Puerto Pollensa 2016
This was to be a holiday of two halves. For the first week, we had the family with us, we were five adults plus our two-year-old grandson Leo. This is something we have always wanted to do, but only now, in retirement, can we afford to treat everyone. Week two was just myself and Kathryn; we walked and I hired a bike for three days. We jokingly said that we needed the second week to recover from the first.
Preparation, Departure, and Travel
Preparation all went smoothly, if tediously, and, thanks to Sue T, we were on the train to Edinburgh, on-time, with most of the right stuff in our suitcases. As always, I enjoyed sitting back in my first class seat and enjoying breakfast, although on this occasion we had to wait an hour before we were even offered a cuppa. Our time in Edinburgh passed in its usual haze of shopping and visiting family and next day we took the tram from York Place to Edinburgh Airport for the three-hour flight and transfer. We were welcomed by Jet2 staff and all the arrangements went smoothly enough; I just wish someone could invent some kind of ‘beam me up Scotty’ system to get us to our destination. We were staying at Puerto Pollensa, Mallorca at the Pollensa Park Hotel (curiously named Fergus Style though I have no idea who Fergus is). When I stayed there for a week, a year ago, I left with good memories of a quiet and pleasant hotel and thought it would be ideal for a holiday with the extended family. We arrived long after dinner but the staff kindly opened up the restaurant for us and we had a nice salad; just right, considering how late it was, even by Spanish standards.
Tuesday, May 10th
A settling-in day, woke up and had a walk along the beach before getting properly sorted out after our late arrival. We all walked into town, enjoyed some nice food and the warmth and found our way around. The evening was when we learnt about the bar opposite pumping out high volume noise between 21:30 & 23:00.
Wednesday, May 11th
Good sleep and a jog along the sea shore before breakfast, more walking, good food and coffee and time with the family. My first sandcastle was not great and left room for improvement.
Thursday, May 12th
We tried for a longer, rougher walk but grandson Leo was having none of it and we had to leave Leo behind with his mum & dad to go to the beach and have a nice lunch. Three of us carried on to Cala Sant Vicenc over the Col de Siller. It was a lovely day so we sweated a bit but enjoyed the sea views both ways. The walk was tougher, hotter and longer than we expected. The coffee & fresh orange juice at Cala Sant Vicenc was welcome and on return, we decided we had earned a nice lunch. The day finished with us sitting at the beachside café with cafés con leche and watching the sun set across the bay.
Friday, May 13th
I’m running along the beach every morning now before breakfast, I hope it’s doing me some good! Today was grandparent duty day as we allowed the ‘young ones’ to hire bicycles and go off to explore. We took Leo to the beach. On the way, we spent ages watching a ginormous crane unload building materials, then we (well, grandad) built a stylish sand castle while grandson filled his little watering can and watered the sand. The castle worked and the moat kept the fierce Mediterranean tide at bay. This proved tiring for a two-year-old so we moved to one of the local cafés for coffee, cake, sardines and salad. At this point, the cyclists returned, just in time to change Leo’s nappy and settle him for his afternoon nap. Clearly, grandchild watching and sand castle building are exhausting as we all needed a siesta. Interludes by the pool followed and a Tex-Mex meal at the poolside café finished the day. We all ate and drank too much, again.
Saturday, May 14th
This morning’s run was a bit slow, maybe my old body is objecting to consecutive days of running. After breakfast, the big event was a room move. I had originally asked for adjacent rooms but we didn’t get this so we had complained and eventually moved up one floor, to a better view next to the rest of the family. ‘The Boys’ had hired motorbikes for the day so they were off on a big adventure around the island. We took Leo to the beach where grandad busied himself by building another big sand castle (best yet) and Leo again amused himself by watering it. Grandma bravely went for a swim in the sea. Then it was across the road for some lunch at the appropriately named Café Maine. This was followed by a siesta, then the Giro d’Italia on the big screen (in English) in the Palm Bar across the road. Time flies; it’s a year since we spent the day watching the Giro by the roadside in Italy. Pool time was followed by a pleasant family meal; the hotel was much quieter tonight which made the meal a much more enjoyable experience.
