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Immured in the hell of finals, I told NTS, ‘pick somewhere warm where I know the language’ (it being our first trip, of many). We settled on Mallorca, Spain. I was excited to pull out my school Spanish. (Which is slightly better than ‘school’ languages tend to be, languages being my specialty.) Freshly free of finals, I did no research whatsoever into the island, which is unlike me. It turns out that the islands do speak Spanish… As a second language. This explains the exes ans the unexpected endings, which for the first 24 hours were just confusing.

Happily, the first language is a dialect of Catalan, a closely related Romance language. My struggles to figure out which of the two is being used at any given time (the locals being very used to tourists who don’t speak Catalan, or often, Spanish) must be entertaining. I have given up trying to use the Catalan phrases from the travel guide, as it just makes my Spanish worse. Most of the locals are kind enough not to immediately switch to English, which is some consolation. Or they can’t be certain from my Spanish whether I’m English or German (Mallorca is especially popular with both), which is funny.The youth hostels, rare to begin with on this island known for its resorts, are closed for the off-season, so we are staying in a lovely hotel. I am considering hotels for all our travels now, as it is a pleasure and a comfort, after a day of walking in a strange land, to slide in next to my husband instead of into a lonely bunk above him. Private rooms in hostels aren’t that much of a savings, anyway. Dorm-type rooms are, but I value my sleep more now than previously.