At this time of year, Manacor, our nearest town, celebrates its Spring Fairs and Fiestas – a jolly ten days of events, including an agricultural and livestock fair, and a very popular wine-tasting evening, which has grown enormously over the years we’ve attended. The whole shebang kicks off with the Dance of the Cossiers – the closest thing to Morris Dancing I’ve seen here.
For obvious reasons this important and well-supported event in the Manacor calendar didn’t happen last year, and this year’s Spring Fairs and Fiestas are still somewhat muted. Most events are taking place in the Municipal Park, to facilitate social distancing, and require advance reservation to attend. Our favourite event – the wine evening – sadly isn’t part of this year’s programme.
In addition, locals and visitors can enjoy Manacor’s El bosc encantat (enchanted forest), strolling around the town centre’s streets to see the six giant figures that have been installed in key locations. It’s a campaign designed to add some touches of magic and attract visitors and shoppers to the town. Manacor Encantat continues until June 7th.
If you were planning to visit Manacor this Friday, June 4th, the day is a public holiday in the town.
How were your New Year’s Eve celebrations? I don’t think anyone was sorry to see the end of 2020 but, wherever you were, I hope you had a chance to reflect on any positive aspects of what was a really crap year for everyone.
Like so many around the world, we’ve lost people this year who were dear to us. My extended family said goodbye to two much-loved senior members, and two friends were lost to cancer.
I begin each year by making a list of highlights of the previous 12 months: fiestas attended, restaurants enjoyed, new experiences, friends and family who’ve visited, etc. I’m always surprised at how much has happened and been achieved, and this strengthens my sense of gratitude.
Will I make a list for 2020? It’d be short. But even amidst the gloom and bad news of the pandemic year, I have found things for which to be grateful.
Reasons to be Positive
In the spring, the eldest of my two brothers was diagnosed with prostate cancer – even before he had any symptoms. He’d been to his GP about an unrelated problem and, while there, the doctor suggested an overdue PSA test. Long story short, my brother had a major operation – at a time when some hospitals had postponed most non-Covid-related procedures. I thank the NHS that he made a good recovery, without needing further treatment. If you’re male, please take this as a reminder to ask your doctor for a PSA test if you haven’t had one for a while.
I finished writing the first draft of my debut novel. This was back in spring, and I put the manuscript aside for a few months, as is recommended, before I started editing and revising. In 2021 I intend to see it published by whatever means possible. Just the small matter of finishing the revisions first.
We found a new Internet provider (ConectaBalear) – albeit too late to enjoy all the exciting online activities available during the strict three-month Spanish lockdown. As a result, we had a Christmas Day Zoom with my dad (whom I haven’t seen since a family funeral in the UK just before lockdown), and my two brothers and their families.
I also launched two podcasts, after my Mallorca Sunshine Radio show was put on hold. The weekly show was all about hospitality and gastronomy, and we all know what’s happened to those sectors – particularly in places depending on tourism. Living in Rural Mallorca podcast is about other expats’ experiences of life in the countryside here; Authors in Mallorca speaks for itself, I think. I hope you’ll have a listen and even subscribe to future episodes.
Sylvia Baker de Perkal and her Californian husband Adam moved from banking careers in Madrid to live in the countryside near the Mallorcan village of Algaida. This was twenty-six years ago, and they still live in the same rural home they fell in love with when they came to look for a property on the island. Sylvia and Adam each have their own successful businesses in Mallorca: Sylvia is a highly qualified translator, specialising in legal and financial translations; Adam runs his wine importing company. Sylvia also devotes time to her passion for creating art; four of her canvases hang in a smart new hotel in Lisbon. Sylvia talks about sharing their environment with animals (some of which you'll hear in the background), the changes they made to their home when they arrived, how she integrated into the local community, what it's like to start a business here, and some of the illusions people have about living in Mallorca. http://www.sylviabakerdeperkal.com Facebook: Sylvia Baker de Perkal- Artworkwww.mundidrinks.comFor animal adoptions:Dogs 4 U https://dogsforu.orgAsociación Animalista https://gatosyperros.orgProject Love http://www.sinhogarmallorca.com PODCAST THEME TITLE: “Lifestyles”COMPOSER: Jack WaldenmaierPUBLISHER: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI) LIVING IN RURAL MALLORCA podcast will be back in September 2021, after the hot summer break. Enjoy your summer, wherever you are!