Sunday, May 15th
I struggled even more than yesterday to run before breakfast despite a superb night’s sleep. A rest day is now on the horizon. Today followed the usual pattern when looking after a 2-year-old on holiday. The beach to start with; today grandad built version three of the sandcastle and it was by far the best. It was formally named ‘Leo’s Castle’ and Leo, as usual, helped by watering the sand with his watering can. The ‘boys’ went for a SUP, (stand-up paddleboard) and seemed to be quite good at it. They came back each wanting to buy their own board! Lunch followed and as always we all ate too much. However, the food was good and we are on holiday. We moved on to the only specialist cake shop we have found so far in Pollensa where we enjoyed a delicious pastele and the best coffee of the holiday. Then it was siesta time again; all that food, digging and the sun had made me very sleepy so I slept for an hour and then watched the Giro on TV. We tried a swim in the pool which was very pleasant and cooling but the water tastes like soap if accidentally swallowed (not recommended). A final evening meal together and then the rest of the family prepared for tomorrow’s departure. We strolled along the promenade in the warm evening sun, looking forward to the second half of the holiday.
Monday, May 16th
Managed a short jog at 06:30 before saying farewell to Leo & Amelia who left early for a Pace family celebration in France. What a well-travelled boy two-year-old Leo is; we reckon he’s already been on 10 flights. That left four of us to spend the day together before the boys’ departure, and a very pleasant day it was. It not often just the four of us are together. After breakfast, we strolled into Puerto Pollensa along the promenade and the further we went the nicer it got, nice beaches, cafés and a quiet walkway away from the traffic. Naturally, we got that coffee feeling so we stopped at a pleasant café I had visited a year earlier. Disappointingly, the promenade suddenly ends with a wire fence and Zona Militar. We walked back to the hotel (5 miles total), had a break and went looking for a nice lunch. A short sharp shower of rain! scuppered plans to go look for somewhere new so we ate local at the Café Maine! Then we had time to kill before we saw Andrew & Duncan off for their flight home. It’s now ‘our time’; just the two of us and we can suit ourselves. I briefly felt a bit emotional, not because I would miss everyone but because it was the end of such a happy and relaxed family time. Now we were looking forward to the next part of the holiday involving cycling, walking and simply exploring this lovely island.
Tonight we were kept awake until 11:15 by very loud music from the outside stage and it took a while to get to sleep after the noise stopped. We were really angry but felt helpless to do anything apart from complain and put up with it. Our reviews won’t paint this hotel in a very flattering light.
Tuesday, May 17th
As it’s now just the two of us we decided to take the bus to Lluc Monastir and try one of the many walks from there. At 1500 feet above sea level, it was quite a lot cooler at the start. We planned a 3-hour circular walk and it all started very well through interesting, rocky Karst limestone scenery. Then three things happened.
• I discovered that I’d forgotten our Satnav
• We made a navigation error by underestimating the distance we’d walked
• The guide book instructions had missing details
We faffed around for ages thinking we were somewhere we were not and eventually decided that we didn’t have time to complete the route, so we reversed. It wasn’t the end of the world; the views were different and we reckoned we would have been pushed to do the planned route and make it back in time to catch the only return bus to Puerto. As it was we had ample time to have some relaxed refreshment at the Monastir café. The bus back had the benefit of being free, we tried to pay but the driver didn’t seem to want to be bothered to collect our cash. Very tired, we walked slowly back to the hotel. I collected my bike on the way and got sorted out for cycling tomorrow.
Wednesday, May 18th
Early breakfast and on the bike by 07:30 heading for Cap Formentor on a pleasantly cool morning. For the second year running, I was one of the first to arrive; well ahead of the bus parties. It’s a beautiful route. Visited the Moorish Castle on the way back then into the Port for coffee & cake. Onwards to Alcudia, then into the beautiful network of lanes to the south. Got comprehensively lost but Mr Google helped me out. Back to the hotel by 14:00 feeling a little tired but generally good. This is supposed to be a warm-up for tomorrow and I think I have just about managed that without overdoing it. The remainder of the day on rest and recovery, so now I’m ready for the big one tomorrow.
