Thursday, July 31, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 July 2014


Morning high (7.30am): 20.5C
Forecast high: 32C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 1 August - Sun, 33C; 2 August - Sun, some cloud, 29C; 3 August - Sun, some cloud, 27C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3.

Clear skies first up this morning, and skies should remain clear. A hot day in prospect and a touch hotter tomorrow, cooling off a bit by Saturday.

Evening update (23.00): An excellent day; a high of 32.1C.

No Frills Excursions

Tales Of The Llevant: The Belgians

Belgians might seem unlikely contributors to Mallorca's tourism history. It's not as if one hears a great deal about the importance of the Belgian market nowadays; in fact, you don't hear anything about it. But Belgians there most definitely were. The most celebrated was Gerard Blitz because of his original 1950 tented Club Med village on the beach of the French in Alcúdia. Club Med were to eventually transfer operations and create a permanent base on the island's south-east coast. The only Club Med in Mallorca lasted in Portopetro until 2001.

Portopetro is all but a continuation of its neighbour just to its north, Cala d'Or, the two resorts being part of a string of generally understated touristic inhabitation that includes the calas of Figuera, Santanyi and Llombards, separated by the Mondragó park. And it was in Cala d'Or that the Belgian connection was made and was to be crucial to the resort's early development.

But before the Belgians, there was an Ibizan. Josep Costa Ferrer, aka Picarol, aka Don Pep, a painter, cartoonist and publisher. At the start of the 1930s, he turned up in Ses Puntetes and bought fifteen "quarterades" from Catalina Adrover de Calonge (a quarterada is a measurement of land equivalent to slightly more than 0.7 of a hectare and so roughly 7,000 square metres). He paid 1,000 pesetas for each quarterada. He got a bargain and proceeded to establish a coastal urbanisation which he named after a cala from his native Ibiza - Cala d'Hort. The name was quickly corrupted. It became Cala d'Or. The orchard cove became the gold cove.

The story of Cala d'Or and of its development is one about which we have more first-hand knowledge than of any of the other inter-war coastal developments in Mallorca. It is a story not without its glamour on account of names of those who came and bought properties; Rudolf Valentino's one-time wife was just one. The richness of the story is due to the fact that it was well chronicled, and the person who chronicled it was Don Pep himself.

Yet, despite the various articles that Don Pep wrote, there are discrepancies and elements missing. For example, the price he paid for the land was also reported as having been 13,000 pesetas in total. It might not matter - it was still incredibly cheap even for those days - but it is an indication of how these stories and histories have become mangled. Then there is the story of the Belgians. The accepted wisdom is that a Sr. Van Crainest and a Medard Verburgh were the principal developers of Cala d'Or. It is a wisdom which is true, but what is never explained, and even Don Pep didn't explain, was their backstory.

Van Crainest is only ever referred to by his surname. I can find no reference to his Christian name, while the surname is almost certainly spelt incorrectly. Van Craeynest is the normal spelling. He was described (only ever described) as having been an important "bodeguero", a literal translation of which is grocer but which can mean other things, such as a keeper of a wine cellar. It is probably more accurate to say that his business was that in the French tradition of the epicerie, a grocery store for sure, but way more than that, including the sale of fine wines.

But why did Van Crainest come to Mallorca? The only explanation seems to be that Verburgh invited him, and so who was Verburgh, and what was he doing in Mallorca? He was a painter, but what drew him to Santanyi and to Don Pep? The answer, I suspect, lies on the other side of the island. Don Pep had originally intended to establish a sort of haven along the Formentor promontory, where land prices were vastly higher. In 1931, following a well-established pattern of artists staying in Puerto Pollensa, Verburgh took up residence in the Hotel Miramar, having come from the US to seek inspiration, as did so many other artists, from Mallorca's light and landscapes. Don Pep definitely knew the likes of Adan Diehl, who had founded the Hotel Formentor, and so would have known various artists. Verburgh was almost certainly one of them, and Verburgh was not just a painter, he was also the youngest son of a family that had a grocery business (or an epicerie). Van Crainest, it can probably be assumed, either had a business association with the Verburgh family or was indeed a member of the wider family.

There is nothing sinister in any of this, simply a bit of mystery. Much of Mallorca's tourism history has a distinct starting-point but little or nothing that explains what brought about the starting-point. This is the case with Cala d'Or. The Belgians arrived, started developing and the rest was history. There was rather more to it than that.

Index for July 2014

Alcúdia old well - 18 July 2014
Alcúdia Via Fora - 13 July 2014
Anti-bullfighting campaign - 27 July 2014
Bad image and reaction - 3 July 2014
Bauzá Assemblea de Docents rap video - 19 July 2014
Belgians in Cala d'Or - 31 July 2014
Cala Bona and 1920s' roots - 29 July 2014
Cala Ratjada and Joan March - 28 July 2014
Cala Ratjada and Manacor-Artà train - 23 July 2014
Citizen participation and opinion - 2 July 2014
Holiday lets - 4 July 2014, 24 July 2014
How war shaped Mallorca's tourism development - 20 July 2014
Jaume Matas prison - 14 July 2014
Magalluf fellatio video - 5 July 2014, 7 July 2014, 11 July 2014, 12 July 2014, 26 July 2014
Mallorca like Brazil - 10 July 2014
Mallorca's tourism: how it might have been - 20 July 2014, 21 July 2014, 22 July 2014
Mediterranean winds - 16 July 2014
Naturism and anarchy - 8 July 2014
Patrona and Pollensa Festival - 25 July 2014
Pedro Sánchez - 15 July 2014
Pickpocketing - 1 July 2014
Pregón of fiestas - 6 July 2014
Scandals and PR disasters - 9 July 2014
S'Illot tourism development - 30 July 2014
Tourism, summer 2014 - 17 July 2014
Winds - 16 July 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What's On Around Alcúdia And Pollensa - Can Picafort fiestas

The longest of the local resorts' summer fiestas, the clue to their length lies with the name - Mare de Déu d'Agost - i.e. August, the holiday month for the locals. All kicks off on 2 August, highlights including three gangs of demons performing a fire-run on the night of 3 August, the Auba (dawn) night party on 8 August, the ecological products market on the following day, the Canpicafornia flower power party on 14 August and then, on 15 August, the day of Mare de Déu d'Agost, the dive and swim to catch the rubber ducks released from boats off the Mar y Paz hotel and at midnight the very best and most spectacular fireworks display of any of the fiestas. Even then, there are two more days of fiestas left.

Programme in English at:

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 July 2014


Morning high (7.15am): 19C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 31 July - Sun, 32C; 1 August - Sun, 33C; 2 August - Sun, 31C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3 veering West 3 to 4 during the morning. Swells to one metre.

Fresher night than for quite some time and a fresh feel to the morning. Sunny and warm day in prospect, and some quite high temperatures returning over the next few days.

Evening update (20.45): There was a fair amount of cloud around during the morning, but sun prevailed as did a high of 32.5C.

No Frills Excursions

Tales Of The Llevant: Blurred lines

Of the various pioneers of Mallorca's tourism, some became great names and created great dynasties, others did not become great names but their names nonetheless reside in the history of the pioneering tourism years. In a small coastal part of Manacor there was one such pioneer. You will find him referred to as a one-time goalkeeper with Barcelona. He was, but he only played two games. Before joining Barcelona, he was with Real Mallorca, and he was to end his career with Mallorca in 1963. While he was still playing, he opened a hotel in a small coastal part of Manacor where there was no hotel. This was S'Illot. The pioneer, the one-time Barça goalie, was Pere Caldentey Bauzá. He lived to enjoy the fruits of his pioneering, but he didn't live long. He died at the age of 46 in 1975.

There is an error in the preceding paragraph. Though S'Illot is in Manacor, it is also in Sant Llorenç. Pere was born in Sant Llorenç. He built what was originally a pension right by the border between the two municipalities, this border being formed by the torrent of Can Amer. Though Manacor might have claimed the pension as being its, Pere's pension was most definitely in Sant Llorenç. And it still is. The hotel Peymar, nowadays a three-star, was not just the first hotel in S'Illot, it was the first coastal hotel in Sant Llorenç. The Playa del Moro in Cala Millor might have claimed bragging rights where being the first was concerned (1964), but it wasn't, albeit that it, like the Peymar, was only just in Sant Llorenç. Walk five streets up from the current Playa del Moro, and you are in Son Servera.

The Peymar took its name from Pere and his wife Margalida: Pe y Mar. Legend has it that it opened in the 1950s, though there is an alternative version which says that it was 1961. As with the somewhat blurred border lines between municipalities, there are also blurred facts from those pioneering days of tourism. The blurring gets even more out of focus when you factor in that S'Illot is also called Cala Moreia. Things can get even more confusing if you consider the case of the Caves of Hams, not far from S'Illot. Look the caves up and you will find that a "tourism pioneer" was involved in the caves discovery. He was? Pere Caldentey. But not the same Pere Caldentey. He was Pere Caldentey i Santandreu, and he died in 1950, so at a time when the other Pere Caldentey was keeping goal for Real Mallorca.

