catalonia · fiestas · love love love · Mallorca · palma

Sant Sebestià Fest~ Palma

Saint Sebastian is Palma de Mallorca’s patron saint and is honored for a week long during the end of January with each day becoming more and more adventuresome. Tonight there will be devils, fire and torradas. Will you dare the devils or will they dare you?

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Devils aren’t part of the celebration of Sant Sebastià, they are from the fiesta of Sant Antoni but the two are celebrated in Mallorca at the end of January and they have kind of merged together. Which makes for one fun party! The devils come for you as the correfoc (firerun) continues on, careful for fireworks and devils spitting fire at you.

The correfocs are my favorite.

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It’s cold in Mallorca so don’t forget your warm clothes, sausages for the torrada and you might want to forego that hairspray for the night.

(Pictures above taken by me January 2011)

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catalonia · fiestas · happy holidays y'all · spain · weird

Spanish Navidad

Spain is a lovely place to enjoy the holiday season, with events and celebrations starting early December and going through mid January. Children typically only get a small gift on Christmas Day because they receive the majority of their presents on January 6th – Three Kings Day (Los Reyes). Christmas time is truly a special time of the year in Spain.

Here are some of my favorites from Spain.

The Belen (Nativity Scene) – You can always find a Belen in the bigger cities, some with a live Belen! And they can be very elaborate and beautiful.

And a bit of a strange tradition in Catalonia is the caganer (the crapper), where a defecating figure perched behind Mary and Joseph is said to symbolize fertilization, as well as bringing luck and prosperity for the year ahead.  The traditional figure is that of a young peasant from Catalonia, sporting a red cap and a pipe. But modern crappers represent public figures of the moment, from politicians to sporting heroes. Here is your Trump caganer that will probably be very popular this year.

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Next up is EL GORDO! You can get your lottery ticket pretty much almost anywhere. El Gordo (The Fat One) is a Spanish institution and the second oldest lottery in the world. The first Christmas lottery took place on 22nd December 1812 in Cádiz and the event has been taking place on the same day every year since.

It’s a bit complicated because so many people take part in the lottery, numbers are repeated up to 160 times. That means, if you win, you will most likely be sharing the prize with 159 others.

The night of the drawing is a drawn out affair lasting around three hours. The balls are drawn in a unique way befitting the unique lottery tradition, while the numbers are sung by the pupils of Madrid’s San Ildefonso school.

My next favorite Spanish fiesta is Three King’s Day (El Dia de los Reyes). If you remember the Three Kings are Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior and they bring the newborn Christ child gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The one thing that really bothers me is how the person who portrays Balthazar is a Spanish who is blackened up. There are many African people who live here, who I am sure would be quite honored to play the role of Balthazar.

There are many parades around Spain with the Three Kings throwing candy to the children. Here in Mallorca, the Three Kings arrive on boat. There is also the Roscón de Reyes which is a traditional cake (a bit fruitcake like) that families eat on the day. Careful though, there is a metal/plastic figurine inside it. Whoever gets it in their piece is crowned king or queen of the table. There’s also a bean inside the pastry and whoever gets it has to buy next year’s roscón.

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Good luck getting to be the king or queen of the party! Those are my favorites! What are some of your favorite holiday tradition where you live?

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2015 · catalonia · fiestas · Mallorca · spain

El Día de los Reyes

Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 17th century (Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio)
Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 17th century (Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio)

The day for Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar to arrive is here! Children are anxiously awaiting all over Spain to see the Three Kings. Known in the Anglophone world as the Epiphany, the arrival of the Three Kings is defined in Spain by the enormous expectation and the tremendous annual celebrations that revolve around the event. Festivities officially start the evening before Epiphany, on the night of January 5, when the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings’ Parade) takes place in every town and city, with hundreds upon hundreds of people crowding the main roads of the urban settlements in order to get a glimpse of the reenactment of the arrival of the Three Kings into town.

Here in Mallorca, the Three Kings arrive on boat and then proceed to join the parade (either on an elaborate float or on camels or horses) to throw candy to the children that line the streets. The children hopefully have been very good all year because this is the time they receive the most presents. Santa is definitely number two in popularity in Spain. But if the children have been bad they receive a bag of black coal, (usually a lump of hard sugar candy dyed black, called Carbón Dulce).

