Gathering fruits in May on Mallorca

May is the month that my father comes to visit from the UK for his spring holiday, so he can celebrate his birthday in company. For the past five years he has also brought his young brother (aged 84!) – my Uncle Ray – and these two widowers enjoy being waited on, relaxing in the warm sunshine, and having a few outings for sightseeing, drinks, and meals out.

My Dad is still pretty fit and often goes for long walks by the sea near his home on the south coast of England. Ray, who had a hip replacement op early last year, walks very little and seems to have lost a bit of confidence in striding out. While he soaked up the sun on our terrace (Ray couldn’t be a more apt name for this sun worshipper), Dad was keen to have the occasional walk around the valley.

A fruity experience

On our last walk we met Llorenzo, a friendly farmer down in the valley, who –  in typically generous fashion – invited us up to his orchard to collect ‘nisperos’ (in the UK we know them as loquats). This fruit – about the size of a small plum – grows in abundance on Mallorca, although it was originally from the Far East. Most ‘nisperos’ fall to the ground unpicked here, because there are only so many of them that you’d want to eat.

We stomped up over bone-dry land to an orchard of trees heavy with the fruits. Dad hadn’t tried them so Llorenzo picked one for each of us to eat as we stood there. Then he plucked a load from the trees and filled our now-sticky hands with the juicy fruits. It’s a wonder we weren’t followed by swarms of wasps as we walked home back up the hill …

How to eat a ‘nispero’

Loquats

Nisperos fresh from the tree

We’ve often seen this fruit on the market in Manacor but haven’t bought them because they often look bruised and a bit ugly. And, frankly, there are so many different fruits to enjoy on Mallorca. But, when ripe, they are quite delicious and juicy – although they have some pretty hefty pips inside. My tip is to peel off the skin first with your fingers and just pop them into your mouth (discreetly spitting the pips out once you’ve eaten the fruit). Plenty of recipes exist for those who have the time and energy to prepare the fruit.

‘Nisperos’ may be messy to eat fresh from the tree but they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. So don’t be put off trying a few if you see them for sale on the market; beauty is more than just appearances!

 

 

 

The rain in Spain …

This May has been a strange month on Mallorca: cooler than usual, and with some rain (which was, admittedly, much needed after an extremely dry winter). We have yet to fire up the BBQ or eat dinner outdoors, but hope this will all change very soon. A few days ago, while looking for something in an old diary, I read that we’d had a high of 31 degrees Celsius on the same date in that year.

My dad, uncle, brother, his three daughters, and one son-in-law are about to descend on Mallorca for a spring holiday. They were due to be our first visitors of the year but, in mid-April, two of my nieces – who suddenly had a free long weekend – put in a last-minute request to come and stay. It was to be a warm-up for their longer holiday, which begins this weekend.

You say warm; we say cool

Living in a different country to the rest of our families, we like to accommodate even short-notice requests, so we happily said yes and hastily prepared our guest quarters. And crossed our fingers for good weather. My nieces were lucky, donning their bikinis for some beach time and even acquiring a little colour as a result of their time in the sun. We, however, were still wearing sweaters and saying it was cool for the time of year.

Early spring is a time when it’s easy to spot the foreigners who live on Mallorca and those who are just visiting. Visitors from northern Europe are flashing their limbs in t-shirts, shorts, and sandals, enjoying the relative balminess of temperatures in the upper teens and lower 20s. Many of us who live here are still wearing sweaters and jeans.

Because of the unsettled weather this May, we are later than we have ever been in setting up our outdoor spaces for the summer.  This morning began with a clear blue sky and pleasantly warm sunshine, so The Boss dragged out his pressure washer (an essential piece of kit, in our opinion), and blitzed the winter muck off all the terraces. We then set up all the outdoor furniture in readiness for BBQs and time to be spent outside … as thunder rumbled in the distance.

