Tuesday 27 October 2015

When in Mallorca . . .

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” 

― F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Great Gatsby

On the Tuesday 11th August, I flew from Mauritius to Mallorca, through Dubai and London. It was a very long and exhausting trip marred by delays and a few unexpected happenings. My plane was delayed for 2 hours in Gatwick and when I got into Barcelona,  I was told I was too late for check-in for my Mallorca flight. I had to buy another ticket since EU laws state I cannot get a refund if the plane has less than 3 hours delay! Nonetheless, on Wednesday I landed in Mallorca in the dead of the night and got a taxi to take me to the hotel where I would be staying for two days in Portals Nous. I met with Sammy with whom I would be working over the next two days on a campaign for OKUN Beachwear. And the next day after a good night's rest, I met Leon who was the model for the shoot. 

We drove to Punta Negra to get the work started. And while my holidays were only due to start on Friday, it was a serene sight to contemplate the ocean from Punta Negra. I can say with certainty that the colours of the houses with their rustic tiled roofs and the limestone beaches are what impressed me most. But then, there was also the sunshine. As an islander, there is just nothing that I love more than the warmth of the sun on my skin. And having been through the rainy winter of Mauritius previously, I felt that Steinbeck could not have been more right when he said What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.With a couple of good reads in my backpack, I felt like this would be a blissful moment. 

Hitting the beach of Punta Negra

I had some good fun shooting Leon with Sammy's help at Punta Negra but then came lunch time, and we headed to Costa Brava. Whilst I would have loved to have some Spanish food, we went to My Thai Kitchen just on the corner at Carrer de Costa Brava. We were welcomed by this friendly waiter whose t-shirt made a lasting impression on me because on his back was written: It tastes like Thailand but feels like Mallorca.”  It sure did because not only was the food good, but talking to the waiter to learn about some possible locations where we could shoot later in the afternoon, felt like Mallorca. The people are kind and loving, warm and generous, loud and touching. And I had my first sangria there!

From Punta Negra to Costa Brava

Following the hearty recommendations of the waiter, we drove to Calo D'en Monjo. Walking on the sandy paths in the forest that shelters the cove, we reached a small but stunning bay in between two cliffs. I took a few pictures there with Leon and soon we made our way to the top of the cliffs. It was a hard climb with all the gears and the clothes. However, no complaints were made when we reached the top. My words seem quite inadequate when it comes to describing the view that lay before our eyes. It was all in all grand. Dangerously, treacherously grand. The limestone cliffs were very sharp in places and standing on the edge, one could almost feel dizzy at the sight of the sea waves lapping, insistent, the bottom of the cliff. And what can be said of the Mediterranean blue? That imposing deep blue has always fascinated me, so easily distinguishable and it makes for the perfect backdrop for the blossoming rosemary and limestone cliffs. No wonder Miró found this pure Mediterranean light appealing. And what a treat it was to watch the sunset from those heights! As the sun began its descent illuminating the forest trees tops to a luscious yellow-green, it cast an orange-pink light over Sa Dragonera island far off Santa Ponca. It was a great spectacle but come dark, we would not be able to get down those cliffs and find our paths in the woods. So we had to leave after a while to head back to the hotel and find a nice place to eat. We did not wander far. We found a nice restaurant opposite our hotel where I should say I had one delicious black pasta with broccoli, mint leaves and limoncello sauce. The chef itself recommended it so and since I cannot handle lactose, the obvious dessert was mango and lemon sorbets. 

The walk to Calo D'en Monjo

One of the pictures for OKUN Beachwear with Leon as model


Swing Mauritius sunnies: Love them!


That wonderful pasta with Limoncello that I had for desssert.

The next day, Sammy, Leon and I drove back to another beach in Punta Negra. It was a long walk alongside the bare olive groves in the summer sun. The air seemed ripe with promises of a good holiday. But first, we had to find the path to the beach while carrying our gears and all the outfits we needed to shoot. We found a little path with large stairs leading to a patch of blue where I could hear the waves rushing onward in an uninterrupted sweet sweep. An invitation. The path ended suddenly where a big tree met the shimmering blue waters. We had to climb down the tree's roots using a chain. Not an easy way down. Jumping from the roots, my feet landed in the soft and tiny brown pebbles that made up the beach of Punta Negra. My bare feet had only a few seconds to revel in the sweet sensation the beach procured me because the pebbles started burning my soles. I had to hurry to the shadows of the big rocks nearby. Walking there, it hit us that that beach was a nudist one. And if you expect to hear me say, it must have been quite a pleasant sight, well let me tell you that pink saggy boobies do not make for a pretty sight under any circumstances. And neither do the white flaky bottoms of old grandpas!

