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Published: October 8th 2015
Palma's iconic and gargantuan cathedral.
Just four days after arriving back from Ibiza, I was off to Spain's other famous island in the Balearics; Mallorca.
I had also watched many a Wild On (with Brooke Burke) and Booze Britain episode featuring this tourist favourite and once again I was finally fulfilling a teenage dream by coming here. Except, that I'm not a teenager anymore, so I was definitely not going to mix it up this weekend with a bunch of British teenage yobs emptying their stomach contents on a beach in Magaluf - there is more to see and explore on the biggest island in the Balearics, which I was determined to do.
After Ibiza had left a massive hole in my bank account, I was trying to do things a bit cheaper here - thus the decision to catch an 8am flight from Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca on a Saturday morning to save a night's accommodation. Such as been my lifestyle in Spain that it is impossible for me to sleep before 2am - and with this anxiety managing to keep me up until about 4am, I got about an hour and a half of sleep before needing to get up and make
Torrent de Pareis
Small gap in the cliffs that has a beach, just around the corner from Sa Calobra.
my way to the airport.
By the time I had arrived at my hostel at around 10am, I had to have a five hour nap before I could even function.
My hostel, which was the most highly-rated on Hostelworld, was located in the resort town of S'Arenal, which is and has everything you would expect of a resort town - a very long beachside promenade full of tacky restaurants, shopping and bars; a beach (that isn't even that nice) full of sunburnt tourists, li-los, sun-loungers and umbrellas; and of course, the tourists themselves - waves and waves and waves of them.
I am by no means a rich snob or a culture vulture but I do I like to think of myself as a slightly more discerning tourist, so I wasn't overly enamoured by my surrounds - there was just such a lack of class and decorum about the place. But if you just want a relaxing holiday on the beach with food and alcohol readily available just behind you which you can order in your own language and you don't want to concern yourself with much else, then this is the place for you. Perhaps however, I wouldn't
German beach resort.
so scathing of the place had I come here for a weekend away from the office rather than having basically been on holiday for the last eight months already - if I hadn't been away or seen the sun for eight months instead, then this place would be paradise.
What really caught my eye however, was the number of Germans! I've never seen so many different Bundesliga tops knocking about the place before. Half the signage in S'Arenal was in German. I could swear that I was actually in
Germany at that moment. And they didn't seem like the nice type of Germans either. Something I have never understood is why you would go to another country only to eat food, hang out with people, drink beer and listen to music exclusively from your own country. Home comforts I guess, but aren't you interested in learning anything about the place you are in? Perhaps learn something new and interesting or try food that might be better than what you have in your own country? Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
If S'Arenal was everything that I was expecting of a Spanish resort town, then Palma de Mallorca, a
Palma's very well laid out cycle path.
few kilometres up the road, was not.
The historic centre of the island for centuries, a recently-built resort of hotels and condominiums exclusively for holidaymakers Palma is not. With most of what I have learned about Mallorca being from Wild On or Booze Britain, I therefore found Palma surprisingly cultural and very tidy - an unexpectedly bustling metropolis with no shortage of history. It all felt very similar to when I walked around Granada
for the first time. I won't waste words describing exactly what I saw on my walking tour of Palma - I'll let my photos and their captions do the talking.
When you're bored and tired after walking around a city all afternoon, live football can be a solo backpacker's best friend when looking to kill a couple of hours in the evening. With the incessant number of British tourists around, it didn't take me long to find a bar showing the English Premier League's biggest game of the season so far - Manchester United vs Liverpool. A United win including a goal on debut for United's Anthony Martial, the most expensive teenager in history, lifted the spirits - it would also have lifted the pressure
Placa de la Reina
One of Palma's pretty points of reference.
on the young lad as well I imagine!
Looking for somewhere to eat, I then settled on a place showing Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona. With the team from my current home city edging it 2-1, the result was the perfect accompaniment to my al fresco dinner of paella negra
, something that I had not seen or tried before. Cooked with seafood, I have to say that I might actually like it better than the normal stuff - it is slightly tastier and saltier.
As well as trying the local food, I also tried the local language - not Catalan, which is one of the two official languages in Mallorca, and not Mallorqui
, the local island dialect of Catalan either - because after all, I have spent the last nine weeks in Barcelona learning it so I might as well practice what I know. Unfortunately more often than not, my requests in Spanish would lead to a reply in English which is always a bit of a ego crush and a little bit annoying. In a place with so many tourists, I guess it is more common for locals to know English, which at this stage is always going to be
Architecture In Palma
Surprisingly pretty in parts, these buildings reminded me of Barcelona.
better than my Spanish.
Arriving back in S'Arenal on the very handy and efficient public bus service, I ended up having a few unplanned drinks with my fellow hostellers who were sitting outside. We ended up playing one of the longest games of "Never Ever Have I" with a English girl, a Frenchwoman, a Lithuanian, a Swede, two Spaniards, and a Hungarian. The game seemed to go on forever but it must've been fun as I didn't retire until about 5am.
The late night didn't help me as I needed to sleep longer the next day as a result. As well as being late, I was also a bit disorganised in terms of what I wanted to do with my day so by the time I was ready, I was scratching for suggestions. So I ended up taking the hostel worker's advice and hired a bike to cycle along the coast back to Palma.
