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Friday, 22 July 2016

Y Viva Espana…Five Nights In Palma.

Y Viva Espana…Five Nights In Palma.

The intention was for a four or five day break in the sunshine, somewhere abroad, where I could just lie down by a pool, or on a beach, read a book, drink a Bacardi or two, and relax. Somehow, because of my well known ineptness at booking hotels, none of this was achieved! Well, apart from reading the book I took with me about the surviving Apollo astronauts who walked on the moon between 1969 and 1972. 
Palma in Majorca was my choice, hotel selected on Easy as pie. Though I still can’t figure out how I ended up in an establishment up a backstreet, with no swimming pool, miles from the seafront and virtually on top of a hill! I must have pressed the wrong button on my computer when confirming my holiday! What was that? about going to Specsavers?

Last time I was in Majorca was 1994 when I was here with family in the resort of Alcudia.  It was Gareth's last holiday with us which is how I remember the year. He was 16. This was also the first time I've flown with Ryanair for years as well. We used to go to Stockholm using this airline, from Stansted, cheap and nasty as it was. And it still is. The flight from Liverpool was packed with what I guessed as weekend revellers. Noisy, inebriated and boisterous. The cabin crew seemed far more relaxed than what Ive become accustomed to with Norwegian Airways, my regular company nowadays when going to Sweden. The safety procedure was carried out with haste and boredom. Nobody appeared to pay attention and the crew went through the ritual haphazardly with little enthusiasm or interest. The aircraft itself was cramped, no reading material in a ‘glove’ compartment on the back of the seats. Basic. Which I suppose is why its cheap. To be fair they do advertise that ‘Ryanair makes flying simple’. Still doesn’t excuse passengers roaming around, getting more drunk, taking the piss, shouting. The whole experience was like being on a rowdy coach tour of football supporters. Landing in Palma also brought a few memories back from the Ryanair days of flying from Stansted. The plane landing with an almighty bump. I do recall reading somewhere that Ryanairs’ philosophy is to get the job done with little fuss, don't waste time. Get down as quickly as possible. 
Hotel Zurbaran
Arriving around midnight I got a taxi from the airport, showed the driver the address of the Hotel Zurbaran on my itinerary and away we went. Conversation was minimal, if anything at all. I thought he was looking vacant and eventually he dropped me off about 200 meters from where I wanted to go! It seemed to me he was confused, frightened, “Can’t go down there!” he said flapping. What was he afraid of? It was like a dark alley, a one way street barely wide enough to take a car but I did subsequently see the odd vehicle go down there. Not this night though! 
“Where’s the hotel?” I asked him. 
“100 meters down there” he said, pointing me in the direction. He then fled. 
I walked down, no idea if I was going to find this hotel or not but suddenly there it was. Now I've stayed in some dubious establishments which has been well documented but a hotel down a dark lane, in a backstreet..oh well. It didn't read like this on the internet! Have to say though, the people working here turned out to be very nice, the hotel was clean and tidy, the view from my room compared with some of the worst I've had, green bushes towering above the balcony. You couldn't see the sea or anything at all come to that! Comfortable little room though with a good shower which was welcome in the heat. Probably the best I've had in fact, mostly I find showers either slow, not working, dirty. This was superb.  

Next morning it was 33o as I set out to discover Palma. I asked the girl in reception which way the beach was. Two hours later there was still no sign of it as I hiked west along the seafront. The harbour was at one end of town so I figured the beach must be at the Cathedral end. A magnificent building overlooking the port. All I could see was rocks which looked nice enough to sit upon, but in this searing heat? Don't think so. The day was spent looking for shade, and the elusive beach! Could be that the tide was in maybe? Never saw it anyway.

Where's the beach?
Eventually I gave up, bought a hat and returned for a cool shower before going out to look for some nightlife. Walking down side roads, a thousand steps, trying to take note of landmarks so I could find my way home, and promptly getting lost. Drained I settled for a few pints along the front, bars that were half empty but with a nice view overlooking the marina. The only entertainment came when a stag party went walking past! A group of guys with the stag attired in a leotard and painted all over from head to toe in green! Looked a right plum but I guess that was the intention. It was funny. ‘So this is Palma?’ I thought to myself, ‘there’s life here somewhere’.

Getting near midnight I headed back for the hotel, climbed some more blessed steps, thought I was heading in the right direction, walked through a labyrinth of alleys and walkways, street after street, and ended up miles away. Trudging along, exhausted and realising I didn’t recognise anywhere, I saw a taxi and gasped; “Hotel Zurbaran please.”
Cost me 7 Euros! Couldn’t believe it! No wonder I was goosed! I had walked a couple of miles past the bloody hotel! And the heat was stifling!