If you haven’t realized it yet, the Three Kings are the Three Wise Men who traveled by night all the way from the farthest confines of the Earth to bring gifts to Jesus, whom they recognized as the Son of God. The two days remain a beloved tradition, the night before when the Kings arrive and January 6, the day of the Epiphany.

It is a special time here in Spain! But sadly, it is also the end of Christmas.

Til next time!

beach · catalonia · fiestas · fun in the sun · just do it already · menorca · paaaarty · playa · spain · travel

Sant Joan Festival

It’s that time of year again! Sant Joan festival in Spain. Many different versions around Spain – tonight in my sleepy Mallorcan town we will be heading to the beach for some BBQ, lighting LOTS of candles around us and possibly dip our toes in the ocean. This is all to celebrate the summer solstice.

BUT the best one to experience is in Menorca. The Sant Joan festival in Ciutadella. Which is CRAZY! Looks super cool but I would rather have the tamer version of it. And it allowed me to come into full contact with the horses! Something I doubt would be possible for me at the Sant Joan festival.

Check out these pics from the Sant Joan festival in Ciutadella. Insane in the membrane.

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and this …..

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Wowzers. That is A LOT of people. But that is the Sant Joan fiesta. Es normal.

The smaller festival that I attended the other year in Menorca was in Es Mercadal and called Sant Marti. The horse is the common hero of all the local saint’s day festivals celebrated in all the Menorcan villages during the summer and clearly shows how authentic the island customs are. The drivers and horsemen, dressed up in the outfit called “de just” (of the just man) in a combination of black and white and they ride Menorcan-race stallions in a long procession or parade (qualcada) which goes through all the main streets and squares of the town.

During the two days of the holiday, strict protocol is observed, mixing religious acts which are closely observed, with moments of collective fun especially during the “jaleos” which take place in the main square and where the horses, horsemen and public take part to an equal extent in the show.

And this Jaleo is what we went to on Sunday morning at 11 am in the Plaça Constitució. It was, in a word, fantastic. First, the riders rode in a procession through the street showing off themselves and their gorgeous horses. And then the fun begins! They ride into the public circle in twos while the spectators (me!) try to touch the horse while it rears up. This went on for about an hour. I am allergic to horses. Seriously, all I have to do is look at a horse and I start to get welts on my face and arms. But after 15 minutes I was ready to get into the game. Screw allergies! It was so much fun.

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If you get a chance to go to the Sant Marti or the Sant Joan festival I highly recommend it. And make sure you wear clothes that can get dirt, sand, horse slobber and more on it. NO HIGH HEELS! No. Muy ridiculo – and don’t think I didn’t see it.

Happy Summer Solstice! xo

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beach · catalonia · hotels · menorca · paaaarty · spain · travel

Menorca ~ Part UNO

Hola! How are you today friends? My cousin, Megan and I, went to Menorca last weekend. Where is Menorca you may ask? Well, let’s consider Mallorca the island major and menorca the island minor. It is only a hop skip and a jump away from here. There are two ferries you can catch from Alcudia (in Mallorca) to Ciutadella (in Menorca) – Balearia and Iscomar. Balearia has a faster boat which only takes 1.5 hours between each island and Iscomar boats take about 2.5 hours. Of course the faster boat is a bit more expensive but each way is anywhere between 45 – 80 euros depending on what all you want regarding speed and schedule.

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Don’t you just love this little sketch I found? It is adorable! I wish we would have had more time to have seen everything. Menorca is MUCH smaller than Mallorca and I was surprised at how quickly we could get from one end of the island to the other. Let me tell you about the trip.

I decided that we would take our chances with the ferry ticket and we would purchase the round-trip ticket when we arrived in Alcudia on Friday. Why? I don’t know. Stupidity, probably. We arrived about an hour and a half before the Iscomar ferry was scheduled to leave, I asked for round-trip tickets, Friday and return on the Sunday 7:00 p.m. ferry. “Sorry, the 7:00 ferry is booked. We have the Monday ferry available?” Ahhhh, why do I do these things?!? I smiled at my cousin who may or may not have been panicking inside. We both had to work early Monday in Mallorca so that was not an option. “Two one way tickets to Menorca please.” I responded.  And we got on the boat!

