Friday, 8 July 2011

A Blogger in Paradise – Majorca Part 4

The main thing for me about this holiday was that it was in a villa not a hotel. I have done it on short stays twice but never a fortnight and I wondered whether the novelty would wear off… and it did. Yes, the novelty of it went but got replaced with far better feelings of relaxation and peaceful familiarity than I have ever felt in a hotel where I usually start climbing the walls by day ten.

To understand why I am now a villa convert one needs to know why me, and possibly others often feel let down when staying in hotels. To me the best word to explain my disappointment is freedom, or lack of it. In a hotel I feel too regulated. You end up eating what they want, when they want at a frequently unacceptable and unjustifiable price. Once you are there you operate under their rules alongside their guests using their dress code.

You cannot really get up when you want, have a light snack of your own choosing and pick your own environment to spend the day. For example you could go to the pool and not find a quiet, comfortable, shaded spot. The pool menu will serve portions big enough (and costly enough) for three. So you go back to the room and find housekeeping there. Some people even smuggle out food from breakfast purely because it gives them the kind of things they want to eat at lunch.

Later you decide to have a relaxed meal but can your wife really go down without washing, drying and straightening her hair? And what about the other guests who seem to think the whole thing is a fashion contest. Can you really face another full set meal of something you would never bother with at home? Can you do this at breakfast, lunch and dinner for 14 days and nights? We all seem to but I reckon the first hotel to come up with the alternatives people want will make a killing.

Right, that’s now off my chest. After all those years of holidays where I thought that if I ate another lunchtime shared club sandwich I would kill myself or the waiter…or both. I found a well planned villa holiday can save me this grief albeit at a cost. The cost? Well you better be sure it is the right villa for you or you have had it for the duration.

You have to buy your own food but the consolation is that you can eat what you want, when you want it and in the right portions. OK, you have to pay for the staples like pepper, salt, oils etc but it is all far cheaper than hotel dining and you can stock up on drinks, crisps, and nibbles etc at a fraction of the price. When you don’t want to cook? Well you go out!

Villa concerns for me were mostly not problematic. You have to have a car. You need to seriously consider security especially in some places. You need good easy means of contact with the owner or their agent in case of problems and you have to take location and the proximity of neighbours into account. I cannot imagine what it would be like to move into a place with screamers and loud music lovers over the fence. We did our research and we were fine…thankfully!

OK, there can be some niggles. For example there is a growing habit in Majorca of owners putting the air conditioning on a timer so you can only use it at night. They conveniently assume that everyone will either keep the doors and windows open all day or go out. So the sales pitch says air conditioning when it should say ‘part’ air conditioning. I think if you are paying for aircon you should get aircon when YOU want it rather than reduce the owner’s electricity bill. Others may be more eco minded than me. I found a little visit to the fuse box controlled solved my problem!

So, the headquarters of my Majorcan ‘paradise’ was the Villa Son Rotger in the hills 5kms from Pollensa. Our days panned out like this: Get up at around 9.30 a.m. , open the shutters and pad downstairs to pick up cereal, fresh fruit and tea and bring up to the balcony overlooking the sea. Then agonise over whether to have yet another fry up or salad. Then morning swim, sunbathe and read Kindle under the sun umbrella. Lunch is large or little depending on the fry-up decision. Afternoon? Repeat morning or possibly tour the area.

The evenings were great, particularly as they were warm and starry. A barbecue? A swim? An evening in front of the T.V watching UK programmes? Mostly we went out. The only unwelcome nocturnal noise was the neighbour’s dog who partook in bouts of barking. We solved this by bribing him with cat treats we had brought in from the UK in case there were local moggies!

As I said earlier there were not many neighbours. We had orchards and a farmhouse on one side. We always smiled and waived at the owners as they picked fruit from trees next to our driveway. I am not sure what they thought of us after we got caught ‘sampling’ their plums. It was made worse when I strode naked onto our balcony doing a mighty stretch only to lock eyes with grandma sitting on her tractor holding plums in her hands. She just looked, shrugged, muttered and drove away. Ah well.

So the end of the holiday came and unfortunately we had to vacate the villa by 10 a.m. which is pretty normal but a pain when your flight leaves in the evening. I had booked a day room at the Hilton near Palma airport. It is a lovely hotel but we ended up being reminded why we had chosen a villa. I simply could not have imagined staying there a fortnight.

The hotel was great, its staff were mainly great, but its guests were not. The pool was crowded, noisy and full of people tucking in tummies, running fingers through hair and indulging badly behaved kids. They had the usual snack menu that was only available through certain times and starred ‘club sandwich’. Yuk! The room was a snip at £160 (excluding food/drink) for six hours!

Finally we got to the airport. The car return was very efficient and we went to check in only to be asked for the £100 excess baggage for the extra case. I told them I was not charged on the way out so they said I had to pay them now for both! To be fair the check in was manned by Iberia Airlines staff and they called in the Thomson representative who agreed to ‘let us off this time’. A reason she gave was I had been polite when most people yell at her. Worth remembering as airline staff are the last people you should yell at, especially when they have you by the ba**s.

The flight this time was on a modern Thomson aircraft which was clean, comfortable and on time. The crew were courteous and by then I was used to paying for everything on board. The family we saw on the way out were just in front again and clearly. Dad, with the tattoos, looked like he was missing his ‘Forever Karen’ and mum and daughter looked like they wished he had stayed with her. ‘Did you have a nice time’ I asked the girl. Daddy says I can’t talk to you’ she replied morosely.

So there you have it. The villa life was paradise to us. Thomson was far better than expected and Majorca was everything we wanted it to be. And spoilt little me? I learned that first class travel and 5 star hotels is not necessary for holiday ‘paradise’
I hope you have been both informed and entertained by this 4 part report

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