Monday, July 31, 2006

Makassar Restaurant

And finally Makassar opened on Saturday. This is the new restaurant from Juan at Tiberi, and is located in the church square in Puerto Pollensa, next to the hostel and Cafe Cultural. It’s worthy of devoting a bit of space to, as anything from Juan is worthy.

Tiberi has the sort of reputation that many restaurants would die for. It is popular and very well regarded for the standard and originality of its menu. But more than this, Tiberi has an atmosphere. Many restaurants promote their “atmosphere”, but few get close to Tiberi’s. It is hard to put one’s finger on something as intangible as this, but there is a tangibility in aspects of design - the somewhat mysterious and other-worldly lettering, the interior colours, the shades of brown outside. Then there is the music and the generally young and vibrant staff.

The mystery of Tiberi was followed up at Guru, also a Juan venture, though he is now no longer involved given the development of Makassar.

One suspects a reason for the delay in opening is attention to detail, and this you see in the other restaurants. It’s about getting the whole package spot-on. Makassar has a different feel of contemporariness, and is promoted as a “barbecue lounge”, specialising in grills and fish. There is an upstairs terrace as well as one in the square.

The restaurants in, and adjoining the square, mostly all do well. Mojito and Tango, for instance, are usually heaving. Partly this is a function of location, but - as Gabriel from the Indian Kashmir points out - just being in a good location is not enough, you’ve got to deliver with the service and food.

As far as Makassar is concerned, will it be successful? You betcha.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Beach life / Best summer music / Road accidents

I could happily have been - and still be - a beach bum. There is little more evocative than “the beach” in summer. I don’t understand people who head for the pool. Maybe it’s memories of one of the greatest of all bands - The Beach Boys; maybe Bournemouth during the summer of love; maybe the south of France at any time over many years; maybe the gorgeous Koukanaries beach in Skiathos. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Beach life has changed though. Time was when a barbecue would be dragged onto the sand, impromptu parties would take place. Life would be the beach. It doesn’t happen now unless it’s organised, which isn’t the same. The beach bars have lost much of their charisma. There’s not one here that compares to the great tavern at Zante’s old Laguna beach (years ago before they lost the plot there) run by a couple of hippies with their day-long music and tuna salads. Balneario 6 in Playa de Muro had a stab. Weekend parties but they didn’t seem to catch on. it didn’t feel right anyway, what with a whacking great hotel right next door; that’s not beach life. The “kities” give it a go, but they are banished to where they can do little harm.

But maybe beach life was never really as I remember. Perhaps it was all an illusion. Like The Beach Boys, who never actually went surfin’ safari. That said, they - or Brian Wilson at least - created the beach illusion and then also ended it with the most poignant song of all: “Surf’s Up”.

This lurch in a musical direction does make me wonder what are the best and worst all-time beach/summer records of all time. For the thousands of you who visit this blog, here is the chance for some good old interaction. For a kick-off, I list some of my all-time bests, in something of a chronological order:

“A Summer Place”, Percy Faith and his Orchestra
“Groovin”, The Young Rascals
“Surf’s Up”, The Beach Boys
“Long Hot Summer”, Style Council
“Summertime”, Fresh Prince of Bel Air

And the worst in no particular order:

“Beach, Baby, Beach”, The Rubettes
“In The Summertime”, Mungo Jerry
“Y Viva España”, Sylvia

So, get emailing me with your selections. Go to

Back in the real world. The road death statistics for the Balearics for the first half of the year make depressing reading. There was a truly horrific accident in Menorca the other day; the car was cut in half. The British family died. And this despite attempts to cut the accident rate. I say it again though, Trafico needs to be more proactive, not just hang out at roundabouts and nab a few for minor offences.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Tourism economics / Fiestas

Yea, yea, beat the drum. It’s that good old boy, Joan Flaquer, the Balearics Minister for Tourism, telling us that there has been close to an 11% increase in tourism to the Balearics during the first half of 2006 (close to 12% to Mallorca). Great.

But here we go yet again. The numbers game. What do we believe? So, tourism’s up, but there’s little evidence that this increase is meaning increased spend. Crucially, much of this increase is explained by mainland Spanish tourism, and - as anyone can tell you - they don’t dosh up like your average Brit or Scandinavian. But hand it to Sr. Flaquer, he comes out with some belters: “the tourism sector will be able to increase their (sic) profits”. And just how do you define tourism sector, Sr. Flaquer?

The fiesta season is in full swing. The best of the lot is the Pollensa “Patrona” (see a listing under the What’s On Blog). Why is it the best? Because they make it more of a party. The squares are full of music - mostly contemporary - late at night, and there is just a more youthful and energetic feel to Patrona than any of the other local thrashes.

