Summer and holiday home rentals are sizzling

It’s sooooo hot. But, I hear you say (probably through gritted teeth, if you’re in the UK right now), isn’t Mallorca usually hot in July? The fact is that the island’s sizzling temperatures began much earlier than usual this year and have been consistently high – usually hitting the 30+ degrees Celsius before midday. This week it’s forecast that Mallorca will see the mercury creep into the low 40s.  We shall be doing our impression of bats…not emerging until twilight.

High Mallorcan temperatures

The temperature at our rural finca in Mallorca – in the shade.

Airbnb – not just in Palma

Mallorca has huge numbers of tourists this year, staying not just in hotels, villas, and self-catering apartments, but also privately owned properties rented through online platforms such as Airbnb. According to a young Mallorcan family that lives in our valley, this seasonal money-making opportunity has been seized with great enthusiasm by quite a few local people who own country properties (often second homes, used as weekend places). Our young neighbours are spending their summer elsewhere, whilst enjoying the rental income from holidaymakers seeking an authentic rural-living experience on the island.

For a real taste of living in the Mallorcan countryside, you can’t beat painting old wooden window shutters (persianas) with gloss that turns gloopy in the summer heat. Sadly, that’s not the type of authentic rural-living experience holidaymakers would ever pay for…

©Jan Edwards 2017

Floods and high winds on Mallorca

It’ll be hard to believe if you know Mallorca only as a sun, sand, and sea holiday destination, but the island has had some pretty awful weather this January. We moved here in April 2004 and the recent spell of winter weather was the worst we’ve seen during our time here: snow, hail, thunder and lightning, wind, and rain. The timing of the bad spell of weather couldn’t have been worse, resulting in several of the events scheduled for the two main January fiestas being postponed or cancelled. So no animal blessings to photograph this year in Manacor…

Shut out the world

The worst of the rain, and wind came over this last weekend, when AEMET – the Spanish met office – warned people on Mallorca not to go out unless essential, as high winds and torrential rain were due. We shut the shutters and hunkered down, like two little moles in the gloom. The Boss sketched a few simple plans for building an ark – large enough for the two of us and our eight cats.

Rain hammered on the roof but only a small amount seeped into the house, under the front door. For some reason, front doors on Mallorca always seem to leak. (If you see a wooden board leaning at an angle against the door of a house on Mallorca, it means rain is expected and the board is to deflect the flow of water; that’s the hope anyway).

The results

The Serra de Tramuntana had almost 200 litres per square metre on Saturday and many other areas of the island had between 60 and 90 litres, resulting in large amounts of flooding in the central area – known as the Pla. Winds of up to 120 kilometres an hour battered Mallorca and caused quite a bit of damage.

At one point 34 roads on the island were closed because of flooding and the Coll de Sóller mountain pass was blocked by fallen boulders and trees. The two reservoirs in the mountains – seriously depleted of water after last summer’s long hot dry spell – overflowed.  Coastal areas – particularly in the north and northeast – were battered by winds and alarmingly high seas, causing some structural damage in places.

The new-look Son Serra de Marina

Yesterday, a brief pausa in the stormy weather gave us a couple of hours of late-afternoon sunshine, so we drove to Son Serra de Marina to breathe some sea air and see what devastation the weekend’s storm had unleashed. The sea was rough, but nothing like it had been over the weekend.  This virgin beach has been completely remodelled by the elements and it may be some time before it’s possible to walk from the car parking area near the restaurants Lago and El Sol towards Colònia de Sant Pere without wading through water from the engorged Torrent de na Borges.

Stormy Mallorca

The new-look Son Serra de Marina beach

The apparent ‘cliff’ on the right is sand, sculpted by the wind and sea

Mallorcan torrente

The swollen Torrent de na Borges has joined up with the sea

Walkers' signposts blown down along this popular hiking route

Walkers’ signposts blown down along this popular hiking route, now littered with debris

 

©Jan Edwards 2017

Winter drawers on!

The Spanish meteorological office AEMET is forecasting strong winds, low temperatures, and snow for Mallorca over the coming days, for areas as low as 300 metres above sea level. That means that even parts of the capital Palma could see some of the white stuff. Apparently Mallorca is suffering the coldest January since 2005; we remember that one well (and not with fondness): it was our first winter here – and we had a leaky roof without insulation and no central heating.

On many winter days the temperature is comfortable enough to have our coffee and/or lunch outdoors on our most-sheltered terrace, basking in the warmth (sometimes even heat) of the winter sunshine. Our cats also like to feel the sun’s rays and take advantage of any warm places to snooze. Best not tell them what’s in store for the coming days.

Snoozing cats

Room for three cats only in this particular sunny spot

The Boss has just returned from the wood supplier we use in Porreres with a fresh load of logs for the woodburner, so we’re well prepared on the heating front. And we’ve just received a goodie-packed food parcel from our lovely Oxfordshire friends Kristina and Duncan – who visit us every year from the UK.

Fortnum & Mason goodies

Fortnum & Mason comes to rural Mallorca

No, they weren’t expecting us to be snowed in and unable to go out and buy any food; our box of Fortnum & Mason gourmet treats was their generous Christmas gift, which was somehow delayed in transit. If, by any chance, we do become snowed in, we won’t be going hungry…

©Jan Edwards 2017

Season’s greetings from a soggy Mallorca

The past few weeks on Mallorca have passed in a somewhat manic blur of work, rain, technical problems (car, dishwasher, and domestic water heater!), rain, medical matters, rain, work, and the usual pre-Christmas social and planning activities. And did I mention rain? After a bone-dry few months, Mallorca had a jolly good wash this week with four days and five nights of heavy rain, thunder, wind, and leaden skies – resulting in flooding in parts of the island.

