Our trip to Mallorca this past weekend was the product of a great necessity for sun.
Several weeks ago, Aaron and I were driving back from Trier and we were both feeling discouraged by the continual rain of a German winter. Our South Carolina hearts were on fire with the need for sunshine, and we were getting desperate. “Look up cheap Ryanair flights to somewhere sunny!” Aaron suggested as we sped along the autobahn that cold February day. I did so, and ta-dah! There were some inexpensive tickets to Mallorca during one of Aaron’s first three-day weekends.
That night we booked the flight, reserved an AirBnB that looked promising (we had no idea what we were doing, more on that later…) and all we had to do was wait! The days passed slowly, but the weeks sped by, and before we knew it, we were stepping off our plane from Germany and into the cool, sea-fragrant island night of Mallorca.
Aaron had done some research on renting cars, and the best company he could find was Sixt. The only automatic car that they rented out however, was a Smart car. Aaron had booked it (not without some hesitation) and we both looked forward with interest to see what the experience would be like. It actually turned out to be a perfect car for the trip – the great gas mileage was ideal for all the driving we did, but the best part was its size: we could literally park that thing anywhere, which turned into a huge advantage on the crowded streets of Palma and Soller.
We picked up the keys for our fuel-efficient ride, threw our bags in the back, and headed off in search of our AirBnB. It was in a place called C’an Pastilla, about ten minutes from the airport and fifteen from the capital of Mallorca, Palma. After a somewhat sketchy ride through an area that looked like a bad mashup between Myrtle Beach and Florida (no offense to either place!) we found a parking place not too far away from the place we were to stay. The streets were dark and unfamiliar, but the crash of waves and the smell of the sea were comforting. Apparently we took a wrong turning though, because after walking around fruitlessly looking for No. 4 Calle Ovida, we had to call our host so he could help us find the place.
Our host, Martin, was a thirty-something native of Argentina. He took us to the flat and showed us around, and it wasn’t until we got there that we realized that we would be sharing it with him. Somehow on the website I had misunderstood his listing, and thought the entire flat would be ours. Instead, the living room, porch, and bathroom would all be shared with him during our stay. Every night of our stay a new group was there at the flat. The first night it was a friend, the second was a girlfriend, and the final night was an entire group of very loud and happy young adults enjoying the fact that it was the weekend. It was definitely an interesting experience, but I think I’ll be checking the box “Private House” next time I search for an AirBnB.
We woke early the next morning, and drove to Palma under grey skies that threatened lots of rain. We had both thankfully brought jackets, but we soon supplemented our wardrobes with scarves bought in town – the weather that first day was colder than we had expected! We parked by the gorgeous Gothic cathedral that loomed over the ancient city – it is truly one of the most impressive buildings I have ever seen! We later saw the cathedral in the sunshine of the following days, but I will always remember it under the looming clouds of that first day – the weather added to the solemnity the building already possessed.
We left our car and quickly found a cafe, where we had coffee and the famed ensaimadas (croissant-like rolls dusted in powdered sugar) that are the staple of Mallorcan breakfasts. Thus refreshed, we wandered about the winding, narrow streets, where brightly painted houses and businesses leaned over our heads, and Gothic buildings with worn stonework hid around every corner. Mallorca’s history is fascinating: now belonging to Spain, it has been in the hands of the Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, and Moors. Every people-group has left its mark on the place, but the Spanish influence (naturally) predominates. King Jaime of Aragon is assuredly its most beloved historical figure, and the island is littered with his statues and commemorative plaques.
We wandered serendipitously through the city, following whatever road or twisting alley took our fancy. We discovered old Italian-style villas with carved-stone steps, an old hotel that had been turned into an art museum, and a Moorish bath that was in beautiful condition and still had the original Roman columns the Arabs had recycled for their own use. Fruit trees, sweet-smelling gardens, and bright flowers peaked out of every place where enough soil had collected to allow them to grow. Lemons and oranges gleamed under dark leaves thick with raindrops. We stopped for lunch in one of the many tapas bars that opened into the street, and had a delightful meals of cheeses, olives, and island peppers.
By mid-afternoon our feet had grown tired, so we switched our plan and retrieving our car, left the city behind and followed the signs for Andratx, a small coastal town about forty minutes away. As we drove through the twisting mountain roads, the sun began to peep out of the clouds and shine upon a region that looked as though it came straight out of a picture-book of southern Italy. Sheep clustered by old stone troughs, or stood under the dripping boughs of olive trees. Rocky torrentes sent trickles of rain water down to the Mediterranean past fields of orange and lemon trees, and ahead of us the Serra Tramuntuna mountains began to shrug the clouds and mist and loomed large in the evening sunshine.
By the time we reached Andratx, the sun was fully out and sparkled brightly on the turquoise surface of the Mediterranean. We walked along the quays and admired the ships, and I sat for a while on the end of a stone wharf and sketched a wooden sailboat that I particularly admired.
We ate dinner over the water, and watched the sun sink lower on the horizon. Dinner finished, we made a last-minute decision to watch the sun set over Sa Dragonera, an island about fifteen minutes away and off the coast of Sant Elm. The local legend is that dragons visit the island every night, and as I watched the sun turn the waves about the shore of the island to fire, I could almost believe it was true.
The next day was my favorite we spent on the island, but I’ll save that story for next time.