Fiestas galore on Mallorca … except in the countryside

Fiesta bunting

Bunting time!

Living in the open countryside, we are in a fiesta-free zone. But in villages and towns all around Mallorca, July and August are the months to deck the streets with fluttery bunting, get out the stacks of ubiquitous white plastic chairs, and party hard. The locals either join in or get out of town (or the village) for the duration. We can choose which ones we want to attend.

The main components of these fiestas are usually music (local bands or DJs), food (anything from giant ensaïmadas and enormous paellas, to tapas or street food, served from vintage food trucks), and drink.

Party time in Sant Llorenç

On Friday night we attended a fiesta in the small town of Sant Llorenç, combining all three: the Sant Llorenç Boscana Craft Beer and Swing Festival. It was held in the square by the distinctive town hall building, one side of which was lined with stalls  offering around 20 different beers (no, we didn’t try them all).

Boscana Cervesa Evolutiva

Beer, anyone?

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This was only the second edition of this particular festival. Apparently some lessons were learnt after last year’s inaugural event. One, was to bring in a refrigerated truck to keep the beer cold. The second was to provide some food to soak up the alcohol. On the opposite side of the square some local eateries and a bakery had set up stalls selling a few snacks, and someone known as Kitchen Guerilla was rustling up some sausages on a BBQ.

Strike up the band

Five swing bands were on the billing and an enormous professional-looking stage was set for the live music. Until the first band – Long Time No Swing – came on stage, we were treated to a performance by a strolling local pipe-and-drum group (xeremiers) and then a local batucada band.

Traditional Mallorcan music

Traditional Mallorcan music

The latter is a popular (and incredibly noisy) feature of many local fiestas. The drummers process through the streets followed by crowds of people – a bit like the Piper of Hamelin, but thankfully without the rats.

Eventually the stage came alive with the music of the first of five bands scheduled to play. We stayed to see Long Time No Swing and Monkey Doo – both terrific. When we left for home (around midnight), there were still three bands due to perform. Nessun dorma in Sant Llorenç that night!

Long Time No Swing

Long Time No Swing

Swing band Long Time No Swing

Long Time No Swing

Monkey Doo

Monkey Doo

Monkey Doo

Monkey Doo

Lindy Hoppers are Sant Llorenç

What most impressed us about this night was the dancing. Dozens of couples took to the centre of the square to dance the Lindy Hop, and they seemed to know what they were doing. Unlike most dancing, this one seems to be done in sneakers – so no twisted ankles due to perilous platforms or soaring stilettos. What struck us – apart from the ability of so many locals actually to do the Lindy Hop – was the joyful nature of this dance. We couldn’t stop smiling as we watched.

Lindy Hoppers

… and Lindy Hop

At some point we spoke to a girl who was taking a break from the energetic dance and she told us there’s a popular Lindy Hop class run in the town in the cooler months. Ah, that would explain it. This time next year, The Boss and I could be Lindy Hopping ourselves. Just need to persuade him. And buy some sneakers.

And so to bed …

Unlike the good citizens of Sant Llorenç, we were able to leave the noise behind and go home for a peaceful night’s sleep. That’s country living on Mallorca for you …

By the way, if you love Lindy Hop, the Mallorca Lindy Festival takes place in Inca, at Fàbrica Ramis, from October 7th-9th.

If you’re thinking about a visit to Mallorca next August, keep an eye on the Boscana Cervesa Evolutiva Facebook page for the dates of the 2017 festival.

Fire in our Mallorca valley

Mallorca wild fire

The valley burns …

Mallorca needs rain. Not what a holidaymaker to the island wants to hear, but residents know that the land and reservoirs are desperate for the stuff. It’s very hot here too, and that doesn’t help the situation.

Add strong winds to the mix – such as those we’ve had over the past few days – and danger may not be far behind. As we sat drinking a late-morning coffee on the back terrace on Friday, The Boss spotted smoke in the valley … and it wasn’t from an early BBQ lunch.

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Spot the helicopters …

Bonfires are banned in summer

Bonfires are not allowed during the hot dry summer months and the wind had whipped up the smoke to such an extent that this was clearly a wild fire. I rang the emergency services to report the sighting – and was not the first to do so. We country dwellers waste no time when it comes to spotting smoke or flames where smoke or flames shouldn’t be …

Firefighting kit in action 

This fire was a lot further away than the last one we experienced (a little too closely), but it was still frightening because of the speed at which it was travelling, fanned by fierce gusts of wind.

Four helicopters, four planes, 10 fire engines, and around 50 firefighters were soon on scene, working for several hours to get the fire under control and, eventually, fully extinguished. The sea is not far away from us as the crow (or helicopter) flies, and we watched the helicopters making frequent sorties towards the coast, where they would scoop up water in the enormous buckets they carry and return to release the load over the site of the fire.

Dousing the flames

The helicopter that attended the previous fire we experienced

It was a dangerous and difficult afternoon for these brave people who put their lives at risk every time there’s a wild fire. And ours was only one of EIGHT that burned on Mallorca on Friday …

 

 

Media calling Mallorca …

My UK broadcast media links have not been completely cut as a result of our move to rural Mallorca in 2004. On a few occasions BBC local radio stations have interviewed me by phone about some topical aspect of being an expat. I hope that my years’ experience of being a radio presenter have given me a good idea of what the interviewer wants from a guest contributor. It’s always fun to be back on radio in the UK, broadcasting from our country home in Spain …

The Only Way is … a Farmer and a Goat

Mallorcan farmer at work

TV-star-in-the-making? Far too busy.

This blog has also brought a few media requests my way. Recently, someone from the production team of UK reality TV show The Only Way is Essex (popularly abbreviated to TOWIE) contacted me. They were coming to film for a couple of weeks on Mallorca. Did I know a typical Mallorcan farmer here they could film? Oh, and would I be able to locate a goat as well? The mind boggled – not surprisingly, because there was no explanation as to how these ‘locals’ would be used in the filming …

‘Auntie’ Beeb abroad

Adam Kirtley in interview mode for the BBC on Mallorca

Adam Kirtley in interview mode for the BBC on Mallorca

Our latest request for help came at short notice, when BBC News journalist Adam Kirtley arrived on Mallorca yesterday to do a story on the likely effects of Brexit on expats. Adam and I spoke by phone mid-morning yesterday and we arranged to meet outside Palma’s Sóller train railway station at 3pm. He said he’d be wearing a checked shirt and Geoff-Boycott-style hat. Despite the fact that he’d clearly mistaken me for someone who knew something about  the headgear of the former cricketer, I managed to pick him out from the crowds of sightseers emerging from the station.

Meeting expats

The Boss and I drove Adam down to Palma Nova, where we visited the Amadip Esment café and recorded some interviews. We then attended part of a meeting in the town hall in Calvià – the southwest municipality that’s home to Mallorca’s largest number of British expats.  There, British Consul General Lloyd Milen addressed an audience of Brits and listened to their concerns. Of course, there were more questions than answers – because it’s still too early to know what our home country’s eventual departure from the EU will mean for those of us who live abroad.

A bit of bureaucracy meant we couldn’t record any of the meeting itself (we didn’t have enough notice to obtain permission from the powers-that-be), but Adam was able to gain enough information for one of several reports he was compiling for BBC local radio and the World Service.

So I’m going to be on the radio briefly again in the UK, answering questions from Adam. And The Boss makes his BBC radio broadcasting debut …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding supplies on Mallorca for DIY projects

Who goes shopping for DIY or building materials at 7am? We certainly don’t but, at that early hour last Wednesday, Mallorca’s newest DIY superstore BricoMart opened its doors on a new polígono, or industrial estate, just outside Palma. Needless to say, we were not there, wearing our jim-jams, clamouring for a bargain bag of mortar or rawlplugs in rainbow colours.

The rise of the big boys

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For weeks now, BricoMart’s billboard advertising campaign around the island had been sounding what’s probably the death knell for a few more of Mallorca’s traditional ferreterías – the family-run hardware/ironmonger stores we frequently had to visit for materials during the early days of doing up our finca home. How can these small but useful shops compete with the big boys? In and around Palma, we now have BricoMart, Brico Depot, Bauhaus, and two branches of Leroy Merlin. We have concluded that Mallorca’s inhabitants have become DIY-dotty.

Ferreting in a ferretería

When we moved here in 2004 there was no shortage of ferreterías in our nearest town, Manacor. Some were tidy, with everything clearly visible and displayed in a logical fashion. In others, we had to ask for what we wanted and the shop assistant would nod sagely, disappear somewhere to the rear of the premises to ferret around for a bit (which is not why these shops are called ferreterías), and reappear brandishing the requested item.  These were the places where you could tap into the shop assistant’s years of experience and, if the requested item was unavailable, he (it was invariably a male) would suggest a suitable alternative. If none of these useful shops could supply what we wanted, there was always the option of Palma’s two Leroy Merlin stores – the nearest equivalent to the UK’s Homebase stores.

Many of these small local shops have since closed – some undoubtedly because of the competition from larger stores. In Manacor, the first real competition was probably Hiper’s bricolaje. One place run by two brothers – a multi-floored emporium in the heart of town – closed down several years ago when the next generation of the family decided in favour of university and a more lucrative career than running a shop. Back in the days of shopping there, we would inevitably come home with a small gift, as well as the item we’d gone to buy. (This – like the bowl of free sweets on the counter for customers to dip into – was a common practice in local independent shops, but ended when the recession hit).

Service wins

Locally we still favour a particular ferretería in Manacor. It’s been there for years and so, probably, has most of the stock. But this family-run place understands personal service and that sometimes a customer needs only half-a-dozen screws, rather than a jumbo pack of 200. We go here for the friendly service, a bit of a natter (the owner does enjoy putting the world to rights), and because if those long-cluttered dusty shelves at the back can’t yield what we want, they’ll order it for us. And because, at 7am, they – like us – are not yet ready to start the day’s business.

 

A cat lover’s B&B on Mallorca

The Boss and I recently stayed at Finca Son Jorbo, which I mentioned in my last post. Here’s an article I wrote about our stay for Katzenworld.

Katzenworld

You won’t find a cat café anywhere on Mallorca, but any cat lovers visiting the Spanish holiday island will find their feline fix if they stay at Finca Son Jorbo.  Located on the outskirts of the market town of Porreres, this rural B&B is the home of English hosts Annie and Martin … and their ten cats.

cat warning sign cat warning sign

My heart did a little happy dance when I saw the sign at the entrance to Finca Son Jorbo: cats were about! And it wasn’t long before we saw the first one, a sleek black puss snoozing on a wicker seat in the shade of the main house porch, where our hosts were waiting to greet us.

A cat-alogue of adventures

Annie and Martin moved with their three cats from Birmingham to Mallorca in December 2003 to run their own B&B. Posy (then 18) has since passed but black-and-white cats…

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Shady experiences in rural Mallorca – part 2

Parasol or gazebo? We needed some shade from the sun on our rural Mallorcan finca terraces, but the parasols we’d had in the past hadn’t proved man enough to withstand the odd tornado or unexpected strong gusts that occasionally rip through our valley.

Finca Son Jorbo

Pretty gazebo on the terrace of Finca Jorbo’s Rosa apartment.

Gazebo then. We saw quite a few variations on the gazebo theme. Some were very attractive – like this one at Finca Son Jorbo in Porreres, where we recently stayed for a night’s B&B (much-needed respite after visitors). But none looked as though they’d survive on any of our exposed terraces.

