Keep the Mallorca home fires burning

Not a snowflake in sight as the tractor scoops up our logs.

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 . . .

 

 

Advertisements

A walk on Mallorca cut short

When we lived in Oxfordshire we often did long Sunday hikes in the beautiful Cotswolds but, since moving to Mallorca, our walking seems to have been mainly along beaches, seafront promenades, or in the lanes of our rural valley. And usually at a fairly leisurely pace. My hiking boots hadn’t had a decent outing for a few years, but last week we decided to mark the start of the new year with a walk in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tramuntana mountains.

After a long period of hiking abstinence, we were breaking ourselves back in gently. We drove to the mountains and the monastery of Lluc – a place of incredible peace and beauty (even more so outside the tourist season). There’s a walk up to a large cross at the top of Calvary hill, behind the monastery, and that was to be the starting point for our hike. Once we’d done that, we’d decide where to walk next.

DSC_1404

Lluc from Calvary hill

Lluc from Calvary hill

Oh crumbs!

As we neared the top, The Boss noticed that I was leaving a small trail of crumbly black material in my wake: the soles of my hiking boots (a few years old, but worn only a few times) were disintegrating with every step. By the time we’d made it up to the cross and back down to the car park, there was little left of what had once been my boot soles. I walked gingerly back to the car like a reluctant penitent who’d chickened out of walking barefoot by wearing thick socks. Ouch.

Snaking in the pass

Our walking cut short, we did something I thought we’d never do: drove the twisting mountain pass down to Sa Calobra. The Boss won’t mind me mentioning that he used to have a problem with heights. There was a time when he never would have contemplated driving (or even being a passenger) along this snaking 12km stretch of highway. Since we moved to Mallorca his dislike of heights seems to have disappeared but still I was shocked when he suggested that we drive along Mallorca’s most renowned stretch of road.

Not a white knuckle in sight . . .

Not a white knuckle in sight . . .

A perfect fine weather winter drive

Italian engineer Antonio Paretti was the visionary behind this fabulous mountain pass, which he carefully designed to avoid destroying the mountain scenery, and to create a gradual descent to the waterfront hamlet of Sa Calobra. In winter you’re unlikely to meet a coach packed with tourists coming the other way, taking more than its fair share of the tarmac, so – in good clear weather – it’s an ideal time to do this drive.

The ribbon-like road snakes through the mountains

The ribbon-like road snakes through the mountains

DSC_1468

The Sa Calobra pass requires a decent degree of driver concentration, but it’s a truly awesome journey for car passengers. If Signor Paretti’s genius road had had a few more miradores – viewing points – we’d have been able to stop safely and I’d have taken better photos, rather than fuzzy images from a moving car. Perhaps we’ll drive it again one day – or better still, fly over it in a helicopter. Now that would be something . . .

Destination Sa Calobra below

Destination Sa Calobra below

 

7 reasons to love a log-burner in rural Mallorca

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

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 saves butano.  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 . . .

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.

Throw on another log . . .