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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mac Attack

Mac Attack

Oct. 25, 2010
Club Mac, near Porto Alcudia, Majorca, Spain
Macky the Mascot at Club Mac's Mini Disco

Gabriella dancing to Michael Jackson's "Dirty Diana"

Water too cold to swim
Fiona gets her hair braided at the Alcudia market

Scattering Sean's ashes at Cap Formentor

Chelsea and Finley at Alcudia's Roman ruins

Lunch in Pollenta

Sangria and The Full Monty
I'm drunk. Let's get that out of the way. Something about all-you-can-drink Sangria will do that to you. I'm in an alternate universe on the island of Majorca, Spain, called Club Mac. It's one of those all-inclusive resorts. I'd never been to an all-inclusive before, unless you count the 3-night Royal Caribbean cruise Sean and I took from Los Angeles to Ensenada, Mexico, a couple months before Fiona was born. This place is...like vacationing in Liverpool, England, or Stoke-on-Something. Imagine the cast of "The Full Monty," only with at least 25 spare kilograms apiece. I saw a woman in a triangle bikini with 50 extra kilos and a naval ring. You cannot imagine the dental work...or lack thereof...displayed in the mouths of vacationers (I was later told the British National Health Service doesn't cover dental work, which may explain the partial, missing and pointed teeth). So yes, we are not staying in the "real" Mallorca. We're in the land of plastic, forced family fun. The land of hit-and-miss buffet food and arcade games. The place even has a big yellow smiley-head mascot named Macky, who dances each night at the kids' Mini-Disco to such classics as "Chi-chi-wah, chi-chi-wah, chi-chi wah, wah wah..."). Thank God for the rental car, a silver diesel Opel that barely fit us and our luggage but gets fantastic mileage.

Club Mac (near Porto Alcudia, in the north of Majorca) is about 10 notches below where I'd envision Club Med. The place is clean, thankfully, but the door to the toilet created a "bam" noise due to a loose ceiling tile; the hallway is painted aqua, and the beds are glorified futons; nary a box spring in sight. Chelsea, our sitter, found a deal on the Internet: For about $120 per night, four of us can sleep, swim (in pools as cold as the waters of Lake Coeur d'Alene in June), plus eat and drink all we want. Nightly entertainment is provided by staff the same age as camp counselors, with production values that might aspire to the level of a high school musical. A "Tribute to Michael Jackson" consisted of 4 counselors, er, performers, who emerged from behind a small red curtain decorated with school-kid-like hand prints with the words, "This is It," cut out in felt. Broadway, it ain't. Dancers wore skin-tight gold and pink (for the guys) spandex pants and bushy black afro wigs. Finley couldn't stop staring at Gabriella, a lithe Spaniard with a chiseled jaw, large brown eyes and long, straight hair. She had moves. He was mesmerized. Finley asked, "Can I have your camera to take pictures?" I love her." I have at least a dozen images of dancing Gabriella and her minuscule midriff. Damn Gabriella and her minuscule midriff. I'm jealous. Maybe if I didn't drink so much Sangria, or eat so much sauteed zucchini and bread...

Zucchini and a whole other complement of vegetables, starches and meats were plentiful and adequate, if not gourmet. I ate mussels in broth that were delicious, and spinach canneloni whose pasta casing had turned to mush. Finley was interested in little else than the watery apple juice, which he could dispense himself by pressing a lever on the juice machine. "Is it this one?" he'd ask. I dove headfirst into the salad bar, because as anyone who's gone elbow-to-elbow with me at mealtime knows, I'm capable of eating my weight in lettuce each day. Frightening, yet true.Even scarier: at all-inclusives (or, at least, at this one), you have access to limitless alcohol. Want a glass of wine or beer with dinner (or lunch)? Have 1, or 5...it doesn't matter, except maybe to your poor liver, who will never forgive your Majorcan indiscretions.

