A mid-winter Mediterranean escape: Part 116th November 2018
This time two years ago, I was in the business of surveying numerous locations for a momentary mid-winter escape to a warmer climate before settling on Mallorca after a chat with my brother that allowed me to build up the necessary courage. Another motivation was that I wanted to do something different between Christmas and New Year. A planned trip to Ireland in the same period in 2015 was aborted when grief hit me with a vengeance. After that experience, I was all the more determined to ensure that Christmas 2016 felt very different.
After a Christmas period laden with plenty of local walking that got as far as Tegg’s Nose on St. Stephen’s Day (or Boxing Day as some know it), I headed off to Mallorca in an effort to make a hard break in the run of things. Having sunny weather all the time was a novelty for me as I took the sights around Palma as well as heading out for walks around Port de Pollença, Sóller and Port d’Andratx. That ensured that I enjoyed a mixture of coastal and hill walking together with a feeling of leaving normal life after me. It might have worked too well for a cold slowed my beginning to 2017 while it felt for a long time like it was refusing to leave me. Other than that, the getaway was undoubtedly what I needed to snap me out of a mental rut into which I had fallen.
Unlike previous overseas excursions and even Irish ones these days, I arrived in Palma de Mallorca at night. The pre-booked shuttle to my hotel was not to be found, so a taxi was hailed for the purpose. Noting the fare incrementing on the metre, I wondered how much this was going to cost and it was with some relief that the floodlit Cathedral of Santa Maria came into view and my hotel was not far from there. Even with the darkness, I was lured out of doors in an act of exploration and that included pottering about the said cathedral with its opulent flying buttresses and other medieval architectural flourishes. As I returned to the hotel for the night, the stage was set for a daytime sighting next morning. Temperatures had been very mild too, so this was about to be the start of an unusual experience for me.
Around Palma and Port Pollença
Part of that oddness was the fact that there was one sunny day after another. Having lived on maritime islands where sunny spells are as finite as they are occasional, this was striking. Being precious about episodes of sunshine means that there is a tendency to rush around to make the best of them. What I probably more needed at the time was to slow down and let things flow at a gentler pace.
Instead, I set about exploring Palma as I have done with so many other places. It might have taken a while for the route between the hotel, and the bus station to gel in my memory after embarking on several circuitous itineraries, but the way to Palma’s cathedral saw no such errors. It seemed that a straight route to the dominating edifice was hard for anyone not to find. The bright sunshine felt at odds with the time of year and the pale stonework only amplified its effects.
Pottering about the edifice and its environs kept me going for the whole morning and many a photo was made of near and far. Eventually, it could not hold me, for I wanted to see more of the island. To do that, I needed to seek out the city bus station.
That was done in a customary meandering manner and I discovered that it was an underground operation with the island’s mainline trains leaving from the same place as its bright red and yellow interurban buses. The curious cycling of train departures through different languages; English was among them, though the idea of German being included along with something more local like Spanish or Catalan appeals to me even if my memory cannot confirm it as being a fact.
Once I got my bearings around the interchange’s subterranean construction, I got something to eat there and then headed back to my hotel, possibly to organise myself before travelling further afield. On returning to the transport hub, I caught a bus to Port de Pollença for an afternoon visit. Before I even arrived in Mallorca, train travel had been rejected due to its restricted reach; it hardly went near the mountain areas that I wished to explore.
The sunlit Serra de Tramuntana accompanied my northward journey, but this was not to be a day for their exploration. Instead, the northern coast was my intended destination and I admired what I passed on the way there. Once in Port de Pollença, I made for the coast and pottered along the shoreline as workmen attended to one of the houses along there. It may have felt like summer to me, but the place was far from bring thronged and I had ample time to survey what lay around Badia de Pollença.
Most of that involved road and footway tramping since this was not a day for more adventurous wandering. In hindsight, there might have been a tempting short off-road stroll to be had but I fancied seeing if I could get a closer look at the Peninsula de Formentor. Along the way, there was time for photos and for realising the limitations of the map loaded on my GPS receiver. It did not help that I was in the vicinity of a military facility so I followed the MA-2210 around its switchback bends to gain some height before leaving it on a path signed for El Caló for a wilder feel. The escape did not last long for I did not fancy losing height to reach the shore only to have to gain it again. Instead, I stopped a while before starting to retrace my steps back to civilisation again.
Port de Pollença proved confusing to negotiate and I very nearly missed a bus back to Palma but for an observant and facilitating driver. There could have been a two-hour wait for the next departure so I was appreciative, and the bus took a slightly different route too since it called at Cala Sant Vicenç. Light was fading on the way back to Palma and I made a roundabout way back to the hotel too; it took time for the way there from the transport interchange to become engrained in my mind. The explorations of the ensuing days were to ensure that and they are the subjects of subsequent parts of this trilogy.
Outbound flight from Manchester to Palma de Mallorca. Return bus journey to Port Pollença.
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