And just as we’d finished, this happened …

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Spring has sprung on Mallorca

A recent writing project has left me feeling a bit ‘written-out’. I’ve scribed around 12,000 words in the past few weeks on this one project – in addition to other articles, and posts on http://www.eatdrinksleepmallorca.com. No wonder my computer screen has been gazing blankly back at me when I’ve sat down to write about our life in rural Mallorca. It was as tired as I was; my keyboard and I needed a little time apart.

So, as it’s spring, I grabbed my camera and headed into our garden and field, to take a few photos of the mix of cultivated and uncultivated delights that remind me why it pays to get off my writer’s bottom (well spread) and get out into Mallorca’s great outdoors.

I hope that, wherever you are, spring is making itself known to you too.

The view from the roof of our water tank ... not somewhere I venture up to very often!

The view from the roof of our water tank … not somewhere I venture up to very often!

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First ever blossoms on our blackthorn bushes - brought over from the UK by good friends. Sloe gin? Maybe in a few years' time ...

First-ever blossoms on our blackthorn bushes – brought over from the UK by good friends. Sloe gin? Maybe in a few years’ time …

 

 

Buying the house of your dreams on Mallorca

Several episodes of the recent BBC TV mini-series The Night Manager had viewers rushing to Google looking for more information about this lovely island of Mallorca and the specific locations used in the series.  My post about these locations, on my other blog www.eatdrinksleepmallorca.com, experienced a surge in visitor numbers for several weeks as a result. The TV series has definitely fuelled interest in Mallorca …

You may have to settle for something a little more modest than *La Fortaleza (which was used as the location for arms dealer Richard Roper’s home in the series). There simply aren’t many properties like that one around. Whether you’re in the market for a luxurious seafront villa or, as we were, a rural place in need of some work (and priced accordingly), it pays to do some homework before letting your heart rule your head.

I recently wrote about some new friends who bought a house near Inca that needed quite a bit of renovation. They were fortunate to secure the services of an architect who impressed them so much that they invited me to their new home to meet him.

Development opportunity ... or start of a nightmare?

Development opportunity … or start of a nightmare?

Pedro de Salvador Morell has just been in touch with me about his new website, which may be of interest to any readers of Living in Rural Mallorca who may be seriously thinking about buying a property on Mallorca.  With between 20,000 and 30,000 illegally built residential properties on the island – a staggering number – it pays to be sure that you’re not buying one of them!

You can see the website Survey Mallorca here.

One for the coffee table ...

One for the coffee table …

* La Fortaleza also features in the beautiful coffee table book Living in Style Mallorca, published by teNeues. It’s packed with photos of spectacular properties on Mallorca and includes details of some of the interior designers who worked on them. The lifestyle concept store Rialto Living (which offers an interior design service) was responsible for La Fortaleza. No visit to Palma is complete if you haven’t visited this gorgeous store.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, our humble home in rural Mallorca (interior designer, yours truly) doesn’t appear in the book …

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beware the septic tank …

Today is World Poetry Day and, time permitting, I may just pull one of our several poetry books off the shelf this evening and indulge in some favourite verses.

As much as I enjoy reading poetry (as does The Boss), I haven’t added this literary form to my writing, preferring the less-structured form of articles and short stories.

However, I was inspired by memories of our original septic tank to write this little limerick:

A couple who lived in a finca

had a problem that was quite a stinker;

their septic tank broke,

the smell was no joke,

so they moved to a duplex in Inca

Yes, our septic tank did eventually develop an unpleasant leak, but we didn’t contemplate a move to Inca, or anywhere else on Mallorca. We had a new modern septic tank installed, but a little further from the house – and underground. The old concrete beast still remains, redundant. It’s ugly and serves only as a place where the cats like to stretch out (probably because it’s close to where their meals are served). Whatever remains beneath will be staying there.

"No, you are not going to knock this down!"

“No, you are not going to knock this down!”

 

 

How to drive on Mallorca’s off-the-beaten-track country lanes …

In a word, slowly. Living, as we do, a couple of kilometres down a country lane from a main(ish) road, we have become accustomed to the potential hazards of driving in rural Mallorca. It must be said – with the greatest of respect to Mallorcan drivers – that anticipation of the possible dangers that lurk, for users of country lanes, is sometimes lacking.