There was a good deal of rivalry between municipalities when it came to where the real pioneering occurred or didn't. The Manacor wing of S'Illot was hard at it in a 1971 magazine, stating clearly that it was their part which was the pioneering zone. That the Peymar was the wrong side of the stream couldn't obscure the fact that in the 1930s, the Manacor part was where there had been a plan for a coastal urbanisation drawn up.

This pioneering has to be put into some context. There were no houses of any description in S'Illot until 1929. By 1934, there were all of ten dwellings, and by the time that tourism was really looking as though it might become something for the pioneer to get his teeth into, i.e. 1960, there was a grand total of 95 dwellings, almost all of them summer holiday homes. Something that these summer vacationers, and Pere Caldentey come to that, had to contend with was the lack of utilities. Undeveloped coastal areas simply didn't have them. There is the story of the summer holiday homeowners of Magalluf, all half a dozen of them, who chipped in so that they could get some electricity connected. (The electricity company, GESA presumably, saw no point in its putting its own money in as in the mid-1950s it saw no future for Magalluf.) In S'Illot, in 1963, an electricity supply was installed, and this supply does rather draw into question one of the great yarns of tourism pioneering. Enter into the story, Jaume de Juan Pons.

In 1963, so the story goes, he turned up in S'Ilot, took a shovel out of his Seat 600 and started digging. He was to become one of the great names of tourism (the Playa Moreia hotel), but when he first appeared in S'Illot, he said there was no electricity. Well, that's debatable, though it would appear that the electricity was not switched on for the first time until the August fiestas, so the story does all rather depend on when in 1963 the digging commenced. There again, as it is said that the Playa Moreia opened in 1963, when did the digging really start?

Blurred? Just a bit.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 July 2014


Morning high (7.00am): 21C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 30 July - Sun, 30C; 31 July - Sun, 29C; 1 August - Sun, 33C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 5 backing and easing Northeast 2 to 3 by the afternoon. Rain and possible storm up to midday.

Some rain around and the clouds are quite dark. The forecast was, therefore, accurate, but the clouds should lift by lunchtime to give a sunny day.

Evening update (20.30): There wasn't much by way of rain, the sun was out by the afternoon and the high was 26.7C.

No Frills Excursions

Tales Of The Llevant: Cala Bona

Ninety years ago, on 20 July 1924, there was an inauguration in Cala Bona. It wouldn't have been a grand affair. It is doubtful that numerous dignitaries and general freeloaders attended. This, after all, was just a tiny place on the east coast with a wee small port and some fishermen. Nevertheless, on that day ninety years ago Miquel Vives Servera and his wife, Matilde Maria Gonzalez Miralles, opened Sa Fonda de Can Cupa, sometimes also referred to as Sa Fonda de Can Bona. Their daughter, also Matilde, who was eighteen years old at the time, came to be renowned for her bouillabaisse and lobster à l'Américaine, but even then she had a good reputation. There may not have been many dignitaries at the opening, but the fonda (inn) attracted people from various parts of Mallorca. They came from Sineu, they came from Sant Joan, and the doctor in Vilafranca also came. The inn flourished and the inn became a hotel. The Hotel Cala Bona.

In 1960, just as the tourism boom was about to get underway, the hotel could boast all of fifteen rooms. The clientele wasn't foreign. It primarily came just the short distance from Manacor to sample a new speciality of the house, red mullet. In 1961, a plan was put forward to put two more floors on to the hotel. By the following year, the German tour operator Quelle had entered into an arrangement with the hotel, and the rest, needless to say, was history. Cala Bona, as a tourist resort, was born, and its pioneer was Matilde's son, Sebastian Bauzá. In 1963, the Hotel Llevant was opened, but immediately hit problems. The failure of a tour operator it had contracted with left it with more waiters than guests. By 1964, though, things had picked up. And there was another hotel, not one that was the creation of local Mallorcan families but of a Swiss couple, Wolfgang and Trudel Schrader, who had been invited by a friend to Cala Bona in 1960, had bought some land and had built a hotel. It was the Gran Sol.

In 1992, Matilde Vives was honoured by the Cala Millor hoteliers' association. She was asked if, back in the days of the original inn, she could have imagined how the inn and then the hotel would come to play a part in the new tourism world. It was a daft question. How could she have been expected to have foreseen what was to be? And especially on the east coast of Mallorca. As she commented then, while Cala Bona had its inn, Cala Millor had nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not even a house and certainly not a hotel. It wasn't until 1933 that a hotel emerged in Cala Millor - the Eureka - by which time there were also some small houses.

In the inter-war years, the east coast was all but overlooked when it came to the early development of resorts (Porto Cristo and especially the caves were a different matter; they hadn't been overlooked). As I remarked yesterday, Cala Ratjada, which had its rich villa and palace owners, might have become one of those inter-war resorts, but it didn't. The only true tourism development was way down on the south-east corner in what was to be called Cala d'Or. When tourism development kicked in in the 1960s, it was development with a large "D". The coast from Cala Bona down to Calas de Mallorca was referred to, in derogatory terms, as the "wall of concrete", and it was compared with a similar "wall" along the Playa de Palma. There was, however, one pretty crucial difference. Playa de Palma was planned. They actually wanted to build a wall of concrete in Palma. It was within one municipality, i.e. Palma, and stretched from the original resort of Ciudad Jardin to the border with Llucmajor and so Arenal, which, as an incipient resort development back in the 1930s, had been called Bellavista. The east-coast wall was not planned quite so systematically; it couldn't have been because there were three municipalities involved. 

This so-called east-coast wall came into being in a more piecemeal fashion. Calas de Mallorca, at its lower end, wasn't a factor until a 1963 law on "the centres of national touristic interest" declared it a zone for development (Playa de Muro was another resort which was covered by this law). By the time that Calas de Mallorca was being legally defined, Cala Millor had been, as tourism legend tells us, "discovered" by Skytours.

Mallorca's tourism history is full of pioneers, those like Sebastian Bauzá and indeed his mother and father. But these pioneers, down Mallorca's east coast certainly, were not all, as was the case with Cala Bona, local people. There were the Schraders as well. And there were also the Belgians. Which is another tale entirely.

Monday, July 28, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 July 2014


Morning high (7.15am): 21C
Forecast high: 32C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 29 July - Rain, 28C; 30 July - Sun, 27C; 31 July - Sun, 29C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3 veering East 3 during the morning and increasing 4 locally.

Some patchy cloud first thing, but mostly clear during the day until heavier cloud due to build up later and overnight. The forecast for tomorrow is still for rain, but the rest of the week looks good with temperatures rising by the end of the week into the low to mid-30s.

Evening update (23.30): Became a heavy day, a high of 34.4C. Not that cloudy come the later afternoon, but that rain is still forecast for tomorrow, and the shipping forecast reports likely storms until midday.

No Frills Excursions

Tales Of The Llevant: Cala Ratjada

In 1956, members of the council in Santa Margalida took a journey eastwards. The purpose of the journey was to offer the award of "illustrious son" of the town in exchange for money to assist in the building of a new town hall. The illustrious son in question rarely bothered with his home town by then. He is said to have declined the offer anyway, citing financial problems, which seemed a little unlikely. He was, after all, resident in a sizable pile on the north-eastern coast of Mallorca. He was and had been for years intimately associated with virtually everything that moved or didn't move in Mallorca. He was hardly strapped for cash. He was Joan March, founder of the Banca March, Franco's banker, all-round rogue-come-philanthropist. The sizable pile was and still is in Cala Ratjada.

There is an old photo from 1905. It shows Cala Ratjada as it then was. Some fishermen's cottages are set back just from the sea, there are two fishing boats in the small port area, the coast itself is rocky and there is a rudimentary walkway/promenade with a low wall. In the background is a building which rises from behind a wooded area. It is that sizable pile. Or at least it was the first stage of its construction. Dates vary as to its completion but certainly by 1916 it was finished and acquired its full grandeur. It was the Palacio de Joan March. The photo was taken on the day of March's wedding to Leonor Servera Melis, who was a native of Capdepera, i.e. the municipality of which Cala Ratjada is a part.

In the photo there is another building, more modest than the palace but definitely much grander than the fishermen's cottages. It was to come to belong to Antoni Maura, the only Mallorcan to have ever been prime minister of Spain. By 1905, Cala Ratjada, for reasons that have no obvious explanation, had become the summer haunt of the island's rich and powerful. They built fine houses or, in the case of Joan March, an entire palace.

