Of course, the water in Mallorca doesn’t taste like it ought to
Donkeys years ago – I mean, like, years ago, in the 1980s – there was a seminal advert for Heineken that gave rise to the phrase “The water in Mallorca don’t taste like what it ought to“.
You probably remember it, if you’re as old as me; a posh-looking lady trying to essentially speak in a cockney accent, for reasons I can’t remember. She takes a swig of Heineken and suddenly, she’s able to talk proper Cockney. I’m not sure why she’d want to, mind you.
What probably fewer people recognise is that this advert is a parody of the “Rain in Spain” scene from My Fair Lady, a classic film where a Cockney flower girl takes speech lessons from a chap called Henry Higgins, so that she may pass as a lady in High Society. This, of course, is where the other well-known saying “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain” springs from.
The reason for my ramblings about beer adverts stems from our recent family holiday to Magaluf in Mallorca, where the water, thankfully, did taste like it ought to, but also because there was some beer and it bloody rained. Not only on the plain but also on me, when I was trying to get a well-deserved suntan during the hottest weather the Mediterranean region had seen since the dawn of time. There’s no justice.
The dreaded School Summer Holidays in our house always loom large, I’ve written about this before, but how the fuck are any sane and responsible working parents meant to keep two small children occupied for a long six weeks while avoiding becoming bankrupt in the process?
We decided to break it up as much as we could, with short mini breaks across the weeks to keep costs (and work holiday requests) down.
Family Holiday to Magaluf
Mrs B has a nose like a police sniffer dog when she’s out for a bargain. As soon as the concept of a family long weekend break in the sun was decided upon, she hit Skyscanner, CheapFlights, and Kayak, utterly determined not to pay one precious pound more than the multimillion owners of airlines deserve.
Of course, driving down costs is always an adventure when you’re trying to solve the triumvirate of cost, location, and timing.
Sure, you can fly to Greece very cheaply, but at 3 a.m. in February. There might be the option of a daytime flight to Croatia from Gatwick, but it will cost you a billion pounds. The space around her desk quickly turned blue with the sound of angry swearing as she relentlessly hunted down a bargain and after 3 days of frantic mouse-clicking, she emerged from her office, triumphant.
“I’ve done it!” she proudly proclaimed. “Mallorca. Five days, four people, eight hundred pounds.”
This sounded suspiciously like A Good Deal.
“What’s the catch?” I asked.
“No catch!” she assured me. “As long as we only take one bit of hand luggage… and we pick the kids up exactly at 3 pm on the very last day of school … and they change in a pub car park … and we head straight for the airport in 2 hours, we should make the cheapest EasyJet flight available this summer!”
“Gatwick or Heathrow?”
Fine. So, we had to drive past 2 airports … to get to the airport … and we wouldn’t be able to carry anything, but thanks to low-cost airline’s habit of charging you the Earth if you have the temerity to actually want to take clothes with you on holiday, it still worked out cheaper to fly with the contents of your pockets and buy an “I love Mallorca” t-shirt at the other end.
It was either that or do a full “Joey from Friends” and turn up at the airport wearing everything you want to take with you. For the price for a late afternoon flight to Mallorca, and to be dipping your toes in the warm Med as the sun went down that same day, it was definitely worth a cheeky punt.
Hotels in Magaluf
After a 40 Euro taxi fare from Palma de Mallorca Airport into the town of Magaluf, we arrived at our digs for a few nights. Mrs B had selected the four-star Sol Guadalupe hotel right in the centre of town.
This meant the clientele was a healthy mix of nationalities and ages, from families after a pool holiday to elderly Germans getting a spot of sunshine, down to excitable teenagers on their first holiday overseas. This is reflected in the TripAdvisor reviews because if there’s one thing old people love doing, it’s complaining about young people.
Look, it’s a relatively cheap hotel in the centre of a notorious holiday hotspot. Of course, it’s going to get a bit loud. Luckily, after a few holiday beers, I am pretty dead to the world and Mrs B, who is a bit of a light sleeper, didn’t report any issues either, so I can only assume we got lucky in that respect.
