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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carnival in Manacor, Mallorca

Carnival is a time for fun and frivolity and, in our nearest town, Manacor, we like to be part of it. Well, at least be there to soak up the atmosphere, sway to the batucada beats, and take a few photos.

This year, for the first time, we went to see the children’s carnival, known as Sa Rueta, as well as the main event, on Saturday February 6th.

After watching the lively procession file past on Saturday night, we headed to our favourite Manacor cafe, El Palau, for a small libation (glass of Mallorcan wine). Two members of the staff were in costume but, like us, owner Nofre was in everyday attire. Seeing us come in, bundled up in outdoor clothes suitable for a cool February night, he joked: “Ah, you’ve dressed up as guiris!” A guiri is the colloquial name that the Spanish use for foreigners . . .

We’ve resolved that next year we’ll get ourselves costumes for Carnival. Something warm, like a gorilla or polar bear suit, seems appropriate. Or we could take inspiration from some of these photos?

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Hazards for cats in rural Mallorca

No hunting signThe official shooting season has finished on Mallorca for the time being. The silencing of the guns means our concerns for the safety of our cat clan are lessened. The seven outdoor cats that have  adopted us over the past few years spend quite a few of the daylight hours fairly close to our home – and we can often catch a glimpse of one or more of them snuggled beneath a shrub somewhere in our valley. But their natural prowling instincts kick in after dark and in the winter it is often still dark when the first gunshots are heard.

We’ve often wondered about the hunters’ ability to see what they are trying to aim at during these dark mornings and on those days when fog lingers. And these are the times we worry most about the cats. Thankfully, for the time being, the guns are now silent.

Poorly pusscats

But, of course, there are plenty of other hazards for cats in the countryside – both domestic and feral. One of these is the risk of parasites. The damned things are everywhere and, for this reason, the responsible thing for cat owners to do is take protective measures, which can be in the form of tablets or pipettes. According to our vet, the risk of becoming infested is increased where more than five cats live in close commune.

Now we don’t ‘own’ seven of our cats, but we have taken responsibility for their welfare – since they have made our land their home. We went down the pipette option, as anyone who has ever tried to give even a friendly domestic moggy will understand how difficult it would be to pop a pill down the throat of a semi-feral feline. We do, after all, have plenty of use for our fingers . . .

Precautions may not always work

But even pipettes may not offer 100% protection. Last week two of our cats, little Pip and shy Chico, both fell ill. Chico hadn’t been for food for four days but we had spotted him sitting at the end of the field. We’d taken food down to tempt him but he wouldn’t come near us, disappearing over the stone wall into the next field as we approached.

Chico - back to health and enjoying his family again. He's the one facing the camera.

Chico – back to health and enjoying his family again. He’s the one facing the camera.

Meanwhile Pip also went off her food. Hey, you may say, cats do that from time to time. But not Pip. She’s the first at the door waiting for us to bring out the cat bowls with their food and the one that likes to ‘tidy away’ any food left by the others. She was also rather subdued – another unusual sign – so we took her to the vet’s on Monday; it was the first of a few visits for her last week.

On Friday morning we found Chico sitting in our dining window recess. He seemed so listless that we immediately took him to the vet’s, where he was found to have a low temperature – a dangerous thing for a cat.

"No, I don't take pills, thank you!" But Pip is back in fine form.

“No, I don’t take pills, thank you!” But Pip is back in fine form.

Long story short, after some seven visits in four days to our local vet’s last week, various tests and treatments, and saying adios to several hundred euros, Pip and Chico are now back to good health and eating well again. The cause of all the problems was a type of parasite. So you can never be too sure . . .

Coincidentally, a Katzenworld blog post on the subject of parasites popped into my mailbox last week and as it could be of interest to cat owners anywhere, I’m sharing the link with you here:

http://katzenworld.co.uk/2016/02/06/tips-advice-parasites-your-cat-is-susceptible-to/