It is well chronicled that the then tiny fishing port became the summer destination of choice for Mallorca's elite, but it is not well chronicled as to why. Was it simply because Cala Ratjada is about the furthest point in Mallorca away from Palma? Possibly so. Possibly it was just because it offered a quiet location for relaxation and a diversion from business and political concerns. Or possibly there was another reason. Cala Ratjada became an unofficial seat of power, the elite able to meet in summertime, drawn by the already immensely influential Joan March, who in 1905 was still years away from founding the bank or being involved with the Trasmediterranea shipping company or indeed with the early electricity industry that was to eventually evolve into GESA.

Capdepera town hall was doubtless delighted to welcome this elite. March was accepted with open arms. There is no official record of there ever having been a town hall agreement, but in 1916, the palace completed, the road that runs by it was named after him. It led from an avenue named after his wife. In 1953, Capdepera, unlike Santa Margalida, didn't want anything in exchange. They named March adoptive son of the town.

In the history of Mallorca's tourism, Cala Ratjada doesn't really feature until it underwent a transformation in the 1960s. In one respect this is curious. It was, after all, a place that had been earmarked for summer vacationing by the island's rich. But perhaps this was why there was no obvious development in the inter-war years, other than a hotel, as there was in some other parts of Mallorca. The rich wanted to keep the place to themselves.

Though Cala Ratjada is described in clichéd terms as having been a picturesque tiny fishing village at the turn of the twentieth century, it wasn't as much of a backwater as might be thought. Its port was important, more so than Alcúdia's not so far away around the Cap Farrutx and so in the bay of Alcúdia. Its importance lay with the transporting of two key products - the "llata" wicker works that were made from palmitos and for which Capdepera became famous in the late nineteenth century and the "mares" stones for building purposes.

Last week that old tradition of the llata and the new one of tourism came together. On the beach of Cala Agulla, there was a day of palmito collection, as there has been for several years now, and of its working into wicker products - the "obra de pauma" - a tribute to a facet of the local economy which sustained Cala Ratjada before the arrival of tourism. In his palace, Joan March no doubt used to once draw on his cigar while sitting in his wicker chair.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 July 2014


Morning high (6.45am): 23C
Forecast high: 32C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 28 July - Sun, some cloud, 33C; 29 July - Rain, 24C; 30 July - Sun and cloud, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 3, locally 4.

Some bits of patchy cloud first thing, but a very sunny day in order and another hot one. The forecast for Tuesday hasn't changed, a stiff north-easterly due to bring in cooler temperatures and rain. There will probably be a storm because of the sudden arrival of lower temperatures.

Evening update (19.30): A high of 32.6C.

No Frills Excursions

Bloodless Mallorca: Campaigning against bullfighting

What do Palma, Alcúdia, Muro and Inca have in common? They are the only municipalities in Mallorca where bullfights are staged. Felanitx can, theoretically, be added to this list, but as its bullring - La Macarena - has been closed for some five years because it is considered a safety risk, it isn't in practice; there is no bullfight in Felanitx as a result.

But were La Macarena in a safe condition, the chances are that the council there would allow the staging of bullfights once more. Felanitx is not a town in Mallorca which has declared itself to be anti-bullfighting. There are few towns which have made such a declaration but the number has grown swiftly just recently; doubled in fact. Over the past month, councils in Artà, Sencelles and now Santa María del Camí, have all passed motions against bullfighting. There had only been three - Costitx, which has had a policy since 2006, Esporles and Puigpunyent, since 2009 - now there are the six, and the number may well increase.

A town which will not be added to the list is Pollensa. A motion declaring the town anti-bullfighting was defeated. The largest group, the Partido Popular, got the support of the councillor Puerto Pollensa party (the UMP) councillor, while the PP's partner in coalition, El Pi, abstained. This was enough for the motion to fail, one that had been supported by the Alternativa, PSOE, Més and the Esquerra Republicana. It was a case, therefore, of left versus right, and the right won the day.

The motions that have been brought at different council meetings are the consequence of a campaign called Mallorca Sense Sang (Mallorca without blood or bloodless Mallorca). It was started three months ago by the animal-rights groups AnimaNaturalis and CAS International (CAS stands for Comité Anti Stierenvechten, and is Dutch, based in Utrecht). The campaign has thus far got 15,000 signatures from those who want bullfighting banned in Mallorca.

The likelihood of there being such a ban is remote. For the moment. Though bullfighting isn't a subject which neatly divides along right and left political lines, it more or less does. The PP nationally is firmly in favour of bullfighting, and one of its supporters is the prime minister Mariano Rajoy. So much in favour is it that it supports the drive to have bullfighting given protected status on account of its cultural heritage. It also, because it interferes with the national broadcaster RTE, succeeded in getting bullfighting back on television screens; it had been dropped a few years ago when PSOE was in power.

A ban in Mallorca isn't completely out of the question. If the campaign were to become a campaign of signature collection for a petition for popular legislation, and if enough signatures were collected, the regional government would be obliged to consider passing law to ban the bullfight. This is what happened in Catalonia. There were sufficient signatures and the government there, arguably because it suited its political purposes to attack a symbol of Spanish nationalism, accepted that parliament should consider a ban, and parliament duly obliged.

Mallorca and the Balearics are likely to see a different political make-up after next spring's elections. At present, the regional government wouldn't pass a ban, even were there enough signatures to compel it to consider doing so. The situation may well be very different next year.

In the meantime, the town councils which have declared their opposition to bullfighting have done so in a symbolic fashion rather than a practical one. It would be almost unimaginable that any of Palma, Alcúdia, Muro or Inca (or indeed Felanitx) would follow suit, but again political changes in these towns might lead them to. Muro is a town that would be the most stubborn supporter of the bullfight. It has declared itself a town for the bullfight. The bullring, which was bought by the town hall three years ago, is used for training purposes as well as for the annual bullfight at the Sant Joan fiestas. It would take something major for Muro to reverse its policy, but that something major may just be in the making.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 July 2014


Morning high (6.30am): 22.5C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 27 July - Sun, 31C; 28 July - Sun, some cloud, 32C; 29 July - Rain, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 3 to 4.

Clear skies this morning and another hot, sunny day. The outlook suggests rain for Tuesday, though it is in the nature of local forecasts that this can change.

Evening update (20.15): A high of 30.9C.

No Frills Excursions

Where The Streets Have No Shame

If you were to lay 24 penises (flaccid condition) end to end, the chances of their combined length reaching anything approximating 500 centimetres would, except in very rare anatomical circumstances, be highly remote. Which is, for the purposes of this article, a bit of a shame (to coin a word of current popularity). I would dearly love to be able to paraphrase the Balearics' president and refer to 500 centimetres of shame, but unfortunately I can't, so you'll have to settle for slightly less than 300 centimetres at best (average lengths may of course vary).

It presumably won't have escaped your attention that the dear leader informed an expectant media (one that had been expecting and not getting for more than a fortnight) what he thought of shenanigans in Magalluf. By the time he made his statement, he was the only person in Mallorca not to have expressed an opinion, so he had to say something pretty spectacular to be heard above the noise. 500 metres, the street of shame, the street in question being the Calle Punta Bellend. Some were shocked by his words, as indeed I was. 500 metres? Is he certain? Far be it for me to question the word of a politician, but is it 500 metres long? Has anyone seen a politician acting suspiciously with a surveyor's wheel along the strip recently? It's no use saying that there are 500 metres of shame, if in reality there are only, for sake of argument, 472 and a half. We need to know, beyond any doubt, exactly how long the shame is.

One observer who was clearly unimpressed by the measurement was Manu the Not-Magi. At a rough estimate, if one can interpret what the Not-Magi had to say, the shame is only about 50 metres long. In responding to the Bauzá calculation, he let it be known that the great majority of businesses along the Punta Bellend eschew shameful practices. They are in fact all upstanding members (sic) of the community who make regular donations for church maintenance.

But then, we were suddenly confronted by the knowledge that not only was the length of the shame questionable, the street itself wasn't even the street of shame. It was a different one entirely. No measurement as to the shameful length of Martin Ros García was offered, but we learned that a bar along it called Playhouse had been the venue for the score and four who had scored and that it was going to get it in the neck because of the presence of minors. Or so various laws that a press release reeled off suggested. Quite clearly what had happened was that these minors had mistaken the bar for a playhouse, as in, for example, a Little Tikes Princess Garden Playhouse, a Royal Lollipop Playhouse or a Mad Dash Bunny Wooden Playhouse. There can be no other explanation.

President Bauzá was clearly going to be hopping as madly as a bunny hopping in a bunny playhouse at the revelation. The Not-Magi of Magalluf, the Manupulator, hadn't given him the heads-up, so to speak, as to the location of the Shameful 24. Blissfully unaware, therefore, he made his street of shame announcement, not knowing that he had got the wrong street. And thus, the wrong length.

