Last year I au-paired for the most welcoming and appreciative family in Mallorca, for a month. Fast-forward ten months, and my au pair mum is pregnant – ready to pop – with her second girl. Having only spoken to them on today’s most important social media network, WhatsApp, and missing them greatly, I decided it was time to visit them. Bang in the school holidays and also maternity leave, a week in Mallorca would be a much needed break from the stress of third year abroad prep, and a great excuse to see my Mallorcan family again. However, slowly becoming more of a ‘traveller’, the final plan for my summer travels turned into an almost three-week trip to Spain: Barcelona with my mum, Mallorca to visit the heavily pregnant Xisca and her full-of-energy four-year-old Mariona, and ending up in Granada with two of my sixth form mates Rosie and Ping. Although only a few hours away from my congested hometown London, Spain brought with it a few new experiences; some good, some bad.
Barcelona is a bustling city full of things to see and do, thus requiring some organisation and planning. So taking charge of map reading, Metro journeys and the days’ events, I must have driven my mum mad. Secretly, she was glad she didn’t have to worry about it all – she could take a back seat so to speak. And secretly, I was pleased to be in charge, marching around Barcelona making sure we got to La Sagradia Familia on time.
As many of my friends and family know, I’m a breakfast gal. Give me breakfast food any time of day and I’m a happy eater. So Barcelona was a good chance to finally check out some of What Should I Eat For Breakfast Today?’s wonderfully photographed breakfast establishments in Cataluña’s capital.
Next stop: Mallorca
Returning to Mallorca couldn’t have been more normal and relaxed. I was welcomed back into the large but closely knit Mallorcan family as though I’d never left last year. Even more distant family members remembered me, and although they spoke to me in Catalan, I tried my best to recall the little I learnt last September.
Mallorca did prove to be a much-needed relaxing break. I visited some of my favourite beaches, finally got a chance to read Lena Dunham’s fantastically written, witty and brutally honest memoir Not That Kind of Girl, and swam out to sea engulfed by the calm, clear waves that had taken my breath away last year.
Final stop: Granada
If you want to travel, have some space to yourself, and find a gem amongst overly priced hotels and hostels, head to AirBnb. Rosie discovered a cave house in the middle of Sacromonte, full of character with bursts of Arabic influence, and a terrace overlooking La Alhambra.
I arrived before the other two, and spent my first day map in hand, wandering about getting lost in cobbled side streets. I was in my element, but stood out like a sore thumb. Alone, I experienced a young girl explain to her mum that she wanted to be as ‘morena’ as me – yes I may have tanned quite a bit, but I’m ‘brown’ nevertheless. My colour was hit on again when having a drink – accompanied by a free tapa of course – in a plaza. In Spanish, a compliment is called ‘un piropo’ but the term seems to be used more in a negative way, as in a ‘cat-call’. My experience of un piropo wasn’t too bad, but it made me uncomfortable nevertheless. Being attacked, or glorified, for the colour of one’s skin or sex is never fun, especially when you’re in a foreign country on your own.
After a couple of hiccups with the girls’ flights to Granada, they finally arrived and we spent the next six days visiting every possible attraction, market and church we could come across. A much more negative experience occurred on the night of my favourite day out: La Alhambra. I won’t go into too much detail, but some of my belongings were stolen, leading to a couple of police officers and detectives in our AirBnb home, a trip to the police station and my first statement. Let’s just say, it could’ve been worse, and “you can’t be too careful” is a phrase I will now live by.
Lessons learnt: I’m lost without a notebook and backpack, travelling requires thick skin, and disposable cameras are great.