When it comes to getaways in the run-up to Christmas, I tend to be a creature of habit – one that seeks out cosiness in snowy climes. Usually in December I get swept up in the chilly anticipation of sampling spiced and spiked delicacies at a chalet market in Bremen while tittering at curious ornaments depicting Angela Merkel and mooning figurines, shooting a mysterious local cure-all liqueur poured from a lamp in the city’s oldest pub, and delighting at the delirious nativity show which has guest-starred He-Man, monks and pirates over the years.
But, feeling the melancholy of mild SAD and the need to change things up I decided to head further south to swap mittens and eierpunsch for t-shirts and glasses of rich red Mourvèdre in the Balearics. Mallorca in December has the feel of a seasonal cheat code. Days can still reach balmy highs of 16 degrees as northerly Europe turns up the heating and, while layered-up locals might regard you curiously, donning flip-flops, bikinis and sundresses isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. And, those experts in festive follies, the Germans, are avid visitors throughout the year, so there’s still fa la la la las to be had in the sunshine.
If, like me, you hail from London, there’s a curious cognitive dissonance in spending December somewhere like perennially cosmopolitan Palma, where the locals exude a sexy Continental indifference to their blessed beachy lifestyle. In the space of 24 hours we splashed about in Hotel Cappucino’s rooftop pool, promenaded down beachfront Carretera de s’Arenal sunkissed as we watched locals rollerblade by or walk petite dogs in prams, and sat on the cobbles of Plaça de Cort spying faces in the gnarled ancient olive tree as we picked at gambas and gyoza, before heading to Plaça Major’s Christmas market for churros and a visit from a lightly perspiring Santa.
Like the well-heeled locals, the city dresses for the occasion too: the arching trees that overhang Passeig del Born become a magical fairy-lit gauntlet, stars overhang fountains and palm trees sway alongside twinkling cones that stand in for pines. Mallorcans might put the heaviest of their Christmas celebrations in early January when the theatrical parade of the Three Kings rolls into town, but that frisson of calendar-door-opening countdown is still felt. But, even if you’re feeling a bit Grinchy, Palma’s open-all-year attitude means the Cathedral, museums, galleries, choice hotels (Can Bordoy and Sant Francesc are also stylishly seasonless) and major sites stay open and gastronomy remains resolutely excellent; the laundry list of fruits and vegetables still in season ensures the Mercat de l’Olivar‘s stalls stay laden. And bodegas throughout the island will keep you lightly toasted – bon nadal indeed.
We understand the Covid situation in Spain restricts all but essential travel at the moment. Our aim for this mini-series is instead to provide inspiration for hopefully safer travel seasons