Hopelessly Lost In a Foreign Land Past Midnight

Mallorca's best beaches are far from Palma
Downtown Palma in Mallorca

Sometimes a personal anecdote is nice to see that travel writers also have nightmarish experiences at times. You have to be on your toes and ready to problem-solve the unexpected, no matter who you are. It keeps the mind working in that way that a crossword puzzle does for some people.

I had finished a delightful trip to Italy, but planned a stop on the Spanish island of Mallorca on the way back to the U.S. The flight from Italy to Mallorca was only a few hours. But still, leaving Italy at a decent hour you are likely to arrive in Mallorca late in the day. When we got there, the rental car we had previously arranged had to be picked up at an offsite lot, adding to the time before we got going. We were staying in a beach hotel across

the island, not in the main tourist city of Palma near the airport. By the time we set out for the hotel, dusk had begun to pull back the sheet of blue sky.

As first-time visitors, getting to our destination was like shooting in the dark. Smartphone navigation system to the rescue? Coverage was spotty. We pieced together our way using the tidbits of information we gathered from the navigation map and an occasional sign.

Finally we reached the city where our hotel was located. It was very late. The night owls were closing up the bars, and the streets were crowded and rowdy, a bit intimidating as we couldn’t understand the language.

Although we tried to get directions, no one we stopped spoke English and it was hard to hear them anyway over the din.

After frantically driving around for about an hour, covering ground we had already covered as we drove in a circle, the bars were now closed and the streets were empty. We decided we’d stop at the first hotel we found.

When one appeared nearby, we could tell it was an exclusive place, way beyond our budget. But we needed help. The desk clerk, unfortunately, had no rooms available or maybe we just looked too bedraggled for their establishment. We left with directions to our hotel from the clerk, but they proved useless. We seemed to be hopelessly lost.

The navigation system gave us instructions in Spanish. We tried to match the directions to “turn on unintelligible-Spanish-word street” with the street signs, but the street signs were almost non-existent. And the few we found were impossible to decipher in the dark and in a foreign language. Street lights would have been nice, but the lack of them is part of the charm of Mallorca. And the navigation directions seemed to be delayed by about three minutes. So, we were being told to turn on a street after we had just passed it. I assume the lag time was the result of slow internet.

Eventually, it was after 2 a.m. We had been driving around lost for hours. I spotted a taxi. I hailed him down. I gave him the name of our hotel and asked him to lead us there. He happily complied. There were no other customers awake at this hour. I was down to my last ounce of energy.

Turns out we were on the east side of the city and our hotel was on the west side. Even if we had found the street we were looking for, we were on the wrong end of the street. It took 30 minutes to get to our hotel. We checked in. I paid the taxi driver. I parked the car. As I left the car to get to the room, the stress of the night exploded from my stomach and led to nausea.

Lesson learned, as a result of this experience. NEVER arrive in an unfamiliar destination by car at night when you don’t speak the language. Taking this a step further, I rely on others to drive me around. It was nice to have the car to explore the city the next few days, but it still wasn’t worth the stress.

1 Comment

  1. Ah, a familiar story. We did this in Tahiti. My husband was sure the resort would have a big, well-lighted sign. We also drove around for a couple of hours until 2 am – but there weren’t many people around. We finally stopped at a party at someone’s house (they were in the yard) and asked. The hotel was two blocks away, hidden behind the trees. We must have driven almost past it a dozen times!

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