Our beautiful mess

Enjoying the warm sea in Punta Negra

Sammy and I after the shoot wearing OKUN

After the photoshoot, we left for the airport where Sammy and Leon were heading back to London and Barcelona respectively. And I was heading back to Palma for the beginning of my holidays ! I took a quick bus from the airport into the city whose suburbs were the only thing I had a glance at before. I was a bit lost as to where exactly I would have to get off on Passeig de Mallorca to head to the place I had booked on Airbnb but fortunately I met with my friend Dani who was looking for the place too. One thing I should say is that during this trip, I  put my phone on Flight mode and only used Wi-Fi to avoid the enormous charges of data roaming. I did not get a Spanish phone number even when I would be staying in Spain for a month. Therefore, it was quite a challenge to contact people and since I was always walking to find my way, using the Wi-Fi available at some places was not possible. But when you see this one coffee shop or restaurant that offers free Wi-Fi, I cannot begin to tell you how excited and desperate I was that it worked! But then, if nothing worked, the best thing to do is ask for a stranger's help, even if the person doesn't speak English or you Spanish. Why should everyone speak English anyway? We got to my host's place and settled in it quite quickly. It was nice and considering how close it was to most things, it was all in all a good find on Airbnb. The only surprise was that my host Tereza didn't speak one word of English and she probably had someone else write replies to us on Airbnb. But then, she was really nice and Dani learned later that she was from Portugal

View from my apartment on Passeig Mallorca

Beautiful balconies with great ironworks and decorative tiles and oriel windows

Over the next three days, we first explored Palma de Mallorca on foot. It proved a really delightful place to be: if on one afternoon, we experienced sudden and heavy rainfall forcing Dani and I to hide for quite a while, the rest of the time was spent enjoying a sunny slice of Mallorcan life taking in the island's architecture, especially the city's homes with their colourful facades, oriel windows or dark wooden shutters. And another particular thing in the city is that most shop shutters and the walls of the city were the canvas of the graffiti artists and some on quite a large scale as you will see below. I think I should apologise for the quality of some pictures, but I never bought the greatest of phones and obviously, the camera ain't so great. But I still used it because it was so much easier to carry a phone than a big camera when there was lots of walking to be done.

At the Esbaluard

And the downpour started...

Too bad for the Vespa

One night in the city, we ended up getting so very lost after eating some tapas and a paella. Those who have shared a meal with me, know that I am a slow but big eater. However, the incredibly big portions served by Spanish restaurants (and they call it small!) were too much for me to handle. So the walk after dinner was more than welcome though it became tedious when we still had not find our way back to our apartment after one hour. Thankfully, Dani spoke Spanish and he asked for help. (Asking directions would usually be his job.) I could only understand a few words though those were sufficient when I needed to know if I had to go izquierda or derecha. Oh and since I've never learned Spanish at school, it dawned on me that the correct spelling for paella sounded in fact like paeja!
Mixed platter of tapas (too much potatoes)

Paella with sea food

Before ending the subject matter of that night, one word of caution about some Spanish restaurants: do not expect a great service from your waiters. I have eaten at my fair share of Spanish restaurants during the trip and the waiters while friendly, generous and loud, did not offer a service that was up to standards. I was made aware later in my trips across Spain that waiters do not exactly work for tips and some do not expect it. I will tell you more about that and about the greatness of Spanish cuisine when I write about my trip in Sevilla and Granada

On Saturday, we took a trip to Cala Fornells and Calo D'En Monjo again because Dani had not seen that cove yet and I wanted to go there again to hike and see more of the surroundings. We explored Palma de Mallorca a little bit more on our way to the bus stop and saw a really nice mill. There were quite a few derelict ones that I had spotted on my way from the airport. 

Afterwards, we took a bus to Cala Fornells and hiked up and down and up again. On the way, I got to see some of the most marvelous homes on the coast. The view of concrete houses painted in summery light colours with the occasional splash of rich dark tones on their wooden shutters, was so refreshing to me. Their layouts made it looked like those houses with their terracotta roof tiles and small balconies were stacked on each other above the cliffs. It seems to me that Spaniards take great pride in how their home looks. And if you have the impression that the bougainvilleas are growing wild, you cannot deny the charm those fuchsia and orange flowers add to those facades.


