Friday, 8 October 2010

It’s Spain, folks, but not as we know it.

So, here I am back in Spain, well Mallorca, more precisely Magaluf. We arrived late yesterday evening after a day of mixed frustration and successfully organised travel.

First frustration: the bus we had planned to catch at 11.24 from the corner of our street didn’t arrive un
til around 11.40. This is a common feature of buses in our area but not one you should rely on. The day that you think it doesn’t matter too much if you arrive at the bus stop late is the day that the bus leaves early. The drivers work to their own idiosyncratic timetable, influenced by road works (naturally and acceptably enough) and traffic but also by the mood of the individual driver.

The next stage
of our journey went well enough: bus from Oldham to Manchester. We were MOST impressed by the train service from Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester airport: frequent, fast and free in our case – over 60s’ bus passes work on local trains as well as buses. (Please Mr Conservative Cameron, don’t remove them as part of your austerity measures!)

The airport wait was much as usual but as we travelled with Monarch this time we had allocated seats, which was a pleasant change. No nasty race for the best seats. The plane, however,
was rather more full of bling and boozy chaps than we have been used to on our travels to northwest Spain. Some people spend a phenomenal amount of money on in-flight alcohol!!

And finally we landed at Palma de Mallorca into the bochorno: 27° and sticky with it. The young lady in the tourist office at the airport was most helpful and gave us details for the bus into Palma and which bus to get from the bus station to go on to Magaluf. What she failed to tell us was that the bus station in Palma is hidden behind the Plaza de España and down a whole series of escalators, fine when you kno
w where it is but hopeless to a newcomer. Second frustration of the day.

A bus arrived promptly and on we got, asking the bus driver where we needed to get off, was there only one stop in Magaluf and so on. Well, he was a grumpy soul: no, can’t help you. It soon transpired that we were on a bus full of people who had no idea where they were going, just that they were on the right bus. Fortunately there were enough helpful people among the passengers. Everyone helped each other out and in a variety of languages. Third frustration of the day but one which turned into a communication opportunity.

At around 9.30 we found our hotel, showered and ventured out for something to eat. Pizza Venezia: olives, a couple of beers and a pizza each for about
25. Not quite what we expect from España but the pizzas were good and the service was friendly and this is Magaluf, after all.

This is a strange sort of limbo of a place. A mixture of tourist heaven and hell. I
t clearly has been a very pretty place but, like many holiday resorts on the coasts has been “developed” and not necessarily for the best.

Our hotel is a large modern complex without WIFI – fourth frustration – presumably a ploy to get you to pay €2 for 15 minutes internet time. There is a veritable breakfast factory on the ground floor with seating for hundreds of people by the look of it. And then there are the tourists themselves. It’s a while since I have seen such a collection of large people.

Now that is fine and I don’t want to be sizist but I don’t see why so many of the male of the species have to parade round the streets showing a large expanse of overhanging belly. Why does the male on holiday, at any rate the British and German variety, feel he has the right to display his naked chest to everyone? It really isn’t always a pretty sight. I can quite appreciate why the ayuntamiento de Barcelona has banned naked torsos and swimwear on the streets.

Why am I here in that case? You may well ask such a question. Well, my chess player is taking part in a tournament and I have come along for the tourism, the swimming, the walks on the beach and so on. Once the tournament is over we intend to explore other bits of the island that we have not seen for a while.

Not all is bad in Magaluf, however. The sun continues to shine today and at lunchtime, having looked at a range of fish and chip shops, steak houses and such, we headed for the tourist office and asked for help in finding something a little more authentically Spanish, if not actually Mallorquín. And so we ended up at Mesón El Chovaleño, a place sporting Estrella de Galicia sunshades. We felt quite at home and even drank wine out of glasses which sported the Jacobeo 2010 logo. For under €20 we enjoyed a sopa mallorquina and some very nice fish, washed down with a vino blanco de la casa, which turned out to be a most acceptable white Rioja. All’s well that ends well after all.

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