Thursday, May 19th
Andratx – Estellencs – Banyalbufar – Deia – Llucalcarri – Soller – Port de Soller – Escorca – Lluc – Pollensa – Puerto Pollensa (76 miles)
Spent an anxious night with a slight stomach upset, so not much sleep. However, I was ok once up and about. Lovely morning; the shuttle bus was on time and by 9.30am I was in Andratx and soon on my way. A brutal 5 miles uphill to start with resulted in only 10 miles in the first hour and I wondered if I would ever get to my destination. So I got my head down, plodded on and after some big climbs and equally big descents got to Deia and then Soller. I failed to find the centre of Soller and moved on down to Port de Soller where I had a really long lunch of some excellent food. A good job as the climb towards the Sa Calobra turn-off was 9 miles of between 5% and 10%. It was hot and I suffered a lot towards the end trying to keep my heart rates down. The tunnel and descent were welcome and as I cooled off I felt a lot better. Much more down than up kept me going and as evening approached the traffic reduced; it really was a pleasant ride over the last few miles. At Pollensa, I stuck to the main road and was back by 19:00, very tired but very pleased to have done such a tough ride with so few early season miles in my legs. The hired bike did well but my bum, neck and shoulders ached. A route that will long be remembered for both its ups and downs; the descent into Deia being especially memorable
Friday, May 20th
The last of my three days cycling & decided I wanted to finish on a high note so planned to cycle via Campanet & Caimari to Lluc where I could then descend the Col Femania to Pollensa, a fast, smooth, sinuous descent; a good way to finish. I had a lovely ride to Caimari via the beautiful back lanes and sat in the deserted square eating my lunch. In many places there would be groups of old men passing the time of day in a café but not here; it was deserted. The climb to Lluc was a treat, it’s a lovely road whether up or down and today it was deserted, so peaceful. Strangely, and to my surprise, I felt good and was riding strongly on very low heart rates despite the previous day’s hard ride. Maybe I’m getting fitter! Stopped at Lluc and had coffee and a very nice Ensaimada. My GPS decided to switch itself off so all the data for the climb was lost; I’m sure I demolished all my records for the climb, but will never know for sure. Then came the long drop to Pollensa town; as enjoyable as I had hoped. I decided to go into Pollensa as before as I had always cycled past without stopping and what a lovely place it is; a bit of real Spain with lots of lovely old buildings. I knew Kathryn was there somewhere, and we managed to meet to share a relaxing break in the Café Placa in the square. Sun, warmth and real locals enjoying a noisy lunch (at 4 pm) on the next table. I then finished my ride via the scenic route, got sorted out and returned my bike to end three days excellent cycling.
Saturday, May 21st
Puerto Pollensa – Vall de Boquer – Col del Moro – Cala Boquer
It took a while to get our heads round walking after I had been cycling for three days but eventually we got going at about 10 am and set off along the esplanade. We stopped at our favourite Café Coral for coffee before heading for the Vall de Boquer. This was the hot one; the average temperature for the whole walk was 30 Celsius. It’s amazing how quickly you pass from holiday Spain to rural Spain and then into the wild unkempt countryside. Huge limestone cliffs, uncultivated and as far as we could see only goats grazing. It was a rough walk as well as the sun bouncing off the white soil. The Cala Boquer is a well-hidden bay, very scenic but we found it so hot we didn’t stop long. There were quite a few people about but unlike them, we didn’t want to sit in the baking sun. A feral goat tried very hard to open my plastic lunch box. We sweated our way back and were glad get back to the narrow gap through limestone cliffs where we sat in a nice cool bit of shade to have our lunch. The lunch stop was a pinch point in the route and as a result, we had some interesting conversations with people passing by, some of whom looked much less prepared than us for the hot, rough walk. We were soon back at Puerto Pollensa and sitting in the square drinking espressos con hielo (black coffees over ice). Back at the hotel we relaxed and watched the Giro d’Italia, in German, on the bedroom TV.