Playa de Muro’s fiesta is small beer by comparison. But hats off to Muro town hall. Firstly, they don’t spend a small fortune on the publicity material, unlike Alcúdia and Pollensa, and - uniquely - what they do produce is in several languages.

It is some while since I have delved into the “Daily Bulletin”. How could I be so lazy? Anyway, there is a letter from some buffer bemoaning the apparent decline of Puerto Pollensa. It’s the usual I’ve-been-coming-here-since-Nelson-was-a-lad stuff, stating that Puerto Pollensa is no longer “quiet” thanks to streets vendors and musicians. Fine buffery. But where is “quiet” at this time of the year?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Jellyfish / Cala San Vicente / Emailing this blog

Throbbing Gristle. I always thought this was a great name for a band.

The name came into my mind at Playa de Muro beach. There was this dirty great bit of ex-throbbing gristle beached back of where I live. A monster jellyfish.

Manu from the very fine Sa Taverneta d’es Moll tapas bar in Puerto Alcúdia was telling me that some years ago there was a “plague” of jellyfish in the bay. Given that biblical matters can border on the mythological, not only does the “plague” notion seem apt so does the Spanish word for jellyfish - medusa.

I have had cause here to worry about Cala San Vicente. Yesterday I was there quite early; early enough that the sea and beaches take on the kind of translucent spectre of freshness that disappears once the heat of the day really kicks in. I parked by Bar Mallorca and was stopped in my tracks. The view across the Molins cove to the “horse” promontory was elemental and simply awe-inspiring. How is it that somewhere as special as this seems to have such a hard time of it? Quite magnificent.

I am delighted if people want to comment on stuff here. Problem is that mails come in as anonymous: there seems no way of me replying. For direct mailing, please use That way I can get back to you. And just to Andy who sent a “comment” to the entry for 20th July, thanks but it was bit too "advertising" to post.

Friday, July 21, 2006

All-inclusive hotels

The all-inclusives issue continues to dominate the tourist scene - not just in Alcúdia, but also in Pollensa and elsewhere. The manager of one up-market restaurant in the old town of Pollensa was laying the blame on all-inclusives for a less than great season. Wherever you go, you hear the same sort of thing. The problem is that, depending on your point of view, embracing the all-inclusive is a case of either being in bed with the devil or in bed with Madonna.

I have had some harsh words for all-inclusives here. Fundamentally I don’t see that conditions apply which make the all-inclusive (AI) something of a necessity. Personal security, remoteness, lack of infrastructure; none of these apply in Mallorca. And yet, the AI offer marches on.

There is no doubt that the AI attracts - in part - a low-rent market. We’ve heard enough of fighting and bad behaviour, of drunkenness, of kids hyper on Coke overdoses to know that such low rent exists. But it is not the whole truth. Far from it. There are plenty of people who opt for the AI for sound reasons. Some of them would rather go for something else, but the advantages are clear.

Today’s tourist is a savvy consumer. He or she can get information far more easily than was the case even ten years ago. This is a consumer much more attuned to extracting value for money from what is - let’s face it - a major annual investment. If by using the Internet and other sources, the consumer can learn that some 1000 euros can be saved going AI over other forms of holiday, you bet your life the consumer’s going to go for it. Why the Hell shouldn’t he or she? If that same consumer can discover from forums and other media that such-and-such an AI offers great entertainment for the kids and other factors that will guide a parental decision, then he or she will take it.

There are other factors. Take local costs. Mallorca is more expensive than it was. The Euro is at least partly to blame for this. The savvy consumer knows this, can find out the costs of beer, food, etc and make the calculations.

For many local traders, this is all bad news. It’s not that folk at an AI do not go out; that’s a complete fallacy in many cases. But the logic of the market is such that if you have paid once for something you have less or no incentive to pay a second time. Inevitably the out-of-hotel spend is going to come down and is coming down.

The fact is that the AI is not going to go away; much as some might will it to. And yet, within the context of this changing market, you still get people willing to take on premises, often at high rents, who then moan that the AI is ruining their business.

Calls (to politicians and even the King) for intervention in this market might stem the tide of AIs, but if a free market is operating then it is hard to see how without what might be deemed restrictive practice. The anti-AI lobby has classified the AI as operating a system of “imperfect competition”. It’s an attractive argument but it ignores the logic of the free market, and the logic of consumer choice.

