Archive for Spain

05 Nov 2014

A Big Hole

4 Comments Mallorca, Spain

Sa Foradada is a very special place and for that reason alone it was worth returning to Mallorca for a final few days.

There are only two ways to get to Sa Foradada (a Mallorquin word which roughly translated means ‘the hole in the rock’), by boat or on foot. While our forty metre motor yacht was on the dock undergoing a final cut and polish (in our wildest dreams!), we chose the latter option. It is a steep forty-five minute walk down a dirt track, a teasing walk, offering glimpses of one of the most spectacular spots ever.

But first lunch!

At the bottom there is a restaurant, a chiringiti (beach shack) that has a reputation for some of the best seafood paella on the island. They cook it the way it should be cooked: outside, over a fire, in heavy cast iron pans, slowly — made with love. They have been preparing paella like this for four decades; first the father and now the daughter. The paella is delicious and worth the wait! It is the final lunch of the season before the chiringiti closes for the winter. We are lucky, they had planned to close two weeks earlier but the weather has played in our favour. After we pay the bill and the camarero (waiter) proudly shows us his brag book, photos of him alongside his more recent customers: Rafa Nadal, Bruce Springsteen … and now, the shutter clicks, one more for his collection — a bulbous alpaca!


 
 
After lunch we head down to the water. There are perhaps a dozen of us down there, wading in the cool clear water, smiling and laughing. I dip my head under the water and even without googles I can see the bottom. It is that clear. We bask on our towels for a while like beached whales and head back for a final swim. The paella is still heavy in our stomachs. The sun descends and we contemplate the long slow walk up.

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

29 Oct 2014

Life’s A Beach

2 Comments Galway, Ireland, Mallorca, Spain
 

I am siting in a cold kitchen in Galway, Ireland, drinking a mug of hot tea with lemon, warming myself against the sides of the mug and trying to will some feeling back into my feet. The room is silent except for the chatter of Paul’s teeth. I look outside. The sky is a singular shade of dark grey. I am thinking about writing about Galway. But I can’t, not yet. Not with my thoughts flicking back to those last few days in Mallorca — memories of water and sun, sun with heat, and water to swim in, not squelch through.

I sigh and shake my head and follow Paul out the door for another pint of Guinness!

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

20 Oct 2014

Decadent Daze

1 Comment Mallorca, Spain
 

Cala Molins

Someone told me Mallorca has more than 300 beaches and so far we have seen only a dozen or so. Who are we to argue? At this rate it will take us a long time to see them all. Some of them are pebble beaches, others white sand, and others are practically inaccessible; you need to scramble down rocky cliffs and off ledges. They have one thing in common in that they are all stunning.

For late October, the weather has been amazing — 28 plus degrees every day for the last few days. The locals are all shaking their heads and saying ‘when is it going to end’ and taking to the beaches en masse.

Last weekend we drove north and managed six beaches, a couple of dozen mussels, gambas (prawns) galore, an octopus or three, several small schools of fish, and by Sunday afternoon we were beginning to look like beached whales ourselves.

 

 
 
 

Cap De Formenter - sometimes the only way in is by boat

 

Cala Formenter - under the pines

 

Head over heals for Mallorcan beaches

 
 
 

 

 

In our pathetic quest to work off the aquarium we had consumed, we trekked through the S’albufera de Mallorca wetlands out near Playa de Muro, stopping at hides along the trail and birdwatching, all the while rubbing our bellies, groaning and distended, yet at the same time thinking about our next meal.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

You are never far from anything. Massive coal-fired power station humming in the distance. Can you feel the serenity?

 

 

13 Oct 2014

My Girona (to the tune of My Sharona)

3 Comments Girona, Spain

My my my my Sharona — actually I think it was 'Ay Ay Ay Ay' and Mexican but never mind

I am playing catch-up from Mallorca where I have been for a few days, however I couldn’t skip giving Girona a mention. That 70s ‘The Knack’ song finally left my head and now as I type this blog it is back to haunt me again – my my my, my Girona …

Coming in to land at Girona — the cheap Ryanair hub airport where most people then take the shuttle bus direct to Barcelona, it is easy to skip Girona as a destination in its own right — I was immediately struck by the greenness and the mountains. It was a refreshing change from Malta’s harsher landscape.

My (insert preferred deity), it is beautiful!