The sunshade solution for us

In 2011, we found just the thing in Palma’s Leroy Merlin, one of those large out-of-town stores that we’re not that keen on, but sometimes resort to when all else local fails. Although the store didn’t have anything sturdy on display or in stock, by chance we spotted just the thing in a Leroy Merlin catalogue that was on display. It was billed as a Pergola Tenerife and had to be bolted to the ground. Well, that had to be strong, didn’t it?

We ordered our first one (for our small back terrace, most battered by the wind) and waited for Leroy Merlin to order and deliver it. It arrived in two huge packages: one for the framework, the other containing the actual canopy part. Did I mention how heavy the frame was? Being early in the season (we were planning ahead for the summer), there were no strong part-time neighbours around in their holiday homes to lend The Boss a hand. I ate a huge plate of spinach for breakfast, flexed my biceps, and went to his aid.

Erecting the thing was an interesting experience. Once The Boss had bolted the two side columns onto the terrace tiles, the heavy top bar had to be hoisted up and fixed across the top of them. Ladders (wobbly, one at each end), language (fruity), and luck (we didn’t drop it) were all part of the process. It was hard work, but worth it. So much so, we bought another one for the front terrace the following year and put ourselves through the whole process again.

The winds won …

Although the metal frame has (so far) proved invincible, the fabric coverings themselves had become very tatty by the end of last year; yes, the strong winds again. This spring we found a local company to make some stronger (we hope) replacement toldos. It took weeks to get a quote for the work and several more for the new ones to be manufactured and installed, but they finally arrived … after our first two lots of visitors had been and gone home again.

Installing the new covers

Installing the new covers

It’s been 35 degrees in the shade today. Phew. Perhaps what we should have bought was one of those canopies (seen on a few cafe terraces) incorporating a system that regularly squirts a fine cool mist over those beneath it. Having spent a small fortune on two new toldos, we’ll have to be satisfied with a session with the garden hose …

Terrace pergola

Shade at last …

 

 

 

Celebrating midsummer on a Mallorcan beach

On the day of the UK’s EU Referendum we did something we’d never done before – despite living on Mallorca for 12 years. Yes, of course, we voted on the in/out decision (having lived here for under 15 years we were still entitled – and had sent our postal votes several weeks ago). But we also took part in a popular tradition in Spain: la noche de San Juan, held on the eve of the feast of Saint John the Baptist.

This evening – June 23rd – is, for most, a magical celebration of midsummer: a chance to get together with friends or family, head to the beach, light a bonfire or some candles, share a picnic, and generally have fun – with a few little rituals in which to indulge (one of which involves leaping over the bonfire’s flames).

People starting to gather on Playa de Muro for San Juan

People starting to gather on Playa de Muro for San Juan

We chose to celebrate San Juan at a favourite beach restaurant: Ponderosa Beach on Playa de Muro, in the north of Mallorca, which – like several beach eateries – was offering something special. For that night they had two invited chefs – Ariadna Salvador and Pau Navarro – who created two tasting menus (one for vegetarians), with the option of matched wines. There was live music from the local Masé Jara Llinàs Trio and, following that, music was under the control of popular DJ Fernando Gullón.

A relaxed beach setting for summer dining

A relaxed beach setting for summer dining

It’s a place we’ve been to many times during the day for lunch, but this was our first time for dinner (so two firsts for that night then). We enjoyed a leisurely meal, with our toes buried in the sand beneath our table, as we gazed out at the lights around the Bay of Alcúdia and the people who’d brought their own food and drink to eat on the sands in front of Ponderosa Beach, in the light of bonfires and candles.

Having eaten a good dinner of several courses, we weren’t quite up to leaping over any bonfires, but did watch a party of people egging each other on to jump over the flames. One guy (who’d clearly forgotten his swimwear for the obligatory post-midnight dip) bravely – or foolishly – did his leap in the buff. We heard no screams so assume he survived intact …

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We headed home late, happy and relaxed, having felt the magic of this celebration of summer.