The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears or the sea.
– Isak Dinesen
Another year, another holiday. And this year, it actually happened, unlike last year’s trip to Vienna that had to be cancelled for health reasons. Although this year came dangerously close to the same when my mom came down with another one of her dramatically mysterious fits of bad health. Her doctor meant to write her off sick again but then things took a turn for the better and we flew anyway. Which was only a semi-good idea – but I’m getting ahead of myself.
This trip took us to Mallorca, again – and to that sweet little hotel in Portocolom, again.
We were facing a ridiculously early 6:30 flight and as usual, I vowed to go to bed early, sleep a few hours, then get up in the middle of the night. Well, that didn’t work out so well and I had to make do with a meagre three hours of sleep before I had to drive us to the airport. Luckily, good things like holidays make it easy to be excited and bubbly anyway. It puzzled me to find that everything was open at five in the morning because for our flight to London in January, we’d found the whole airport asleep and that had been an hour later. So, I could have splurged with proper breakfast but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat before getting on a plane, and so I stuck to a bottle of water as usual.
The thing with Mallorca is, the island I’ve come to see and love has nothing to do with its reputation. That reputation comes from exactly two locations, El Arenal and Magaluf. I’ve never been to either but when you’re flying there, you’re bound to share the plane with a bunch of people who are going there for a few days of party and drinking. And when we were flying, it was two days before Father’s Day, a time which a lot of people use for a short trip to Mallorca and engage in heavy partying. So when it was time for boarding, we stood behind a group of young men, each equipped with a sixpack (and not the good kind) and weird attire suggesting what exactly was in store for them. While we waited, the already opened the first cans and I made sure to leave a huge gap between us and them to avoid an early morning beer shower. Behind us was a family with two crying toddlers and yep, instant holiday feeling!
After a rough flight, we finally touched down in Palma de Mallorca and from there, things went a lot more smoothly. This time, the transfer to our hotel took a lot longer and while we were getting a bit impatient, it was also nice because the route the coach took was one we hadn’t explored before, along the south coast which has so many gorgeous little bays and beaches.
Once we’d arrived at the hotel, we found that we’d been assigned a room on the fifth floor again, with a balcony facing the same side as last time but further down the floor and closer to the water, so our view was even better than last time. The first time I stepped out onto the balcony and saw my beloved lighthouse again, I almost cried.
(There’s actually a petition going on to save the lighthouse from being handed over to a private owner and turned into a hotel. The petition is in Spanish but if you’d still like to help by signing it, you can do so here.)
After we’d unpacked, we went down to the pool bar to enjoy our first cappucino and a Spanish omelette. I’d meant to wait until we could go to the restaurant for dinner but since I hadn’t eaten anything yet, it was just too tempting. After a few blissful hours spent enjoying the view from our balcony, we raided the buffet for dinner – and then my mom came down with yet more bad health escapades. She was sick pretty much all night and neither of us got any sleep, so the next day started with both of us tired and grumpy.
We’re the most stubborn people I know, though, and after a fantastic breakfast including eggs and yoghurt and fresh fruit (for me) and dry toast and herbal tea (for my mom), we picked up our rental car and headed out to Palma for some shopping. Since I’d had quite a lot on my list I wanted to look for and potentially buy, I’d asked if we could do that first. I’m really not good with keeping ahead of my budget, so it’s best to make bigger purchases right away. But let’s just say that shopping in Palma isn’t something you should do when you’re lacking sleep and dealing with a pounding headache.
First of all, just because your rental has great GPS navigation, you know where you’re going and you’re definitely in the right lane for a U-turn does not mean the Mallorquin drivers won’t honk at you anyway. Loudly. And a lot. And all of them at once. I invented a bunch of new swear words that I’m really quite proud of. Then there’s the fact that in a town that’s really old and has a lot of narrow streets and little space for all the tourists and locals to park their cars, underground parking sounds like a brilliant idea. But when your rental runs on Diesel and reacts completely differently than your own car and you have to drive it up a steep slope, stop and start again half way up and meet traffic lights on top that only know red and ‘I’m blinking because I want you to know that you may or may not be hit by traffic and die a painful death, good luck, muahahaha!’…well, that’s just the kind of adventure I can do without!
