We are in the not-so-glamorous Escape Lounge at Stansted Airport and two of the loudest women in the world have settled themselves down at the table next to us. For a while we luxuriate in the fascinating Jeremy Kyle-esque tales about “Terry in prison” and “Janine who can’t stop going on the rob”. Then it dawns on us: they are getting on our flight. I fear my unrelenting superpower of being able to attract the worse possible flight neighbours from absolutely anywhere in the airport will strike again. As our impending fate sinks in, I notice the ‘Seasons Greetings’ message on my Jacobs Cream Cracker (it’s still summer) and succumb to the fact that we’ll need several more glasses of something sparkling.
With abundant budget airlines flying to the gateway of Mallorca (with Magaluf a top destination), it’s likely that you’ll pick up a few extra grey hairs en route, on this route. Don’t let that put you off: Palma is the perfect city break destination. It’s a foodie heaven, has great shopping and brilliant weather, incites yacht envy, and has a beach on the doorstep. Note to self for future visits: British Airways actually fly there from London City Airport*.
We were thrilled to be walking through the door of Es Princep Hotel 15 minutes after passing through passport control in Palma. The straight lines and simplicity of the place instil a sense of calm, amplified by the staff clad in grey and white, bearing warm smiles and cold cava. Most of the 68 rooms at this new boutique hotel have sea views, and all are understated in terms of luxury and charm. I find many hotels in Palma are over-designed and fussy but Es Princep is more … Scandinavian.
I’m still not convinced by designers who like to separate the bathroom and bedroom by glass alone, I have too many intimacy issues for that
The best feature of our top floor room was the floor to ceiling windows looking out to the Med. I immediately opened the doors and spun a plush yellow armchair towards it ready for some indoor sunbathing – a favourite sport of mine. I’m still not convinced by designers who like to separate the bathroom and bedroom by glass alone, I have too many intimacy issues for that … but that’s another story. Luckily, I had a private bathroom break as my companion rushed straight to the spa for a massage where severe sunburn from the summer’s freakish heatwave in London sunshine was gently taken care of – leaving only a gentle hue of pink. To our surprise, not one speck of it peeled.
We went on a tipsy exploration of the rooftop at sunset. This is where this hotel comes into its own. It has a uniquely prime location overlooking both the city and the sea, in the oldest district of the city, La Calatrava. Enjoying a recent boom in tourism and with the recent ban on Air BnB apartments, Palma has seen an influx of new boutique hotels, many of which are in the old town. Es Princep is the only one which manages to make you feel like you’re on both a city and beach break.
The rooftop is vast with no shortage of seating and loungers, although the tiny pool appears to be more for show than purpose. You’ll be jostling to get a toe in to cool down in the hot summer months. There were service issues: Despite the hotel’s motto of “anything you want, anytime you want it” we could not get a drink for love nor money. We had to go down five floors to reception to ask if we could be served on the rooftop, as did some other guests. Friends who have visited the hotel since assure me things have improved notably.
We spent a couple of hours on our second day in the Coco Spa in the basement, which has an 18-metre pool with whirlpool that will keep you entertained until your fingertips shrivel. There are a couple of areas to get pounded with rushing water, which is my favourite kind of massage – a human-free one. There are also the usual steam rooms and a dry salt cabin that I couldn’t get the hang of. Showing off, I tried the medieval torture device of pulling a freezing bucket of water over my own head, something that will never happen again. Conversely, I couldn’t get enough of the pleasure/pain of the thermo disco shower. The standing capsule flickers with coloured lights as it starts to squirt ice-cold water at your ankles. Hold out and the jets become warm, and then deliciously hot. Then it works its way up your body doing the same thing: horribly freezing, then bearable, then hot. The sweet spot on the waist is pure agony and forced me to make ridiculous yelping noises. Endurance over, a bizarre part of me wanted to do it all over again.
The à la carte cooked breakfasts at Es Princep are great, but the minimalist design of the restaurant feels more like a foyer than dining room. It would have been magnificent to enjoy breakfast with those fabulous views on the large roof terrace.
Our ‘Three C’ Spanish diet – coffee, cava and croquettes – continued in the old town until it was time to head to the British holding pen at the airport. It only took 10 minutes before my new travel companions were made apparent: This time it was screaming little Tyler and his parents swilling beer from plastic cups. C
*downloads BA booking App to phone.
Es Princep, Carrer de Bala Roja, 1, 07001 Palma, Illes Balears, Spain
Esprincep.com; +34 971 72 0000