We watched the sun rise over the cliffs, directly opposite our balcony, on the far side of the harbour. This was at 7.15am after which we slipped into our normal holiday relaxed mode, so it was 12.15 before we got going (I’m being too hard on us as this time did include a café con leche at the local).
My final words of this story were prophetic. In 2018, we did all the things I said we needed to do in the final paragraph, it was hectic. In 2019, we have been, adapting to our new life, keeping in touch with our children and grandchildren, sorting out the house (a 2/3 year project), walking on the beach most days and I have been exploring beautiful East Lothian on my bike and both of us on foot. So, no holidays in 2019, we were busy.
I worked hard to be prepared and to keep fit, occasionally doing two training sessions on a day. Additionally, we were in the middle of buying a house, selling our apartment, and getting ready to sell a flat in Edinburgh. All this took a lot of time and effort. I was very tired, but we were ready.
Our good friend Sue took us to the station and the train arrived on time, despite being only the second day in the last seven it had been able to run because of snow & ice. Our journey to Edinburgh was peaceful, pleasant, and problem free. During the previous week, the Beast from the East had swept across the country leaving large parts of the UK at a standstill (snow and high winds) so we felt very lucky to travel at the correct time. In Newtonmore had been cold and there was enough snow to do some cross-country skiing but no real problems. The only event of note during the journey was when one of the wheels fell off my suitcase! making it very awkward to manoeuvre so soon after arriving we carted it up to John Lewis where we’d bought it 6 years ago. Hazel, in Luggage, sorted me out with a loan case while “the one the wheel fell off” was sent to Samsonite be repaired under guarantee. Quality service like this is why we keep returning to this most excellent company. We bought our Euros there and celebrated by having very good coffee & cake at Leo’s Bakery, Howe Street. We must take our grandson Leo to the café with his name. Feeling very tired from the previous weeks’ exertions, I went back to our accommodation, slept for an hour and felt much better. Then it was time to relax and get even more organised.
A Day in Edinburgh
We had a few things to do but not a ‘days’ worth’ so I felt at a bit of a loose end. Well, it’s always good to be in Edinburgh so we started by having breakfast at Patisserie Florentine, then on to the Virgin Lounge in St Andrew Square to get some decent internet. After a spot of re-organising and packing back at the flat a good walk was needed so I took myself off along the cycle paths, Botanics and Inverleith Park before meeting Kathryn for coffee at Artisan Roast. I wish I knew how they make such superb coffee, it’s still the gold standard against which all other coffee shops are judged. Still feeling tired, it was back to the flat for another sleep, shower, and more preparation in preparation for an early morning departure.
A 6am taxi from Edinburgh (I’m getting to old for this). All the connections connected, and it was a smooth journey to Porto Cristo. The only fly in the ointment was Kathryn tripping over my foot at Palma Airport. She fell heavily, but could have been much worse, a cut to the eyebrow, some bruising and bent glasses was a small price and she is Ok. We reached our Portdrach accommodation by 2pm. It’s Ok but we were tired, and it was a grey day and a bit drizzly, so we weren’t blown away by the setting. Our first room looked out over a car park, but a wee word sorted us into a much better room. We both slept for a while then ventured into town in the dark, more for some provisions than to explore. More of that tomorrow. Our room is nice and comfy but, like us, a bit tired.
Porto Cristo Exploration
Last night we slept the sleep of the knackered and woke up feeling better. It’s amazing the number of times we have arrived at our holiday destination, walked around in the dark and I have thought, “what on earth have we come to, this looks bad”. We woke up to an atmospheric vista of the town shrouded in mist with just the church tower peeking through. Today everything looked so much better, it was a nice warm day and we wandered around the town exploring interesting corners. The harbour with its hundreds of boats of all sizes is impressive but it’s early March so few of them are going anywhere. I can imagine that in summer this place is busy, noisy and hot and I’m glad we won’t be here then. The walk (as always) included a couple of café stops and sitting outside in the warm Mallorcan sun sipping coffee or a beer and feeling relaxed; always a sure sign it’s going to be a good holiday. It’s been a long, frosty winter in Scotland, and this is the antidote. We are trying harder this year to adopt the Spanish eating system, lunch at 2-2.30pm and only a light meal in the evening in our apartment. Today we found La Megrana (Catalan for pomegranate) for lunch. The food, service and ambience were excellent and, away from the harbour, felt very ‘non-touristic’. We liked it a lot and will go back. After lunch we were quite tired and decided to follow another Spanish tradition by returning to our apartment for a siesta. Later we ventured out again to the Eroski Supermarket for food as we are self-catering.
