A few weeks ago, my friend Sam sent me an email with advice for students studying abroad. The email reminded me to “never be unimpressed” with my surroundings, to “always be delighted with the wonders of the world”, to “find magic in every place and person”, to “stay naive”, and to “always see the world as an opportunity and a challenge.”
This weekend, I travelled to Palma de Mallorca, a small island off the coast of Spain, with my Vanderbilt friends Allie, Erica, and Margaux. At dinner one night, we brought up Sam’s email and thought about how we’re already feeling ourselves becoming too accustomed to this exhilarating, adventurous lifestyle. We aren’t as sad to leave a weekend vacation because we know there’s another one coming soon. This is a crazy concept for me because up until last year, I had barely left the United States. It’s crazy how quickly I’ve been able to fall into another routine that involves weekly flights and stunning marvels that I used to dream about.
With Sam’s email in mind, we attempted to make a concerted effort to stop and think about the wonder of our surroundings throughout our trip. We talked about the importance of realizing how unbelievably lucky we are to have the opportunity to experience difference places in the world – even for just a weekend. We didn’t take many pictures of ourselves in Mallorca during the first two days, so on our final day we tried to photograph everything (with the help of a selfie stick) because there’s no telling when or if we’ll ever be back to that magical island.
Our weekend in Mallorca was the perfect escape from the bustling European city life that we have been living in for over a month. We were able to slow down and simply appreciate the simple luxuries of calmly strolling through the winding streets, relaxing on the beach, and enjoying long meals. It was nice to be in the small city of Palma (the capital of Palma de Mallorca) where we didn’t have to rely on Google Maps to get us home because we knew we’d find our way eventually.
We arrived in Mallorca on Friday morning (our second of three crack-of-dawn Friday flights in a row) and immediately checked into our quaint Airbnb. After settling in, we headed to the first of our countless amazing meals in Mallorca. Our brunch at La Molienda included whole grain toast with fresh hummus, scrambled eggs with spinach and tomatoes, and what the café claims to be the best coffee in Mallorca. It was by far the best breakfast I have had in Europe, and the coffee definitely didn’t disappoint. (However, it wasn’t quite as good as my usual “café con leche”at Santagloria in Barcelona every morning. In fact, today, we walked into the café and before we could even order, our coffees were already ready to go. We are officially locals!)
Anyway, back to Mallorca. We spent our first day at the beach, but first we endured another dramatic travel saga. In order to get to the beaches in Palma de Mallorca, it’s necessary to leave the city of Palma. Therefore, we caught the bus that would take us to Palma beach. Unfortunately, we missed our stop and found ourselves at the Palma airport at the exact moment that a thunderstorm began. I’m sure the travelers got some enjoyment out of watching four clearly perplexed Americans standing in beach cover-ups in the pouring rain looking for a bus home. Luckily, we found a bus to the beach and arrived just as the skies were clearing (of course, we were outside for the only ten minutes of the entire day that rain actually fell). We spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach, and then had a delicious late lunch at a restaurant nearby. After only sleeping for three hours the night before, we had a calm evening chatting at a trendy restaurant before getting ice cream cones and heading home for the night.
The next morning, we got up early to go to Illetas beach – one of the best beaches near the city of Palma. After successfully catching the correct bus and getting off on the right stop, we spent the day relaxing on the picturesque coast of Illetas. The beach was small compared to Barceloneta, but it was nonetheless beautiful. Illetas offered a more quaint and peaceful feel than any other places we’ve been to in Spain, most likely due to the fact that it is relatively secluded.
After spending the day at Illetas, we went back to Palma where we showered and got ready for what would be my best meal abroad thus far. Once again, we stumbled upon a fabulous restaurant in Palma for our last night’s dinner. This restaurant, Ritzino Bar, has a Spanish menu, but the restaurant and the staff evoke an Italian flair. Many times, our waiter would start singing opera loud enough for the entire restaurant to applaud him in the end.
Our food was absolutely to die for. We ordered twelve tapas between the four of us, even though our waitress recommended five. My favorites were the tuna and avocado tartare, octopus in tomato sauce, and grilled vegetables with mozzarella. Needless to say, we finished them all (in addition to our bread basket). The food was amazing, but the company was even better. The four of us had so many real conversations over this dinner that were more than just about our classes, our past and future trips, and our plans for the upcoming week. Although I don’t get to see my friends in Barcelona as much as I’d like to, it’s nice to have the weekends together to catch up and actually talk to one another. After dinner, I saw that my phone still had 96% battery. In today’s world, it’s an absolute rarity that I’d go 3 hours without touching my phone. Clearly, we were having a wonderful time.
Our final day in Mallorca was spent visiting the famous La Seu cathedral and walking through the streets. We inhaled in our last breaths of salty air, then headed for the airport for yet another awful delay. In total, we waited 3 hours before our plane finally took off. It’s funny that all three trips I have been on have included delays that were three to six hours long considering I have never waited for a significant delay in my life. Perhaps it’s a sign that I need to slow down, but I guess that’s too late. Next week’s trip is already booked and I’ll be staying in the Mediterranean again. Any guesses? Find out next week where I’m off to next!
Although it may seem as if I am jet-setting across Europe so much that I don’t have time to explore Barcelona, I actually make a concerted effort to experience new things in Barcelona every week. This past week, I took my friends to Tosca, my favorite restaurant in Barcelona that I found when they were all away for the weekend. Later in the week, we picked up picnic snacks and went to the Bunkers of Carmel to watch the sunset (the same place I took Knut when he visited). I have now been to the bunkers twice, and I’m twice as sure that it is my favorite spot in the city. My friends completely agreed.
Finally, yesterday, my American roommates (Allie and Eliza) and I went out for brunch in between our morning classes. Brunch & Cake had been recommended to me by just about every person I know who studied in the city, and I must say it is the best brunch I have ever had. The culture of brunching is especially strong at Vanderbilt, and I was definitely missing it. I ordered an oat pancake with muesli and fruit, and it was so big that I took a to-go box and ate it again for breakfast today after my usual Wednesday morning run.
Speaking of running, I recently discovered (thanks to Allie) that at the end of Avenida Diagonal there is a beautiful park with an exquisite view of the city. Although it can be tough to run to the top of the hill, it is completely worth it every time. I’ve run up to the top multiple times, but I’m never less impressed by the beauty of the city in front of me. Let’s hope it stays like that!