There are those who feel that tourists in some way “owe” the places which they visit. This “owing” is made tangible in the form of local taxes. But there is the intangible “owing”. It’s cloud-cuckoo land. The tourist may well “love” a place and go back year on year, but they are still making a consumer purchase not engaging in an act of philanthropy. Sad to have to have to say it, but much as people might love a place, if what they really want (good value for money at an AI) is denied them by political act or other means, they will stop loving a place and go somewhere else.

The AI has changed the nature of the market. It is for the market to make an adjustment to it. Ultimately if the AI (and other factors, and let’s not just blame AIs) cause a fall in demand, then the supply has to alter. If that means less, then so be it. That’s a harsh appraisal but I think a realistic one.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Guardia Civil / Beach tents / Civil War

Someone I know, visiting Alcúdia, was stopped the other day in the port by two Guardia. They wanted to check a bag he was carrying; it contained cartons of cigarettes just purchased. On Pere Más i Reus (aka the Greasy Mile), I have seen the Guardia. In Playa de Muro, I saw two more on the beat.

I can’t remember seeing the Guardia on beat duties before, except at events or the likes of markets. I don’t know what is causing this apparent burst of activity. Maybe something to do with the illegal street selling (along the Greasy Mile at any rate). But I guess we should be happy that they are in evidence. Crime may not be a major problem here, but good if they are becoming more visible in preventing it.

Now then, beach furniture.

I have long been mystified that some folk can require a pantechnicon to shift all the gear that they haul on to a beach. And then there’s the time it takes to erect it all. A beach umbrella, well, pretty simple, but once you’re into the beach tent area you’re talking a whole load of faffing around. And for what? It’s not as if they afford the sun protection you might expect. No, sir, no better than a 20 factor lotion, sir. Then, damn me, having spent so long putting the thing up, they either piss off to a beach-bar or not so long after uproot and go home. But, the greatest pisser with beach tents is that you can have found yourself a nice speck; a good viewing-the-girlies (or boyies, if you prefer) speck, and some dork comes along and puts up a bloody great bivouac in your sightline. Ban them, now.

A more serious subject. Today’s “The Times” devotes a double-page to the Spanish Civil War. Tuesday (18 July) marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. It says that “the pact of forgetting” that has existed since the fall of Franco was swept away by the current Socialist Government. Some fear that the “fragile balance” between right and left, neo-Falangists and leftist Republicans will break. But some feel that the debate (rarely aired till now) that is now being aired gives the Spanish the chance to lance a boil that has festered for too long.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Kerbstones / Palma Airport / World Cup

Kerbstones. Not somethings that come into one’s consciousness on a daily basis. Unless one happens to be disabled. According to “Euro Weekly”, there is “fury” over high kerbs in Puerto Pollensa. Not just mere rage, but fury (elsewhere in “EW” there is also “fury” over a skaters’ park, but be that as it may). One holidaymaker of 20 years’ standing says that new footpaths have become nigh on impossible to negotiate as they have been built too high.

The thing is that kerbstones here do tend to be high. Quite why I don’t know. One view is that they are designed that way to help against flood, though the occasional lower parts of the kerb would make a weak point for water to enter, so I don’t know if this is right. Otherwise, perhaps it’s to stop people parking cars on kerbs. Whatever reason, the height of the kerbstone can also cause some damage - to cars. Park alongside and get too close and the hub-cap will scrape the kerb. Park front on and the bottom of the front of the chassis comes into contact with the kerb. Lower the kerbs, suggests the lady holidaymaker in Puerto Pollensa. Quite right, too.

While on the disabled, a word of praise for Palma Airport. Looking at net forums, the airport gets an all-round thumbs-up for assistance to disabled people. And also on the airport, it would seem that record numbers of passengers are being dealt with. Good news, you might think. But not so. Seems most of them are from the mainland and not high-spending Brits. Still, I’m sure later this year some authority will point to these high numbers and claim it has been a record year for tourism. Or should that be bollocks.

Just also another mention for “Euro Weekly”. “Thousands”, it proclaims, will be at the music festival in Pollensa. Fine. Nice photo to accompany the piece; it’s of the beach in Puerto Pollensa. The festival is in Pollensa. Ho hum.

And so we come to the World Cup final. Farewell, Ronaldos; goodbye, Pig-Climbers (Schweinsteiger - actually the steigen bit is from the old German “stige”, and the name means one who sleeps in a barn with pigs; so Pig-Climber’s right, oder?). But, where was I? Ah, yes, so long, Julio Salinas and the other tenors at La Sexta. How many former international centre forwards sing during football commentaries? Bet Loin-acre doesn’t.