We are in the Aparthotel Drach which is a halfway house between a hotel and a rented apartment. Our room is a bit tired and battered and could do with refurbishment, but everything works. We have all the facilities we need including a tiny kitchen area and a cleaner. Our balcony has a magnificent view over the harbour and across to the main part of town. We’re extremely comfortable but (as usual) I feel it’s unlikely we’ll ever return.
Torre de Serral dels Falcons
We watched the sun rise over the cliffs, directly opposite our balcony, on the far side of the harbour. This was at 7.15am after which we slipped into our normal holiday relaxed mode, so it was 12.15 before we got going (I’m being too hard on us as this time did include a café con leche at the local). We planned to walk around the coast to the Moorish tower of Torre de Serral dels Falcons; the map showed footpaths a fair bit of the way. The walk started most pleasantly around the harbour full of boats big and small, Rafa Nadal’s boat is supposed to be moored here but we didn’t see it. At the end of a jetty gazed into the clear water seeing thousands of tiny fish. Sadly, the paths seem to have been consumed by urbanisation and no longer exist, but we reached the tower via pleasant streets. There are some nice cliffs and sea views and it’s amazing to think that the tower was in use, for 300 years, to watch out for pirates from Algeria and Turkey, only being abandoned in 1872. It’s asparagus season now and we spotted our first wild asparagus cutter today. It was a lovely warm day and a pleasure to be walking in such warmth after our long, cold, Scottish winter. It was even warm enough for me to wear shorts, exposing my peely wally legs to the sun for the first time this year. It wasn’t far through the un-mean streets back to Porto Cristo and we stopped at Ca’n Toni for cool beers; we even got a small tapa with our beer. It wasn’t a long walk, and K was good despite her sore hip, which we hope will be fixed sometime this year.
It was then home to relax and watch a spot of Rugby, we missed the Scotland Ireland game which sadly Scotland lost; disappointing after beating England two weeks ago. In the evening we ventured out for some provisions and coffee and this gave is a chance to suss out another destination for a nice lunch and/or evening meal.
Market Day & Punta des Pagell
Off to market we go; it’s tiny compared with other towns in Mallorca, but we got goats’ cheese, vegetables, honey and flowers and it was a pleasure to wander around the stalls in the sun. All the stallholders were friendly, polite, and understanding of our attempts at broken Spanish; they all speak at least Catalan too and most can also get by in English & German. A lengthy coffee followed in a nice restaurant looking out towards the harbour entrance. It was then back to our apartment for more mundane things like getting our washing done. Aparthotel Drach has a good system, 5 Euros per week for use of machine and dryers, provide your own powder. After that, a walk was needed so we headed for the Punta des Pagell on the other side of the water from yesterday’s walk. It’s a pleasant walk around the bay past the beach and via some urbanised streets to the point. The area around the point consists of limestone pavement with wide views of sea cliffs in all directions. It’s been quite windy today and there was quite a big swell that was atmospherically crashing and booming against the cliffs. Returning via the town another coffee was in order; this time at the small kiosk by the bridge called Es Rivet, a suitable name for a cyclist likely to be ‘on the rivet’ next week. This kiosk seems very popular, especially with locals and the coffee was excellent. We ate at Ca’n Salvador which is a lot better than it looks from the outside. I thoroughly enjoyed my pork steak, eggs, chips and salad; Kathryn had ‘secreto iberico’ a tastier piece of pork and we shared a postre.
