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Those of you who know me well, will know of my fascination with the perception of people and places. I have to admit, before I arrived in Majorca I thought of Spanish tack, red-neck Brits and cheap beer. Because I am a Formula 1 fan, I also held a view that the Spanish were racist (remembering times when Alonso was Lewis Hamilton’s teammate at McLaren).
The beer was not that cheap, the tack was well….tacky and the Brits? Surprisingly were a delightful eclectic mix. This week I spent a couple of cheap days in Porto d’Alcudia in the north of Majorca. It was a refreshing experience for many reasons – not least because it challenged by own perceptions. For a start the “Spanish” were in fact Catalan. And some of them were African, some Chinese and scoring a delicious saag paneer, coconut rice and mushroom curry washed down with a mango lassie, I discovered that some Majorcans originated from the Punjab.
The supermarkets were well stocked up with crates of some of the cheapest, craziest alcohol in Europe (absinthe for example) – but the clientele (at least out of season) did not appear that interested. Bottles were not flying off the shelves, and tourists seemed more impressed with bicycle rickshaws which whole families could hire for as cheap as 6 Euros an hour.
There were Muslim Brits from London, Jamaicans from Birmingham, Groups from Ulster, Yorkshire and Devon. There was middle class triteness and a certain up-tightness. There were coffee-coloured babies. Asian babes. Red skins, white skins. White Irish gypsies getting their hair braided. And more mixed-race couples than Nick Griffin could shake a stick at. In response to this deluge of British diversity Majorca responds with Chinese restaurants, curry houses, Irish pubs, Italian pizzerias and Mexican bars.
This might not be a revelation to some, but coming from an industry which patronisingly acknowledges the importance of “grass roots” initiatives (in other words “working class”) it was a real pleasure to witness a multiculturalism that hadn’t been fabricated by Guardian-reading liberals, where people from all walks of British (and German) life rubbed shoulders in apparent harmony.
Not only that, but the island was beautiful. The perception may be of tatty tourism, but the rolling mountains were bigger than that. Rural Majorca could have been mistaken for Tuscany, and the turquoise seas as clear and perfect as any in St Juan-Les-Pins.
Once I managed to tear myself away from the only Go-Kart track on the island (who celebrated Lewis with a giant cut out of him) – my only problem was that I had forgotten to pack a beach towel. No fear – the bargain kiosks that lined the street to the beach had plenty – at 5 Euros a pop. I was drawn by a towel bearing the beaming grin of Michael Schumacher. Tic Tac logo on his helmet from his Ferrari days. On enquiring I discovered no Lewis, no Jenson, not even Alonso graced the space on a beach-towel in Majorca. Clearly Michael had discovered what I had – that this island of the Balearics, was a good place to be.