The staff were lovely despite the more challenging guests constantly demanding five-star standards for four-star money and they looked after us wonderfully.
The family room we’d originally booked was, for some reason, unavailable when we arrived so they put us in two larger adjoining twin rooms at no extra charge which suited us just fine, especially now we had two bathrooms designated for Boys (smelly) and Girls (non-smelly) respectively.
When it came to food, we had breakfast included, which was fine. Every hotplate and chilled counter groaned with a tempting array of food and even the pickiest of eaters could find something that worked for them. The Boy gorged himself on Spanish-style bacon, the Girl was delighted at the array of fresh fruits, and I, living up to my stereotype, ate everything twice.
My only observation was that the coffee machine was one of those rather cheap vending machine style coffee makers (you know the ones), which, after a lot of whirring and noises and steam delivers a cup of something that was exactly not like coffee at all.
This displeased Mrs B who requires at least one large cup of decent coffee per day, but then you can always stroll into town for a Starbucks if that’s what you need. In a stunning display of practicality, I went for a teabag in hot water, safe in the knowledge even the worst of vending machines couldn’t fuck up hot water. Instead, I poured too much milk in and fucked it up for myself. Take that, technology!
The hotel also had a thriving kids club which the children resolutely refused to take part in, which was a shame because it looked really good. They did relent on one single day and joined in the watersports challenges, but apart from that, all they wanted to do was use the quite enormous pool.
You know that joke in the Barbie movie where Ken gets asked what his job is, and he answers “Beach. Just … beach.”. Well, on holiday, all the children wanted to do was “pool”. Just pool.
Frankly, we were glad to oblige them, and for most of the week, we lazed around the pool getting slowly browner and fatter, broken up with occasional walks into town for dinner.
If your budget can stretch a bit further, the Melia Group of Hotels – of which the Sol Guadalupe is part of – also offers the slightly more upmarket Sol Katmandu Park & Resort which looks slightly more wonderful, offering not only a hotel but with an attached theme park, right next to a spectacular beach, which seems like a perfect spot. If I sound jealous while writing this, it’s because I am. Come on. An attached theme park!
Eating and Drinking in Magaluf
There are loads of places to get a cheap bite to eat in Magaluf and if it’s a taste of home you’re after, you’re in luck – every expat seems to have opened a bar or restaurant in town, so no matter if you’re after a full Scottish experience or a pint in the London Arms, this town has got you covered and if you want something a bit more locally authentic, that’s also well covered as you would expect.
We tried a couple of places, one place so crappily unremarkable I cannot even remember the name of it for the life of me, complete with a thoroughly unremarkable paella dish I reluctantly pushed around for an hour.
However, we really enjoyed Tom Browns on the beachfront, open all season long from 9 am for breakfast, until 11 pm at night for a snack before bed. With 2 small children, we had an earlyish dinnertime slot, but over the course of our meal, the restaurant went from being relatively empty to absolutely packed in an hour, a testament to how wildly popular this place obviously was.
The Boy is a complete carnivore, so he and I went for a medium ribeye steak and chips each (yes, at 8, he can eat a 12oz steak without blinking), with the girls going for a hearty-looking pizza each.
Lest you think that was an easy choice, let me assure you it was not. Tom Browns has the most extensive menu I think I’ve ever seen at any time, in any place, anywhere. The menu is the size of a phone book, and the waiters set it down in front of you with a hearty clump.
There’s a genuinely bewildering choice of Breakfasts, Sandwiches, Wraps, Paninis, Baked Potatoes, Omelettes, Sides, Starters, Burgers, Hotdogs, Light Meals, Pizzas, Fajitas, Salads, Specials, Grills, Fish, Grills and Specials, Deserts, Pancakes plus a comprehensive Kids Menu.