The Bike Arrives
Let’s just assume it’s a lovely day unless I state otherwise. The hired bike arrived a little late at 09.45 but that was fine as, earlier, I was able to go into town, get some supplies and have a morning coffee. One place we go for an early coffee is call Anita’s and today I was early enough to watch the town slowly wake-up. A series of workmen arrived for a quick coffee, a bank worker/cleaner was polishing the cash machine and the shop was opening next door, first the pavement was thoroughly swept and then all the for sales stuff carried out, a street cleaning machine was going up and down. Older locals dropped by for a coffee and a cigarette/cigar and I saw one person having something stronger. After sitting for a while, I left to get some warm bread from the nearby grocery shop. No doubt this scene happens everywhere in the warmer countries, I think the warmer weather leads to a more relaxed attitude to life (it wouldn’t work in the Highlands!)
A bit of faffing around followed and I was on the road by 11.30. I was so glad to be doing what I was doing; the Trek Emoda with electronic gears is light, fast, and responsive. The weather was superb; who cares if it’s a bit windy. This was a, ‘main road exploratory tour’. The roads were busy, and it still amazes me what wide berth Spanish drivers allow when overtaking a cyclist. My next rides need to be away from the main roads wherever possible. There were more hills and altitude than expected and I visited Porto Colom which is a lovely place and seems really up-market, with a couple of posh looking hotels looking across the bay and some good cycling infrastructure. I did Ok considering this was my longest ride this year and only my second outside on the road (it’s been a long frosty winter). It’s sooooo nice to wear summer kit
Meanwhile……Kathryn engaged relaxing mode, reading, chilling, and going for a wee shop for provisions. All this relaxing will be needed as we are in for a busy time when we get home with two properties to sell and one house to arrange to pay for. We ventured out in the evening enjoying the evening light on the honey coloured stone of the town. Tonight, was home cooking night so we took it easy and had omelette and salad. The plan is to eat out on alternate days.
Tour des Camis and a touch of Arrhythmia
I absolutely love the sunrise here; it rises behind the harbour and streams into our apartment lighting up the town at the same time. We had the usual relaxed start and I set off at about 10am determined to get away from the main roads and busy traffic. I succeeded in spades, finding some lovely roads many of which are named. So, I was on the Cami des Presos, Cami de Son Llodra, Cami de Son Vei, Cami de Granada, Cami de Son Fangos and the M4104. At one point I didn’t see a car for an hour. Some of these camis have been recognised as cycling routes, signposted and re-surfaced, others have a rough surface, lots potholes with a lot of gravel washout from the winter rains. All these roads go through scenic, typical Mallorquin country; here orange, walnut, or olive trees; there vines or vegetable crops. In the middle of all this are some lovely houses, one or two looking like palaces, properties of the rich I would guess. Twice I passed through Son Macie, which looks very much like a ‘one horse’ town. Eventually I ended up in Manacor and found another lovely cami to avoid the main road.
I was back in the apartment feeling hungry and thirsty by 2pm and immediately ate and drank too much. Unfortunately, I had an attack of arrhythmia later that afternoon. Not a serious one but my HR was far too high, and my pulse felt ‘all over the place’. I’m unsure what cause it though I remember, in the past, reacting to Spanish beer, so we’ll blame it on San Miguel. I don’t think I was dehydrated. I’m trying hard not to overdo things on the bike as I have done little cycling so far this year. I thought I was succeeding, but fortunately it had gone by 9pm and I had a normal night’s sleep.
