Friday, 16 October 2009

Can someone please tell me.....

WHY I thought it was a good idea to give up caffeine two weeks before my dissertation was due? I am so unbelievably tired - I even missed my tube stop today. With 2000 last words to write before the end of next week I may be forced to take it up again. But maybe just a little nap first?

Sunday, 11 October 2009

All roads lead to Palma

Am barely unpacked from a glorious week in Mallorca and if it wasn't for the strange sense of calm that has descended over me and my little friend, who I'll call Dissertation, well, it would be as if I'd never left. Stunning sunsets one day:

And the next, drunk girls pissing in doorways and German shepherds wearing sunglasses. Oh east London I really didn't miss you at all.

While it's oddly good to be back and re-attending to the sagas of post-graduate study, getting away for a week was just the tonic to my gin. Despite nearly missing our flight. A sartorial mission to find sunglasses for LB that ran too long and an unfortunate quick glimpse at the departures board and we were off, running for a gate that couldn't have been any further from where we were. Thank god though for a complete lack of fitness, otherwise I would never have stopped to wheeze/cry/gasp for air and seen we were running for the wrong flight at the wrong gate. Yes our flight was making a final call - and yes, it was at the absolute other end of the airport. If I hadn't been so bereft of breath I would have cried.

We did make the flight but the nervous adrenaline didn't really subside until we were ensconced in our little red rental car and on the road with warm, sunny Mallorca welcoming us with blue, blue skies and a gentle breeze. Heaven.

We were staying in a resort town 20 minutes out of Palma and though we'd been warned of crass tourism and Irish bars en masse I don't think we were fully prepared for the flocks of English football jerseys and lurid coloured board shorts, never mind the bus loads of OAPs that greeted us. We'd booked this hotel because it was near the beach and being so close to Palma meant we'd be able to get about the island easily. Still, it was a bit depressing:

Thank god for the maps and the guidebooks and a sense of adventure. A sense of adventure that kicked in around lunchtime after epic sleep ins and a sneaky diet coke to grease the wheels... I know, I know, but the thought of going cold turkey was more than I could bear and it's not PC to get into the sangria before 2pm.

After a Sunday spent slothing and swimming, Monday saw us taking to the open road, heading up the north west coastline in search of feted swimming holes and stunning landscape. And we weren't disappointed - by our discoveries or by the epic six CD compilation 'mix tape' we'd made for the journey.

This was our first stop:

It took 12km of nausea-inducing winding roads to get to this little spot but we swam and frolicked and ate gelato before congratulating ourselves for being in the Mediterranean under 30 degree skies and getting to wander along little beaches like this one:

It was really, really tough.

Navigating our way through little villages and olive tree plantations, LB at the steering wheel, me with the map and DJ hat on, we were rather pleased to discover that despite the at-times perilously narrow roads in Mallorca, the island is extremely well-signed and that you can be driving in any direction, on any road and come to an intersection and there will always be a sign to Palma. It made my job getting us home obscenely easy...

Tuesday was a visit to the capital, Palma, where we gawked at the enormity of the port and the deeply beautiful cathedral and wandered through the little alleyways in search of tapas and sangria and a pair of earrings I didn't know I couldn't live without until I spotted them. Palma is really charming and I can see why people refer to it as a mini-Barcelona. It's not quite as hip or eccentric as the mainland city but it is thoroughly charming and the gelato isn't bad either.

Following another epic sleep in, on Wednesdy we took off for the north east coast in search of a stretch of undeveloped beaches we'd read about, the shockingly pot-holed roads holding back the hoardes of coaches. Not a little Hurrah! Stopping along the way in a lovely little village called Arta for some obligatory tourist photos...

...We made our way to Cala Torta, a stunning beach with nothing but a small cafe/shack selling fish and an unfettered horizon of nothing but turquoise ocean. Our excitement though soon turned to prudish horror when we realised the southern end of the beach was something of a naturists playground. Having now seen what naked water ping pong involves (and no, I'm not struggling for an analogy - they really were playing ping pong. Naked. In the water.) well, I think I'll stick to reading as a hobby. It was like watching a car crash - a strange mix of horror and fascination, that people could be so comfortable in their own bodies and wondering what on earth they're going to do with all those photos they were posing for, appendages flapping in the breeze as they lounged on the rocks for all to see.

Eventually getting sick of people freeing their willies we made off for the next cove, Cala Mitjana, where LB's expert rally driving skills in avoiding the crater-sized pot holes led us to this:

And we had it all to ourselves. Hello heaven.

That night, on the recommendation of the lovely girl at reception, we had dinner in a little village called Genova. Totally tiny place but the restaurant was fabulous, with authentic, delicious Spanish cuisine, including, because we had resisted so long, a serving of Iberian ham. We understand the hype now. Oh yes. Oh yum.

Thursday was designated by me to be a sloth day. READ: sleep, read perhaps, sleep some more, drink, snooze, swim if so desire, nap, drink, swim, sleep. In the end I even canned the swimming. LB sat by the pool and read his book (the male equivalent of holiday trash chick lit) while I attempted to catch up on some of the many hours of sacrificed sleep. Short of winning the lottery or waking up to find my sun-seared freckles had evanesced, well, I couldn't have been happier.

It was at about this point though in the week that I started to get a little antsy about returning to London and my as-yet-not-once-thought-of dissertation. Not quite guilt, more mild anxiety and not wanting to wish away our last day, it was terrifying to realise just how quickly the week had flown - and by extension, what that would mean for the next two weeks (read: last two weeks) of school. Concrete boots could not slow down my impending deadline at this rate.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Friday was perhaps the mildest day we'd encountered - a warm 24 and a little overcast (me and my factor 50+ were perversely delighted) and for our last adventure we headed north, to Cap de Formentor, the northernmost point of the island, with dramatic sheer cliff drops and a lighthouse. Passing not quite through, but past, an amazing rain storm...

... we wound our way to the headland to take in the breath-taking views.

Stopping for our final swim at the so-beautiful-the water-was-still-turquoise-when-you-were-standing-in-it Platja de Formentor we then began our journey back to Palma, with a detour through the lovely Pollenca.

A small town with medieval history, the narrow lanes and charming plazas led us to an epic flight of stone steps. LB, ever enthusiastic, assured me the view would be worth it. Me and my shaking legs still aren't sure about that but 412 steps later (824 if you count the descent) it was certainly a moment.

For our last night we determined to find a decent tapas bar, the task having somewhat eluded us until this point. Getting lost and frustrated, and by this time beyond starving, we ended up in Peguera, another depressing little resort town, only this one over-run by Germans. Thankfully though we found a charming little place, on Eucalyptus Street no less, away from the main drag and had ourselves a proper tapas feast. Calamari, spinach and fetta, ham, chicken wings, salads, something else and something else. It was divine. And the red-wine heavy sangria just hit the whole thing out of the ball park. Happy. Campers.

Making our way back to London on Saturday, actively avoiding the stress of our last airport encounter by being there hours early, it was with a strange mix of panic at no longer having LB's company 24-7 and clear-headedness about what needs to be done with my dissertation that I struggled back to Shoreditch with my suitcase and my earrings and my duty free liquor.

Pending a thorough edit, a re-written introduction and a conclusion (phew!) the guts of my dissertation is now done. I have 12,987 words behind me and a visit from my brothers to distract from what will still no doubt be a rush of panic about "What next?!" come 4.45pm on October 30. But one thing at a time...