Don’t take a book with you on holiday, you might as well just settle down with the menu for a while. The drinks list is equally elaborate and runs to several pages – the safest thing to say is that if you can think of it, they will have it, and bring it out to you, hot and fresh, in good time.
I have a simple rule of thumb; if you’re going somewhere new and you’re not sure of the quality of the food, always go for the steak and chips as that’s very hard to ruin. Plus – you know – steak is delicious – and on this occasion that was very true.
Grilled to perfection with a generous serving of chips on the side, it was great value (22 Euros), although looking around at the other happy diners, everything else looked and tasted equally as good. If you wanted something a bit different, the Thai place down the road, the Thai Pan, is really well-regarded by the locals and tourists alike.
For dessert, we found a great little ice cream and waffles place just around the corner – Rivarenos – which served up incredible ice cream that kept the smiles on the kid’s faces going until at least, just before we announced it was bedtime.
Things to Do with Kids in Magaluf
We did a lot of pool, granted. We tried to break it up with the beach, but for some reason, The Girl has developed a deadly phobia of sand (don’t ask) so we desperately scrabbled around for things to do.
Luckily, just outside Magaluf – and just about walkable in 15 minutes (if you studiously ignore the children’s moaning) – is the fantastic Western Water Park.
Now this, as the name suggests, is a Wild West-themed waterpark, with numerous slides and pools. These range from a kamikaze ride with an almost vertical drop of over 30 metres (nope), a huge 15-metre-high half pipe (still nope) through to a lazy river ride (yes please) and the Pool Relaxo (impossible with children).
There is a huge kids zone which is suitable for kids under 8 I’d say – any kid over 8 will be tall enough to throw themselves off 30 metre kamikaze rides and show their Dads up for the cowards they are. This may or may not have happened to me.
Families, more organised than me, might want to take a packed lunch, or, if not, there’s an array of places selling food and drink. There’s Wild Búfalos Fast Food and Pizzeria Morricone, both of which are hopefully self-explanatory in what they sell on one side of the park, with Sioux Fast Food and La Ola Fast Food on the other.
We feasted on crepes and snacks, which you’ll of course pay a premium for, as they rightly bet that you will be too lazy to get dressed, walk back into town for lunch and come back. And do you know what? They’re absolutely right. Come on, this is me.
Other things to do with kids in Magaluf include:
- Katmandu Park
- Pirates Adventure
- Escape Rooms Magaluf
- A Day Trip to Palma (something we should have done!)
Hints and Tips for staying in Magaluf
If you’ve never been – or you went once when you were a boozy teenager and forgot everything about it because you drank your body weight in fishbowl cocktails – there are a few things that might help you plan your stay.
- Location, location, location. It’s a busy tourist town trying to make itself less boozy and more family-friendly these days, but the closer you are to the town centre, the more noise you’ll get from nightclubs and crowds. If you’re after a bit of life, then go for somewhere slap-bang in the middle of town. If you’re after a quieter life, because you have smaller children, for example, stay somewhere on the outskirts.
- Set your expectations accordingly. It was a source of endless amazement to me that some quite entitled people consistently demand a 5-star level of service in 3- and 4-star hotels. There’s only one way to guarantee a five-star experience, and that’s to pay money for it, and this is Magaluf. If you’ve got the cash, try heading up the coast a little bit to Calviá where somewhere like the 5-star Iberostar Grand Portals Nous will happily give you a luxury experience from £260 a night, where you will be pampered, but miss out on the experience of watching topless men from Manchester have a fight at 2 am from your balcony.
- Remember it’s seasonal. And Spanish. This might seem pretty obvious, but in the UK we really only have one season called “cloudy” and everything’s always open because no one stops for a siesta. However, for places fortunate enough to have non-rainy periods, stuff opens and closes depending on the mood, weather and sleepiness of the owner, so don’t be disappointed if you rock up somewhere and find it shut. That’s just the way it is.
Flight to Majorca start from £125 via budget carriers and vary throughout the year