Next morning I was going to do what I came here for, to relax by the pool. Or I thought I was. It did occur to me that nobody was walking around carrying towels, scantily clad in swimming gear etc so I enquired at the desk. Putting my Spanish into practice.
“Ola. Where’s the pool?”
The girl looked at me as if I had asked a million dollar question;
“Ola..we don’t have one..but our guests can use our free shuttle bus service to our sister hotel who’s pool we can share..”
“Oh” I said surprised, pretty good English I thought, “where can I get the bus? From here?”
At that she shuffled through some paperwork, looked flummoxed and eventually told me it might be an hour or two!
I gave up, told her to forget it but asked if I could reserve a seat on the bus for tomorrow.
“Oh, sorry” she said, “the bus driver doesn’t work Mondays” 
Well; ok, you couldn’t make this up. This is beginning to sound like a familiar tale of my travels! Is it me? Do I have ‘prick’ or something written on my forehead?
She looked at me guiltily; “You can get the number three bus on the main road to the hotel though, if you want..” 
“Right, thanks, where’s that?”
“Turn left out of hotel, right at the junction, down the hill and the stop is on the other side of the main road.”
“OK, thanks, thats what I’ll do”.

So off I went in search of some more adventure and the bus stop. A bus with number three came by on cue, making me feel relieved and that this would be a piece of cake. 
Joining the queue I embarked and confidently told the driver “Hotel Piero please”. He stared at me. Uttered something in Spanish. I had a card on me with a picture of the hotel, so I showed him it and he still stared at me, stone faced. He looked irritated. Was I holding his bleeding bus up or something? How about a bit of patience?
“No, no” he waved his hand at me, followed by a dismissive “other side of the road”
Ignorant get!

Over the other side, another number three bus duly came along. Going the opposite direction to the first one so I felt as if I was getting somewhere. At last. Would you believe it? This dunderhead of a driver repeated the same performance as his mate! “Other side of the road”
“I’ve just been over there and your pal told me to come over here!” I said more than exasperated.
I might as well have been talking Chinese. 
“No, no, over there!” 

I got a taxi, again! This time he took 5 Euros off me!

You ever get the feeling that it’s not your day?

The Hotel Peiro was quite nice, clean, spacious without being extravagant, I acknowledged the reception desk and went to look for something to eat. They were still serving breakfast in the dining room and I thought I’d take a chance, walking in nonchalantly and finding a table after I grabbed a glass of apple juice. Eyeing up the bacon and eggs a waitress suddenly appeared and asked me; ‘Room number please?” Damn, I had been rumbled. I looked at her innocently, the dumb tourist look on my face, said ‘sorry’ and left. Well it was worth a try.
I was starving though. Sitting at the deserted bar the chief waiter or whoever he was asked me if I wanted anything.
‘Yes, senor”
He served me a coffee while I decided what I wanted to eat. I ordered a Cheese and Ham Toastie. Note; A Cheese and Ham Toastie. Paid for upfront, he must have thought I was going to do a runner! 15 Euros! My cash seemed to be diminishing by the hour. 
Anyway, what happens? He turns up with two! Huge things as well!

“Ola”, I said as he turned to walk away, I’m getting good at Spanish, “I only wanted one Cheese and Ham Toastie’.
“Uh,Uh, no, you said two”
“No I didn’t, I’m on my own, you can see there’s nobody with me, I’m hardly going to eat two of these am I?”
His face looked like a smacked arse, sour. 
“No” he repeated himself, “you said two, holding two fingers up as if I didn’t understand.
“Can you see anyone else around here?” 
He shrugged his shoulders in despair, marched over to the reception with me in tow behind. 
“I thought 15 Euros was a bit much” I said to his back. 

They conversed in Spanish, looking at me as if I was as thick as the proverbial. 
Finally, the receptionist agreed with me about the mistake and reimbursed me for the toastie that I hadn’t ordered. What a performance!
By the time I got back to my snack, the toastie had gone cold!

The pool looked inviting, a good few kids hanging around which deterred me from making a splash but I found a bed, got my book about the Apollo astronauts out and chilled. This is what I was here for!

A few hours later I was heading back, jumped on a bus which only cost me 2 Euros and wilting in the heat, went to a bar, had a couple of pints of Amstel, booked a boat trip I had seen advertised over the road for the next day and then made my way back up the hills to the Zurbaran. This was supposed to be a relaxing holiday. I was knackered!

Carly had been texting me after seeing comments on Facebook and gave me the address of a Jazz Club I should find. That sounded good, she was enthusing about it after being there herself with some friends a couple of years back.

I asked the young chap on the desk if he knew of it before going out, showed him the address. He didn’t know it, of course he didn’t! But he did his best by getting a map out and circling somewhere on it where he thought it probably was. Apparently in the ‘old town’ area which was near the cathedral. Seemed easy enough. For a start off, the cathedral towers over everything in Palma, you can hardly miss it. This particular night was also the time when France were playing Portugal in the Final of the European Nations Cup and it was ‘live’ on tele. Great stuff. 