Friday, July 25, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 July 2014


Morning high (7.00am): 22.5C
Forecast high: 32C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 26 July - Sun, 31C; 27 July - Sun, some cloud, 28C; 28 July - Sun, some cloud, 32C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 3 to 4 backing East and Northeast during the morning.

A fair bit of light cloud early on and it may well linger and give a somewhat stuffy day with temperatures due to edge towards the mid-30s. Weekend outlook: remaining hot and sunny, albeit that Sunday is forecast to be a touch cooler.

Evening update (21.15): And stuffy it proved to be, though not as hot as might have been anticipated. There again, a high of 31.2C ...

No Frills Excursions

The Three Miquels Of Pollensa

The La Patrona fiestas start in Pollensa tomorrow. The first concert for this season's Pollensa Festival is staged on Sunday. The fiestas and festival commencement have coincided for many years, while they have also been events to cause the happy coincidence of the involvement of great names from Mallorca's literary and arts worlds and specifically Pollensa's literary and arts worlds. (I should point out that coincidence does not only imply chance occurrences. It can simply mean to happen at the same time or a drawing together of two things. Put an imaginary hyphen after the "co" and the stress and therefore meaning is quite different: co-incidence.)

Of those who have been party to this co-incidence, there is, as one example, Miquel Capllonch. For the generally uninitiated, he is the giver of his name to Puerto Pollensa's square, albeit no one really refers to the Plaça Miquel Capllonch, preferring the more mundane church or market square. Capllonch, a native of Pollensa, is and has been celebrated by both the festival and Patrona. His music has been performed at the festival, while he holds a very special place in the traditions of Patrona; one tradition in particular, the dawn chorus awakening of the "alborada" on the day of Mare de Déu dels Àngels, the day of La Patrona, the day of the Moors and Christians.

At 5am on the morning of 2 August, a silence is meant to descend on Pollensa. It is a silence to emphasise the reverence given to the playing of the alborada. Capllonch is typically associated with the alborada, and rightly so, but he was not the original composer. He was 21 in 1882 when it was performed for the first time; at the start, therefore, of his career as one of Mallorca's foremost musicians - composer, organist, pianist. He reinterpreted the original that had been the work of a Galician, Nicolas de Castro.

If the co-incidence of Capllonch with both festival and Patrona might be somewhat incidental, the same cannot be said of Miquel Bota Totxo. If at some point prior to his death at the age of 84 in 2005 the question had been asked who was the greatest living "pollencin", the answer almost certainly would have been Bota. He was a figure from the literary world who bears very great comparison with Alexandre Ballester in neighbouring Sa Pobla. Like Ballester, he became the town's chronicler, while he was also a poet, writer, journalist and dramatist.

When the festival was founded in 1962, Bota was made its vice-president. In 1971, the pregón oration was introduced to the Patrona fiestas for the first time. It was Bota who delivered it. The title was "the angels smile on our peace". Bota's extraordinary contribution to Pollensa life, society and culture touched so many aspects of the town (and also of Mallorca) that it is hard to do them justice. He ranks alongside Miquel Costa i Llobera in terms of his importance to Pollensa's literary tradition.

Costa i Llobera and Miquel Capllonch were the two figures who bequeathed to Pollensa its cultural tradition. Though this tradition was to be firmly established by non-Mallorcans, such as the artists of the "Pollensa school" and the violinist Philip Newman, these two pollencins were the ones who laid the foundations of what eventually became the festival, while Costa i Llobera is intimately associated with Patrona. At the closing of the fiestas, his "song of joys" features along with a further interpretation of the alborada and the singing of "Visca Pollença". It is fitting that this year's Patrona celebrations will include an open evening at the family home - Can Llobera - now restored and due to house the town's library, and among its documents and books will be works by Bota Totxo.

The three Miquels of Pollensa. Someone ought to write a book.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 July 2014


Morning high (6.45am): 20.5C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 25 July - Sun, 32C; 26 July - Sun, 27C; 27 July - Sun, some cloud, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South and Southeast 3 to 4, backing East by the afternoon.

A bright morning with just some odd bits of patchy cloud. Another hot day in store, with southerlies dominating. Looking ahead to the weekend, temperatures are forecast to drop to the upper-20s.

Evening update (20.30): A high today of 34.7C. Warm, huh?

No Frills Excursions

The Illogic Of Mallorca's Tourism

There are two organisations in Mallorca which above all others deserve being listened to when it comes to tourism issues. Neither may be totally independent - (which organisation can be?) - but each does its best in being objective. The organisations are the Chamber of Commerce and the Universitat de les Illes Balears. They strive for objectivity, and one reason why they generally succeed in doing so is because they both undertake their own research.

Antoni Riera, professor of applied economics at the university, has been making some observations about the nature of Mallorca's tourism, drawing on a study that was undertaken last summer. The findings will come as no surprise, but they will be findings which, in certain respects, will be ignored. A key one has to do with private accommodation tourism, aka holiday lets. Tourists who rent accommodation spend on average 30% more than tourists who stay in hotels. This is spend which is necessary. It is what keeps a great number of the almost 50,000 tourist-related businesses (the complementary sector and tourism services) going.

Who will be doing the ignoring? Those who are not objective; the regional government being among them. The hoteliers will also want to ignore the findings except to point out that this rental market is partly illegal and unfair competition. It is unfair in different ways, one being that the accommodation is generally cheaper. And so it may well be. But that is the reason why those doing the renting can spend 30% more than the hotel-based tourist.

This 30% figure is striking not just in that it shows a much higher level of spending. It is also very similar to the figure for the total spend by tourists in Mallorca that ends up with the complementary sector. That figure is 29%. Where does the rest go? On hotel accommodation and price of the holiday package.

It needs to be noted that the hotel part of the equation includes all type of board and so not only all-inclusive, but all-inclusive has exacerbated the situation and quite dramatically so. Economic crisis brought about a significant increase in the level of AI. The consequence has been that, although Mallorca has registered record numbers of tourists in the past couple of years and has in fact registered record levels of turnover, the level of spend has declined and is continuing to decline. All-inclusives have seen to this and will continue to see to this.

As I say, none of this will come as a surprise. Indeed, none of it is new. But it sometimes needs organisations with real credibility to try and get the message across. The trouble is that they are consistently ignored, as was the Chamber of Commerce when it issued a report in 2006. This looked at the level of private accommodation holiday rental. One of the report's conclusions was that spending behaviour between hotel and rental tourists represented two distinct profiles. The former spent less than the latter. Another conclusion was that rental tourism lengthened the tourism season (the hoteliers have consistently said that it doesn't). A further conclusion was that a "more stable" tourist resort required a capacity for rental tourism.

We were given grand figures this week for the economic contribution of all-inclusives. 2.5 billion euros. At least there was an admission that the lion's share of this comprised the cost of hotel accommodation and the package. I've been seemingly banging my head against a brick wall for years trying to explain that spend statistics primarily consist of these costs. Just as others, like the Chamber of Commerce and the university, have been trying to explain that there is a vast tourism population which contributes negligible amounts to the local economy and that there is a significant tourism population which stays in rental accommodation which contributes a great deal to the local, non-hotel economy. If there was any logic to Mallorca's tourism, you would think that someone in government might reflect on the model of the island's tourism and conclude that the all-eggs-in-the-hotel-basket model is not necessarily the best model.

But then, when did logic have anything to do with anything? If it did, then the government would accept that there are distinct profiles of tourist, as the Chamber of Commerce noted in 2006, and as Professor Riera has reiterated this past week. One profile being that which makes a telling contribution to the general economy and another one which doesn't.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 July 2014


Morning high (5.45am): 21C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 24 July - Sun, 31C; 25 July - Sun, some cloud, 28C; 26 July - Sun, some cloud, 27C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 increasing South 4 predominantly in the Cap Farrutx area.

Another sunny day coming up. The breezes are now forecast to shift southerly from later today and into tomorrow, so likely to feel hotter. Outlook remains very good, cooling slightly from Friday.

Evening update (22.00): A high of 33.6C. Sun and more sun.

No Frills Excursions

The Railway That Never Was: Cala Ratjada

One hundred years ago, on 23 July, 1914, one Rafel Blanes Tolosa presented a plan for a railway line between Manacor and Artà. Over a year later, on 8 September, 1915, "La Gaceta de Madrid", a newspaper which was to eventually become (along with other major cities' "gacetas") the "Boletín Oficial del Estado", announced the bidding for the line. On 12 November that year, the result of the bidding process became known. The concession was awarded to the company S.A. Ferrocarriles de Mallorca. Blanes Tolosa was a director.

Roughly half of the finance came from the Banco de Crédito Balear in the form of a two million pesetas loan (Blanes Tolosa was also a director of the bank.). Work on the line took until 1921. There was, however, one part of the line that was missing and so one municipality that wasn't included in the project. It should have been, but it wasn't. The line was meant to have gone on to Cala Ratjada in Capdepera. It didn't and it never did.

Connecting the railway to the port would have been important, or so you might have thought. Yet, it is a curiosity of Mallorca's railway building that connections with the coast have been all but non-existent.

There was once a line from Palma's port to the Plaça d'Espanya. It closed in 1965. There was a project for a line from Palma to the port in Andratx. It was to have gone to Calvia (village) and then on to Andratx and would have involved the building of two tunnels. The extension to Alcúdia, still spoken about, was scrapped when the Civil War intervened, but the rail line there was considered very much earlier. So much so in fact that there was a ceremony in 1912 for the laying of the first stones of what was meant to have become a station in Pollensa on its route to Alcúdia from Inca. There would have been branch lines to both Puerto Pollensa and Puerto Alcúdia. Quite a few years later, there was another scheme, one which would have seen a railway connect with the seaplanes base in Puerto Pollensa. Elsewhere on the island, there was a project to take a line to Porto Cristo. None of them of course were realised.

Port Sóller is the only place that nowadays has a coastal connection, and even that isn't of course a train as such. Apart from the old station in Palma's port and one also in Arenal on the old line that went to Llucmajor and on to Santanyí, the island's coastline has been totally untouched by rail transport.

There are a number of theories as to why railways didn't extend to the coasts. One is that coastal land was relatively worthless and unpopulated. But when there were ports, and quite successful ones like Cala Ratjada's, this explanation doesn't really add up. A second one has to do with the traditional fear of the coast because of the threat of piracy. By the twentieth century, however, although there might have been the odd pirate knocking around, illegal activity was of a different nature, i.e. smuggling. Again, the explanation isn't strong. A third is financial and logistical, but when promoters often also had associations with banks, the money wasn't necessarily a problem, while the experience of the Sóller train, which required the engineering achievement of the tunnel, demonstrated that obstacles could be overcome.

There is a fourth theory, and it is specific to Cala Ratjada. It has to do with rivalries between Artà and Capdepera and between wealthy landowners. Blanes Tolosa was a wealthy man. He owned a large chunk of Artà. But though he had some aristocratic blood, he wasn't of the higher order of Mallorcan nobility. Capdepera, on other hand, was largely owned by this higher order, and it was one that wanted nothing to do with anything that smacked of the new entrepreneurial bourgeoisie and some lower-order upstart from the next town.

Maybe this was the reason why the railway line never reached Cala Ratjada. Whatever the reason, the line was never built and though it was considered many years later during the time that the Manacor-Artà line existed (the line closed in 1977), nothing came of it. When the railway line was due to have been reopened under the scheme envisaged by the Antich regional government of 2007-2011, Cala Ratjada was again spoken of. But the line of course hasn't been reopened, and it won't be. An appalling waste of money went into a project which had to be abandoned because there wasn't any more money, so the eastern part of Mallorca was denied a new railway and the possibility that it might go as far as Cala Ratjada. It was another familiar story, some will argue. It is the eastern part of Mallorca which is always neglected.

* Photo of train at Artà station from

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What's On Around Alcúdia and Pollensa - La Patrona

This is the real "biggie" of the local fiestas, La Patrona - Mare de Déu dels Angels, replete with the Moors and Christians battle. Starts on 26 July with the traditional bell-ringing and firing of rockets and ends on 2 August with fireworks after the Moors and Christians battle from 7pm and the singing of "Visca Pollença". The day of 2 August starts with the Alborada - the band of music plays an early-morning reveille at 5am - the party from the night before not having gone on as late as it once did. If there is one major change to La Patrona - to what it was even only three years ago - is the lesser concentration on the night parties. The Marxa Fresca white party is still very much a part of the programme, though, and it will start at 11.30pm on 31 July.

The programme in English:

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 July 2014


Morning high (6.30am): 22C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 23 July - Sun, 29C; 24 July - Sun, 30C; 25 July - Sun, some cloud, 31C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 backing East and Northeast 3.

A fine morning and a fine day to come. The general outlook seems very settled with easterlies coming to dominate which mean hot but not excessively hot conditions.

Evening update (19.15): A high of 32.6C. A good day, some cloud but not obscuring the sun.

No Frills Excursions

Paradise Regained?: What tourism should have been

(In the previous two articles I have argued that it was war and what followed - economic autarky and then technocracy - which destroyed the original principle of Mallorca's tourism from pre-war times and led to the type of tourism which emerged in the 1960s.)

The technocracy was such that it hasn't ever really gone away. It may be more friendly, it may have a greater appreciation of individuals' needs, of the environment and of markets, but it survives in its current-day form. It is typified by a Balearics tourism minister whose background is as an architect and planner and by a Mallorcan national tourism secretary of state whose specialism is property and its planning. They are representative of the new technocracy, knowledgeable of things but not, one fears, people.

Despite all this, we are seeing signs, I believe, of how uninterrupted organic development might have shaped very different resorts. The current-day technocrats are not blind to the sins of the past, even if they can sin in human terms and in being undemocratic in their biases towards property (hotels versus private accommodation, as an example). They have established a framework for belated, very belated modernisation of mature resorts, those which were the result of Fordist mass tourism. This framework cannot bring back what was lost of the natural patrimony but it can, through a re-conception of resorts, bring back - to an extent - the lost philosophy of the greater harmony of the 1930s garden city resorts. And nowhere is this potentially more evident than in Magalluf.

To take again my thesis about how war shaped later tourism development, Magalluf was a prime example. Had there been more organic development, Magalluf would still have become a resort, but it would not have been as it was to become. In 1959, approval was given for its exploitation, and that exploitation was sudden and disastrous. The environment was just one victim of a model of authoritarian-state diktat combined with virtually non-existent planning regulations and with inadequate, easily swayed, corrupt officialdom. Magalluf was, if you like, the model fascistic tourist resort. It was Fordist mass tourism in extremis. From nothing in the late '50s emerged architectural barbarism. It was the technocrats' wet dream.

Palmanova and Santa Ponsa, though they were both to also fall victim to this barbarism, were, unlike Magalluf, products of pre-war planning. Had they developed organically, they too would have been very different. Santa Ponsa is a better example than Palmanova. You can discern from some of its layout the original garden city principle, and that original principle, similar to Alcúdia, would in all likelihood have spawned a golfing resort of a different style to today. It may be forgotten that there was actually a golf company in Santa Ponsa that pre-dated Alcúdia's 1934 golf course. It was to be decades before that golf vision was realised, and by then it had to vie with the technocratic undermining of the original principle.

Magalluf would in all likelihood have been developed before it was. Like its neighbours there was a similar need for land exploitation, but this exploitation would almost certainly have corresponded with the garden city principles in 1930s' Palmanova and Santa Ponsa. All three resorts would thus have taken on a very different appearance to that which they did in the 1950s and 1960s. The chances are that there would have been a form of mass tourism even with organic development, but the mass would have been smaller and it would have been of an alternative character. It would still have been foreign, but the offer would have been less dominated by foreign culture and concreted vandalism. It would simply have been more "Mallorcan". The transformation of Magalluf, as we are not witnessing because of Meliá's intervention, is, I would argue, along lines that would have emerged had Magalluf been left to develop organically and not been that model fascistic tourist resort. Even aspects of the new look owe something to the 1930s principles: boulevard, green areas, and thus a greater harmony between living space and natural patrimony.

One of the challenges that Mallorca faces is determining what mass should now mean. If it is to be smaller mass, and it may well mean this, then there are inevitable consequences, but this smaller mass would have been the norm had it not been for the mad dash to develop in the 1960s. One can argue that what occurred in the '60s was in fact an aberration. It was not how it was meant to have been and it was not how it would have been, had war not led to the desperate solutions of the technocrats and had the resorts been allowed to develop organically. It has taken fifty years to attempt to right the wrongs of fascistic mass tourism. These attempts should not be criticised. They should be applauded. They are what Mallorca should have been.

Monday, July 21, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 July 2014


Morning high (5.45am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 22 July - Sun, some cloud, 31C; 23 July - Sun, 29C; 24 July - Sun, 30C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 increasing North 3 to 4 during the morning and veering and easing Southeast 2 to 3 by the evening.

Cloudyish start to the day but due to clear. Highs down a touch with breezes switching predominantly northerly. The week's outlook is fine and hot.

Evening update (20.00): A bit fresher today. A high of only 30.1C. Only.

No Frills Excursions

Mallorca's Tourism: The technocratic solution

In the first article in this series I looked at how Mallorca's tourism, had it not been for war, would have developed organically in line with a philosophy established in the early years of the twentieth century.

