David Holzer shares his observations of life in Palma de Mallorca on returning to his beloved city after almost a year of unexpected, enforced separation.
First I needed coffee. I had swum early that morning at Bougainvillea beach next to the splendid Hotel Maricel and wanted to savour the taste of sea salt mixed with strong coffee and croissant.
We headed across a deserted Plaza de España to an Argentinian place. The owners had installed one of those machines that takes your money and spits out change so the staff never have to touch coins.
As we were vaguely plotting the direction in which we would drift, my friend Omar, a Senegalese singer who busks most days on Carrer de Colom came by. I invited him for coffee and we talked a while.
I was curious about how life had been for Omar these past months but didn’t like to ask. Afterwards, though, my companion pointed out that although Omar smiled as much as ever his eyes were sad.
Before he left, Omar made me promise to visit the Soul Train club on the Paseo Maritimo to hear him play and to write another song for him.
His English and way with a melody always make hearing him sing my songs an interesting experience.
Omar lives in the barrio near the Pere Garau market and that gave me the idea to go there.
The streets around Pere Garau were alive with people – Mallorcan, Spanish, African, Moroccan and Chinese – and the market was packed. We waited a long time for our zucchini, aubergines, tomatoes, onions and lemon but it was a joy to be surrounded by all that colour and goodnatured life.
We were astonished at how cheap the vegetables were.
From Pere Garau we mooched down to the edge of the Old Town and my favourite barber on the corner of what I think is Placa del Banc de l’Oli. There used to be a halfhearted brothel in this square but it looks to be long gone. For nine euros, the smiling Moroccan barber gave me a military precision haircut in as many minutes.
It was lunchtime now and the city centre was quieter than ever. This might have been because the day before was a holiday in Palma but even so.
Heading for Santa Catalina, we cut through Rialto Living where we admired the clothes and the prices, and down to the Paseo Maritimo.
We passed where the old Bluesville bar used to be and I thought of all the times I stumbled out of the place in the wee hours with my ears ringing. Now it seems incredible that Bluesville even existed.
There’s usually a street market on the stretch of the Paseo between La Llongha and the park opposite Santa Catalina but not today.
We stopped for a drink at Bar Cuba. While my companion looked at the photos she’d taken on our meander through the city, I tried to make sense of my feelings.
On the one hand, it was a joy to stroll unjostled through streets normally choked with pinky-brown not especially cheerful tourists.
(A friend of mine has a theory that Palma feels so relaxing to wander through because the older buildings are made with materials that allow plenty of air to circulate. It’s the kind of rather nutty way of viewing the world that I associate with some of my friends here. But it has its own weird logic.)
But I missed the sense of excitement that the tourists spark. And I couldn’t help but wonder what would become of all the shuttered bars and shops, even the terrible ones, that depend on their custom.
Which made me think of the people at Pere Garau market, a place tourists hardly ever see.
Their livelihood too is probably dependent on tourists or work that’s tourism-related. There’s a reason the vegetables were so cheap.