Palma de Mallorca is a place where time moves slowly. It’s not that time has abandoned the island—though the architecture is of another century, the capital city is abuzz with modern amenities, public transportation, wifi, and even a free charging station for all of your gadgets—but the attitude remains relaxed and the focus is more on enjoying life than conquering it. There’s one major “highway” that rings the city, sheltering small streets and even smaller alleys that twist and turn, hiding sculptures and fountains, until they converge on the center. Inside this web are endless shops, restaurants, bars, and markets, with a handful of tree-lined promenades (ramblas) for shopping and strolling in the shade.
In the city itself, there’s little more than a handful of tourist attractions. It’s about slowing down and enjoying the little pleasures of life, not rushing to the next big thing. Outdoor bars and cafes overflow with friends chatting away the hours, while food and drinks flow freely, at good quality and very low cost. A tranquil destination for a few days of eating, drinking, and resting on the beaches of the Mediterranean, it’s a place to lose yourself until you’re ready to get back to reality, or adopt a new one.
My host in Palma was Ricky Herrera, 27, who came from California to Mallorca to teach English and plans to stay in Spain permanently. Here, Ricky notes just how different American attitudes toward sexuality and relationships are from those of his Spanish students, and tells us where to go for beaches, beer, and a taste of the simple life in Palma.
Out Traveler: How long have you lived in Palma?
Ricky Herrera: Eight months.
How long have you been out?
It’s been ten years now. I was 17. I came out on Thanksgiving and it was interesting: My mom cried and my dad told me it was against our religion. They wanted to pull me out of the university and see a psychologist to have the problem corrected, but I refused to go along with that, so I stayed at the university, which was nine hours away from home, and I finished school. My parents saw that I was successful, and that being gay wasn’t just about the stereotypes of drugs, sex, prostitution they associated with it, so they sort of got over it eventually.
How is it for a gay person to get along in this city?
I’ve been called a fag once, but other than that it’s chill. They don’t really care. I think sometimes when you meet people who are from a really small town outside the center you’ll probably get stared at and feel a little uncomfortable, but it’s not a big deal. Sexuality isn’t really a thing here. My students are so loving toward each other, but it’s not a gay thing. They rub each other’s hair, they hold each other’s hands, they say I love you, they’re close. And they’re straight. Sometimes I look at them funny because if they were in the US it’d be considered gay behavior but here it’s not a question. They’re just friends, and they don’t care. It is what it is. I love that here.
Two places a visitor should go with just one day here?
First is Es Trenc, which is a strip of clear beaches with beautiful sand dunes and no hotels. You can be nudist, there’s a gay area…it’s open. The other place is Mirador d’es Colomer, which is the very tip of Mallorca, with deep blue beaches and amazing views. A famous Mallorquin poet wrote about this tree growing out of a rock there that could withstand all of the intense weather conditions—he fell in love with it because it reminded him to stay balanced and never fall apart.
Your favorite restaurant in Palma?
El Mariscal del Jamón. It’s actually a bar, but it’s a very Spanish Mallorquin environment where every drink comes with a tapa. It’s usually typical local meats at first, and then it build up to cheeses with more drinks—it’s a really chill environment, and it’s not expensive at all. I go there all the time.
One thing every visitor needs to know about your city before coming here?
It’s breathtaking. You disconnect from the world because you’re essentially cutoff, on an island, and it has so many amazing calas, which are clear beaches you can go to that each have their own unique characteristics that you won’t find at the other beaches. It doesn’t feel like the rest of Spain—it feels like Mallorca. But you can still be connected to the world by travel—the airport’s only 20 minutes form the center of the city.