Jack and Liam go to Palma

Jack and Liam go to Palma

Old Palma is a place in which to wander and explore. This is just as well. Our hotel, the Costa Azul, hadn’t quite finished constructing the bar by the miniscule pool or supplied enough parasols to avoid third degree burns on the sun terrace. We spent blissful days meandering through narrow cobbled streets, along grand boulevards, over battlements and across elegant piazzas. Palma is a city with art at its heart and the evidence is liberally littered around the streets.

Come nightfall, the Santa Catalina ward – once down at heel but now dressed up to the nines – seduced us with her trendy bars, cool restaurants and laid-back vibe. Upmarket Old Palma is a far cry from downmarket Palma Nova and eating out comes with a West End price tag attached. We stuck with the set menus to keep a check on the check. Still, a palatable glass or two of Rioja was very reasonable priced wherever we watered, and we did quite a lot of watering. Generally, the crowds were good humoured and lively, without being raucous. The one exception was a small bar called The Escape, a roadside inn tucked into the corner of a pretty piazza and frequented by pissed-up Brits from the yachting fraternity. Typical.

Towards the tail end of our stay, we pushed the boat out to visit Ábaco, a cocktail bar in the old town. Occupying a palatial former merchant’s house, part bar, part museum, Ábaco is a bit of an institution with guests being serenaded by light opera in Baroque opulence as they sip lethal cocktails served by snotty waiters in gold lamé cummerbunds. The entire experience was Disney kitsch with a crazy Catalan twist and only slightly marred by the continuous procession of camera-toting tourists wanting to stand, snap and gawp (image courtesy of MallorcaHoliday.com).

abaco2

We took the opportunity to venture out of town to the small resort of Ca’n Pastilla to surprise an old friend. Welsh rarebit, Bernard, gave up butlering for bar work a few years back and now owns ‘Thai at the Tavern,’ an unassuming little establishment at the end of the promenade. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Pop in if you’re in town. You’re sure to get a warm welcome, a cold beer and a spicy Siamese from the friendly valley boy. Bernard and I used to step out with the same fella (but not at the same time, obviously). I call Bernard El Presidente of the First Wives Club. When the bar closed, we ended the evening in a backstreet dive well away from the main drag with Bernard, a bunch of jovial locals, a bottle or three of cheap plonk and a strong whiff of weed. The next day we had wine flu.

Fawlty Towers

Fawlty Towers

Palma Panorama

Following our fright flight, we arrived at the Hotel Costa Azul in Palma at 2am. Our smart room was a little on the bijou side but we were tired and thought little of it. The next morning we awoke to a rotating mechanical clunk and the sound of persistent banging. Liam leapt out of bed and swung open the balcony doors. Decibels came flooding in. He looked about. Our room was at the side of the hotel with a restricted view of the marina. He looked down over the balcony to the ground floor. A cement mixer was going ten to the dozen and a loud gang of labourers was racing about, fetching and carrying, shovelling and hammering. This isn’t what quite what Liam had in mind when he booked a few months back. Miserable tales of unfinished Spanish hotels are the stuff of legend but here we were staying in an unfinished Spanish hotel. My husband must have missed that little detail in the small print of the glossy brochure. Welcome to Palma. We made ourselves decent, marched to reception and politely asked for the room we’d actually paid for (rather than the room they couldn’t give away). After a bit of tutting, wringing of hands and head shaking by the pretty concierge and a lot of stubborn insistence from us, we were moved to a larger room with a view. And what a view it was with not a cement mixer or sweaty worker in sight.