Cycle (or walk?) this way…

We had to go to town hall yesterday morning for ‘a bit of bureaucracy’ (there’s plenty of it for those of us who live in Spain) and, as we drove out of our gates, we spotted a pick-up truck at the corner of the lane, laden with wooden posts. Two workmen were pulling various bits of kit  off the back of the wagon, seemingly preparing for some action. Perhaps some work to a neighbour’s gate?

Curious, but fixed on our mission, we headed into town and thought nothing more about it. On our return, we found out what those posts were all about: our valley now seems to be part of an official walking route; the posts have been distributed along the way to guide walkers.

Walking signpost

Walk this way…

We’ve occasionally seen hikers in the lanes around us, kitted out with their rucksacks, hiking boots, and walking poles. Cyclists regularly challenge themselves on the steep lanes, heads down and leg muscles bulging with the effort. Once we saw a whole team of speed skaters, clad in brightly hued Lycra, whizzing down the lane past our house; like most of the cyclists who pass through the valley, I doubt that they spotted much of the countryside along the way…

Our valley is picturesque and peaceful and, if we didn’t live here, we’d love to come and walk the lanes too. It’s not surprising that our municipality decided to create an official walking route through such an unspoilt area. But I found it rather ironic that, on our return, we spotted some plastic water bottles discarded into the verge – exactly where we’d seen the workmen unloading their pick-up truck to install one of the posts.  Could they not have just slung the empties into the back of their wagon and disposed of them properly in town?

Littering the countryside

It’s enough to make my blood boil!

Rant over for now; I’m off to make some DIY ‘No litter’ signs…

POSTSCRIPT: A little subsequent research has revealed that the route through our valley is intended for cyclists, rather than walkers, and is part of a round-trip route of more than  40km. I’m not sure I’ll be trying that one on my trusty (or, more accurately, rusty) mountain bike… 

©Jan Edwards 2017

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Word of mouth sells…or not

Our ‘hood has changed in recent weeks: two British couples who owned fincas in our valley as holiday homes have sold them to new owners.  We have yet to meet either of them, although the Polish couple who bought the larger of the two properties is due to arrive in the next couple of weeks and has kindly sent us an invitation to meet them.

It wasn’t obvious that these two properties were on the market, as you don’t see real estate agents’ ‘For sale’ boards erected in the Mallorcan countryside. If you did, there’d be an alarming number of them all over Mallorca, because many empty rural properties are on the market…but in a passive kind of way.

As someone who inherited a finca from his parents once told us, “if someone makes me the right offer, I’ll sell it.” He doesn’t have it on a real estate agent’s books but word of mouth may one day bring him a sale. There’s no rush.

DIY marketing

Spanish DIY for sale sign

And the number is…?

There are currently two other fincas for sale in our valley. One is unoccupied and has quite a lot of fertile land, including a large separate field with a pigsty and a magnificent fig tree. In our early years here, we used to see the pigs lying underneath it, waiting to snaffle any luscious figs that fell to the ground. We always imagined their meat would be particularly tasty but, having had a tour a decade ago of the pig farm when it was in full operation (an eye-opening experience), pork was off our shopping list.

The owner – who now lives amidst modern conveniences in town – has put up the type of ‘Se Vende‘ signs you can buy in a stationery store or newsagent’s and to which you add your own phone number.

Two things amuse us about this sign. Firstly, it’s been there so long that the sun has faded the ink, rendering the number illegible. And very few people – other than those who already live at that remote end of the valley – will drive or walk past this sign anyway. I guess it’s another case of word of mouth being preferable to a real estate agent’s fees.

©Jan Edwards 2017

 

Authentic flamenco in Mallorca

¡Olé! If there’s such a thing as having a previous life, I reckon I was probably Spanish. I’ve been a huge fan of Spain since I was 18 and had my first holiday in the country. With a group of friends, travelling in a titivated old Transit van, we transited through France and into Spain (the vehicle breaking down only once). Although I didn’t take to camping (how grim were those loos!), I was captivated by Spain and its culture…except the bullfighting.

The Boss and I moved to Mallorca because, after holidaying separately and together here, we’d both fallen in love with the island – particularly its rural heart. Once we’d settled into life here, we discovered Mallorca’s own distinct culture. But because of tourism, Mallorca also attracts people from the Peninsula and other countries to work in the hospitality industry – which makes for an interesting cosmopolitan mix of people and cultural activities. An example: I’m told that in the 1960s, Palma once had 18 tablaos – flamenco bars with a stage. Eighteen! Presumably this was due to the influx of Andalusians who came to work in the island’s hotels, restaurants, and bars.