Sunday, May 22nd
Pollensa – Puig de Maria (Santuari de la Mare de Deu del Puig): 325m & return
We decided to return to ‘Pollensa proper’ as it’s such an attractive town; it has a feel of real Spain compared with tourist central at Puerto Pollensa. We caught the local bus there and as it was another hot day so we did the walk first. As it turned out, ahead of the many other people, including even some Spaniards. It’s a steep 325m climb, first on a narrow road which turns to concrete and then to cobbled, limestone donkey track. There’s been something up there for at least 700 years and what’s there now is a religious sanctuary café/restaurant and hostel. We sweated a lot but it didn’t take too long, and the birdsong and flowers on the way up were delightful. The sanctuary had a slightly run-down feel but we had very reasonably priced, delicious coffees & almond cake. The views across to the sea and mountains were 360 degrees stunning. We set off down, very carefully, as the limestone cobbles were very polished and slippery; they must be lethal when wet. By this time there was a huge variety of people making the journey, many nationalities and some who looked poorly prepared. We were impressed by the number of babies being carried; especially one family who were carrying a buggy over the very rough cobbles. We were very hot by the time we were back down into town; very, very hot, so a café stop was next. I foolishly ordered a large beer and, although very nice, it went straight to my head and I felt very strange, so I counteracted the effect with a coffee. We walked about a bit but it was just too hot to do much. However, the Calvary steps were a must so I climbed them, all 365, and by the time I was back down I was even hotter so, on the way to the bus stop, we found another cool café for some fresh juice. The bus was crowded and quick and we were back at the hotel in no time to shower, cool off, sleep and start getting organised for the journey home. Another excellent day.
Monday, May 23rd
Farewell to Pollensa Park Hotel & Puerto de Pollensa (forever)
We had packed and vacated our room by 10;30 and set off for a wander into town; partially as a last visit and partially to kill time. We visited Bisanyes Pasteleria where they make their own bread and cakes on the premises and had coffee and meringue limon; delicious. We walked on with a quiet interlude sitting in the square watching the world go by; many shapes, sizes and nationalities. Then it was lunch and we visited the Sparrow (Gorrio) Bar opposite the hotel and had a bocadillo (well, I did). Then time to shower, change and try to keep our cool before the transfer to the airport. The travel all went smoothly though we were both very tired when we arrived at our son’s flat in Edinburgh.
Tuesday/Wednesday, May 24/25th
Edinburgh is quite a contrast to Mallorca but we were glad to be back to temperatures we could cope with. We spent Tuesday and Wednesday doing family stuff and caught the Virgin East Coast Train in the afternoon. Our lovely friend Sue collected us from Kingussie Station and were we through our own door by 7:30 pm. It was a really good holiday, a combination of family time, walking, cycling and a bit of general sightseeing. Sometimes after we get back, we wish we were still on holiday, but not on this occasion; it was getting too hot, the hotel was crowded and noisy, as were the nearby streets. Maybe if we had been somewhere quieter we could have enjoyed staying longer but, on this occasion, we were ready to go home.
Pollensa Park Hotel (Fergus Style)
First impressions were that nothing much had changed; the location, facilities, food, and staff were all excellent and were my reason for returning, but there were a number of disappointments.
• When we booked, over 9 months in advance, we asked for adjacent rooms with balconies and sea views. We were allocated a room with a sea glimpse, a floor below the others, overlooking a noisy, bar-lined road to the sea. We complained, and after five days got the move we wanted; to the other side of the building and next to our family. Having booked so far in advance, it’s hard to understand why the room wasn’t available when we arrived.
• To our horror we found that the nearest street bar blasted out very loud music until 11.30pm most nights, making it impossible to get to sleep before then. We didn’t go to Mallorca to listen to a very bad Abba tribute act whilst lying in bed (their Elvis was rubbish too).
• My memories of a quiet hotel were ousted by the reality of a very busy, completely full hotel. We were told that this is the effect of holidaymakers deciding not to travel to places such as Egypt and Tunisia due to terrorism. As a result, the hotel was much less pleasant to stay in.
