Sea view or mountain view? How about BOTH! With your dog!
On my quest to showcase all that my neighbourhood, El Terreno, has to offer, I don't know why I have waited so long to show you one of the best hotels in Palma: Feliz. The name means Happy and what a happy place it is. The first thing you notice is all the cool and quirky art in the reception, which the Swedish owner, Mats Jakobsson, prefers to call Welcoming Area.
"Yes, you can bring your dog to stay here," Jakobsson says while I admire a dog statue perching on the edge of the glass-walled pool in the al fresco bar. "Most of all, we want people to feel really at home here."
After 30 years in Hong Kong it took me ages to get over the shock of seeing dogs inside shops and even banks here in Mallorca. And I'm still reeling in shock to find a hotel that welcomes dogs - inside the rooms! At night! Quite frankly, they had me at the dog art...
The hotel is centrally placed in the heart of El Terreno, with hundreds of restaurants within a short radius. It's also only a few minutes' walk away from the magnificent Bellver Castle, clearly visible from the hotel.
"But what if I'd rather have a sea view?" you complain. Not a problem! The rooms on the two upper floors have balconies overlooking the sea, as well as private balconies on the other side of the corridor, with a view to the beautiful Bellver Park (which is really a forest) as well as the charming neighbourhood of El Terreno.
And if the sauna with a view and the spa and the short walks to a myriad activities, museums, hiking terrain and even a rocky beach (turns nudist in the afternoon - you have been warned) wasn't enough, bugger me if there isn't a pool on the rooftop as well.
People of Hong Kong and Norway and the world, this is the time to come to Mallorca! You can stick your head out the door without being stampeded by (other) tourists, and although it is slightly cooler than in the summer, the skies are still burning blue and the trees covered in flowers.
And the beautiful rooms of Hotel Feliz are only 70 euros this month, less than 1/3 of those of a similar standard in Palma city.
What are you waiting for! Come now. But quick, they close for the winter in December.
Who the hell came up with Daylight Saving Time or Summer Time and Winter Time as we say in Denmark, Sweden and Norway?
Some people say that Benjamin Franklin had the idea in 1784 on a journey to Paris. He is credited with the idea of springing forward and falling back to allow people to save money on candles, but it now appears he suggested Parisians get up an hour earlier in order to save candles, as a joke.
The UK started using Daylight Saving Time in 1916, seven years after it was implemented in Port Arthur, Canada. Since then it has spread like so much Bubonic plague to 70 countries, three of which are, inevitably, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
But how much candle wax do we really need to save nowadays, I wonder? Even if candles were expensive, I think people can now largely decide for themselves when and where to use them. The rest of the time they would just - turn on the light!
The whole idea of Summer Time seems to be that it should stay light longer in the evening, in summer. So why even have it in Scandinavia when it’s light in summer almost 24 hours a day anyway? Is it so horrible that it gets a little darker at, say, 21:30 instead of 22:30? Is it, in fact, too much to ask that it is darker at night than in the daytime?
Me, I want light in the morning. For 30 years living in Hong Kong, I could follow my circadian rhythms to the letter. I got up when it was light and started feeling sleepy when it was dark. Moving to Spain, I was horrified in March when, just as it was starting to get light around 6:30 in the morning, I was suddenly catapulted forward to the dawn starting at 7:30.
That is virtually mid-day!
The whole day was ruined. Would I have to start using – splutter, gag – an alarm clock?
Now it seems that we'll finally get rid of this nuisance, but guess what, it's the stay light longer in the evening, i.e. daylight at 9 pm, that people want. Noooooooo! It's in the morning it must be light. THE MORNING!
You shouldn’t mess with Mother Nature. Death and destruction inevitably follow. But me, I’m fought back. One of my watches and my kitchen and living room clocks were set on Winter Time the whole summer.
Ah, tourists! Don't you love them? I mean, us? I've come to the sad conclusion that unless I live in my hometown I will always be a tourist. I lived in Hong Kong for 29 years and spoke the language, but still the locals treated me as some kind of not very intelligent tourist who needed things pointed out in English. For example, one day I was in a supermarket in Causeway Bay and paused momentarily in front of the refrigerated goods section to contemplate, oh, probably the meaning of life as I normally do. An assistant came up to me: "This. Is. MILK."
