Lost in Translation: A Mallorca Travel Tale

Lost in Translation: A Mallorca Travel Tale

I had never seen such a scene in all my life. I like to think I’m pretty well traveled but there is something about the ports where the rich and famous hang out. White yachts dotting the impeccably clear water. Small streets leading up the mountains to hotels where the view must have been five stars. Fashionable women with youngsters take leave of the beach in their $800 swimsuits and matching cover ups.

What was I doing here? I was very lost. I, with my little carry-on, on my way to a cheap hostel. I started out in the center of Palma de Mallorca. With no wi-fi and no printed map or directions, I tried my best to figure out my way to the hostel I had made a reservation for earlier in the day. It seems I walked half of Palma by the time I decided to give up and ask for help. (I’m very masculine that way- I hate to ask for directions. But that’s because I’m the one who always knows where she is going.)

“I need to find Carrer D’Antoni Gelabert. That’s the location of my hostel.”

No point in asking directions to the handsome bartender. He was Spanish and only spoke Spanish. I decided to sit down at the bar and figure out a way to communicate to this man where I needed to go and hopefully find a way to get there. I was dehydrated from walking in the sun for hours, so I asked for water. No luck. I don’t speak a word of Spanish so let’s try French.


Still no sign of recognition from the bartender but then the older well-traveled looking man says to me.

“You want some, water, yes?”

 Success! Now at least I know how to ask for water in Spanish after he translated for me. Aqua= Agua.

“Does the bar have wifi?”

Again, no recognition. I’m stumped as to why in the year 2015 these men don’t know what wifi is. What planet did I land on? Again, the older man speaks up and pronounces wifi as “Wee-Fee.” The barman writes down a password. No luck. Nothing is working the way it should be today. With no wifi, no taxis in sight (even though we were on the main street), and no way to communicate what it was that I wanted I tried to explain that I needed a taxi. Surely if I would just give the driver an address, he would be able to take me there. GPS, anyone?

A taxi pulled up, I quickly paid for the agua, got into the taxi and handed him my phone with the address on the screen.

“No problem,” he said in Spanish.

 Great! I relaxed in the backseat while he drove. He drove west to an area I had not explored on my walk. Fifteen minutes later we drove up to a hotel. I looked at the name on the building.

“Uh….this is not where I asked you to go.” 

We weren’t even on the same street. How did he come up with this place? I explained to him to wait; I ran inside the hotel motioning for him to join me. The front desk personnel was very accommodating. They spoke English and explained we were just around the corner! Finally, I would be able to put my bag down and explore the nearby fortress, Castelle de Bellver.

 Back in the car. We drove. Past the marina, the mall, and just kept going into what looked like a deep forest and then past pastures and wound around the edges of mountains, until we spotted the glorious sea. Costa de la Calma was picturesque. With its white sand beach and fabulous looking people, small cafes with townspeople. I wanted to stay overnight but was told by another driver the prices here were in the hundreds of Euros per night. Ok, so a little out of my budget. I’ll just stow this magical place in the back of my dreams until I’ve struck it rich.

Back on the hunt. We happened upon a taxi stand where my driver asked about the hostel.

“No street by that name here.”

By that time, I was fed up. I had been watching the meter, and it was up to 70 Euro! I decided to take matters into my own hands. Armed with the name and address of said hostel I went up to the youngest driver in the circle.  As I had guessed, his English was a little better than the older gentleman. He had data on his phone and google maps. He quickly produced the location I was supposed to be. I made sure my burly driver took a look at the map and admitted he was in the wrong place and understood where we needed to go. Back to Palma.

Lost in Translation: A Mallorca Travel Tale

He wanted the whole sum for this ride I didn’t ask. I told him I never intended on leaving Palma so in the end, he gave me a fair price, and I looked at the bright side. I got to see more of this lovely island in a private car, and I know I never would’ve seen that part of the island if this mishap hadn’t happened! But it did pique my interest into other remote parts of the island which I visited later on my trip, after researching the transportation situation very carefully.

It never hurts to look on the bright side even if it seems a driver has ruined your day! And a lesson was definitely learned- Prepare yourself before you go traipsing off alone in a new country with a foreign language!


TravelClaire Blumenthal