What happened instead was that there was no philosophy, other than a politico-economic philosophy of technocracy. At its most extreme, technocracy advocates a scientific response to a problem, usually with scant regard for democratic principles or general welfare needs. Spain's solution, and thus Mallorca's, was primarily a technocratic one, and the technocrats were those who inhabited Franco's think-tank.

Franco himself was unconvinced as to the merits of tourism, mainly because he feared a corruption of a highly conservative, Catholic and introverted society by foreigners, for whom he reserved a paranoid xenophobia. It took the Americans to, in effect, bribe him into thinking differently. But once he started to change his thinking, he needed those who would bring about this new tourism industry. And those were the technocrats of Opus Dei. Their scientific method was one which owed a great deal to Henry Ford: mass production and standardisation. Take the mass out of the car factory, put it in the resorts and what do you get? Mass tourism. Far from being organic, therefore, Mallorca's tourism development was subject to a sudden shock of artificiality that tore down the edifice of the original philosophy and erected instead innumerable edifices that ripped to shreds the garden city notion and the natural patrimony.

War - both the Civil War and the Second World War - reinforced Franco's paranoia. It led to the imposition of the truly disastrous economic model of autarky, a model symptomatic of the hyper-xenophobic. Had the post-war model been open rather than closed, it is arguable that war would have represented a pause in tourism development and not a breakdown, but autarky was a consequence of war and of its dogmatic victors. Thus, war was the determining factor in shaping what was to occur towards the end of the fifties, which was the technocratic solution of Fordist mass tourism as a response to the complete failure of war-inspired autarky.

It is all hypothesis, I appreciate, and there is a further factor which suggests that tourism development may well have occurred in the way that it did anyway. And that, perversely enough, was the very land that the founding fathers of Mallorca's tourism were keen to preserve as much as possible for its heritage value. Coastal land had typically been considered all but worthless. The need to exploit it was a further reason why the 1930s garden city resorts emerged, but it doesn't follow that this need for exploitation would inevitably have led to the total transformation of some of the island's coastline (parts of Calvia being cases in point). Coming back to Alcúdia and to its pre-war golf course and hotel, it might have been that the development there would have been more in line with a golfing resort, perhaps in a Portuguese style. Alcúdia would be a very different place now, had it been. The part tourist, part residential urbanisation was already conceived in the 1930s, don't forget. Organic development would have meant something quite different to the artificiality of the 1960s that rapidly sought to make up for the lost 30 or more years in the desperate pursuit of the pressing need for sudden economic improvement.

Perhaps above all, a continuous process of development would have meant that the Mallorcan people maintained control of their destiny. Sure, a whole load of Mallorcans cashed in thanks to mass tourism, but the cashing-in was made possible by an economic model dictated from Madrid, by foreign interests and by a total loss of the collective spirit that had sought to maintain the natural patrimony. The Mallorcans lost much of their own say, and so little did their culture come to matter, that by the time mass tourism arrived it had been cast adrift on the Mediterranean and been replaced by a kitsch Spanishness and the comfort blankets of imported foreign cultures for the new tourist innocents abroad, British and German for the most part.

The technocratic solution also took away what soul there would have been in Mallorca's tourism. Mass production for the factory floor paid little attention to the needs of the individual. Mass tourism was similar. It dealt with units of production: hotels of standard designs and tourists packaged into the hotels' standardised rooms. The human touch was absent from the technocratic solution, but fortunately the human touch couldn't be killed off, and it was maintained by what grew up alongside the hotels - the bars and restaurants of the resorts, the so-called complementary offer. It was they, more than other parts of this new tourism industry, which humanised mass tourism. It is all the more scandalous, therefore, that this very humanising element has been so disregarded by the current-day scramble to impose all-inclusives.

(The final part tomorrow.)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 July 2014


Morning high (7.30am): 23.5C
Forecast high: 32C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 21 July - Sun, some cloud, 30C; 22 July - Sun, 28C; 23 July - Sun, 30C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 3 to 5 veering Northwest during the morning.

A stuffy morning with some light cloud. Another hot day in prospect but not as hot as yesterday, the breezes moving to the west and north and cooling things down a little. Week's outlook is very good.

Evening update (21.00): A high of 33.6C. Fair bit of cloud this morning, but sunny this afternoon.

No Frills Excursions

What-If: War and Mallorca's tourism

It's a game we can all play, the what-if game. Ultimately futile, it is nonetheless a game which can be instructive in explaining how things came to be as they are; these things being Mallorca's tourism. It's a game I have been playing again, and the starting-point, strangely enough perhaps, was golf. It was the old course in Alcúdia which set me thinking.

That course was opened in 1934. It closed two years later. Thirty years after it had been opened, Mallorca got what was truly its first golf course. Had it not been for war, there would have been several courses by the time that Son Vida opened. Of that, I think you can be certain. War and what was to follow until Spain began to wake up in the 1950s disrupted the development of tourism in Mallorca, and so my thesis, if you can call it such, is that it was war, as much if not more than the dynamics of the late 1950s, which created the Mallorca of the 1960s and thus the Mallorca of today.

The Alcúdia golf course was part of the planned urbanisation of an area along the bay. Part tourist, part residential, it mirrored other similar enterprises on the island - the garden city resorts of Son Bauló, Cala d'Or, Palmanova and Santa Ponsa. While one cannot and should not ignore the part played by opportunistic entrepreneurs and bankers in the creation of these resorts and while one can also say that there was no obvious all-island masterplan which brought them about, they were nevertheless the consequence of dual philosophies. One was the garden-city philosophy itself, the harmonious co-existence between living space and the environment. The other was that of the fathers of Mallorca's tourism, most obviously Miquel dels Sants Oliver and Bartomeu Amengual at the end of the nineteenth century and start of the twentieth.

These two journalists were alert to the potential of tourism for economic development. Indeed, there was a necessity; diversification was called for because of a crisis in agriculture. They saw the potential, so much so that they conceived a tourism for the summer, which ran counter to the generally held view that tourism was a winter phenomenon. This summer tourism may have been one based on the health benefits of the seaside, but it was still a different way of looking at tourism. It was their contributions which were to inform the Fomento del Turismo, the Mallorca Tourist Board, a body whose own contribution to tourism history anywhere in the world is pretty much without parallel.

There were obviously some powerful business interests that guided the tourist board, but if one looks back at its records during the early years after its founding in 1905, what emerges is a picture of an organisation working with a co-operative spirit and within - to use a dreadful word - an holistic framework. There was little to guide the tourist board. Yes, there were experiences in France, Italy and Switzerland, but the tourist board was working from almost a blank piece of paper and was doing so in creating an integrated industry for an island with its own specific needs and constraints. One of these constraints was land and so, by association, the environment and fragile nature of an island eco-system. There may not have been a scientific environmental perspective back then, but there most definitely was one that was founded on the island's patrimony, its natural heritage. Sants Oliver had it and perhaps crucially so also did any number of individuals from the arts world who were as important to the tourist board's co-operative spirit as the businesspeople. The resorts that emerged in the 1930s were thus in keeping with a guiding philosophy. They sought to balance the needs of construction with those of the island's natural patrimony. But then, war intervened.

It is of course quite legitimate to argue that the many factors of the late 1950s and early 1960s would have conspired to create what was created in any event. There is no escaping the realities of those factors - consumerism, the jet engine, higher standards of living, paid holidays, tour operators and so on. Perhaps it would have happened as it did, but I somewhat doubt it. My argument is that had it not been for war, Mallorca's tourism development would have been organic. It would have taken the creations and attitudes of the 1930s - the garden city resorts, the golf, the awareness of the natural patrimony - allied them to what was evident from the early part of the last century in terms of hotels, predominantly up-market ones, and followed a straighter line in arriving at a different model of tourism. It would thus have been a continuous revision of the original philosophy and one that would have been more sympathetic to that patrimony.

(To be continued tomorrow.)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 July 2014


Morning high (5.45am): 26C
Forecast high: 33C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 20 July - Sun, some cloud, 32C; 21 July - Sun with some cloud, 27C; 22 July - Sun, 29C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 4 to 5 veering and easing Southwest 3 to 4 during the morning.

A very warm night, stiff breezes having brought that African air in and so temperatures in parts not falling below 25 overnight. Likely to be cloudy to start with, clearing later, but haze can be expected along with high temperatures. The forecast high is 33, but as with yesterday it will probably three or so degrees higher. Hot weather persisting into tomorrow but the breezes are due to shift northwards and so cool things down a touch.

Evening update (19.00): A high of 37C. Hot, you might say.

