TRAV­ELS WITH MY MOTHER

ELLE (UK) - - Contents -

Lotte Jeffs on the sim­ple joys of hol­i­day­ing with her mum

MY MUM IS WEAR­ING A CHIC STRAW HAT for our flight to Palma, Mal­lorca, but she’s left it in the tray at air­port se­cu­rity, and be­cause nei­ther of us can re­mem­ber which line we were in, there are a few min­utes of mother-daugh­ter flap­ping as she re­marks that said hat is ‘not cheap, dar­ling’ and I run back through the hordes of highly-strung-at-6am fam­i­lies, who have lit­tle pa­tience for my fren­zied quest to find it. Which I do, should you be won­der­ing.

Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve taken an­nual mini-breaks with my mother, and with­out fail she will lose some­thing – her spec­ta­cles in Stock­holm, wal­let in Barcelona, Mis­soni scarf in Madrid – or there will be a small drama, such as the time she fell off her bike on the Île de Ré, or tum­bled down the stairs of a hip Am­s­ter­dam res­tau­rant. She claims she is only this scatty when we’re to­gether, and blames her lack of fo­cus on the fact she is just so happy to be spend­ing 72 hours with her much-adored only child, she can’t think about any­thing else. And, be­cause I’m al­ways just as happy to be go­ing on hol­i­day with my much-adored mother, I don’t mind hav­ing to chuck away half my toi­letries at the se­cu­rity gate to make space for hers. We’re only tak­ing hand lug­gage and she’s brought 2,000 mini Aveda prod­ucts that do not in any way fit into the des­ig­nated one plas­tic bag per per­son.

We first went away to­gether, just the two of us, the sum­mer my dad left for­ever. My par­ents had been mar­ried for 32 years, so his new re­la­tion­ship with another woman wasn’t some­thing my mother and I would get over on a short trip to Nice, but at least we’d be cry­ing on the Croisette rather than at home. Our yearly jaunts (al­ways to a stylish bou­tique ho­tel in Eu­rope, ei­ther in a city with great shops and gal­leries, or a gor­geous re­sort) be­came mi­cro­cosms of joy, no mat­ter what was hap­pen­ing in our lives at home. When I’m asked by a yoga teacher to pic­ture my ‘happy place’, I of­ten re­trace the steps of one such jour­ney to mostly sun­nier climes (dis-

count­ing a week­end in An­twerp where the rain didn’t stop, but we were holed up in the Mode Mu­seum for most of it).

So, we’re off to Mal­lorca to­gether amid the sum­mer’s usual hor­ror sto­ries of air­line strikes, power out­ages and re­ports of Palma be­ing the World’s Most De­layed Air­port in The World Ever. I brace my­self for the worst, think­ing back to the time we waited eight hours for our Eurostar to Paris but re­fused to take up the of­fer of trav­el­ling the fol­low­ing day be­cause we had booked Chris­tian La Croix’s Ho­tel du Petit Moulin for one night only and, by God, we were sleep­ing there that night, even if it killed us (and it al­most did). But this jour­ney to Mal­lorca is un­re­mark­able – right un­til the taxi pulls up out­side Ho­tel L’Avenida in Sóller, where plain trees line the nar­row streets and the cob­bles are dap­pled with golden sun­shine. In a lov­ingly ren­o­vated turn-of-the-cen­tury town­house, the ho­tel is bou­tique in the truest sense of the word, with only 12 rooms. My eyes are peeled for po­ten­tial trip hazards (on be­half of my mother) as we nav­i­gate the cool mar­ble lobby and make it on to the bal­cony over­look­ing the pool. Cham­pagne ma­te­ri­alises and we clink to the start of another ad­ven­ture.

My mum is 72 years old now, but with her trade­mark henna-red hair, pen­chant for a COS en­sem­ble and fab­u­lous line in state­ment jew­ellery, she is any­thing but a ‘lit­tle old lady’, a hor­ri­bly ageist term we agree should go the way of blue rinses. Sure, she’s not ex­actly sprint­ing up the six flights of stairs to our room on the top floor (there isn’t a lift), but that and her preter­nat­u­ral abil­ity to com­plete the Guardian Quick Cross­word in three min­utes flat are about the only clues she’s a ‘woman of a cer­tain age’.

There is a sump­tu­ous four­poster bed in the room and a rick­ety-look­ing roll-away camp bed made up in the cor­ner, which I in­sist on tak­ing. My mum doesn’t ar­gue – she’s never been one to turn down lux­ury. We both sleep well af­ter a day of eat­ing, drink­ing, swim­ming and, in my mum’s case, sketch­ing the other guests around the pool with the mini wa­ter­colour pal­ette she keeps in her hand­bag.

Sóller is about a 45-minute drive from the cap­i­tal Palma and the air­port. It’s a beau­ti­ful lit­tle town with a wooden elec­tric tram dat­ing from 1913, which clat­ters its way from the rail­way sta­tion down to the beach. The town square is buzzing at night with out­door restau­rants serv­ing patatas bravas and paella. One night in the plaza, a sax­o­phon­ist plays jazz clas­sics; on another, a cou­ple dances the tango. We’ve booked a ta­ble for din­ner at Luna 36, a lovely court­yard res­tau­rant in the his­toric cen­tre of Sóller. I al­ways like to do a bit of re­search be­fore head­ing out on the town with my mum to avoid end­ing up in a dodgy area or hav­ing to hike up a hill. I’ve dis­cov­ered that this place, a few min­utes’ walk from the ho­tel, was built in 1870 and was once a choco­late fac­tory. Ac­cord­ing to the web­site, it makes ‘won­der­ful food, all from the bot­tom’. The mis­trans­la­tion has us laugh­ing like a pair of school­girls, but the food – gaz­pa­cho, sal­ads, fresh fish and some richer meat dishes – is de­li­cious.

