Motorsport rally comes to our valley

Rally sign

Unless you’re in a rally car, of course…

One of the reasons we wanted to live in rural Mallorca was the expectation of peace and quiet. I worked for quite a lot of years in radio and TV – environments where you’re subjected to sounds all day. My ears needed a rest.

We were quite surprised one morning during our first spring here to find that our back field had become a parking lot. Who were all these people who had taken advantage of a large gap in our old stone wall to park their cars on our property?

The answer came very soon: the annual Manacor motorsport rally was driving through our valley and the owners of the parked cars had arrived early to spectate. Finding nowhere to park in our narrow lane, they took the only obvious option. Mystery solved.

Revved and ready

Several years have passed since the last Manacor rally came through our area. Further down the valley, some of the water course walls had been repaired and we assumed the local council didn’t want skidding rally cars knocking them down!

Today, the engines were revving again. We had two weeks’ notice – via a large signboard – that our lane would be closed to all traffic except Rallye Llevant competitors between 8am and 3pm. We could either go out early and stay out until mid-afternoon, or stay put. We opted for the latter.

It’s quite exciting when something like a rally or other sporting event comes through our valley. Yes, it can be a little inconvenient for those of us who live here, but it provides some free entertainment and, when it’s all over, we get to appreciate rural tranquillity all over again.

 

©Jan Edwards 2018

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Snow on Mallorca? It happens…

Snow on Majorcan mountains

Snow caps on the Tramuntana mountains, seen from our valley

For many who know Mallorca only as a hot summer-holiday destination, it may come as a shock to know that our beautiful island experiences some rather wintry weather at times. Back in February 2012, The Boss’s cousin and his wife came to the island for a walking holiday. Except that when they opened the door of their holiday accommodation one morning, a drift of snow awaited them. It’s not been that bad since (yet).

February is usually the coldest and dampest month and, for the past week, it’s been pretty miserable, with constant grey skies and rain in our part of Mallorca. We do need the rain, of course, to replenish the embalses – water reservoirs – for the long dry summers.

The annual Carnival celebrations were due to happen in Manacor last evening, but the powers-that-be decided to postpone the event because of the weather: yesterday was damp, dreary, and 4 degrees Celsius (although it felt colder in the wind). We think it’s the first time the event has been postponed since we’ve lived here. Carnival celebrations in Manacor will now take place this evening. What a difference a day makes. Today, the sky has been blue and the sun has shone. But, as the afternoon has progressed, there’s been a renewed sharpness to the breeze.

What to wear for Carnival

We usually dress up in ordinary warm clothes for this event but, last year, we took the plunge and went in costume – dressed in cowboy (and cowgirl) gear, along with our Dutch friends Sandra and Adriaan. We had a really fun night and I don’t recall it being particularly cold (although a glass or two of wine during the evening may have served as central heating).

Carnival in Manacor is always fun but, in costume terms, it’s not Rio. Far too cold for skimpy outfits in February! For anyone planning to dress up this evening, the ideal outfit would be a furry gorilla costume. Now, where can The Boss and I source a couple of those on a Sunday afternoon, I wonder?

©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

Pot luck in Manacor

Our mission – which we had no choice but to accept – was to find a new flowerpot to replace the one that was recently blown over and broken by a particularly fierce gust of wind. Usually this would entail a trip to one of the garden centres in the area. I’ve written before about garden centres in Mallorca: I have yet to find one to match the gorgeous Burford Garden Company – a place in the Cotswolds I used to love visiting.

The trouble with garden centres in general is that I find it hard to leave them with only the one thing I intended to buy. And I am not a shopaholic by nature. Go in for a bag of compost and I’m likely to emerge with a pot or two of herbs as well. One local garden centre was selling large nets full of home-grown oranges for juicing…well, I couldn’t resist those, could I?

In one of the better local garden centres, I once bought a large mirror for the guest bathroom as well as a new trowel. Clearly it would be more economical to go straight to a terracotta pot manufacturer, cutting out the middleman (and their range of tempting goodies).

Traditional Mallorcan terracotta

Black wood smoke often billows from a local factory on the outskirts of Manacor and it was time to check the place out. The kilns weren’t fired up the day we visited but the place was already well stocked with terracotta flowerpots and pretty much anything else you could want made from terracotta (Mallorcan ceiling and roof tiles included).

Inside the terracotta factory

Tejar Bandris’s terracotta factory near Manacor

Tejar Bandrís is a family business of master artisans and Toní told us he was the third generation in the firm. As we were the only customers, he spent some time telling us that people come from all over Mallorca and beyond to buy from him. If you buy an old finca on the island and want some authentic terracotta features, this is the place to come. Soooo many things…. Focus, Jan!