The bike track is certainly one of the more scenic I have been on, reminiscent of the one I did in Cape Town
earlier this year. Apart from some very blind corners, the track is very well laid out, easy to follow and very safe, with
Larger and more pimpin' than I expected.
most of the track completely separated from the main road. You are going through coastal park land for some of it, which was very tranquil. It was nice to get some exercise and get away from the throngs of tourists in S'Arenal to some of the classier inlets and less populated beaches further up the coast. I managed also to find my own quiet spot of beach for lie down and well deserved swim - unlike Ibiza the previous weekend, I had perfect, sunny, high-20s weather this time around.
Perhaps the highlight of the bike ride however, was the discovery of Palma's marina which is massive and very Monaco-esque, with all it's superyachts parked up and swanky hotels just over the road.
Tired from the bike ride and with a long day of driving ahead of me the next day, I wasn't planning on having a big night which of course, are famous last words. After an average souvlaki at one of the beachside restaurants in S'Arenal, I ended up at a tacky but fun beachfront club called Shooters (obviously) with two Hungarians, a Romanian, a German (of course), a Uruguayan and the Lithuanian from last night (as you
Palacio Real de la Almudaina
Arab fortress cum royal residence.
do). We had several shots of Cointreau and lemon where you had to hold the shot in your mouth for an intolerable ten seconds before swallowing and then taking a drag of an imaginary cigarette which sucks all the hot alcoholic vapour you have built up in your mouth down into your lungs, making you feel as if you have just inhaled a naked flame. I made it to 3.30am before I realised I had to be up again in five hours
There is more to the island than just Palma and a German tourist resort, and what little research I did do revealed that there are many a hidden beach and cove and that the mountains - the Serra de Traumuntana - and the towns within it are supposed to be the most beautiful part of the island. The 60€ coach tour there that I wanted to go on wasn't going on the day - my last in Mallorca - so I took the alternative of hiring a car for about 15€ cheaper to try and get there. Even better however, is if you can coax two Belgians (Christoph & Francois) and a Frenchwoman (Rachel) from the hostel
Serra de Traumuntana
We were treated to some spectacular views on our drive through the Serra de Traumuntana on the way to Sa Calobra.
into coming with you, thus cutting the hire car expense and the fuel by four and having a car and the freedom of the island to yourself for a day for about a quarter of what you were originally going to pay. Having also agreed with the Belgians for them to drop me off at the airport at the end of the day, this backpacker was in dreamland.
The Belgians also proved handy in another sense; extremely tired and hungover, I really wasn't in the best condition to be driving let alone driving manual on the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of the road. Better to let a natural have a go and Francois kindly offered to drive in my place. He seemed a good driver too, as well as a fun if slightly reckless character. I say seem
because he couldn't speak much English and like my apartment back in Barcelona, I had a backdrop of French as a background to my day trip, given that we had three Francophones in the car. I didn't mind too much - due to my exhaustion, I wasn't really in the mood to talk to anyone anyway, although
Picturesque street in the picturesque town of Valdemossa.
I did feel slightly aggrieved to have had that option markedly reduced.
Anyway, we drove into the mountains to check out the supposedly amazing scenery and to get away from the tackiness and Germans in S'Arenal - and this is exactly what we got.
Our first stop was in the small mountain town of Valdemossa, which is among one of the most picturesque I have seen. We then pass through the spectacularly situated town of Deia, perched on the mountains in view of the sea. Our last stop was the beautiful if completely tourist-overrun cove of Sa Calobra and its spectacular but not particularly practical beach of Torrent de Pareis where you had the sea on one side and the mountains on the other, either side of a daunting gap in the cliffs. The drive down to and up from Sa Calobra is also spectacular - a winding, hairpin-infested, never-ending, cliff-edge drive up and over a steep mountain ridge, with dizzying views of the mountains or the sea at every turn. Francois did a great job of negotiating it, and I am glad it was him and not me, given my self-inflicted state on the day.
And it was
Behind Torrent de Pareis
Are some stunning mountains.
unfortunately a bit of a regret - I definitely didn't enjoy what was still the best day of the trip as much as I should've due to my exhausted and antisocial state.
It was still a great holiday though. I got to see all sides of the islands from the tacky resorts, to the bustling city and the charming countryside although a couple more days would have been better to truly explore the island. There is something for everyone here and it is a beautiful place which is why it is visited by so many.
If I had to compare it to Ibiza, I would say I probably prefer Mallorca - there is more to see and do here, the place is more scenic, and things are a lot less expensive. I thought I had a more fulfilling trip here - I guess at the end of the day, I am one of those people who would rather be on my feet and exploring while on holiday rather than simply lying by the pool or on the beach.
My next blog entry will be coming to you from Sao Paulo! Exciting times.
I have enjoyed my time in
From Sa Calobra to Torrent de Pareis which also includes a couple of tunnels that you have to burrow through.
Barcelona and I think that when I do eventually leave in three weeks, that it will be hard - but in saying that, I do feel as though I am just about ready to move on.
It is daunting though, as it will be the biggest area of land I will have backpacked through so some of the distances and logistics are going to be challenging, which is why I am leaving my itinerary more open than usual. But daunting as it is, it is the same feeling I had about South Africa before I went there and that worked out fine.
So see you in Brazil! In the meantime, I'm gonna enjoy my last three weeks in Barcelona.
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