Wait, there's more/The Finley Factor
Cheap food and lodging attract holiday-makers (as they're called in Great Britain), and "add-ons" are strategically designed to siphon additional Euros from your wallet. Satellite TV: $25 extra per week. Arcade games, billiards and kiddie rides: $1.40 a pop, and placed directly in front of the hotel, forcing beleaguered parents to run a gauntlet of kid-crack each time they attempt to re-enter their rooms. Fiona and Finley ran, wild-eyed, through the complex, leading to several time-outs (for Finley, whose ears rarely register Mommy English). "I don't like you," he'd say during one of his punishment hours (yeah, I once gave him an hour-long time-out for running away and then being nasty to me). "I hate you. I wish I had a different mommy." After that, I threatened to send Finn back to the States to live with Grandpa. I'm sure Dad would love that.

The weather, for the most part, was sunny and beautiful (and in the low 70's), yet the pools were so darned cold, the kids could stand no more than 10 minutes of waist-deep wading. Fiona asked, "Will you get us a floaty? I would swim with a floaty." Fat chance I'm buying a $10 pool toy for 10 minutes of swimming. Although one day, I gladly spent $15 to swim in the municipal pool at Alcudia, a facility I'd recommend for its warm kiddie pool and cleanliness.

Culture, Please
Temps were also ideal for touring the island. We visited the grand, Gothic Cathedral of Majorca in Palma and the Royal Palace of La Almudaina next door; tried and failed to visit a market in Arta, instead stumbling on its 13th century temple with magnificent view. We dragged the kids on a guided tour of Roman ruins in Alcudia (kiddos were nonplussed by 2,000 years of history and watched Scooby Doo cartoons on iPods instead: "This is bohh-ringgg. Can we go now?"); Alcudia also has what's billed as one of the best markets on the island. We spent a couple hours one day wandering cobblestone streets, buying cheap scarves, toys and a braided hairdo for Fiona ($14). The scarf seller/hair braider used a screwdriver to part Fi's hair. No injuries, and Fiona sat as still as a rock the whole time.

Growing a Daddy Tree
Another day, we drove to Cap Formentor on a Northern peninsula, navigating 18 kilometers of hairpin turns. Once at the Formentor lighthouse, we conducted a bit of business, spreading Sean's ashes into the sea (although I think most of the kids' landed on the thick stone wall designed to prevent people from tumbling over the cliff). Once Fiona and Finley had exhausted their pinches of cremains, they started gathering gravel from the ground to throw over the edge. "I'm going to grow a Daddy tree in the ocean," one of them said. It was a reminder of how symbolic the ash scattering has been: We could sprinkle sand, dirt or even chocolate ju-jus and achieve the same effect. What matters is the kinetic sense of Sean: The idea he's with us and we've dispersed his essence throughout our trip. We don't need real human remains to know this. But the fact we have the ashes reinforces Sean's presence. He was with us as we climbed 365 stairs to the temple in Pollenta – I think of him especially as I start to feel my quadriceps muscles burn during long stair climbs. I remember how Sean struggled to manage even a few stairs following 2 skin grafts and months lying in a hospital bed. I think about how you need to be fit to tour Europe with its stairs, narrow sidewalks and paucity of elevators.

Farewell, for now...
Back at Club Mac, we found plenty of lifts to shuttle us from buffet, billiards and bar to our room. Plenty of sangria, tattoos, butt cleavage, sideburns and pancake make-up to cover all of Majorca. After 6 nights, we packed our things, rolled our suitcases across the tile floor, sipped our last cups of all-you-can-drink coffee and juice and returned to the airport in Palma. We said our goodbyes to Chelsea, who was leaving for her own adventures after 2 months as our near constant companion. Would I manage a day-long trip to Luxembourg on my own with the kids? Could I cram 2 car seats into my suitcase? How does Gabriella keep that midriff so minuscule? Questions to ponder...later. We have a plane to catch.
Hasta la vista...

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