• Part of this busyness was a group of 120 line dancers who had to use the indoor stage area (the private function room they’d been promised didn’t exist) so, every other night, the live entertainment was pushed outside to the pool stage so both sides outside as well as inside the hotel were assaulted by loud music. Anyone who wanted to get to sleep before 11:30 was out of luck whichever side of the hotel they were on due to this loud, intrusive music; fortunately, not every night.
• External (pool stage) shows were very, very loud from 21.30 to 23.30 showing a total lack of consideration for customers who had had a strenuous day and wanted a decent night’s sleep and an early start next morning. We didn’t want or need this stuff. No warning in the literature, totally selfish, inconsiderate and very frustrating as there was so little we could do about it. We were far from alone in complaining about this to both hotel staff and holiday reps.
• A year ago the aircon was still heating when I arrived. I was told that this changed to cooling every April 30th (it was very hot that week) so this time I made a point of booking for a week later to ensure that we would have cooling air con. When we arrived this year the weather was very warm by Scottish standards, and guess what, all the aircon was still set to heat and we were told that the changeover was at the discretion of the manager. Fortunately, it wasn’t as hot as the previous year so we were just about comfortable. What I can’t get my head around is that with the temperature setting on cooling, the room temperature can be set between 15 Celsius and 30 Celsius so I suspect that you could still have a nice warm or cool room. Very disappointing.
• There is definitely some confusion about the deals available at the hotel. We paid for half board plus which we understood to be wine and beer and soft drinks with our evening meal. Fair enough, but on one occasion we were allowed to order bottles of wine, beer, and water, as opposed to the stuff that was ‘on tap’ then the next night we were told this wasn’t allowed. Similarly, we were given cocktails free of charge at the poolside bar and the next time this wasn’t possible. The most reprehensible thing was that my son’s pregnant partner was not allowed some water with her meal, she had deliberately chosen not to have ‘alcohol with meals deal’ for obvious reasons, but to be charged for a glass of water was disgraceful. We simply didn’t pay…..it was easy just to take two glasses ourselves and let her have one. Regardless of the deal, if they have anyone having an evening meal then they should be able to have some water with it.
• An Evening Walk at the Pollensa Park Hotel
Walking downstairs from our room, as you get closer to the lobby, the noise level rises until it reaches eardrum hurting levels; the line dancers are in full swing and there is a huge queue at the bar. Why anyone would want to stand around in such high noise levels I don’t know. Take a walk to the back of the hotel, poolside, and the outdoor stage has an Abba Tribute act; not great but very loud, which means every room is filled the “Does Your Mother Know” or some similar song. If you want an early night, forget it, even with the balcony (double glazed) doors shut, the curtains drawn and earplugs in, you can still hear it. No chance of an early night! Is it more peaceful at the front of the hotel? Of course not; as it’s a hot night everything has moved outside. The ‘Golden Lion’ opposite has Elvis, this time he is the Scottish Elvis so he is not just about ok, but still LOUD. Finally, not far away the ‘Palm Bar’ has the ‘Jersey Boys’ who are rubbish.
So the whole area is just a cacophony of noise, front, back and inside. Nowhere to sit quietly and read a book or play an exciting game of cards or scrabble. No quiet room anywhere inside the hotel (certainly not in your room) or within about half a mile outside. How does this fit with the Jet2 Brochure/Website which states “A big reason why lots of families come here every year is looking for some peace and quiet by the sea, days spent strolling, local markets and medieval history”. I just can’t understand how the advertising for Pollensa Park Hotel as a peaceful relaxing holiday, squares with the full-on, loud entertainment offered inside and outside the hotel. Clearly, from the reviews, many people are happy with the arrangements and with the ‘all inclusive’ deal. They evidently enjoy the loud entertainment and we suspect that some never leave the hotel during their holiday. It seems to me that the management is trying to cater for too many different types of holiday-maker at the same time; clearly, the majority will prevail. To advertise this as a peaceful, quiet hotel is a joke.
© Peter Main