Saturday 16 December 2017

Learning the lingo in Palma

Palma

City by the bay: Beautiful Palma de Mallorca with its magnificent Gothic cathedral (top, centre)
City by the bay: Beautiful Palma de Mallorca with its magnificent Gothic cathedral (top, centre)
The new, centrally-located Nakar Hotel offers double rooms from €172 a night, including taxes and fees, Wi-Fi and a buffet breakfast. www.nakarhotel.com
Palma city is 'extremely classy'

Eleanor Goggin

One Spanish word in the middle of a sentence was my forte. May I have a vino tinto please? The gambas for me. That sort of thing. Enough to cause any Spanish waiter to want to give me a slap.

I'd always wanted to learn the language but because of my innate laziness had never done anything about it, so when an opportunity came up to partake in intensive Spanish classes in Palma de Mallorca, I jumped at it.

As I get older I get bored with a sun holiday and love to have some other activity to indulge my senses, so combining a city break and Spanish classes was the ideal.

And what a city for a city break. It has everything. Culture, shopping, ambience, a beautiful promenade and it's only a short bus ride to a beautiful beach. (the Number 3 for €1.50 to be precise).

We based ourselves at the newly-opened Nakar Hotel. It's a gem right in the middle of the shopping area. Tony Ramis got the opportunity in 2013 to take over the building that his grandfather had run as a small hotel in the 1960s. It had been converted to offices for some 30 years and Tony is now very proud that it has been brought back to its original use and has even kept its original name.

The technology is amazing. All the lights are sensored so there's no running around like a lunatic in the middle of the night looking for switches and crashing into walls. The loo light comes on when you are near it. The safety deposit box has a power point so you can lock your laptop safely away while you are charging it. They've thought of everything.

The rooftop boasts a bar and pool with sun loungers and amazing views, and the terrace restaurant on the eighth floor is second to none.

Run by renowned Mallorcan chef Miquel Calent, it's simply called Cuit and the emphasis is on organic cuisine that gives life to old traditional recipes of the island.

Our meal started with potatoes 'poor man' with egg yolks and black truffles, followed by pork cheek cooked with sweet wine, apple and cinnamon air. And as if that wasn't enough a dessert of chocolate cream - his sponge cake, his creamy one, his ice cream, his meringue... all absolutely divine.

But back to the Spanish classes. They take place in the mornings at International House, so you have the rest of the day to explore or sunbathe or go for a long lunch or whatever takes your fancy.

Because I only had the two words I was put into 'babies'. Eight of us altogether.

All ages and from all corners of the globe. The Polish guy with a Mallorcan girlfriend, the German who hopes to set up a business on the island, the Finnish girl who is travelling around and the Australian couple who were globe-trotting.

And then there was Rosi, our teacher. For about an hour on day one we were all nervous and afraid to speak but she made us interact and we had the best craic ever.

She had us running around with fly swatters, slapping the items relating to the Spanish words she was calling out.

When you got something right you got a rousing laudation from Rosi and because I don't get much praise any more, I found myself endeavouring to be the goody two shoes of the class.

We all had to ask each other questions and throw a soft ball to the person you wanted to answer.

I did try to keep my eyes down and keep my hands by my side when I didn't know the answer. But we had great fun and I really feel I could now have a brief conversation with a Spanish person. Whether they would understand one word, I don't know.

The city itself is extremely classy. Classy shops, classy bars, classy restaurants. Just classy.

The cathedral is an outstanding Gothic structure and towers over the harbour.

Building commenced in the 14th century and took some 300 years to complete. The interior was modernised by Antoni Gaudi in the early 20th century. A canopy with lights and a multi-coloured crucifix are suspended over the main altar.

A stroll through the narrow streets, passing by the 800-year-old olive tree, the huge old wooden doors and courtyards and into the porticoed Placa Major, with its restaurants and street artists is a wonderful way to spend a few hours.

Around every corner, there's another wonderful building or another little street that you feel obliged to venture down.

The museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is well worth a trip and 'Es Baluard', the restaurant on the terrace there, is fabulous

The food in Palma is sublime and the choice vast.

Marc Fosh runs his Michelin-starred restaurant, called Simply Fosh, in the former Convent de la Missio. A quietly spoken, unassuming Brit, who grew up in Kent, moved to San Sebastian in the north of Spain many years ago and then moved to Mallorca, he doesn't use any cream or butter in his cooking.

He says he has the best olive oil and salt on the island and that's more than enough to cook with.

To say we indulged in a gastronomic delight would be the understatement of the year. From chilled yellow gazpacho, with lemon verbena, red prawns, smoked cucumbers and marinated sardines, to Acquerello rice with lobsters, coconut and sea fennel, it was simple and divine.

For a city break, with the option of a trip to the nearby beach or a visit to one of the many resorts a short drive away, Palma is the way to go.

Too many people, including myself in the past, go to resorts and never really see the beautiful city on their doorstep.

Throw in a week of learning Spanish and you've had it all.

Yo quiero volver (I want to go back).

See I'm fluent!!

Getting  there

The new, centrally-located Nakar Hotel offers double rooms from €172 a night, including taxes and fees, Wi-Fi and a buffet breakfast. www.nakarhotel.com/

International House Palma offers Spanish courses at various levels from €210 per week. www.ihes.com/pal/

Direct flights are available from Dublin and Cork to Palma de Mallorca with Aer Lingus (from April onwards) www.aerlingus.com

For more information on Palma visit www.visitpalma.es/en

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