And all of that turned out to be for nothing. Beforehand, I had been told to check out the bigger, better, all over magnificent and heavenly Sephora on Avenida de Alexandre Roselló. After that kind of description, I was looking for a huge place, possibly one that I could see sparkling in the sunshine from afar. First I couldn’t find the street and had to ask a very amused taxi driver for help who asked if I really wanted him to drive us 150m ahead where I’d find it. Facepalm! Then we walked back and forth, even asked people, but no one knew what we were talking about. Finally, I decided that it was better to abort our mission and change our plans for the day before we killed each other or innocent people. So we went back to our car and drove back to Portocolom where we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the view across the bay from a bar by the marina. They also served the best vanilla ice cream I ever had – and also the best smoothies. So the day was taking a turn for the better. Still, we barely even made it to dinner later before we crashed, finally catching up on sleep, a lot of it. With hindsight, I’m mad I let my mom’s poor health ruin things for us so much. I could have just told her that we should change our plans according to it. If we had knowingly made it a rest day, I wouldn’t even minded. I like just sitting in the sun, reading and enjoying the view. I think what made it so bad was that it wasn’t originally meant to be a rest day but if we’d been more spontaneous about it, we could have enjoyed it more anyway.
My mom asked if I wanted to go to Palma again the next day but I definitely wanted to do some sightseeing and definitely wasn’t in the mood for the busy life in Palma again. So we went to Valldemossa instead. It still is one of my favourite places on the island, although I absolutely dread the drive up there. The views are amazing but I can do without the fear of dying halfway up the mountain. But Valldemossa is so worth it all! Since it had taken us over an hour to get up there, our first stop was a little bar where we enjoyed a cold drink and a much needed restroom. It isn’t the most beautiful place since it’s right by the street but I still love it because when you sit there, you can enjoy the positive atmosphere of the place. Valldemossa attracts tourists who are interested in the monastery but also people looking for unique clothes, art or gifts and groups of cyclists. If you want to see pure happiness, look at the face of someone who cycled all the way up to Valldemossa – even if it’s just the pure happiness of having survived the hardest torture of their life!
Then we walked around the town a little bit, ventured in and out of shops and admired the beautiful old houses. Even if you’re not really looking to buy anything, the shops in Valldemossa are a must. Near the main street, there are a lot of tourist shops that you can but don’t really have to visit but when you walk further towards the monastery, there are a lot of small art and second hand shops, places that sell unique things. It’s such a change of pace from what we’re usually used to, all the chain stores and international brands.
This time we didn’t buy tickets for the monastery because we had already seen it last time. It’s interesting but once you’ve seen it, there isn’t really much to discover (for us). But we stopped for lunch in one of the little tapas bars in the square outside the entrance. My mom had proper food but I just had some bread with aioli and then a slice of caramel pudding with cream. Caramel-anything is a huge thing on Mallorca and I’d wanted to try the pudding for ages. It was…well, good. What they mean by ‘caramel’ is a lot more bitter than I’m used to and cream is often a tasteless, semi-liquid affair. But it was alright. I wasn’t really hungry anyway, just curious.
After lunch, we walked down the Carrer de Jovellanos, at the end of which you get a spectacular view of the mountains and the valley below. There were also more cafés and bars around but we were still full and not up for another stop. Still, I popped into a little art shop which sold gorgeous paintings. I would have loved to buy one but was afraid I wouldn’t get it home safely, so I opted for buying a bunch of postcards of similar designs. Always good to stock up on cards for my Postcrossing adventures. The artist was really sweet and even let me take one for free as a gift. On our way back to the car, I fell in love with it, the most beautiful bag I’d ever laid eyes on. It was in a small boutique selling unique designer pieces and I was disheartened when I saw the price of ‘my’ bag. After much debating with myself, I decided that no, I just couldn’t justify paying so much for a bag. But oh, it was so beautiful. The main part has a world map design, the front pocket is shaped and designed like an airmail envelope and the whole bag has little travel and snail mail details like an airplane charm. Sigh. Reluctantly, I walked away with a tear in my eye.
When we made it back to the car, we pondered what we should do with the rest of the day. It was already well into the afternoon but we would have had time for another stop. Since it was nearby and sounded like a nice place in our tourist guide, we decided to take the short drive to Deià. It’s supposed to be another small town, similar to Valldemossa but even more attractive for artists. But when we got there, parking seemed impossible. There are several smaller parking lots along the main road but the rest of the town stretches up and down the mountain, either with no chance to turn away from the main road at all or so steep that I didn’t dare drive there. It did seem really beautiful, though, even just the small glimpse we got at it, and we vowed to come back another time, earlier in the day. I’m not sure I’d ever want to stay in a hotel in the Serra Tramuntana because my little heart just loves the ocean too much. I want to see it from the window or at least the breakfast room or somewhere else in the hotel every morning. But the little mountain towns and villages are so charming and beautiful, I can’t help coming back there anyway.
