Christmas in Mallorca – Dare I Mention it Yet?

Tree at the M House Hotel in Palma

Where does the time go? Not so long ago we were wondering if we should have another dip in the sea because the autumn weather was still warm. (The answer from The Boss was a resounding ‘no’). This week you find us in full-on winter mode: the electric blanket is back on duty and the Jotul wood-burning stove is now blazing. The weather this November has not been pleasant (understatement).

Palma Preparing for the Season

I went to Mallorca’s capital, Palma, yesterday for a meet-up with other writers on the island and saw signs of the festive season coming to life. The stacks of wooden panels piled in Plaza de Espanya were an indication that the Christmas market stalls – wooden open-fronted huts, or casetas – are being erected. Around the corner, the roast-chestnut vendor was seducing passers by with the evocative aroma of his wares.

Let There be Lights!

The festivities in Palma seem to start a little earlier each year. This year, the big switch-on of the Christmas lights there will be on Wednesday, November 24th at 8pm. This coincides with the start of TaPalma – a popular annual event showcasing tapas and cocktails, continuing until Sunday, 28th. The Spanish Met Office – AEMET – says we may even have snow in Mallorca next week, although it would probably fall in the mountains, rather than in Palma.

Fir-ly Interesting News

For our home in rural Mallorca, we invested in a high-quality artificial Christmas tree before we left England, not expecting to find any – fake or real – on the island. Christmas trees have since become widely available in Mallorca and you wouldn’t believe some of the ghastly colours of the artificial ones. We’ve stuck with our original tree. It still looks good, although it smells a little musty for a day or two after a year stashed in its storage box.

I’ve read that a landscape gardener from Berlin is bringing sustainable, rooted Nordmann fir trees in pots to Mallorca to rent or buy. I like the idea of having a tree we could plant in the garden after the festivities are over. With the agaves keeling over in our garden, we’ll have several gaps to fill.

Tempted by the prospect of a real fir-scented tree, we may check out the Christmas Forest at the rural hotel **Ses Cases de Fetget, near Son Servera. And, of course, the mulled wine that the hotel will be selling at the same time.

**The trees will be available on Fridays and Saturdays from November 26th & 27th to December 17th & 18th, from 12 noon until 8pm.

©Jan Edwards 2021

Manacor Becomes Enchanted

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.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2021

Happy New Year from Chilly Mallorca

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.

Part of the traditional nativity display in Palma’s El Corte Ingles department store

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 – Translator & Artist Living in Rural Mallorca

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) Jan Edwards's novel 'Daughter of Deià' – set in Mallorca – is now available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.
  1. Sylvia Baker de Perkal – Translator & Artist
  2. Kate Brittan – Australian Expat, Foodie, and Fledgling Farmer
  3. Annie Verrinder – Wedding Planner, Celebrant … and More
  4. Marc Rieke – Wigmaker, Equestrian, Saddle Fitter
  5. Caroline Fuller – Gardening in Mallorca

Lizzie Graham – Author (with Anna Deacon) of 'Wild Guide Balearic Islands' Authors in Mallorca

This episode’s guest has experienced the authentic, wilder side of Mallorca for some twenty years. Lizzie Graham lives off-grid here and, as an excursion guide, introduces tourists and locals to special and secret parts of the island.Lizzie’s more likely to be found hiking, wild swimming, or sitting on a horse, than leaning over a laptop – but that hasn’t stopped her becoming an author.Lizzie and her Scotland-based photographer/journalist sister, Anna Deacon, have created a new guidebook for the English company Wild Things Publishing. ‘Wild Guide Balearic Islands’ is published on March 1st and reveals the hidden adventures that can be enjoyed in Mallorca and sister islands Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera.I chatted to Lizzie at Naturacavall – a Mallorcan family project that rescues and rehabilitates horses and offers riding-in-nature experiences. You’ll hear Lizzie’s passion for the horses and the natural outdoor lifestyle in our conversation.‘Wild Guide Balearic Islands’ is published by Wild Things Publishing in the UK. It will be available in bookshops from March 1st, 2022 and can also be purchased online in paperback from Amazon. http://www.wildthingspublishing.com/product/wild-guide-balearics/Find out more about Naturacavall here:  https://naturacavall.com/en/about-us/PODCAST THEME TITLE: “Lifestyles”COMPOSER: Jack Waldenmaier PUBLISHER: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI)The Mallorca-based novel 'Daughter of Deià'  by podcast host Jan Edwards is available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.
  1. Lizzie Graham – Author (with Anna Deacon) of 'Wild Guide Balearic Islands'
  2. Dr Timothy Ashby – Historical Fiction & Non-Fiction Author
  3. Alice LaPlante – Author of Literary Fiction & Non-fiction Books and Creative Writing Teacher
  4. Stephanie Schulz – Co-author of 'Faces of Mallorca' together with author & photographer, Mark Julian Edwards
  5. Bella Younger – Comedian, Scriptwriter, Journalist, Memoirist

Ooh, the Lucky Grapes!

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…

Have a Happy and Healthy New Year. Be safe.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2021

‘Blue Monday’ Becomes ‘Grey Monday’ in Mallorca

‘Blue Monday’ is how the third Monday of January has been designated for the past 15 years.

Holiday dreams?

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.

Jan Edwards ©2019

No Smoke Without Fire in our Rural Mallorcan Valley

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.

Bonfire smoke

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 torrente after the clearance

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…

Jan Edwards ©2019

Merry Christmas from Our Casa to Yours

 

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…

Merry Christmas!

Jan Edwards ©2018

Visca Sant Antoni! Manacor’s Favourite Fiesta…

Dimoni Mallorca

A scary dimoni in the streets of Manacor

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.

Merchandise for Sant Antoni

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.

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 informal barbecues, 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.

The festive season is now officially over in Manacor. Until February 10th…when it’s carnival. Mallorca sure knows how to party…

©Jan Edwards 2018

Merry Christmas from Mallorca!

Wine-bottle corks

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.

If you’re interested, check out my Instagram posts at mallorcajan.

©Jan Edwards 2017

Find Your Festive in Mallorca

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.

Faking it

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…

Baking it?!

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!

Ensaimada Christmas tree

An edible tree (but don’t count the calories!).

©Jan Edwards 2017

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?

DSC_0627

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 …

Jan Edwards Copyright2016