Friday, July 17, 2009

How to annoy your kids on holiday

Forgive the travelogue, but I'm just back from Majorca, where I spent a week boring the swimming shorts off my teenage kids by oohing and aahing at various flowers and plants. We were staying at a wonderful place called the Hotel Bon Sol. We'd been there before when the kids were small, so it was a huge relief to find that it was just the same - in fact in some ways even better (especially the food).
I guess when you're on holiday with small children, you're so busy worrying about whether they'll hit their head on a rock or fall out of a high chair that you don't have time to notice what's around you. So I'd never really appreciated until this trip quite how beautiful Majorca is. We weren't even in the most gorgeous bit. (That's usually reckoned to be the north-west, around Valldemossa and Deia.) The Bon Sol is halfway between Palma and the resort of Magaluf, which has the reputation of being a sun, sea and sex destination for the worst type of British tourist and is probably responsible for putting many people off visiting this lovely Spanish island altogether.

The views from our rooms. The secret of the Bon Sol's charm is that once inside, it seems as if you are in another world. Below our balcony was a fairly busy street with buses and taxis going past. But all we ever noticed was the chirping of the sparrows in the trees outside

The Bon Sol, however, is about as far as you can get from a stereotypical Spanish skyscraper hotel full of beer-soaked Brits. It's a rambling place, more like a medieval castle or an old manor house, with suits of armour and paintings and antiques at every turn. It's built to look like a Moorish tower on the side of a cliff above the Bay of Palma, with terraced gardens full of palms and bougainvillea. On the way down the terraces there are three pools, and at the very bottom a tiny sandy beach.
Tucked away in various odd corners are a crazy golf course, where the biggest hazard was being stabbed by Phoenix canariensis, a volleyball court, a tennis court, table tennis and a spa. The best bit, for us, was the stone passage that leads from the lift to the bottom garden level (What do you mean, take the stairs? We're talking ten floors here!). Coming into this passage from the heat of the midday sun (average daily temperature 34C or 93F) was bliss - my kids nicknamed it the Corridor of Coolness.

The sub-tropical gardens around the main pool area. Plants here include Phoenix canariensis, Ficus elastica, bananas, cordylines, soaring stone pines (Pinus pinea) and fabulous washingtonias like these below.

Holiday conversations went something like this:

On the crazy golf course
Me: "Ooh, look at those cannas..."
Kids: "Mum, it's your shot."
Me: " And look at the size of the leaves on that rubber plant [Ficus elastica]. Look, it's growing all the way up that wall."
Kids: "Mu-um!"
Me: "That's a beautiful washingtonia ..."
Kids: "MUM!!!!"

Above, morning glory twines itself around plumbago. Below, peach-coloured hibiscus

On the way to the pool
Me: "Wow, I love hibiscus ..."
Kids: "Mum, warn us when you're going to stop dead like that."
Me: "Those peachy ones with the maroon insides are just so gorgeous ..."
Kids: "Mu-um!"
Me: "And that combination of the morning glory with the plumbago is so pretty..."
Kids: "MUM!!!!"

The view from the terrace of the Bon Sol bar over the Bay of Palma. Below, the vibrant combination of purple bougainvillea with brilliant orange lantana

On the bar terrace
Me: "Ooh, just look at that bougainvillea ..."
Kids: "Mum, here's the waiter."
Me: "Purple bougainvillea with orange lantana is really striking ..."
Kids: "Mu-um!"
Me: "... although I love the fuchsia pink one too, especially against white walls and a blue sky..."