Since we couldn’t get out of the car in Deià and it was getting too late for another stop, we drove back to Portocolom but stopped in the bar by the marina again, this time only for a cold drink and a view over the beloved marina. In fact, we stopped by that bar almost every day, not because our hotel isn’t nice but you just can’t beat the view from the marina.
For our third day, we decided to give Palma another shot. After having more rest and in a much better mood, braving the busy streets there was a lot less stressful. After having asked Auntie Google about that wondrous Sephora again, I also knew that we had indeed been in the correct street but it wasn’t a store but inside El Corte Inglés, a department store. We had planned to park elsewhere but the Gods meant for us to park in the underground parking of doom again and I really wasn’t up for looking for another space for hours. The good news was that it was just a few steps from El Corte Inglés – and that’s where I learned that Spanish retail people are either sinister or insane or both. The store had a special discount week going on where you got a discount card on which you’d get a credit of 20% of your last purchase to spend on your next purchase. So you wander from counter to counter and tell yourself you really shouldn’t buy anything but oh, you still have that XX Euros from your last purchase, so it really won’t be so bad! You can do this ad nauseum, all day everyday until either they cut and burn your credit card or someone comes to take you to the madhouse.
The first thing I bought was a lipstick from MAC in the shade Violetta. After I had bought a violet lipstick from Kiko a while ago, just to test how the violet – purple theme works with me and loving it, I had meant to buy a brighter, more pigmented one. I didn’t even know MAC had a shade like that and what’s even more amazing is that my mom found it. She’s the brown eyeshadow, brown lashes type. And yet, she instantly picked it up and told me to buy it since I’d been looking for one. So I did! It’s a gorgeous shade and I like it on myself a lot but I don’t think I’m in a place where I can wear extra-ordinary shades like that everyday, so it’s a ‘special occasion’ thing for me.
Next, I traipsed over to the Sephora counter – and my heart was crushed because, what’s special about it? I’ll never know. Contrary to the actual Sephora store, they did have Urban Decay, yeah, but only the Naked 2 and 3 and the Basic Nakeds. Otherwise, they had a lot of Benefit and store brand products and a couple palettes from Too Faced. I was disappointed but I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t bought a lot anyway. My loot was a Matte Eye palette from Too Face (who can resist a palette that has an eyeshadow called Chinchilla?), two store brand nail polishes, a store brand eyeliner and a bunch of my beloved shower puffs. I’m really chuffed with the palette so far. The little tutorial sheet gives you ideas for smokey eye looks for different occasions but you can just as well mix the highly pigmented colours with other shades. The nail polish is great as usual, I love the brushes and they work really well for me. The eyeliner is okay, nothing amazing but I needed a new one and this works as well as most others. And the shower puffs are just my Holy Grail of showering. You get them anywhere, from any brand, in any price range, but Sephora’s are my favourite by far.
All over, I spent abour 65 Euros with Sephora and after that I wanted to get the hell out. But on my way to the door, I saw IT. Agent Provocateur! If you know me, you know that I lost my heart to Maitresse, their amazing perfume, and that I had my heart broken, ripped from my chest and stamped on when I couldn’t find it anywhere after using the last drops of it. At the store, they only had their new fragrances, Fatale and Fatale Pink. When I stopped at the counter, though, an elderly retail woman caught me looking and what followed was a funny conversation based on the fact that she spoke neither German nor English and I don’t speak Spanish / Mallorquin: “You like?” “Oh yes, it smells great. Do you have other fragrances by AP?” “Yes, yes.” “I was looking for Maitresse.” “Oh, yes.” “Do you have it?” “Yes, yes.” “Oh, where?” “In England!” I think she meant that they import the brand from England. But they didn’t have it (I think). Either way, Fatale Pink smells very similar and I kept sniffing it. And of course, I now had so much credit on my discount card that I basically had 50% off the price of the small bottle. So yeah, what can I say? I’m weak, so home with me it went.
But I swear, after the woman had handed me my discount card back with the remark that I now had 8 Euros from that purchase on the card again, I all but ran from that treacherous place!
Now feeling blissfully content and happily carrying my bags around, I dragged my mom further into the city center. We walking along the narrow shopping streets and tried to filter out cheap tourist stores to discover the many gems to be found among them, small places selling unique things. Surprisingly, I didn’t buy anything more but my mom purchased a new bag. Halfway along the way to the cathedreal, we stopped at the Placa Mayor, a grand square with many bars and restaurants for a snack and a cool drink. We made the mistake to stop at the first tapas bar we saw which happened to be between the large columns at one end of the square, and completely in the shade. It was quite windy, too, so our tapas (mini omelettes and cheese with olive oil) were enjoyed in a hurry because we wanted to get back into the warm sunshine. We could have done worse, though, because there are also many fast food places in the square, including a Burger King and a place selling “ham cones”, a very Mallorquin / Spanish thing I’ve never seen anywhere else before. Basically, they’re cardboard cones like the ones you can buy Dutch fries in, but they’re filled with little pieces of Serrano ham. Even though I find the ham quite tasty, eating it like fries or popcorn seems strange to me and I rather didn’t try it.
