Palma de Mallorca

It was “only” five years ago when I treated my Mum to a one-off city break with her son to Barcelona for a significant birthday. Since then it has been clear that that break set a precedent and in the following years we have had weekend breaks in Venice, Florence and Nice. This year the choice was Palma de Mallorca in the Balearic Islands.

The trips are hard to organise:

  1. They have to involve sun. This has meant a reluctance to go to Northern Europe.
  2. They have to be cheap. Neither of us are plan on spending a fortune – although Lauren tried to spoil this by treating Mum to a New York trip this year.
  3. Flights have to be taken from both Liverpool and Stansted – and they have to arrive and depart within minutes of each other. Ideally my Stansted flight arrives first and departs last so that Mum has to spend as little time on her own as possible (sitting in bars watching the world go by is not a hobby that we share).
  4. There has to be stuff to do in the destination. In particular there has to be plenty of tourist queues to join.

This year Palma, Mallorca, fitted the criteria. But as we tick off the destinations, I can forsee next year being harder.

The Ryanair flights seemed to go fairly well. This was a bit of a dissapointment as I normally enjoy moaning about Ryanair. The only things worth noting were the strict one item of hand baggage that was enforced at both airports by trained agressive staff, and the slightly bizarre experience of having a gin & sparkling water when I thought I was having a gin & tonic.

On arrival in Palma, while waiting for the Liverpool flight, I discovered that just 30 mins before Eta had blown up two police officers in Palmanova a few miles from Palma. This incident caused the airport to be temporarily closed to departing planes, but did not significantly affect the arriving ones.

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Our hotel was in the centre of the long promenade in Palma overlooking the fairly large harbour. When we arrived it was dinner time so we had a quick drink in the bar and then headed out to have a little explore and some food. After walking for 2 hours Mum had been unable to find any tourist menus offering 3 courses of food she liked for less than €15. We eventually agreed to go back to the hotel which had a buffet for €19. However this was now closed due to the late hour. Eventually we found another restaurant and managed a steak and some lamb between us.  In order not to repeat the two hour search for tourist menus again that holiday I agreed to spend the remainder of the nights eating in the hotel from the buffet. There was no nice Spanish tapas for me. Our tourist menu hunt did take as past the Cathdral though which was lit up spectacularly at night.

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On day two we went to Soller on the north coast. This involved a nice walk through the city, getting a bit lost, and then taking the old wooden train (popular with the tourists) to Soller. From here we took a tram down to Port Soller and spent a pleasant afternoon exploring the harbour. We had a couple of fresh orange juices and then made our way back to Palma, stopping off at an Irish bar near the hotel for a flat and tasteless Guinness.

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Day three involved a local bus from Palma to Port d’Andratx to the west. This was another pleasant place with a large-enough harbour. We found a quiet cove away from the tourists and relaxed for a couple of hours in the sun.

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On the final day, after visiting Bellver Castle, we chose to take the bus to Santa Ponca. While the weather was again very nice, the place was overloaded with British tourists. My horror at the thought of dining in a crowded restaurant, full of Brits, overlooking the street for a €8.50 English roast dinner in the boiling heat was made just a bit worse when Mum actually showed an interest in doing so. I refused, and eventually we found a restaurant with a beach and sea view and fewer sunburnt Brits hanging around.

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I was treated to the Stansted rush hour on my return (midnight, Sun) and didn’t make it home until 2am.

Mallorca Map

Town Bumps 2009

Our St Radegund Men’s 1st boat rowing crew had a good Cambridge Town Bumps again this year.

We started off 7th in division 2, and after bumping 3 times and getting 1 row-over we finished off 4th. I think division 1 is a long way off yet though.

It was (our cox) Miriam’s wedding the next day, so the fancy dress on the Fri definitely had a bridal theme to it.

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After 3 successful nights, the Fri night was the big one when we had to bump a Cantabs boat full of 18 year olds from Hills Road College. We mistakenly thought this might be easy after seeing a video of them from the night before when they were not far off the boat that we caught. However the video did not show the “crabbing” mistake that they had had just a few seconds before they were on camera – and they definitely did not make such a mistake again when we were chasing them. This meant the last night of the bumps was a hard fought row-over where the gap between us and the 18 year olds increased and then decreased, with the two boats eventually finishing up perhaps only a few inches closer than when they had started 2km earlier on the course.

The following photo shows the gap between us at its largest as we struggled with the corners in in the “gut” section of the River Cam.

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The crew was fairly pleased though at the end as the many GPS devices proved that we had rowed our fastest ever course on the river. This just makes it clear how much we need to improve to make any inroads next year.

The crew photo below is the following from left to right; David (stroke), me (7), Mark (6), Steve (5), Miriam (cox), Giacomo (4), Lorenz (3), Andy (2 – captain), and Jeremy (bow).

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The crew naturally spent some quality time at the “beer tree” before heading out to celebrate a good week’s rowing. Inbetween the time to congratulate ourselves on the 3 bumps, there was enough time to talk about what could have been if we had just been a few seconds faster over the ~7 mins course…

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A summary for the St Radegund crews; M1 (3 bumps, 1 row-over = +3), M2 (2 row-overs, 2 bumped = -2), M3 (2 bumps, 1 row-over, 1 bumped = +1), and W1 (2 bumps, 2 row-overs = +2).

