Palma Diary, Jan 2017 – An Englishman abroad
Day 2 – Sunday
I am gutted. I walk around the corner to check out the menu at my favourite restaurant – Gaudeix – to find they are closed until the 1st March. That’s the problem; it’s lovely and quiet this time of year with comparatively few tourists, but for that very reason, a lot of places choose this time to take a break.
So, a leisurely walk to San Juan Gastronomic Market. It’s quite a distance, but it’s not a bad day and I stop for a coffee and ensaimada at Forn del Santo Cristo. They do home-made pastries and the most fabulous bread – pa moreno. I really want to buy some, but there’s no practical reason.
At San Juan, I start with Gulas al Ajillo con Huevo Codorni (a bread roll with baby eels and quail’s egg) and then have Camarones Fritas (whole tiny shrimp deep-fried in a light batter).
After a short breather and a cold beer, I have Croquetas de Bacalao con Salsa de Chile Chipotle (salt cod croquettes with chipotle chilli sauce, beautifully presented) and Huevos Rotos con Pimientos de Padrón (potatoes with fried eggs and green peppers).
I’ve read reviews that say it’s overpriced food for tourists and that the quality has gone downhill since it opened a couple of years ago. I have to disagree. Last time I visited, I was the only foreigner there and this time I’ve heard one English voice amongst the many locals. It’s a long way from the tourist route and it’s not really advertised, so you have to know it’s there. The prices are actually very reasonable and I can’t fault the quality.
A leisurely stroll back – it’s quite sunny now and, whilst it’s not warm, it’s pleasant. I decide to take a siesta, but I’m rudely awakened by the neighbour who, whilst shouting down the ‘phone, appears to be rearranging the furniture. I know for a fact, because I’ve stayed in that room, that there is not much scope nor reason for practising one’s interior design skills, but she is giving it a good shot. The thing about the Spanish is that they actually like making noise and are completely impervious to it.
Talking of noise, as I leave the hostal I can hear fireworks. I remember a stage being set up on the Born as I passed earlier, so I head in that direction. Sure enough, it turns out to be the Festival of Sant Sebastià, the patron saint of Palma. This is normally held on the 20th January, but has been delayed due to the appalling weather. There are numerous activities spread over three days, but the culmination, which I’m now lucky enough to witness is the Correfoc or fire-run. Accompanied by constant drumming from the stage, “demons” run amok throwing firecrackers and brandishing enormous sparklers, whilst others swing from scaffolding. A crocodile and dragon are wheeled out, covered in flaming torches. People are dancing everywhere amidst the fire, smoke and deafening noise and the almost primaeval atmosphere is amazing.
I walk around the festivities and along Las Ramblas to Passeig de Mallorca, pausing momentarily for a passing parade of drummers, in search of Ginbo. It’s a specialist gin bar which I’d heard about and meant to visit on my last trip. It’s down the far end and when I reach it, it doesn’t disappoint. – they have about sixty gins. I sit at the bar and eventually settle on a saffron gin with Fever Tree tonic, which is excellent – mind you, for €12 it should be! The waiter is a real cocktail expert, theatrically tossing items in the air and around his back and catching them perfectly. I return to the hostal, stopping off at the minimarket for a chilled can of Cruz Campo, to find the woman next door coughing loudly – she can’t help that, I suppose. But wait – now she’s singing! OMG, when will it end? When she starts shouting down the ‘phone, of course.