I never used to “get” beach vacations. They were fine, I guess, but if given the option I would have much rather gone explore a city than lay on the beach. This all changed after my husband and I went to the Maldives on our honeymoon. Not really a fair point of reference, but ever since then, I’ve LOVED going to the ocean.
So when my husband asked where I wanted to go for my birthday, I immediately said, “To the beach.” I didn’t much care which beach we went to, as long as it would be (substantially) warmer than Oslo. That didn’t really narrow my choices down, though, so I started looking for places in Europe where it would be over 20 degrees Celsius in October. After a little research, I decided on Mallorca.
To be honest, I didn’t know much about Mallorca when I booked the trip. (Indeed, I didn’t even realize that it was part of Catalonia until we arrived at the airport and the signs were written in a variant of Catalan instead of Spanish. Oops.) But we had SPG point to use and there was a St. Regis with a Michelin-starred restaurant on the island, so my decision was pretty easy.
Day 1 – Travel and Arrival at the St. Regis Mardavall
One of the downsides of Oslo is that is very far away from everything. Especially every place sunny. There never seems to be a direct flight anywhere I want to go and flights rarely take less than four hours (layover included). This trip was no exception, as we had a layover in Zurich and a total of more than seven hours from the time we left Oslo to when we arrived at PMI.
Once we did get there, the first thing I noticed (after the language) was the surprising amount of traffic. It was no longer the high season for tourism (although it was fall break in Norway and, we assume, other parts of Europe) but there were so many cars. Fortunately, not enough that we got stuck in a traffic jam, but still.
By the time we arrived at the hotel it was time for Luca to have dinner and go to bed. So after our butler showed us around our room (and gave Luca a cute little teddy bear), we went on a quick 20 minute walk to nearby Portals Nous for dinner. Portal Nous has a little marina filled with very big yachts and a couple of restaurants on the water to choose from. We decided on Wellies, mostly because I liked the dog in the logo. Although it was neither Spanish nor seafood (the two things we said we were looking for) it was reasonably good, especially at the end of a long travel day when all we really wanted to do was go to bed.
Day 2 – Happy Birthday to Me: Day at the Resort with Dinner at Es Fum
As it turns out, Palma de Mallorca in general, but especially the St. Regis, isn’t a great location if you want to go to the beach. But it was nice and sunny and there was a wading pool on the property, so it worked. Because really, as cheesy as it sounds, spending the day watching my toddler have the time of his life seemed like a pretty perfect birthday to me.
So off we headed to the Kids Club for some “pool” time. That wasn’t all there was, though. In addition to two wading pools, there was a playground, a sand pit, and an indoor play area, the latter of which came with Luca’s favorite toy of all—a Vtech laptop. (Why are kids so attracted to these things? I try not to get crazy about it, but I have a definite preference for wooden toys with no batteries. Unfortunately, those are not the toys that Luca—or any other toddler for that matter—seems to prefer.)
In addition to lounging at the Kids Club, Fernando and I both got massages at the resort. (Pro tip: If you and your spouse are going to split babysitting duties, don’t schedule your spa treatments back-to-back. Try to have about 30 minutes between them so that you both have time to get dressed/undressed in a somewhat leisurely fashion.) I’ll be honest; I didn’t love the spa there. The massage was nice enough, but the treatment room was a little weird with no hook for the bathrobe and a massage table that was too high for me to easily climb on to. But if that’s the worst thing about the resort, we don’t have much to complain about.
After my massage, it was time to go get ready for the main event: dinner at Es Fum. For the past several years, Fernando and I have tried to make a point of going to any Michelin-starred restaurants in the cities we visit—and have even chosen destinations based on where we wanted to eat. We’ve done a lot less of this since Luca was born, but since it was my birthday and there was one such restaurant at the resort, we decided to get a babysitter and treat ourselves to a fancy dinner.
They must have assumed we were Spanish based on our last name because they offered us a table at 9 p.m.—despite the fact that all the other guests that night sat at 6. But no matter. Even at that late hour it is was amazingly pleasant sitting on the terrace, with not so much as a breeze to require heaters or blankets for the guests.
The only thing I didn’t like about Es Fum was that they ask that the entire table order the same menu—either the 6 course seasonal menu or the 10 course tasting menu. I understand why they make the request—it makes service so much more seamless, especially since there is no overlap between the two menus—but often we like to order separate menus so we can sample as much as possible. But the service at Es Fum—which was possibly the best we’ve had anywhere in the world—made up for it. As did the risotto (“arroz cremoso”) and truffle ice cream on the seasonal (“Caza y Setas”) menu we decided on.
Day 3—Turisteando in Sóller and Palma
Although I mostly wanted to relax on our vacation, it didn’t seem right to go somewhere new and not do any sightseeing at all, so that’s what Day 3 was all about.
First, Fernando stayed with Luca while I got up early to go take photographs. It was a good morning as I got some beautiful shots and, more importantly, learned a lot about my (relatively) new camera. (Note to other budding photographers out there: the morning “golden hour” doesn’t really start until about 15 minutes after sunrise, so give yourself permission to sleep in an extra quarter hour. But also know that the afternoon golden “hour” really only lasts about 30 minutes—so you don’t have nearly as much time for photography as you might think.)
Then, after breakfast and a quick stop by the kids club, we headed in to Palma to catch the historic train to Sóller. To be honest Luca didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought the train-obsessed tyke would, but an hour is a long time to be (sorta) confined. Regardless, I still think it was totally worth it as Sóller is exactly what I expected from Mallorca—beautiful clear water, marinas full of yachts (albeit much smaller ones than we saw the first night), and restaurants on the edge of the water.
By the time we got back to Palma it was time for dinner and quickly getting dark, but we did make a point of stopping by the Cathedral “La Seu.” This gothic-style cathedral built between 1229 and 1601 (date spans like that always amaze me!) is ENORMOUS. As it turns out, in terms of length and width it isn’t nearly as large as it looks (perhaps it just seemed huge because we weren’t expecting it?) but the 44-meter tall nave is one of the tallest in the world.
Evening mass was starting when we arrived, so we only got a really quick peek inside. Compared to the art-filled churches of Italy it seemed rather plain, but I’m sure that if we’d had time to really look around we would have seen some impressive stonework.
From there we were off to dinner. At the recommendation of the hotel, we had a delicious dinner (featuring paella for the adults and pasta with salmon for the toddler) at Caballito de Mar. We recommend it, but a word of advice: don’t show up on a Saturday night without a reservation the way we did. It’s extremely busy and we were very lucky that they were able to seat us. And that the couple next to us was friendly towards Luca.
Day 4—Back to Oslo
Sunday morning it was time to make our way back to Oslo. It’s funny how you always think that a “weekend getaway” will suffice until you realize that two full days are required to travel anywhere. Which is why now I’m off to research every place in Europe with a direct flight from Oslo so we can be a little smarter about our exploring this year.
That said, I highly recommend Mallorca and the St. Regis Mardavall. I know you’re probably thinking, “Of course you recommend a St. Regis.” But our last experience at one was…no good. This time, however, between the amazing restaurant, the fabulous kids club, and the best turndown service ever (see photo below), the chain redeemed itself and I’d love to go back.
Do you prefer to relax by the pool or explore on vacation?