This trip was not a home exchange, but an early September reunion with Newton's former Natal poker buddies - now moved away.
Carlos is the Mallorca native who moved back from Natal last year. His mother is Maria José, whom I've adored ever since five minutes after meeting her when she visited Natal a few years ago. She works in a doctor's office. Carlos works for a tourist company whose new offices are now in Krakow, so he commutes between Mallorca and Poland nowadays. We stayed with Carlos and his big sweet dog, Elliott, our first couple of nights.
Maurice is a Belgian who works in travel, and Gabriela ("Gabí") is his beautiful partner from São Paulo. He was my local fellow-history buff in Natal. They were both a big part of our former party group, now better known as the diaspora! After the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Maurice and Gabí took their significant tour guide earnings and traveled from Australia to Nepal for five months. Their trip was literally cut short a few days by the earthquake in Nepal. They then set up a new household in Mallorca. This meant their big sweet dog, Laika, was reunited with her best friend Elliot, at last! Gabí's English has become excellent, and her Catalan (also spoken in Mallorca) is right in line.
Our grand tour of the island was before additional poker alumni arrived. Carlos and Maria José drove us all over the island, accompanied by Maurice, Gabí, Anna and Wim in the second car. The road wound up higher and higher until we were in a fog, but in the meantime, we saw incredible vistas of beauty and the gorgeous towns of Valdemossa, Sóller and Deiá.
|L to R: Gabí, me, Newt, Maurice, Ann, Wim, Carlos, Maria José|
|Our lunch view|
Carlos took us into Palma, Mallorca's miniature Barcelona, for the best lunch I ever had...which means it superseded the other best meals from the summer I have already mentioned! We went to the central market, Mercat de l'Olivar. Carlos led us first to the seafood counter, where we stood around drinking glasses of cava and eating unforgettable delicacies.
We were swooning, but then Carlos led us to the salami counter, where the salamis were the freshest; utterly divine.
|I had just asked the stand owner to marry me!|
Laughter, reminiscing and toasting persevered through the rest of the day - in ENGLISH. I was in language heaven!
Soon, the other reunion participants arrived on the island:
You have already been introduced to Jordi-the-Catalan if you read my Catalonia Dispatch. He returned home to Spain from Natal earlier this year and is a construction engineer (and very generous tour guide to old friends!). We celebrated his birthday while in Mallorca.
Pedro from Lisbon - also in tourism; his wife, Michelle from Montreal - a teacher; and their ADORABLE 3-month-old, Luca - a full-time baby, arrived from Ericeira, outside Lisbon. They moved there from Natal last year.
Here is Luca in the "onesie" I bought him from another member of the Natal diaspora: Ian, now back in London. Ian designs many fun baby items at his company, Nippaz with Attitude, but I thought this "babygrow" - as Ian calls 'onesies' - was especially sweet:
Jan, also a Belgian, drove from Belgium with a Brazilian girlfriend. He is all over the world all the time, another travel agent. We met both Maurice and Jan on the same night some years ago when we were a team of four on Trivia Night in Natal. We won, with significant thanks to their fine Belgian education. Very knowledgeable! Jan left Natal last year and was moving to Italy after the reunion.
We moved into a spacious Airb&b apartment with Pedro, Michelle, little Luca and Jordi, just a short walk from Maurice and Gabí's apartment. It was in a neighborhood outside Palma called "Sometimes!"...except it is actually "Som-eh-teem-es." NOW I could live my Grandma fantasy, and what a great joy that was. Luca is simply an entire reason to live!
The big Poker Reunion Game Night arrived. Michelle was certain that Luca would follow his routine and stay asleep at Maurice's after all the women left for our dinner out, but 1)Luca had recently returned to Europe from Canada; 2)had recently traveled from Portugal to Mallorca; and 3)was three months old and growing and changing! The guys passed him around the poker table for some time before Pedro managed to get him back to sleep! What a sight:
Maurice arranged a day on a hired sailboat. It was marvelous fun despite some clouds.
Everyone, except me, took some dramamine ahead of time to avoid sea-sickness, which I feared less than dramamine! Ironically, there was no turbulence at all; Newton kept mentioning that he was very sleepy. We finally realized that the Dramamine was making everyone tired...except Gabí, who was not affected.
She and I shared the complimentary cheap cava. I followed my rule of a glass of water between every glass of cava...
You can take the foreigners out of Brazil, but you can't take Brazil out of the foreigners; here is our Havaiana's ad:
And I call this photo MANDONNA and child:
Carlos and Pedro cooked a big barbecue at Maurice and Gabí's:
|L to R: Pedro, Jordi, Maurice, Maria José, Gabí, Jan's girlfriend, Jan, Ann, Wim, me, Carlos, Carlos' longtime friend.|
This is the side Chapel of The Holy Sacrament, renovated by the Mallorcan artist Miquel Barceló in 2007. It features terra cotta-modeled murals of the loaves and fishes story and the wedding at Canaan, plus an entirely modern interpretation of stained glass:
I particularly loved this bolero hat crowning mortality in the floor marble!
Cocktails at the Sky Bar in Palma allowed us to absorb the sky, the sea, the lighting and the city.
AND, it was just a month-and-a-half later that Gabí and Maurice tied the knotin beautiful Valdemossa, with Carlos, Maria José, Jordi, Michelle, Pedro and Luca, Ann, Maurice's parents and other friends in attendance! We hated to miss it. Congrats, you two!
The wedding included a wild night in costume, which we also hated missing:
Our last stop of the summer would be four days in Portugal with Pedro, Michelle and my precious, pretend grandson.