Ok, I snapped and went to Majorca. I’ve been lucky enough in the last few months to travel around the country a little bit going to some festivals, but I knew deep down what I really needed. To get out of the country after putting up with so much fear-based shit for so long. There’s something about getting on a plane that psychologically as well as literally creates enough distance to think or look at things in a bit of a different way; to escape or leave behind the normal day to day issues which for me is more effective than staying in the UK. Of course, getting some sun and heat in the winter doesn’t hurt. I recently bought a light box which I can’t live without now; the darkness is my perpetual enemy and every year my SAD seems to get worse. I think going abroad in November and January/February is a good way to combat it. I’m even contemplating going away for the whole winter, that’s how much I struggle with it. I’m learning about the best places to go for winter sun – Malta, Madeira, The Canaries, the more southern Greek Islands to name a few.
I think a lot of people are waiting until next year to brave flying and leaving the country, but it was a lot easier that I thought, and worth the time it takes to do the paperwork to get that feeling of escape from all of the doom and gloom and that hit of heat. I know the requirements are different depending on where you go, but for the Balearics it wasn’t too difficult. You need proof of vaccination; I just got the NHS Covid Pass on my phone which shows the dates of both vaccinations and QR codes to be scanned if necessary. Before you go you fill in an Overseas Passenger Locator form (your airline should provide a link to this on their website) which gives you a QR code that is scanned at the airport. The form did stress me out a little bit when it disappeared when I was close to completing it (make sure you register first so it will save it), and it was a bit confusing when it came to uploading the proof of vaccination (just upload a screenshot of your second vaccination). I had to google how to input my telephone number into it but eventually figured it out. You need to fill in the form to get your boarding pass if you’re not checking in at the desk.
I had my NHS Covid Pass in my Apple Wallet on my phone along with the PDF of the locator form in my emails, but a lot of people had printed everything out which is probably sensible in case something happens to your phone. The UK passenger locator form on the way back was pretty straightforward, just make sure that you complete both locator forms within forty-eight hours of going and coming back.
You also need to order your Day 2 COVID test before you leave (I got mine at Testing For All for £19). So for anyone thinking that the tests are still extortionate, it’s not – you don’t need a test to fly out to the Balerics (other places may have different requirements). You tell them the date that you’re coming back and they deliver the test on that day. It’s practically the same as the free NHS lateral flow tests; you do it and set your phone timer for fifteen minutes, then take a picture of the test on a small card featuring your name and the time, and upload that to the testing website. Luckily mine was negative, if it’s positive then obviously you need to isolate and I guess that if anyone on your flight was positive then you get informed etc etc.
I found it pretty easy to get through Newcastle airport and it didn’t take much longer than pre-COVID. I just scanned the QR codes from the NHS Pass and the locator form when asked and there wasn’t loads of extra checks or anything.
Ok, enough with all the rules and regulations and onto the nice part – the actual trip to Majorca. Normally I do city breaks, book my flights and accommodation separately to keep the costs as low as possible and don’t really consider package holidays. However after everything that’s happened, I knew that I wanted a pool and a beach, and things to be as easy as possible, so I opted for a five night half board holiday with Jet2 Holidays at HM Tropical hotel in Playa de Palma (about twenty minutes by bus from Palma City). I knew that I’d want to do some sightseeing (I cannot lie beside a pool or beach for a week) but I also knew that I did need to have some downtime and not run around every day like I normally do. I couldn’t remember the last time that I’d had my meals included, so I decided to do that (even though during it I realised that I need restaurant diversity and get bored with the same buffet every night). I tried to book flights to Palma separately at first but given that it was the last flight out of Newcastle until spring understandably there were no seats. I decided to make my life easier and do a package, and probably overpaid for it but after not being able to travel for so long I couldn’t be bothered to look around for the best priced option.
|Views from the hotel and some of the art/neon|
The hotel, HM Tropical was built about thirty years ago and has undergone numerous refurbs – I was pleasantly surprised at how modern it was with some cool art around the ground floor, and in a great location literally yards from the beach, over the road from a supermarket and around 100 metres from the bus stop to Palma (bus no. 20). I had a great view of the beach from my room on the sixth floor. I kind of knew that I’d have to wear a mask in the hotel and it got a bit annoying to keep taking it off and putting in on (as it wrecks havoc on my skin) but it’s a small price to pay and I guess it keeps us all safer.
