Christmas Day and a day in a box

Imagine my delight when drawing the curtains to see the bright green shutters on the building opposite bathed in glowing morning sunlight and framed above by bright blue sky – yes this is Christmas! So I have a light breakfast and set off to the airport to pick up a car to go and visit Rosa and her mother and join them for Christmas lunch. Rosa had rented a villa through AirBnB in the middle of nowhere – in fact the guy who opened up for them said they were in the exact centre of the island – a claim I suspect is shared by several locations. But for any geolocators out there it’s between Sencelles and Inca, Benigali and Costitx. It’s in a part of Mallorca renowned for early settlements and since I’d never encountered the term Talayotic Period (1200-123BC) we decided to go and explore a couple on our way to lunch. Before we set off Rosa, Pepita and I had a ‘conversation’ about our very different experiences and lifestyles and with a few gaps where expressions failed us we got on very well I thought, there were a few smiles and chuckles at least.

We were, it must be said, slightly underwhelmed and the visit did not take too long so we set off for another which Google maps said was nearby. We found the hamlet of Binifat quite easily but found no sign of its talayot. Fortunately, a group of people were arriving for a family lunch and with the benefit of my two fluent Catalan speakers, a brother-in-law was fetched who give detailed instructions. Pepita decided it might be a few steps too far for her ailing knees (she is a little older even than me – I was told; I did not ask!) so we left her with the car looking for wild asparagus in the hedgerows and Rosa and I strode off down a lane and as instructed found a very small gate that involved clambering over a low stone wall and the along a fenced path beside a farm pasture. It was a slightly more impressive find with a circular shape and massively thick walls. I did not enter as it would have involved a crawl and I had posh trousers for Christmas lunch not my old jeans, but the nimble Rosa made it through and reported an interior circle looking very similar to the exterior. It would once have had a roof but that is long gone. The signboard at Son Corro said Talayotic sites were used for animal sacrifice and wine drinking and I think there were devilish cults and witchcraft involved too.

We rejoined Pepita at the car, asparagus-free alas, but glad she didn’t make the walk when we showed her the photos. We then went to a village called Costitx where there’s a restaurant inside the Casa Cultural building that also houses the library and the town hall. There were many families at tables enjoying the Christmas lunch – as did we. It was clear that apart from us the two extremely tall and thin maitres d’ (don’t they eat their own delicious food?) knew everybody and teenagers were subjected to lengthy hugs, cheek pinching and sundry other embarrassments. The restaurant could be quite hard to find as it’s called Notenom which means I have no name In Catalan. Two dishes were placed in front of us with the note that these were just nibbles and not the real thing. Whoa! Twelve beautifully crisp calamari rings and a plate of mussels in a fabulous onion, garlic and tomato sofrito. They were excellent but we decided to hold back for the real thing and half the mussels came home with us in a takeaway container. Next up was traditional Mallorcan sopa de Nadal which is filling chicken broth into which are placed pasta shells stuffed with spicy minced beef. I had to apologise for leaving a couple of the pasta shells with my regular excuse “Mas anos pero menor appetito” which usually garners a sympathetic smile. Next up was a huge chunk of Corvina served on a bed of potatoes. We had a) to enquire and b) Google to discover that what is often claimed as the tastiest fish in the Med is ‘brown meagre’ in English should it ever occur. It was quite meaty, very flavoursome and not too strong and I was glad I’d held back – at last a plate to be proud of. I declined the good looking almond cake with ice cream but one of us has a sweet tooth and a slice of that found its way (sin helado) into the homebound bag. No cooking for the Pascuals for the rest of their trip. Since picking up the car I have been most abstemious as even my Catalan understands “Al Volant Zero Alcohol” and I don’t intend to find out how strict they are. However a glass of crisp white with the fish and a copa de cava to celebrate Nadal were essential. It was an unusual but most enjoyable afternoon and was rounded off by chanting youth in hats and horns singing their way through the restaurant to the astonishment even of the owners.

I drove Pepita and Rosa back to their place and had a further coffee and chat before setting off back to Palma. I needed no more food but a few glasses in the hotel’s Sky Bar with views over Palma at night made for a memorable day.

Boxing Day dawned sunny again and I had decided to set off for Valldemossa to visit the Chopin George Sand museum and Deia to see Robert Graves-house. Oh where’s the trip planning suprema when you need her? I drove out of Palma admiring the mountains, arrived, parked, made my well-signed way to the Cartuja, the monastery where they lived and found this.

I decided to use the rest of the day as a recce and sightseeing day and after a coffee, I set off on the Ma10 up the west coast. Now loyal and regular readers of these scribblings will know that I can get close to ecstatic about twisty mountain roads with sheer drops, sea vistas and hairpin bends with rock fall warnings. You’ll be pleased to hear the Ma10 has been added to the list – it’s a beauty. And I had no one to scare! It does have a few miradors along the way so here was my first pause at San Marroig (from Cap Roig near where I used to have a house in Begur I know that roig is red and you can see why.

Next was Deia home to poet Robert Graves-for so long. His house will have to wait till tomorrow too. But the town perched on its hill is lovely. After a lot of trips to Andalusia it should really all be painted white but the ochres and browns suit the landscape.

I stopped by a large reservoir the Garg Blau – it was very blue – and was very impressed that they’d rescued a sixth century column from being flooded and given it pride of place and a plaque in a pull off on the Ma10.

I carried on with a brief stop in Soller which has a famous tourist train ride down to its port – not today’s though. Some interesting architecture and a quick coffee sufficed. The Ma!0 gets really hairy after Soller as I headed for Pollença where I thought I might get lunch.. Real hairpins, narrow stretches and brilliant views of proper mountains – the Soller Pass is at nearly 500 metres -and then down into a fertile plain behind Pollença. It’s a great old town and had a couple of open restaurants but with wing mirrors at risk in some streets and no obvious parking I decided to head for its port where surely there would be restaurants – it’s a resort after all. And there were. It’s by now gone four o’clock and I’m peckish so olives and bread with allioli keep me going as I order a frito misto which the menu said had a variety of fried seafood but when it came it was distinctly non-fishy. I enquired and was told I’d ordered Frito Mallorquin. It was very tasty but one guide book says it is not for the faint hearted – main ingredients: cubed potatoes, red peppers, onion, garlic, artichoke, black pudding, lamb and chicken livers all fried up in olive oil. I’m OK with offal but I could appreciate the guide book warning which I found back at the hotel for many others. The best thing was watching the evening sun fall on the lovely bay at Port de Pollença.

By the time I’d polished that off and found a less tortuous route back to Palma it felt like most of my Boxing Day had been spent with me at the wheel of my tin box – no complaints from me though – I always did like a location recce!

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