An Impulsive Escape (part 2)

At the end of the previous post I had just polished off a lovely meal at Feliciano’s restaurant in Peguera on the island of Mallorca, the destination of my latest holiday escape.

The next day was stunning weather-wise, so it was a good day for more exploring, photos, and walking, at a different part of the island from previous days. Firstly I headed to Soller, but not using the tunnel toll road but the old more sceP1070824 Fornalutx 1nic road, it may have quite a lot of hairpins and take much longer, but as a tourist who likes the countryside it’s much nicer with some great views. I didn’t go into Soller, I just don’t do cities and large towns generally (hate busyness and overcrowding), but skirted around the edge, and then along the quiet coast road eastwards and came across one fabulous view after the next, a lovely viewpoint overlooking Port De Soller, formidable limestone mountains and rocks, the quaint village of Fornalutx (see photo, right) along a side road, the two key reservoirs or Mallorca with striking emerald waters, and forests along the way. It’s difficult to pick which of my many photos to put here! P1070847 gorge 1Eventually I headed down towards the sea and to Port de sa Calobra, a tiny village in a beautiful bay, where I parked the car and then walked through illuminated, tiny tunnels to a scenically situated beach beyond, at the end of a stunning gorge; rather than join the crowd squashed onto the pebble beach between two cliff walls I instead headed inland for a way along the gorge, enjoying the tranquillity and bird song it offered, until the path became started to rise and fall from the valley floor and become more intense considering the time I had. Back at the car I retraced my steps to the main road and then continued on my driving loop to return to the hotel via sleepy towns and farming countryside. I ate dinner on the rooftop terrace of a different hotel in Peguera at a restaurant called La Gritta… and while it may get a high Tripadvisor rating I personally was somewhat disappointed apart from a lovely view, as while the service was generally very good, apart from a dreamy chocolate cake dessert the rest of the food was average and bland in taste, and the whole meal was ruined for me by being surrounded by chain-smoking Germans.

P1070857 mountains above Port de sa Calobra 1

The next day the weather turned out to be rather mixed – it was perfectly fine around the west of the island and around my hotel, but my destination was the north east corner of the island and as I proceeded in that direction the skies were very grey and during the journey I even encountered a light rain shower or two. My destination, P1070865 Formentorin a round about way, was Cap Formentor, the north eastern tip of the island with rocky cliffs that had been recommended by Tripadvisor… and subsequently my friend Kirsty – as it turned out, the visit was largely spoiled by the weather, and while the views from near the initial, and main, crowded car park were stunningly impressive views, further along the long, narrow road up to the end of the promontory the parking facilities were pitiful considering the opportunities for
views and at the end of land, I hastily turned around without parking as there was a huge queue of cars to get up to the lighthouse parking area; utter chaos, and it wasn’t even a weekend. As I headed back along the promontory the showers resumetortoised and I decided to get away from the area as quickly as I could to try and find the sun again… and owing to the island’s compact nature that proved easy enough, less than an hour later I was back at my hotel, quickly changed, and then drove only a few miles into the hills and began what turned out to be a lovely, tranquil walk into the mountains… apart from finding this little, timid soul along the way (see right). My walk was partly along the GR221, one of the network of footpaths along crisscrossing the island, and after a while I encountered signs explaining points of 20160614_201711 lamb LRinterest along the way which made it very interesting; best of all, I figured this walk out myself without reference to any web/tourist info, so a pleasing find. In the evening, after a chill by the pool and changing, I treated myself to a meal at the hotel’s a la carte restaurant, where the food and the service were stunningly good – to start off with I had bread with five different types of salt and also olive oil to try, my starter was a smooth seafood soup with large prawns in it, my main a beautifully presented rack of lamb with what I think was orzo pasta (it looks like rice), and a tarte tatin for dessert; yum!

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Alas my holiday was coming to an end and the next morning I checked out of my lovely hotel… but it was to be a very full final day with lots of strong sun… as a sun burnt neck attested to once home. I drove to a nice seaside town called Sant Elm, parked the car, and began what turned out to be a lovely climbing walk up the cliffs with ever more beautiful views of the island of P1070901 Dragonera 2Sa Dragonera (see photos right and below) as I went; my walk ended at an old, ruined monastery which was in the process of being restored; I met an old walker at a lovely viewpoint and had a quick word with him before returning to my car via a different path. Back in the car I still had several hours to go until dinner and so I took part of the coastal drive that I did the first day, albeit with much better weather this time, for better photos and slightly different views on quieter roads. I arrived back at Peguera at around 6.00pm and although I had already checked out from my hotel I sneaked into the grounds and had a leisurely half hour sitting beside the poll before changing in the ladies toilets nearby. Freshened up, I returned to my favourite restaurant in thFeliciano'se town, Feliciano’s, where I had another great meal as well as lots of friendly chat with the owner – this time I had rabbit for starter in a rich tomato sauce, a lovely salmon steak for main with mustard sauce, and a tasty Crème Catalan for dessert. At that point it was time for my leisurely journey back to the airport… where it turned out that my flight was nearly 90 minutes late, and so I did not get home until the early hours of the morning and in fact by the time I got to bed at 4.30am it was starting to get light. Luckily I had taken the day off to recover… as well as to re-acclimatise to a very chilly Northern Ireland.

