Before we headed out on our adventure to this Spanish Isle, I made the unfortunate error of looking up the weather forecast for October. As uneducated Australians, our default setting is that the weather is always going to be wonderful no matter what month of the year. We hadn’t quite yet caught the gist of these things called ‘seasons’ that seem to govern Europe. So it was a slap in the face that the phrase “If you’re coming to Mallorca in October expecting sunny days lying on the beach and swimming, you will be extremely fortunate to fulfil such desires” dominated all weather forecasts. In fact, guides claimed it was a stormy and windy month to visit.
So with our expectations lowered we packed our suitcases with a fair share of summer and winter clothing with our fingers crossed for some sun. I am more than delighted to report that every single day we were blessed with the smiling sun, and we did indeed spend our time lying under the comforting rays and swimming in the crystal clear water. Take that, weather forecasters!! The knowledge that our relatives were on mainland Spain shivering their butts off made us feel even more fortunate (sorry Buncle & Dingle!)! That being said, we thanked our lucky stars and have since been very diligent in checking weather patterns before booking any future holidays!
One of the wonderful things about living in London, is that 1.5hrs on a plane and you can be pretty much anywhere in Europe. So we started the day cooking breakfast in our apartment…and we ended the day swimming under a blazing sunset on a mediterranean island. Absolutely mental. In that moment pinching myself wouldn’t have sufficed, I would have had to have knocked myself over the head with a cricket bat to have believed it! Oh and the sunset….divine, it was like heaven decided to show off.
I have always wanted to go to Spain. At one point my mum and I took Spanish lessons at the local community college. Although I could hardly stumble through the most basic Spanish conversation, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I could pick up with my elementary knowledge in the way of reading signs, maps, and listening in to local ramblings. It most certainly rekindled my desire to learn Spanish, and I enjoyed my rare moments where I was able to stun Joel with some translations from Spanish to English (I really am talking about the most basic of signs, but to Joel I was a genius!). Anyway, I was beside myself when the customs officer pronounced ‘Hola’ at the airport, I was so over-excited I couldn’t even splutter anything out in return! On the way to our accommodation Joel had to speak with a local over the phone who basically spoke…well…Spanish. Listening to Joel trying to explain himself is funny in hindsight, but at the time when Joel hung up with no further clue about where to go, I wanted to wrangle him! Luckily some kind chap on the bus saw our dilemma and translated the directions, win!
Palma is a nice city, although so much bigger than we expected. The infrastructure on the island is actually very established, I suppose on account of tourism. Although we did enjoy wandering around the cathedral, browsing through the shops, and feasting on the Spanish cuisine (gosh that first Paella was delicious), we used it mainly as a base. Our apartment was perfect and right on the main square where there were Spanish festivities going on at all hours – little bands and spontaneous dancing breaking out amongst the crowds.
The first day we headed to the Soller railway at the urging of my mother dearest… and as always, her recommendations don’t disappoint. It is a charming wooden train that curves along past villages, winding it’s way north through the mountains. It was our first chance to glimpse everyday Spanish life on the island and you have to hand it to the locals – they work hard on the dry land, harvesting whatever will grow. The towering mountains provided an ideal backdrop to the orange and green-dotted earth. As with everywhere, there was poverty, with the train passing through a shanty camp of tents and wooden box huts, with possessions stored in trolleys, and dust rising up in circles amongst the camp as we passed. It’s always time for an attitude check when you see such depravity. My train ticket was probably more than they earn a month.
The town of Soller was perpetually cute of course, with a red tram passing through the town centre. It was flanked by its magnificent church steeples and accompanied by lively cafes and side alleys beckoning the visitor in. As we always tend to do, we took a tour of the backstreets and were trampled by Spanish children and their families out for a Sunday morning walk. I love to put myself in the shoes of the locals and went on a daydream wondering what life would be like to be born and raised in this colourful corner of the earth.
We could not have been keener to head to where water could be found, so we jumped on the tram down to ‘Port de Soller’. This was a lovely little town surrounding an arced bay where the water was sheltered and beckoning. We did not resist its charms, with a short browse through the town, a bite of ice cream, and then a demonstration of our devotion to the beach as we swam, slept and read on the golden sands. Ahhh to be back at the beach…bliss! Us Aussie kids never feel more at home.
The next day we grabbed a hire car to assist us for the rest of our stay on the Island, and Joel delighted himself in fantasies of rally car driving as he navigated the extraordinary mountain roads built for the sole purpose of access to one beach: Sa Calobra. The road in itself is a decent tourist attraction (perhaps beach for the ladies, road for the males), bending around rockfaces, or carving its way straight through them! Anyway it cheered us up after a frustrating morning of losing the ipod, spending an hour relocating it at previous accommodation, then myself losing my iphone and spending an equal amount of time calling around for that!
