There is a taxi rank conveniently situated just outside the El Aranal marina. Usually there is a single taxi waiting there, sometimes two, so heading out for a day in nearby Palma was easy. The journey is along fast dual carriageways, lined with bushes of pink oleanders. There are picturesque ruins of windmills, used in the past to bring water up from the rock underground and before very long the outskirts of Mallorca’s capital. We asked to be dropped off at the Cathedral. There was already a queue for entry. We sat and had breakfast in a café overlooking it. By the time we had finished the line had gone, but we decided to start with the Palace anyway.
First we wandered round the gardens. A shaded green lake in what once was part of the moat, with soaring stone arches and a family of swans, the usual hedges and fountains, but interspersed with street sellers and caricature artists. One chap was doing a marvelous job on a not so young couple, a bearded man cuddling a curly haired blonde, both smiling manically. Lara and I decided the artist was working from excellent caricature material. After that we paid for entry into the Palace. It must still be used by the Spanish Royal Family, because the high tech security scanner was way overboard for the collection of sea chests and tapestries on show in the suite of rooms we had access to. There were some first- rate house plants acting as threads through a set of interconnected rooms, originally one large hall, with big wooden pieces of furniture, portraits of the dead kings and an odd looking ancient crown in a glass case. Perhaps the crown was the reason for the scanner; it had a serpent or swan rising from the front and was rather Viking in appearance. It featured in a number of the oil paintings depicting the surrender of the Moors to the first King James, on whose head it was shown. Eventually we emerged onto a parapet. This had some interesting beds of giant cactus and sweeping panoramic views of the bay. Back inside we carried on up and came into what had once been the top of the great hall below, but had been converted into a second storey by laying a floor, rather like an unsympathetic barn conversion, the original sweeping arched roof of the great hall been made into a truncated ceiling to the upstairs rooms. From here we headed back to the central courtyard down a sweeping stone staircase flanked with gigantic pots full of sprouting spider plants. In the courtyard men were at work dismantling a stage and seating from what looked to have been a concert or play. We had a look round the integral chapel and then made our way out.
Lara favoured having a look round the Moorish quarter rather than a tour of the Cathedral, so we armed ourselves with ice creams and set off into the warren of streets.
Every so often we had to squeeze round a horse and cart, trying to drum up trade for a carriage ride through the streets. When these opened up there were a number of Belle Époque town houses flanking the larger squares, with old plane trees providing shade. The narrow streets of shops led off between the squares and down one we found The English Bookshop. Its’ proprietor was stood in the doorway taking the air, as well he might as inside the smell of old paper and damp was overwhelming. He had to shuffle to one side to let us enter, the place was so crammed with bookshelves, piles of books on the floor, on chairs, on every available surface, interspersed with framed pictures, dusty bottles of wine and piles of old newspapers. He urged us to carry on in as the shop ranged over three stories. It was hard to work out which one we were on; there were random short flights of stairs, all stacked with books and an obstacle course of wooden steps ladders and odd objects. The books were arranged into genres in which authors were listed alphabetically, but it was hard to realize the order. I found a bookshelf of old penguin classics and looked for an early copy of Women in Love for my friend Jan, but DH Lawrence was in short supply. Lara disappeared into the cellar, where I found her looking through old Bournemouth newspapers and copies of the Daily Mail, showing the funeral cortege of King George IV. There was a room full of tin soldiers, lined up in battalions in glass display cases. These were not for sale. It was actually very hard to decide whether some things were for sale or not and the vendor complained bitterly to John that people thought it was a museum to look round. It did have a rather Hogwarts feel.
I worried I could lose Lara forever if I did not keep track of her. John could not take the claustrophobic atmosphere any longer and escaped into the street, so I am afraid that, as he had all the money, we looked round and came out without buying anything either. It was good to be back outside and we sat under the trees in one of the squares to have lunch; salads for John and myself, meatballs and chips for Lara. Then we wandered down to the harbour to peruse the boats and check out the marina. Naturally.
That evening we had a special meal with cava, in Sirens, the restaurant of the old people, as it was Lara’s last evening. Her time with us this year seems to have flown so quickly. Too quickly, but we hope to come back out for her birthday in September.