The summer had come and gone and when we got to October, I was missing the sunshine. A lot. I really was. So I started investigating options close to home, in the UK – where could I go for a little tan top up in mid October that wasn’t too far away? And where could I eat some gambas too? Important aspects of a last-minute trip. My beloved Mallorca, the largest of the Spanish Balearic Islands was the answer.
I have come to know the island reasonably well over the last 2 decades, but stopped visiting for about 10 years – and after a magic return in 2013, I vowed to add it to our annual places to visit (one of my first world problems, as I am a ‘repeater’).
I decided to get a villa with Mallorca Farmhouses, because I fancied a longer stay, where I could potentially/technically work from a quiet location for some of the days I was to be away – I just really wanted to do it in the sunshine. The only downfall was that because villa rentals go from Saturday to Saturday, Mr. O couldn’t come with me just for a day. So I asked the lovely Ashley from The Lazy Travelers to keep me company for 5 days, under the promise of a lot of gambas eating and jamon iberico. It wasn’t difficult to convince her.
You can now get direct flights from Heathrow to Palma, but as my BA year was coming to an end (and those tier points are precious as they get you a gold card, or not!), I decided to be clever and fly via Madrid – I earned more tier points, the business class flight was cheaper and actually, because we took a 6am flight (ridiculously early), we got to Palma 3 hours before we would had we flown direct. I am all for direct flights, but in this case, humm, it worked rather well.
We got to the airport, and sadly had another disastrous car rental experience (seriously, I seem to collect them), where this time the new surprise was ‘No excess’ as opposed to ‘Zero excess’, which means you are liable for any damage to the car without a minimum excess as per normal (obviously solved by purchasing another mysterious and unique € 240 insurance policy – on top of what we had already pre-paid – at the counter). Zero points to Goldcar, which was the supplier of Vipcars.com, with whom we booked this time after some good experiences.
It was time for lunch and I had been dreaming about it for days – all I wanted was to get to Flanigans, in Puerto Portals, located under 20 minutes from Palma. I have been going to this restaurant for over 15 years and I have been known to return more than once per trip. On this occasion, as we were to be based in the North-East of the Island instead, in the lovely Pollenca, I knew this was my one and only chance to be ‘flaniganed’ and I took it.
Puerto Portals is a small marina, which is absolutely lovely. The boats are quite big and beautiful and would certainly be classified as ‘boat-eye candy’. It has a handful of restaurants and bars (with the best gin & tonics ever, which I sadly did not get to experience as it was lunchtime and I was driving), and my absolute favourite is Flanigans.
I thought Ashley deserved a crash course in Spanish beach cuisine and I wanted to test her limits – so I thought nothing about ordering squid croquetas, Galician-style octopus nor on-the-shell gambas, which would have to be peeled using your cutlery (as we do). She documented her experience on her blog, The Lazy Travelers, and it is worth a read. The meal was delicious, and obviously we pre-ordered the apple tart, which is the way to end a meal in style. If you find yourself in the island, I urge you to come to this place.
Not hungry anymore, we wanted to make our way to our villa, but decided we needed to stock up on essentials (one needs to be organised when not staying at a hotel), so we stopped (not so briefly) at Supercor (the supermarket chain owned by department store El Corte Ingles, which is the local equivalent of Waitrose in the UK). We filled our carts with iberico ham, manchego cheese, fresh fruit, ventresca (best tuna in the world), water, wine, Gin Mare (one of my favourite gins, which is appropriately Spanish) and, of course, a full selection of tonic water. I mention the tonic water because if you are a gin lover (I converted Ashley on this trip…), you need to see a tonic water supermarket aisle in Spain. It will make you cry – and want to buy everything, from the cardamom and pink pepper Schweppes (I kid you not), to the lemon Fever Tree (which is impossible to find in the UK).
After a couple of hours (we did lose track of time), we made our way north and after a bit of a struggle with the directions we had been given by the villa company, we finally found Pepi.
Pepi was the 2-bedroom villa that was our home away from home in Mallorca, courtesy of Mallorca Farmhouses, which has an impressive portfolio of luxury villas in the island. It was perfect for us. I loved the traditional style of it, and how well proportioned it was – 2 en suite bedrooms, a large open-plan kitchen, dining and lounge (the latter needs some updating in my opinion), a beautiful emerald pool and great outdoor space.
The outdoor sitting area was were we spent all of our evenings and nights and I was eaten alive by mosquitos. This is what happens to me when I do not take my lovely husband to warmer climates – he usually gets bitten and I get spared. This is obviously karma (and I do remember the evil laughs every time we spoke on the phone…).
On our first night, we stayed in – it was a long day, and feasted on our tapas. And gin. And wine… and slept like babies!
In Pollenca, which is the nearest town (about 10 minutes away), there is a local food market on Sunday mornings and we thought it would be rude not to check it out. We were right at the end of the season and were surprised how many people came to town on that day!
We had a good walk around town (which I have to say, was lovely) – postcard pretty and with a great buzz. I also got to have my first ensaimada, which is a brioche-type cake traditional from Mallorca, which was, well…. delicious!
