I have tried to catch up on my diary and the blog but it's just been too difficult! Not enough time!
So Wales was great, it was really nice to see where mum spent her childhood. I have spent a lot of time imagining my parents in their childhood habitats on this holiday.
We went to the Lobster Pot (the only restaurant in Church Bay) for dinner and encountered some rather intoxicated men (with their wives) who decided that mum was their girlfriend and kept going on about oysters. It was quite unusual!
We thought we might go and stalk Kate and Wills one day so we headed to their local pub and had a wander along the beach - no sign of them unfortunately :(
We drove over what the locals called 'a really bad road, once you drive that road you can drive anywhere!' through Snowdonia national park on the way to Anglesey and were thoroughly disappointed because the road was pretty much straight and flat. And very short. We decided that we must have taken the wrong road do on our way back we went through Llanberis in the hopes of finding this mysterious road. No such luck. It was the same. The views on both roads were beautiful though so it was not a wasted effort.
On our way back we also decided that the Welsh and tourists who decide to come to Wales must be avid hikers because at the peak of our drive over Snowden there were little groups of people scaling the mountain - emerging from behind rocks, trekking through fields. It was quite funny. Like ants climbing an ant hill.
When we got to a little town on the other side we stopped in at a pub for some lunch. The news was on and it turns out that all those people on Snowden were actually climbing to the peak to light the Paralympic flame! How exciting!
We made it to Liverpool where we were catching our plane to Mallorca. We successfully dropped off the car and checked in. This was our first EasyJet experience and it was memorable to say the least. There is no allocated seating (something I have never experienced on a plane before) but if you pay an extra £30 you get a 'speedy boarding' meaning you can go on the flight before everyone else and choose whichever seats you want. If you don't have a speedy boarding pass then it is just a free-for-all so you have to be at the gate early so you are at the front of the queue. We didn't realize any of this but miraculously we were really early anyway.
At the gate people have formed a semi-orderly queue but there is no sight of a plane at the gate. So we had to wait for the plane to arrive, get everyone else off plus their baggage and then get us on. When the gate opened the speedy boarders (including a bunch of Geordie Shore lookalikes) went on and then the whole crowd behind us just pushed their way to the front. It was mayhem! We had been talking to a nice woman who lives in Mallorca and teaches English. She did this trip fairly regularly and even she looked a bit appalled. Once we got on, we got pretty good seats at the front. Once everyone was on board they started moving people around. The Geordie Shorers were on front of us but they got moved because there were kids in an emergency exit so obviously speedy boarding doesn't pay off!
We finally took off about half an hour late and the whole 2.5 hrs was insane! Kids singing, couples having domestics, people all over the aisles, people dressed in the most horrendous clothes... It was pretty tragic and by this point mum and I were really regretting our decision to go to the island at all!
We arrived at about midnight and it was SO hot. Probably around 30 degrees - the whole of Europe was in a severe heat wave. We managed to get a taxi to a cheapie hotel we had booked and just collapsed in to bed with life-saving air con.
In the morning we had to get back to the airport to pick up our rental car and battle driving on the wrong side of the road. My Spanish is really bad now but we managed and we got on our way. We were just heading into central Palma to start with and then going to Arta where we would stay for the rest of the 4 days. Mum drove to the city and we parked in a huge parking building with very few issues. Incredible!
We walked around the main area of Palma and had a coffee and pastry before getting adventurous and heading down little alley ways and across town to a place that the nice woman from the flight had recommended for markets. It was all beautiful and not at all what we expected. There didn't seem to be any tourists, it was all just Spanish speakers who looked like locals - maybe it was just too early in the morning.
Over in the markets in Santa Catalina, they had the most amazing vegetables. Huge capsicums and the best selection of fruit I have ever seen! Not to mention cheese and spices as well. So good!
We went to the cathedral which was spectacular and just enormous!
By this time it was sweltering and we thought it best to just start our trip to Arta. I said i'd drive there (what was I thinking!?) and trouble started before we'd even got out of the parking building. Underground Palma is almost unbearable in that heat and the pay station couldn't read our ticket. So we walked for miles to find someone to help us. The guy there just gave us a new ticket and we walked miles back to the car. Having narrowly avoided crashing into parked cars we made it to the barrier arm as people piled up behind us. The new card wouldn't work either but by now there were about 5 cars behind us tooting and getting really frustrated. So I had to get them all to back up so that I could get out and find the man again. So embarrassing. This time he just said, 'Go this way, push the button and go out'. No ticket. So when we got this other machine we just pushed the info button and he let us out. He was grateful to see us leave, I think!
After some minor navigational difficulties and some more tooting from people behind us we found our way on to the Ma-15 heading for Arta via Manacor. We stayed in the slow lane and refused to pass anyone because it was just too nerve wracking. Mallorca really likes it's roundabouts, in fact the whole of Europe does, which is confusing going around to the right. And of course expecting cars to be coming from the right and therefore looking the wrong way. We did sort of get the hang of it by the end of our time there with only one minor wing mirror incident. Thank god we got insurance though!
I had googled our airbnb place to find out directions on how to get there. I was feeling pretty good because I'd memorized it and knew exactly where we were going once we arrived in Arta. I could see on the map that there were a lot of one way streets but I had found a route through them and it was all good. What didn't realize is that the main street is only for pedestrians do stage one of my route fell to pieces. We proceeded to get ourselves completely lost on these TINY one way streets and seemed to be getting deeper and deeper into the heart of the town with no known way of getting back out again. We asked a local where Carrer Major was (in my best Spanish) and they looked blankly at us, 'No se'. Bloody hell. So we resumed our journey of getting lost. Luckily we came across a young woman and tried to ask her. It turned out she was English and knew the person we were staying with! So she gave us directions, we ditched the car and walked the 30m to her house. We were so close but had no way of getting the car there or even knowing how close we were because we'd been driving in circles for so long.
It was so hot that day and arriving at the house was possibly the most joyous occasion of my life! All the shutters were closed to keep the heat out so it was pitch black but a perfect temperature. Antonia, our host, greeted us and showed us our room and around the house. It is the most beautiful place with a swimming pool and a little bamboo covered terrace - perfect for surviving the heat wave!
There were 2 other people staying with her, Ruth and Stephan, a German couple who were lovely as well. This whole experience really changed our mind completely about Mallorca. It is such a wonderful place and we were lucky to have both Antonia and Eva as local guides.
One night Antonia booked mum, Eva, Ruth, Stephan and I at a restaurant in Cala Rajada where she knew the owner and there was a band playing. It was one of the most hilarious nights! The band were called Wunderbrass, a Mallorcan, jazz style group who also thought of themselves as comedians. Eva was the only one who could actually understand what they were saying but they were very physically amusing with their jokes do we all had a wonderful time.
We've just arrived in the most picturesque place in Ghiffa on Lake Maggiore so I feel this post needs to end!
Pictured: not necessarily in order
Cafe in Cala Deia, Mallorca
Eva and I at Antonia's place on our last night.
Fred the cat in Arta - coolest cat around!
Mum and I on our first night in Arta at a restaurant called Mar de Vins - best restaurant by far.
TINY streets in Arta.