Even if every home bore the identity of Spain, they all were very distinct from each other. Most of them had curves steps that sometimes led to a beautiful archway with ornamental iron lanterns hanging either side. And the ironworks... That is another subject on which I cannot stop talking about. Throughout my trip in Spain, I discovered how the metal crafts, especially that of iron forging and brass work, was prominent in the Spanish identity. Almost every house I spotted in Mallorca and elsewhere in Spain were graced with some of the finest crafted wrought iron work I have ever seen. From the beautiful gates adorned with iron stars or suns to the stair railings sometimes scrolled, sometimes squared, including some amazing window grilles or balcony railings, the iron craft was all over the place. Being the daughter of a carpenter, I could not help being drawn to the exquisite woodwork on the ceiling of some arcades or in the rooms of the houses. And on the doors! The doors of most houses were sometimes rather massive with some intricate carvings and very often I would witness the most bizarre but fancy doorknobs on them. It was all very fascinating to me but what I care most about was the tiles. I love Spanish handpainted tiles more than I could say. They were flamboyant and warm like the Spanish summer itself. Most houses featured gorgeous handpainted tiles on the stair risers. Occasionally, a few pieces would have been laid out in the walls or even nicer, was the beautiful fresco tiles that depicted a famous person having lived in the house whose wall it adorned, or just a religious icon. I have however seen the most beautiful fresco tiles in Sevilla.

We hiked to the beautiful bay of Calo D'en Monjo and ate our sandwiches (with Jabón serrano) on the edge of the cliffs watching Sa Dragontera from afar. It was quite thrilling. After lunch, we decided to go to the beach further away. It was a rather lovely walk to that bay and I found out that this was yet another nudist beach though no naked grandpas and mamas were to be seen (thank goodness). While I would have loved to take a dive into that lagoon, there was still more to see far up the other cliffs. Seeing no path, we took the steepest road up and often, we had to walk on the edge,with our back to the rocks, to reach some viewpoints. We were always rewarded by a marvelous sight of the ocean. But the nicest spot we found was a bench on a cliff for people to sit on and drink in the view! Definitely picturesque and serene if you like the sound of the waves. 




Later that night, we went for a walk by the port passing by the cathedral. There was a wildlife photo exhibition all along the way on wildlife. It was really interesting what was being shared along with some gorgeous quotes from Octavio Paz, the Mexican poet and writer. I cannot recall the name of the photographer and I lost some of the pictures I took that night. I totally forgot my phone was not being sync online since I was not using Wi-Fi. But then, we had some good food at a Chinese restaurant for soup would be good for Dani who had a bad cough. Plus we were too tired to search for a restaurant serving Spanish food, that was not crowded and had people waiting outside for a free table. You would not believe how crowded the good places are on weekends. In any case, we ate well and it was all in all a good day well spent.

Sunday came. And it was to be a tough day because we had planned our trip to Cap de Formentor which lies on the eastern coast of Mallorca. It was going to be a long way up there by bus so we really needed to get to the bus station quick. But that took time and we missed the bus by a couple of minutes. The next bus was in one hour. We walked around a bit until it was time for the next bus.

We were a bit sad about missing the bus because the road to Cap de Formentor was about 80kms from Palma and the bus would only take us to Port de Pollença where we would have to make the 13kms way up by our own means. 
On the way to Port de Pollença

Nearing destination

In Port de Pollença

When we reached Port de Pollença, Dani had the brilliant idea to hitch a ride. I would never have done it on my own before but it seemed to be the best solution. We were turned down a few times, until we got lucky. A German couple stopped for us. They told us about one of the gems of this coast: Cala Figuera. It is a deeply sunken beach in a bay surrounded by high mountains. But I'll tell you more about that later. The Germans dropped us at Cala Figuera and from there we started hiking while trying to hitch another ride. This time, another couple, an English man and a Brazilian woman stopped for us. They were really nice and even proposed to take us back to Cala Figuera when we would be done at the watchtower. 

I should say all the way up, I could not keep my eyes off this stunning landscape. It could have looked daunting to others but I found those mountains to be dramatic and grand. It was fascinating how those pines trees seem to grow out of the rocks! And the birds! Like back home on Gunners' Coin where the paille en queue nested in the steep rock formations, it was the same here with the birds. If I had had a whole day without any bus to take, I would really have done the 13kms way up and perhaps hitch a ride for my way back (it's only 400m above sea level!). However, next time, I will definitely rent a Vespa to get there. I am sure it would be one hell of a ride!

