Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Majorca, Spain

I arrived in Palma on the Island of Majorca, without my luggage. It seems that the airline forgot to put it on the plane! This was kind of a drag especially after reading lots of lost luggage horror stories in the British tabloid press (is there any other kind of British press?). Already tired on arrival from the previous night attempting to sleep in the airport waiting areas built-for-discomfort chairs, it wasn´t long before my patience wore thin especially after an additional couple of hours searching and lining up for info about my lost pack. Finally my turn at the wicket and I was told it would arrive at 1am the next morning. Great! I took a taxi into Palma, got a hotel room and then lit out on the town.

The Island of Majorca is legally Spain but once here it feels more like a separate country. In many ways it is a seperate country with it´s Castillian roots and long, colourful history. After the poverty and insanity of Pakistan, the remoteness of the Welsh coast, and the the English lifestyle plainness, Palma, the largest city, was a visual and aural treat. Everywhere there was beauty, life, music, people, and art. Tons of art. One museum I went to had Picasso´s and Dali´s. Outdoor sculptures abound, many of them huge and many of them quite challenging for the artist within us to accept. Take for example a miniature version of an upside down, half-built house or a row of huge, alien-like, Russian doll figures made of steel. One open-aired building, almost a sculpture in itself, has been built strictly to house ongoing exhibitions of outdoor art.

Palma has a rich and long history well illustrated in it´s architecture. It´s central feature is a huge cathedral surrounded by lesser, but equally impressive heritage buildings. Fountains, waterways, and statues of ancient warriors and gods fill the architectural gaps. Outdoor cafes , and street buskers fill every inch of available sidewalk creating a daily street carnival of the likes that I have never seen before. Around every corner is a new show, different food, and a thousand faces from all corners of the globe. I spent a lot of time sitting in the shaded outdoor cafes just watching the world parade by.

The joy of all this was lost to me when I returned to the airport at 2am to locate my missing luggage. After a couple of hours arguing and lining up again I managed to get back into the luggage arrivals area and found my pack sitting lonely and abandoned on an empty carousel. Thank goodness it wasn´t stolen as airport security, despite all the hype, is notoriously lax when it comes to departing luggage. Then back to my hotel room to sleep for what was left of the night.

After a few hours sleep following the early morning airport adventure I continued to explore the alleyways and back streets of Palma before returning to the airport again, this time to meet up with cousins arriving from wales and travel with them to Alcudia on the far side of the Island. We learned very quickly that the law in Majorca is 4 to a taxi only (no such thing as a mini van- at least not at the airport), so it was 2 taxi´s and a very hefty price tag for the 5 of us to Alcudia.
Alcudia is a strange but beautiful place. Beautiful because it sits beside the Mediterranean Ocean, the warmest body of water I have ever experienced. Strange because it is just like being in England except hotter.The Spanish are hard to find due to the thousands of Brits that flood the Island every week or two. British pubs, British fish & chip shops, stores with British papers, and British tele shows flicker on hundreds of screens on the main drag. You can keep score of a big football game by the roar of the crowds and the proliferation of England football shirts out on the day of the game. Signs often read: English owned; fried toast available here; full English breakfast; Guinness on tap; and so on. The beaches are full of very white, or very red, British bodies occasionally mixed with the deep browns of the Spaniard. The smell of sun tan oil smeared on very burnt skin seems to be the national smell of the Island.

The weather in Alcudia is very hot during the day and humid at night. While here the rains came a couple of times and the traditional uniform of the tourist- football shirt, designer T shirts and baggy shorts, was quickly replaced by cheap raincoats- multi-hued plastic bags with tight little hoods. The humour of it could not escape me and I had a large smile on my face as I watched the procession of pastels paraded by me as ducking in and out of the tacky tourist shops featuring cheap wares from all over the world. The rainwear colours were actually quite beautiful on the beach where I watched some brave souls wading colourfully in the afternoon rain.