I could talk about how overwhelmed I am about graduating in 4 days, how boring life is working as an unofficial full-time sales associate, how stressed I am about getting all the documents for student visa, but nah.
Instead of going on a roll of complaining about life at the moment, I’m going to lighten the mood by reflecting back to my time in Mallorca.
As you may have already know by now, I studied abroad in Malaga last summer. As much as I love the program, I could not wait for it to end so I could travel solo to the biggest of the island of the Balearics. And so I did. I packed my bags (which should really be called a fat-as-sh!t luggage that weighs 23 kilos) and took a train from my Andaluz home-stay to the airport. It was the first time in my life that no one knew where I was nor could reach out to me. Kind of scary, but adrenaline pinching and surreal. Fifty minutes or so of flying and I was in Palma de Mallorca.
“Wow” was all I could say as I look outside the taxi’s window on my way from the airport to the hotel. The views were absolutely breath-taking, and I’m not surprised at all why the Times has named it the best city in the world to live.
I had thoroughly enjoyed the best of my time as the most innocent and inexperienced (ha) young traveler could. I had intended to stay low-key and avoid as much trouble as possible. In fact, I did not even (regrettably) go clubbing or drinking. What could go wrong?
A lot, actually.
So here is to all the unforgettable mischievous moments in the best city of the world. Cheers!
Ok, let’s start small, but trust me, things escalate.
- Offending a taxi driver
Before officially stepping on the city of Palma, I stepped on a wrong foot with the taxi driver while attempting to make a small talk. I was trying to learn more about the city from a him, asking whether he is from Mallorca, blah, blah, blah. And then I said, “Here you speak Catalan, no?” to which he quickly replied, “No, Mallorquin”. And things got sufficiently awkward. I couldn’t hop off the taxi soon enough.
- Spending the nights in a 4-star hotel
While this seems like nothing to most people, I found the experience to be devilishly satisfying. Here you have a poor college girl staying at a place that was once the palace of the Marquis Ferrandell. It’s the same girl broke enough to need financial aid to afford her post-secondary education, broke enough to had to work 30+ hours a week to be able to afford the travel on top of competing for all kinds of scholarships. So I tremendously enjoyed staying at his posh hotel, wearing my 5-dollar shorts from Walmart and a pair of dirty old Crocs and all.
Despite its poshness and red-carpet ways, the hotel actually doesn’t have an elevator. So I went up the stairs at a speed of a snail with my, as you would recall, fat-as-sh!t luggage. The (oh-so-handsome) receptionist was kind enough to come help me to my room…So I’m not sure if I struggled on purpose or not, but either way I tipped him. Three euros for tip isn’t too little, right? Right?
Once in my “double” room on the second floor, I realized that it was actually two beds put together…so I couldn’t possibly comfortably enjoy the entire surface area of “a” bed, which led me to a brilliant idea – posting this picture and ask if anyone was in Palma bacause I had a extra bed. Ha.
- An “atheist” in La Seu
No doubt the most emblematic sight of the city, La Seu Cathedral stands tall over the Bay of Palma. No, it wasn’t the first cathedral that I have seen, but it would be the first time that I had enter a cathedral voluntarily. Before coming to Palma, I was with the study abroad group, and all the cathedral visits were a part of the program. This time, though, I could choose to take a look inside if I wanted to. I was a bit hesitant, not because the entrance fee was just as high as the building (okay, maybe a little bit), but by the fact that I’m a Buddhist, a non-believer, an atheist, whatever you would call, they’re all the same thing.
But I did. And I’m glad I did. I didn’t burst into flames and it didn’t convert me into a Catholic or anything, but I could still appreciate the beauty of the Mallorquin architecture and how faith can inspire people to do some amazing things.
- An Eventful 8-hour bike ride
You have read that correctly: 8 hours. I made my way to the bike rental shop at 11 AM and returned it at 7 PM…I rode from the Antoni Maura Avenue down to the marina all the way to the east of the city where I could barely see La Seu when I looked back, then back to the center and stopped to have lunch by the sea right in front of La Seu. With a full stomach, I headed east along the sea as I could before stopping to rest again and took a quick dip walking in the water. Then I rode back to the center to turn in the bike at 3 PM. Alas, the store was closed during that time in the afternoon and would reopen an hour later. Seeing that I had already spent 15 euros to rent the bike all day, I figured I could take more advantage of the fee and so hopped back on the bike and turned right deep into the city. Luckily, the bike’s path in Mallorca is super simple and easy to follow. There were a couple of times when the path forks, so I had to choose one way. What’s crazy is that I never took out my map, I just went with my instinct… And there I went around the city, getting to see the real Palma that the locals call home. On my way I saw a seemingly forsaken soccer stadium and a small field “de la calle” where the youngsters gather to play a game. I kept heading westward until I saw a sign blocking the path saying “Stop, the road is closed”. And so I turned around, tracing my way back to the bike shop where I turned the bike in at 7 PM. I have never been more proud of my legs.