The real deal

When we visited Seville a few years ago we spent an evening at a locals’ flamenco bar – and loved it. But we didn’t expect to find anything as authentic back on our island. We had the impression that flamenco here was something just for tourists to enjoy in the evenings after dinner in their resort hotels; only recently did I find out that the Balearics has a flamenco culture association which has organized the Festival de Flamenco ‘Ciutat de Palma’ for the past four years.

The tablaos may be almost non-existent in Palma, but interest in flamenco certainly hasn’t died out; the art form just needed a bit of ‘oomph’ to generate more interest and broaden awareness.

Thanks to some flamenco aficionados who are on a mission to “restore the spirit of tablao to Palma”, you can now see a rather thrilling and authentic show in Mallorca’s capital. Flamenco and local history expert Julio Piñeiro and chef Björn San Pedro founded Flamallorca, which launched this spring with the participation of some talented performers (and some generous sponsors). I’ve seen the show twice and can heartily recommend it if you are visiting Mallorca in the coming weeks – or next year.

Gothic setting

The venue, Teatre Sans, is an intimate café-theatre in Palma’s Old Town – a former palace that an olive-oil trader built in the 14th/15th centuries; his coat of arms is still in the courtyard. A Mallorcan family eventually bought the Gothic building, owning it for 300 years before Franco confiscated it – believing the owners to be Republicans. Post-Franco, the palace was back in the family, who eventually sold it for a reasonable price to the current owners, who wanted to restore it to its former use as a small theatre.

It’s an atmospheric venue for Flamallorca and audiences see the show in parts, in different areas of the building. It all begins with wine and tasty home-made tapas in the courtyard (check out that coat of arms), where a guitarist plays and sets the scene for what’s to come. I shall not reveal more, but share a few photos I took during my two visits to give you a flavour.

Thanks to the diversity of this island, we can enjoy the tranquillity of living in rural Mallorca and experience Andalusia’s most vibrant art form just an hour’s drive from home. ¡Olé indeed!

The last few Flamallorca shows of this season are as follows:

  • Thursday, October 19th at 18:00h
  • Thursday, October 26th at 18:00h
  • Thursday, November 2nd at 18:00h

For more information, or to book, check out Flamallorca. And don’t forget to call out ¡Olé! a few times during the show…

©Jan Edwards 2017

Useful books for a life in Mallorca

Which non-fiction books about Mallorca would you recommend to someone moving to the island? That’s a question I’ve been asked a few times, so I thought I’d answer it in this post.

We arrived to live in rural Mallorca in 2004 with one thumping good book about the island (in English): Majorca – Culture and Life (Könemann). It had been a farewell gift from a BBC work friend (Julia) and was so interesting that, before we left the UK, we bought another copy to give to my dad – destined to spend holidays with us on Mallorca; you can also find this book for sale on the island.

Over the years, we have added further books about Mallorca to our bookshelves and, if it’s of interest, these are some others we’ve found to be practical, inspiring, and interesting:

Mallorca books

Just a few of our books about Mallorca.

A Home in Majorca by Tomás Graves (La Foradada)

Written by the son of the late writer Robert Graves, this book is fascinating for anyone with an old Mallorcan finca. Its strapline is ‘A practical guide to the traditional house and rural life’ and that about sums it up perfectly.  This is a book to pick up and dip into just for the interest of its contents, or to scour for a possible solution to a domestic ‘situation’ – such as cleaning a chimney or dealing with a crop of olives. It’s available in English (and probably quite a few other languages by now) and I can thoroughly recommend buying a copy.

Beloved Majorcans – Guy de Forestier (La Foradada)

Here’s a book that gives a useful insight into the character of the islanders themselves. Described as ‘An outsider’s guide to social and personal relations on the isle of Majorca’, it should help you avoid making any major social gaffs and go some way to explaining greetings such as what The Boss and I call ‘the chin cock’. Guy de Forestier is a pseudonym; the book was written by the Catalan architect Carlos García Delgado, who has lived on the island since he was a child.