Then we walked on, looking at more shops here and there, slowly making our way towards the cathedral. We didn’t go there all the way, though, because we had no plans to go inside. The cathedral isn’t all that stunning when you’re coming from inside the city and I had learned beforehand that the square in front of it, which also faces the harbour, isn’t accessible due to maintanence works anyway. So we only walked to the Carrer de Palau Reial and then walked back, picking up some ice cream from Iceberg on the way. I had my doubts before trying it but goat’s cheese and honey was one of the best ice cream flavours I’ve ever tried.
On our way back, we took a slightly different route, checking out more of the cute little streets of Palma until we reached Palca d’Espanya and picked up our car from the Underground Parking of Doom again. Result of that day: Spent a lot of money but not nearly as much as I thought I would and had allowed myself to? Check! Fell in love again with Palma? Check! Got stuffed on a lot of yummy food? Check! Success!
The next day took us to Sollèr. We’d also been there before but out first visit had been cut shot, as we’d wanted to catch the tram to Port de Sollèr. This time we meant to spend more time there. When we arrived, there was a farmer’s market going on and the streets and the town square were packed with people. Some of the market stands were lame, selling cheap electronics and fake merchandise. But there were also nice and interesting ones that sold traditional clothing and food. We didn’t buy anything but it was interesting to see and the atmosphere was so nice, with all the locals standing around in groups and catching up with each other. What wasn’t so nice were the constant heart attacks when the tram that crosses the town square threatened to run someone over who just wouldn’t get that leaving the tracks would be a good idea, like right now!
Sadly we couldn’t enter Sant Bartomeu once more, so instead we crossed the square and walked down Carrer de sa Lluna. Again there were shops selling local specialties but we didn’t buy anything, save for some art postcards. The street was just as crowded as the market but it was good to be among locals for a change as opposed to the many tourists we’d encountered so far. Even though I’d lacked the lust for shopping all day, when we walked back to the car, I batted my eyelashes at my mom and asked if she’d mind going back to Valldemossa for a moment. And of course, she instantly guessed my plan: Pick up what I will forever refer to as the most wonderful bag I ever owned.
For our last day with a car we had planned to drive along the south coast and then up the east coast and stop along the way wherever something caught our interest. First we drove to Colònia de Sant Jordi where we enjoyed the view and walked along the port for a little bit. The sea is so beautiful there! But the town itself didn’t seem all that fun. Next we’d meant to stop in Campos but the place seemed dead and dull, so we drove on and quickly made it to Portocristo. Now, that’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen on Mallorca. The bay makes for a stunning view and the water is so blue there, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t photoshopped even when you’re looking at it with your own eyes. We found a little bar that was set into the hill and from where we had an amazing view while we enjoyed a cold drink. Some stairs led down to the beach from there and I so wanted to descend them. But I wasn’t wearing the right shoes to walk in the sand and had no towel or anything else to get rid of the sand if I had gone barefoot, so I refrained. I definitely want to go back there and spend a day at the beach next time, though.
When we left Portocristo, I could already see that my mom wasn’t feeling well once again. So with a heavy heart, I suggested we go back to the hotel. When we reached Portocolom, though, we decided to make the short trip to the other side of the bay to pay a visit to the lighthouse. My oh my, the area is amazing! So many really pretty homes along that part of Portocolom – and so quiet and nice. We even found the only small strip of beach around there, but it didn’t seem very inviting. Seems like it’s mostly used by locals to have little family barbecues. When we reached the lighthouse we were disappointed to find we couldn’t go near it because the gate to it was locked. Not knowing what else to do, we just took some pictures and then turned around and drove back to the hotel.
The next day was a pool day and also our last day there. I’m proud to announce I did nothing but sleep, read and enjoy the last hours in Portocolom. Sadly, it was too cool to spend the whole day by the pool, so half of it was spent on the balcony and in the room to warm up a bit.
I’m really sad that the time to say our goodbyes came so soon again. This time I could have done with another week there at least. But given my mom’s condition – which had improved enough for the flight home to be smooth – I was also glad to get back home. And what do you know, one day after we got home, she was all peachy and fine.
…and now for some visual pleasures: