Snow on Mallorca? It happens…

Snow on Majorcan mountains

Snow caps on the Tramuntana mountains, seen from our valley

For many who know Mallorca only as a hot summer-holiday destination, it may come as a shock to know that our beautiful island experiences some rather wintry weather at times. Back in February 2012, The Boss’s cousin and his wife came to the island for a walking holiday. Except that when they opened the door of their holiday accommodation one morning, a drift of snow awaited them. It’s not been that bad since (yet).

February is usually the coldest and dampest month and, for the past week, it’s been pretty miserable, with constant grey skies and rain in our part of Mallorca. We do need the rain, of course, to replenish the embalses – water reservoirs – for the long dry summers.

The annual Carnival celebrations were due to happen in Manacor last evening, but the powers-that-be decided to postpone the event because of the weather: yesterday was damp, dreary, and 4 degrees Celsius (although it felt colder in the wind). We think it’s the first time the event has been postponed since we’ve lived here. Carnival celebrations in Manacor will now take place this evening. What a difference a day makes. Today, the sky has been blue and the sun has shone. But, as the afternoon has progressed, there’s been a renewed sharpness to the breeze.

What to wear for Carnival

We usually dress up in ordinary warm clothes for this event but, last year, we took the plunge and went in costume – dressed in cowboy (and cowgirl) gear, along with our Dutch friends Sandra and Adriaan. We had a really fun night and I don’t recall it being particularly cold (although a glass or two of wine during the evening may have served as central heating).

Carnival in Manacor is always fun but, in costume terms, it’s not Rio. Far too cold for skimpy outfits in February! For anyone planning to dress up this evening, the ideal outfit would be a furry gorilla costume. Now, where can The Boss and I source a couple of those on a Sunday afternoon, I wonder?

©Jan Edwards 2018

 

Advertisements

Mallorca’s market life

Church in Sant Llorenc

The parish church in Sant Llorenc

Exploring local markets is one of the pleasures of living – or holidaying – on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca.  Every town and village has its market and some of the larger ones – such as the huge Wednesday market in Sineu, Artà’s on a Tuesday, and the Sunday one in Santa Maria – have become magnets for tourists.

Some markets are much larger than others. Once, not long after moving to rural Mallorca, we went to a village market which comprised a total of two stalls selling fruit and vegetables. Yes, only two. Having allocated a whole morning to exploring the potential treasures of this particular outdoor emporium, we were soon searching for a café.

Gastro Market beckons…

Last week we visited a market on Mallorca that we’d never been to before, even though we’ve lived here since 2004 and it’s not too far from home. The weekly Thursday market in Sant Llorenç has, in recent months, been given a new identity: the Sant Llorenç Gastro Market. There’s nothing like a name with foodie appeal to attract new visitors…

It’s not a large market but the stalls lining the traffic-free Carrer Major certainly fitted into the category of  ‘gastronomy’. We spotted organic local produce (including a contender for Mallorca’s largest cauliflower), gourmet salts, olive oils, home-made cheeses, and more. Some stalls were offering home-made Mallorcan dishes to take home, reheat and serve, and others had snacks to sustain market visitors whilst browsing.

In the square in front of the church, we found the more-usual fruit and veg stalls, and a van selling fresh fish (which had almost sold out by the time of our mid-morning visit).

We also bought some bread from the traditional bakery Forn de sa Plaça, where we had a sad little chat with the owner about the impact that supermarket in-store bakeries are having on traditional businesses like his own.

Recommended coffee stop in Sant Llorenç

A coffee stop is essential during a market visit and the delightful four-bedroom luxury B&B Can Solaies Hotelet (right at the heart of the Gastro Market action on Carrer Major) is our recommendation for a hot or cold drink in Sant Llorenç. We had delicious americanos there, after which we had a look at three of the rooms. They’re superbly decorated in Mediterranean style and we may go and stay a night so that I can write about the experience on http://www.eatdrinksleepmallorca.com.

Like traditional bakeries, street markets are also losing business to supermarkets – which is why initiatives like Sant Llorenç’s Gastro Market are important. If  I hadn’t spotted the magic words ‘gastro market’ on a social-media post, would we have visited this weekly market? Probably not. But with its new name and concept, and free live music to entertain visitors, this market has reignited its appeal and is offering foodies a good reason to visit the small town.

During our visit last Thursday, we didn’t see many obvious tourists – but plenty of locals were supporting Mallorca’s market life in Sant Llorenç. We’ll be joining them again in the future.

©Jan Edwards 2018

Look who’s moved into our valley

Donkey at a gate

One of Francisco’s donkeys…no longer in the valley

When we first moved to rural Mallorca in 2004, there were more animals than people in our valley. These were mainly sheep, or sheeps – as our German neighbour calls them in the plural form. (English must be quite a complicated language for a foreigner to learn).

For quite a few years, several farmers owned small flocks that were regularly moved from one field to another, somewhere else in the valley. The sound of an increasingly loud symphony of sheep-bells was a warning that the lane would be temporarily blocked to traffic by woolly walkers, being guided by the farmer towards another of his patchy patches of land. Sadly, we rarely awaken to the sound of dongling sheep-bells nearby these days: the field opposite our casita is no longer the part-time home of frolicking lambs or their bell-toting mums.

These beasts are no burden

We also used to hear regular distant donkey-braying – another of my favourite rural sounds. Francisco – an animal-loving Mallorcan who did gardening jobs for some of our neighbours – owned a few donkeys in a field down in the valley. If we were going for a walk in that direction, we often took a few carrots or an apple for them. When Francisco sadly died suddenly, after being ill for a while, the donkeys disappeared shortly afterwards.

It’s safe to assume, then, that I was rather excited by some new four-legged arrivals we spotted last week in the valley. Two ponies, a donkey, and a mule (or is it an ass? We really couldn’t tell) were munching their way through a different field at the bottom of the lane.  The photos were taken with my smart phone. I’ll be tottering down the hill again soon – with my smarter Nikon and its zoom lens.

Pony in a field

The new boy in town? Could be a girl – hard to see through all that fur!

Animals in a field

Settling into their new abode

Grazing pony

Pony number two enjoying the buffet

We have no idea who owns either the field or the beasts, but were delighted to see these new neighbours. Looks as though we’ll be buying extra carrots and apples again…

©Jan Edwards 2018

Visca Sant Antoni! Manacor’s favourite fiesta…

Dimoni Mallorca

A scary dimoni in the streets of Manacor

Hello! And a belated Happy New Year. Mine unfortunately started with bronchitis, which laid me low at a time when normally I’m itching to get started on the new year. Colds, flu, and other assorted viruses are rife on Mallorca at the moment and it’s hard to avoid them. Unusually, I haven’t felt up to writing much – although I did manage to write a short story for an international fiction competition. If I win, I’ll invite you all round for a glass of cava!

Celebrating Sant Antoni

Fortunately I was just about well enough for our usual visit to Manacor last week for the Sant Antoni fiestas. The good folks of Manacor love this fiesta, kitting themselves out in the latest Sant Antoni sweatshirt, t-shirt, or other assorted merchandise printed with the current year’s Sant Antoni logo.

Merchandise for Sant Antoni

The 2018 Sant Antoni must-have, as modelled in Hiper supermarket

A day or so before Sant Antoni, heaps of sand appear in the streets: these are the locations of the bonfires that will blaze on the evening of the 16th January. Some of them will just be piles of logs but others involve a degree of creativity and handicrafting; these are the ones that will be judged in the annual competition to find the best bonfire.

During the afternoon of the day before Sant Antoni’s day, it seems as though the entire population is on the streets – strolling (or cycling) all over the town to see these creations before they go up in smoke that evening.

Better the dimoni you know…

Come the evening, the bonfires are eventually lit and the fun begins. People take meat and bread to cook over the torradas; these are informal barbecues, very often made from old metal half-barrels full of logs. The dimonis (devils) dance in a wild fashion through the streets and everyone has a great time.

It’s a night the youngsters of the town particularly enjoy and many of them wander the streets in chattering groups, clutching large bottles of what appears to be lemon Fanta. More often than not, it’s a Menorcan drink called pomada: a mix of Menorcan Xoriguer gin and sparkling lemon that is especially popular as a Sant Antoni tipple. Another much-imbibed drink is the bright-green Mallorcan herb liqueur known as hierbas. Mine’s a pomada, if you’re asking…

Ooh, another public holiday

On the saint’s day (January 17th) itself, Manacor has a public holiday. The local priest, however, doesn’t get a day off: he’s in Ramon Llull square blessing the animal population of the town and surrounding countryside. This is one of my favourite fiestas, when many people dress in traditional costume to accompany their domestic and farm animals on their slow procession past the priest.

The festive season is now officially over in Manacor. Until February 10th…when it’s carnival. Mallorca sure knows how to party…

©Jan Edwards 2018

Merry Christmas from Mallorca!

Wine-bottle corks

Mallorca produces fantastic wines. Here’s what we make with some of the corks…

What’s Mallorca like at Christmas? It’s a question we’re sometimes asked by friends who live in the UK or elsewhere. Well, it’s not as warm here as many who visit the island only during the summer may think. In our first year, a friend wrote in his Christmas card to us that he would be picturing us wearing shorts and eating Christmas lunch on the beach. No. We’re living in Europe, not Australia! We’ll be fairly close to our Jotul wood-burning stove toasting our bits!