My mother and I of­ten end up in hys­ter­ics over some­thing; in Brus­sels, it was the fact that ev­ery per­son who walked past us as we sat in the win­dow of a trendy bar was wear­ing the ex­act same puffer jacket (maybe you had to be there). In a posh res­tau­rant in Barcelona, it was be­cause we ac­ci­den­tally held the os­ten­ta­tiously large menu too close to a can­dle and the whole thing went up in flames.

Our first night in Mal­lorca ends with­out hi­lar­ity, but with a cock­tail and game of cards back at L’Avenida. We’re in bed by 11pm,

so when I wake up early the next morn­ing to creep out of the room and go for a run, my mother’s voice stops me dead in my tracks. ‘Dar­ling, I don’t want you to go out run­ning on your own,’ she says from be­neath the sheets. ‘Why on earth not?’ I ask, try­ing not to sound con­fronta­tional. ‘Cars,’ she says. ‘I’ll run on the pave­ment,’ I say. ‘You’ll get lost.’ ‘I’ve got my iPhone.’ Hav­ing ex­hausted all pos­si­ble rea­sons a grown woman shouldn’t go for a jog, we agree to meet for break­fast in an hour, and I know not to be late.

The ho­tel is owned by a Bri­tish cou­ple who have handed over the day--to-day run­ning of the place to a small, friendly staff of fel­low Brits. It makes the vibe easy and laid-back – and it also means there’s Mar­mite at break­fast, with var­i­ous gluten- and dairy-free op­tions. This suits my mother, who is on a com­pli­cated med­i­cal diet that means she can’t eat grains or sugar, but she can have pota­toes – or is it the other way around? I still haven’t quite worked it out. I’m in even more of a mud­dle when, while we’re on hol­i­day, she or­ders ice cream and eats bread. ‘Oh, bug­ger it,’ is her ex­pla­na­tion.

I’ve al­ways loved the fact that my mum knows when to re­lax and how to have fun. In St Tropez, she bought a packet of Gi­tanes cig­a­rettes be­cause they re­minded her of the French boyfriend she had when she was 16, and we smoked them while drink­ing beers in a pave­ment cafe. In Barcelona, we went to a gay bar where a semi-naked man was danc­ing in a cage. And in Ed­in­burgh, we saw some very du­bi­ous cabaret in­deed. Here, in Mal­lorca, we spend our last day in Palma, the beau­ti­ful cap­i­tal. In truth, we don’t see much of it as we frit­ter away the whole af­ter­noon en­joy­ing a lav­ish four-course lunch and pol­ish­ing off a bot­tle of wine on the ter­race of the Es Balu­ard modern art gallery. It’s the per­fect spot for a sunny, in­ter-gen­er­a­tional af­ter­noon, as it looks out over the sea and is fre­quented by a hand­some, arty crowd. We in­tend to go to the gallery (my mum likes noth­ing more than look­ing at paint­ings), but by the time we fin­ish lunch, it is closed and we are drunk.

I’m def­i­nitely in charge on our trips. I book ev­ery­thing, nav­i­gate and tend to pay. She spent 25 years do­ing the same for me, so it’s the least I owe her. Plus, she’s good at go­ing with the flow, a nec­es­sary at­tribute in any travel com­pan­ion. I’ve of­ten won­dered why more of my friends don’t go away with their mothers, and I think it’s the fact that they aren’t as easy-go­ing as mine, and that makes ev­ery­thing more stress­ful.

It’s our shared pen­chant for say­ing yes to things that sees us spend one af­ter­noon in Mal­lorca lunch­ing with the fash­ion de­signer Katharine Ham­nett in a glam­orous res­tau­rant on Aga­panto beach. She emerges from the sea with a snorkel on top of her head, wraps a towel ele­gantly around her­self and joins us at the ta­ble, order­ing prosecco for ev­ery­one. She’s the mother of a friend of a friend who is stay­ing in her fam­ily home on the is­land, and we find our­selves swept up for a hot sec­ond in this fab­u­lous beach scene, shar­ing a ta­ble with Katharine’s de­light­ful sons and their tanned posse of friends. She’s just two years younger than my mum, and is another in­spir­ing sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian. We talk about sus­tain­able fash­ion, her re­cent Re­verse Brexit T-shirts, and I tell her I’m writ­ing about trav­els with my mother. She’s wor­ried that noth­ing dra­matic enough has hap­pened on this trip and jok­ingly sug­gests that we try mi­cro­dos­ing on LSD to­gether to give the story a more com­pelling nar­ra­tive. I catch my mum’s eye from across the ta­ble, a warm breeze rus­tles the aga­pan­thus flow­ers that spill over a wall on to the sand. I smell salt and sun­cream. Cae­sar sal­ads and chips have been or­dered and I’m just on the happy edge of tipsy. A look passes pri­vately be­tween us that says, ac­tu­ally, this is all we need. Ho­tel L’Avenida, Sóller, Mal­lorca (avenida-ho­tel.com). Dou­bles start from £175, B&B. Monarch (monarch.co.uk) has re­turn flights from Lon­don Gatwick and Lu­ton, as well as se­lected re­gional air­ports, from £68

IN­SIDE THE

HO­TEL L’AVENIDA THE DUO HIT ST TROPEZ

TANGO DANC­ING IN SÓLLER’S

MAIN SQUARE MAL­LORCA’S

HO­TEL L’AVENIDA

ELLE

NOV

COPEN­HAGEN CALL­ING…

THE NAR­ROW STREETS OF SÓLLER

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