The old town has all the charm of Granada’s Albaicin, however it gives the appearance it has been swept clean. There are tourists and students but it never feels stifling. The buildings are, for the most part, beautifully preserved without feeling overly gentrified. It is one of those cities that simply begs you to explore. There are stairways and corridors, churches and parks and some wonderful squares. It is best explored without a map. We found new discoveries around every corner. Oh but what a frustrating experience; Paul wanted to stop in at every little wine bar and restaurant.

In the end, exasperated, I left him at Zapanzar, an excellent Basque Pinchos bar (where you select your food from the counter and your bill is tallied at the end by the number of toothpicks left on your plate … Oh I am sure I have told you this before!). Paul was attempting the Guinness Book Of Records entry for most Pinchos consumed, while I took the camera and went for a stroll.

On my return, I promptly hopped in his pocket, only to be met by a sharp and rather painful surprise; a bunch of twisted and splintery toothpicks. Ouch!!


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

22 May 2014

Reflections In My Beer Glass

3 Comments Spain

Some great wines come from Binissalem

I am sitting in an airless room, slightly larger than a coffin. Paul is snoring gently as is someone in the apartment above. From the apartment below there is the constant and irritating scrape of metal cutlery against plates. Someone else is coughing. Outside, the streets are slick, wet from the recent rain, and the reflections of the bar and restaurant lights flicker in the black water puddles. It is cold and it is much better to be inside. We are back in Madrid. Our entire apartment is smaller than the sunny bedroom of the apartment I cohabited in Mallorca. There is no natural light — night and day are as one. Already I am pining for Mallorca.

I promised Paul I would not write about Mallorca. He wanted me to leave you with the thought Mallorca is simply all bars and senseless fun, rowdy Germans and raucous English, but I cannot.

Ignacio and Jessica

Cycling towards food

In the villages, of which there are many, everything runs at a slower pace. Cycling with friends through the narrow country roads, our nostrils are filled with the smell of straw and manure. We pass the wineries of Binissalem backdropped by the majestic Sierra Tramuntana mountains and we are at once grateful we are riding in the flat middle of the island. We pull over to allow the odd tractor to pass. For lunch we stop and eat traditional Mallorcan Pa Amb Oli’s (Ham, Cheese, bread smeared with the juice of tomatoes, hot green peppers and a type of seagrass). They are good and cheap and go well with beer.

Cala Deia

The crew making themselves uncomfortable

Lunch at the Cala Deia Chiringiti

A group of us visit the almost perfect village of Deia. We have lunch – whole grilled calamari — at the Chiringiti (beach bar) overlooking the bay. It is delicious and also goes well with beer. Afterwards we spend the afternoon on the beach. It is not comfortable. It is neither a sand nor pebble beach but large round rocks. We forgive the lack of comfort; it is such a stunning spot. The water beckons. We send Carlitos in first to check for medusas (jellyfish). They are small but they pack a powerful sting. He finds three and carefully steers them away with a stick. We venture in. It is a magical place.

On another day, on the flat sand perfect beach of Es Trenc, we sit on the beach eating stuffed berenjeñas (eggplant) that Bàrbara has prepared the day before. They go well with beer. There is a super-yacht anchored perhaps a hundred metres out. On the top deck there is a helicopter. We joke about what we would do if we had such a ridiculous amount of money and then we fall asleep in the sun.

In the village of Alaro we watch a concert under the stars. We eat wholesome organic vegetarian food. It goes well with beer. Afterwards we visit one of the local bars. We talk about how life in the villages — only a few kilometres from the centre of Palma, and only a few kilometres from dozens of glorious beaches and bays — goes on virtually unchanged. Bàrbara tells us how her great-grandmother lived her whole life in the village and never once visited the sea. We laugh at the thought and order another beer.

Our almost daily walk along the long promenade from Molinar into the centre of Palma passes several beaches. Bodies of all shapes and sizes leave their impression in the sand. We sit at the über-cool beach bar and have a beer and watch all that bare flesh in the late-afternoon sun.

Only one thought crosses my mind: Everything goes well with beer. You can even drink it on its own!

Paul leans over and throws in his two cents worth – Al, I got an idea.

Oh oh. I hate it when he thinks.

Why do biquini (bikini) manufacturers in Spain bother making the top half? No-one wears them. We should go into business making bikini bottoms. We’ll undercut the market and make a squillion.

I signal to camarero and order another beer.

Port d'Andtrax

Afternoon contemplation

Just add beer

Beer