The festive season here though is lovely – less frenetic than we experienced back in the UK – and we often have sunny days over the winter.

I thought I’d share a few phone-photos taken in Mallorca’s capital, Palma, in this pre-Christmas post, along with warm seasonal greetings from The Boss and me. Wherever you live, and whatever your weather at this time of year, have a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas in good company.

If you’re interested, check out my Instagram posts at mallorcajan.

©Jan Edwards 2017

Tackling plastics pollution in Mallorca

Plastic waste. Don’t you hate what it’s doing to our planet? On the recent guide4dogs beach walk from Colonia de Sant Pere to Son Serra de Marina, in the north of Mallorca, several of us commented on the amount of plastic we saw along the way. Last Sunday, the marine conservationists of the excellent local NGO Asociación Ondine had organised a Dos Manos (Spanish for ‘two hands’) beach clean at Son Serra – the last clean-up of 2017. The Boss and I decided we’d go along and ‘do our thing’ because this beach is not too far from us and is one we visit at all times of the year.

All hands to the sands

The weather wasn’t good on Sunday as we set off, with wind and rain battering the car. It would have been so easy to stay at home, but we had said we were going and going we were!

It was a relief to find that the rain had stopped when we arrived at the blustery meeting point. The virgin beach at Son Serra de Marina is popular with kite surfers because the sea along here can be pretty rough and it looked quite spectacular on Sunday, especially once the sun came out for a while.

We’d equipped ourselves with some new heavy-duty gardening gloves and a collection bag. We set off, heads down, searching for plastic waste – and it wasn’t hard to spot. Some of the volunteers were assigned to collecting microplastics – working on their knees with a grid and a sieve to sift through the sands for these tiny pieces (up to 5mm), which are a huge threat to the marine environment (and, ultimately, us as a race).

A festive reward afterwards

Because we’d been heads-down perusing for plastic, we were surprised at the end to see how many volunteers had come along to help out – in spite of the cold weather. More than 50 of us had turned up. We knew several of them and enjoyed chatting afterwards over hot chocolate, mulled wine, and home-made cookies – provided by volunteer Steph.

Of course, by now, more plastic will have washed up onto this beach. The point is that these beach-cleaning events raise awareness of the problems caused by single-use plastics, prompt change in everyday habits, and also provide data for scientific study. At the end of the collecting period, we returned to our starting point to tip our findings onto a growing pile. This was then sorted into different types of plastic so that numbers could be recorded and the haul was then removed from the beach.

The results

Asociación Ondine has released the findings of Sunday’s Dos Manos event, at which a total of 4,500 items were collected, weighing 82 kg. Amongst these, from a fairly short stretch of Son Serra de Marina beach, were:

  • 1,529 microplastics (818 of which were nurdles – the tiny pellets used in the plastics industry to make larger items)
  • 748 Q-tips
  • 681 bottle caps
  • 97 utensils (including drinking straws)

It’s a sobering thought…

Asociación Ondine

Find out more about this Balearic NGO on their Facebook page or on their website and read my article about its founder Brad Robertson here.

If you’re looking for a gift for a hard-to-buy-for someone, how about a year’s membership of the association? You’ll be helping to make 2018 a year of change for marine conservation.

©Jan Edwards 2017

Find your festive in Mallorca

Looking around our valley, you’d never guess that Christmas was less than three weeks away. No inflatable Santas climb plastic-rope ladders up the side of house chimneys. No country properties around us are adorned with twinkly-lit reindeer or other festive characters. All looks peaceful, normal, and…rural. Of course, it could be a different story behind closed doors!

We knew from visits to Mallorca before moving here that we were unlikely to find a Christmas tree for sale – real or fake. I had always had a real tree in the UK and the annual visit to the side entrance of Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, to select one of the numerous trees for sale, was guaranteed to make me feel more festive.

Faking it

Before we left the UK, we bought a high-quality artificial one from an Oxfordshire garden centre, ensuring that we wouldn’t be without a Christmas tree once here. In a week or so’s time, it’ll be released from its cardboard prison at the back of a little-used cupboard to be pressed into decorative service for its 14th Mallorcan Christmas. Fingers crossed it will still look perky – and won’t have lost all its artificial pine needles!

More than a decade later, Papá Noel’s sleigh GPS has located Mallorca: many lucky children now receive presents from the red-suited one as well as those traditionally brought by The Three Kings in early January. Must be an expensive business, being a parent on this island…

Baking it?!

And, you guessed it, you can now find Christmas trees – even real ones – just about everywhere in Mallorca. I thought the one below – made from the traditional Mallorcan pastries known as ensaïmadas (and spotted in a bakery window in the town of Artà) – was just a little bit different!

Ensaimada Christmas tree

An edible tree (but don’t count the calories!).

©Jan Edwards 2017