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It was a very nice boat! We sat on the top deck in the sunshine and drank a beer while we cruised to Menorca. We arrived at the Ciutadella port a little after 19.30, jumped in a cab and went to our hotel, the Prinsotel. It was a nice hotel for a great price. The room was clean, a big pool, friendly staff and just a tad bit on the outskirts of Citutadella (about an 8 euro cab fare to the centre). We cleaned up, got ready for dinner, easily booked the 11 pm ferry back with Balearia on Sunday evening and we were off to have some food.

Ciutadella had a really fun and vibrant atmosphere going on. We headed down to the port where there is pretty much fish restaurant after fish restaurant with the same menu, maybe a pizzeria or two thrown into the mix. We choose a fish restaurant (naturally) with tables right at the edge of the port and settled in. It was lovely! There were fish jumping out of the water! Here is a picture from where I was sitting.

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Gorgeous, right?  After dinner we headed towards the “bar/nightclub” area around the Pla de Sant Joan. We thought JAZZBAH looked the best and it was so fun it was the only one we ventured to that night. There are three levels: the bottom level is the dance floor, the next two levels are more of a chillout area with tables that overlook the other clubs surrounding the area and the port. I ordered a POMADE, which is gin and lemonade but it was more like a lemonade slushy and it was absolutely scrumptious. I had a few more …… PARTEEEE TIME!

The next morning we ventured out of our hotel and grabbed a taxi to AVIS for our car rental. I will try to make a long story short BUT when we arrived and said we had a reservation they asked for our International Driving License. Okay, yes, I read in all the books that you should have one but NEVER in my 7+ years of living in Europe have I ever been asked for one – this is including being pulled over my Spanish Policia plenty of times. I argued and stated what I just told you but they stood their ground. So, last time I reserve a car with Avis in Europe. I had them call us a taxi and funnily enough it was the same taxi guy that dropped us off! He asked, “Que pasa?” and I explained the situation back to him in Spanish. WhoHoo for ME! He took us to Europcar and we had no problem renting a car with them. So off we went.

To a gorgeous beach on the Northern coast – Cala d’Algariens. If you go, don’t park in the first parking area keeping driving down that bumpy dirt road, there is a parking area much closer to the beach. We arrived, walked about 10 minutes until we got to the beach, walked down the wooden steps and crashed. We were tired, possibly a bit hungover (those Pomades!) and it was freaking hot.  But check out the view.

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The water was cold! And it gets deep pretty fast. But it was an expansive beach with room for everyone. Come and visit! After a couple of hours chillaxing we figured we should drive to the other end of Menorca and check-in to our hotel, shower up and grab some food. We opted for a quiet night in Mahon from partying it up the night before.

We finally checked into the Catalonia Mirador des Port. I say finally because they are many one way streets and it was difficult for us to find the correct street that would actually take us there! Possibly you could chalk that up to be hungover…  Anyways, I was extremely disappointed in the hotel. While the reception woman was very nice and breakfast (for an extra 8 euros each) was fine, the room reeked of cigarette smoke and everything was out-dated. Regardless, we unpacked and walked around the Mahon port area. It was much quieter than Ciutadella. But sweet and tranquilo. We stopped by the restaurant Casanova (Moll de Ponent 15) for a huge personal wood-fired oven pizza. Delicious! Just what I was needing.

We had big plans for the next day – the horse festival in Es Mercadal (my favorite festival so far!), a cool bar on the cliffs of Cala En Porter and a beach on the Southern coast. Check back soon for Menorca Part Dos! Gracias!

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art · catalonia · church · Mallorca · see ~ mallorca

Robert Graves

Today, around one in four of the residents of Mallorca is a foreigner. Such a figure would have horrified the island’s best known 20th-century expat, the writer and poet Robert Graves.

When Graves first arrived on the island in 1929 it was already known as a desirable and unspoiled holiday spot in certain rarified artistic and moneyed circles, but few foreigners chose to actually live on Mallorca.

