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.

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The fiesta of fire burns this weekend on Mallorca

The village of Son Macia, near Manacor, has added a topical touch to the design of their Sant Antoni event poster!

The village of Son Macia, near Manacor, has added a topical touch to the design of their Sant Antoni event poster!

Life is never dull on Mallorca. If Christmas, New Year, and Three Kings were not enough celebrations for this time of year, this weekend is the Sant Antoni fiestas. January 16th – the eve of the Saint’s day – is when Mallorcans traditionally light foguerons (bonfires) in the streets and make elaborate effigies of the Devil to set ablaze. Mallorca’s famous dimonis take to the streets with their manic dancing and scary costumes, and people have a jolly good time, cooking food on outdoor torrades (BBQs). And because it can be surprisingly cold at this time of the year (although not this winter, so far), a few libations are usually taken – very often the famous bright green Hierbas de Tunel.

In our local town, Manacor, the Sant Antoni fiestas almost seem more popular than Christmas. For the past couple of weeks, stalls set up in town on Saturdays have been selling this year’s design of Sant Antoni sweatshirts, t-shirts, and hats – and all at affordable prices.

The excitement is building. This morning, doing a few chores in town, we had to drive around a pile of earth in the middle of several roads, on which the bonfires for this Saturday night will be built. These piles will be increasing in number over the coming days. And several shops have incorporated Sant Antoni into their window displays.

Local supermarket Hiper prepares for Sant Antoni.

Local supermarket Hiper prepares for Sant Antoni.

Hiper's stocks of wine and BBQ grills ready to tempt us.

Hiper’s stocks of wine and BBQ grills ready to tempt us.

Plenty of Hierbas de Tunel in stock . . .

Plenty of Hierbas de Tunel in stock . . .

If you don’t know (and I confess that I didn’t until we moved to Mallorca), Sant Antoni was an Egyptian monk who, in the desert, was tempted by the Devil – cunningly disguised as a woman. The iron-willed monk didn’t succumb to these womanly wiles, instead walking on hot coals to take his mind off anything else getting too heated!

All this happened a long way from Mallorca, but stay with me. On the island during the 10th and 11th centuries, many folk were affected by a horrible skin disease caused by a poisonous fungus attacking rye crops. No cure was known, but the Mallorcans followed Sant Antoni’s example of using fire to fight the Devil that they believed had caused the disease.

The disease is long gone, but the fires burn on every eve of Sant Antoni, as the backdrop to much partying. And, on the Saint’s day itself, Mallorcans head for the streets again – to take their pets and other animals to be blessed by the local priest.

After the festivities of this weekend, things will quieten down . . . but not for long: Carnival this year falls on the first weekend of February!

 

A flower festival in rural Mallorca

Display in Costitx flower festival

Costitx en Flor 2015

Last Friday we fell a tiny bit in love with a small village called Costitx, in the centre of Mallorca. Relatively few visitors to the island will have heard of it, let alone visited, but many will have flown over it – the village being under one of the flight paths across Mallorca. An impressive number of visitors – mainly Mallorcans – flooded into the village on May 1st for ‘Costitx en Flor’.

Rural Mallorca from near Costitx.

Beautiful views across Mallorca’s Pla to the mountains.

We reached Costitx via a (usually) quiet country lane off the main Manacor to Inca road (between Sineu and Inca) in an area of the island known as the Pla. There’s lovely surrounding countryside and views of the UNESCO World Heritage Serra de Tramuntana. The village itself has some interesting old architecture and several beautifully restored stone townhouses. If we had to live in a village, rather than open countryside, Costitx does have its attractions . . .

The village also has a few claims to fame – and not the sort of fame associated with the likes of Magaluf, or the more genteel mountain village of Deià.

Here are a few facts you could drop into a conversation about this lesser-known part of Mallorca:

Eyes to the skies 

Costitx is home to the Observatori Astronòmic de Mallorca, opened in 1991.  Even after we’d bought our finca – but before we moved to Mallorca – we weren’t aware of its existence. I found out about it only during a BBC radio interview I did with an astronomy expert in north Oxfordshire, who told me the observatory was “very important”. The Observatory is also home to the Mallorca Planetarium.

