Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Tilting at Windmills - Majorca

If it’s May in France, it must mean there’s another long weekend. The French like their long weekends so much, they clump them together. I’m pretty sure they do this in May so everyone can warm up to the idea of taking vacation for all of July and August. After all, how can you be sure all the beach toys work and the summer house is ready unless you get a few trial weekends to test things out? At chez Burrage, a long weekend means we must be going somewhere. This time, we’re visiting one of the Balearic Islands: Majorca (the rest of them are Minorca, Ibiza, and a few others not important enough for me to remember). All I knew about Majorca, other than being a little island off the coast of Spain (Mediterranean side), is that it is the birthplace of tennis star Rafael Nadal. Having been there, I now know many more facts about Majorca, varying considerably in usefulness and accuracy.

We decided to visit Majorca after being invited by some Calgary friends who were going to be vacationing there. As it turns out, they belong to a secret society, which has vacation properties squirreled away in cool places all around the world (freemasons?). I got the whole story after swearing absolute secrecy, although now I’m a bit fuzzy as alcohol may have been involved.  Anyway, let’s not worry about the details. Just be sure there was an extra room or two in their shabby, youth-hostel-like hacienda tucked up in the hills of southeast Majorca:

We had a room in the back.

One of the pleasantly surprising discoveries about Majorca, driven home immediately upon arrival, is that Majorca is an excellent place to brush up on your spoken German. One of the guidebooks warned about dropping into some of the resorts for dinner unless you were comfortable in ‘a German environment’. Why, there’s even a German radio station! To be fair, there were tourists from other places, but I am comfortable in saying the Germans dominated the tourist landscape (which can occasionally be beneficial, especially at the beach).

The landscape in Majorca reminded Ann of the Okanogan valley or southern California. Agriculture seems to be the dominant industry (although the size of the airport suggests tourism has a lock on first place), with endless orchards and olive groves. They’ve certainly upgraded their windmills from the classic Don Quixote style, and there were plenty of them on the south side of the island, although none seemed to be moving.

Not your typical Saskatchewan farmhouse.

There were a lot of these.

We spent most of the first day eating, with a visit to the beach to allow proper digestion to occur. We stopped at the local market to stock up on fresh ingredients for dinner. Our chef was a stickler for quality produce and I caught him perusing the goods:

Mystery Chef at work.
The beach was at the end of a deep cove and had a WOW! factor of about nine, not including the toplessness.  There was a collection of large pleasure craft moored in the cove to add to the feeling of being somewhere special. Expensive, but special. The downside was the invigorating temperature of the water. In Arcachon, you face the Atlantic ocean, which isn’t known for getting too toasty, so you don’t ever expect much in the way of warm water. The Mediterranean, on the other hand, sets the bar a little higher. Sadly, if I were to quantify it, I would say more than a few brass monkey balls could expect to be lost while taking a dip in those waters. I imagine it warms up quickly such that July and August waters are closer to bath temperature. After lunch (more food), we took a stroll around the point where Ann’s exuberance required restraining by any means possible:

Too much coffee.
Perri at the cove.

A quick ice-cream and then home for a fabulous dinner. As dusk approached, I noticed the local view got quite boring as the second and third night proved to be no more interesting than the first.

Same old, same old...

Day two was a more cultured experienced as we ventured into Palma, the main city, to take a traditional, narrow-gauge railway trip up into the hills. In classic Burrage vacation style, we made the last train with almost 5 minutes to spare. The train winds up through the valleys to the town of Soller, which had some interesting architecture, a beautiful church, and tasty food.

Pretty cool for a bank.
Soller Church
A train ride down, a quick trip to the supermarket, and then home for … you guessed it: dinner. I will take this opportunity to recommend, while travelling, mooching off people with a good sense for food and wine, as we did on this trip. Thanks, mystery hosts.

Our last day was abbreviated by a flight home. However, we were able to take in a few historic sites before rubbing elbows with the masses of travellers returning to Dussledorf or Munich. One such site was the castle overlooking Palma. Although the castle itself was not amazing, by European castle standards, the views of the local area were fabulous.

Inner courtyard

Perri probably asleep w Palma below.

Finally, the most impressive structure on the whole island was the cathedral in Palma. We had planned on spending a few hours poking around the building before we left. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men… and vacationers on a short timeline, meant we were able to get a few quick snaps as we passed by on the way to the airport.

She's a brute.
All in all, Majorca was a great experience squeezed into far too short a time. I now understand why it is a vacation destination for many Europeans. The beaches are great. The people seem very nice, and the food is good (the local wine is also surprisingly good). My greatest regret is not having more time to explore the place.

On the local scene, I entered a golf tournament last week. It was a fun affair where I was playing the best golf of my life until the 13th hole. At that point I foolishly allowed myself to think I had a shot at          
some hardware, so I promptly scored a 9, on a par 4. Two double boogies on the next two holes eliminated any chance to win, but I did tie for third in my division. Golf truly is 90% mental, and 10% mental.

Gossip item: My retired neighbor's girlfriend/wife (I've never been sure) has moved out on him. He tells Ann he will wait an appropriate amount of time before his new girlfriend moves in. The stereotype of the French male lives on...