Road surfaces on Mallorca are generally very good. It was something we – and our visitors from England – often commented on in our early days of living on the island; even though our lane, at the time, was just a string of potholes linked together with bits of ancient asphalt. But even with a good road surface, driving in the country can present some challenges – particularly in lanes that are too narrow for cars to pass each other easily when travelling in opposite directions. Once, a neighbour’s son (a budding Fernando Alonso) missed our car by just a few centimetres because he’d been driving too fast from the opposite direction.

Here are some other things to watch out for on Mallorca’s roads:

Cyclists

Cyclists love Mallorca's rural lanes.

Cyclists love Mallorca’s rural lanes.

Mallorca is a magnet for keen cyclists and, during these cooler months of the year, many professional and amateur club cycling teams come here to take advantage of some excellent cycling conditions. If you’re driving, there’s every chance that you’ll find yourself crawling behind a Lycra-clad  peloton.  Or facing an oncoming one in a narrow country lane. Given the speed these bikes can travel, it doesn’t pay to be driving too fast.

The rabbit and the tortoise 

Our valley was full of rabbits when we first moved here and, what with the potholes and Bugs Bunny’s numerous friends, driving down our lane (particularly after dark) sometimes called for lightning reactions. The buck-toothed population has diminished in recent years (myxomatosis contributed to this), but rabbits do still suddenly shoot out onto the tarmac from the verges. As do their larger cousins, hares.

The Mediterranean tortoise is another creature you could encounter on your travels. They will often just retreat inside their shells when a vehicle approaches, so careful driving is needed to avoid squashing them.

Stone curlews

These rather inelegant birds give out a distinctive cry and we regularly hear their spooky shrieks at night as they fly over. After dark they also have a tendency just to stand around. Sometimes, even in the middle of the road. On one occasion, we had to brake hard to avoid hitting one that we’d been sure would take off as we approached. It just stood there looking defiantly at us until one of us got out of the car and approached it on foot.

Polyester-clad bottoms 

After a period of decent rain, there’s yet another potential hazard. Mallorcan country folk (often women; often wearing polyester pinafores) wander along the sides of the lanes, bent double and collecting the snails that have been lured out by the damp conditions.  Watch out for foragers – for snails and, in season, wild asparagus – particularly as you drive around bends, as they may not be visible below the level of the stone walls. Seemingly abandoned unfamiliar vans or small cars along a country lane may be an early warning sign of foragers who have driven out from a town or village for some of nature’s bounty.

Sheep

Beware of sheep (and goats) jumping from the tops of stone walls.

Beware of sheep (and goats) jumping from the tops of stone walls.

 

"Mum, wait for us!"

“Mum, wait for us!”

 

Sheep have a tendency to escape, because of their remarkable aptitude for climbing over dry stone walls. These woolly Houdinis can be a real danger if you come across them while driving too fast. And, take it from me, it’s almost impossible to shoo them back to where they came from. Another possibility is that you’ll encounter a shepherd moving his entire flock from one field along the lane to another field. There is no hurrying these beasts.

Horses

Horses came before cars ...

Horses came before cars …

In our valley we often see individual riders and also groups of people out with their horses. Occasionally you see a trotting horse – complete with trotting carriage – out for some exercise.

Random hazards

The above are all commonplace. Some of the more unusual hazards we’ve seen in our lanes have included a team of brightly dressed speed skaters (speed skating up the hill, no less), two donkeys that had escaped from their field and gone walkabout, and a couple of piglets that escaped from the truck transporting them from a nearby farm to their unfortunate destiny. Oh, how we cheered those two little pigs on in their Great Escape attempt … which sadly failed.

Motoring on Mallorca can be a really pleasurable experience: traffic is a lot lighter than in the UK, for example, and the island’s scenery and distant views are beautiful. But don’t spend too long gazing at the views if you’re driving … you  never know what may be ahead!

 

Jan Edwards ©2016

 

Advice on doing up/buying a property on Mallorca

Pedro de Salvador Morell (wearing glasses and grey sweater) with Celia and Nod (far right).