Prehistoric treasures 

Costitx is home to three prehistoric bronze bulls’ heads found on common land in 1894. Well preserved, and part of the Balearics’ remarkable Talayotic remains, they have their 21st-century home in the Son Corró Sanctuary. One of the streets in the village is named after these Caps de Bou de Costitx.

Political heritage

In 1987, Costitx elected a mayor who became both famous and infamous. Every Mallorcan – and many non-Mallorcan island residents – will know of Maria Antònia Munar . . .

Blooming fab!

Costitx flower festival in May.

Saying it with flowers: a welcome to ‘Costitx en Flor’.

But it was last Friday’s ‘Costitx en Flor’ that wowed us. This annual flower festival sees the whole village decorated with flowers, with each street having its own themed display.

The creativity of the villagers, and hard work involved in putting this event together, are evidence of a real community spirit. We loved it and, if you’re on Mallorca next May 1st, it’s worth a visit if you appreciate flowers, handicrafts, and creativity.

Old denim jeans as flower receptacles

The street with the recycled jeans . . .

Bikes used to display flowers

The street with the bicycle and flower displays . . .

Jeans to display flowers

Jean genius.

Alternative use for an old pneumatic tyre.

Old tyres given a new lease of life.

Costitx en Flor

Streets closed to traffic – and open to floral displays.

Costitx en Flor 2015

Take a seat . . . and add flowers.

Alternative use for an old tyre.

Once a tyre . . . now a chicken.

Costitx house doorway.

In the doorway of an old townhouse in Costitx.

Old Mallorcan well outside house in Costitx.

Old well outside a Costitx house – complete with flowers in a recycled tyre.

Embroidered flowers in Costitx.

Embroidery on a big scale!

Old stone arch in Costitx.

Archway to ‘cup and saucer alley’ in Costitx.

Costitx flower festival May 1st

Anyone for a cuppa?

Costitx church.

Costitx church goes floral.

Garden plants for sale on Mallorca.

Plants for sale – for those inspired by their visit to ‘Costitx en Flor’.

 

 

 

Blessing the animals in Manacor, Mallorca

Fabulous fabrics in traditional local costume

Fabulous fabrics in traditional local costume

Something that has always impressed us, living in rural Mallorca, is the islanders’ passion for keeping local traditions alive. Young and old take part in the various festivities throughout the year – such as last weekend’s Sant Antoni fiestas.

What particularly impresses me is the willingness of teenage boys and young men to dress up in traditional costume (which includes voluminous  trousers), and engage in activities such as the local folk dance known as ball de bot.

I remember a male work colleague in the UK ‘coming out’ to me about his Morris dancing hobby. He lived in the same village as us and knew that I was bound to spot him performing locally with his troupe, but asked me not to mention it to anyone else at work. There seems not to be any similar embarrassment here among young guys who are doing their bit to keep  Mallorcan traditions alive – and isn’t that great?

Last Saturday we attended one of the annual animal blessings ceremonies that take place around the island to mark Sant Antoni (January 17th). Locals take pets and farm animals and process through the streets to the place where the local priest is stationed to bless each one as it passes. He must have had a very sore throat by the time he blessed the beast at the back of the long queue . . .

Cute kids in costume on a float

Cute kids in costume on a float

Dimonis are everywhere - and some are pretty scary!

Dimonis are everywhere – and some are pretty scary!

Another float on parade

Another float on parade

Not a dimoni you'd want to meet in a dark alley!

Not a dimoni you’d want to meet in a dark alley!

"Does my bum look big in this?"

“Does my bum look big in this?”

It’s a well-attended and charming event in Manacor, with plenty of cute “ooh” and “aah” moments. As well as individuals walking along with their pets, there are floats decorated with a rural theme and bearing people and farm animals, and the dimonis – or demons – that are a fixture at so many traditional events on Mallorca. The main streets are closed for several hours and lined with spectators – some of them seated on dining chairs brought out from their houses for more comfortable viewing.

Sunshine  meant it wasn't too chilly for a chinchilla!

Sunshine meant it wasn’t too chilly for a chinchilla!

A billy with a bottle

A billy with a bottle

Mallorcan traditions are for young and old alike

Mallorcan traditions are for young and old alike

Among the many animals that the priest blessed in Manacor last weekend were a chinchilla, dogs in traditional (human) costume, cats on leads, and even a hawk of some type, perched on its owner’s hand. We also saw a rather handsome billy goat.

