For one reason or another, I have been frequenting our wonderful capital city of Palma quite a lot recently. We gave the sweltering city a wide birth during the ‘scorchio season’ of July and August for fear of spontaneous combustion due to the incinerating heat levels that many major cities often deliver. Hats off then to all those who live and work in the big metropolis, or commute to the big ‘P’ for the daily grind. I salute you!
Although we travel quite frequently, and visit other famed cities both European and global, a day trip to Palma never fails to make me feel as though I am away on holiday, and we never tire of its exquisite charm. For me, the capital city of Palma is forever a vibrant, heady mix of contrasts between the historically old and the ongoing new. Traditional classic and contemporary chic marry well within the sultry shadow of Palma’s iconic landmark gothic Cathedral, lording over the cityscape whilst inviting you to explore the secret city within her sleepy gaze.
Venturing off the typically tourist trail, away from the shops, there are silently seductive streets to discover, guarding entrances to shaded gateways, mysterious portals, hidden palaces and glorious courtyards. Few people discover these profoundly urban treasures. ‘Just another street’, you might think! But with a theatrical stage-set feel location evoking a bygone era of timeless beauty, these hidden gems are well worth seeking out; presenting both historic and modern faces in the diamond facets of Palma’s unique crown.
We prefer to arrive in Palma relatively early, as there is something quite calming and magical about being settled beneath dappled shade, with croissant and coffee in hand, watching the city coming alive. I’m not talking a red-eye 5.30 am excursion, but an easily doable 9’0’clock destination arrival time. Our favourite means of transport being the ‘early bird express’ train from Inca, delivering us into Plaça d’España, smack bang in the centre of our promising, scintillating city at the chime of nine.
We also save a small fortune by taking the train with an unbelievable 6€ return fare against the inflated cost of city parking, not to mention the price of petrol or the biggest reward of all, avoiding the unnecessary stress incurred battling with the motorway melee locked behind their wheels on self-destruct!
The smooth air-conditioned train journey also offers 25 mins of glorious daydream-time, simply staring out of a window as the Majorcan countryside flashes by. I love observing fellow passengers and admire those young, aspiring travellers reading literary novels over the majority who are generally streaming Instagram or playing Candycrush! I indulge my imagination and wonder where everyone is going (well, Palma obviously) and what will they do when they get there?
Personally, we love nothing more than a good ‘mooch’ when we arrive, a casual un-pressured wander with nothing immediate or pressing to hand, with all the time in the world to enjoy it. Mornings like this make me truly appreciate the honest island vibe and clarify the many reasons behind re-locating here in the first place.
We love the Mediterranean feel of everything in Palma, and note the way locals would rather get started half an hour early so they can sit with a relaxed coffee and read the paper before strapping themselves behind their desks. Now that they are out of their cars, no-one seems to be in that much of a hurry, and always have time to just stand around chatting or just looking super cool and stylish. You can spot the tourists a mile off ( not just because of the string vests, hairy armpits and inappropriate hot pants ) as they don’t seem to have that certain, ‘je ne sais quoi!’ or the ‘Latin Look’ as we like to call it. It’s not just the way the Mediterraneans dress, but the way they hold themselves, and deliver their presence with total confidence as they go about their business, whatever that may be?
The Majorcans also appear to have this wonderful way of appearing busy whilst doing absolutely nothing, and it often amazes me how so many people can have so much free time to just, simply sit around or wander, enjoying life and sunshineliving! But they do! And they are all the happier for it. No-one ever appears to be in that much of a rush, and don’t seem to be stressed by workloads or deadlines. Perhaps they don’t actually have a word for ‘deadline’ here. The nearest I can imagine is ‘mañana’, although to us a completely different concept.
I remember when we first moved here to the island and I was freelancing for an advertising agency back in the UK. I used to stress continually at the lack of any internet connection required to send commissioned copy and articles to glossy magazines in time to meet their exacting print deadlines. Without the copy and articles being received there would be a blank page in the magazine, resulting in a very disappointed and angry client who had pre-paid prime advertising space. “Can’t you just send it tomorrow!” was the usual response I received from the initial internet provider we had here in Majorca, who continually failed to provide or maintain a workable service, and had no idea whatsoever to the concept of committed delivery or deadline. But so be it! I worked around the problem and found alternatives. Who knows, maybe the Majorcan’s blinkered system to the way the rest of the world works is the correct one! Why do we continually put ourselves in front of such a pressurized firing squad? Just something to think about!
Amidst the obvious safari of retail therapy in Palma, it is always refreshing to escape the shoppers and hang out at one of the numerous super cool cafe/bars watching the world go by.
On one of our recent visits, we were doing just that, chillaxing out on the steps at Costa de sa Pols in this gentle, born-again bohemian oasis opposite Sant Miquel Church, listening to a gentle, talented guitarist. And all was peaceful until a herd of nimble, gazelle-like street vendors stampeded past with huge cotton swag-bags thrown across their dusky shoulders. Swag bags aka cotton sheets, cleverly designed to scoop up their illicit wares at the pull of a drawstring at the first sight of a policeman. Pity these omnipotent ‘looky looky boys’ can’t walk proudly down the legal route and trade in Palma with complete honesty!
But hey, this is big city Palma 2019 warts and all, showcasing in its entirety the colourful tapestry of this wonderful capital. A city incidentally which constantly appears in the top listings of places to visit amongst Europe’s best. And one that we shall be visiting time and time again.