At the beer tree I met up with Carmel, Richard and Dave for a couple of drinks.

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The next day, to “honour” Miriam’s wedding, the crew took the oars from the boat house into town and over to the college where she was getting married. We then surprised her when she came out of church. She definitely seemed surprised – and thankfully not too angry.

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Latitude 2009

Latitude 2009 was great. I took Carmel because Emlyn would rather live in San Diego than go to this festival. Taking Carmel was a bit of a risk (to my enjoyment) – but she seemed to cope with everything and says she enjoyed it.

For the sake of posterity, here is a large list of the bands we saw…

Fri:

  • Black Joe Lewis
  • 1990s
  • The Broken Family Band (Carmel thought main guy was not good looking enough)
  • Of Montreal (cool costumes)
  • Ladyhawke
  • Fever Ray
  • Pet Shop Boys (good, good fun – had to be there…)
  • Bat For Lashes (dull)

Sat:

  • Band Of Skulls (very good)
  • Animal Kingdom
  • Broken Records
  • Mika (good fun)
  • Scott Matthews (dull)
  • White Lies (Carmel’s 2nd favourite act)
  • Camera Obscura (? I had too much wine, I think)
  • Doves
  • Spiritualized (fanastic – nice and trippy)

Sun:

  • Sugar Crisis (good fun, electro pop)
  • Fight Like Apes (angry)
  • Asaf Avidan And The Mojos (catchy band name, and good music)
  • Villagers
  • Lisa Hannigan (she did a lot of smiling, but was pretty good as we watched her stay dry while we were in torrential rain)
  • The Rumble Strips
  • The Vaselines (good)
  • Tricky (very good – only played a few songs, but “bigged” himself up pretty well)
  • Saint Etienne (was stood far enough back to imagine that the singer was still young and attractive)
  • Slow Club (Carmel’s favourite)
  • Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds (quite a performance – he can be quite a scary man)

Bands we didn’t see but probably should have (explanation in brackets):

  • Teitur (we had not arrived at festival in time)
  • The Phenomenal Handclap Band (clased with Of Montreal)
  • Little Boots (an afternoon nap seemed such a good idea at the time – missed a few acts because of this)
  • Maps (didn’t spot them in the line-up until after the festival, grrr)
  • Newton Faulkner (clashed with Doves)
  • Bombay Bicycle Club (clashed with Doves)
  • Thom Yorke (he was on far too early at 12pm – does he know how long the shower queue is?)
  • The Gaslight Anthem (clashed with The Vaselines – but they sounded really good)
  • The Gossip (clashed with Nick Cave)

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We arrived at Latitude on Fri lunchtime, just in time to miss Teitur. The Podpads were in the same place as last year which was pretty convenient for all the shops. On our way down to the main arena Muller Farms were giving out free yoghurts – this pleased Carmel.

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In order to minimise time in the disgusting and agressively offensive festival toilets I switched from beer to wine – my drink of the weekend was a double white wine (about 350ml at a time). Our big mistake for the Fri was to go for a wine-induced nap around 6pm. Completely slept through the Little Boots set and only just made it back for the Pet Shop Boys. We didn’t have any more naps that weekend.

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The facilities in the Podpad section are ok. Chemical toilets and about 15 showers which have permanent long queues. No change from last year. However this year they added a large and half-decent cafe in the Podpad section (Tangerine Fields) with lots of chairs (sitting on a chair is a rare occurence at Latitude). This cafe was good for tea and coffee in the morning and pizzas at the other end of the day.

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Musically we started each day off at the Sunrise Arena. We would get ourselves some wine, and sat down in the sun at the edge of the tent surround by the forest. Carmel would read The Guardian (obviously there was a limited selection of newspapers) and I would spend literally hours trying to upload photos using my N97. Each photo would take the best part of 30 mins to upload and seemed to eat about 10% of my battery juice. Eventually the phone’s Web browser could not cope with the size of the blog and chopped off stuff without asking me. It then repeatedly crashed at the end of a photo upload – and ended my attempt at live updates of the blog. Will have to see if there is some half-decent blogging software available that means I wouldn’t have to use the phone’s Web browser.

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When the line-up for Latitude was being released Carmel got extremely excited when she found out that Ed Milliband was attending (“The Ed Milli Band”?). So as a break from the music, on the Sat afternoon, I went with Carmel and hung around the crusty eco people and listened to them congratulate and shout at Ed about various eco issues. Ed was unsurprisingly sensible. This was an easy task given the muppets in the audience who were obsessed with tricky-to-implement ideals such as banning Brits from using planes.

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It was nice sharing a podpad with Carmel instead of Emlyn since at no point in the night did I wake up screaming with Emlyn sprawling on top of me (which happened in a past year). Much of Latitude is spent queueing for things – like for the bar, the toilet, the shower, the food vans etc. This year we spotted a van that had no queue at all at the busiest times of the day. No idea why.

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The weather was almost perfect. It was mostly sunny with just a couple of hours of rain on the Sun to remind us to be more grateful the next time the sun comes out. Because I was with Carmel this year it meant that we had a bag with us which allowed us to carry umbrellas and jackets – which came in very handy in the rain. Normally if I go to Latitude with Emlyn we don’t take a bag – a wallet, phone and hip flask has been all we’ve needed.

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A full photo album is here.
And a fairly non-descript video is here.