As I write, some of the people who put so much effort into their costumes and decorated floats, will already be planning for next month’s big carnival weekend . . . another great tradition embraced with gusto.

Please note that all photos on http://www.livingonruralmallorca.com are my own unless otherwise stated.

Rural Sant Antoni celebrations on Mallorca

The first time we were invited to join some mallorquín neighbours at their farm for a Sant Antoni celebration, I spent some time planning what we should take as a contribution to the communal supper. I settled on a dessert – a classic tarte tatin – and was both surprised and delighted when it turned out to look like the best one I’d ever baked.

When we arrived at the farm that chilly January evening in our early time of living on rural Mallorca, I added our contribution to the long table, which was covered with platters brought by other guests. I gave myself a mental pat on the back for originality when I noticed that my tarte tatin was the only dessert that wasn’t a Mallorcan ensaïmada.

Get with the traditions!

Later that evening, when most platters were left with only ensaïmada crumbs, and my tarte tatin was barely touched (except by The Boss), it dawned on me that it was the tradition to end a celebratory meal with ensaïmada.

We were there again this year, but without a tarte tatin. As usual, the feasting was done at a row of long plastic white tables and chairs set up in the farm’s spacious garage/storage room, decorated with handwritten Sant Antoni-related messages. We shared this space with a couple of cars, and a large flat-screen TV that had been brought out so that guests – who also included a couple of Germans, another English couple, an Israeli and his South African wife, and a dozen or so Mallorcans – could keep an eye on the IB3 TV coverage of Sant Antoni events in Manacor. I don’t think anyone really paid the broadcast any attention: we were having too much fun of our own!

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Some impromptu singing at the BBQ by our hosts and some of their friends

Some impromptu singing at the BBQ by our hosts and some of their friends

Pass the ximbomba

Pass the ximbomba

This is how it's done

This is how it’s done

Sparklers added more fun to our festivities

Sparklers added more fun to our festivities

After a very traditional Sant Antoni feast, a couple of bottles of home-made hierbas (the local herb liqueur) was passed around the table, and it was time for a sing-song and the playing of the ximbomba – an essential musical instrument for Sant Antoni celebrations, which looks a bit like a drum with a stick through the top of it. The playing method is rather suggestive – using a wetted hand to rub up and down the cane stuck into the drum part – and the resulting sound is the sort of farty noise that would have small English children giggling with delight. Several guests had a turn with the ximbomba – which isn’t as easy to play as its simple appearance may suggest. Every effort produced gales of laughter around the table – and prompted another toast with hierbas to the saint whose life we were celebrating. There would be sore heads in the morning . . .

Visca Sant Antoni! Long life Sant Antoni!

The fiestas continue in January on Mallorca

I remember January in the UK as a rather dull month, after the Christmas and New Year festivities. It’s all a bit different, since we came to live in rural Mallorca . . .

For a start, the Spanish celebrate the arrival of The Three Kings – who bring gifts to children on the night of January 5th (the 6th – the Christian festival of Epiphany – is a public holiday here).

By the time the gift wrapping is in the local paper recycling bin the Mallorcans are already gearing up for the Sant Antoni Abad fiestas, celebrated on January 16th and 17th (the Saint’s day).

No cold feet for Antoni

Antoni was not a Mallorcan, but an Egyptian monk who lived in the desert. The Devil – disguised as a woman – visited him there and tried to tempt him with ‘her’ charms. Antoni’s way of resisting temptation? He walked across some burning embers to suppress his lustful thoughts. That would do it . . .

A few centuries ago, when rye crops in the agricultural area around Sa Pobla were decimated by a poisonous fungus, the islanders remembered Sant Antoni and the power of fire to overcome evil spirits. Believing that these spirits were to blame for the loss of their crops, they lit bonfires to ward them off.

The bonfires continue in the 21st century, as part of the fiestas to celebrate the Saint’s day (January 17th). These are fiestas for the towns and villages with a rural heritage, and our nearest town, Manacor, is one of several places on Mallorca that really make the most of this fiesta.

On a country walk recently we spotted some people preparing for Sant Antoni.

On a country walk recently we spotted some people preparing for Sant Antoni.