As we were out and about, we thought it would be a good idea to explore the island a bit more. When we first posted a photo on Instagram with our whereabouts, many of our followers and friends started suggesting places to go. There were some places that we were not so keen to visit, but Sa Calobra, on the west coast, seemed intriguing.
What we did not know, was how hard it would get there – which I have to say, was one of the craziest drives I have ever been in. And not sure if I want to do it again.
Once we got down to the beach, the scenery was pretty spectacular. But as we walked via the caves to the actual beach, we couldn’t help but be… disappointed. I am glad it wasn’t August, as the hundreds of people we saw were more than enough. And to be perfectly honest, the food and beverage selection was so unimpressive (so tatty, and cheap), that I am not sure the whole adventure was worth it.
We carried on driving west, towards the south, via Deia. And just before we got to this pretty town (which I still did not get to visit properly), we stopped for paella and a glass of cava at El Mirador de na Foradada, which had pretty spectacular views. Incredible, really, so we just stayed and enjoyed them as much as we could.
From here, we did a full circle drive around the island, and an hour and a bit later, we got back to our villa, just before the sun set. Because of the type of the roads, it was quicker to drive South and take the motorway back to the North East, then to drive back – Google Maps never lies.
We got home, and decided that the last thing we wanted was to go out again – so we just got our lovely tapas sorted (we did have an impressive selection!) and chatted all night.
On Monday, it rained. We knew it was coming (and I was getting worried as we had not tried the pool yet!), and I had a plan. A very good plan. Mallorca, despite being an island, has a proper city, so to speak, which is called Palma. Palma has VERY good shopping. And Ashley and I were in a serious mood to help the local economy.
The action starts on Passeig del Born, which is a short stroll from the cathedral which is a sight for sore eyes – every time I see a photo of this monument, my heart skips a little beat. I don’t know why, but it does. We had a tip of from Twitter, where we were told to head to a particular shop (La Principal, on c/ Paraires 15), where we were to ask for ‘The Map’. It turned out that ‘The Map’ was fabulous, as it was a self-funded initiative by 24 ‘cool’ shops in Palma, which I was not familiar with. As we had time, we ended up visiting them all, with the highlight being Rialto Living, which was incredible.
Nearby, it is also worth having a look at Zara’s more upmarket sister shops, like Massimo Dutti and Uterque, as well as Carolina Herrera and Boss (these two really have flourished in Spain and you get a much better selection and value here than anywhere else in the world).
For lunch, we were really in the mood for fish (of course), and walked (in the rain of course) to El Caballito de Mar, where we enjoyed various starters such as boquerones, and a local favourite – fideua, which is like paella, but with pasta (which I adore).
We shopped a bit more (shoes, my darlings, shoes), and drove back home (which took around 40 minutes, and 3 speeding fines, on the same road…. oops).
We got back to our villa, and after changing for dinner (and comparing shopping successes, of course), we headed out to Pollenca, where we had dinner. Being Monday, we were not spoiled for choice, sadly, but had a good meal at Manzanas y Peras, which came highly recommended.
The sun shines on the righteous, and on our last full day, we were very lucky. A decision had to be made and it was unanimous: we were to stay at home and enjoy the pool and do absolutely nothing.
We were also excited because we had organised for a private chef, from Delicioso to come round and cook for us (namely as we both had an online class to attend – seriously, we were both on the Google Square course), and it meant that we would finish too late to go out for dinner, even by Spanish standards.
I can’t tell you how disappointed we were when mid-afternoon, we were told by Mallorca Farmhouses that they had cancelled last-minute. It was a shame as actually we had no food left and going out was not an option, and we were left high and dry. There are quite a few private chef companies operating in Mallorca and we tried to book someone last-minute, but it was too late as the markets were closed and everyone working was already booked. So we had no option but to go to the supermarket and buy some food.
On our 5th day, it was sadly time to say goodbye to Pepi and Mallorca. Needless to say, it was lovely and sunny – as it usually happens when you leave a sunny place and head to the airport, where we were to fly to London (via Madrid, ha ha) at around lunchtime.
The villa experience was good, but I must confess I wished we had extra cleaning services (and someone taking out the rubbish). The photographs were spot on and I was impressed with the Mallorca Farmhouses service from the beginning to the end.
Returning to Mallorca was, as expected, almost magic. There is something about this island – very relaxed, but also quite chic, and also very pleasant to the eye. I like the variety that it offers – you can be in places where you see no one, you can do some decent shopping, the food is incredible and the sea is so beautiful, you can’t quite believe you are in Europe. But you are and only a couple of hours away from home.
Hasta pronto! I shall be back.
PS: I flew with BA (on that first leg) and Iberia (on the other 3) on this occasion and have to say, it was surprisingly good. As much as I love BA, I do not feel the same way about its sister airline, on the contrary, and do avoid it unless there is no option. I don’t know what happened, maybe some of the BA culture is finally rubbing off and truth be told, service was very good and so were the planes. Everything worked and I may even do this again.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Mallorca Farmhouses, who provides villa rentals in the island. The Pepi villa, with two bedrooms, sleeps 4 and costs from £828 per week (not per person), which is incredible value for money. Opinions are, as always, my own.