A Birding Tourist’s Guide to Majorca (www.birdingmajorca.com)

If you live in the Mallorcan countryside, chances are you may be curious about some of those feathered friends you’ll see around your land. This book is the perfect twitcher’s companion, explaining which birds may be seen on the island – where and when. We bought our copy (19,50 euros) from the visitor centre at S’Albufera natural park (which is well worth a visit as it has the island’s greatest diversity of birds).

El Litoral de Mallorca (geoPlaneta)

This is a complete guide to Mallorca’s coastline, illustrated with aerial photographs. The text is in castellano but even if you don’t speak the language, it’s fascinating to look at the images, which also show footpaths and some points of interest. When we first arrived we went through it page by page, identifying beaches that looked promising. Nautical sorts will also find it useful, as it includes basic information about marinas around Mallorca.

Todas las playas de Mallorca – Miquel Ángel Álvarez Alperi (La luz en papel)

If you love spending time on a beach, you have 262 to discover on Mallorca! And this book will help you find those that most fit your tastes – whether it’s a popular resort with all the facilities you could want, or a hideaway cove where you may share the sand with a gull or two. As far as I know, it’s only available in castellano, but each beach has its own page, illustrated with a photograph and annotated with symbols that are easy enough to understand.

Gardens of Mallorca – Charlotte Seeling and Carina Landau (Feierabend)

This will look good on the coffee table, but it’s also a useful book if you’re interested in gazing at gardens of a Mediterranean nature, or seeking inspiration for your own patch of paradise. It’s in three languages – English, castellano, and German – and is illustrated with lots of beautiful photographs. Useful if you want to identify the type of trees and plants that grow best on Mallorca.

Country Houses of Majorca – Barbara and René Stoeltie (Taschen)

With texts in German, English, and French, this is one to inspire the interior décor of your rural home on Mallorca. Each chapter is dedicated to a country property, with a description and photographs. Be prepared to drool a bit…

Living in Style Mallorca (teNeues)

Larger and glossier than the above book, this one earns a place on many coffee tables. It’s packed with lots of full-page photos of gorgeous properties (not all rural) and will give you plenty of ideas for decorating a home on Mallorca. Be prepared to drool quite a lot!

If you’re in Palma, it’s worth popping into the lifestyle store Rialto Living to check out the books section – which usually has a choice relating to Mallorca.

Anders – a loyal reader of Living in Rural Mallorca and also a finca owner – got in touch with me to share the list he has compiled of books about Mallorca. Whilst mine is of  books we’ve found useful and informative for practical purposes, Anders’s list comprises a broad spectrum of books about Mallorca and it’s surprising how many there are! Check the list out here – the season for reading a good book, sitting by the log fire with a glass of good Mallorcan tinto, will soon be here!

©Jan Edwards 2017

 

Back in front of the camera…

Earlier this summer I was involved in the filming of an Israeli foodie TV show in Palma, which was really interesting. I haven’t seen the finished show but know it was recently screened because a friend on the island – married to an Israeli – contacted me to say she’d seen me in it. Read about the filming here (post dated June 20th) if you’re interested.

Last Friday I was at it again, having been invited to be part of a ‘spot’ which will be screened on social networks at some future date. I’m not supposed to give away too much information, but one part of the shoot (which lasted most of the day and took us to four different locations) was a picnic at the lovely ermita at Vilafranca de Bonany.

Picnic

A hilltop picnic of Mallorcan products.

Ermita de Vilafranca de Bonany

A coachload of tourists has a quick look around. Film crew takes a break…

Setting up a shoot

Two of the film crew discussing camera angles, light…and wasps!

Who invited the wasps?

I was invited to take along a Mallorcan friend and Montse, one of our lovely neighbours in the valley, seemed thrilled to be asked along. She took on her role as picnic hostess with relish and we both had great fun – although the numerous gatecrashing wasps were a pain in the proverbial (but, thankfully, not literally).

The location is beautiful and The Boss and I have taken a picnic up there on several occasions. If you’re lucky – as we have been in the past – you may be the only people there, taking in the spectacular island views. On Friday, just as the camera was about to start recording, a coach full of tourists arrived but, after a quick look at the views (they seemed to avoid the ermita building itself), they were back on the bus and off down the hill’s winding lane. Peace had descended again on this special location.