A Good Night’s Sleep, La Megrana and Horrible Tourism to the North
I slept well though my heart rate readings showed it was the sleep of a tired man, (normal sleeping HR under 45 bpm), last night mostly 55. So, we decided I should have an easy, short ride today and after a walk into town and a relaxing coffee I got going at 10am. Firstly some nice rural roads along Cami de Marineta to Son Carrio where I had a short break, eating my almonds on a seat next to the church. I knew which road I wanted but it was tricky to find despite an excellent map and GPS and I stumbled across Son Carrio Estacion. It looks quite modern, with platforms, station buildings, massive car park but no rails and no trains. It turns out that it was a big project that was abandoned in 2013; it all looked so sad. Eventually I found my road and it was a fast, gradual downhill to the sea at Cala Millor. You can see lines of huge high-rise hotels from miles away. I reached the sanitised sea front and had a break for 30 mins. About 30 people walked past me while I sat there, all German and elderly. I suppose if all you want to do is go somewhere warm, eat too much food and walk up and down very slowly then this this sort of place is perfect but, for me, it’s not the real deal, and felt completely soulless. However, this sort of development brings infrastructure and from Cala Millor through Sa Coma to Porto Cristo there is well marked, safe cycle route that leads in an interesting way past miles of hotels and apartments, mostly close to the beach. This visit made me glad we chose Porto Cristo, for our base. It has the feel of a small Mallorquin town with touristy bits by the harbour. Home early enough for relaxation time and a Mallorquin lunch at 2.30pm at La Marina. I had a giant pizza and Kathryn had ‘Saint Peter Fish’ which, after much research, turned out to be John Dory. It was a lovely day and we both thoroughly enjoyed it.
Porto Cristo-Sant Llorenc-Sant Llorenc (again)-Porto Cristo
Cami de Marineta, Cami de son Mesquida, Cami d’Infern, Cami de ses Planes, Cami Vel de Sant Llorenc, Cami de ses Taletes: I just love those camis. The road north of Sant Llorenc, looping around the Muntanya de Calicant (473m) was cycling heaven. It’s not too steep, perfectly surfaced and it twisted and dipped and turned through some beautiful scenery; it was awesome, and I want more of it. The weather was cloudy, warm (for me), dry and a bit windy but hey, I live in Scotland, I am used to a bit of wind. I feel Ok after a fatigue dip a day ago, but I wish I could have come into this week road fit; at times our cold winters just don’t allow it. It looks like no number of 30 min turbo trainer sessions in our garage will prepare me for bike rides of 30 miles or more, especially on consecutive days. However, I think my basic fitness is beginning to kick in and I’m starting to feel more like a proper cyclist. On my return we relaxed in our apartment and had lentil and tomato stew with chicken which was delicious, thank you Kathryn (and Waitrose, for the idea). We were relaxed and tired, so we didn’t even go out for a coffee in the evening. For me, the best day so far.
Porto Cristo-Son Carrio-Coll d’Arta-Arta-Manacor-Porto Cristo
Cami des Talates, Cami des son Drago, Cami d’Infern, Cami de son Mesquida; I’m sleeping like a log and recovering well, feeling more like a real cyclist. I liked yesterday’s route so much I went for a variation which was a bit longer and it didn’t disappoint. Some of the route was new and even the section I’d cycled yesterday looked quite different from the opposite direction. Going well, I added a loop via Manacor which brings me on target for 30 miles a day (but am I bovvered!) A low cami count today, maybe more tomorrow. It was a pleasant day, warm but not hot and we enjoyed some morning sun whilst having our usual coffee at the Café Varadero. It cooled off a bit during my ride, but it is still shorts all the way.
On return it was the usual recovery routine and tonight we ate out at La Megrana next to the church. It wasn’t cheap at 40 Euros for two of us (£36) but it felt like we were in Spain (Mallorca) and not in some tourist café where they give you the English menu before they even speak to you. The Spanish feeling was enhanced by a group of ladies at the next table have a meal Spanish style, i.e. very noisy. It’s of note that extraordinarily little alcohol was being imbibed anywhere in the room. A similar group in UK would have got through quite a few bottles of wine to produce that level of noise. It’s their country and they were having a fun time so no complaints. The food was excellent and feeling very full we wobbled back to our apartment. We needed to relax a bit to digest our meal as we didn’t finish eating until 10pm.