|The poolside food was all top-notch|
The hotel has a good sized pool with a children’s pool attached (but separated for safety reasons). The pool area is generous with plenty of space and no shortage of sunbeds (although this may be different in high season, but with the beach across the road I suppose not so much of a problem). You can hire Bali Beds for a bit of luxury, but I was fine with your bog-standard sun bed. I was really impressed with the bar/poolside menu – on the days I wasn’t sightseeing I had my lunch there – a tasty, very authentic Currywurst (probably on the menu to please the hoards of German holidaymakers staying at the hotel and indeed the whole of the island), a delicious Tropical pizza drizzled with honey and a filling Veggie Burger with guacamole. I only drank Sangria by the pool (at €3.50 each who can blame me). The breakfast and dinner buffets had lots of choice so you could basically have something different every night, but I realised that trying different restaurants are part of the holiday experience for me, but I’m sure I saved money on food. I got bored of the hotel restaurant by the Wednesday and ended up having some top-notch sushi across the road at Sushi Fresh (amazing California rolls).
|The stunning La Seu (Palma Cathedral)|
I knew that I wanted to check out some art in Palma and see the famous gothic Cathedral, and luckily the bus network is pretty reliable and easy to use (it’s €2 per trip). From Playa de Palma it’s about twenty minutes to Palma with the bus stopping right next to the cathedral (otherwise known as La Seu). It’s €8 to enter, and it’s worth it to see the stunning stained glass and Gaudi’s wrought iron front altar centrepiece. I also really enjoyed visiting the Fundacion Juan March (free entry), a modern art museum situated in a 17th century manor house right in the centre of Palma. The permanent collection features a Dali (Portrait of Luli Kollsman), The Dog by Miro, some amazing works by Equipo Cronica aka Chronicle Team – The anteroom (1968) and The Little Room (1970). The highlight for me were the artoons of Pablo Helguera; cartoons poking fun at the art world – fifteen are on display in their own exhibit, and others invade the permanent collection creating an interesting juxtaposition between the styles. I really wanted to go to the Fundacio Miro, which houses 6,000 works donated by him but I ran out of time, but it’s definitely on my list for next time.
Food-wise I’ll have to go back to be able to write a comprehensive post about Majorcan food (mainly because I wanted to keep it simple and eat in the hotel). I did check out an amazing coffee shop called Anita Cakes – very Instagrammable and pink-themed. They bake cupcakes, brownies, cronuts, macaroons and the like on site, and have two shops (Palma, Alcudia) and a cute caravan in a shopping centre in Palma. After much deliberation over the menu, I decided upon Pink Latte (complete with rose petals and white chocolate) and the most calorific cinnamon bun-type creation covered in bright pink icing and filled with white chocolate. The sugar rush kept me going all afternoon and probably into the next day. They also do breakfasts and some more savoury dishes. There’s a great mix of international and Spanish (Zara/Mango) high street shops in Palma which will satisfy the most ardent shopper.
|The decadence that is Anita Cakes|
I’d had some recommendations to do a day trip to Soller in north west Majorca, so I ventured there the day before I left (I took the 20 bus then the 204 using Google Maps to tell me when to change – it took about fifty minutes one way from the hotel). Famed for its extensive citrus groves (especially oranges which can be found in a local liquer and juice sold everywhere there), the town become wealthy in the 19th century due to its fruit exports. Oranges aside, it’s really pretty and surrounded by mountains which isolated it from the rest of Majorca until the 90s when a tunnel was built. Many people never left (I met a woman on the bus who lived on the same street that she was born in).
|Soller town square and the amazing Miga de Nube cafe|
You can find lots of unique independent boutiques and cafes; I was lucky enough to stumble on Miga de Nube, a slow cafe and art gallery which serves beautifully presented vegetarian food both indoors and in a picturesque garden out the back. I loved the art on sale (the artist works on site) – the tiles were especially cool. They had a large selection of cakes; I especially enjoyed the lemon cake with orange zest and took full advantage of the citrus theme. The main square has lots of bars and cafes, and you can get on the tram here which links the town and the port. One of the main tourist attractions is the distinctive wooden train which links Soller to Palma via a twenty eight kilometre trip through thirteen tunnels and amazing scenery (next time).
I didn’t want to come back and am already planning my next trip! I hope that this post was helpful, I really wanted to get across that doing a short European trip isn’t that difficult right now, please be aware that a lot of hotels in Majorca are now closed for the winter – Malta, Madeira and the Canaries are good option right now and they have year round sun. It was amazing to travel abroad again and really improved my mood. Where next? Have a brilliant time if you decide to get some winter sun!