Sunday, June 26, 2016

June 2016 – Three Weeks in Palma de Mallorca

Our three weeks in Palma delivered everything we'd expected, and also a few surprises along the way. Of course, we expected the non-stop sunshine, the beautiful beaches and coastline, and the wonderful historic heritage of Palma itself – they didn't disappoint.

But, we hadn't expected the city to have such a resolutely urban dimension – with all the positives and a few of the negatives that big cities bring. The apartment we'd chosen to stay at certainly gave us the chance to experience Palma's more gritty side – we were about 10 minutes walk out of the city centre, near to the wonderful Pere Garau produce market. This part of town is about as multi-cultural as you can get in Spain – loads of Chinese shops and restaurants, a large South American community, an Arab community centre round the corner, Indian shops and African hawkers on the streets. But, there was a friendly, lively and "real" feel to the area, one that feels a world away from the tourist sites thronged by cruise ship passengers, only a few minutes away.

Unbeknownst to us when we booked our apartment, next door was a squat owned by a gypsy on the run the police, populated by a few anti-social people who needed the police called on them at least once! However, our rustic apartment itself was large, airy and a nice place to hang out in – basically, we've worked out that if we have good wifi and a washing machine, we can stay virtually anywhere!

Actually, Palma as a city has gone right up the list of Tracy's "I could live there index". The city's 20 minutes from an airport with great connections around Europe, excellent public transport, it's on the sea with some great beaches, it's cosmopolitan (in addition to its multi-cultural feel, we also went to see a great version of Nabucco at its lovely opera house), the shopping is good, and the food scene is really excellent. 
On that last note, we had some really good meals here - from tapas (La Vermuteria Rosa is highly recommended); to vegetarian (at Bon Lloc we had the best vegetarian meal we've ever had); Mallorcan/Catalan food (Tast was classy); and, of course, some great paellas by the sea. My only complaint is that the tapas bar scene can't compare (in variety, quality, or liveliness) to Seville, but perhaps we've been spoilt. It certainly can't compete with Seville on its late night scene – by 11pm, most places we were in were closing down, although maybe we weren't in the right places.

We went on some lovely day trips out of town – to Valdemossa (to see the imposing monastery where Chopin and George Sand stayed); on the vintage train out to beautiful Soller; on the normal train to see the massive market at Sineu; on the bus to Deia, with its stunning cove; out to the spectacular peninsula at Formentor – this island is beautiful. 

Closer to Palma, we hired bikes and cycled along a 10 km cycle path along the coast – it was fascinating to see how the beaches got more and more developed the further from Palma we went. As soon as you got past the airport, the paella restaurants disappeared and you were in a world of German bierkellers and British pubs – it felt like a parallel universe.

When most people think of Mallorca, they tend to think of concrete, boozy resorts like Magaluf – but that's an entirely avoidable side of the tourist industry which hardly impacts on the rest of the island (at least at this time of the year). There's some very sophisticated resorts to the north, a very agricultural feel to the centre of the island, and of course, busy, historic, cosmopolitan Palma (like a mini-Barcelona)  at the hub of it all.

Overall, we had a fantastic time – when you wake up to blue skies every day, when you can stroll down to a beachside bar and have a sundowner most evenings, but also enjoy a big city feel, it's a fairly compelling combination. Me encanta la isla bonita!

PS. After a three-hour delay at the airport because of a French air traffic controllers strike, to be greeted by torrential rain, flooding, train and road chaos, and then getting the shocking news of Brexit the next day, our holiday bubble has well and truly burst. The only thing to do is to go away again! After a few days in London and Devon, Slovenia will be our next trip.