Terracotta products Mallorca

Potty about the choice!

Terracotta goods at Tejas Bandris

These look attractive over lights on exterior walls

It didn’t take long to choose the perfect pot – handmade on a potter’s wheel. Although we didn’t see the wheel in action while we were there, just the thought of it took me back to my school pottery classes. I never did master the art of throwing a pot that didn’t look like a cheap souvenir of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. (Demi Moore made it look so easy in Ghost).

English spoken here…

If you’re in the market for a well-made terracotta pot – or anything else fired in a kiln – it’s worth checking out Tejar Bandrís. Even though we’d be speaking Spanish, we’d only been there a few minutes when Toní asked if we were from England (why is it so obvious?) and, hearing that we were, said he’d like to practise his English for the rest of the conversation. Useful to know if you want to visit but don’t speak much or any Spanish.

At least we know where to go when the next gust of fierce wind wreaks havoc on our terrace…

©Jan Edwards 2017

August ends but Mallorca’s summer isn’t over yet!

Porto Cristo beach in the quieter month of May

Porto Cristo beach in the quieter month of May

Even after more than 10 years of living through August in rural Mallorca, this holiday month takes some getting used to each year. To start with, many of the shops and other businesses in our local town close for lunch and don’t re-open until the next morning. It’s a nuisance if you’re in the middle of a DIY job and run out of something vital to finish it. And that is why we recommend not doing DIY projects in August.

The heat is another good reason to down tools for a few weeks. August is the month when the locals head for the beach early morning or late afternoon. At the later end of the day, the tourists are just packing their beach bags and heading back to their holiday accommodation to freshen up for the evening when the locals arrive in groups to claim their spots on the sands.

Holiday home … just down the road

One thing that still amuses me is the number of people who live in Manacor but have a second home in Porto Cristo – around a 10-minute drive away. Many of them leave their main homes to take up temporary residence in the cooler air of the resort for August.

In the UK, it’s more usual for those with second homes to have them further away from their main residence. Former neighbours in Oxfordshire had a cottage in Cornwall. On occasional Friday nights they’d load up the car and head southwest in ever-increasing traffic jams, probably arriving just in time for a cup of tea before it was time to drive back for work on Monday. Having a second home just down the road has some merits …

Dipping into local life in Porto Cristo

This August we’ve again had the occasional morning swim in Porto Cristo. The east-coast resort has a town beach, so the passing traffic (road and harbour) means it’s not a tranquil spot, but it’s perfect for a bit of exercise swimming first thing. We can swim, have a coffee, and be heading home before the town’s roadside car parking charges come into effect at 10:00h.

We’ve enjoyed observing the local early-morning beachgoers. We’ve seen exercise classes on the sands for the elderly; excitable clusters of kids being supervised in various sporting activities, and senior chaps in swimming shorts walking from one end of the beach to the other, toes in the water, as they converse in an animated fashion.

But my favourite sights are the ‘bobulations’. Don’t reach for a dictionary, as you won’t find this word lurking within its pages; it’s a combination of ‘population’ and ‘bob’ – which I made up. These are the groups of local ladies (often of a certain age), who stand chest-high in a circle in the sea or, in deeper water, bob about (still in a circle). They just chat, little exercise is involved. Most wear a hat of some sort to protect their recently re-helmeted hairdo from the sun, but the sea rarely gets a lick at their locks.

August is now over for another year, but you can bet that full-time residents of Porto Cristo will be on the beach early mornings for a week or two more. We look forward to a few more mornings in their company …

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!

 

Goodbye, chickens . . .

DSC_0122

Some time ago I wrote about ses galines de sa rotonda  – the flock of chickens that had been living in the middle of a traffic roundabout at Plaza Madrid in Manacor for the past couple of years. After an unpleasant episode involving some stray dogs, our feathered friends were recently given a safe ‘home‘ by the local council. Bravo, I thought, at the time.

The island newspaper Diario de Mallorca wrote an article last month about the installation, designed to keep the chickens safe from prowling pooches. The article explained that if the flock grew to more than the usual 15-20 birds, any surplus would be relocated to Natura Parc. Fair enough.

But this week we noticed that the chicken hut has disappeared. And, it seems, so have all the chickens – unless anyone has actually seen them in recent days? Looking at various comments on their Facebook page (3,188 ‘likes’) – if my translation of mallorquín is accurate – all of our feathered friends have been sent to Natura Parc. They’ll be sadly missed by their many fans . . .