Plumbing Problems Strike Again

That’s not very pretty

Apart from Storm Gloria in January, this winter in Mallorca has probably been the mildest and sunniest since we moved here in 2004. Although we’ve had one or two air frosts, more than a few foggy mornings and, after dark, it’s often been quite chilly, most days have delivered blue skies, sunshine and warmth. Oh, we do love that warmth. Of course, it’s not normal for this time of year – and is probably the result of climate change – but I’m not hearing many complaints about this February’s weather in Mallorca.

All this spring-like weather has been making us think about the visitors we may have this year. Once we’ve sorted out the small matter of lack of a bath or shower in the bathroom of our main guest room.

Late last year, we noticed that one wall of our double-guest bathroom was showing signs of damp. Dampness is a common problem in Mallorcan properties, but this patch of damp wasn’t in one of the usual areas in our house affected during the winter months.

The Boss did his magic with a sponge and a bottle of organic apple cider vinegar, but a few days later the damp started showing through again. It was a mystery, until The Boss spotted the merest drizzle of water running down the tiles above the bath from the wall-mounted taps. In our experience, water is one of the most troublesome things in a Mallorcan property.

It was time for a(nother) visit from Sito, our friendly local plumber. One sledgehammer and a pile of broken wall tiles later, he discovered the source of the leak: a hairline crack in one of the pipes to the taps, buried into a rather thick wall. It appeared that water had been seeping into the walls for quite some time. Sito removed the tap-and-shower-head unit and did whatever plumbers do to fix this type of problem.

We had to leave the hole open to allow the sodden wall to dry out. Our dehumidifier (seriously, you need one of these if you live in Mallorca) has been working overtime and we’re now about ready to get our guest bathroom fully operational again.

All change

Because we’re unlikely to find wall tiles that match the existing old ones, we’re taking the opportunity to make some substantial changes to the bathroom. We’d often talked about removing the bathtub (never used as a bath, only as something to stand in when using the overhead shower). This is mainly because I worry that my dad – when he’s staying for his two holidays each year – may slip and injure himself getting in or out of the bath to take a shower. It was a project on the back burner that moved to the front one because of this leak.

We’ve always tried to use local tradesmen (like Sito) but, this time, local builders weren’t even interested in coming to look at the job and give us a quote. They’d rather be renovating whole houses or even building them, than tackling what, for them, is a relatively small job.

Finally, we had some success: a builder from the other end of Mallorca came up to see what needs to be done. Assuming he wasn’t put off by the distance he had to travel – or by getting lost on the way to our hideaway finca – we’ll soon have a functioning guest bathroom again. If not, there’s always the stream at the bottom of the valley – still full of water after Storm Gloria. Only joking…

Jan Edwards ©2020

Mallorca’s Countryside is Paradise on Two Wheels

A wheely good way to see Mallorca – if you’re not head down!

Through the open kitchen window I heard a German-accented “Halloooo?” calling hopefully from the lane outside our gates. It was another group of lost Lycra-clad cyclists needing directions to the Mallorcan resort of Ca’n Picafort, which becomes the base for huge numbers of visiting cyclists at this time of the year.

The cyclists who find themselves lost in our rural haven mistakenly assume it’s possible to reach the appropriate main road by means of the enticing narrow lane through our picturesque secluded valley. Like their many predecessors, they freewheeled down the lane at great speed, yelling with exhilaration and shattering the tranquillity of our bucolic idyll. They are somewhat quieter on the return journey, having arrived at the lane’s dead end right down in the valley and had to slog all the way back up the hill. Sometimes I wonder if we should buy a defibrillator – just in case.

What? No Formula 1 here?

Although it happened in our early years here, we still remember one strange Sunday afternoon encounter with a lone German cyclist, who spoke little English or Spanish. He was looking for a restaurant and became quite agitated when we explained that the nearest was some 10 kilometres away, in the town of Manacor. We gave him directions, but he seemed reluctant to leave.

It was a surprisingly hot day and his red face glistened with sweat, so we offered him a cold drink, which he declined. Then he spluttered: “Schumacher! Schumacher!”. I peered at the lean face under the cycling helmet, wondering if we were indeed in the presence of motor-racing greatness. Then the centimo dropped: he wanted to know what was happening in the F1 Grand Prix race that afternoon. He was unimpressed to hear that we had no television or Internet (at that time), so couldn’t update him on his fellow countryman’s progress, and after spitting out a string of German words, he hauled himself onto the saddle and was on his way.