x

P1070900 Dragonera 1

An Impulsive Escape (part 1)

I tend to go on a holiday a few times in a year, as I love travelling and exploring new places, although this year with all the leg problems I have experienced I wasn’t sure if I would get away so much in 2016. I had been researching a getaway to Mallorca though, as I’d never been there before, and getting increasingly fed up at work I decided I just had to get away from it all… so on 3rd June I booked my flight, hotel, and car hire, and a week later I was at Belfast airport at a nice, civilised hour on a Friday morning. Usually I find airport food rubbish, but I actually had a lovely breakfast there of pancakes, fruit compote, Me at hotelmaple syrup, and bacon… and four hours later I was landing in Mallorca to a lovely hot and sunny afternoon and, after picking up my hire car, had a relaxing afternoon driving around a few of the little towns on a round about way to my hotel, the Maritim Hotel Galatzo, on the outskirts of Peguera. I was very lucky to get a late deal on the hotel, with 47% off the usual price (partly due to being a Booking.com ‘Genius’, and once I had checked in (and been given a glass of Cava) I soon realised I had made a great choice – my room was very spacious, with an enormous bathroom, accommodated in sympathetically designed villa-style buildings, the grounds are beautiful and promote relaxation with two lovely pools (selfie of me sitting at one) and large grassy areas and flowers, with a super view (see below) beyond over the resort of Santa Ponca. As I was a bit tired after the travelling, I ate at the buffet restaurant – the hot food wasn’t very hot, but there were loads of options to choose from, and it was generally tasty; unsurprisingly I was a bit of a piglet at the dessert section!!

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I woke up the next morning to sunny skies and, after a plentiful buffet breakfast, headed out on my first full day of exploring. I decided to do a driving loop along the north-west coast, although it ended up being more tadpole-shaped! By the time I set off it had got very hazy, and I made some stops for photos but they didn’t come out very bright, but by early afternoon, after a tiresome loop down to the large town of Soller stuck in a wagon train of cars behind a bus that obstructed traffic on frequent occasions, I took a very twisty road down to a small coastal village called Port des Canonge (see below photo) from where I did a lovely there-and-back walk along the coast for a while. Then I returned to my hotel back along the road I had come and had a half hour chill by the pool before bathing, changing, and venturing into Peguera for dinner… which was a very tiresome experience, because the one way system was a nightmare to navigate and I couldn’t find a number of restaurants that were recommended on Tripadvisor; being in Spain, I ended up at a German restaurant where I ate a Chinese starter of prawn-stuffed pancake rolls followed by a German schnitzel dish stuffed with Spanish ham and cheese… all cooked by what turned out to be an oriental chef.

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The next day the weather was not so good in the morning, patchy sun though still very warm, and so in the morning I decided to visit Alfabia Gardens to the south of Soller to see how Spain to big formal gardens. After less than an hour I had seen all that I wanted to, and have to say it was a little disappointing – lots of patches of bare earth where flowers or shrubs should have been, an automated avenue of fountains (press a button and the water P1070809spouted out of numerous holes) which I found a bit pointless and wasteful, and rather small in area overall… though there was some nice colour in parts. With plenty of time left in the day and still quite a cloudy sky I hurtled eastwards to some caves, which my friend Kirsty had mentioned (from a visit years ago) and that I had read about; I figured that they would be a good attraction if sun was not going to arrive in large quantities. Owing to the compactness of the island and a good set of motorways I arrived at the Caves of Drach in about an hour and after a short wait in a queue we descended into the ground, surprised to see the sea visible only a couple of hundred metres away… and soon we were in another world, ambling slowly from one Drach 2chamber of mind-blowing stalactites and stalagmites to another; I was amazed just how far down into some of the caverns we were able to view, with pools of water at the bottom of some. Eventually we got to a darkened lake and took seats in a small area of elevated benches… and so began the most magical experience of my holiday… for from the distance silently emerged three illuminated rowing boats drifting ever so slowly towards us, one of them carrying four classical musicians playing Pachelbel’s Canon – now I hear this piece rather overplayed on the radio and find it a rather dull and monotonous piece, but in this environment I saw it in a whole new light, and their rendition of it was delightful. As the piece ended the boats had drifted past and parked themselves at the far end of the lake, at which point they played another three pieces of well-known music, the final one begun as their boat slowly returned from where it had come, the piece ending just as the last glimpse of their boat disappeared from view. After much applause, we had the opportunity to climb aboard one of the other rowing boats, which I did… and soon began to feel rather seasick from a lot of rocking of the boat as we all got on – we were ferried to the other end of the lake, at which point having alighted we slowly climbed through the last of the cave chambers to the surface again… to lovely warm sunshine. With a little time left before time dictated returning to my hotel I feetambled in my car down the coast, and decided I’d have a little paddle in the sea, and found a nice little beach that was not too busy… and my feet enjoyed a nice cool down in a moderately cold sea, looking as they have never done so in the sea before. After chilling at the pool of my hotel I went out for dinner in Peguera again and, this time, I went straight to a restaurant that I had past the night before… although it took a while to find a parking space in the twisty streets. I had my dinner in a restaurant called Feliciano’s, rated number one on Tripadvisor for the town… and I soon found out why it was so highly-rated, despite the Italian-sounding name of the establishment the food was very varied in style and I had a seafood soup as a starter (with lots of pieces of lovely mixed seafood in it), a main of duck with blueberry sauce (well cooked, though a slightly odd combination), followed by the best tiramisu I have eaten in my life – rich, and quite alcholic I think! A good way to end the day… and the first part of my adventure recollection…

