LA está pasado. La Isla de Mallorca (en España!)) está ahora. [sic] – I’m just going to cover my bases here and sic everything in Spanish that I write, just in case I’m doing it all wrong.
This is the opposite of last week. I was studying un-broad in Los Angeles, and now I am travelling abroad – during our one-week mid-semester break.
Landing in the city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, you could see the entire island through the airplane window. It felt like flicking a paper football and trying to have it land on the side of the table without it falling into the Mediterranean.
Once we landed, I struck up a conversation with the Mallorca native, and I pretended I hadn’t seen palm trees in a really long time as a conversation starter (the flight was from London) even though I saw them Friday in LA. He said, “Palm trees aren’t native.” That confused me since the name of the main city is Palma and palm trees are everywhere but oh well.
I just thought of something: Iberia = I beer ya!
Also, Mallorca = Mayor (my Hebrew name) + CA.
So much math.
I got a little turned around in the airport but finally found my way. Once I was heading in the right direction, I turned on the radio to the local rock station and out comes “American Idiot” by Green Day. At least the irony was in English so I could understand it.
I had a hostel booked outside Palma, but I decided in the airport that following pre-made plans was just too boring so I just booked a new place in the opposite corner of the island. It only took 45 minutes by car to cross the entire island to reach the city of Pollença and its port.
It’s super frustrating to try to use any Spanish at all because they go out and just speak catalán to screw with you. What is a ç? Only animals are supposed to have tails, not letters.
I arrived at my bed and breakfast at 7 PM and the doors were locked. What? The lights were off and I was thinking “uh oh,” I should’ve just stayed with the pre-made plans. Apparently, in Spain, people just don’t care about anything, if you are running a hospitality business like a hotel, you just leave whenever you want regardless of the consequences. I had to wait in the dark outside this place while they came to let me in to their own establishment.
When I walked in the sign said “Tonight Rooms Free” so I got mad at myself for pre-paying for a room, but it turns out they just mistranslated the word “vacancy” as “free.” The B&B owners were so nice though, and were in their words “proud” to have an American stay there. She offered to set the news to English (opposite of SAP) the following morning during breakfast for me.
I don’t know much Spanish, but I figured out the way to ask someone to take a photo of me. Usted puede tomar una foto de mí, por favor [sic]. I did know enough Spanish to stop a restaurant from trying to rip me off, so there’s that.
The first time I asked someone to take my picture – while walking on the boardwalk of Platja de Pollença – it turns out they were from England rendering my Spanish prep is useless. It was at this point where I was speaking a different language on a Spanish island in the Mediterranean, across the ocean from home, that I thought I was truly in an exotic place. And then the 4-year old grandchild of the English picture-taker said how she was visiting here from her home in Kenya where lions roam through her backyard and occasionally elephants trample the water pipes tainting the drinking water and turning the bath water brown. I guess I was wrong about my being in a truly exotic place…
The Serra de Tramuntana is the majestic mountain range along the northwest coast of Mallorca and is UN-protected. I went by car to the very northwestern tip of the island – Cap de Formenter. It was only a rickety road that wrapped around the hills. It was both windy and windy – is that really how you spell both, hmm? You just hike wherever you wanted all the way to edge of the precipice.
My favorite part of study abroad! Yes if you’re reading this, buried in the middle of my 15th post, my favourite (English spelling) part is the scenic drive of Sa Calobra (The Cobra in catalán). There aren’t really words to describe it, nor could you capture the 16 kilometers into a photo. Think Lombard Street and think of PV Drive East or North for my friends back home. Then think of the difference between a squirt gun and a super soaker. The thing is that analogy doesn’t even work because Sa Calobra reaches different heights [pun point]. It’s like comparing a squirt gun with artillery. That’s better.
Sa Calobra is 10 straight miles of serpentine road. It starts near the top of a snow-capped mountain. It ends in an unbearably scenic beach and valley. In between is a road that does turns and rotates and hairpins and spins and drops and rolls without stopping. It’s not even the width of two lanes but is two-way. Also, Spain – painting a dotted white line in the middle of a one-lane width street does not simply make it two lanes.
This was by far the best drive I have ever been on in my life.
Then, en route from Prague to Lisbon, Queen Mary friend Will Schwartz joined me for the next day and half in Mallorca. Pan for breakfast, tapas for lunch, mini traditional Spanish sandwiches for dinner. It was excellent to be introduced to Spanish foods by someone so knowledgeable about it.
We spent the day meandering the streets of Palma, including the marina and the cathedral. Then we actually got lost and accidently found ourselves at the foot of the castle! Probably wouldn’t happen in Torrance…Then we headed up into the mountain villages in the Serra de Tramuntana. This was highlighted by the town of Banyalifbar, Benarifabal, Benyalfibar, Benyarfibar, Benyalbufar – something like that.
It was a beach alcove mountain area – so steep that the entire city was built on man-made steps in the side of the mountain. It went all the way down to the water, which was blocked by a Hoover Dam-shaped, well, dam that served the dual purpose of stopping huge waves from making it ashore and preventing the village from sliding down into the sea.
Now on to Sevilla!
Differences/Notes in Spain
- There is a recognizable sign for a pharmacy – a big green flashing cross. It was the same in Portugal. We should have something similar in the US…
- In one day, I saw a lake, a rocky desert, cliffs and beaches, an agricultural countryside, a rich forest, and snow-capped mountains. What a place!
- There was a street sign of an exclamation point – not helpful in informing anything. It reminded me of the street sign that I saw in England – of a circle with a line threw it indicating “Just don’t” “Don’t even” “Don’t do it” “Not it.”
- In the Serra de Tramuntana, I saw what looked to be a mini-forest fire and snow within the span of 3 minutes (in the snow, some kids were having a snowball fight).
- In America, you see animal crossing signs everywhere and never see an animal. Today, there were no signs but there were a bull, a baby deer, a dog, and three sets of mama-baby sheep combos (one of them dyed pink like cotton candy) just strolling in the middle of the narrow roads.
- On the street sign positives, they had a beware of falling rocks sign and low and behold a mini rock fell onto the window and was scary.
- Listening to the Google Maps voice try to pronounce catalán was amazing. And I thought I was bad
- 9,145 – Words written on this blog so far (More than the amount of written work I have due for this semester – now somewhat regretting how I spend my writing time)
- 8 – UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Westminster, Tower of London, Kew Gardens, Sintra, Tower of Belem, Stonehenge, Bath, Serra de Tramuntana)
- 6 – Personal phone numbers that I’ve used as my primary number for at least a day on study abroad (+44 7598736659 [UK], +44 7404245455 [UK old], +1 3108092668 [USA], a +1 (661) number on Skype, +351 915406195 [Portugal], +34 602695139 [Spain])
- 6 – Football matches (Crystal Palace x2, West Ham, Tottenham, Sporting Lisbon, Arsenal)
- 5 – Airlines flown (United, British Airways, Ryan Air x2, Air New Zealand x2, airberlin)
- 4 – Essential items forgotten at least once on trip (Earplugs, Razor, Eye mask, Flip flops, headache pills)
- 4 – Countries (UK, Portugal, USA [it counts], Spain)