Manacor goes to town

The main event is on the evening of the 16th, when bonfires are lit and effigies of the Devil are burned. Locals indulge in torrades, cooking botifarrons and other types of sausage over fires, and local brews such as hierbas – the famous Mallorcan herb liqueur. There’s music, traditional Mallorcan dancing (ball de bot), and it’s all very jolly. Many Mallorcans have told us that this is their favourite fiesta of the year.

Manacor council has published a 24-page brochure (in mallorquín) for the Sant Antoni 2015 festivities, also available online at http://www.manacor.org. It’s a lavish affair, detailing the programme of Sant Antoni-related events (which started on January 9th and end on 17th). Oh, and for those who like a sing-song, the words of the traditional Sant Antoni songs are helpfully included.

There’s a competitive element to the fiesta too, with monetary prizes for the best bonfires, floats, costumes, and more.

The programme shows the route of the procession of floats, bands, dignatories, and demonis (devils) on Friday 16th, starting at 7pm. At 8pm the first bonfire is traditionally lit outside the Rectory in the town centre – and after that all the other bonfires can be lit. At 10.30pm, there’s dancing in the Plaça de Ramon Llull. It’s a long night, but with an early start next morning for many . . .

It’s not over until it’s over

 

Taking his dog to be blessed

Taking his dog to be blessed

Pets on parade

Pets on parade

On January 17th – the feast of Sant Antoni Abad (the patron saint of animals) – locals bring their pets and animals to be blessed by the local priest. It’s a colourful and often cute procession of humans and animals, walking, riding on horseback, or on floats. In Manacor, the procession assembles at 9.30am, for the 10.30am parade. (Times, and even the day, may vary in different towns and villages). After the blessings, it’s time to go home and recover: January 17th is a public holiday in Manacor.

Apart from the public events, there are many Sant Antoni celebrations in small rural communities and we are spending at least part of the evening of the 16th at a farm in our valley, invited by our Mallorcan neighbours to join in their fun.

As they say in these parts, molts d’anys.

 

From the boat to our table – via Porto Cristo fish market

When we started looking at properties for sale in rural Mallorca, we’d already decided that we wanted to be able to reach the coast fairly easily from our future home.  Mallorca isn’t a very large island so this wasn’t much of a restriction.

From our finca in the Mallorcan countryside we can drive to the coast to the north or east of our home within 25 minutes. One of the several seaside places we enjoy going to is Porto Cristo – Manacor’s port.

Porto Cristo is bustling in the summer – and not just with holidaymakers from abroad. Many citizens of Manacor own second homes here in the port and relocate themselves to their seaside homes – only some 11 kilometres away – during July and August. When we first heard about this we were quite amused: people we’ve known in the UK with second homes usually had to travel a long way to reach them – either in the air or on Britain’s clogged-up motorways.  Folks here may travel only around 15 minutes to reach their home-from-home.

Summer at the seaside

We don’t blame the Manacor folks for moving to the coast. During the two hottest summer months many businesses in Manacor itself close at lunchtime and don’t reopen until the following day. People who relocate to Porto Cristo may have further to travel to work in Manacor but, when the day’s (or half day’s) work is done, they can beetle back to the port for the cooling sea breezes.

Porto Cristo is in party mode for the Festes del Carme each July. Events during the week include a seafood fair (this year on Monday, 7th) and a late-night weekend firework display that never fails to delight the crowds lining the port. These are two events we – and apparently the entire population of Porto Cristo and Manacor – attend every year.

This morning we had an appointment in Porto Cristo. Afterwards, we achieved something we’ve meant to do since we moved to Mallorca: we bought a fish at the small harbour fish market.  You only notice the place is there because a few weathered fishermen are usually hanging around outside. The fish market is open six mornings a week and, in summer, for an hour in the early evening. We’d always thought you had to buy fish in bulk here but, no, they are happy to sell individual fish too.

Wind and rough seas had limited the catch today, but we chose a good-looking Cap Roig (also known as a Red Scorpion fish). We’ve eaten this fish in restaurants, but never cooked – or cleaned – one. I was pleased that one of the lingering fishermen volunteered to gut it for me.  Now all I have to do is cook it this evening . . .

Get your fresh fish here!

Get your fresh fish here!

 

Fresh from the Med

Fresh from the Med