lovely Christmas Eve and one that didn’t end up in hospital!