No Frills Excursions

Lokaykaser - Bauzá's Summer Smash

Forget all those summer hits of the past, throw your old Beach Boys 45s in the bin, switch off the Fresh Prince, there's a new dude on the summertime hit trail. Joserra raps. Sort of. August is not here yet and José Ramón, conspicuous by his absence these past couple of weeks, seems to have already gone on holiday. To compensate for his temporary non-existence, a video has been released that is destined to be a smash in the clubs of Mallorca. Well, maybe.

The Assemblea de Docents (teachers' assembly) is nothing if not switched on to the use of different media. Having produced a comic strip that featured the president, they have now put out Bauzá, the video. It starts with these words: "Achtung!Warning! Ooooooou! For your own safety, you are warned that the video you are about to see contains images that could hurt your sensibilities or even change the course of your lives". We are then treated to an animated Bauzá in flamenco dress, among other attire, along with the likes of his two favourite fields - the Camps of Joana and the Campos of Jorge, respectively the regional government's headmistress and the president of the fiercely anti-Catalanist Circulo Balear. It is all an excuse to promote some of the president's finest phrases, such as this one from the 2011 election campaign - "We are going to do what we have to do and we will do that which is necessary because we are going to do what we have to do". It could also have this one - "We know what to do and what we do and why we do what we say we are going to do, and we will continue doing what we have to do even though some do not think that we will do what we said we would do" - but that would be getting a bit silly.

Will it be a summertime hit? Doubtful. The tune's rubbish. If you must, you can always see it for yourself. So, here it is. The hashtag comes from "lo que hacer" and itself is a dig at Bauzá's occasionally mangled pronunciation, the type which once made it seem as though he had referred to farmers as clowns. Seem as though?

Friday, July 18, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 July 2014


Morning high (8.45am): 25C
Forecast high: 33C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 19 July - Cloud then sun, 33C; 20 July - Sun with some cloud, 29C; 21 July - Sun with some cloud, 27C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 3 increasing 4 by the afternoon and locally 5, veering South later.

An alert out for high temperatures today and tomorrow. The forecast high may well be higher, therefore. Expected to cool down by Sunday, so, and though not forecast, it is possible that there might be the isolated thunderstorm.

Evening update (19.00): A high of 36.4C. Quite hazy for much of the afternoon.

No Frills Excursions

An Old Well In Alcúdia

The programme for this year's Sant Jaume fiestas in Alcúdia contains the usual information regarding the fiestas' events but it also includes a curious article. Curious because it is a history article which has no obvious connection with the fiestas but which is, nevertheless, fascinating.

This article starts out by referring to the book of "Determinations of the faithful town of Alcúdia (1702-1707)". One of these determinations, i.e. decisions, was dated 14 August, 1707. It was a decision to cover the well at the Xara gate in the old town. The reason why was to stop children from throwing stones down the well and to so further prevent costs of having to clean the well up each year.

A question this raises is - where is the Xara gate? It is in fact the gate more commonly referred to as the Porta des Moll, the one in the market square (or Plaça Carles V). The next question is - what does Xara refer to? The word is encountered in different places in Alcúdia. There is a road called Xara which leads out of the town towards Bonaire. The beach next to the marina is sometimes referred to as Xara beach, and the building by the beach, under which are restaurants such as Pippers and El Yate, is the Xara building. So what's the significance?

Xara has different meanings. One of them is a corruption from Arabic to mean Sharia, and thus Sharia Law. This, despite the Arabic history of Alcúdia, is not what is meant. Or at least one assumes not. A xara (also Arabic in origin) is a place with rocky shrubs. Where these rocky shrubs were is anyone's guess, but Alcúdia's xara is almost certainly derived from them.

The point of the article, though, is that well at the Xara (aka Moll) gate. We discover from the article that the well was positioned "106 steps from the cross", i.e. of Sant Jaume church, but where actually was it? It came to have considerable significance in the twentieth century, as it was in fact where the old Balearic Electricity Energy was, a building on the Carles square which, in 1927, was sold to the company Tapices Vidal (tapices meaning tapestries but also fabrics). The well, therefore, was what drove both the old electricity plant (and I doubt many of you will know that there was such a plant right in the old town) and then the factory, which is now a listed building.

The well then took on a greater significance. Enter into its story Pere Mas i Reus (aka Pedro Mas y Reus, after whom the Bellevue Mile is named). Mas y Reus owned the electricity distribution network in Alcúdia. The water from the well was extracted and pumped by electricity to fire this network. In 1933, Mas y Reus bought 198 hectares of land on and by Albufera. It was sold to him by Joaquim Gual de Torrella, the aristocrat who had acquired that land when he bought out what remained of the bankrupt company started by Frederick Bateman (one of the engineers responsible for the draining of Albufera in the second half of the nineteenth century).

What Mas y Reus bought corresponded, more or less, with what is now Alcúdia's main tourism centre. (He was, it should be noted, not the only one involved in the purchase; Jaume Ensenyat was, too.) They set about selling off one hundred plots and also set about creating the golf course, which was shortlived because of the Civil War, and building the Hotel Golf, which today is the Vanity Golf. On this land there was another building, the Club House, which is now the Calypso by Sea Club.

The well was important because it was needed to water the golf course and to provide water to the urbanisation which Mas y Reus and Ensenyat envisaged, but which didn't really get off the ground because of the war and only came to be realised in the 1960s when the land was properly reclaimed from the Albufera wetland. So, a pipeline was created to take the water from the old town, and Mas y Reus and Ensenyat paid Tapices Vidal two centimos of a peseta for each cubic metre for general use and seven centimos for water destined to water gardens.

All of this came to a stop in 1936, but this old well, says the article, has a well-deserved place in the economic development of Alcúdia and of Mallorca in general.

You never know what you might find in fiesta programmes. A bit of history which, I imagine for most people, is all but unknown.

* Photo of the old factory, taken from the programme for this year's Sant Jaume fiestas.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 July 2014


Morning high (8.45am): 25C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 18 July - Sun, 32C; 19 July - Sun with haze, 36C; 20 July - Sun and cloud, 27C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 increasing East and Southeast 3 to 4 by midday.

Lovely again this morning, and the short heatwave is still on the cards. 36C being forecast now for Saturday, but this exceptionally high temperature will not last and things will be back to what is more like normal from Sunday.

Evening update (19.15): People complaining about the heat - a high of 33.5C - but it's going to be hotter over the next two days. Alerts in place for high temperatures.

No Frills Excursions

A Very Peculiar Summer

It has indeed been a peculiar summer. Following a booming April, there was a May for which all manner of concerns were raised about the level of tourism but which were largely not realised, mainly it would seem because of bookings for private holiday accommodation. Then there was June - pretty good - but further worries about July, and in particular the first two weeks of July. Those worries appear to have been well founded, but they were all the more strange because only two years ago July had registered the highest levels of hotel occupancy in Mallorca since the turn of the century. It might yet be that July hits the heights of occupancy because suddenly things changed during the week. Was it all down to the World Cup after all?

To give an indication, my "manor" is the tourism centre of Alcúdia. One has become used over the years to complaints about the number of tourists and the consequent lack of business and so one has become used to treating these complaints with a touch of scepticism. This early July, however, has given no grounds for scepticism. The area around the Mile has indeed been dead. However, tour operators had suggested that there would be a pick-up from the middle of the month, and they seem to have been spot-on. Bellevue, the bellwether of tourist activity in the zone, has suddenly gone from being under 50% full to being all but full. This turnaround will be attributed to a surge in the British market, which is indeed part of the explanation, but Bellevue, as with the whole of Alcúdia, is by no means British alone.

There have been dark mutterings about a sharp fall in British bookings to Mallorca this summer, but until we know how the season shakes out - and we won't for some while yet - it will be difficult to know for sure. If the second half of July and August rescues the summer, then all well and good, but it is not all well and good if we are really talking about a season of feverish activity which lasts a mere six weeks or so.

The Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (CEHAT) has, for its part, announced that this summer will be the best since the pre-crisis summer of 2007. Overbookings for August are said to be on the cards; or at least occupancy of above 90% in most Spanish tourist resorts, representing an overall increase in activity of around 11%. But CEHAT has reminded governments of different sorts of the need for major investment in tourism promotion, pointing to the significant rises in bookings to competitor destinations - Turkey up 17%; Greece, a rise of 22%.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 July 2014


Morning high (6.30am): 21C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 17 July - Sun, 31C; 18 July - Sun, 32C; 19 July - Sun, 35C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 increasing Northeast 2 to 3 during the morning.

Another splendid morning. Plenty of sun today with the prospect over the next three days of a notable rise in temperature, a high of 35 anticipated by Saturday, followed by a cooling-down.

Evening update (19.30): High of 31.8C.

