A week in Palma and a book

old_town_walkYou know how it is when you come back from holiday: those old routines kick in and the lovely little interlude of rest, relaxation and novelty that seemed so vivid begins to feel like a distant memory. Writing a post has become a way of nailing some of those memories before they fade away so bear with me on this one. Quite a few reading disappointments but so lovely was Palma that it didn’t seem to matter

We last visited Majorca back in the ‘90s, staying in a small village inland. This time we based ourselves in the capital’s old town. It’s a beautiful place – quite small, although the maze of narrow streets lined with buildings built tall to keep out the blistering summer sun means that you can walk for ages without treading the same path twice. Despite Spain’s economic difficulties there’s a good deal of money in evidence – elegant tree-lined boulevards replete with expensive shops, lots of swanky hotels and restaurants, and some very smart people to match. Incomers, most probably – the store directory at both branches of Spain’s smart department store chain, El Corte Ingles, include Russian amongst its languages. I hope some of that money finds its way into the locals’ pockets.

Miguel Barcelos sculpture (La Seu)As for what we got up to – lots of loafing, ambling and a nice dash of culture. Palma’s cathedral had to be visited for the Gaudi restorations alone: strikingly original, and controversial at the time – unsurprisingly – although not nearly so odd as Miquel Barceló’s sculpture whose strangeness defies description. Other than that we visited the Fundació Pilar I Joan Miró A Mallorca, getting sweatily lost on the way but just about managing to keep our tempers. In the early ‘40s Miró escaped the Nazi invasion of France, fleeing to Majorca and settling there permanently in 1956. He already had strong connections with the island – his mother was Majorcan and he’d married a Majorcan woman in 1929. Both he and his wife, Pilar, wanted to leave his remarkable studio to the city of Palma and after his death Pilar was instrumental in setting up the Fundació. Set in beautiful grounds, the striking buildings alone are well worth a visit and there’s a changing exhibition of the work Miró bequeathed to his adopted city. Very enjoyable, but our favourite day was a trip on the rackety tourist train inland to Soller followed by lunch in a quiet courtyard tucked away from the crowded square which we’d both been fondly remembering as a sleepy backwater, then an hour or so wandering around the gorgeous Jardí Botànic and a bus trip home via the village of Deià, made famous by Robert Graves. One more dash of culture: a visit to Genesis, Sebastião Salgado’s stupendous collection of photographs exhibited at the La Caixa Foundation, run by Spain’s eponymous non-profit savings bank which turns out to have an admirable stance on corporate responsibility. How refreshing!

As for books – several disappointments, including Apple Tree Yard, I’m afraid. I know there’s a The Faithful Couplelot of love out there for it but it seemed far too drawn out for me. My best read of the week was A. D. Miller’s The Faithful Couple which begins in 1993 with two young British men, Neil and Adam, who meet on holiday in California. They instantly click then both become involved in a dubious moral act which dogs Adam, in particular. The book follows their friendship over nearly twenty years, picking out the tensions between them – Neil’s resentment of Adam’s casual privilege, career ups and downs, marriage and children with their attendant worries – until 2011. It’s the kind of structure I find immensely appealing – lots of space for character development. The women characters, however, were a little two-dimensional and I wasn’t entirely convinced that Adam would find himself thinking of what happened in California every single day but on the whole it worked well. If you’d like to read a more considered review, nip over to Tales from the Reading Room.

That’s it for my holiday. I hope you have one of your own planned soon. Back to books on Friday.

16 thoughts on “A week in Palma and a book

    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I can thoroughly recommend it, Helen. Majorca – or Mallorca as I should say as they’re proudly Catalan – has had a bad press one way and the other over the years but it’s a lovely island, well worth a visit.

      Reply
  1. JacquiWine

    Glad to hear you enjoyed Palma. I’ve never visited, but it sounds right up my street. The Fundació sounds wonderful – I couldn’t tear myself away from the Tate Modern when they held a Miró exhibition a couple of years back.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Oh, you must go, Jacqui. The studio is amazing, designed by an architect friend of Miró’s who fled Franco’s regime. Palma’s got just the right mix of sybaritic loafing and cultural consumption opportunities, too.

      Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      All this sunshine as definitely helped me over that inevitable post-holiday bump, Tanya

      Reply
  2. MarinaSofia

    Looks and sounds gorgeous – and good idea to capture the magic of it while it’s still fresh.
    Sorry to hear you didn’t like ‘Apple Tree Yard’ – I thought it was by far the best of the current crop of psychological thrillers about ‘bad women’ (or those labelled as such) or the so-called ‘next Gone Girl’. And believe me, I’ve read more than my share of those…

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      It’s become a bit of an indulgence!

      I’m afraid Apple Tree Yard was just too long drawn out for me, although I’ve steered well clear of the ‘Gone Girl’ trend apart from Hausfrau which was rather mystifyingly billed as a thriller by the publishers. I liked the twist at the end, though.

      Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      It was – I think you’d love it. Glad to hear I’m not the only one re Apple Tree Yard.

      Reply
  3. helenmackinven

    Love the sound of your holiday – seems like you got the balance right between relaxing and sightseeing. I’ve been to Majorca when my sons were very young but reading your post makes me want to return – minus the Kids’ Clubs, splash pools, amusements etc.! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      It would be a very different experience for sure, Helen! It’s just the place for a refresher after winter.

      Reply
  4. litlove

    This brought back memories – Mr Litlove and I had our honeymoon in Mallorca, visited Soller and arrived and left from Palma. So long ago! I’d love to see Miro’s studio so maybe a return visit one of these days is called for. I’m glad you liked The Faithful Couple (thank you for the mention!) and it seems as if we felt very much the same about it.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I think we did. Delighted to have reminded you of your honeymoon – perhaps you could return for an anniversary celebration!

      Reply

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