Have you ever scrolled with a touch of envy through Instagram, seeing influencers flaunting fabulous freebies and their aspirational lifestyles? The reality of an influencer’s life is not always as it may seem, as my guest in this episode knows too well. In 2015, when comedian and writer Bella Younger created her alter ego Deliciously Stella – parodying clean-eating Instagram influencers – she had no idea it would lead to 150,000 followers … and a spell in The Priory clinic. Bella performed sell-out stand-up shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, authored the spoof ‘Deliciously Stella’ cookbook, and was twice named one of the Evening Standard’s most influential Londoners. Today she lives a very different life in rural Mallorca, where she finished writing her second book last year. Her mental-health memoir is very funny but is also essential reading for anyone who thinks they (or a family member) may be spending a little too much time on Instagram. ‘The Accidental Influencer: How My Need to Get Likes Nearly Ruined My Life’ was published by Harper Collins on May 13th.Hear Bella talking about her unusual route into the BBC, her process for her current fictional work in progress, finding peace and inspiration in Mallorca for her writing, snail racing … and more. ‘The Accidental Influencer: How My Need to Get Likes Nearly Ruined My Life’ is available now in bookshops and from Amazon, in Kindle and hardback formats. It's also available on Audible, narrated by Bella. Instagram @deliciouslystellaTwitter @bellayoungerPODCAST THEME TITLE: “Lifestyles”COMPOSER: Jack WaldenmaierPUBLISHER: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI)AUTHORS IN MALLORCA will be back in September, after the hot summer break. Wherever you are, enjoy your summer!
New Year’s Eve in 2020 was low key in our house. TV reception was almost non-existent because of bad weather, so we read. The Boss opened a bottle of cava to toast in the New Year, but we almost forgot about the ‘lucky grapes’. This Spanish tradition, dating back to the early 20th century, calls for one grape to be eaten with each of the twelve clock chimes at midnight. It’s harder than it sounds and seedless grapes are recommended (as is peeling them in advance; note to self for next time).
I rushed to the fridge to fetch the two portions of grapes and, although we started a few seconds late, we managed to swallow them all before 2021 arrived.
The lucky part was that we didn’t choke trying to do so! Gotta find the positives where you can…
‘Blue Monday’ is how the third Monday of January has been designated for the past 15 years.
This all came about because of some ‘research’ done on behalf of a British holiday company called Sky Travel. Of course, this was designed to make us lust after sea, sand, and sunshine (or whatever other type of vacation Sky Travel was offering) and book ourselves a holiday. If only. Did they not read the memo that said we’re all broke in January?
I do remember January in the UK being rather a flat month: the weather; fading memories of the Christmas and New Year festivities (if not the expanded waistline), and a depleted bank balance, all made January feel like the longest and least appealing month of the year.
Party on, people
In Mallorca, however, it’s non-stop festivities for most of the month: after New Year, it’s Tres Reis (Three Kings), with January 6th being a public holiday. Ten days later, we’re back in fiesta mode (read about Sant Antoni here).
Edible celebrations for Sant Antoni (made by Manacor bakery/cafe Dulce de Leche)
The weather for much of this January has been quite pleasant, with blue skies and sunshine. The arrival of Storm Gloria – after Sant Antoni – was a blow for the capital, Palma de Mallorca. The city was gearing up for its biggest party of the year – the Revetla – in honour of Sant Sebastià (Palma’s patron saint).
On Sunday night, the eve of the saint’s day (the 20th is a public holiday in Palma), the city’s main squares each have a huge stage for live music that has thousands of people dancing under the stars, and cooking food over open fires dotted around the city. In the past, we too have danced into the wee small hours at the Revetla and (foolishly) attempted to BBQ food without the aid of appropriate tongs.
