Saturday, 12 October 2013

Debbie Does Mallorca

What I miss most about Mallorca: the smells; the sounds; the roads; the texture and the views.

Freddie and I have just returned to London from a last-minute end-of-season trip to the largest of the Balearic Islands. If I had to limit myself to just one word, 'lush' would be it. Fortunately, Blogspot isn't Twitter!

Time for a confession: even after five years, I can't get used to the odours of rotting, sweating, smoking London. Much as I love the city, its smell of blocked drains and wet dogs drives me insane. No wonder then, that Mallorca's fragrance is my favourite feature of the island. You'll be able to appreciate the sweet, rich and at times even musky smells of pines and ericaceous plants the moment you leave Palma.

We left Palma on a rented scooter, so for me, Mallorca sounds like the wind ripping at my helmet at 90km/hour. Either that, or a locust silence while gazing at the stars at night.

The great advantage of having your own transport (whether it's a car, moped or bicycle) is that you're not limited to staying near your hotel. That's probably the only way to keep your trip interesting if you tend to get bored with beaches and clubs after a while. I just hope you like squiggly mountain roads and narrow hairpin turns.

Make sure you grab a free map of the island from one of the car rentals. It's also useful to install an app on your phone with offline maps of the island before you leave off. I had the free TOURIAS Majorca app on my iPhone, which helped us find a way out of Palma (mission impossible) and pointed us in the direction of a couple of great sights that we probably would have missed otherwise. I was v. impressed that the GPS worked while I was offline.

If you're thinking of renting a scooter, Cooltra is your best bet. When you book your rental online in advance, it will only cost about €100 for a week and you can arrange for pick-up and drop-off at the airport. I wish I'd been that well-prepared!
Also, the insurance package of €25 is well worth it. When our front brake broke, they came and picked us up from Arta (which is pretty much as far as you can get from Palma) and drove us back to the scooter rental where we got a replacement bike. No hassle.

It took me a while to find an accurate description of the heat and humidity, but I think I've found one: Mallorca feels like the inside of a greenhouse (or perhaps it should be the other way around). Either way, my eczema cleared in less than a day. Sadly, it's starting to come back after just two days in London already.
Most of the island's surface is as coarse and prickly as the cacti, palm trees and aloe vera plants that grow there. The way a day's worth of stubble can be wildly attractive on a handsome man, the cracked land and rugged rocks somehow made me feel alive.

I hope you'll get a moped and have your own adventures. But when you do, here's a couple of hidden gems you don't want to miss.

  • Cuevas del Drach - just south of Porto Christo, these impressive stalagmite and stalactite formations are a playground for your imagination. They inspired us to think of all sorts of films, stories and architectural wonders that we would like to create one day.
  • The Salines of Es Trenc - apparently these saltworks attract  flamingos during evaporation season (we didn't see any though).
  • The lighthouse at the top of Cap de Formentor - although most tourists seem to find the goats and cats that live up there more interesting.
  • Sa Calobra - this beach can only be reached by the most impressive road on the island. We're intending to come back to Mallorca just to do this road on a bicycle. Also, the dry bay at the end of the road, 'Cala de sa Calobra', is rather magical. 
  • X Bar - if you happen to make it to Cala Rajada one night, find X Bar near Cala Agulla and ask for one of Nellie's special cocktails. You won't regret it, she's an artist with liquor!

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