I've been writing about food, wine and travel in Spain - pretty much in that order - since I moved to Barcelona nearly 10 years ago. I've contributed to innumerable guidebooks (among them Time Out, AA, Dorling Kindersley and Wallpaper*) and written features for many magazines like Conde Nast Traveler, Scanorama (Scandinavia Airlines inflight), and Olive magazine.
I first went to Majorca for a Time Out Guide about five years ago and now I can't stay away. It's like a condensed, tapas-sized version of Spain, more than entertaining for a weekend, plenty satisfying for longer stays.
Where I always grab a coffee: Ca’n Joan de s’Aigo is no secret, but every time I stay in Palma I make a beeline for it in the morning. The red velvet banquettes and crystal chandeliers make me feel like I've woken up in another era, the coffee and ensaimadas (a local, snail shaped breakfast pastry) are good, and all in all it’s a rather glam way to start the day.
My favourite stroll: I'm a walker by nature, so this might seem rather long, but what I like to do is head down to the cathedral, have a good poke about it then cross the road over to the sea. When I get there I turn left along the Platja de Can Pere Antoni and keep going until I get to Portixol. Great for blowing away the cobwebs, especially if there's a bit of a storm brewing.
Fiction for inspiration: A Winter in Majorca by George Sand paints a bleak picture of the island in the early 19th century, but its kind of refreshing to read something that isn't all ra, ra, ra. Lucia Graves' (Robert Graves daughter) account of life in Spain and of growing up in Majorca over a century later is a bit more forgiving and uplifting. If you read both you come out with a balanced view of a people and a place.
Where to be seen: lunch at Marc Fosh's latest venture: La Tasca de Blanquerna with a big glass of local wine, or if I'm in the mood, a glitzy champagne brunch out at Puro Beach.
The most breathtaking view: it's a bit of a hike (though you could get bus numbers 3, 4, 20, 21 and 22) but worth it for magnificent sea-city views from the Castell de Bellver (meaning 'lovely view' in Catalan, it is also an eye-popping piece of architecture). If you can't be bothered to go that far, views from the terrace at El Baluard, Palma's museum of modern art are also pretty good.
The best spot for some peace and quiet: Palma's quite a mellow city generally, but if peace and quiet is what I'm craving I get out of town to one of the south coast calas (beaches) for a swim and a walk along the shallow cliffs there (it's a bit like floating on a raft).
Shoe-aholics beware: the whole of the area around the Born is filled with completely seductive shoe shops. Good value compared to anything back home, but lethal if you’ve a credit card to flex. You have been warned.
Resort soundtrack: Buika is an Afro-Mallorcan singer whose sultry, sexy, moody blending of jazz and flamenco shot her to fame with her album Mi Niña Lola in 2006. Best absorbed with a Xoriguer gin (from neighbouring Menorca) and tonic.
Don’t leave without: exploring the rest of the island. I love driving the wiggly-windy lanes between Deià and Soller and beach hopping en route (steep access but worth the effort) and going for a fresh grilled fish at the only bar on Cala Torta, up near Artà.
My expert information
An easy mini-break
Like many people I have a fascination with islands. So to have Majorca – nicknamed the pearl of the Mediterranean - on my doorstep is an added bonus to living in Barcelona. Great if you live in Barcelona, you're probably thinking! But, even if you’re based in the UK, flights are quick, cheap and frequent, making it a very realistic weekend destination.Read more...
Pollensa really consists of two places. There is Puerto Pollensa with its port and small, tranquil beaches that loop around the natural bay, and there is inland Pollensa, a charming, honey-coloured town rich in history, and a popular base for cyclists and independent travellers.Read more...
OK, so ten years ago Palma was going through a bit of an identity crisis. Today it’s one of the most vibrant cities in the Mediterranean boasting several cool neighbourhoods, a thriving marina, art coming out your ears, and yes, beaches. It’s almost indecent!Read more...
Like Pollensa, Sóller is really two places. It’s the port and the bay (Puerto Sóller) and the town (Sóller) in the foothills of the Traumuntana. It’s the holiday resort, and the modernista marvel. Unlike Pollensa, it’s perfectly feasible to do this getaway without a car. You can hop aboard the cute wooden train from Palma, Ferrocarril de Sóller , and be in Sóller town within the hour. To get to the port it’s a mere 10 minutes on the connecting tram from the train station. So, the transport link-ups alone make Sóller pretty special.Read more...
Cala d’Or is a relatively small seaside town on the south-east corner of Majorca. Built around a pretty, hook-shaped port, a low-rise sprawl has grown up around it consisting mainly of holiday apartments and hotels. Compared to Magaluf on the west of the island however, it’s been tastefully done and there are plenty of advantages to being here.Read more...
Located more or less in the centre of the coastal side of the Tramuntana mountain range, Deià is a fantastic base for exploring the smaller towns and villages of the region, for hiking and biking, and generally getting back to nature. It’s always had huge allure for those looking to get away from it all, right back from when artists and writers like Robert Graves first discovered it in the 1950s and 60s, to the Hollywood A-listers who’ve made it their second home today. Read more...