Saturday, 26 April 2014

City Of Dreams

Thinking about today's blog, it could have been about some new designs I've finished.

Or about preparations for the Brighton Festival Open Houses which start a week today.

Or about the lovely new place we've moved into at work.

But I can't stop thinking about the fact that last night I booked a trip to the city I love most in the world, my most visited foreign destination and (almost) my second home - Palma de Mallorca.

So it's going to be about that instead.

Say Mallorca to most people and hideous visions of sunburnt, drunken youths staggering around and behaving badly spring immediately to mind.  Well, whilst that certainly does happen in some parts of the island (as I can confirm when I was condemned to Magaluf for a fortnight on an 'allocation on arrival' holiday in 1997) the rest is really beautiful - and in so many different ways. Seeing the names of towns is like reading exotic poetry - Puigpunyent, Orient, Marratxi, Son Sardina, Sencelles, Montuïri, Palmanyola.  I get excited when I see them on a map.

My homemade Mallorca poster circa 1999

From Palma you can get across the island and back easily in a day by car - maybe stopping for a mid-morning café con leche in a town almost untouched by tourism, then spend the rest of the day on a pine-fringed beach, swimming in turquoise sea and snaffling up grilled prawns and olives for lunch. On the way back, you could detour up a winding road to the peaceful grounds of a monastery to watch the late afternoon light fall across the flat plain in the centre of the island while the mountains turn smoky blue in the distance, before returning to Palma for either chilled or lively nightlife in any number of lovely bars and restaurants.  Flipping 'eck - I sound like a tourist guide.

The garden of the bar Abaco - so beautiful that grown men have been known to weep.

I've had a pretty crappy six months or so of late and now desperately feel the need to escape - and to have something to look forward to.  Not even my best friends would call me a relaxed and confident traveller, but I am at ease in Palma and that's a great feeling.  I know my way around, I have enough Spanish to get by, I can navigate the public transport system, I can get to a gorgeous beach in about 20 minutes by myself on the bus.  And the buses only cost about €2.

Good old Airbnb has supplied me with a cute little studio loft apartment in an area I know and like and the flights are reasonable at this time of year.

Lot of wide-angle stretchy camera trickery going on here, I have no doubt.

I hope I can fit a chair on this balcony.

The first time I went to Palma, I was about nine and it didn't end well.  I contracted bronchial pneumonia and ended up in hospital.  The second visit to Mallorca was the infamous fortnight in Magaluf, so the fact that I fell so utterly and irrevocably in love with the island during that holiday is quite miraculous.

I have been in Mallorca during every month of the year. I have 'lived' there for a month. I have celebrated a friend's 50th birthday, Easter, Christmas and two unforgettable New Year's Eves there.  I made a friend for life after a spilled drink incident in a bar. I have seen snow on the mountains, experienced the heaviest rain I've ever seen one day in July, and paddled in the sea in a T-shirt on New Year's Day. I also love the fact that you can stumble across lots of unexpected festivals or parades - like the International Dance Festival that just happened to be going on in the tiny square in Sóller, or the extraordinary Parade of the Penitents around Easter time.

Easter and Christmas in Palma

Anyway, just to finish off (before I make you all want to vomit with my sentimentality) here's the famous and beautiful La Seu cathedral - the cathedral by the sea.  This is the first thing I see on the drive into Palma from the airport that makes me catch my breath (or cry), and I always try and catch sight of it from the plane as it takes off to return to the UK (whilst crying).  Part of the interior and the stained glass window were designed by Antoní Gaudí (he of Barcelona mosaics and architecture fame) and it is utterly breathtaking inside.

So roll on May - Palma I'm a-coming to ya!

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