Today, my husband and I made our way into the biggish city of Palma, capital of Mallorca, with no real agenda but to grab a morning coffee, mill around town, and eventually get to our weekly grocery shopping.  It was our first city outing in a while, as we usually avoid Palma during the summer/early fall months when it becomes a mecca for sangria hungry tourists.  But today, with a half empty city before us – partly induced by looming grey clouds and already wet pavement/roads, we would do as the locals do and simply start the day by picking a cafe.

We settled on getting coffee at a place that I’ve taken quite a liking to.  Horno Helvetico, oddly enough, is a Swiss cafe in the middle of the gothic area of Palma.  Moreoever, as Sandra’s boyfriend Lolo deduced during their last visit here, I’m partial to the cafe because it more resembles a coffeehouse, an American concept and an anomaly in the Mediterranean countries of Europe.  The place is quaint, rustic, and clean, with all cozy indoor seating.  Their breads are beautiful, pastries flaky and nice, and coffee decent.  Since we finished a gym session before the sun had fully risen, we delightfully rewarded ourselves with a couple of small fresh apple filled pastries and cafe con leche.

Despite the rain clouds, the weather was warm and humid.  The absence of a strong sun made for a nice walk through the meandering cobblestone streets of the old city.  Palma, like many other older and larger European cities, has evolved to become a bit of a hodgepodge of shops, restaurants, cafes and curiosities.  The big designers, like LV and Carolina Herrera, are juxtaposed to stores such as Zara’s and shops that change names every few months but hock the same merchandise to unwitting tourists.  Also in the mix are real locals shops, where either the Spanish language or good hand gesturing is needed and patience required to wait in line behind small elderly ladies posing a laundry list of questions to the cashier.

After an hour or so of aimless window shopping and waiting out one brief but heavy downpour, it was time for tapas.  We headed to our favorite tapas bar, La Taberna el Burladero.  The restaurant, like the coffeehouse, is a bit of an anomaly – employing a Spanish wait staff but a Filipino cook staff.  Being a bit early for lunch, we encountered all empty tables.  But it didn’t matter – it smelled good, looked good, and our stomachs were grumbling.  Following a couple of pinchos (small pieces of bread topped with everything delicious) and a plate of lemon infused, olive oil doused sardines, our main course of braised oxtail arrived.  Served on a bed of potatoes, peas and carrots, it was tender, meaty, perfectly salty and tasty.

When we finished and finally lifted our heads from being buried in the plates before us, we realized that the restaurant was completely packed and every table full.  It was time for us to make our getaway from the restaurant crowd and the bustle of the city.  The ultimate bliss from these small city trips derives from being able to retreat back to the quiet of our countryside village.

Well, after dessert and another coffee, that is….