A week in the sun: Mallorca

Tim had felt that a summer holiday spent lazing around in the sun would be slightly gratuitous. We should go and see new things, have a packed itinerary to make the most of the time - and I don't blame him. But by the time our summer holiday arrived, we were both so shattered that we could hardly wait to land in Mallorca and do nothing but lie in the sun and read for a whole blissful week. But the day before we flew, the weather was forecast to be grey and showery in the Balearics.. even though the heat wave was set to continue in Zurich for the foreseeable future. There's irony for you.

Anyway, we needn't have worried. The weather was lovely all week, with pleasant temperatures, and a happy blend of sunshine and cloud. We took full advantage of the pool, waking up to go for a swim every day and then drinking freshly squeezed orange juice on the terrace. Making use of the hire car, we had some fairly precarious drives across the island - including along the Cap de Formentor. Those hairpin bends called for some serious 'shut eyes and pray' time. The beach there - Playa Formentor - is worth the drive though. Set in a wide cove and lined with pine trees, the bay glistens turquoise and golden and, from the shade under the leafy canopy, you can watch yachts balancing on the horizon. It is a world away from the high rise hotels and package deals that are commonly associated with Mallorca.

Another of my favourite beaches was Sant Elm, which we visited on a stormy day. The sky was grey and the sea colourless, so we had simply planned to drive there and have a picnic on the sand, while the waves crashed onto the beach. As we sat there eating - and admiring some brave souls who had decided to swim anyway - the sky began to clear, and soon we were rooting through the car boot for our swimming stuff so that we could follow suit. Later, while eating ice creams and wandering along Sant Elm's main street - where there are occasional breaks between the buildings and you get breathtaking views over the sea, framed by bougainvillea and blossom - we were caught in a heavy shower and found shelter in a shop. Just as the rain eased off, we saw the little open-air ferry, which takes people to nearby island Dragonera and back, pull into the harbour. We had to chuckle (a touch of Schadenfreude) as we watched one drenched tourist after another make their way up the street in a soggy procession, like creatures emerging from the sea.

Eating ice creams while exploring towns became an almost daily treat - it's a good job we were doing a lot of swimming too! We spent one gorgeous evening in Alcudia, the sunset casting a purple glow over the old town, and candlelight twinkling outside the street-side restaurants. One afternoon, we went to Valldemossa, a golden town in the mountains. It is one of the few places that George Sand spoke positively of in her critical 'A Winter in Mallorca' and, as you approach along the MA-10, it is easy to see why. From the road, you get the postcard view of the town, which clings to the mountain side and is surrounded by lush groves and soaring peaks. Although today it is something of a tourist trap, if you walk a little off the main square you are rewarded with quiet narrow alleyways to yourself. They are lined with vivid green pot plants and home to the occasional creative boutique. We found a delightful little juice bar, which was in a narrow terraced house and, at the back, had an open panoramic window the width of the building - it looked like the view was a painting on the wall.

And I must mention another town, Pollenca, which dates from the 13th century. It has a tree-lined main square and a distinctive path of 365 steps leading away from the square to a chapel at the top of the hill. Pollenca, too, is crafted in the beautiful golden stone that is ubiquitous here. Our holiday wasn't all just laziness and wandering, though (although I did manage to read almost all of Kate Mosse's 900-page 'Citadel') - we were also active. We went pony trekking at Hipica Formentor, close to Alcudia. Here, the horses do not wear shoes and their bridles do not have bits. The philosophy is to be gentle to the horses, and the horses seemed happy and healthy. We rode for 90 minutes in the evening sun around pretty agricultural land, with a backdrop of the mountains at the northern end of the island.

We also went sea kayaking at Puerto Andratx - although this was less than fun. The water was quite choppy and, on top of that, there were fishing boats, huge yachts and speed boats going past us all the time, sending waves hurtling into our sides. I felt so small beside these boats, and very vulnerable. It did show us Puerto Andratx from a different angle though I suppose. This holiday has certainly shown me that Mallorca has more character than it initially seems. Drive away from the sprawling high rises along the main beaches, and you are rewarded with a realm of history and beauty.

And, if you are prepared to wake up early, you can have the best of it: on our last morning, we awoke with the cockerel (in holiday terms, at least) and made our way to Camp de Mar, which we had only ever seen really crowded and looking unappealing. That morning, we had the beach almost to ourselves; the bay was still empty of boats, and the water so still that you could see reflections in its turquoise depths.

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