Porto Cristo-Son Macia-Felanitx-Santuari San Salvador (500m)-Porto Cristo
Cami de Pessos, Cami de Son Llodra, Cami de Son Fango’s, Cami de Puig des Caro: I found a good route to the foot of the San Salvador climb, which gave some sublime cycling, on a lovely morning. The climb was not too hard, only about 400m height gain with a few 8% sections. The road is beautifully graded with some interesting hairpins and the view from the top spectacular. The Puig was crawling with outdoor folk, road cyclists, MTBs, runners, motorbikes, and tourists. On the way up, I even passed a slower couple; normally I’m one of the slowest uphill. I thoroughly enjoyed it, passed on the restaurants and dropped down the somewhat exciting descent. A lot of concentration was needed due to the tight hairpins. After all that excitement I found a lovely road cutting across the foot of the hill past the Puig des Caro; yet more sublime cycling. This turfed me onto the main road. I decided to bite the bullet and go direct, a good decision as the road was passably quiet and I had a powerful tailwind. I was home in good order after the longest ride of the holiday (and the year so far).
Porto Cristo-Manacor-Felanitx-Castell Santueri (356m)-s’Horta-Porto Cristo
Cami de sa Marineta. Nice day but still a bit windy. Found some new roads and some nice cycling. Expected a busy Sunday but everywhere was quiet. One or two serious looking clubs out, even some support vehicles draped with spare bikes. I managed to get up to the Castell de Santueri. This is the less favoured of the two local hill roads, it was very steep and poorly surfaced compared with the Puig de Sant Salvador road. There’s a section of 15% and with just a 28-rear sprocket it was a bit of a grunt. On the descent, looking down I thought, “did I cycle UP that”? I was impressed with myself. Nice tailwind home again and first ride of the year over 50 miles. Another week and I could feel really fit. Sunday in Spain (Mallorca) means outings and/or lunch for many of the local folk. There were quite a few cyclists, lots of walkers, people collecting wild asparagus and ‘hunters’ parked on roadsides in the middle of nowhere (though what there is left to shoot in Mallorca I have no idea). One mystery was a huge number if people (maybe 500-750) walking along pavements next to the main road in Manacor. They were all ages as well; all dressed ‘smart but casual’, chatting and in no hurry.
I went through the usual routine after my return of eating, drinking, rest, and recovery and tonight we ate out at El Pino just along the harbour. Good atmosphere, tasty food, a friendly, family run business and not expensive either. I had some excellent pasta and Kathryn had quail which was delicious although she had thought she was ordering ‘baby rabbit’. I seem to be handling the late eating very well; we were the first to arrive for dinner, started our meal at 8.30pm and didn’t finish until after 10pm.
Porto Cristo-Manacor-MA routes:3321-3320-12-3322-Sant Llorenc-Porto Cristo
Cami de Pessos; Sos Ferres d’en Morey; Cami de Son Mesquida; Cami de Marineta; What an excellent route. Firstly, nice peaceful roads to Manacor then north on the MA3321, this takes you into a scenic broad valley with all the usual fincas and olive groves. The head of this valley consists of a limestone escarpment and the roads winds a way up this with some steep hairpins to meet the MA3330. What a treat is in store for the roady, especially if the wind is from the west or south, starting at 170m it drops to 40m in 5 miles most of it straight. It took me about 15 mins with little or no effort. A short burst of MA12 leads to the quiet MA3322 and the Sos Ferres d’en Morey, an old road that cuts across to the Sant Llorenc route. It’s a steep, rough, gritty climb to 280m. Then on to the Cami de Marineta, beautifully surfaced, sinuous curves and all downhill to Sant Llorenc. Stop in one of the cafes in the beautiful square and have a coffee. Then it was a matter of following the green roads (on my map) home to Porto Cristo to finish and excellent weeks cycling.
I feel delighted with a total of 290 miles in eight days, all done in ‘Scottish summer’ conditions. Starting from such a low cycling base I wondered what I would be capable of and after a slight blip at the start I now know that base fitness can kick in quickly. It would have been better to arrive cycling fit, but it has been a cold, snowy and icy winter and there have been many days when outside cycling was not an option unless you are young, enthusiastic or just plain daft. My days of arriving at the cafe all iced-up are over and I stuck to gym, turbo training and running. Also, we have had an offer accepted on a house in North Berwick, this involves the all the ramifications connected with buying and selling apartments and houses. It’s been a busy winter with reduced opportunities for cycling.
