I recently survived a terrifying and turbulent take off from Gatwick airport. For fear of sounding dramatic, I seriously thought I was going to die and bring up my recently ingested Pret falafel wrap. I prayed that the God I had stopped believing in many years ago would take pity on me and spare my dying on an Easyjet flight because I couldn’t remember the Hail Mary and amongst other carnal sins stole pick ’n’ mix from Woolworths. But my Catholic guilt and pathetic attempt to rekindle my relationship with God dwindled when it occurred to me that the pilot would not risk his own life to take me to the Mediterranean. He would only have taken off if he was certain the conditions were conducive to our, and ultimately his safe passage.
Three hours later, I was still alive – and I’m assuming so was the pilot – soaking up the sunshine and restoring my tattered nerves with a coffee and a suitably calorific sweet treat. Much was my relief to have arrived safely in Palma, the capital of the Balearic island of Majorca.
The purpose of my trip was to celebrate a significant birthday and the marriage blessing of two very special friends who live in the north of the island. But first I gave myself a couple of nights to explore the lovely city of Palma. Roughly two hours from the UK and a very easy 20 min bus ride from the airport to the Plaza España, makes this a perfect yet underrated destination for a weekend break.
What I love about Palma is that there isn’t really anything to see. It is a very beautiful city on a very beautiful island. Culturally you have the magnificent Gothic Cathedral Le Seu and Es Baluard the museum of modern art, but refreshingly there isn’t a long list of sights to tick off and this, in my book, makes it very relaxing. In fact on the days I was there, both the Cathedral and the Museum were shut, and the philistine in me was quite delighted, it freed up more time for mooching, and that is what Palma is great for, mooching, browsing and eating.
Once you’ve ticked the cultural sights off your list – or not – have a wander around the bustling Plaza Major in the centre of Palma. It is teeming with shops, cafes and street entertainers. The Passeig des Born, is a tree lined paseo, perfect for people watching, and is also the upmarket shopping area – Uterqüe and Mulberry have just opened their doors. The La Llonga district is the area to head for nightlife and it is here you will find the Teatre Principal, home to the theatre and the opera. Santa Catalina is the boho area, the slightly shabby little streets are filled with bars, restaurants and interesting shops and in stark contrast a few minutes south you have the modern and busy Port de Mallorca.
Mooching makes you surprisingly hungry and Palma is fully equipped to offer you frequent and satisfying refreshment. Head to one of the many patisseries for a standard, but exceptional Majorcan breakfast of coffee and croissant. Get a spot in the sun and relish this simple but wonderful start to your day.
For lunch, I can highly recommend the indoor market in Santa Catalina. Filled with fresh produce, meat and fish, many of the stalls have the option for you to pull up a stool and eat. The fish and seafood is amazing, fresh off the boats, onto the grill and onto your plate for around €10 including a glass of wine. It’s not salubrious it’s a working market, but the atmosphere, the smells and the noises are memorable.
A little afternoon pick me up is generally necessary and coffee and cake are everywhere. Many of the cafes encourage you to have a glass of cava as well, which I think is very civilised.
Considering its size, Majorca has an impressive nine Michelin-starred restaurants totalling ten stars between them. Two of the nine restaurants are in Palma and Restaurant Marc Fosh with its one star is located in the contemporary Hotel Convent de la Missó. Fosh is English and offers a 10-course degustation menu and wine flight in this quiet and relaxing venue, booking essential.
If you want to experience a more lively and less intimate dinner then head to one of Palmas hippest places to eat, Vermuteria La Rosa. Don’t be put off by the queue, it’s so worth the wait. Vermouth is their speciality and their simple tapas are mouthwatering, the staff are charming (and very handsome) and the atmosphere unbeatable.
If the queue for La Rosa defeats you, then head north to the Avenida Comte de Sallent to the acclaimed Casa Gallega, pintxo bar and restaurant. Go hungry! You may have to wait for a table, but watching the theatre of this busy restaurant ensures that the wait is most enjoyable and the generous pintxos are deceptively filling.
Like most Mediterranean cities, Palma doesn’t sleep and there are many late night bars to keep you entertained till the early hours. But, if like me, you are done after a late dinner, head home, get up early and make the most of that coffee and croissant in the morning sunshine.
After two days my time in the city came to an end and I jumped on the bus for the 75 minute, €6 ride to Puerto Pollenca in the very north of the island.
Puerto Pollenca is an idyllic spot and deservedly a Unesco world heritage site. A gorgeous bay filled with boats its dramatic backdrop is provided by the Tramuntana mountains. Pine Walk is a tree-lined promenade along the shore, home to some beautiful houses – many of them available to rent – and one very swanky hotel, the Illa D’Or . There are 10 secluded beaches in the area, some only accessible by foot or a quick tack around the bay if you are lucky enough to get there by boat.
This little pocket of Spain brought together my gorgeous and intrepid school friend Katy and her handsome German suitor, Thomas. Their celebration was fabulous, drumming, dancing and food, a simple but effective combination to bring together their friends from England, Germany, Spain, Italy and Senegal.
The following day I found myself out on the water and back on the Love Boat where international relations continued with more food, more music and more singing. I spent the day basking in the warmth of not only the sun but the love of two very special friends who met each other whilst bobbing around on the water in this pretty perfect part of the Med. Sometimes you just can’t help but believe that maybe there is a God.