If you have the opportunity to visit this place, do take it. It’s best approached from the Petra road off the roundabout with the ‘dancing statues’ near the Es Cruce restaurant, rather than through Petra itself.

©Jan Edwards 2017

Royal Navy warship docks in Palma

Sometimes The Boss and I do things that seem a world away from our peaceful daily life in rural Mallorca. In recent weeks we’ve been to see singer George Benson in an outdoor concert in the superyacht marina Port Adriano; I didn’t expect to be doing that when we moved to the island.

Last Saturday we attended a gala dinner and concert at the beautiful 5-star Castell Son Claret hotel near the small village of Es Capdellà. Six young singers from the Salzburg Festival performed on the hotel’s huge terrace to an appreciative international audience; that’s something else we never expected to be able to do here.

Castell Son Claret

Huw Montague Rendall and Anita Rosati of the Young Singers of the Salzburg Festival on stage.

Drinks on a NATO warship

But last night’s experience was as remote from rural living as any I’ve had since we moved to Mallorca in 2004: I was a guest at a reception on the British warship HMS Duncan, which docked in Palma on a stopover on Monday. The ship had just led a NATO task force through one of the largest naval exercises staged in the Black Sea. HMS Duncan is the flagship for Standing Maritime Group 2 – one of two task forces for larger warships operated by NATO.

Ship's bell on HMS Duncan

Was tempted to give this one a little ring…

I must confess I hadn’t heard of HMS Duncan – not being very well informed when it comes to matters military. A few minutes’ research later and I discovered that this was in fact the seventh Royal Navy ship to be named after Adam Duncan, the 18th-century Viscount Duncan of Camperdown, who defeated the Dutch fleet in the Battle of Camperdown in 1797.

This latest incarnation of HMS Duncan is a Type 45 Destroyer, although it looked quite benign under the early evening sunshine in Palma’s port, docked opposite a cruise ship. It has a crew of around 200, led by Commander Eleanor Stack (quite a few of the ship’s senior officers, including the Logistics Officer, are women). We guests (sadly, The Boss wasn’t on the invitation list) were able to chat and mingle with officers and crew, as well as each other. Oh and there were drinks (although I didn’t spot a drop of rum) and canapés.

Surprises all around

I had no idea what to expect of this evening, never before having been on an active Royal Navy vessel. Dress code for guests was ‘smart’. I avoided anything navy blue or white and opted for a long summer dress – perfect for the warm night. Luckily common sense prevailed in the shoe department and I shunned the strappy high-heeled numbers for something flatter: ever tried walking up a naval ship’s metal gangway? It’s slippery…

Fears that I might accidentally knock a button or switch and launch something of an anti-missile nature were allayed shortly after wandering around the deck. It seemed surprisingly devoid of controls and equipment – apart from a rather impressive helicopter. But there was information in spades, as the hospitable members of the crew readily answered questions fired in their direction.

Helicopter on HMS Duncan

HMS Duncan’s impressive helicopter.

Helicopter pilot and his machine

Trying to persuade the pilot to let me inside his helicopter. Note his special pilot’s cummerbund.

Of course, security was tight – we had to provide ID papers – and a few heavily armed guards patrolled the area around the entrance to the ship. Assuming that photography wouldn’t be allowed, I’d left my faithful Nikon at home, so was surprised to see other guests avidly snapping away in all directions. I checked with a crew member that it was OK to use my phone camera and he laughed, pointing out the flags lining the hangar area: “Look, we decorated the place especially!”

HMS Duncan

Decorated for the visitors.

Duncan tartan

Not my hand on this sailor’s Duncan-tartan cummerbund!

Royal Navy

No idea what these mean, but they look impressive.

HMS Duncan

On the canvas-covered deck of HMS Duncan.

Guests at reception on HMS Duncan

Long-distance swimmer Anna Wardley (centre) was among the guests.

RN sunset ceremony

Time to lower the flag. The cruise ship passengers probably enjoyed this too.

Towards the end of the reception we watched the ship’s traditional sunset ceremony, as the flag was lowered for the night. I found it quite moving and it prompted one of those proud-to-be-British moments that have been a bit rare since the EU Referendum. It was almost time for some of the sailors to prepare for a fun night out in Magaluf.

My phone-camera photos weren’t too good but they’re a reminder of a fascinating evening on a Royal Navy warship. Can we top that experience in Mallorca? Only time will tell…

©Jan Edwards 2017

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