May Your New Year’s Eve Grapes Be Seedless

A native Mallorcan grape variety, Callet is for wine - not for New Year's Eve. Buy small, sweet and seedless grapes for easier gulping!

A native Mallorcan grape variety, Callet is for wine – not for New Year’s Eve. Buy small, sweet and seedless grapes for easier gulping!

For our first New Year’s Eve after moving to rural Mallorca (2004) we decided to do something we hadn’t ever done in the UK: go to the capital to see in the New Year. We booked ourselves into a very reasonable small hotel in Palma (Hotel Cannes – alas, no longer open) and took the train into the city from Manacor.  The country folk were heading for A Big Night Out in the City!

Much to our surprise, the return journey was free of charge – although the ticket man on the train insisted on giving everyone a ‘free’ single journey ticket.  At the time, there were no automated barriers in either station, so this seemed slightly quirky; we wondered how much it had cost to have these special tickets printed . . .

Whining About Dining

We planned to eat out and then go to Plaza Cort, in the centre of Palma, where there’s a real party atmosphere on New Year’s Eve – with live music, plenty of revelry, and these days the presence of the Balearics’ TV station IB3. To our surprise, we found that most restaurants in Palma were closed, and after trudging the streets – stomachs rumbling – we finally found an Italian restaurant with one free table, which we commandeered without even looking at the menu. We were desperate – having been on the verge of gobbling down the 24 grapes we’d brought with us for the Spanish tradition of downing one grape each time the clock chimes at midnight.

The food wasn’t memorable, but we went on to have a great night in Plaza Cort, dancing to a lively band. It was 2.40am when we finally returned to our hotel to catch some sleep before our return train journey home.


The journey was a long one: the train was packed (with free travel, no surprise), and stopped at every station and, unusually, there was music playing throughout the carriages. After a late night and a few glasses of cava, the driver’s selection (we imagined this was his privilege for working on New Year’s Day) of rousing show tunes made sure that we didn’t fall asleep during the journey. We couldn’t complain though: our journey again cost us nothing and we had another ‘free’ ticket to show for it.

When in Rome . . . 

The next year we decided to check out the celebrations closer to home, among the locals.  At 11pm we went into Manacor with the aim of having a drink in one of the numerous bars, before assembling at the church with the throngs of locals. It would have been a great plan if all the bars hadn’t been closed. We thought of past New Year’s Eve celebrations in the UK – all somewhat livelier than anything we’d seen – or have seen since – in Mallorca.

As we wandered around the deserted town centre, clutching our bags of grapes, we remembered friends telling us that New Year’s Eve is usually a family celebration for Mallorcans, taking place over a special meal at home (hence, many restaurants are closed for the night).  Finally, at 11.45pm the bar next to the church opened its doors: we bought ourselves a drink and watched as, slowly, groups of people began to assemble outside the church, where a band had set up their instruments on a wooden stage and was in the process of tuning up.

Our grapes at the ready, we joined the crowd outside and duly welcomed in the New Year. After the church bells had rung and we’d gobbled down our grapes, the band struck up and we joined in the dancing. But by 12.20am most people had wandered off home, leaving a not very large group of young hardcore partygoers still throwing shapes to the music. We ambled off to our car, making our first New Year’s Resolution: Do something different for the next New Year’s Eve!

Of course, this time of year is not all about partying. It’s a time to share with loved ones, to reflect on the year behind you, and make plans for the one ahead. However you spend your New Year’s Eve, enjoy it, and may 2013 be a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year for you and, if you’re a blogger, a successful one.

Molts d’anys – as they say in these parts.

Jan Edwards 2012

Earthly Matters

A soil-testing kit isn’t something many people whip out of their pockets when they go property-hunting but, if you have serious dreams of growing your own produce, it could be a useful item to have with you. Our lovely little finca was blessed with quite a few almond and fig trees, so I naively assumed that growing vegetables would be just a matter of hard work and time.

Dynamite as a Gardening Aid?

What isn’t obvious, when merely gazing at the Mediterranean garden we have created, is that the layer of earth is very shallow and beneath it is a bed of solid rock. In places, rocks rise above the soil, creating an attractive rockery effect. Several first-time visitors have complimented us on our strategic placing of the large stones and boulders, but we have to confess that nature did the hard work. The rocks are where they always were, and always will be – unless we employ the tactics of a local wine-producer, who blasted the rock on his land with dynamite, to create a better area for cultivation. The amount of dynamite we’d need would probably also flatten the house . . .

Going Potty

Using pots and garden centre compost, and a slightly less rocky corner of the garden, we had a little success last year growing potatoes (harvesting just enough for one meal), tomatoes, and salad leaves (which we had to share with an invisible but insatiable bug). The quantity and quality of what we grew didn’t seem to justify the effort – especially as we can buy excellent produce grown in the neighbouring valley in our local market.

Gifts on the Gate

Grapes for breakfast then today . . .

Sometimes we don’t even need to do that. We have some very generous neighbours – with more favourably located land – who regularly bring us surplus produce. Very often, we find a carrier bag bulging with promise, hanging over our gate. So far this summer, we’ve enjoyed tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, plums, and grapes – all grown locally.We have offered to pay something for these fruit and veggie gifts in the past, but the producers won’t hear of it. So, to thank them for their kindness, we buy them the occasional good bottle of wine – Mallorcan, of course.

 Jan Edwards Copyright 2012