February 6, 2024
Despite my penchant for a holiday, there’s something I had never done. I don’t know how to put this without shocking anyone with it, so I will just come right out and confess: before this year, I had never experienced a quintessential Euro summer.
Not a Contiki at 18? Not a romantic sojourn through the streets of Paris? Not a dive into the glimmering Mediterranean? Well… not quite. Growing up with a Scottish dad meant that every few years, we would excitedly embark on the 30-hour (at the time) trip across the world to see the rest of our family, usually with three weeks in Scotland and one week somewhere else. Often, this would be a different corner of Scotland (such as a crumbling and cobwebbed mansion on a far-flung island – true story), although I will admit that we had made the jump down to both Spain and Portugal once. In saying that, I was still in school, and so I don’t think this counts – although it was a lovely preview.
And so, the scene was set. I had planned to visit my family in Scotland again, and while I was all the way there, I decided that there was no way I was leaving without just a little taste of a Euro summer (different from a Scottish summer, which is far wetter with more midges). Two of my girlfriends, also #blessed with the schedule of wedding photographers – meaning that they have Australian winters off work – were heading over, and so it was decided. I’m not quite sure who suggested Mallorca, but thank goodness someone did, because when we ended up bobbing around in the ocean with nothing but a steady supply of San Miguels, chips and snorkels, there was pretty much nowhere else on earth that I’d rather have been.
Arriving into Palma via an Easyjet flight, our first destination was an cruisy hour’s drive from the airport – particularly easy considering that I was not in charge of either driving on the wrong side of the road or directions. After the essential stop at supermarket giant Carre Four, taking in the entire aisle dedicated to jamon with awe and loading the car with charcuterie, we were set.
Our first port of call was Port de Soller, a charming harbour town featuring a seaside promenade. Hills circle the ocean, overlooking the yachts bobbing on the sparkling water and lounges perched on the sand. There’s a quaint little tram that ambles along the walkway, and our accommodation was situated just a couple of flights of stairs above it. It was a charming but fairly no-frills apartment, but had a great view and parking – I would thoroughly recommend, and you can book it here.
A few months before we’d arrived, the opening of Hotel Corazon had caught our (and probably every other creative’s) eye – a restored grand old hotel, sitting in the valley behind Port de Soller on the road to Deia. We snagged a dinner reservation a month or so before we arrived, although everything we had seen about the property to date was definitely more focused on the rooms and vibe, as opposed to the menu. You can also stay at Hotel Corazon, which I am sure would be incredible, but it hadn’t opened when we booked our accom. Also, we didn’t have the budget. Minor detail.
First things first: the vibe. Hotel Corazon is bloody epic. It’s different, it’s quirky, it’s fun, and it’s excellently executed. It really is an inspirational property, and such a breath of fresh air. To back this up, the food is phenomenal. It’s the kind of place that inspires you to recreate things upon your return home – abundant salads loaded with fresh herbs, flavour-packed gazpachos, and vibrant summer produce. A tight but killer cocktail list made for difficult beverage decisions and it boasted the kind of view that you want to linger and take in for hours.
The next day was one of our trio, Liz’s birthday and so we rented a boat for the occasion. “No license required!!” the website proclaimed, and we thought, “Great. How hard can it be?”. As it turns out, not that hard, but when you’re prohibited from dropping anchor on the rocks (so as not to get stuck, fair) or the seaweed (to protect it, also very fair), you really start to realise how little sand there is on the bottom of the ocean sometimes. Despite this learning curve, it is such an incredible way to see the coastline and allowed us to explore some beaches that would have otherwise been a few hours’ drive by car.
The boat company helped us to reserve a place for lunch, which was only accessible via the ocean and had a jaw-dropping view over the cove where we had moored below. Swimwear wasn’t allowed at the restaurant, so we found ourselves swimming to shore holding our clothes (and cameras) above our heads. The whole escapade made it even more rewarding when we eventually ended up sipping on a spritz, devouring fresh paella and taking in the view.