Graves, though, was after more than a break in the sun. He already had a reputation for his poetry, and his fiery, engaging personality and popular but intelligent writing made him famous at an early age. In 1929 he published Goodbye To All That, a sharply observed and lucidly written autobiography covering the period before, during and immediately after WW I. It was hailed as a classic. Yet Graves’s life at the time was a mess: he was unhappily married, broke and suffering shell shock.

The idea of leaving England for Mallorca was suggested to him by Gertrude Stein (who described it as ‘Paradise, if you can stand it’). He followed her advice, abandoned his wife and his four children, and with his lover, the American writer Laura Riding, he came to live in Deià. And Mallorca he found the peace and inspiration he needed to write, producing more than 120 books in his 90 years, including the historical novels I, Claudius and Claudius the God.

He also became famed as a literary exile, attracting a stream of celebrity visitors – Ava Gardner, Alec Guinness, Peter Ustinov, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Kingsley Amis among them. Graves charmed them all and played wild practical jokes at the parties he hosted.

Graves was very much the Brit abroad – he liked the fact the Mallorca wasn’t far from the Greenwich meridian, was hot and cheap. But there is no doubt that the rural Mediterranean lifestyle suited him – he began to think of Laura Riding as an ancient Mediterranean moon goddess, until she left him for another writer in 1939. By then Graves was back in the UK, having left Mallorca in 1936, when Palma became a Francoist base for fighting during the Spanish Civil War.

Ten years later he returned to the island for good, this time taking Beryl Pritchard, who was to be his partner until his death. Mallorca’s influence on the Graves opus is oblique. The island’s climate, colors and the topography of its fig and citrus trees no doubt fed his imagination for the Roman works he wrote in Deià. Graves influence on Deià, however, is still huge.

A more personal legacy is the continuing presence of his family in the village – Beryl and three of their sons still live here. Every year on July 24th (Graves’s birthday), locals gather at Deià’s amphitheatre across the road for the Canellun to hear Graves’s family and friends read selection of his poetry, under the direction of the ‘keeper of the flame’, his daughter Lucia.

* the above was from my TimeOut book Mallorca and Menorca – pg 108 “Local Heroes Robert Graves”

I have been wanting to visit the grave of Robert Graves for a long time now in Deià. Finally this weekend I hiked up to the churchyard at the top of the village to view it. And even with sweat streaming down my face, my back and pretty much everywhere else, I was thrilled to view the grave. A simple headstone which states: Robert Graves, Poeta, 1895 – 1985, EPD. EPD = En Paz Descanse ~ Rest In Peace.

rgg

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catalonia · eat ~ mallorca · food · Mallorca · spain · yum

Please pass the coca.

Coca is so muy delicioso!

I bought some at the bakery the other day. Doesn’t it look scrumptious?

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This coca to be exact is the coca trempó (also known as coca de trampó). It is a pastry made of pepper, onion and tomato. The coca trempó is popular in Mallorca and the Balearics. And it is my favorite. My friend Pilar, her mother makes this every summer and I pretty much don’t leave the table until it is done. Feeling adventurous? Here is how to make it… in Spanish even. You can do it!

The coca is a pastry typically made and consumed in Catalonia, eastern parts of Aragon,  most of Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Andorra and in French Catalonia. The coca is just one way of preparing a dish traditionally made all around the Mediterranean.

There are many diverse cocas, with four main varieties: sweet, savory, closed and open. All of them use dough as the main ingredient, which is then decorated. This dough can be sweet or savory. If it is sweet, eggs and sugar are added, and if it is savory, yeast and salt. As regards the topping or filling, fish and vegetables are usual at the coast whilst inland they prefer fruit, nuts, cheese and meat. Some cocas can be both sweet and savory (typically mixing meat and fruit).

A popular coca is served during is the “Coca de Sant Joan”, a sweet coca with candied fruits and pine nuts, typical of Catalan summer solstice celebration.

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But whatever coca you choose to enjoy, the are all DEEELISH. Just look at the variety to choose from.

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It’s a hard choice but one you have to make. I know – try one of each!

Buen Provecho!

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