“It’s your turn … she’s awake”
Heavy, loaded, silence.
“But I did it … you sure it isn’t yours?”
The air con splutters as if it can’t take the tension, never mind the heat. The drapes hang limply, eavesdropping.
“C’mon quick, before she wakes up. The nappies are on the side. Pass that paracetamol will you?”
The hollow thwack of a flimsy packet hitting a headboard, with slightly too much force.
“It’s your turn next.”
“So am I, we all are!”
“Yeah, but I’m worse”
Outside the open window: glasses clinking, conversation, laughter. The sound of revelry wafts into the hotel room, mockingly. The air con whirrs. Silence. And then …
“Happy fucking honeymoon!”
* * *
We are staying in Palma’s old town for the first evening of our honeymoon. A night to acclimatise in a hotel before travelling up to Pollença on Mallorca’s northern coast for a few days in a villa. The thought of sinking into a pool with a condensation-cloaked beer has kept us both going for weeks, months even. We’re getting married in two weeks’ time and have our 18-month-old toddler in tow. This is uncharted territory.
We haven’t been on a plane for more than three years – this is a honeymoon splurge, an aeroplane-shaped bunion on our otherwise well-pedicured carbon footprint. A lurch of apprehension, excitement and guilt, then, as we trundle to security. It turns out a tiny person is a useful airport accompaniment. It’s doubtful the drug-smuggling cartels of this world are reading the Guardian travel section on the prowl for tips, but our advice to those guys would be: get a pram. Pitying looks, kindly, cooing security guards and sanctioned queue jumping. We wheeled to the gate at speed. Enthused, one of us starting using the phrase “paed-y boarding”. The other, pointedly, didn’t.
The flight passes smoothly.
We drop off our bags at the hotel and head to a nearby bar, ordering some boquerones (anchovies) and patatas bravas and giddily draining two carafes of wine. The baby sleeps in her pram and we are made dizzy by the alcohol and the sticky evening heat. We roll through the Parc de la Mar, flanked on either side by the butterscotch sandstone of the 14th-century gothic La Seu cathedral and the turquoise Mediterranean. Weary but happy, we amble back to the hotel, pushchair lightly clacking on slippery marble streets.
A few hours later the baby wakes and vomits up the three packets of raisins we placated her with on the plane. This clearly being a “code red” situation we both spring into action, one comforts while the other cleans. An hour or so later, and all is calm. That is until one of us gets a meaty electric shock from a faulty bedside plug. The baby wakes. Cries. Vomits. We sit bolt upright on our phones, one Googling “Baby vomit post first flight” and “how many raisins is too many raisins?” the other “side effects of electric shock”. An hour later, one of us wakes with a tingling arm and a slight disappointment that they aren’t suddenly fluent in Spanish. The other with a creeping dread. Clutching stomach and bolting for the bathroom.
Dawn at reception, the electrocution is emphasised and exaggerated – a late checkout sweatily negotiated. An additional few hours that are as grim for us as they are begrudged by the hotel staff. Later, we bundle baby, bags and ourselves into a taxi to pick up the hire car. After a torturous, gurgling wait for a correctly sized car seat we hit the road (“RIGHT HAND SIDE!”)
The slightly less stricken of us, the one with the famed “iron stomach”, is behind the wheel. We drive north through the guts of the island on the MA13 – unlucky for some?
We arrive at the villa in 40C heat. We did ask for sun, after all. The iron stomach smelts as soon as the threshold is crossed. The villa is lovely, but there is no loo roll, no kitchen roll and no tissues. No cleaning products of any description. Nothing.
A desperate voicemail is left with Wanda the villa manager, whose number is written on laminated card entitled “Wanda’s Tips” that the baby is already teething on. Our daughter is oblivious, undeterred and incessant with her need to play and eat.
A plan is hatched: one of us drives to a local shop to pick up “essentials” while the other keeps watch over the baby and her desire to climb the precipitous stairwell. Twenty minutes later the car returns, freshly pranged. An unseen concrete pillar “just appeared” in the car park. The baby screams at the foot of the stairs and no essentials have been bought.
The doorbell rings and brings a truce.
“You seen The Night Manager? That big palace that evil Hugh Laurie lives in? Mallorca. The fish restaurant where the little boy gets kidnapped? Mallorca.”
Wanda’s estuary twang is undimmed by 20 years on the island. She arrives armed not with Domestos or Andrex, but with a map, a bottle of fizz and a lot of enthusiastic suggestions for sightseeing.
“You seen the Škoda advert? The one on the clifftop? Mallorca. And don’t even get me started on that Made in Chelsea or the Love Islands.”
“Thanks Wanda. About that loo roll … ?”
* * *
We take it in turns to sleep and parent. A sorry, largely silent tag team. It takes us two days to get over the worst. Breadsticks provide just enough fuel for us to communicate in grunts and slowly push the baby around the pool on a rubber flamingo.
On day three we venture gingerly into Pollença. The charming old town twists under the shadow of the Serra de Tramuntana foothills, and although we don’t climb the 365 steps on the El Calvari – a steep walkway lined with cypress trees that mimics Jesus’s final journey – we appreciate its beauty and the energy of those that do.
Instead, we attempt a glass of wine in the shade of the main square. The town is getting ready to celebrate the Patrona festival, a week-long fiesta that will culminate in a mock battle between Moors and Christians. After dinner one night we drive to nearby Port de Pollença, walking past the shops selling spades and fridge magnets, keeping the sea on our right, along the pine-covered promenade to a secluded spot that looks out to sea. Wanda’s tips are worth it.
Mallorca is busy. This is mid-August. But there are no crowds anywhere at 5am – the baby’s chosen time to get her linen dungarees and carpe diem on. One morning we drive the awe-inspiring and intestinal road to Cap de Formentor, the rocky tip of the peninsula with a view down to Cala Figuera. We take a flask, some raisins and mosey down a steep path as the sun rises at our backs. The sandy beach is empty, the sea clear and warm.
On our penultimate morning we drive over the mountains, through the Golden valley, to Sóller. The 57 hairpin bends take us past the monastery at Lluc and the Gorg Blau. It is a spectacular drive, even in a pranged hire car, reminiscent of the opening scenes of a Bond film or, given our luck, the closing scene of The Italian Job. The cerulean mountain reservoir appears slightly ominous in the morning light. We arrive in Sóller in time for coffee and another ensaïmada. The Frisbee-size airy pastry, a local delicacy with a Jewish heritage, has proved to be the ideal beige ballast.
We don’t take “Red Lightning”, the rickety wooden tram to the Port de Sóller– it’s too busy, so the pushchair wouldn’t fit. Instead, we press on through orange grove-enveloped Deià and then to Valldemossa, Mallorca’s highest town, in time for lunch. This is where Chopin and his lover George Sand lived, among the almond trees and monks. We soundtrack the drive back with some of Frédéric’s piano concertos, it makes a nice change from endless Sing and Sign. The baby doesn’t mind; the numerous switchbacks rock her to sleep in record time.
On our last day we make the most of the villa. Fully recovered, we properly notice the rugged views, the surprisingly relaxing bleats of Balearic goats dotted on the mountain opposite. The growing confidence of the baby in the pool, flamingo long since discarded. On our last night, we brave tapas, fish included, we sip Wanda’s fizz and make a toast to the honeymoon and the wedding to come. The sun sets and the sky is as pink as the hibiscus that hugs the terrace. We turn to each other, primed to utter those three little words.
The baby monitor shrieks, the moment punctured.
“It’s your turn!”