Drach 1

Opinions on my Progress

Since the events of my last post life has been somewhat better, with several health appointments attended related to my transition almost 18 months ago to a happy-me… as well as an unremembered, but rather important, anniversary, which in terms of chronology is the first thing to mention – a year last mid-May was when my hormones were approved by the head consultant of the Northern Ireland GIC, which therefore means that I have completed my GIC-dictated Real Life Experience (RLE)! That anniversary meant that the next path of my journey in theory became available…  surgery! However, for the gate to that path to be opened, I was required to attend not one but two GIC appointments, called First and Second Opinions – these are where I am interviewed by gender specialist consultants to ascertain how I have progressed, if I am ready for the contemplation of surgery, and if I pass certain qualifying criteria.

Prior to me attending my First Opinion the GIC requested that they call someone at work (rather late in the day) to check things have gone okay… but also in a kind of big brother style to confirm that I have every day been turning up for work as Andrea, and not cheating. I arranged that they would call my boss, who expressed a preference for someone from Human Resources to also be on the call, so I asked for the lady I came out to first of all in HR to help – to cut a long story short, the call I gather was rather short, and all went very well.

My First Opinion appointment at GIC was on Tuesday 17th May. It was with a consultant I met one time previously, about 18 months ago, with my therapist there too. The consultant essentially went through what has happened since she last saw me – acceptances (or not, as remains the case with my daughter and brother), full-time living, work, friends, my social life, and so on, and the conversation was all very positive… and that is because that is how transition has been for me, I miss my daughter but it is what it is and there’s just no point in dwelling on it, otherwise all is good. She then asked “So how do you feel now?” and the first word that sprouted from my mouth was “Happy”… because that is finally how I truly feel about my life – ups and downs aside – where every day I feel right about myself. She also said I look very different now… and not just my own hair, so those in the know obviously notice the physical changes… and perhaps mental ones too.

My Second Opinion appointment at GIC was the Friday of that week and was in a somewhat similar vein to the first one… except that it was with someone I had never met before, a Dr Khoosal from Leeds. Perhaps I should have been a bit nervous, but not at all, no need to be when I’m simply being me… and Dr Khoosal was also very down-to-earth too. The nature of the conversation was very similar to the First Opinion really, except it also covered aspects of my early life too, when I first realised about my true self, and “why now”. All went well, and I expected that I’d be hearing back in perhaps a week or two about how things went… but there and then he said “Well I consider it a positive result” and so we shook hands, and I went off with my therapist to talk about the next steps… to eventual surgery! It won’t happen quickly, if only because of the admin, and application for funding, but that’s fine because there is plenty to think about with different options to consider… mainly, for me, muddled due to my intense loathing of the bits and pieces I was unfortunately born with which alas has almost resulted in me having such a phobia to them such that I want nothing to do with them in any way. To celebrate overcoming my latest hurdle I decided to treat myself to afternoon tea at M&S, brought to me by two waiting staff, followed by some clothes shopping… where my credit card was helped by a kind lady stopping me and offering a 20% off voucher.

The next day I met up with Kirsty in the afternoon for more shopping, mainly just a few pairs of trousers for work to accommodate my somewhat expanded girth (HRT, and perhaps chocolate, assisted) and also a pair of Sketchers trainers which, so far, have been probably the most comfortable pair of footwear I have bought. Then we went to dinner at a restaurant I have wanted to go to for, literally, AGES… and it was well worth the wait, the Mourne Seafood restaurant turned out to be splendid – I had a dreamy mackerel pate, a good sea bream main course, and a lovely chocolate fondant. The night was still young and we headed off to the cinema, where Kirsty had booked the only two tickets in what turned out to be a pretty packed cinema to see Our Kind Of Traitor, a pretty good spy thriller with the ever-present over-proliferation of unnecessary foul language but otherwise reasonable entertainment.

All in all, a pretty successful and good period… and feeling now closer to my ultimate destination.