Coming up - this blog’s call to ban beach tents.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Festival of Pollensa / Verge del Carme Fiesta, Puerto Pollensa / Little Britain’s Animal Charity Day, Puerto Alcúdia

Rather than the usual rant, here is some useful info about some events. Anyone wanting to post items on the blog, contact me at Ta.

Festival of Pollensa - Cloister of Sant Domingo, Pollensa. 22:00 start.

15 July: Misia - Portuguese fado
22 July: Katia & Marielle Labeque (piano)
5 August: Mischa Maisky, Pavel Gililov (cello, piano)
9 August: The Hilliard Ensemble
12 August: Lucerne Festival Strings
16 August: Wihan Quartet (strings), Michel Lethiec (clarinet)
19 August: Massimo Marcelli (flute), Giampaolo Bandini (guitar)
22 August: Zaida (Mozart opera)
26 August: Enrique Morente (recital flamenco)
30 August: Cyprien Katsaris (piano)

Verge del Carme Fiesta, Puerto Pollensa

10 July: Opening - music. Church Square from 21:00
11 July: Children’s karaoke (the Church Square’s school) - 18:00-20:00 /
Musica Nostra concert in the Church Square - 22:00
12 July: Entertainment. Church Square - 22:00 /
The Hustlers - music - 23:45
13 July: Children’s entertainment. Church Square - 18:00-20:00 /
Marta Elka Group - 22:30
14 July: Concerts/entertainment. Church Square - 21:30
15 July: Football tournament. Football ground by the fourth roundabout on the Formentor by-pass - 18:30 /
Model competition. Church Square - 20:00 /
Concert - Cocktail and Rodamons. Church Square - 22:00
Beach party. La Gola - 23:30
16 July: Mass and then procession with the images of the Verge and Sant Pere to the marina and then onto a flotilla - 18:30
Pollensa Music Band. Church Square - 22:30.
Procession to the beach at La Gola. Fireworks - 24:00

Animal Charity Day, Puerto Alcúdia

Sat 15th July - 10am to 2pm
In aid of Victoria's Animal Refuge, Alcúdia
at Little Britain Supermarket's Terrace, Puerto Alcúdia
Pet accessories, Second Hand Books, Shoes, Bags, Clothes, Hand Made Soaps, Bric a Brac, etc. . . . All for a Good Cause, All Welcome
More details in latest issue of Talk of the North Magazine

For more info or donations please call
Ann McDonald 618 163 478 or Steve Cameron 616 309 573
Victoria´s Animal Refuge is a non-profit charity organization with 3 main objectives:-
To fight against animal cruelty and the massive pet abandonment.
To give financial support to local animal shelters
To promote adoptions of these shelter animals
Little Britain Supermarket is located at Calle Hosteleria 4, Puerto Alcudia - opposite the church and next door to Comics Bar. Tel: 971 89 79 45

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Jellyfish / World Cup / Closed down

Oh, oh, jellyfish. The beaches of Cala San Vicente have been very quiet since people were advised to stay out of the water owing to the presence of a great flotilla of jellyfish (what is the collective noun for jellyfish - school like other fish or something more demonic?). Another blow to the Cala. Fortunately, they don’t seem to have made their way round the Formentor headland into the bays of Pollensa or Alcúdia. The stinking hot weather suggests it might not be that long though.

England’s miserable exit from the World Cup has at least one positive. We won’t need to suffer the moronic English youth around the Greasy Mile. “Fuck off, you cunt.” “You wanker.” Every word an expletive. The Cross of St George and the F, C, and W words. Well, we can all play the game. You, my lads, are a bunch of wankers.

Something on closed places that I’ve kept forgetting to mention. Tropical Minigolf at the bottom of the Greasy Mile by Bellevue is up for sale and won’t be opening at all. In some ways it doesn’t surprise; it’s a big piece of real estate to pay rent on. Michael, now at Epcot, was reminiscing about the days of the Banana Republic at the same site. But them’s were the days when we was lads - 20 years ago. In Puerto Pollensa, Neptuno II (aka Tramuntana) is closed at present owing to a lack of staff. How odd, you might think.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Service / Street selling

In a way I’m reluctant to write this. Service. Is it that bloody marvellous elsewhere?

Generally I think service in the UK is not too bad. You should try Germany if you think otherwise; a country grown rich on the back of a manufacturing culture has little truck with service concepts. But that’s a generalisation. As always.

