The night before departing for the summer holiday this year was August’s Christmas Eve – the weather had been so appalling that even Mancunian ducks in wetsuits were complaining about the amount of water that had fallen from the greyest of English skies. The kids went to bed giggling with excitement, knowing that we were flying early the following morning to sunshine, sunbeds, books, and as much plastic tat as your scribe could bear to purchase.
With so much of the World to explore, why would you return to the same destination summer after summer? I often said, to my younger, poorer, less-travelled, over-opinionated self that I wouldn’t return anywhere, of my own choice, until I had been everywhere I wanted to go – within reason. That was until our children came along, enforcing a globe-trotting re-think, and the need for comfort, familiarity and relaxation.
For the third summer running, we returned to Mallorca, and the northern town of Port de Pollenca. Geographically, it is as far away from the art-imitating-life-imitating-wanking-imitating-vomit set of The Inbetweeners movie as you can get, which is thankful on a small island. Where the, er, stereotypical delights of Magalouf and the German stronghold of Platya D’Mallorca continue to celebrate a form of holiday-making that revolves around turning your skin into the third colour of Neopolitan ice cream cones, wrapped in pastel-coloured, Super Dry t-shirts, whilst insisting everything comes with chips.
No, the answer is to make sure the airport is behind you, and literally run for the hills. In this case, where the imposing ridges of the Serra de Tramuntra mountains pierce the blue sky. Port de Pollenca is a forty five minute drive from the airport, which, given the fact that they have been doing nothing other than shepherding tourists through it for 30 years, are still woefully poor at it. After 30 years of doing just one thing – like Francis Rossi, for example – you’d expect it to be as slick as an otter’s Brylcreemed head, but it isn’t. However, given that it wasn’t raining, the sense of relief at being in a cab and on our way was palpable. We’re on holiday. Time to relax.
We’ve rented the same apartment each time, owned by a friend of Mrs Pause, and the coolness of the air conditioning in the dark apartment turned down the sweat that had been generated in the cab. Fortunately, the cab driver had found the only station that could play that fucking God-awful Rihanna record for the entire journey – it doesn’t matter which one, but the one which sounds like a car alarm being raped by a bulldozer, whilst a cat scratches it’s own eyes out with a rusty dustbin lid. Know it? Good.
Having been there previously, no need to acclimatise, literally drop the luggage, find what we needed from the bags, slap on some sun cream and hit the beach. And it is a beautiful beach – arching round the bay from Cap Formentor at the tip, and under the peering tips of the mountains, the pine trees act as an evergreen screen towards the town. It isn’t sleepy, but it is one of the quietest of the resorts, and the least touched by parentless, unsupervised hands. No yobs, oiks, stag parties or clubs. Quite a few disgruntled teenages, sulking in new Era caps and skinny jean shorts, though, to cheer up the parents, though. Sounds boring to some, but for the family it acts as instant relaxation.
The days followed a predictable pattern: breakfast on the roof, with the sun rising fast and warm enough to melt the overnight-fridged butter, for the freshly baked croissants and baguette. Administer more cream, grab the ever-expanding bags of “beach bollocks” – starting with towels, sun cream, books and armbands, ending with that list and added to with snorkels, dinghy, super-squirters and the constant inquisition as to what daddy is going to buy next. Mid-morning ice cream was followed by the inevitable wait for the annoying Northern Irish kid to arrive and gang up with the eldest on the youngest. The peaceful splashing punctuated with a cry of alienation and a run up the beach, followed by Norn Irishkid running up afterwards. He’d apologise, and after another course of instruction, await the linguistic twisting of words. The normal line being a compromise solution to the game they were playing, starting with the words “how about we do this…” Or, as he would say “har-ar a-bart wee splush ararnd a wee bit…” After a few days of this, we decided to find a different location on the beach, also so we could count how many women were reading 50 Shades of Grey – the housewives choice, as not only can it be read without judgement, it can also be read on a towel.
Between changing beach location, it was time for a change of town and scenery. We hired a car for a day and set off for one of the island’s better waterparks. I, as regressing child, have been angling to go to one every year, but now the Pause Jnrs are old enough, we set off for Aqualand, all the way back past the airport at the other end, an hour away. As I said, it’s a small island.
We arrived at opening time, bought our family ticket and in we went. Before entering the wet world of potential horror, we agreed as parents to immerse ourselves in not only the water, but the culture of the park – roll with it, don’t be critical, or we won’t enjoy it. Upon entering they thrust a parrot on the shoulder of one child, and a massive snake that looked like it had been drinking milk laced with diazypan. Prime location sorted as a base camp, we explored the park. It became apparent that the youngest Pause was too small to go on most of the slides, but this was ok – most of them were too big for me, let alone a five year old in an ear-protecting, Arnie-in-Commando-style camo neoprene headband. And, I can honestly say I was impressed: it was clean, well supervised, safe and had enough variety of attractions to keep us there all day. The toilets, expecting to be like day four of Glastonbury on a wet year, were immaculate.
There were queues for certain rides, which meant we didn’t bother. The food was awful, but functional. And when I ordered a beer – remember, people, I am “immersing” in the culture – I was asked if I wanted a large one. “Of course….” with the look that only the English abroad can deliver, questioning manhood, sexuality and hunter-gatherer, hooligan status. I didn’t see the normal pint was the small one, and was promptly handed an €8 bucket of Estrella, which unless drunk at aggressive pace, was going to be warm and flat by the time I got to the bottom of it. Also, the size and thickness of the plastic could not support the sheer weight of liquid, resulting in having to squeeze it like a dinosaur egg-timer, and a fizzy eruption of lager splashing my arms. Gracias.
After another lap of the park, the boys decided on the wave machine as their favourite. As the hour mark approached, the crowds descended on the specified pool. This included the archetypal local 6 year old kid, brown as Galaxy chocolate, with gold stud earring and the ability to splash everyone and anything, such as dry concrete – with his face. Shame. So, the multi-national herds – including a Speedo-abusing German so fat that when he stood up, his belly, moobs and outty belly button turned into Snoopy in profile – stood facing the wall where the waves would begin. From behind, it was reminiscent of a terribly sunburnt version of Queen’s ‘Radio Ga Ga’ video shot on Instagram. It was home-time, and back to the familiarity of the port and dinner.
The eldest son has the most developed palette of a 7 yr old I know – for his sixth birthday he wanted sushi! – and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the town’s restaurants and menus. Stay away from Dakota’s, an “authentic American restaurant” that is as American as I am Spanish. But the tapas at Neptuno was good – he even wrote the chef a note to say thanks – and the pizzas at El Casinet on the front are probably the best. Whilst the food in the town isn’t great, it does the job, which translates as “comes with ketchup” as far as the kids are concerned, and “comes with wine” for the parents.
The days would end with returning to the apartment, and watching the magnificent Olympics coverage on the BBC. The predictability of each day on the beach gave way to the sporting unpredictably of the night. And with no repeat performance of the extravaganza next year, maybe a change of location is needed. Discover a new place, until it feels too familiar. Maybe every four years? Sounds like good timing to me.
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