Of course, many things happened in those 8 hours, but the worst was when I broke the bike…
I supposed I went a bit too fast going down the hill. There was a loud thud as I went over a puddle, a sound of what I can describe as the chain falling out of place. Needless to say, I could paddle to my heart’s content but the bike wouldn’t move forward… All I could think was “Damn, why didn’t I pay for that insurance”.
And so I got off the bike and dragged it along the beautiful shore on a fine afternoon all by myself. What’s strange was that no one was nearby to witness my embarrassment/help me fix the bike. I dragged the bike pass a restaurant and thought of going inside to seek help, until I saw an elderly man biking my way. So I took my chances and asked for help.
Now, if that had taken place in my country, my mother would have disapproved of my decision. Asking a stranger to stop and help you when you’re at your most vulnerable? Bad idea. He could’ve robbed you…or worst.
But thankfully things didn’t turn out that way. The gentlemen, whom I later found out was actually from Madrid, stopped, took a look at my bike, turned it over, and spun the paddle with his hands for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, the chain went back into place. While riding away, I took a look back to wave and said thank you. And just like that, I was back on course.
The ridiculousness of the day didn’t end there. On my second rest, I parked my bike and looked for a public bathroom. While I was walking to the restroom, a “friendly” man said hello with a grin as I walked by…Strangers saying hi was still something that I wasn’t used to and I felt like he had intruded my bubble, little did I know…
I stepped into the restroom, only to find out that it couldn’t be locked. But what the heck, I needed to go and so I did. A minute later some guy opened the door on me (awkward pause)…. And a few minutes later another man opened the door again, but this time I was luckier since I was watching my hands… Sighhhh, there should be a sign that says “Knock first, Broken Door”.
Meh, it’s not like I would ever see them again so I wasn’t even embarrassed. Moving on.
- Locked in the hotel
(Drum rolls for the most panicked moment of my life) It was time to leave Mallorca. I woke up at 5 AM to catch my flight at 7 o’clock. Around 5:30, I was already heading down stairs in the midst of absolute silence… No one was to be seen in the reception. I rang the bell a couple of times before deciding to just leave the money and go. It felt strange – like I was doing something suspicious and mischievous – walking to the side of the reception and just leave the money there. Never mind the change, I needed to catch my flight.
Turning around, I walked towards the exit, only to find it locked – with chains. The glass door was chained and a wooden door (that I never even noticed was there) was closed behind it.
Not knowing what to do, I sat down on one of the couch for about half an hour… Nothing and no one.
It was time then to call the airline to notify them that I would miss my flight. At first, I selected the English option but no one answered. I had no choice but to talk to the airline in Spanish… Despite spending a month in Malaga studying abroad, I felt like this was the first time that my Spanish was tested.
It went “well”, I successfully pushed my flight back to 11 AM and I had to pay close to a hundred euros for the last minute cancellation and the new flight. Just when I was about to hang up, I heard noises coming from the reception area. I hung up the phone, turned around, saw a receptionist, and cursed my luck.
I dialed the airline again to try to cancel the changes. The same operator answered and told me that it was too late. So flight at 11 AM it was. Fair enough.
After paying the hotel, the receptionist asked if I wanted him to call a taxi for me, and I automatically said yes. Stupid decision, really. I should’ve stayed and enjoyed another “free” breakfast (included with the stay) but nope, I wasn’t thinking properly. I also should’ve researched more about the hotel to find out that reception is opened at 8 AM… Thank goodness I did not go out. Can you imagine coming back from the club early in the morning to be locked out of your hotel?
I bid adeu to the receptionist and hopped on the taxi. The driver was much more friendly than the one who took me to the hotel. Maybe it was because I asked him to teach me some “Mallorquin”, but not without adding that it seems similar to Catalan. (As my Catalan professors would argue that it’s just a dialect of Catalan…Long story).
Once at the airport, I didn’t hesitate to order the darkest coffee possible. I got up to the counter to order something and was greeted with a “Hola, guapa”, which was nice, but unexpected… All I wanted was an espresso, not to feel conscious about my look… I didn’t even wear anything attractive or revealing, just my regular over-sized glasses, a boyish Superdry t-shirt and a pair of jeans – the same outfit I wore on the flight back to the US, when I met the Brazilian…Okay, okay, that’s also another story.
And there I had the slowest breakfast of my life. As I wait for my flight, I got out this lap top and wrote a journal entry, which I will share the next time.