Sa Calobra is beautiful. It’s a tiny opening of pebble beach in between two great cliffs, with sparkling ‘you can see straight to the bottom no matter the depth’ water. If you know me, I can never be more pleased than when I am swimming in water like this. I revert instantly to a childlike state and I suspect I am probably quite amusing to watch as I squeal, gasp, exclaim, hoot, twirl and dive around. I can’t help it, it’s just one of those things. I made friends with several fish as Joel quit the water after five minutes and could not drag me out. The electric blue fish were my favourite, fondly named to this day ‘blue fish’, my pet. We then went for, wait for it, a bushwalk into the Sa Calobra valley, which was just as fabulous as the beach itself, with towering boulders, lakes and ponds packed into the gorge. It was back for some more swimming before we moved on along the coast.
We passed through some of the most divinely aesthetically pleasing mountain villages, our favourite being Deia, and it was just around the bend from this chaotic pile of houses-on-a-cliff, as we spotted the sun preparing to tuck itself in for the night, that we encountered one of the most special moments of our lives to date. It’s one of those things that you just couldn’t have orchestrated to be any more perfect than what it was. We pulled over at some kind of guest house and climbed over their garden wall, navigating our way through their garden to the cliffs edge where we were in complete solitude. Just us, the sea and the setting sun. We were so high up, with the wind playing with our hair, the sea lapping against the rocks far below, and the birds singing their bedtime songs. The sun cast a passionate show of reds, pinks, purples, yellows and oranges against the pale blue ocean. The gnarly trees wound up the cliff and through the valley in twists of greens and browns, and we sat together in awe watching nature’s most stunning show play out before us. At the time we knew we were experiencing something truly spectacular and infinitely special, and we still talk about this as being one of the purest moments of time we have ever encountered. The photos are good, but can’t even do it justice.
It was once more off to another mountain town for dinner – Valdemossa. It was a made of cobblestone and windy streets with lace curtains hanging in stoned windows, meowing cats and brightly painted doors. With all the tourists gone, it was a treat to stroll the cooling streets with our sun-kissed faced, peering into people’s homes as you heard the chink of china or wafts of unintelligible Spanish speech drifting from living rooms. Soon enough we parted to find our farmhouse retreat across the other side of the Island. Which was no small feat – it is a big island! Our host Ruth, was the bustling owner of our ‘finka’ and she certainly had made it unique – converting a barnhouse in the middle of a field into contained accommodation, spashed with the bright brush strokes of her artwork hanging on every wall. We were woken the next day by the alarming sound of a braying donkey, which shocked our senses into motion to say the least! The hens clucked their way through the garden, and the weary farm tools stood solemnly, continuing their well established pursuit of rust and age.
Enter another highlight of our European Adventures: S’Almunia bay. Needs to be seen to be believed, and even looking at the photos makes you want to get on the next plane back. It was a slice of paradise. A rocky cove, spanish cottages with quaint verandahs and boat sheds keeping a watchful eye on the glistening sea. It felt like our little discovery as we perched on an outcrop overlooking ‘our’ bay. My biggest regret was that I did not have goggles, but even so when I opened my eyes underwater I could see across to the rock face on the other side of the bay! The water was so clear it might as well have been air, I was floating. And of course – completely beside myself. I couldn’t have painted a more perfect Spanish scene if I had all the artistic prowess in the world. There was so much joy I couldn’t even get it all out, it was bursting forth from my very being!! Needless to say, Joel and I enjoyed two of the most enjoyable days possible we could have found, tucked away in this little corner of the Med. We intermingled some delightful and charasmatic Spanish towns and markets in amongst it, but undoubtably S’Almunia got our full attention.
The other happening that is worth a mention was an event in itself – dinner at the Finca. Oh gosh, hilarity! Ruth and her partner cooked up Joel and I, and two other guests the most extensive and over the top feast in history of Mallorca. I was stuffed by the second course, but she had gone to town with muscle linguini and heaven knows what else. Add some wine in there, and the most convoluted snippets of conversation (with Ruth ensuring she had promptly had her say on each topic) and you have some kind of wild Spanish banquet that had me retiring to bed clutching my stomach and my cheeks on account of laughing. I don’t even recall what time Joel rolled in… but it had an ‘a.m.’ next to it.
So thus ends our Mallorcan adventures. We then boarded the plane for Barcelona…but that’s another chapter in the story….