The Spanish meteorological office AEMET is forecasting strong winds, low temperatures, and snow for Mallorca over the coming days, for areas as low as 300 metres above sea level. That means that even parts of the capital Palma could see some of the white stuff. Apparently Mallorca is suffering the coldest January since 2005; we remember that one well (and not with fondness): it was our first winter here – and we had a leaky roof without insulation and no central heating.
On many winter days the temperature is comfortable enough to have our coffee and/or lunch outdoors on our most-sheltered terrace, basking in the warmth (sometimes even heat) of the winter sunshine. Our cats also like to feel the sun’s rays and take advantage of any warm places to snooze. Best not tell them what’s in store for the coming days.
Room for three cats only in this particular sunny spot
The Boss has just returned from the wood supplier we use in Porreres with a fresh load of logs for the woodburner, so we’re well prepared on the heating front. And we’ve just received a goodie-packed food parcel from our lovely Oxfordshire friends Kristina and Duncan – who visit us every year from the UK.
Fortnum & Mason comes to rural Mallorca
No, they weren’t expecting us to be snowed in and unable to go out and buy any food; our box of Fortnum & Mason gourmet treats was their generous Christmas gift, which was somehow delayed in transit. If, by any chance, we do become snowed in, we won’t be going hungry…
Not a snowflake in sight as the tractor scoops up our logs.
It’s extremely cold on Mallorca right now. Anyone who’s visited our lovely Mediterranean island only during the warmer months may find that hard to believe, but it’s all relative. We find 5 degrees Celsius (which it was this afternoon at 4pm) very cold compared to the summer temperatures here, which are often in the thirties. And let’s not mention the bone-penetrating dampness . . .
Quite a lot of snow has fallen on Mallorca’s Tramuntana mountains, leaving three roads (at time of writing) impassable. February is the coldest month on the island and it’s not unusual to see snow atop the loftiest peaks of the UNESCO World Heritage Site mountains. This year we’ve had snow on lower ground too. Over the past couple of days it has settled in various locations from Artà in the northeast, down to the southwest, including the capital Palma de Mallorca.
Because we don’t see a lot of snow on the island, a lot of people are Very Excited about it. Especially those in broadcasting. I remember what it was like when it snowed when I was a radio presenter in the UK. Snow stories have dominated the news and topical magazine programmes here on local TV station IB3, with well-wrapped reporters broadcasting live from barely recognizable snow-swathed locations. Well, it makes a pleasant change from news of political corruption and interminable court cases. And we have learned the mallorquín word for snow – neu – which, under normal circumstances here, probably won’t be that useful.
But have we seen any snow in our valley? Not a flake. All we’ve had is rain and bitterly cold weather. The cold spell looks set to continue a little longer, so we stocked up on logs this afternoon, heading to the town of Porreres with our trailer for a double load of almond, olive, and Holm oak wood. We’ve found yet another log supplier and, although we have to pay ten euros more to fill our trailer than at the last place, the wood has what The Boss calls “good burning qualities.”
Now all we have to do is unload the trailer and stack the logs. But it’s far too cold for that today . . .
The first snow of the season fell on Mallorca this week, in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tramuntana mountain range. The magnificent mountains are a long way from our home, but it still felt pretty cold here in our valley. Like other parts of Europe, we’ve been battered by fierce winds for a couple of days.
Indoors, at least, we’re keeping warm – thanks to our much-loved Jotul wood-burning stove. We often say that this chunk of metal, in our north-facing sitting room, is the thing we love best about winter.
Here are the reasons we’re so glad we invested in this essential piece of kit for winter on Mallorca:
Our winter warmer
It keeps us – and the house – warm around the clock. We feed it a big chunky log just before we go to bed and it burns gently through the night.
It makes great jacket potatoes. Once prepared, with a good bathing of olive oil and dusting of flor de sal, the potatoes are wrapped in a double layer of aluminium foil and placed on the fire bricks lining the sides of the wood-burner. One hour later, we have fluffy jacket potatoes with crispy golden skin. Bring on the butter!
Plate-warming is easy: we’ve placed a small metal trivet on top of the stove and I put the plates on top of this to warm them while I’m cooking dinner. If you try this, do make sure the trivet and plates are well-balanced. On one occasion, I placed the plates slightly off-centre on the trivet and they crashed to the ground, smashing into dozens of pieces on the stone hearth. Plate-warming fail.
Cooking soup on top of the wood-burner is a breeze, and savesbutano. I simply prepare everything on the kitchen hob and then when the soup has started to bubble gently, the pan goes on top of the stove, to sit there cooking gently for the morning until lunchtime
It successfully proves bread dough. I never make my own bread in summer because it’s much too hot to have the kitchen oven throwing out even more heat. But, in winter, I bring out my inner baker and get kneading. Unlike our old home in England, we don’t have an airing cupboard in which to prove the dough. Instead, we use the log-burner: placing the bowl containing the dough on a table in the same room as the fire makes easy work of the proving process.
It keeps Minstral, our elderly Birman cat, happy. It’s only in the past couple of years that Minstral has decided he likes the warmth of the log-burner. Once upon a time he would give it a wide berth as he walked past but, at the age of 17, he’s finally realized that there’s nowhere more inviting than the rug in front of the hearth.
Home is where the hearth is . . .
It makes everywhere dusty. OK, so this isn’t exactly A Good Thing – unless you love dusting (which I don’t). But with so many benefits, The Boss and I can forgive the Jotul for endowing the sitting room with a layer of dust more befitting Miss Havisham’s home.
We were talking earlier on the phone to The Boss’s elderly aunt in Birmingham (UK), who told us it had been snowing there this morning. Two years ago this month, Mallorca also saw a lot of snow – the most since the ’50s, we were told. The Boss’s cousin and wife had come over at that time for a walking holiday, staying in Camp de Mar. They were somewhat shocked to wake up one morning to find quite a lot of snow outside the door – and the wrong kind of walking gear in their wardrobe.
Although snow does usually fall on the Tramuntana mountains a few times over the winter, it doesn’t often make it to our part of the island; not that we’re complaining. We do, however, have a very special ‘snowfall’ on the island, which usually happens this month.
In the past few days, we’ve had some strong winds and quite a lot of rain. As a result, the almond blossom – a notable feature of the Mallorcan countryside at this time of the year – is coming to an end. A ‘snowfall’ of the delicate petals arrives with every strong gust of wind, and soon the ground will be littered with drifts of them. Goodbye almond blossom, hello new green leaves.