I sat on a stool in a bar that was crowded with French football fans, the game was disappointing, crap and I decided at half time to try and discover where this Jazz Club was. Don’t know what it is, but nobody seemed very helpful. The bar staff didn’t know where it was, I went to another bar, had a another drink, asked the same question, showed people the address. And still there was no joy.   
Back at the Zurbaran, the television was on and the football was going into extra time. Nice and cool it was in the bar area so I settled for a drink, took my shoes off and put my feet up. The game was still dull, but Portugal won 1-0 with a late goal. Boring.

Next day the Boat Trip was leaving at 9.30am and returning at around 4pm. It was a lovely day for a cruise and was well packed. I made my way up to the top deck and found a seat by the railing for a good view and to get a decent breeze. An elderly couple joined me across my table, miserable looking and I had the impression it was probably the lady’s idea! SeƱor looked as if he felt he should have been propped up at a bar. He offered me an opinion about something, I nodded and said ‘English’. That was the end of the conversation.

The Mediterranean was as blue as can be, the breeze beautiful, we were headed for a cove where people could jump out for a swim for 20 minutes if they had the urge. I was tempted but as I can't swim there was little point. 
Following this the boat made its way to a place I can’t pronounce, for an hour and a half break. We were to get off, have a wander around, a beer or two etc and had to be back on the boat pronto at the pre-arranged time. 
All was going well until the boat turned into the bay and tried to force its way to the dock. Yachts and boats were everywhere, blocking the way. One of the crew went to the front and started shouting for them to move. It caused a rumpus, some small boats shifted but there was a large one which refused to budge. Turns out the skipper of this vessel was German and he was adamant that he wasn't shifting. Expletives were exchanged as the passengers including myself, looked on in amusement. This was a farce. Next thing, the armada of boats surrounding our cruiser all burst out into song, cheering, waving and clapping. One guy even mooned at us! It was ridiculous. The crew member doing his best to get us in was raging. This went on for nearly half an hour.  In the end the captain gave up, our cruiser reversed out of the bay to a cascade of cheers, laughter and waving of goodbye. 
‘Right, what happens now?’ I wondered.

An announcement over the Tannoy followed, we were heading for Magalluf instead but by the time we’d get there, all we would have is thirty minutes. Barely time to have a you know what..
Quite a few got off, we were tied up right next to the beach but I stayed where I was. Couldn’t see the point really. A free meal was all part of the deal for this trip and I was beginning to wonder when we were going to get it and what it was. Needless to say, it was Paella. Not everyone’s favourite and not mine either. I’ve tried it many a time, found it tasteless, stodgy and by the look of what people were coming back with from below, it looked awful. 
A family of four then plonked themselves down behind me. Scousers! At last, someone to talk to! 
Chris and Karen were from Rainhill, ten minutes from where Carly and Nick live in Widnes.  So for the next hour we chatted about various points of interest and previous holidays etc. The usual inane conversations you have with strangers on a boat.

Feeling famished I bought what I thought was a nice Apple Danish pastry from a supermarket to enjoy when I got back to my room. Taking a bite out of it I nearly choked. It was a bloody ham and cheese slice! Christ I’d seen enough of ham and cheese to last me a lifetime! Disappointed I dumped it in the bin. Fed up, I complained to the reception about the fridge not working in my room, they said it's not a fridge it's a mini bar. Well I told them whatever it was supposed to be it was cold when I first arrived but it's been getting steadily warmer ever since. I bought a bar of chocolate, put it in the fridge and it melted! Fat lot of good that is I said. 
“I'll get a technician” the girl said. Yeah right. He was a either a technician on his grannies side or he didn't turn up, or wasn't given the message! Whatever, it was a waste of time! 

My last day was spent walking around trying to find the Hotel Piro again. It was quite cool in the morning and I had strolled down to the harbour to get a closer look at the huge cruise liners that were in. Unbelievable the size of these ships. It was then I decided to get a bus, the elusive number three, along to the Hotel Piro. Doing my best to recognise where I should get off, I missed the stop and, once again, ended up miles from it. I asked a traffic warden, shop assistant, a workman digging holes, if they could point me in the right direction. I was beginning to feel as if I had just landed from outer space.
I walked into a Pharmacy, these are intelligent people who work in these places aren’t they?  The girl behind the counter was very helpful. Found the hotel on the internet, drew me a map and told me it was about a half hour walk! I asked her if there was a beach at this end of town and she pointed over the road. Alright, I could see the sea but that didn’t mean there’d be a beach there but I went to investigate. Nothing but rocks again but with the heat getting intense I bathed my feet in the waves as they overlapped. Oh such pleasure!

Carly tagged me on a message on FB that Gareth had been accepted at Stockholm University for a Sociology course. Fantastic. Great news.
After the usual wandering around at night I ended up in a bar a 100 yards up from my hotel, sitting outside it was quite cool, nice. Had a couple of very large Gin and Tonics to celebrate Gareth’s news and it was time to retire.

I was ready to get back to Blighty!