Fortunately the locals in Mallorca don't treat me like that at all, so it's much easier to live here. And now I'm starting to suss out where the good places are so I won't fall into too many tourist traps. But sometimes I get visitors like the delightful Ellen (see photo above) and we're walking and she has a step counter and it's 34,000 steps and suddenly we're in Plaza Major and... have ordered something with cheese! Now, I'm not big on cheese, but I have to say they do have some melted cheese over salad things with blueberry jam (!) and other cheeses that I have found quite appealing. We picked a 5.3 euro thing and waited 45 minutes. The restaurant was empty, it being only 7:45, yes PM!
THIS is what took 45 minutes to prepare. No more Plaza Major! I have eaten there twice before and each time it's been crap and over priced. There are so many tourists, they simply don't have to try. There, I've said it. Avoid Plaza Major.
My relentless quest to eat my way through every restaurant in El Terreno continues, but I'm warning you: After I, or rather some Norwegian friends of mine who came to Palma to celebrate a big birthday last month discovered Hostal Corona and its insanely delicious tapas, beautiful setting and great and fun staff, I don't really need to try out any other places.
Where shall I start? The vaguely hippie/indian setting would ordinarily have made me think "Oh dear" but in this dark and mysterious courtyard the lanterns and little fountain somehow work. But even if the courtyard of Corona was a concrete slab under fluorescent lighting, the food would have made me go back and back.
When I first tasted tapas last May on my reconnaissance trip to Mallorca, I have to say I wasn't very impressed with them, thinking they were greasy and over-microwaved. Oh well, I could just cook Sichuan food for myself every day I thought, and left China anyway. Then I discovered Corona.
EVERYTHING is beautiful, beautifully laid out, quickly brought to the table by personable proprietor Cristobal Navarra, who is not only funny but kind. Yes, when the three of us ordered five dishes, he warned us that we wouldn't be able to finish them. He was right!
Four dishes was more than enough to make us explode, and it was with difficulty we managed to finish the shots of a scrumptious cinnamon-tasting liqueur he handed out free at the end of the meal. Yummmmm
The patatas bravas, the melted camembert with blueberry jam, the dates wrapped in bacon ... and oh! The little fried green peppers! Corona is the best. THE BEST!
And oh, it's also a hotel, apparently. AND they have a pool table.
Carrer Santa Rita 17
Phone +34 971 731 935
Having lived out of Hong Kong for eight months, I still notice Chinese people in the street and in shops, and feel they are somehow "my" people. So yesterday when I spotted a place that could very well have been a café in China in that it looked like a Starbucks with the logo and lettering slightly altered, I pricked up my eyes. And sure enough, inside the simple cafe, what would I find but four Chinese working away.
"Have you any Chinese food!" I cried, nay, sobbed. "Yes, well, kind of," they answered, after we'd been through the "Wow, you can speak Chinese!" pleasantries. They showed me the menu and there was indeed some photos of pan-fried dumplings and noodles. Yes! Noodles! Extra spicy, I said, crying tears. We had a bit of a chat about how the Spanish don't understand the concept of hot/warm water instead of iced, and how I always sought out Chinese-run restaurants because in them I don't have to explain for ten minutes that I'd just like a cup of water, not tea or coffee, with my meal. (Hot water is great for you, just look it up!)
The noodles arrived and - it was spaghetti. The extra spice came in a plastic bottle. And worst of all, when I saw the bill, I saw they had charged 1 euro for a tiny cup of water. It was hot, though, I'll give them that. (Down with bottled water! )
As I ate the food - it tasted good and I'm sure spaghetti and Chinese noodles are exactly the same but it was of course psychologically damaging for me because they should have been rice noodles - I heard the people discussing "lao wai" (老外) inside. Lao wai is a term for foreigner that some Chinese say is derogatory, others "just a word for foreigner". I don't know if they were talking about me or the Mallorcans, but I couldn't help remarking upon leaving "Hey, guess what! You're the lao wai now!" at which they laughed uproariously.
Well, they are. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't cook proper noodles, or suddenly charge exorbitant prices for something that should be, dare I say, free? And also, when everybody travels and have a sophisticated palate, why change the food to "fit local tastes"? Locals have their own food. Can't Chinese just be Chinese, without the added ketchup, as it were? (Interesting facet, the word ketchup does come from Cantonese - 茄汁 - keh jap, tomato sauce. The word tomato is 番茄 - faan kei - "barbarian aubergine". You heard it here first!)
*None of the photos were taken in that café. That goes without saying.