Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Mallorca, part one: A Week in España - Worth its Weight in Strawberries

Palma, Majorca, Spain (Palma de Mallorca, España)
April 2016
With a week before Yannick was due to start his new job and no house sits lined up, we figured why shouldn't we spend the week at an AirBNB in a holiday destination rather than an AirBNB in London (where we would be living for the next however-many months). We looked up cheap flights and decided on Palma, on the island of Mallorca off the Spanish coast. I also wanted somewhere that would be relatively warm in April rather than say, Scandinavia. You can compare the average temperature highs in April (in Celsius) - Oslo: 9.1 degrees, Palma: 15.5 degrees. A no-brainer.
We didn't sleep so well as we had to spend the night at Standsted Airport before our ridiculously early departure time and then 'Hot Chocolate Boy' was on board our plane - not a superhero, but a screechy toddler who really wanted a hot chocolate and wouldn't stop berating his mother for not giving him one during much of the two-and-a-bit-hour flight.
Upon landing and finding the correct bus to deliver us into the centre, we had a little time to kill before we could check into our AirBNB so we patronised Mercat de l'Olivar. All we did was type in 'mercado' into Google Maps, so we expected to find ourselves at a supermarket, but no! It was so much more than that. Packed to the brim with colourful and fresh produce, we had found a goldmine of an indoor market. At the first stall we set eyes on, the strawberries looked delicious and affordable so we ordered two euros worth, plus a crusty loaf of bread and a local specialty (an ensaïmada, which Yannick tried in chocolate flavour and then later in a fruit flavour) from a bakery stall. We ate our treats while watching pigeons in the Plaça d'Espanya.

After we checked in and had a four-hour nap, our AirBNB host recommended a place nearby for lunch - the Mercado Gastronómico San Juan. He described it as a community centre with a food court inside, which sounded strange and not particularly nice, but we figured that something may have been lost in translation so we used his directions to find the place. Well, his description was correct, but it was so much better than we had anticipated! Stalls with many different foods and cuisines were lined up along the sides, including a few tapas bars, Spanish tortillas, burgers, Thai, a French patisserie, sushi, an oyster bar, a deli-style stall, and several more options.

The building had been converted from an old slaughterhouse, and I thought that this was a much better use of space.

Unfortunately there weren't many vegan options: the only one I could find was the vegetable red curry from the Thai stall. Yet it was so delicious that I didn't mind! Paired with a Rioja wine from another stall, we had a wonderful lunch.

The next morning we returned to Mercat de l'Olivar and purchased "un kilo de fresas"! With those tucked away in our little shopping bag, we wandered the cobbled narrow streets of the old town for a while until we passed the cathedral, strolled along the promenade and reached the beach. Oh yeah, it was a good breakfast.

After sunbathing for a while and getting sand everywhere because we had no towels, we made our way back along the waterfront. In the big rocks that act as a barrier between the beach and the street, we saw a number of stray cats chilling in the sun.

The cathedral had made an immediate impression on us: huge. It felt like one of the largest cathedrals we had ever seen, outside of Cologne (that thing was a straight up skyscraper). We didn't feel like seeing inside it that day, so we went back to our flat and lazed around for a couple of hours.

Suitably recuperated, we walked back in to visit the Arab Baths - Banys Arabs. (You'll notice we walk a lot from our AirBNB to the old town. We had picked an affordable place that was a twenty-minute walk away so that we could get about easily, and it happened to be in a nice part of town in and of itself.) These baths are the only remaining Moorish building in Palma, and are remarkably intact. Apparently the twelve columns in the tepidarium, shown above, are all different and may have been recycled from earlier Roman constructions. You can see the most obvious example of these differences on the two right-most columns.

Out in the bath's garden, we sat and enjoyed the peacefulness of the greenery around us. It was hard to believe that the bustling streets of the old town were just a few meters away!

After snapping a couple more photos in the garden, we walked back to San Juan (the community food court) for another meal. I Thai'd again and Yannick tried tidbits from various different stalls. I couldn't get enough of that curry, with big chunks of cauliflower, bamboo shoots, capsicum and onion! The market was quite reasonable too, and even with wine our meals cost around €10 per person. What I liked so much about the gastronomic market was the clientele - almost everyone there apart from us were locals, not tourists. This was likely mostly due to the location: an extra five minutes' walk out from the centre city than our accommodation, so it was far off most vacationers' radar. All the better for us!

Today's post was almost called: Is It a Bird, Is It a Plane? No! It’s Hot Chocolate Boy!