Sóller, Mallorca, Spain (Feb. 2012).
My husband and I decided to visit Mallorca after experiencing the almost unbearable cold of York in January. We wanted to feel the sun on our faces; we wanted to leave our heavy winter jackets behind. Completely doable according to my guide book, which listed an average Mallorcan temperature of 51°F/11°C in February.
Our trip to Mallorca (a.k.a. Majorca) in February was unforgettable and thoroughly unexpected. Well, the trip itself was expected. After all, we did book plane tickets and lodging, but aside from where we stayed and when, the rest of the trip was anything but on plan. For starters, it snowed in Mallorca, including the beaches of Palma, a week before our arrival.
The “Day One Plan”: Arrive in Palma de Mallorca airport at 1:30pm local time. Take the No. 1 bus (the only bus from the airport into Palma) to the Plaça d’Espanya where we would catch the L210 bus to Sóller, our home base for the first few days of our trip. The L210 bus would take us on a scenic coastal route, allowing for an overview of the region and, we hoped, a sense of the picturesque and historic towns of Valldemossa and Deià, which we hoped to visit the following day. After arriving in Sóller in the late afternoon, we would have time to visit the town square, church, and the museum, Can Prunera, which boasts a collection of works by over 200 major artists, including Miró, Picasso, Munch, Basquiat, Warhol, Matisse, and Cézanne.
Reality: Our 10:25am flight was delayed by over 3 ½ hours. Apparently, a mechanical problem was not easily fixed, but this was discovered only after half the flight’s passengers had already boarded the plane. I was on my way to the plane; my husband, who I thought was right behind me, had been stopped at the gate. Everyone was asked to return to the terminal. A plane would have to be flown in from another airport. An omen, perhaps?
In all honesty, I have more positive feelings towards EasyJet after this experience. One, they gave us drink vouchers. Two, they’d prefer to inconvenience a planeful of people rather than fly under knowingly less-than-safe conditions. That would also be my preference.
Upon arrival in Palma, and having walked the 7 ½ miles from the gate to the main terminal (at least that’s how far it seemed), we exited the airport to catch the bus. We were very near the bus stop when I saw the bus begin to pull away from the curb. I started running, wheelie bag trailing behind, waving to catch the bus driver’s attention. Sweetheart that he was, he waved back, then kept on driving.
We couldn’t wait for the next bus. Because of our late arrival, if we waited we would surely miss the last bus out of Palma to Sóller. We’d already missed the last coastal bus, but it would be dark soon anyway. At that point we were just praying we’d make it to Sóller.
The taxi driver spoke no English; we spoke no Mallorquí (local dialect) and our Spanish was very rusty (think decades). No need to chit-chat, however. In less than 9 minutes we were standing outside the bus terminal just minutes before our bus was to leave. Did I mention I was recovering from the flu and was having difficulty breathing? Amazing how humans can adapt when the need arises. We may have been a tad sweaty, but we made it. Sitting safely on the bus, we agreed that the taxi fare was possibly the best €20 we ever spent. Given the close call, we also realized that we might not have made the L211 bus if we’d caught the No. 1 bus out of the airport. I wouldn’t have thought I’d ever say, “Thank goodness we missed the bus!”
Sóller was colder than we’d expected. Why hadn’t it occurred to me that air is chillier in the mountains? And the L211 bus did not drop us off at the train/tram station near the town square, which I had assumed it would. In fact, our disembarkation point wasn’t even on the Google map I’d printed so that we could find our hotel. We made an educated guess and started walking along a main road until we came upon a man exiting his house. My husband said, “Perdóne. ¿Dónde estamos?” (Translation: Where are we?) The man spoke a little English, but was not familiar with our hotel or its location and could not read our map without his glasses, which he was not carrying. He called over an elderly neighbor and long-time resident who only spoke Mallorquí. The men spoke incomprehensibly with accompanying hand gestures, then the first man explained to us, in Spanish sprinkled with English, how to get to our hotel. Between the motioning of his hands, his little English, and our little Spanish, we believed we understood how to find our hotel. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers towards foreigners after dark.
On the way to our hotel, we passed through the town’s main square, Plaça Constitució.
The church’s elegant façade imbued the square with a certain sophistication.
Few people were out, so the square was remarkably quiet, which made the bony tree limbs seem all the more eerie.
After about half an hour of walking and gawking, we stood at the door to our hotel. Unfortunately, the door was locked and we could see that the lobby was in semi-darkness. We found a piece of paper taped to the door’s glass with my husband’s name on it. We felt such relief knowing that we had not been forgotten; we were expected. Imagine our surprise when we opened the letter to find it written entirely in German. No one was around and we hadn’t brought the cell phone. After much debate and the discovery of a keypad on the side wall, we took a guess that “Der Zugangscode zur Hautpeingangstür des Hotels ist ‘1234A’”* was the keycode. I think we cheered when the door clicked open. But now what?
Can you see the plate atop the counter? It contained numbered keys.
We hoped that “Sie übernachten in Zimmer Nr. 5” meant that we were in room number 5, because this was where we would be sleeping.
After unpacking and freshening up, it was time for food. The streets were mostly empty and almost all of the storefronts were dark,** so we returned to the main square where we’d seen signs of life earlier. A tapas restaurant appealed with its flaming patio torches. Huddled under blankets at one of the outside tables sat two women and four devils, er, men dressed as devils. The men’s skin had been painted red from head to foot. (One guy actually lifted his trouser leg so we could see and even offered to pull down his trousers, but we declined the offer.) The men all had black eye makeup, black lips, and black, straight-haired wigs with real horns sticking out. A few even sported devil tails. All six were very friendly, enjoying a drink together as if this were the most normal thing ever. They spoke a little English, but my husband and I found that a bit of our long-unused Spanish was returning. We could follow much of what was said and were even able to converse in Spanish a small amount. As it turned out, we had missed Carnaval. Darn that late plane! But what fun that we were able to participate vicariously by speaking with the local diablos about their festival. How wonderfully unexpected.
This is one of the devils who came inside to, I believe, check a sports score.
After such an eventful day, we slept well that night. Care to join me for Day 2?
*The keycode has been changed to protect the innocent.
** We were to learn later that the tourist season in Sóller hadn’t started yet. We were told that only two hotels were open in Sóller. Our hotel had opened early for the season, with us staying during the first open weekend.