Despite everything that’s been going on, we’ve now finished our preparations for another modest but enjoyable  Christmas on Mallorca. Whatever you’re doing at this time of year, The Boss and I send season’s greetings and best wishes for 2017.

Christmas tree lights

Have a sparkling Christmas!

 

 

Preparations for winter on Mallorca

Autumn on Mallorca means preparing for the winter, when you live in the more-exposed areas of the countryside. In the past few days The Boss has climbed the ladder to swathe our two terrace canopies in bubble-wrap and tape, as protection from the worst of what winter may throw at us weather-wise.  Walk around some of the island’s resorts and you’ll see the more vulnerable exterior fixtures and fittings of hotels that are closed for the winter similarly covered. Our terraces look a bit sad, as a result, but we had to spend a lot of money recovering the canopies this year, so it’s all about protecting our investment against the elements.

Canopies under wraps

Canopies under wraps

We do have one small terrace that catches the sun and is sheltered from the north winds, where we keep a table and chairs throughout the winter. Unless it’s raining or very cold, we often have our mid-morning coffee here and sometimes lunch too. Today, despite the gloomiest of skies, we fired up the BBQ one last time this year (before The Boss tucks it away for winter) and had a leisurely lunch al fresco.

Pip – fit to pop

Our outdoor cats are also aware of the changing seasons. They stay closer to home and, in the morning and early evening, are all waiting at the front door of our home waiting to be fed. In summer they are grazers, coming to the terrace to eat when they feel like it but, at this time of year, their habits change.

This summer grazing habit of six of our cats resulted in a bit of a barrel-belly problem for Pip – our youngest cat (an adorable calico). As she stays close to the house most of the time, any food left uneaten by her cat companions was clearly too much of a temptation. She was either being plain greedy or just ‘clearing up’ any leftovers to be helpful.

Lip-lickingly good, those leftovers ...

Lip-lickingly good, those leftovers …

It’s hard to put a semi-feral cat on a diet – she could be eating things out in the wilderness that is our valley – but we’re doing our best. Pip is now having her meals separately from the other cats and, when they have finished eating, we’re removing their bowls. The cats have adjusted well to this – probably because eating for them at the moment is more about gaining winter weight for warmth, than grazing on a whim.

Be prepared

On the subject of food, many seasonal restaurants are now closed until around Easter next year. With fewer tourists and so many places shuttered up (or swathed in plastic), a sense of the impending winter is in the air – although it’s still officially autumn and the air itself has been pretty mild some days (in the low 20s Celsius some days). The Boss – in the best Boy Scout tradition – has prepared us for what may come. He’s stocked up on logs for the stove and red wine for the rack. Winter? I guess we’re almost ready for it …

 

 

 

August ends but Mallorca’s summer isn’t over yet!

Porto Cristo beach in the quieter month of May

Porto Cristo beach in the quieter month of May

Even after more than 10 years of living through August in rural Mallorca, this holiday month takes some getting used to each year. To start with, many of the shops and other businesses in our local town close for lunch and don’t re-open until the next morning. It’s a nuisance if you’re in the middle of a DIY job and run out of something vital to finish it. And that is why we recommend not doing DIY projects in August.

The heat is another good reason to down tools for a few weeks. August is the month when the locals head for the beach early morning or late afternoon. At the later end of the day, the tourists are just packing their beach bags and heading back to their holiday accommodation to freshen up for the evening when the locals arrive in groups to claim their spots on the sands.

Holiday home … just down the road

One thing that still amuses me is the number of people who live in Manacor but have a second home in Porto Cristo – around a 10-minute drive away. Many of them leave their main homes to take up temporary residence in the cooler air of the resort for August.

In the UK, it’s more usual for those with second homes to have them further away from their main residence. Former neighbours in Oxfordshire had a cottage in Cornwall. On occasional Friday nights they’d load up the car and head southwest in ever-increasing traffic jams, probably arriving just in time for a cup of tea before it was time to drive back for work on Monday. Having a second home just down the road has some merits …

Dipping into local life in Porto Cristo

This August we’ve again had the occasional morning swim in Porto Cristo. The east-coast resort has a town beach, so the passing traffic (road and harbour) means it’s not a tranquil spot, but it’s perfect for a bit of exercise swimming first thing. We can swim, have a coffee, and be heading home before the town’s roadside car parking charges come into effect at 10:00h.

We’ve enjoyed observing the local early-morning beachgoers. We’ve seen exercise classes on the sands for the elderly; excitable clusters of kids being supervised in various sporting activities, and senior chaps in swimming shorts walking from one end of the beach to the other, toes in the water, as they converse in an animated fashion.

But my favourite sights are the ‘bobulations’. Don’t reach for a dictionary, as you won’t find this word lurking within its pages; it’s a combination of ‘population’ and ‘bob’ – which I made up. These are the groups of local ladies (often of a certain age), who stand chest-high in a circle in the sea or, in deeper water, bob about (still in a circle). They just chat, little exercise is involved. Most wear a hat of some sort to protect their recently re-helmeted hairdo from the sun, but the sea rarely gets a lick at their locks.

August is now over for another year, but you can bet that full-time residents of Porto Cristo will be on the beach early mornings for a week or two more. We look forward to a few more mornings in their company …

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.

DSC_0597

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 …