Pedro de Salvador Morell (wearing glasses and grey sweater) with Celia and Nod (far right).

Making new friends has been an unexpected aspect of writing about living in rural Mallorca. Back in 2014 an English couple – readers of this blog – wrote to me with some questions about moving with pets to Mallorca. We were soon exchanging emails on a fairly regular basis and, when Celia and Nod visited the island to look for a property, we met for dinner – and hit it off immediately.

They found a rural house to do up, although – unlike previous UK homes they’d completely renovated themselves – this one would be done by local builders. They invited us to see the place in its ‘raw’ state, shortly after they’d bought it and it was clear they knew exactly how they wanted it transformed.

Managing a building project

We have had personal experience of having an outhouse built, for our solar electricity components, at our Mallorcan finca – while we were still living in the UK. Unless you can live close by or on site (to keep an eye on progress) and speak enough Spanish to make your needs understood, it’s important to have someone managing the project for you.

Celia and Nod have been very happy with the people working on their project. So much so that they invited us to meet the architect and two senior members of the building team, on the day they were cracking open a bottle of cava to celebrate the almost-completed project. The property has gone through quite a transformation and this friendly couple is excited that it will soon become their permanent home on Mallorca.

I took the opportunity to find out more about the services offered by Pedro de Salvador Morell of PS Arquitectos, based in Palma. For the record, most of his clients are British, Scandinavian, or German. Pedro speaks excellent English. 

What services do you offer foreigners investing in property on Mallorca?

“Our office spans different aspects related to architecture and urbanism, in order to cover the broad needs of our clients. From our ‘Sale and Purchase Report’ – which is a useful tool to know the current state of the property and be able to negotiate the price – to architectural services, such as design, planning and project management, to achieve our clients’ dream house.

“As architecture has three dimensions, we work with plans and 3D models, making it easier for clients to understand the design and ‘see’ the house even before work starts.

“We work with total transparency with the client, using fluent communication and optimization of their resources. And all our work is conducted in accordance with current legislation.”

What were the particular challenges of Celia and Nod’s house?

“They bought a house from the ’90s, built to not-very-good-quality standards, but on a very nice plot. The main challenge was optimizing resources to achieve the building’s maximum potential. We redesigned the interior, modifying the spaces and light entry points, and reorganizing the interior to create a brand-new home.”

In your opinion, what’s the biggest mistake that foreigners make when buying property on Mallorca?

“Believing that it’s not necessary to take advice from local independent professionals (lawyer and architect) during the purchase process. On Mallorca there are professionals specializing in property purchase, and our experience and knowledge of construction and urban legalities allow us to reassure our clients regarding technical issues.

“Our aim is to provide clients with the information needed to help with the purchase decision.”

What would you advise anyone thinking of buying a property to renovate on Mallorca?

“Our recommendation to anyone buying a house here – to renovate or not – is to take advice from local independent professionals. Throughout our years of advising purchasers, we have noticed that no general conclusions can be deduced, as each building has its own history and particularities.

“It is essential to check both the construction status and planning legality of the building, as those determine future building possibilities and, of course, the price itself. For instance, relating to the property’s construction status, there can be structural problems only noticeable by the trained eye of an architect, or construction issues that can affect renovation plans. In this sense, obtaining technical advice prior to the purchase – as Celia and Nod did – can help the purchaser visualize the future results of their purchase.

“There are between 20,000 and 30,000 illegal properties on rural land on Mallorca, as many of them have been built or extended without meeting the legal requirements. Some can be legalized, some can’t, and some can even have a demolition order pending execution.”

And the history of your company?

PS Arquitectos was established in 1980 by Pedro de Salvador, my father. After working some years in Barcelona, developing exclusive villas in Greece, I moved to Mallorca to work with PS Arquitectos. As architects, we guide our clients through all stages of the construction/renovation of a house, from the very beginning (prior to the purchase itself) to the work’s conclusion . . . so that the dream of living on Mallorca does not become a nightmare.