Grey, not Blue
Storm Gloria – Spain’s unwanted guest
By the time all these fiestas are over, January’s been a blast and the end of the month is in sight. Rather than ‘Blue Monday’, we’d have described yesterday in Mallorca as ‘Grey, Wet, and Wild Monday’: Storm Gloria is lashing Spain with a fury we haven’t witnessed for a long time. It’s a good thing the fiestas are now over…until Carnival in February.
Bonfires are blazing at the bottom of our valley. We can’t see the flames from our finca, but smoke has been billowing from different parts for days. In summer, when the merest whiff of smoke tickles our nostrils, we’re outside peering all around in case a wildfire has broken out. Bonfires are forbidden in wooded areas such as ours for almost half the year and only barbecues are likely to be creating smoke during these months.
Smoke billows from down in the valley
In the autumn and winter months, farmers and gardeners choose calm days to burn their mounds of combustible unwanteds. We sometimes see vertical columns of smoke making a lazy ascent towards the sky and can usually work out from its location which neighbour is having a burn-up. But the smoke that’s been wafting daily over our valley is not from ordinary bonfires.
Our local landscape has changed dramatically as a result of the clearance work
Prevention is better than repair
I wrote a while back about the appalling floods that caused the loss of 13 lives in the northeast of Mallorca – the area known as the Llevant. As well as the tragic loss of life, property and roads suffered damage that in some cases is still being dealt with.
Since that incident, work has begun to ensure that the area’s torrentes – often-dry stream beds – are cleared of vegetation and widened to accommodate even excessive rainfall, such as that which fell on Sant Llorenç on October 9th.
For several weeks, enormous earth-moving vehicles have been trundling along the torrente at the bottom of our valley, ripping out trees and shrubs and reshaping the banks. The vehicles have fallen silent now and all that remains is for the workmen to burn the mountains of vegetation they’ve removed along the route of the stream. The bonfires have been happening for days and will probably continue for a while. Although they aren’t particularly close to our finca, our black car is dotted with ash particles – but it makes no sense to clean it yet.
Any excuse for a BBQ
Tomorrow evening the aroma of smoke will also hang over Manacor, our nearest town – but it won’t have wafted from our valley. The 16th of January is the eve of Sant Antoni and it’s traditional for fires to blaze in the streets during this much-loved fiesta. Tomorrow, butcher’s shops and supermarkets will do a roaring trade in Mallorcan sausages and pancetta, to be cooked alfresco over the roaring flames of the fires dotted all around town. And maybe also in our rural valley. Pass the BBQ sauce…
Wherever you are, however you celebrate (or not) this time of year, The Boss and I hope that this festive period for you will be blessed with the company of loved ones, delicious food and drink, happiness, and peace. And, in case you’re wondering, Mallorca does not have any snow at the moment…
Hello! And a belated Happy New Year. Mine unfortunately started with bronchitis, which laid me low at a time when normally I’m itching to get started on the new year. Colds, flu, and other assorted viruses are rife on Mallorca at the moment and it’s hard to avoid them. Unusually, I haven’t felt up to writing much – although I did manage to write a short story for an international fiction competition. If I win, I’ll invite you all round for a glass of cava!
Celebrating Sant Antoni
Fortunately I was just about well enough for our usual visit to Manacor last week for the Sant Antoni fiestas. The good folks of Manacor love this fiesta, kitting themselves out in the latest Sant Antoni sweatshirt, t-shirt, or other assorted merchandise printed with the current year’s Sant Antoni logo.
The 2018 Sant Antoni must-have, as modelled in Hiper supermarket
A day or so before Sant Antoni, heaps of sand appear in the streets: these are the locations of the bonfires that will blaze on the evening of the 16th January. Some of them will just be piles of logs but others involve a degree of creativity and handicrafting; these are the ones that will be judged in the annual competition to find the best bonfire.
Sant Antoni appears on this bonfire
So much hard work went into some of the bonfire piles – shame they have to go up in flames!
Creativity at its finest
During the afternoon of the day before Sant Antoni’s day, it seems as though the entire population is on the streets – strolling (or cycling) all over the town to see these creations before they go up in smoke that evening.
