There is one thing that we haven't really addressed thus far that we REALLY need to tell you about – driving in Mallorca. I know we told you that I got lost "going around the block" on the first night but we never really elaborated on why it is so easy to get lost or talked about the other driving related mishaps that have become a part of our daily existence on this trip.
How can I describe the road system so that you can get a true idea of what it is like here? First, as Paul mentioned there are no road signs. No street signs, barely any speed limit signs, no directional signs that would tell you which lane is the turning lane, which streets are one way, and no signs that tell you that your lane or the street is going to end in 5 meters. And the roads merge with and diverge from other roads with little notice and no cognizable reason. So figuring out where you are on a map is nearly impossible.
In Palma, the main motorways are three to four lane roads, and the majority of the streets are what you and I would consider "side streets", but they serve as the main throughways around the city. These main throughways are usually two narrow lanes with cars parked on both sides of the street. The "side streets" here are technically two way even through there is NO WAY two cars can fit side by side, or a car and a city bus, and usually there are cars parked on one or both sides of the street so as you can imagine, there is little room for error. We found out today that there is less room for error than we originally thought.
The plan for the day was to take a leisurely drive up into the mountains for the first time and check out a possible place to move to next called Soller. The first problem is finding any road that goes out of Palma to the north. You need to go east or west, we got you covered but driving north was still something we obviously needed to get the kinks out of. We weaved our way in a northernly like direction until Shawana was able to decode the series of 4 circles less than 100 meters apart and with a left-right-straight-right combo punch put us right on the outer beltway and headed towards Soller.
It is a fairly level drive and straight for the first 15 kilometers out of town. I should point out at this time a habit that I have perfected over the last week. Whilst navigating I try to give directions in kilos... I will say 'The next town is 15 kilos up ahead.' I means to say clicks or km or even thousand meter increments would annoy Shawana less right now than when I say kilos. Her response is that I want to change my last name to Escobar and start a poppy field when we get home.
We reach a fork in the road just before we get to what looks like the first hill and see two signs: one says Soller to the right 13 km, the other Soller to the left 9 km. Our map doesn't have road names any where on it so it definitely does not have the capacity to explain to me that there is the old road and the new road that is a 7 km tunnel that goes through the mountain. We took the long way at the time because we weren't in a rush and thought we would see more of the country.
What we did end up seeing is why Contador, a Spaniard, won the last Tour de France. The road climbed and climbed in tight 180 degree turns at a 9% incline for over 7 km from bottom till top and then did the same thing all the way back down the other side.
Some very pretty views were had when we were going up the hill and the same was to be said for going down the other. The lonely planet guide describes Soller 'as though cupped in celestial hands' and I couldn't agree more coming down the hill into town. Viewing it from a distance, all that could be seen were mountains coming into a valley that was filled with the town of Soller.
The main town is bypassed from the main road that heads to Port de Soller so we took a random turn towards what looked to be a Steeple of a church and tried our luck. In this case, we rolled snake eyes and were lucky enough to get out without damaging the car. All was well and good as we started off on the typical 2 way but only wide enough for 1 way kind of road. Then we turned down a little offshoot that had a sign in front of it that we couldn't read.
And that is the sign that apparently told us that we were not going to fit down this road. Wish we understood Catalan. I didn't take a picture so I don't remember exactly what it said but I think the take home message was vehicles under the size of a golf cart only.
We reached a corner that even in our undersized car
still would have taken the paint off if we tried to make it round.
We ended up having to back up and make a desperate move to get out the way we came before a giant truck decided to block us in. We parked the car where we could and decided it was safer to hoof it into the town center and check it out. We ended up spending about 3 hours away from the car just walking the streets getting lost in this 16th century town and loving every minute of it. We ended up finding a place to stay and so will make the reservations as soon as we make sure of our times and dates.
After leaving Soller, instead of heading back to Palma right away, we decided to head towards Deia and then a town called Valldemossa, which would then lead to a 'highway' that led back into Palma. Deia is a gorgeous town in the hills that is for the seriously rich and seriously famous. I'm not talking owner of 4 waffle houses' rich and B movie famous, I'm talking Bill Gates rich and Snooki famous (Sorry had to reference Jersey shore at least once!). A tiny little 1 bedroom house with just a tiny yard and overlooking the Mediterranean is around 3 million euros (close to 4 million US).
For those who like to read and use their words, Robert Graves spent a lot of time here both before and after the war apparently. It is also home to La Residance which is a 1100 euros a night kind of place to stay. The X-mas dinner package was 450 euros per person. Crazy expensive but also crazy nice if you have $10,000 to blow and a week to live.
Shawana really wanted to see more of the town so she did what we normally do, if we see a road that looks fun we take it and ask questions later. In hind sight, we should have asked questions first because we would have been told that this road was another go-kart path that went straight up the hill with no spots to bail out and that as soon as we committed to the turn, someone at the top was going to scream "NOW!!" and send 5 minivans down the hill at us and send 2 cars up the hill behind us. We were able to find a bend in the road that was wide enough to hide in as the locals figured themselves out behind us and once the road was clear we made a 14 point turn and got the heck out of there.
It was pretty much night by the time we left Deia so the rest of the trip was done with no sightseeing and just the goal of getting back to our hotel and get to bed. Overall it was an absolute success because we found a really cool place to stay next and also got to experience a town that is stunning in its antiquity while also allowing the modern life to creep in. Tomorrow is another climb day so till then, Adios!!