It’s been an odd Summer. It loomed quite emptily on May’s horizon, devoid of any set plans or any exciting events to look forward to other than enjoying another steamy, active Ontario summer filled with bicycles, rollerblades and tennis shoes. I had nothing more in my planner’s head than a bunch of picnics in a variety of Toronto’s fabulous parks, feasting on fresh produce from any of the half dozen local farmers’ markets within biking distance from my house and trying one or two of Toronto’s new restaurants that continually pop up with promises of great meals. And then, out of the deep, blue sky, I found myself with more holiday than I knew what to do with in between more work than I’ve had the pleasure to take on since some glory days back in South Africa. I do love being busy, whether for work or pleasure. This was, in that case, the summer of love for me.
I was asked, completely out of the blue, whether I’d be interested in accompanying a friend to Mallorca for a couple weeks of sun, sand and sobrasada. Not having been to Europe for a couple of years now, and loving it as I do, I jumped at the chance. I’d never really thought of going to Mallorca before. In fact, if you’d asked me what I knew about the Island before the trip I’d have told you about Dance clubs, Package Holidays and throngs of beach-drunk holiday goers infesting the streets with with loud parties by night and clogging the beaches by day. Well, that does exist aplenty if it’s what you’re after, but it doesn’t take much to avoid it and it’s in fact far from the maddening crowd I’d expected. There’s just so much more to find on the Island.
We stayed in an apartment overlooking a fairly quiet beach about 8 kilometers from Palma de Mallorca. Every night my dear friend Ms B and I would dust the beach sand off the old, rickety, sea beaten table on the balcony, put out a spread of the local fare and sip wine while watching the moon rise over the Mediterranean. If that’s not a perfect way to end a day I couldn’t tell you what is. The Island is comfortably small enough to zip around in a couple of days, but large enough to provide a diverse range of geographical interest. The beaches, if you take the trouble to get out of the over-booked package holiday area’s (of which there are far fewer than you’d imagine) are mind-bogglingly beautiful, whether austere and rocky, or easy-going white sand affairs with shallow, warm water a shade of turquoise only found in fairy tales. The mountains in the east are hemmed by a road with more hairpins than a vegas dancer’s headpiece, each new turn offering the most breathtaking views over the deep blue sea and rugged, forbidding cliffs. The majority island somehow manages, despite the percentage of tourists arriving every day (Palma de Mallorca’s airport is busier than even Heathrow!) to remain quiet, unpretentious and relaxed.
My partner in culinary exploration and I were fortunate enough to spend a night in an ancient monastery at the very top of an enormous (and scarily steep) hill, with a 360 degree lookout over the north west corner of the island, where we dined al fresco on a picnic we’d gathered before hand of the freshest, plumpest tomatoes, sobrasada and chorizo, local olives, cheese and wine. What a feast and not a pot between us.
Mallorca has a very distinct, and fiercely protected culture, similar but in no way the same as Catalan. The local bread, a dense, somewhat dark, chewy bread, is flavoured in the most elegant way by rubbing the cut side of a ripe tomato across it. Voila, P’amb Oli. Add a rubbing of garlic, some sobrasada and a plate of Pimentos Padronas, gorgeous little green peppers grilled and salted, and you’ve got yourself the perfect lunch for sitting overlooking the pounding waves and the rocky shore in their eternal dance of abrasion and resistance.