Better the dimoni you know…
Come the evening, the bonfires are eventually lit and the fun begins. People take meat and bread to cook over the torradas; these are informalbarbecues, very often made from old metal half-barrels full of logs. The dimonis (devils) dance in a wild fashion through the streets and everyone has a great time.
It’s a night the youngsters of the town particularly enjoy and many of them wander the streets in chattering groups, clutching large bottles of what appears to be lemon Fanta. More often than not, it’s a Menorcan drink called pomada: a mix of Menorcan Xoriguer gin and sparkling lemon that is especially popular as a Sant Antoni tipple. Another much-imbibed drink is the bright-green Mallorcan herb liqueur known as hierbas. Mine’s a pomada, if you’re asking…
Ooh, another public holiday
On the saint’s day (January 17th) itself, Manacor has a public holiday. The local priest, however, doesn’t get a day off: he’s in Ramon Llull square blessing the animal population of the town and surrounding countryside. This is one of my favourite fiestas, when many people dress in traditional costume to accompany their domestic and farm animals on their slow procession past the priest.
“Does my bum look big in this?”
One his mum will certainly show to his girlfriend in years to come
On their best behaviour
Ready with the Holy water
The festive season is now officially over in Manacor. Until February 10th…when it’s carnival. Mallorca sure knows how to party…
Mallorca produces fantastic wines. Here’s what we make with some of the corks…
What’s Mallorca like at Christmas? It’s a question we’re sometimes asked by friends who live in the UK or elsewhere. Well, it’s not as warm here as many who visit the island only during the summer may think. In our first year, a friend wrote in his Christmas card to us that he would be picturing us wearing shorts and eating Christmas lunch on the beach. No. We’re living in Europe, not Australia! We’ll be fairly close to our Jotul wood-burning stove toasting our bits!
The festive season here though is lovely – less frenetic than we experienced back in the UK – and we often have sunny days over the winter.
I thought I’d share a few phone-photos taken in Mallorca’s capital, Palma, in this pre-Christmas post, along with warm seasonal greetings from The Boss and me. Wherever you live, and whatever your weather at this time of year, have a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas in good company.
Christmas decorations in Palma on the Passeig del Born
These LED balloons have been very popular in Palma this year
Christmas lights in Palma’s Placa Major.
Part of the nativity scene (or ‘belen’) on display every year in Palma’s Town Hall
Vegan mince pie from mymuybueno Deli in Palma
Just waiting for the brandy sauce to be poured. Christmas pudding (British style) at Baiben restaurant in Puerto Portals
If you’re interested, check out my Instagram posts at mallorcajan.
Looking around our valley, you’d never guess that Christmas was less than three weeks away. No inflatable Santas climb plastic-rope ladders up the side of house chimneys. No country properties around us are adorned with twinkly-lit reindeer or other festive characters. All looks peaceful, normal, and…rural. Of course, it could be a different story behind closed doors!
We knew from visits to Mallorca before moving here that we were unlikely to find a Christmas tree for sale – real or fake. I had always had a real tree in the UK and the annual visit to the side entrance of Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, to select one of the numerous trees for sale, was guaranteed to make me feel more festive.
Before we left the UK, we bought a high-quality artificial one from an Oxfordshire garden centre, ensuring that we wouldn’t be without a Christmas tree once here. In a week or so’s time, it’ll be released from its cardboard prison at the back of a little-used cupboard to be pressed into decorative service for its 14th Mallorcan Christmas. Fingers crossed it will still look perky – and won’t have lost all its artificial pine needles!
More than a decade later, Papá Noel’s sleigh GPS has located Mallorca: many lucky children now receive presents from the red-suited one as well as those traditionally brought by The Three Kings in early January. Must be an expensive business, being a parent on this island…
And, you guessed it, you can now find Christmas trees – even real ones – just about everywhere in Mallorca. I thought the one below – made from the traditional Mallorcan pastries known as ensaïmadas (and spotted in a bakery window in the town of Artà) – was just a little bit different!
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).
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
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
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.
… 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 …
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
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
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 …
We headed home late, happy and relaxed, having felt the magic of this celebration of summer.