No Frills Excursions

A Short History Of Wind

The shipping forecast for the bay of Alcúdia at this time of the year varies little from day to day. Its lack of variance doesn't prevent it, though, from saying that winds will be "variable". They are only light winds until some time not long after midday. From then, the winds pick up and become predominantly north-east. If you go to the beach along the bay, you will know this for yourself. You can pretty much set your watch according to when the wind increases. It's getting towards time for lunch.

Though the north-easterly occurs almost every afternoon, it is, and despite the variability of the shipping forecast, the southerlies which dominate in summer. The north-easterly is welcome. It may cause panic if it suddenly blows in and uproots beach umbrellas, it may be annoying in that it throws grains of sand and small pieces of beach detritus on to you, but it is cooling. If there were only southerlies and only African air, afternoons on the beach would be as stifling as they are inland, where the north-easterly rarely penetrates.

Mallorca is sun, sea and beach, but it is also wind. And not just one wind. The eight winds of the Mediterranean are so much a part of Mallorca's existence that they lend their titles to names of streets, to bars and restaurants and even to entire mountain ranges. The northerly tramuntana dominates in winter, along with its north-westerly neighbour, the mestral. The north-easterly gregal is less evident, but it blows nonetheless and can be cold and fierce, bringing with it rain and snow. In summer, it is more benign, more welcome. It lives up more to the summery implications of its meaning from the Latin "graegalis" - coming from Greece.

Though the summer gregal blows each day in the bay, it typically goes no further than the coast. Occasionally it can, if it has enough force. And if it does, the chances are that it encounters a different wind. Eight winds of the Mediterranean there are, but there is a ninth wind in Mallorca. Or different ninth winds, to be more accurate. The brisas marinas, the sea breezes peculiar to Mallorca. They have a collective name - embat - an atmospheric phenomenon caused by the contrasting daytime heat of the interior and the comparative coolness of the sea, which is both predictable and unpredictable. It can go in different directions and come from different coastal areas. Hence, there can be different winds - the brisas marinas - not just the one.

The eight winds, which in clockwise order starting with the tramuntana (the north wind) are gregal, llevant, xaloc, migjorn, llebeig (or garbi), ponent and mestral, were depicted in the "rose" of winds created by the father and son team of Abraham and Jehuda (aka Jafuda) Cresques in the latter part of the fourteenth century. The Cresques were responsible for the "Atlas Catalan", which is held in the French national library, and the rose was one aspect of this mediaeval cartographic masterpiece.

The Cresques were Mallorcan Jews. Jafuda certainly converted to Christianity, taking the name Jaume Riba, though Abraham probably didn't convert; the persecution of Jews in Mallorca was something that started after Abraham died. Their atlas, also known as a "mapamundi" (a map of the world as they knew it), was worked on from 1375. The Cresques received some payment from the Aragon crown for their work, but the atlas was donated to the French king, Charles VI, in 1381. It wasn't until the start of the nineteenth century that it was discovered, lurking unknown in the national library. While the map itself was of huge but seemingly unappreciated importance, the rose of the winds was also hugely important. Though the names on the Cresques' original were not identical to those of today, they bore a very strong resemblance, and the most significant of them was the tramuntana.

There has been much debate as to the origin of the name tramuntana. Its most likely origin was from the Latin "trans montes". Though it is said that it was first documented as an Italian word in the early sixteenth century, it most clearly wasn't. The Cresques used it, and Ramon Llull, the great Mallorcan polymath of the thirteenth century, also used a word that was very similar. Why, you might ask, is this important? Well, it is because the eight winds of the Mediterranean, as they are now known, are also sometimes referred to as the eight Catalan winds of the Mediterranean. In effect, the Cresques invented the "vents", the winds. Or certainly, they invented the tramuntana, no doubt borrowing from what was common usage that had probably been handed down from Llull.

So, when the wind blows in Mallorca, you should know that the winds aren't only part of the Mallorcan climate, they go very much deeper into Mallorcan existence. The winds, made in Mallorca.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 July 2014


Morning high (6.30am): 20C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 16 July - Sun, 31C; 17 July - Sun, 31C; 18 July - Sun, 31C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 increasing mainly Northeast 3 to 4 by midday.

A fine, clear morning, and the forecast, as it is for the whole of the week, is for pretty much cloudless skies, but as the forecast hasn't been too accurate in this respect just lately, we'll see.

Evening update (20.45): Decent day, some cloud at times. A high of 30.5C.

No Frills Excursions

Young Pedro Versus Young Pablo

In February 2012, I wrote of Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba's re-selection as leader of PSOE that the party had "opted for a safe pair of hands, ones that, in his own peculiar style, play a piano when's he's speaking. For safe pair of hands, read boring. Not for the first time ... Spanish politics has refused to dump a loser". Rubalcaba's continuing as leader following the spanking that Rajoy and the PP had given PSOE was a massive mistake. Consequently, 2012 to 2014 have been the lost years for PSOE, wandering in the wilderness without a compass and having no idea as to which direction it was heading other than in the wrong one. When the European elections this May showed that the sage-like Rubalcaba had been leading the lost tribes of PSOE ever deeper into a political desert, his time was up. His staff has now been kicked away, his sackcloth removed, his beard shaven off. Welcome to new PSOE. Pedro Sánchez. Young PSOE. And hardly a facial hair to be seen.

Much is being made of Sánchez's youth and indeed the youth of leaders of other political parties in Spain, with the very obvious exception of Mariano Rajoy. Will Sánchez, in addition to leading PSOE back to civilisation, also lead them - and the country - towards the sun of a new dawn with youthfulness to the fore in shaping a whole new politics in Spain? Well, some are suggesting something along these lines. But before we get carried away, it should be noted that youth is very much a relative term. Sánchez is 42. He is 17 years younger than Rajoy and 20 years younger than Rubalcaba, so he does represent a bit of a change in the current political scene, but in the wider scheme of things he doesn't.

When Felipe González became prime minister, he genuinely was something new. Apart from being a socialist, he was dynamic and charismatic and young. Youngish. He was 40. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero was 43 when he won the 2004 election. And if you want other examples, there is always the Balearics' own José Ramón Bauzá, also 40 when he won. Or how about Tony Blair? 43 on the day, that beautiful spring day when a warm sun shone and a new dawn really did dawn. Or so we thought. Little did we know that we were getting a narcissistic, control-freak lunatic with two heads.

What really has alerted political commentators to this new youth movement in Spanish politics is the younger-than-Sánchez leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, who shouldn't be confused with the Marxist Pablo Iglesias who was the founder of PSOE. He, were he to still be alive, would be 164 in October this year. It might be felt that, in terms of Marxist ideology, there isn't a great deal of clear blue water between the two Pablos, but there is a vast ocean between them when it comes to years. The new-age Pablo is a mere 35. 

This mere stripling of a politico has, along with Podemos, firmly put a very determined cat among the fat, lethargic pigeons of Spanish politics. PSOE has been caught on the hop by Podemos more than the Partido Popular. The left has been invaded and has been, moreover, by a ponytail-wearing populist who looks as though he should be mixing the decks at an Ibiza rave club rather than trying to clear the decks of the detritus of rotting Spanish politics. PSOE, desperate for a new image, turned down the nerdy appeal of Zapatero Mark II, namely Eduardo Madina, and opted instead for Felipe González Mark II, i.e. Pedro Sánchez. What he lacks by comparison with Iglesias in terms of seven years and a ponytail, he makes up with a winning smile, good looks and a name that is about as Spanish as you can get. Pedro. Sánchez. The Catalonians must already hate him.

The Catalonian question is just one that Young Pedro will have to get his head around. Of other questions, we know comparatively few if any answers. One thing we do know is that he has suggested that he "is going to be as left as the membership". What exactly does this mean? It sounds potentially ominous. Or it sounds as though he doesn't have a clear idea. Or it sounds as though he is taking the notion of being customer-driven and placing it in a political context: you tell me how left you want me to be, and I'll lean that way.

Being vague probably suits him. It gives scope to move towards the left and attempt to reclaim the territory occupied by established, more left-wing parties and now Podemos. Alternatively, it gives scope to be centrist. What it doesn't mean, one might hope, is that Young Pedro goes as far to the left as Old Pablo. Young Pablo's out there. Ponytail and all.

Monday, July 14, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 July 2014


Morning high (6.30am): 21C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 15 July - Sun, some cloud, 30C; 16 July - Sun, 27C; 17 July - Sun, 31C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3, locally Northeast 4 during the afternoon.

Fairly cloudy start to the day and the patchy cloud may linger - yesterday produced more cloud than had been anticipated. Otherwise, quite hot, and the general outlook is good with a possible heatwave coming in by the end of the week.

Evening update (21.45): A high of 29.9C. A stuffy sort of day with a fair amount of cloud (and there was a downpour in parts of the area this morning). 

No Frills Excursions