Well the day has come, M minus zero. For weeks I've been answering the "Where are you going on holiday" question with "Majorca"; followed by "Puerto Pollença" as the reply to the second question "Ooh nice, where?" which is actually a social test - you could answer "Magaluf', eliciting either "Um do you know what that's like" or the "Hmm maybe I should call social services" look. "Palma Nova" or "Alcudia" are acceptable answers but "Puerto Pollença" is definitely what Hyacinth Bucket would say. Only thing is I was inadvertently lying. Checking it out the day before, turned out we were actually staying at Pollença, a few miles inland. Still quite posh apparently, drug-dealer gates and that, but no huge yachts in view.
Those of you to whom I've spoken about this holiday recently know how stressed about it I've been. Seems you have a choice of holidays in the Balearics: package deals where the provider goes bust the day before you travel, or DIY where you arrive at your villa to find it doesn't exist and the website you booked it through seems to have gone down. There was also the spectre of phantom wifi brooding behind my shoulder, smirking at me and reminding me of the disappointed, tear-strewn, zitty little teenage faces staring in horror and disbelief at me in Whitby last year, looks saying "You're a shit dad aren't you."
Boringly, we arrived in time for the flight which was on time; no chats with airport security about firearms or explosives this time around. Maxing out the experience, I had pre-booked an in-flight full English breakfast - Gerry said it was “the best meal he'd ever had”. This raised a titter from the girl sitting next to Emma, a Geordie Shore genius with false everything and who boasted that she couldn’t cook anything. She didn’t elaborate on what she feeds her 2-year-old who had presumably been left with Granny while Mammy goes to Magaluf to get wasted and laid, and returned to chatting with her mate about I’m a Pointless Celebrity Big Brother Bake-Off. Meanwhile I gazed transfixed at a bride-to-be a few rows ahead, as she fixed, re-fixed and positioned one more time a nasty little wedding veil hairpiece.
Landing at Palma, toured the whole of the airport looking for the car rental. Pinched a nerve in my arthritic left big toe making me wince, shout out and limp heavily for about half an hour, completing the picture of a stressed-out overweight pasty white middle-aged English bloke, amid hordes of slim, bronzed, side-parted, gym bunny bas***ds on their way to a stag do or to do the Geordie Shore girl in Magaluf.
Followed the signs for car rental out of the terminal, then was told I had to go back inside to pick up the keys. We'd walked past the office immediately after getting off the plane (Inter-Rent is near baggage reclaim 3, not bloody 18 which is naturally the one furthest away from where we entered the terminal. Not allowed to bring luggage back in, so had to leave it with Emma & kids outside. After half an hour got to the front of the queue, then remembered the passports were in the luggage.
Eventually got the rental sorted, then found that it didn’t cover us for damage to anything on the car that might actually be damaged. For only an additional €170 we could have full insurance and breakdown cover. I reluctantly opted for this, as if I hadn’t then Dunphy’s Law would see to it that the car would be in 1,000 pieces by tea-time. Taking the left-hand drive, manual car (I normally drive an automatic) then driving out onto the ‘wrong’ side of the road and mixing it with Spanish traffic (only rule: get out of the way), I immediately realised I had been wise to pay. In fact I wasn’t at all worried by the open drain recesses I kept hitting as I repeatedly drifted too close to the kerb.
SatNavless, Emma navigated using Google Maps on my phone. Just imagine trying to turn the phone around to orient the map in your head, then... d’oh. Of course I’d forgotten the car charger, so it was like the Italian Job racing against the battery, all narrow back streets filled with irascible Mediterranean types (well in my head anyway). I looked for a cart full of pomegranates to knock over but they actually only exist in caper films.
Arriving at the hotel in one piece, albeit with my marriage hanging by a thread. The tension was broken by the comedy of me stopping the car just too far away from the entrance barrier intercom button, so having to get out to press it, then furiously working up a Balearic sweat trying to remember how to get the frigging Spanish motor going again only to stall then watch the barrier come back down again. And of course someone was waiting behind me. Got in, parked up then trying to straighten up found that I couldn’t work out how to the car into reverse gear.
The Hotel (BQ Augusta, Palma) was very modern, clean, friendly and well-appointed. We scored a free upgrade - adjacent apartments overlooking the pool area. I even managed to work out how to access the wifi, so hero status safely attained for one day. Later we indulged in that most quintessential Spanish experience - eating burgers by the pool while some slim, tanned Germans talking noisily nearby make us look like the white Irish potatoes we are.
Joseph and I decided to walk to the Castell de Bellver, a circular c. 14th castle on the top of the hill. The West end of Palma appears very run down, with lots of businesses boarded up, evidence either of the shocking effects of austerity (blame the bankers), or closing early on a Friday (blame Spaniards). Panting up the too many steps in 33 degree in the deafening and spooky din of the cicadas, we arrived at the top to find a car park, which explains why we didn’t see anyone else on the steps. Tried to sneak in without paying but were rumbled by a reproachful middle-aged bloke who gesticulated towards the ticket office back down the road. Bloody cheek.
Back at the hotel, managed to find a online car forum post from someone else who had struggled to get his Seat Leon into reverse, and taken a MONTH to find that you have to press the gear knob down. He didn’t explain how we managed for a month with a car that only goes forwards. I felt superior.