Most of the cyclists we encounter, though, are pleasant (and grateful to find someone who knows the area and speaks English).

A wheel paradise

Mallorca is a pedaller’s paradise at this time of year and it’s easy to understand why. The climate is better than in Northern Europe – where many of the visiting cyclists come from; Mallorca has a superb road network of 1,250 kilometres (just over half of which are secondary or rural roads, carrying little traffic), and an extensive network of cycling routes.

The terrain of the island offers something for every level of experience and fitness: from the flat agricultural plains at the heart of the island, through to the switchback roads weaving through the soaring Tramuntana mountain range. Everyone – from the holidaymaker who wants to see the island in a more environmentally way, to the amateur athletes competing in events such as triathlons, to top pro cycling teams, Mallorca has it all.

Slow travel

Not everyone who comes here to cycle does so in Lycra. There are also travel companies catering for people who want a slower-paced holiday, cycling leisurely through glorious scenery on roads that are safer than back at home.

On one occasion, whilst pottering in the garden, we could hear English voices in the lane. We looked out of the gate and saw a middle-aged man and woman pushing their bicycles up the steep hill. They looked weary, so we invited them to join us for tea on the terrace – an offer they accepted with smiles on their faces.

We spent an agreeable hour or so chatting – during which we discovered that the man worked in Oxford (where I had worked in radio for ten years). Small world, eh? Although not serious cyclists, they’d been enjoying the beautiful scenery during their two-wheeled meanderings around northeast Mallorca. Like many cyclotourists, they intended to return to Mallorca. Perhaps the next “hallo” called from the gate will be theirs.

 

A Google search will produce details of numerous companies offer cycling holiday packages in Mallorca. If you’re coming to cycle here independently, here are three hotels geared up (sorry about the pun) to the needs of their guests on two wheels: Petit Hotel Son Arnau in Selva; Castell Son Claret in the Es Capdella countryside, and Finca Serena, in the rural heartland of Mallorca.

 

Jan Edwards ©2020

Did the Earth Move for You in Mallorca?

February in Mallorca brings almond blossom…and sometimes more

It didn’t for us. We were both sleeping soundly when a low-intensity earthquake happened in Mallorca during the early hours of Tuesday.

The ‘quake measured between two and three on the Richter scale (according to the National Geographic Institute), with its epicentre between the village of Petra and the town of Manacor, at a depth of nine kilometres. The same area suffered a much stronger earthquake in 1919.

A rude awakening…for some

It was around three o’clock this morning that vibrations woke sleeping residents in the area. If they slept through the gentle shaking, they probably woke when all the dogs in the neighbourhood began their concert of barking.

The good news is that the earthquake apparently caused no damage to people or property, although I imagine some of the good citizens of Petra will have had to straighten any pictures on their walls this morning.

The first we knew about the earthquake – which happened not too far from where we live – was reading about it on social media. I immediately went around the rooms of our home, expecting to find pictures hanging at jaunty angles, but there wasn’t a wonky one anywhere.

Sun and ‘snow’

It’s almond-blossom time here in Mallorca and we’ve had some beautiful weather to go with it. Temperatures have, in the past few days, been around 10 degrees Celsius higher than is usual for this time of year.

Although it’s a treat to have calm conditions and temperatures in the low twenties – especially after the recent destructive Storm Gloria – it’s another sign of climate change. As we drank our coffee outside yesterday, basking in warm sunshine, it was hard to believe that on February the 4th, 2012, snow fell all across the island (unusually, even in the capital, Palma de Mallorca).

An orange tree in Camp de Mar in February 2012

At the time, The Boss’s cousin and wife had just arrived in the southwest resort of Camp de Mar for a walking holiday. Their plans altered when they woke one morning to find the unexpected snowfall. Our drive down to visit them was quite memorable.

Almond blossom petals are the only ‘snowfall’ we’re experiencing at the moment; I imagine the ‘snowfall’ around Petra was somewhat heavier during the earthquake.

By the way, if you’re feeling a little envious of our warm weather, I should tell you that today is forecast to be seven degrees cooler than yesterday, at around 14 Celsius. That’s much more like February in Mallorca!

Jan Edwards©2020