One of the tricks to managing Moscow is to get to sunshine whenever possible. With temps dipping below 30F and light snow falling, it was clearly time for a breather from this northern clime.
I began searching for direct flights from Moscow on SkyScanner. For those who haven’t used it before, SkyScanner finds affordable flight options from your home port. When seeking vacation inspiration, it’s a great place to start.
Around the same time, I read about a company called VAWAA (Vacation with an Artist) on Artsy.net. The concept was intriguing to me as I strive to make time for my own art practice. Via the VAWAA listings, I found an artist named Cloe who practices the art of Tibetan mandala weaving. She lives on Mallorca, a beautiful Spanish island in the Balearic Sea and – voila – also a SkyScanner deal from Moscow! I contacted VAWAA and booked my flight.
While I didn’t hesitate to book this solo trip, I wanted to ensure I wouldn’t be bored or lonely. I booked a room within a shared apartment on Airbnb. Having done this in Paris last year and really enjoyed the experience, I had confidence in the process. Reading many positive reviews about my hosts took away any qualms I might have had. From a safety standpoint, I knew someone would be keeping an eye out for me. I also kept the vacation short – 5 days in total – so not to go too long without people. Turns out, I needn’t have worried at all.
My hosts had the loveliest apartment in downtown Port de Pollença. Josep, who grew up in the place, proved a wonderful guide to the local food scene. I spent mornings out on the back porch, watching the sun fall over the terracotta tiled roofs. With weather in the 70s and nary a cloud in sight, I set myself a goal of eating every meal outside. Challenge accepted!
Happily, I arrived at the tail end of tourist season so the crowds had died down. Whereas Ibiza is the party island, Mallorca (also written Majorca) is very popular with the British retiree set and those looking for outdoor adventures.
With my mornings free, I explored the Port de Pollença but quickly moved on to local beaches recommended by my host artist. Crystal clear water and exquisite views quickly dissolved my Moscow blues. I spent time sketching from the shoreline and swimming each day.
Upon Cloe’s recommendation, I avoided the touristy markets of the Port towns and drove inland to the hilltop town of Sineu for the Wednesday market. The artisans did not disappoint and I was treated to a feast for the eyes and ears, with a local band playing in the square.
Even more intriguing were the back streets of Sineu. Adorable, authentic, and unpretentious, the narrow streets brought back visions of Sienna from my first trip to Italy.
The gorgeous sunlight cast intricate shadows on the walls of the abutting houses.
My wandering curiosity satisfied, I made my way over to Cloe’s homestead, perched on the edge of a natural reserve. Olive trees lined the gravel drive and migrating birds danced symphonies in the sky above, en route to Africa for the winter.
Cloe welcomed me with open arms, showering me with delicious local fare and stories of her years traveling in India and Nepal as we sat out on her back porchway.
Her studio, filled with rainbows of yarn, inspired me immediately, and I set to meditating on the origin story for my mandala.
Over the course of my time in workshop, I learned 6 different wrapping techniques and created my own mandala which now hangs triumphantly on the wall of my Moscow apartment. We shared our artistic processes, philosophies on artmaking, and advised each other as each afternoon sailed past.
Now back in Moscow, I’m feeling rested and energized. I look forward to sharing this process with my students and feel ready for the 7-week home stretch until the winter break. I would love to do another vacation with an artist in the future and highly recommend VAWAA to travelers of all abilities. Exploring a place through the eyes of locals cannot be matched and with artmaking to boot, it was a experience I will never forget.