Cuevas Drach (Dragon Caves)
After eight days of cycling I was a bit tired and ready for a rest. We started with morning coffee and then relaxed by getting our washing done. It was time for a nice lunch and where better than La Megrana the lovely restaurant by the church. Lunch lasted about two hours, we were in no hurry and enjoyed the atmosphere of this lovely restaurant. Then it was caving time! The Cuevas Drach (Dragon Caves) are close to where we are staying. I had an idea of what to expect having visited on or two other systems both in UK and Spain but this one was special. Firstly, it was big, both in length and the size of the caverns, bigger than anything I have seen before. It was fascination looking at the myriad of shapes of stalagmites, stalactites, and columns. Second it has an underground lake, Lake Martel which is 170 meters long, up to 12 meters deep with crystal clear water. I found the short classical music concert, played live from a boat very beautiful. The combination of the lighting, music and acoustics made this an unforgettable experience. We were left wondering just how long it had taken for these huge columns to grow when the growth rate of only a few millimetres per year. The answer, of course, is millions of years. If you are ever near Porto Cristo these caves must be on your list.
A Four Mile Run and Preparing to Leave
We woke up to horrible weather, strong winds from the north, heavy rain and temperatures below 10 Celsius. Fortunately, the weather improved during the day and later we even saw some sun for a short time. Our room hadn’t been cleaned for two days (no idea why) but if that is the deal it should be done, so we had a wee word with reception and took ourselves out, first morning coffee, then visiting the beach where the waves being driven onto the beach by the northerly wind seemed to be washing lots of sand away, maybe it washes it back later. When we got back our room had been cleaned but not very thoroughly, this is one cleaner that won’t be left a gratuity. After some relaxation I felt in need of some exercise so set of for a run. I ended up at Cala Mendia along the coast, a lovely small bay with huge waves crashing in driven by the strong wind. Pushed my run bit on the way back and managed a 10.02 mile which, outside competition, is quite good for me. The run felt quite hard as I have been cycling for over a week. I must admit to a twinge of jealousy as several groups of cyclists passed me on the road (I was on the separate walking/cycling track). Then it was into town for a last coffee, Kathryn had hot chocolate and churros, a bit of ‘going home’ shopping and then back to the apartment to get packed and organised for tomorrow’s departure. We ate out for the final time at El Pino which on this occasion was a bit disappointing. Kathryn ate a baby rabbit which was OK, I had Secreto pork which was tougher than I remembered and smothered in salt. I kind of enjoyed it, probably about 5/10. They were nice folk and a family business to we still gave them a tip and left on good terms. Then it was back from our usual late finish to try to digest our meal before going to bed.
The Journey Home
We were up early after a bad night’s sleep. For me, a combination of too much meat, late eating, beer and coffee. Then last thing, I got a message that my brother Bob had been taken to hospital, so all this kept me awake for ages. Fortunately, we didn’t have to do much apart from be in the right place at the right time which we duly did. We finished at Porto Cristo with the usual coffee at Valderado and all the connections worked well, and we were back to Edinburgh by 4.30pm. We are still puzzled why sitting still on a plane or passing through airports is so tiring, but it is. The good news is that Bob was discharged and was on his way home by lunchtime.
Home at Last
For us, Edinburgh and breakfast at Patisserie Florentine are almost synonymous, so after that we had a pleasant walk through Inverleith Park and the Botanics before another regular, coffee at Artisan Roast. We then met up with Andrew & Magda for lunch before catching the 16.30 train home. It is a good way to travel, big seats, food and drink brought to your table. Our friend Mark picked us up at Kingussie and took us to Newtonmore where we lit the fire and collapsed exhausted.
We have had another excellent holiday, it ticked most of the boxes, now for some important stuff like paying for and moving into our new house in North Berwick, selling our apartment in Newtonmore, selling the Edinburgh flat and Kathryn getting a new hip joint. This holiday leaves good memories and us well rested and relaxed. In view of what is to happen, this is helpful as it will be some time before we have another holiday.
© Peter Main 2018
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