At long last, the lighthouse in sight!
We reached the top rather quickly following the meandering course of the way. The road was built by Antonio Parietti who, after observing the Tramuntana winds, understood that it would not be feasible to cut through the rocks of the mountains and the cliffs. Like the wind that deviates in a curve when the mountains were too steep, the roads would do the same. And that is how the roads from Port de Pollença to Cap de Formentor and also that of Sa Calobra, came to be. I wish I had had time to take the trip to Sa Calobra to take the Snake road that Parietti designed.  I heard it was quite a ride from there. But well that would be for a next visit to Mallorca

On the way to Cap de Formentor, we were treated to some of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. The Mediterranean blue has always fascinated me and I did my best to catch the colour as it was on my camera. I was not exactly interested in capturing some great landscapes pictures when I think of it. I was merely seeking to engrave in my mind (and on my SD Card) the essence of that place, of that blue. It felt so good to feel the wind in my clothes, in my hair and on my skin. I read somewhere that the locals called Cap de Formentor, the Meeting Point of the Winds. It sure felt that way and from the lighthouse, I even grasped a view of Menorca far away and of the bays of Alcudia and Pollença.

Menorca ahead

Saying goodbye to the Cap

We left the watchtower and headed back with our friends down to Cala Figuera. From atop, I chanced to see what the bay was like and to say it took my breath away, is not enough. The lagoons of Mauritius are certainly stunning and I would not compare its beaches with those of Mallorca. But there is something incredibly intoxicating and dizzying about the colours of the Mallorcan lagoons and the mountains. I could see the boats sails from afar and I could see the people making their way down to the beach. But Cala Figuera looked pristine to me. And it was.

The bay of Cala Figuera

Dani and I descended along the steep path that spread down on about 1.5kms and I had to hold on to the grass so as not to slip. But the place was just great. There was no sand. However, the gravel and the small stones did not damper my appreciation of this bay. We found a place higher on the rocks near the cliffs and ate our lunch under the shade of some rock.  

Believe it when they say it's a long rough way to the top from down there

Later, we climbed higher up the cliffs to see what the view was like from the other end of Cala Figuera. The hike up there was less popular with people since there were no obvious paths. But we managed. We did not linger long for we had to get back to Port de Pollença to catch the bus to Palma.  

The 1.5kms from the bay to the parking lot was hard. In the afternoon sun, I struggled a bit to keep the pace up the steep slope. We headed towards the road and started walking back. We were hoping to catch a ride of course. We met with a German couple whose car was stuck on the side of the road because of their stupid driving (it really was stupid). They drove their car two times in a ditch. We stopped and helped by pushing the car out of the ditch. We did not really get a warm thank you nor a ride back.

At the parking lot of Cala Figuera

On the road again
Afterwards, we just kept on walking until a really nice man stopped for us. He got out of his way to take us into Port de Pollença which we really appreciated. Because we decided to take a long walk along the beach, we missed one bus and had to wait a while for another. Ultimately, we got into Palma quite late after an amazing day.

Walking along the beach in Port de Pollença

The next day was the day we would go back to Barcelona. We took an early walk to the Cathedral of Palma and to the Royal Palace of La Almudaina. The latter is the Alcázar or fortified palace which was built in the early 1300's. I did not get the chance to take a really close look at it since we were short on time but one thing I can say is that all Alcázars have gorgeous gardens and the intricate architectures are really outstanding for the Moorish influence they channel. I have come to think Moorish-influenced buildings are way more beautiful than those Gothic buildings or Catholic churches. There was no need for painted frescoes of Gods, angels and saints. I fell in love with their exquisite gardens and courtyards; their horseshoe or ogee arches; their walls layered with carved patterns; their alleys whose floors or benches boast some of the most stunning decorative tiles and the alluring muqarnas that ornate the domes that I saw in the Alhambra in Granada. There really was so much to see but I did not have time for it. I took one last look, walked through Passeig Des Born and then headed to catch a bus to the airport. 

Royal Palace of La Almudaina

Cathedral of Palma


I wish I had had time to visit some other places in Mallorca, like the magnificent caves of Porto Cristo. The island in all its splendour made me feel like the summer was one long never-ending party where as we say in French, il fait bon vivre”. No wonder Rafael Nadal said there are no better places to live !

I will end this very long blog post with one quote from Montgomery's Anne's House of Dreams which I think is perfectly befitting to this trip in Mallorca:

All in all, it was a never to be forgotten summer one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.  

Thank you for reading till the end.
Stay tune for the next post about Barcelona.