Our time in Mallorca was largely centred around the myriad of insanely beautiful beaches, and the following day was no exception. While we had seen Cala Deià from the ocean, we decided to visit from land, and it was everything I imagined a Spanish beach scene to be. Friends, couples and families were perched on the rocks, the water was a jaw-dropping jade-green and the rustic café was serving strong coffee (the perfect morning accompaniment to a novel, in my opinion). We didn’t snag a reservation at the restaurant there, but I have heard it is excellent (if you can).
Before we made it down to the beach, we stopped in the town of Deià to visit a café that I’d heard recommended, De Moniö. Offering up tostada with fresh toppings and granola bowls laden with fruit, it was the perfect balance to the cheese and jamon overload that we’d indulged in so far. The ceramics and glassware were to die for, and I regret not picking up a few pieces as I didn’t come across anything else quite like it on the rest of our trip. The town itself looks as though it is straight out of a storybook, and also seemed to be a great option to stay in if you weren’t fussed on being based by the water.
There are plenty of restaurants and bars in Port de Sóller, and while some evenings we ended up just eating charcuterie for dinner (no ragrets), Patiki is so good and the menu has a similar vibe to Hotel Corazon – fresh, vibrant and super summery. Sitting on the sand along the beach, it was here we tried the local IPA, Rosa Blanca, which was ideal after a day in the sun and proved a refreshing change after many (many) San Miguels.
Thinking ahead yet again, Liz had booked us a table at El Olivo, the snazzy restaurant at Belmond La Residencia about 6 months prior to our arrival. It is easily one of the most beautiful venues that I’ve dined in, and while my Birkenstocks were perhaps a little too casual, they were luckily mostly hidden by the starched white tablecloth. My one hot tip would be to arrange a taxi ahead of time (if you aren’t planning on driving). Our Airbnb owner’s son dropped us off for a small fee, but we had so much trouble getting a taxi back to Port de Sóller (apparently there are only a couple of taxis on the island). Luckily the bus runs through Deia, so our lovely waiter helped us to look up the timetable, and we just made the last bus by just a couple of minutes.
After a few nights in Port de Sóller it was time for a change, and so we packed up and headed to Cala Santanyí. This Airbnb was my personal highlight of the trip. A little, green-shuttered fishing house, the plumbing was salt water, and the only cooling was the breeze of an evening, but it was so special. Overlooking Cala Santanyí itself, it allowed us to enjoy the cove before and after the hordes of tourists descended for the day, waking up and diving straight into the ocean.
We stopped in the town of Santanyí before checking in for its Saturday market and loaded up on fresh produce, which we cooked (with mixed success) on the charcoal grill, attempting to recreate some of the dishes we’d tried at Hotel Corazon. Eating freshly grilled peach salad washed down with an organic rosé as the sun set and we played cards was basically everything my Euro daydreams had featured. It also turns out that I am exceptionally bad at the card game Bullshit.
During the days, we explored other beaches: Es Calo Del Moro, Cala S’Almunia and Cala Mondragó. While Es Calo Del Moro had unforgettably clear blue water, its tiny size meant that it got packed really quickly. If you choose to go, head there as early in the day as you can, as the beauty of nature tends to lose its shine when you’re wedged between cigarette-smoking beachgoers. My hot tip is stopping in the town of S’Almunia beforehand and grabbing a couple of jamon and cheese baguettes to stave off the hunger while down at the beach. Just around the corner was Cala S’Almunia, which showed off a quintessential boat house and was slightly less busy. Cala Mondragó, was probably my least favourite, but I was potentially developing sunstroke at this point so that may have also been a factor.
Although we didn’t stray too far from the little house on the cliff in Cala Santanyí, fortuitously it was just a few steps away from both a cute little bistro and a panaderia (bakery). Our friend Jackson joined us on the final evening, and we all set off for a final night out at the restaurant down the road, Es Pontas. Again, paella ruled supreme.
All in all, it was everything I had daydreamed a European summer trip would be – good food, incredible beaches and many books enjoyed under the sun. With so much to discover still – Mallorca, I’ll definitely be back.