Stay in the city and see another side of the Balearic Islands.
I’ll put my hands up and admit my only memories of Mallorca are of Santa Ponsa circa 2005. Foam parties, Sex on the Beach cocktails and gourmet meals of nuggets and chips. Fast forward to 2019 and an invite to visit the island’s capital, Palma. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to see a different side of the largest of the Balearic Islands, returning with a very different idea of what makes a holiday fun. For starters, staying closer to the airport is a bonus – I was in the beautiful Hotel Sant Fransesc within fifteen minutes of stepping out of arrivals.
After dumping my bags and checking out the view from the rooftop pool, I set out for a stroll. The city of Palma is a mix of small cobblestone streets lined with cafés, wine bars and shops selling local goods like olive oil and wicker baskets, and big shopping streets with all your high street faves. Hello Spanish pricing in Zara! I was in Mallorca to test out the new Google Pixel 4 phone, but more importantly for me, to use Google apps as a handy travel assistant.
I’ve always used their maps, connecting to the hotel WiFi to download the area I’m exploring so it’s available offline while I’m out and about, but was intrigued with the new Live View feature. You point your camera’s phone at surrounding buildings to get directions placed in the real world. So you know that annoying starting off point where you keep going in the wrong direction until you realise which way you’re supposed to set off? A thing of the past!
In-map reviews on restaurants and bars are handy too and you can check things like opening times (siesta-land) and when is best to avoid queues. One place that’s always busy, but worth the wait, is Fornet de le Soca, a traditional bakery. Try Coixins Imperials, Mallorcan pasty filled with cream made the old-fashioned way. For a savoury snack and a little tipple, try La Rose Vermuteria for a vermouth (Spanish fortified wine) with a big fat slice of the best tortilla ever (Spanish omelette) and a Glinda (skewer of olive, pickled pepper and salted anchovy).
In the evening we head down to the port of Palma for a sunset cruise, the perfect way to end the day looking back at the twinkling lights of the Cathedral, but also going far out enough to see the stars overhead and test out night-mode on the Pixel 4’s camera. Mallorca is home to the UNESCO World Heritage region of Serra de Tramuntana, a dramatic mountainous landscape that sweeps down to the sea.
We hopped into classic Spanish cars from around 1970 with drivers who didn’t speak a word of English to head up into the mountains. This is where the conversation function of Google Translate really kicked in. After noticing some cute cuddly toys decorating the tiny car, I asked our driver Paco about them. Turns out they all belonged to his wife of 53 years who he keeps an old photo of in his wallet. Such a touching story I might not have heard without being able to translate back and forth between English and Spanish! Ending high up in the old town of Sóller, we took the traditional vintage tram through olive, lemon and orange groves all the way down to the coast and the port of Sóller for lunch.
Ses Oliveres restaurant is a beautiful relaxed seafront spot with lovely paella and seafood, gorgeous staff and excellent cava. Don’t make any plans for the rest of the day, because you won’t want to leave. Unfortunately for me, that was my cue to head back to the airport but with the decision already made to return to Mallorca next year.
Getting there: Aer Lingus run direct flights from Dublin and Cork to Pala de Mallorca seasonally during the summer. Ryanair run direct flights from Dublin, Cork, Knock and Shannon seasonally
Where to stay: San Francesc Hotel Singular is a luxury five-star boutique hotel in Palma city, with rates from €311 for two people