I’m sorry Seattle… I’m really tired of long winters, gray skies, and the rain that’s coming soon. When we left Saigon four years ago I put together the Surviving Seattle blog in an effort to cope with it, but in my heart of hearts I’ve always been a blue sky, warm water, palm trees kind of guy and this month I’m falling in love with Palma de Mallorca.
I don’t want to oversell it. We just spent a month in Berlin, and I’m easily seduced. It’s not really apfels and oranges to compare Seattle and Berlin to Palma. They’re both northern temperate climates and though our Berlin weather was seasonably good outside dining wasn’t really in the cards. On the other hand, stepping off the airplane in Palma on Thursday – the day a storm nearly blew Berlin away – the early evening sky was dark blue, and it felt like Santa Monica. Indeed, parts of the taxi ride from the airport into Palma looked like Marina del Rey. I immediately thought of tapas and wine at an outside table. Sidewalk cafes were tugging at me. I’ll own it; Southern California has always felt like my natural habitat. Berlin was a treat, Seattle is exciting, but I could live in Palma.
The taxi took us to our Airbnb apartment in the Santa Catalina neighborhood near the marina. The owner, Roman, is an architect and the studio is well designed and exactly as described on Airbnb.
The neighborhood is hip and chock full of restaurants, tapas spots, bars and small cafes. Right next door is a breakfast bar with espresso drinks, organic fruit, homemade yoghurt, and a Southern California ambience. For the past two mornings we’ve been the oldest people there by 40 years.
So, what is it about Palma that “feels” so right? I think it’s the Mediterranean and the mindset that goes with it. The weather is warm, and the people are relaxed and informal. If you’re not worried about being blown away, washed away, or buried in sand or snow you can relax, take time in the afternoon for a siesta, eat dinner at 10, drink wine until midnight, and sleep soundly. You don’t need a down parka and wool hat; T-shirts, shorts and flip flops do the job unless you’re working and then you might wear a suit but no Thom Browne metrosexual suits that make you look like you raided your child’s closet. Spanish businessmen wear suits that are comfortable and their jackets come off when it’s hot.
One of the unexpected benefits of our Mallorcan visit was discovering there was a Masters tennis event in town – the Legends Cup – with some old familiar names like Mats Wilander, Carlos Moya (below), Alex Corretja, Tim Henman and Henri Leconte in the draw. The venue, the Palma Tennis and Sports Club, is just around the corner from our Airbnb apartment so we bought tickets and went twice over its four-day run.
It was fun; the tennis was not all that serious, some good, some clowning around, but the best thing was not about tennis but meeting a local couple, Nicolas and Gisela Ostrovsky-Periera. We happened to share a table in the food area and got to talking. Nicolas is the General Manager of a very special Hilton hotel and resort, called Sa Torre, and she consults for another hotel chain. Interesting people. His father is Russian, his mother Swedish, and he was born in Paris. She is from Chile and they met in Sweden. Global citizens. We like them.
We had an animated conversation with the Ostrovskys, and Nicolas invited us to visit the hotel property, whose main building is a 14th century manor house. It sounds like an offer we shouldn’t refuse. If that wasn’t generous enough, today we got an email from Gisela asking us to come over to their apartment for an informal traditional Mallorquin dinner of “pamboli,” – bread with olive oil, Iberian ham, cheese and tomatoes. We were blown away by the invitation. We are just home now and don’t know which was better the food or the hospitality. We were joined by their son, Andreas, a younger version of themselves – born in Sweden, raised in Mallorca, school in London, and now working in Tanzania. This kind of experience, like the one we had in Berlin with Antje and Bernd is a reminder of how important it is to reach out to newcomers. We’re just two older Americans who are interested in the people and places we travel and that quality about us seems to be apparent to others and respected accordingly.
There is nothing like travel to make the world seem smaller and more manageable. Our experience in Berlin was similar. We were embraced by old friends and welcomed by new ones.
We are somewhat separated from the political messes of the world but even so we’re just a short boat ride away from Barcelona where Catalonia is coming undone over its independence referendum, and our daily newsfeeds remind us that Donald Trump is bloviating and threatening nuclear war at home while refugees continue to flee the Middle East and North Africa. The world is no safer than when we left home though we have geographically and psychologically separated ourselves from the chaos.
I continue to look for the silver lining and find it in the friends we’re making, the extraordinary places we’re visiting, and the mix of cultures we encounter in our travels. Like our “Restore Our Faith in America Tour” of Washington DC and the presidential homes in Virginia last fall, we might call this the “Restore Our Faith in the Global Community Tour” of 2017 – always searching for positivity and perspective.
We’re going back to Seattle and I know we will love being in our nest, but I always feel refreshed and renewed after time in the sun, whether it’s Santa Monica or Palma. At a minimum it will help us cope with the ongoing political nightmare at home.