“You are Kevin?”
Embarking on a solo week driving around Mallorca, then losing my drivers license in transit? Not my finest hour. A fairytale wedding near the citrus grove-laden seaside town of Sollér brought me to the largest island of the Baleriacs. A chest infection, some big deadlines and three hotels to review an hour’s drive south of the venue inspired me to hire a car, so I could pootle around at my own pace.
I realized my problem in Barcelona, waiting for my connecting flight. Paying for a coffee, I spotted my license was missing. I’d booked via OMIO (a journey planning site that pulls together trains, planes, ferries and coaches — I love that thing), which I quickly consulted to confirm the dearth of public transport on the island.
For a brief moment, I let myself romanticize taking the scenic route on the big day. I’d hop on Tren de Sollér, the iconic vintage train connecting Palma to Sollér, in a ridiculously large hat. Check off the famous “photo stop” dolled up in my bridesmaid’ s dress. Regale other guests with my easy breezy, romantic plan.
Alas, the earliest ride wouldn’t get me there on time. Taxis can be extortionate in mid-summer traffic. Buses are few and far between. The rest of the guests were staying on the other side of the island. No Uber. Sweltering heat. High heels. A raspy, painful cough and high temperature. This was a pretty big fuck up.
“You are Kevin?”
I smiled weakly at a stranger waving from Meet & Greet. I figured I was approaching delirium after a day’s traveling, under the weather.
Wiping poor Kev off his white board, the man grabbed my suitcase. I began protesting, between wheezes.
“Amy! Yes? I can do it. Hotel Portixol.” He pointed at the logo on his shirt, and his nametag — “Francisco.” In my daze, I’d forgotten the emails I’d fired off to private car companies from the airport cafe. While I was in the air, Royal Private Transfers spotted my plea. Things were looking up, even if I didn’t get the joke.
“These are my cars,” he gestured to a row of large Mercedes mini buses complete with disco lights. “This is my house,” he pointed at the airport, hauling my suitcase into the trunk before firing up the light show for my benefit. “I don’t sleep! Always working. My friends call me Paco. I saw your text. Let’s go.”
Paco left me at Hotel Portixol with a cheery high five and another booking for two days’ time.
“Don’t worry. The wedding! It will be OK!” He scooted back “home,” presumably in search of a despondent man named Kevin traipsing around the concourse.
Lights twinkled along the edge of inky waters, Portixol beach just 300 meters away. The chic harbor is flanked by a mix of upscale restaurants, and laidback cafes where tanned locals smoke from plastic chairs on the pavement. Busy Palma is within five minutes’ drive. I tumbled into Hotel Portixol’s calm, refined lobby, casting a glance at the elegant cocktail bar and pool area. Within ten minutes I’d curled up with a cup of tea on my balcony’s sun lounger, watching boats bob in the dark.
Next morning I spied mountains of jamon and fresh bread at the breakfast buffet, but mainlined as many vitamins as possible: eggs made to order, fresh juice, vegetables and all the fruit I could see. I spent an inordinate amount of time in the sauna, determined to feel human again. I found flip flops and a beach bag in my room, prompting a quick walk around the harbor that sent me into a deep sleep until my alarm sounded for check out.
It was a ten-minute taxi to my next stop, INNSiDE Palma Bosque, a buzzy, playful bleisure hotel in Santa Catalina. I admired an impressive twenty-four-hour gym set up that I wouldn’t use and an extensive program of exercise classes that I wouldn’t book (boxing, Zumba, cycling, yoga — next time). Instead, I parked up on a Bali bed by the huge outdoor pool and tried to get some work done. Another stroll took me as far as a convenience store, where broken Spanglish afforded me Ibuprofen, a huge slab of chocolate, sweets and full-fat Coca-Cola. Music played on the terraces where cool crowds gathered for a drink before strolling into town for tapas and ice cream. I shuffled back to bed, grateful for the AC, and the hotel’s ironing service — if I was going to be sick for the wedding, I needed to look half decent.
I got two pages into my book before that damn alarm went off again. I spotted a cool view of Bellver Castle from my balcony while I dragged a brush through my hair, anxious to check if Francisco “call me Paco” kept his promise. I needn’t have worried; he was already waiting in the lobby, eager to show off his island. En route to the (spectacular) wedding venue Finca Son Termes, he namechecked the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range, which I discovered to be a UNESCO World Heritage site stretching along Mallorca’s northwest coast.
“You need to go hiking. And get a boat.” A quick Google showed me rugged cliffs, lush valleys and picturesque little villages like Valldemossa and Deià. The wine region of Binissalem looked like heaven. You can charter yachts for the day from Calvià, hurtling past the teenagers long-arming booze buckets in Magaluf. I started a spreadsheet to keep track of everything I wanted to check off next time. This trip, I’d accepted, was about survival. And alcohol.
Team Bride started the morning in kimonos, drinking bubbles. Then, a ton of local whites and reds, which contributed to my miraculous if momentary recovery. The sun blazed above the magical celebration, the magnificent bride starting the party by joining the live Spanish band with an epic surprise harmonica solo. We soaked up the wine with ensaimada (a spiral-shaped puff pastry) and gató d’ametlla (Majorcan almond cake) before I crawled to my 2 a.m. pick up, worse for wear.
At 9 a.m. sharp, I dragged my broken body to Melia Palma Bay, where the seventh floor swimming pool with 360-degree views of Palma afforded me the classiest sick days of my life. I was granted access to an exclusive area called The Level Lounge, AKA hangover heaven, where a buffet of filled croissants and desserts is available throughout the day for members. There’s a Bloody Mary trolley stuffed with champagne and a Nespresso machine. Everyone is friendly. I floated around in a stupor, drinking as much water as physically possible, looking out at the bay. I was leaving tomorrow. I needed to get out there.
Hazy memories came flooding back; I’d promised I’d explore the island with some friends. A pregnant pal came through on the transport front, happy to pick me up as designated driver. Next morning we took aim at UM Beach House in the South West, an Ibiza-style gathering place, “meant to transcend the artistic, spiritual, and social life of its tribe.” We didn’t know what it meant, and we didn’t mind — there were shaded loungers and espresso martinis.
Next door at UM Chambao Portals, we tried beautiful razor clams, Boletus croquettes, Andalusian-style fried calamari, the obligatory Iberian hams and cured Mahones cheese. It was a sensational lunch, then a slow afternoon of more boozing and snoozing. We dried off and made the drive back into Palma for a wander, noses pressed to the window as we passed the imposing Gothic facade of La Seu Cathedral (check). Early nights and paracetamols all round.
We capped off the trip with a preflight lunch at Treehouse by UM, a glitzy, open-air, treehouse-style sushi lounge perched atop the marina. A glorious spread of California rolls, salmon nigiri, avocado hosomaki and grilled vegetables took the edge off the journey home. Downstairs, there’s an Amazonic theme, a young crowd soaking up thumping Latin American folk music that started gaining momentum as we lost ours. I added this place to my spreadsheet; one day I’ll be back, when I can stay up past 8 p.m. I think I’ll invite Paco. And Kevin, if he’s still around.