It’s just that service here ain’t that great. I’m not talking about bars and restaurants. Overall, they’re pretty good. I’m talking more everyday places - banks and supermarkets especially. I’ve railed against Credito Balear in Puerto Alcudia before; it still has but the one desk (two on occasions if there’s anyone there or not otherwise occupied), and this despite the other branch (where there were always two in season) having been closed for several months. It’s lousy.

Then there are the supermarkets. Not all of them, but Eroski Syp, which happens to be where I go. Syp is one of the main supermarkets; it’s not a tourist supermarket, but one of a national chain. Now, let me say it’s not a bad place to shop, just that the checkouts are hopeless. Long queues form before finally one of the checkout girls calls for another to be opened, whereupon there is an unseemly rush and shove to get to the head of the new queue. And the queues can get very long now we’re coming into high season.

Within the discipline of operational research, there is a whole area of queueing theory. Like much management science, it’s mathematics to state the bleedin’ obvious. Queueing systems may or may not have been spawned by some of this theory (it didn’t need a theory to create a common-sense solution). Very simple systems, such as you get at post offices or banks in the UK. Not here you don’t; hence the unseemly rush.

There again, queueing is a British obsession. There’s only one thing the British are quicker to form, and that’s a committee. So, we’re masters of the art (or science, if you prefer). Queueing is not exactly anathema within other cultures; just it isn’t treated with the same diligence.

And at Syp there is also the fruit-and-veg weighing problem. Now, you might think that a counter with two sets of scales on them was a bit of a giveaway, but many folk still fail to weigh, head for the checkout, whereupon a further delay is caused contacting someone on shelf-stacking duties to collect the unweighed items, go and weigh them and then return to the checkout.

The trouble is not everyone knows about this sort of system. It’s not practised everywhere. The British are especially fallible. While the scales may seem obvious - to me - there’s a blind-spot for many. It might help if there were signs - in English, in German for instance - explaining the system. But there aren’t. There are signs - in Spanish - informing you that certain items don’t need to be weighed. Not very clever in truth.

A feature of Puerto Alcúdia and other places is the illegal street trader, some of whom don’t always sell on the streets but go into bars and restaurants as well. They sell sunglasses, watches, jewellery, CDs, DVDs; they offer hair-braiding. None of it is legal. Most of what is sold - no, make that all of what is sold - is fake.

Along the Greasy Mile (or Avenida Pedro Mas y Reus to give it its proper name), there are street traders aplenty. Well, the legitimate traders have had enough. The association of local businesses has issued a leaflet - in English (praise be, in English) - telling people that this street trade is illegal and that people should “just say no”. Despite the echoes of the Grange Hill song saying no to drugs (sadly inappropriate as at least one of the cast was done for cocaine some years later), the message is quite powerful. Will it stop the trade? Probably not.

One can’t let the sad passing of F.S.Trueman go unmentioned here. The Sa Pobla Cricket Club have been quick to commemorate Fred’s passing; the old Pavilion End will now be renamed “The Fred End”. Given that fred means cold in Catalan, that should cause some confusion, about as much as for anyone who actually tries to find the SPCC.

Index for June 2006

Albufera - 9 June 2006
Baby buggies - 2 June 2006
Beaches - 9 June 2006, 13 June 2006
Beckham, David - 16 June 2006
Cala San Vicente - 8 June 2006
Can Picafort - 9 June 2006
Canadair fire-fighting planes - 25 June 2006
Canny Lad Bar - 30 June 2006
Catalonian autonomy - 19 June 2006
Chemists - 13 June 2006
Driving - 16 June 2006
Eastern European tourists - 5 June 2006, 8 June 2006
Fiestas - 19 June 2006, 30 June 2006
Fire - 25 June 2006
JKs Bar - 5 June 2006
La Sexta (television channel) - 13 June 2006, 19 June 2006, 30 June 2006
Markets - 23 June 2006
Mosquitoes - 16 June 2006
Olivers Restaurant - 2 June 2006
Pipe music - 24 June 2006
Playa de Muro - 9 June 2006, 13 June 2006, 24 June 2006
Politics - 19 June 2006
Prostitution - 25 June 2006
Reps - 19 June 2006
Roundabouts - 25 June 2006
Sant Pere Fiesta, Alcúdia - 19 June 2006, 30 June 2006
Sculpture - 25 June 2006
Siesta - 8 June 2006
Spanish television - 13 June 2006
Tobacconists - 24 June 2006
Tourism economics - 24 June 2006, 26 June 2006
Tourism strategy - 5 June 2006
Weather - 2 June 2006, 16 June 2006
Websites - 24 June 2006
World Cup - 5 June 2006, 13 June 2006, 19 June 2006, 26 June 2006, 30 June 2006 - 24 June 2006