Until last year the children didn’t have passports. In fact, we have been away from home so seldom that they actually thought a holiday was three nights max.
Emerging from the white hot years of starting our businesses we took Winter Solstice to discuss where our priorities lay for the coming year. Top of our list as a family was travel and togetherness. So after many hours of scouring flights, destinations and dates I found five return flights to Mallorca over Easter for a shade over £200.
We waited until the last day of our Solstice celebrations to break the news to them. Lighting up the darkest days with dreams of distant shores ended 2015 on a high.
Fast forward to March and the excitement was electrical. The children were telling everyone who would listen about our plans (and Monty was filling them in on the great flight prices – that boy loves to talk money!).
We took the advice of our friend Christian (whose Drive Majorca posts totally influenced our choices) and decided to stay in Port de Pollença. Port de Pollença is located on the North of the island in a sheltered bay. Our Airbnb apartment was a couple of minutes walk from the beach and boasted a private pool. Despite the pool being breathtakingly cold in March the children were not deterred. I’d idle on the lounger with my podcasts while they plunged about then warmed themselves like salamanders in the spring sunshine.
Mallorca is small enough to drive across in under an hour on the motorway making Palma an easy day trip from Port de Pollença. We decided to save Palma for a future trip and instead concentrated on trips around the North West of the island.
On the main roads the going is easy but head off into the mountains and you find winding routes which were filled with cyclists when we visited. Your best chance of getting through the mountains with as few cyclists as possible is to set out early in the day before they have made too much distance. That said, we didn’t find them to be a huge hinderance to our progress.
From Port de Pollença we took the road to Port de Sa Calobra which is a stunning journey across the mountains. Google estimated 45 minutes for us to drive it but a couple of hours was more realistic with cyclists and cliff-edge slow speeds. I loved seeing the countryside change as we ascended and crossed the mountains, driving hairpin bends and through narrow breaks in the cliffs.
At Port de Sa Calobra we headed to the shore and took a table for lunch in the cafe closest to the water’s edge. The children scrambled across rocks and ran in and out of the chilly water as we let the roar of the waves fill our heads.
Given the touristy nature of this spot and the self service buffet-style restaurants we passed on our way down I wasn’t expecting much from the little cafe we ate lunch at. I ordered the calamar a la plancha and was rewarded with one of the best meals of our trip. The squid was cooked to perfection with a hint of smoke and topped with the most delicious garlic and parsley. Absolutely perfect balance of flavours and sublime despite all expectations.
Port de Sa Calobra is a stunning spot to explore the rugged coast and turquoise sea of Mallorca. The weather was not on our side for swimming being one of those cold March days which demands a jumper alongside your sunglasses.
Our little bay Badia de Pollença was the perfect spot for paddling when the temperatures rose. The beach stretches around the bay and is relatively sheltered from the wind by the mountains to the North. It’s easy to see why this is recommended to families so highly as the beaches deliver clear lapping waves, all the sandcastles you could want and several docks to fish and jump from.
On the opposite side of the bay is Alcúdia, a stunning old town with extensive pedestrian-only streets. The town is steeped in history having been continuously occupied since the Bronze Age. Roman remains sit alongside the architecture so reminiscent of Mallorca in narrow streets filled with the sound of chatter, church bells and no cars – bliss.
On our first visit, we wandered the streets until the sun began to sink behind the ancient walls and took a table on Plaça de la Constitució at Sa Plaça. As we were visiting before the main tourist season kicked off the restaurants were all quiet; we watched local life unfold as we sipped our drinks and the children explored the streets around us.
As I cook Paella frequently at home the children were desperate to try their first Spanish experience – I know we’re far from Andalucia but who am I to disappoint? We were served a single large paella packed with crab, shellfish and delicious saffron rice. One of the things I love about being in Spain is how welcome children are, the waiters heaped attention on them and they responded with glee. When you dream of holidays with the children it’s moments like this which really make me want to travel more often – settled around a table eating delicious food and chatting about our plans.
As we were visiting over Easter the festivals were in full swing across the island. We didn’t make it out to any of them as they were a little late (and we’re not Christians) but caught glimpses of statues being prepared and costumes readied.
Since travelling Europe with an interrail ticket half a lifetime ago the lure of train journeys has always been strong for me. Mallorca may be small but it holds a couple of train journeys worth taking. We opted for the quaint journey from Palma to Soller, through the mountains on a vintage train. If you’re a fan of train journeys Michael Portillo did a nice programme on Barcelona to Mallorca in his Great Train Journeys series.
In an attempt to keep it economical I took the children on the train with a single fare and Mr Kat drove separately. Journey time was similar with Mr Kat waving us off in Palma and meeting us off the train in Soller. The train rolled gently through farmland and across the mountains with the breeze from the windows cooling our faces as we made our way over the mountains. We stopped for five minutes over Soller to take in the views and allow the train returning to Palmer to pass.
In Soller we hopped on the wooden tram to head to the port. The trams were packed and we stood on the back of the carriage like sardines alongside our fellow passengers. It’s a fun ride down to the port, passing through the packed square and along the backstreets. The old wooden tram has a certain charm but I think if we went again I’d bring the car down to the port as the fare is pricey and you rely on muscling your way on to a tram to return – we missed at least one due to overcrowding.
The port was buzzing with life, we had tapas on the dockside while the children peered into the harbour waters spotting the fish. As clouds melted from the sky and we played on the beach all afternoon stopping only to cross the road to an ice cream shop.
You could spend your entire trip to Mallorca nestled between the mountains and the sea. The apartment buildings over-looking the bay seem to come at a higher price to other locations based on my Airbnb research.
One thing I loved about being on Mallorca is that my school girl pidgin Spanish got me by. Everywhere we went I spoke broken Spanish and not only was understood but kept up with the conversation in return. I’m not sure I’ve ever been this successful in Andalucia but maybe as the language of Mallorca is Mallorquin more closely related to Catalan we were on more equal footing. Despite the reasons the children thought I was magical and we can only really claim that a few times as parents!
For us the mix of apartment, local beach and road trip worked really well. The children had downtime as we travelled and were able to stretch bedtime later than normal. Despite having good wifi and 4G we managed to leave our work until after they were in bed and sink into the moment.
I wanted to share the children’s first flight (which we nearly missed!) and our road trip with you so here are our highlights of road tripping Mallorca.
The clear air, rugged coast, old towns and perfect turquoise shore of Mallorca have won our hearts and we will definitely be returning to explore other parts of the island and to give Palma more than a passing glance. Have you been to Mallorca? I’d love to hear your favourite places to visit and eat.
We flew Easyjet booking directly in December during their birthday sale for March.
I booked accommodation through Airbnb (my go-to for places to stay, sign up using my link and get money off your first booking).
We hired our car from Hertz. Prices for car seat hire from Hertz are astronomical but Easyjet allow you to bring extra hold luggage for children at no extra charge so we brought boosters from home. Full marks to Hertz for providing mini white boards for the children to draw on as we drove and for having such lovely staff in Palma.
Here is my Mallorca Pinterest board with our trip inspirations: