Sunday, May 31, 2009

On The Wrong Side Of Town

I ate in the port the other evening - the port of Alcúdia. I had salmon with a sauce and some vegetables. Fifteen euros and some centimos. Not particularly expensive but not particularly good. I don't indulge in naming places that don't impress, so I'm not going to now. Just let's say that the meal was at a well-known and long-established restaurant.

The salmon was ok, nothing wrong with it. However, it was covered in a quite thick, brown sauce. It drowned the taste of the salmon, and brown just doesn't do it for me where pink salmon is concerned. The vegetables were a couple of boiled and only just soft potatoes and some mange-tout and carrots and something else in too much oil. The vegetables seemed to come as standard; my companions had the same. No-one was that impressed. One could not help but feel that we were at the end of the mass production line. The service, to be fair, was very good.

The point about this is that, for fifteen euros, it is quite possible to eat out very well and very much better than I did the other evening. It is also quite possible to eat out very well for around half the price. I have no wish to discourage people from going into the port, or anywhere else that has a good atmosphere and location, but it is the location, and not the quality of the cuisine, that often dictates the size of the bill. There is also the fact that this restaurant was "Spanish", whatever that means. Authenticity can also command a price, even if the authenticity is vague and the food impossible to define as being from anywhere in particular.

Some of you who have been following this blog over the months and years will know that wrong definitions get my goat; wrong definitions as in, for example, what constitutes Alcúdia. These wrong definitions are the result of ignorance, lack of knowledge or because people are given the incorrect information. With this in mind, let me pose this question: what is the "town" of Alcúdia, the town in some tourists' minds? The old town? The port? Neither. It is of course The Mile. And it is plain wrong. On a forum someone was offering instructions as to how to get to the "town" from the Club Mac complex. The directions were to head for the Bellevue hotel. Give me strength.

It isn't necessarily the holidaymaker's fault that he or she might define The Mile as the "town" and therefore issue instructions accordingly. The ill-informed tour rep is quite likely to be the source of such intelligence, or the rep who has a vested interest in directing people to a particular bar or restaurant in the "town". But this misinformation has a habit of perpetuating itself, handed down across the internet and around the poolside, with the consequence that the holidaymaker is unaware of what actually is the town or indeed the main centre of Puerto Alcúdia, which is also not The Mile. And then the misinformed discover that the "town" is not to their liking (and believe it or not there are those who think this way about The Mile) and then go and slag off Alcúdia. All because they have been to the wrong town.

Tony Hadley
Ok, folks, I got a comment on the Wordpress version of the blog to yesterday's piece. It came from the lady who runs Tony Hadley's fan site:

"I think this article is a bit unfair to Tony Hadley. I run a fansite about Tony Hadley and have seen him play with the Barcelona Jazz Orchestra several times. This type of show is very different to his pop/rock shows or his forthcoming Spandau Ballet Tour. He usually sings ‘True’, ‘Gold’ and ‘Through the Barricades’ but with a different arrangement to the originals along with many songs from the Passing Strangers album. This is Tony with the Barcelona Jazz Orchestra in Marbella last summer (I didn’t post this video). I will be going and I am really looking forward to what I expect to be an excellent evening."

I'm really grateful for the comment. I need to make it clear, I think Tony Hadley's great. No, really, I do think that. Fabulous singer. It's just a shame that Tony seemed to have dropped off the musical radar for so long. And I too will be looking forward to an excellent evening, as I'm sure it will be. Oh, and for Denise, if you see this version, do send me a direct email to the address below.

Yesterday's title - PM Dawn, "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss" (Tony Hadley's in this right at the end): Spandau Ballet, "True": Today's title - missing one word (love), which band, with a strong connection with Bruce Springsteen, did this?


Index for May 2009

Acampallengua - 25 May 2009, 26 May 2009
All-inclusives - 19 May 2009, 24 May 2009
All-inclusives' wristbands - 18 May 2009
BBC Holiday programme - 19 May 2009, 20 May 2009
Bridge, Playa de Muro - 22 May 2009
Building work in summer - 29 May 2009
Bypass roads, Puerto Pollensa - 4 May 2009
Can Picafort frontline - 21 May 2009
Canals & bridges, Puerto Alcúdia - 26 May 2009
Cap Roig restaurant, Puerto Alcúdia - 27 May 2009
Catalan - 11 May 2009, 25 May 2009, 26 May 2009
Dallas steak house, Puerto Alcúdia - 11 May 2009
Demonstrations against violence, Alcúdia - 6 May 2009
Employment, lack of - 3 May 2009
Estación náutica, Alcúdia - 17 May 2009
Eurovision Song Contest - 17 May 2009
Fire on the Sa Pobla train - 16 May 2009
Floral tributes - 9 May 2009
Footballers - 23 May 2009
German individuality - 8 May 2009
Greenpeace - 23 May 2009
Holiday club scratch cards - 15 May 2009, 21 May 2009
Holidays, how they have changed - 20 May 2009
Industrial estates - 18 May 2009
International Museum Day - 13 May 2009
Mallorca railway history - 14 May 2009
Manners - 10 May 2009
Miguel Nadal, Unió Mallorquina - 12 May 2009
Military bases - 1 May 2009
Noise from sound systems - 25 May 2009
Nordic walking - 8 May 2009, 21 May 2009
Pedestrian crossings - 10 May 2009, 29 May 2009
Petrol stations closing - 7 May 2009
Pickpocketing - 3 May 2009
Pollensa Music Festival 2009 - 30 May 2009
Portuguese Man O' War - 7 May 2009
Price comparisons - 14 May 2009
Puerto Pollensa's water - 15 May 2009
Recycling - 2 May 2009
Restaurant prices - 31 May 2009
Ses Casetes des Capellans, Playa de Muro - 5 May 2009
Son Bosc golf course - 15 May 2009, 16 May 2009
Street cleaning, Pollensa - 5 May 2009
Street drinking - 28 May 2009
Tea - 27 May 2009
Tony Hadley - 30 May 2009
Tour reps - 26 May 2009
Tourism promotion - 24 May 2009
Water-sports resort, Alcúdia as - 17 May 2009
What is Alcúdia town - 31 May 2009
What tourists take on holiday - 27 May 2009, 28 May 2009

Saturday, May 30, 2009

This Much Is True

The Pollensa music festival is one of the cultural highlights of the local summer. This is not a thing for the hoi and the polloi, the general riff and the general raff of lager and chips; this is the extreme sophisto wing of musical culture in the northernmost parts of the island, nary a karaoke machine within the vocal carry distance of a Leona Lewis wannabe, not one tribute act an Abba-ing or a Take That-ing. This festival, started not by a Mallorcan but by a Mancunian, Philip Newman, is classical heavy, pop lite, or usually pop non-existent. However, once in a while, up pops a pop sort of act. When I say pop, I mean old rocker or, in the case of Tony Hadley, old new romanticist. And why should I mention Tony Hadley? How sharp of you. Very good question. Why would I or indeed anyone mention the Hadster? The answer lies in the fact that he is in a short line of long-ago pop/rock artists who have been invited to appear at the Pollensa festival. The line is so short, it comprises only one other - Roger Hodgson - and he was a replacement for Paul Carrack.

The question is, of course, why book Tony Hadley? Here is a singer set adrift, sent into a rock winter Russian front, consigned to be the Rudolf Hess of the pop world, ever associated with Spandau, languishing in the long-years of the incarceration of memory bliss of Musclebound and Through The Barricades pop-Lebensraum, but without having been the führer behind the whole gig, a role reserved for the foppish Adolf of the Spans, Gary Kemp. And when the Kemp twins decided to go and play at being Krays and Martin ended up leaving it aht, you slag, on Albert Square, Tony ceased to register either on the pop charts or in the pop stratosphere, save for endless plays of "Gold" on Capitol Gold or as the mind-numbingly unoriginal theme accompaniment to athletics championships.

A clue perhaps as to the question, why Tony Hadley, may exist on his website*. For there, if you go to "calendar", you will find that rare is a box per day that contains anything other than a number. For the whole of May, just one event: "opening couture brasserie, delicatessen and food hall, Neptune Quay, Ipswich". There we go, everybody, Ipswich, and not even a vocal performance by the sounds of it. Let's just put it this way, Tony's calendar does look a little light, though to be fair it fills up in the autumn because of course the Spans will be on their comeback tour. But till then, very little. Indeed there is so very little, that if you go to the month of July, and look at day 11, which is when Tone is due to appear, you will find ... only the number eleven, no more, no less. No mention of Pollensa, a music festival, Mallorca, nothing, nada. Perhaps it's not been updated. Don't know, but this much is true, as the title says today, as he appears on the festival's running order.


(As Hadley is due to be appearing with the Barcelona Jazz Orchestra, I imagine he will be reprising his jazz-swing phase from the "Passing Strangers" album, so don't necessarily expect Spandau. See the WHAT'S ON BLOG - - for a full schedule of concerts. Oh, and before anyone thinks otherwise, Tony Hadley was and is a damn fine singer.)

I should tell you that there is another version of this blog. I started it fairly recently through another blog provider, i.e. Wordpress, the reason for doing so being primarily as a sort of back-up but also so I could see how Wordpress works, and it works quite well, having certain standard features that the Blogger system doesn't. Anyway, while this "mirror" gets barely any visitors as it will not rate in Google to the extent that this original does, and is also not linked, it has had some visitors, and one - at least one - has stumbled across it through a string word search, probably through Google. I know this because one of those standard features tells me so, and the most popular (a slight exaggeration I feel) searches have been "jellyfish Mallorca" and ... "nude Nordic walking". Seriously, nude Nordic walking, which I did refer to in some jest several days ago. Clearly, though, such a thing does attract some interest. Each to their own.

Yesterday's title - The Beach Boys: Today's title - ok, so Spandau Ballet, but who sampled it and made a terrific record in the process? The title of this is contained in the above.


Friday, May 29, 2009

All Summer Long

The Balearic Government's environment minister has reversed the previous decision that permitted, for this season only, building works during part of the tourist season, namely up till the middle of June and throughout October. This reconsideration comes after concerns expressed by hoteliers and by tour operators, and indeed a hint as to legal action. These concerns centred, unsurprisingly, on the likelihood of tourists going elsewhere; there will have presumably been tourists who have already been affected, and the chances are that some might even have pursued the tour operators for some compensation if they had a disturbed stay.

The normal situation is that all building works in tourism areas are suspended during the official season - 1 May till end October - but this year, in recognition of difficulties faced by the construction industry, it had been agreed to relax this suspension. It was a relaxation that was always likely to cause a problem, and I would guess that the works in the heart of Puerto Pollensa and slap bang next to Hotel Daina might have been one of those that had been brought to the minister's attention. The reports on this from "The Diario" actually refer to work "durante el verano", which could be construed as meaning the whole summer. I'm not sure that this was ever envisaged, but perhaps it was, and so therefore not just into June and in October. Whatever the period of "relaxation", the unrest that it has caused could have been predicted, which does make one wonder why the decision was taken in the first place. The now new problem may be what builders do with workers they had employed.

Back to the roads. All the new crossing-points and the new roundabout along the carretera in Playa de Muro make driving very stop-start, and you can not only sense but also witness the impatience rising among drivers, especially as the heat of the afternoon takes its toll; another crossing, another load of tourists with lilos and baby buggies to allow across. It's hardly the tourists' fault. Except. So I stopped and waited while this lady made up her mind to cross or not, and when she did, she did so very slowly because she was in the middle of texting. There you have it, let me just hold this traffic up a bit while I compose "c u later". If it's an offence for drivers to text while driving, maybe the same should apply to pedestrians when crossing a road. Indeed, I was thinking, while going along the now not-pedestrianised coast road in Puerto Pollensa, that perhaps they got that all wrong, and maybe they should have made it a non-pedestrianised zone. No pedestrians. None of them. Verboten. That'd learn 'em. Go do your texting somewhere else.

Oh, and the great frozen haddock mystery. A cool bag, well wrapped and put in the suitcase. Just hope it doesn't un-freeze. The great smell of fish all holiday if not all summer long.

Yesterday's title - Elton John: Today's title - well it won't be all summer long; this has been a title before but previously it was that lousy Kid Rock thing. From 1964, the far better song.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting

Manacor may be a bit off the beaten blog track, but some little local difficulties there are not without relevance to Alcúdia. Early on Sunday morning, a 31-year-old man was attacked by two youths and suffered injuries that have resulted in the loss of sight in one eye. The incident, and there were others, appears to be related to the Manacor version of the botellón, the street drinking party, and it also occurred in the context of the Manacor spring fair. It will be remembered that the death in Puerto Alcúdia of Gabriel Marquet was said to be related to a botellón. Residents of Manacor are attributing the violence, in part, to a lack of things for the local young population to do. So there we have it: feckless and reckless youth, without facilities and activities to divert them, getting drunk and having a bundle. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? But let's not get too precious. Or at least I'm not going to be. Had there been street drinking parties when I was a youth, I would probably have partaken; in fact I'm pretty damn sure I would have.

The town hall in Manacor is wanting to put in place a law to tackle the issue of the botellón and to impose certain sanctions. Good for them, but Alcúdia enacted a by-law last September specifically to stop street drinking - of any sort. Why do the parties still occur then? It's all a police issue. Nothing more, nothing less. The argument about there not being things for the youth to do is almost completely fallacious. God knows, when I was at university there were all manner of things to divert you, some of them even related to studying, but it didn't stop excessive drinking and "high-spirited" anti-social behaviour. Many left university with first-class honours in alcohol abuse, and some could also claim higher degrees in acts of vandalism and brawling. The local problems are hardly unique to the island or to its youthful generation.

Anyway, to matters more light-hearted. Following yesterday's teabags, I would like to thank Sheila for itemising some of the things she brings on holiday to Alcúdia. Included among them is one food item that I would not have expected. And it is ... frozen haddock. Yes, everyone, frozen haddock. I really should quiz Sheila a tad more closely on this, as in the means of transporting said haddock. But haddock, frozen or not frozen, would, I suggest, take some beating in the league of odd foodstuffs taken on holiday, though it should be pointed out that the fish is intended for friends, so there's another category for you - strange things I have taken on holiday to give as presents. For my part, some years ago I grew addicted to a particular bottled satay sauce, so much so that several of the bottles were flown across the Channel to France. Not in the same class as the haddock, but indicative of something you just can't do without. Sheila also listed English mustard and curry powder, and with curry in mind, in case you didn't work it out, Cap Roig in Puerto Alcúdia will be the new Kashmir, making four the number of Indian restaurants in Puerto Alcúdia, which is still, relative to its size, a small number when compared with the relatively petite Puerto Pollensa and its foursome of Indians.

And, are we seeing the green shoots of sterling recovery? Up to a whopping 1.15 against the euro. Come on lads, let's push it even higher. 1.20 by June. Then finally, who said that Barça had no defence. Two to nil I think you'll find. Cue much outpouring of Catalan solidarity in the bars of Alcúdia and Pollensa - and quite right, too.

Yesterday's title - Nirvana: Today's title - always seemed a rather strange song for whom?


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pennyroyal Tea

One of those holiday survey things. What the Brit holidaymaker takes with him or her on holiday. Apparently, 43% of tourists take their own teabags with them. Do you?

At least teabags don't take up much room in a suitcase or indeed weigh very much, so squeezing a load of bagged-up Tetleys inside a shoe isn't too much of a problem, unlike, for example, cans of Heinz baked beans or some sliced loaves. But the British enduring imbibing love affair with tea demands that the right tea is on the table wherever the Brit may wander, Mallorca or further afield. Some while ago I spoke about tea (4 November: Storm In A Teacup), remarking that "whatever that sachet with a piece of string contains, you can be confident that it isn't actually tea". And that was because local tea bears only a passing resemblance, and usually not even that, to the brackish stuff that floods out of a PG Tip. For Mallorca and Spain, read also many other countries. That 43% are probably right.

Still, if you need to go out and buy some tea, you might try one of the local so-called discount supermarkets. Since when was a discount "hard" do you suppose? But hard it is if, that is, you go to the Royal Cheapest at the top of The Mile or, allegedly, Aldi in Playa de Muro. Now I may be wrong, but I have a funny feeling that this isn't Aldi as we know it, Jim, or should that be not as "wir wissen" it, Hans.

One of the great truisms of local business is that bars come and bars do go, that restaurants come and restaurants do go. Puerto Alcúdia has lost, finally, one of its less attractive but damned good eateries. Cap Roig. What a fine place this was. The stuffed peppers and the battered cod were excellent. Toni may have occasionally sported rather eccentric head furniture in the form of his haircut, but haircuts have never been a crucial factor when it comes to culinary skills. The restaurant had been for sale for at least three years and it has now passed into other hands, or indeed haircuts. It will still be a restaurant, but a different style. It will be ... an Indian. And, your starter and main course for ten euros or so, who is behind this new Indian? Think Puerto Pollensa. All will be revealed ... . But you probably already know.

And ... some of you may have noticed that today sees the United of Manchester playing the Barcelona of Barcelona. Watch your hats around the bars tonight as the locals demonstrate their sound Catalonian credentials. But in celebration of this, and my thanks to Danny Baker, here is one of Mallorca's Z-list celebs performing a peerlessly awful thing called "Soccer Superstar". Enjoy, or more likely, don't. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Jess Conrad, and to be honest you can have him:

Yesterday's title - Ewan MacColl wrote it. Here are The Dubliners doing "Dirty Old Town" Today's title - who was this? Clue: suicide leader.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

By The Old Canal

Further to yesterday's piece regarding the "Acampallengua", there was a bit of controversy surrounding the Sa Pobla event. The vice-president of the Obra Cultural Balear, the organisation that promotes the Catalan language and culture, was detained for a couple of hours by the Guardia on the Sunday morning whilst the night party was in full swing. Quite why is unclear, though the Guardia suggest that there may have been some sort of "disobedience". The president of the organisation dubbed it an "absurd provocation". (Quotes in translation from the report in "The Diario".)

The canals and bridges of Puerto Alcúdia have sometimes been subjected to criticism by tourists. The bridges themselves are in need of upgrading, something everyone pretty much accepts, and now the Costas authority, which is responsible for the canals, the lakes and the bridges, has presented a plan costing close on 5 million euros to upgrade the walkways and the canals. The original project that formed the lakes and canals from Albufera was intended to create a "little Venice", and the further development will require some expropriation, for example, from Bellevue. The creation of new walkways and possibly also bridges for the Lago Esperanza (the big lake) was talked about well over a year ago when a plan was also put forward for the lake to become a canoeing centre. While an upgrade in appearance and in facilities is to be welcomed, the thing that may remain a point of concern is the cleanliness of the canals. The odd plastic bottle here or there is almost to be expected, but when whole rubbish bins get deposited it means that someone needs to be doing the rounds rather more regularly than they seem to. One hopes that they also have a plan to keep them up to standard and also to keep the fountains going, all year if necessary, in order to create better water circulation. The other aspect of both the lakes and the canals that really should be addressed, but probably won't be, is the mosquito population. And with regard to mosquitoes, they seem to be bigger and more abundant than ever this spring.

Coming back to all-inclusives and tour operators etc., I'm grateful to Anne Marie for pointing out the some time erroneous information that tour-operator reps give out. She cites the example of one rep who explained to a coach load that the "old town of Alcúdia and its walls had been built by the Romans in the 11th century". Apart from the fact that the Roman Empire had collapsed several centuries previously, by the 11th century Alcúdia was under Islamic control, and it was from Arabic that the town's name was derived.

Not all reps are useless. There are some experienced reps who are extremely knowledegable and would never have made such a mistake, but unfortunately too many are ill-informed or maybe just take no notice of what information they are provided with. Whatever. Many tourists may not be interested in local culture and history, but the tour operators and their personnel still have a duty, or should have, to present the area correctly.

Yesterday's title - Trevor Horn and Paul Morley. Today's title - this comes from a song strongly associated with Ireland but was in fact written about Salford.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Art Of Noise

5am. There's a bass sound coming from somewhere. Is it from a car in the street? No, sounds too far away. Onto the upper terrace, and it is a little clearer; not loud but discernible. It's coming from across Albufera. Sa Pobla. It's travelling some eight kilometres or so; it's coming from the party for the "Acampallengua". 5am. Hopefully, no-one in Sa Pobla was desperate for a good night's sleep; they wouldn't have had one.

And what is this "Acampallengua"? Literally it means camp language. It's pretty accurate. This is an annual occasion that moves around the island. It is a celebration of Catalan, and particularly popular with the youth; hence the party and the sports that had been arranged during the day. The camping part is that they pitch up and pitch tents and then head off to the sports, the night party, the fire run, the arts workshops, the giants and the pipers and the worthy speeches by politicos and the head of Obra Cultural Balear, the Catalan promotional organisation - "we will not make a step backwards in the struggle for our language", says he (as quoted in translation from "The Diario").

On the face of it, this event seems fair enough, a bit of camping out, a bit of football and a bit of techno. Yet I can't help feeling there is something slightly sinister about the politicisation of the event and therefore of the language. Statements such as that by the head of the Obra makes this pretty clear, and in his audience are teenagers who are being made more aware of their language (which is fair enough) but also potentially being radicalised (which may not be fair enough). Whatever. It's not my argument.

More noise. The tourism season cranking up and the sounds of entertainment are wafting across the resorts; no, wafting is way too weak, make that reverberating. By no means for the first time, there are a number of mutterings about the loudness of the Bellevue show garden sound system. I'm told that it is louder than last year. Every word can be heard clearly as far away as Magic and probably further. "Do you like The Beatles? Scream and shout ... " And so they do, and then once the show has finished at the midnight deadline they continue for some more minutes, demanding more and shouting some more.

This was a theme last year, as it will probably be a theme next year and the year after. Whether the sound system is excessive is not for me to say, but there is an ongoing difficulty in reconciling the noise of holiday and the sleeping and peace requirements of residents and probably also some holidaymakers. Were this a "problem" only occasionally, it might not all be so annoying to some, but it is every night. Not sure how you resolve it, especially when the wind is in the right (or perhaps that's the wrong) direction.

Yesterday's title - it was about a nuclear attack on Britain and the nuclear winter that ensued, and it was horrifying. Today's title - who were the driving forces behind this outfit?


Sunday, May 24, 2009


I have mentioned the Holiday Truths website here before; it is a pretty good site, if only because it is so easy to navigate. If one looks at the first page of the Majorca forum at present, you will find the usual hotch-potch of threads, but among them there is something that stands out - well, stood out to me. This is the common thread that runs through threads related to specific hotels in both Alcúdia and Can Picafort. Let me list them and see if you can work out that common thread - Delfin Verde, Club Mac, Condes, Condesa, Holiday Village Viva, Platja d'Or. With the exception of a seventh - Bellevue - these are all all-inclusive, or so all-inclusive as to not make much difference, and Bellevue is at least a third all-inclusive. There is another thread that asks about the price of AI in June, and included in that are the likes of the Condes as well. All-inclusive is the common thread. A snapshot and unrepresentative it may be, but it nevertheless does indicate where priorities are tending to lie, those of both the holidaymaker and the tour operator. Last year, Playa de Muro's Continental Park became flavour of the month, or months, in the same forum; it had gone AI.

While there have always been those who have discovered a particular hotel and kept on returning to it, the holiday decision has usually been based on choice of resort over anything else. But perhaps this is changing, or has indeed changed. It is possible to hypothesise that the resort is now secondary (or lower in the hierarchy) behind the top spot of a good-value AI. For many who opt for all-inclusive, the resort itself is largely irrelevant anyway. If indeed it is the case that the decision process is skewed away from the resort, where does that leave the promotion of the resort? The tour operators that exalt this or that resort whilst interspersing their brochure or website space with the best possible AI deals may be seen as promoting the particular resort, but in truth it is neither here nor there. Much of the resort promotion is very similar in any event, and where it differs in terms of certain specifics, one has to ask how much impact those specifics have. Do, for example, the Roman town and city walls of Alcúdia have any bearing upon the fact that your average Joe and Joan Holidaymaker send off their booking form for the Condes or the Club Mac? I would very much doubt it. Or rather, yes they may have a bearing, but only as an informational element; they are not crucial and nor are they necessarily going to form part of the holidaymaker's itinerary. In the case of Can Picafort, a resort lacking any obvious points of differentiation, the choice of the Viva Village is purely and simply an AI one, which is not to say that there is anything wrong with either the Viva Village or the decision process, but it is to say that Can Picafort is an incidental, a fact of geography and town naming.

To come back to the theme of 40 years since the BBC started its "Holiday" programme, back in 1969 your average holidaymaker would have taken notice. But he is now far more sophisticated in an unsophisticated fashion. He may know that there are city walls, but these are not what he wants; he seeks unsophistication and pure convenience, and is thus more sophisticated in making a choice without the trappings of what to him are largely irrelevancies. He is less adventurous but content in the knowledge that he does not have to justify his holiday in terms of anything other than the ease of the pool, the entertainment and the beer, all on tap at the all-inclusive. He can pick and choose if he wants to indulge in those "extras" of the local culture, and if he doesn't wish to, then who is to say he is wrong?

The promotion supporting mass tourism has always been inexact; by definition, mass tourism demands a mass promotional message. It has always been wrong for the simple reason that tourists differ. The all-inclusive has forged a quite different and large niche within the mass-tourism market, and the promotion to this niche falls in the main to the hotels and the tour operators. Resort and island promotion is ill-directed. Consequently, there has to be an admission that, while mass tourism is not finished, its mass has been diluted into numerous categories, all of which require different messages and different promotion. One size fits all was never the best option, and it is now totally discredited. For this reason, the "estación náutica" branding of Alcúdia could be a very sensible thing, so long as it is understood that it is one facet of the resort and pitched at a defined market (or markets), one that, by and large, is not all-inclusive. Different promotional messages can co-exist as part of an overall promotion of a given resort, but if they are not presented the danger is that the all-inclusive, given its seemingly inexorable rise, will become the new mass tourism. And if it reaches critical mass, then the resorts do indeed become irrelevant.

Yesterday's title - Deep Blue Something ( Today's title - this is a TV question. The title is that of a controversial drama from 1984. What was it about?


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Breakfast At Tiffany's

One of the oldest of truths regarding footballers is that they always take their holidays in Mallorca. Not so long ago, Frank Lampard was seen in the VIP lounge at Magaluf's BCM; Graham Le Saux, albeit he has retired, is a not infrequent visitor to the island's west coast; Brian Clough had a holiday home in Cala Bona, and Mallorca features in the film about him, "Damned United". Well, it used to be the case that, the season finished, the airlines would be filled with footballers heading for the fleshpots and beaches of Mallorca. Until, that is, they started to earn huge amounts of money and new resorts sprang up in which they could spend those vast amounts - Dubai, for reasons best known to them, for instance. If the Premier League is nowadays more likely to decamp to foreign playing-fields further away, Mallorca is still the stuff of Leagues One and Two. And so indeed it was yesterday at Puerto Alcúdia's Foxes Arms. For there was Tranmere Rovers central defender Ben Chorley, one time of Arsenal and Wimbledon. The "other" Liverpool club just missed out on the play-offs, so time to head for the sun and also to partake of the full English breakfast. Away from the gaze of Ronnie Moore and the Rovers dieticians and nutritionists, Ben was happily tucking into bacon, sausage and a fried egg. Those were the days, before pasta for breakfast, when Cloughie would send his sides out full of a steak and chips lunch and a whisky, and John Robertson would have double helpings. But they are still here, up to a point. Bear in mind, though, that when Chorley pitches up as Leicester City's new strong man at the heart of the defence, it was probably all due to a chance breakfast and thereafter the direct line to Nigel Pearson.

In the environmental pressure groups league, local agitators GOB remain something of a Blackburn Rovers compared with the Champions League-spot top four of Greenpeace. GOB may aspire to playing in the Nou Camp, but they have to settle for a Monday evening away date with Stoke. Greenpeace can court the Hiddinks and Ancelottis of the enviro lobbying world, while Blackburn make do with a Bill Oddie-style Sam Allardyce. And so it is that, when Greenpeace make a pronouncement, the world is inclined to take a bit more notice - possibly. Greenpeace offer a regular assessment of the island's environmental blackspots. It's a sort of footballers of the year award without the footballers and only aimed at the turkeys of the Premiership. Step forward, therefore, the Son Bosc finca and its damn golf course. Yep, it's still there on the roll call, and perhaps rather more controversially is a list of four municipalities grouped under what is termed "corrupción urbanistica", one of which is ... Pollensa.

Yesterday's title - Dave and Ansil Collins, "Double Barrel" ( Today's title - well, Tiffany's may not be Foxes, but sounds like a footballer's wife, so it'll do. But ... who did the song?


Friday, May 22, 2009

I Am The Magnificent

There was a sort of official opening a couple of days ago. The mayor of Muro and some worthies from the Mallorca Council stood on the bridge over the untroubled water of the canal in Playa de Muro and posed for the camera, announcing - in the words of the Council's president - that the works that have created the newly laid-out stretch of road that runs the five kilometres between Can Picafort and the fish-hook, some say pointed thing, roundabout are "magnificent and emblematic" (taken in translation from "The Diario"). Fine words indeed - for a bit of road. The crowning glory of the five kilometres of Muro tarmac is the bridge itself, now with pavements to both sides and a not unattractive metal barrier on one side. It's all been done, so says the report, with the safety of different users in mind, be they on foot, in car and probably also on trike, in road-going train, on roller blades or in baby buggies as a roller-blading mother pushes them across the bridge and down the road. I'd like to believe that there will indeed be an avoidance of accidents, an aim of the road and bridge.

The problems with the new bridge are that the road has effectively been narrowed, that people cross over it, not at a crossing-point, but from the path from the sea to the entrance to Albufera, and that the not unattractive metal barrier has a gap in it where a tree remains - what chance some likely drunk lad fancying a bit of a dive into the canal on his staggering walk back to the hotel one night? The concrete barrier on the other side of the road is really something of a hazard; it requires not a great deal of imagination to foresee a vehicle coming into heavy contact with it. Of course, the design of the road and of the bridge is such that, so long as drivers and others use it sensibly and so long as drivers do not speed, there should be no accidents. "Sensibly." Not a word one hears too often in connection with road use of any form. I wonder if the starting-point for such design should be irrational behaviour rather than rational. Take for example the cyclist who suddenly emerged onto the bridge and made a car swerve and almost go head-on the other day. Where was the rationality with that cyclist? I have previously mentioned the fact that pedestrians are obscured by hedges, cars and trees at some of the crossing-points.

I once referred to the bridge road as being "nuts". At least there is now a pavement where there used not to be one; it is less nuts than it was. But it is still nuts in that it doesn't take full account of the nutcases. I hope I'm wrong.

Yesterday's title - Arctic Monkeys ( Today's title - well no, not me, but the road. This is from ... ?


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Too Much To Ask

"We're doing a survey. We'd like your views about ..." It's the oldest trick in the book. Stop someone with an apparently innocent request to ask if you might do some seemingly legitimate market research, and use it as a means to something else. It's a trick that the scratch-cardists are using. They want to know if people are satisfied with things in Puerto Alcúdia. How dare they? Without wishing to sound like "disgusted of Tunbridge Wells", it is an absolute disgrace - at different levels. It is the thing that the market research industry has fought against for years, and for the scratch-cardists to even vaguely suggest that they might be doing something that is a) market research or b) has Alcúdia's interests at heart is little short of scandalous. They are not conducting market research and they care not one iota about Alcúdia. If they did, they would not be helping to harm the resort's reputation.

Can Picafort and its frontline
Can Picafort's hoteliers had a meeting with tourism minister Nadal the other day. Top of the agenda, as reported by "The Diario", was the state of the frontline, a project for the improvement of which has been on the cards for five years, but which has yet to come to fruition. This project started to take on greater urgency last year when the German newspaper "Bild" laid into Can Picafort beach, the frontline included, and went so far as to recommend that tourists go to Playa de Muro beach instead. It was exaggerating the state of the frontline and the beach area, but the paper had a point, and some local politicos appeared to take the report's sentiments to heart. Yet still no plans are concrete - so to speak.

Can Picafort, despite the over-abundance of hotels, is not an unpleasant place. Lacking in character perhaps but appealing in a let's not pretend this is anything but a holiday resort way. The paseo marítimo (promenade) is one of its main drawbacks. There may be some gripes about parts of Puerto Pollensa's frontline looking a tad tacky nowadays, but it is a thing of beauty compared with the in-parts ramshackle appearance of Can Picafort's. One has to admire how Puerto Alcúdia transformed its main prom, in order to appreciate what some TLC can achieve.

The hoteliers were also interested in the minister creating a Nordic walking area. Oh, here we go. Alcúdia's got one, so we'd better have one as well. That said, Can Picafort is holiday home to a large German contingent and so it may well make sense for there to indeed be a Nordic walking zone. No reason why not. However, this request does once again highlight the degree to which there is a "follow-the-leader" mentality; golf courses being the prime example. It also highlights the apparent lack of some, what one might call, lateral thought in terms of doing something different. In defence of Nordic walking, however, if a special "park" is established, it would in all likelihood reside in a natural environment - forest land, rather as it does in Alcúdia. It would be essentially environmentally neutral and healthy; it would not be something which should raise any great objection. They should do it.

Alcúdia Nordic walking event
And while on Nordic walking, this weekend will see something of a stick-in or pole-in, however you call it, of Nordic walkers in Alcúdia. On Saturday afternoon, a grand trek will start in the old town and then, from 18:00, one to Barcares. On Sunday, there will be a second go, with - from 11:15 - a walk from the old town to Sunwing via the beach. This is all part of the "Alcúdia Living Sport" summer programme of healthy activities.

Yesterday's title - Madonna ( Today's title - from something fluorescent. Who? Think "Dancefloor".


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Holiday, Celebrate

Forty years ago and forty years on. This blog has celebrated all sorts of anniversaries, but in a sense the forty years since the BBC started its "Holiday" programme somehow seem imbued with greater pathos than even anniversaries such as 30 years since Elvis and ten years since Diana. Those years are more personal, more intimate, more understandable.

How it's all changed - holiday that is. I guess the BBC decided to finally ditch the "Holiday" programme two years ago because there was no need for it. Why would there be, when the internet can offer you videos, webcams, forums, informed and misinformed sites, when there are any number of books, of DVDs, any number of this and that. The "Holiday" programme was, though, its own portal, one into a world that was new, different, mysterious. In 1969 foreign holidays were the exception. The destination was largely unknown. What information that was available came from the brochure and was often a work of fiction.

My first Mallorcan holiday was in 1969. Arenal. See how things change. Arenal barely raises a mention on the Brit Mallorcan itinerary nowadays; it's Berlin, Bremen and Baden-Baden. I can remember little of it, except that it was August and at times unbearably hot; except the scene from the hotel room of what amounted to a shanty town on some scrubland where one family appeared to live under a tin sheet. How things change. Except a bar across from the beach where my father and his mate spent many an hour and was memorable if only for being an establishment of alcohol that was not denied to minors. Except going out one night to some show - no idea where or what it was (a manor house maybe) - where they came round with one of those thin-tapered wine/sangria dispensers and literally poured it down your neck, even the necks of minors. Except my older sister and her friend meeting some local boys and there being a bit of a to-do, from which I was excluded. I guess some stuff doesn't really change.

Perhaps there was an element of it all being a status symbol. "We're going foreign this year. Mallorca." Though of course we would have certainly spelt it with a "j" and probably pronounced it with one. We got a colour TV the following year, just in time for the World Cup, but we could also now see holiday destinations as they really were, rather than stripped of their blues and yellows.

The telly was our eye on holiday, it was our only eye. The "Holiday" programme - Cliff Michelmore, John Carter, Frank Bough, Des Lynam, Kathy Tayler, Anne Gregg, Jill Dando, Monty Don. It begat the ITV version with Judith Chalmers, wishing we were there. And so it remained our eye until the devil unleashed the internet and spoiled us with information, spoiled us into becoming virtual tourists, denied the excitement of the unknown. There is of course excitement about holiday, of course there is, but we now know everything we need to know before we even arrive at the check-in. The mystery's gone. The fascination has disappeared. No more are we innocents abroad with innocence as to where we are going. As tourists we are like lovers from whom the spark has gone after the initial lust of newness. Instead we merely cuddle up to our destination and fall asleep in a familiar touch and embrace.

And what of the Mallorcans? Were they to know that on an island many kilometres north were people watching a man in a suit with sturdy-rimmed glasses imparting knowledge as to resorts such as Arenal? Were they to know that the name of their island was to become, for many years, a pejorative by-word for total naffness? Were they to know that this holiday movement was to bequeath Alcúdia its Mile or Can Picafort a whole new town of unrelenting hotelness or Muro a length of road running parallel to its playa and to even more hotelness?

Forty years. Not a lifetime, but millions of holiday lives. No, I don't suppose the Mallorcans or even Cliff Michelmore could have anticipated all those.

Yesterday's title - The band was Love and the theme tune to the original BBC "Holiday" programme was by them and was actually called "The Castle". There is a youtube but thanks to WMG you can't hear it. Shame. Today's title - probably had this before, but seems appropriate.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Forever Changes

Continuing with an all-inclusive theme from yesterday, the endless debate about AI hotels is the extent to which they result in guests staying put and never going out and therefore not spending, thus depriving local bars etc. of much-needed custom. It is a sore point with many traders, and not without justification. There are undoubtedly those who never or hardly ever venture beyond the confines of the hotel, but, certainly in the Mallorca context, I have never been wholly convinced by the argument that no-one much does go out. There is a thread under the all-inclusives section of the fine Holiday Truths forum which I thought was quite revealing. One angle is the "convenience" factor, in the sense of not having to take money to the pool and worry about purses and wallets. Anyway, here is the link; it does make quite interesting reading -

Much as many would wish the all-inclusive away, it is not going to happen. Convenience, otherwise known as lack of hassle, is a far from unimportant factor in the holiday decision. Gone are the days when holiday was an adventure into the largely unknown. Had all-inclusives existed 40 years ago, they would probably have cleaned up. Or maybe not. Perhaps then, tourists were so excited by going abroad that they would go out and discover their holiday environment, regardless of what board they had booked. Today's holidaymaker is too damn blasé by half and wants it all on a plate, preferably a plate next to the sun lounger and ordered by means of waving a wristband. But had AIs been around and been the sort of all-round entertainment Butlins they have become (and Butlins would have resonated far more strongly with the late '60s tourist), they would have completely re-shaped resorts and the nature of holiday. It is perhaps salutary to try and imagine such a scenario. What this would have meant for all the bars and restaurants. What this would have meant for the resorts. It's hypothetical, of course, but it just goes to emphasise how holiday has changed and how markets change, and all-inclusives are a major force in changing markets - not for the best, many would say. But to continue the chain of thought, suppose that somewhere like Alcúdia had predominantly offered all-inclusive deals since the late 1960s. How would this have affected the place as we know it? Massively. It would not be the size it is, it would not have the atmosphere, it would not have put the money into the local authority coffers. Maybe it's this last aspect that should create most pause for thought. Say, also, Puerto Pollensa had been AI since the days when Cliff Michelmore introduced the first "Holiday 69" programme - and note that 69 (a mere 40 years ago this year). How very very different things would be now.

All-inclusives are not going away, but where - ultimately - do they lead?

Yesterday's title - The Fratellis, "A Heady Tale" ( Today's title - which American band recorded this important '60s album, and what connection does this band have with that "Holiday" programme?


Monday, May 18, 2009

From Off My Wrist

Now how about this for a bit of a dodgy carry-on? Heard the one about tourists being asked to sell their all-inclusive hotel wristbands which are then either sold on (at a profit) or just used to get free food and drink, while those who've sold them go and say they've lost their band and ask for and get a replacement? Who do you think, allegedly, or so I'm told, are to the fore in doing the buying of these wristbands? Go on, guess. Think "on the streets" and something else starting with an "s". I also understand that one hotel in the port area that has been affected by this is now well aware of what's going on. So if you flog your band for a tenner and go and demand a new one, they may just be a tad suspicious. Mind you, this wristband business or whatever system exists to show that the punter is all-inclusive is not much of a system. I know of a couple who stayed in a well-known all-inclusive in Can Picafort on a half-board basis, or at least that was what they had booked, only to discover that, with the exception of obtaining spirits, the hotel took no notice as to what board status there was. Anyone, it would seem, could have come in and helped themselves to the buffet, as indeed did this couple. The hotels should come up with something more foolproof - the scanning of a microchip implanted into the skull perhaps.

Industrial quantities
News that businesses are deserting large industrial estates in Palma because of the costs of the premises, and this despite cuts to rentals by almost a third, does make one wonder about the industrial estate in Alcúdia. Apparently, says "The Bulletin", industrial estate plots in Mallorca are the most expensive in Spain, so under the current economic circumstances it isn't surprising that businesses are looking elsewhere. But there are also a lot of them. There are, for example, estates in Pollensa, Can Picafort and now Alcúdia, the latter recently developed after fifteen years of yes-no-maybe-and-finally-yes, developed to some of the highest environmental standards, and empty. Maybe it's too early and there will be businesses clamouring to get space, but that might now seem questionable. The one advantage that the Alcúdia estate has over the other two is its proximity to the road leading to the motorway, but whether this is a major advantage is also probably questionable, though the timing of the green light for its development seemed coincidental with the building of the new road into Alcúdia.

Why does every town seem to need an industrial estate? Is there really that much demand? Or was there ever that much demand? There is a sense of the can-we-have-a-golf-course me-too about them: other towns have one, so we want one as well. But to what end? Perhaps it will all be fine and the Alcúdia estate will thrive and be packed with all sorts of business, but take a look around, for instance, the Pollensa estate and you might begin to doubt this.

Yesterday's title - Enya, "Orinoco Flow" ( Today's title - line from something by a Scottish band with an Italian name (and not Del Amitri if that is indeed Italian, which it isn't).


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sail Away

The "estación náutica". You may recall this being mentioned previously. On Friday, various businesses got together in Alcúdia to sign into being the first such "estación" in Mallorca. If you don't recall this or are unclear as to what it is, here is what the head of the town hall's tourism describes it as: "a tourist product with accommodation and water-sport activities sold as a tourist package" which will allow the tourist to engage in things such as sailing, underwater activities and skiing (water skiing, one presumes) and complementary activities like horse-riding and golf. In other words, the tourist will be able to do things that he has until now. So what's the deal? Good question.

The first problem with this whole notion is how it is presented to tourists. In the case of British tourists, this problem starts with what it is called. Literally, "estación náutica" means nautical station, i.e. it doesn't mean anything. Let's hope they don't resort (sic) to "nautical centre"; the word nautical is widely used locally and used erroneously as the English-speaker associates it with sailing and sailing only. The closest translation that will mean something will be water-sports centre or resort, and this, one suspects, is how it will be presented. But the trouble with this is that it suggests a physical centre, and there is not going to be one; all it is, is a coming-together of existing activities under this "brand". And that, essentially, is what this whole exercise is - a marketing exercise. There's nothing wrong with promoting Alcúdia as a resort with lots of water-sport activities, but to call it a water-sports resort would also hint at something rather more than the packaging of otherwise separate attractions, accommodation and probably restaurants.

Underlying this concept is a desire to attract the so-called "quality" tourist, i.e. the one who has pretty deep pockets. But does a branding process achieve this, or will it? There is some advantage for tourists who like to organise activities prior to their holiday and this they will be able to do, but not everyone wants this. The tourist interest is more often to know what is available as opposed to actually booking it in advance. And this availability already exists.

At a more altruistic level, there is a further notion that this is a communal promotion of the resort by individual businesses which have only the best interests of Alcúdia at heart. Oh that it was. I am told that meetings have been conspicuous by the degree of self-interest that has been evident. Frankly, you wouldn't expect anything else. Businesses will only get involved if there is something in it for them. Why hadn't they got together before, rather than have the idea "sold" to them by the Spanish government's tourist promotional wing?

It's not a bad idea in itself. Alcúdia does have a lot of water sports; it is a significant centre for yachting and sailing. To promote the resort in this way is fine. But I can predict that at some point the internet forums will be filling up with Brit tourists saying that they have heard that there is a new water-sports centre in Alcúdia. And this, in a nutshell, is where what is otherwise a fair approach falters in terms of its name and therefore its marketing.

AlcudiaPollensa At Eurovision
Our annual invite to the centre of music cutting-edge, this year we were taken to Moscow and fêted, as befits this best of all blogs. And what an event. The highlight was the opening set - you can't keep a good communist or ex-communist country down; it was just like the Beijing Olympics. But the bird introducing the gig had scrubbed up well and had looked to create a pro-Spanish vote with her flamenco dress - not that she kept it on, as in she changed at least three times. And not that it helped Spain.

Ronan Keating co-wrote the Danish entry and seemed to have been singing it as well, the Spanish Soraya wanted to be taken and shaken - like a vacuuming ad of yore. The trick when she "disappeared" was disappointing; she didn't disappear, even if she did later given her lack of votes. Jade. Unremarkable song, but even for a cynic like myself, it was a hell of a performance; quite out of keeping with the rest. Spanish TV had the Spain entry as being among the favourites, and what happened (despite fraternal seven points from Portugal)? Second to bottom. Anyway, one can but hope that Lord Lloyd-Webber was well remunerated so that he can return to Mallorca for a future birthday thrash.

Yesterday's title - Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger and The Trinity (; it was first done by The Band and was written by Rick Danko and Bob Dylan. Today's title - usually known by this title, but it's not right. Who is she?


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wheel's On Fire

When talking about the train, be it the extension to Alcúdia or its history (as was the case on 14 May), it might also be appropriate to bring into the equation the safety and emergency procedures. Well, it might be - is - appropriate if the train operator and the staff were talking about them. One of the trains that runs between Sa Pobla and Palma caught fire the other day at the Verge de Lluc station coming into Palma. It didn't seem like much of an incident, so I didn't bother mentioning it, until a report appeared in "The Diario" yesterday which suggested that there are deficiencies in the emergency procedures. It could, say could, have been a more serious incident. As it was, all the 200 or so passengers were evacuated unharmed and without having inhaled anything toxic. But apparently it took ten minutes from the time the fire was detected to the fire service being notified.

"The Diario" has been kind enough to post a short video of the incident to the Daily Motion site. Here is the link - In the clip, someone shouts out to go, that it could explode; another, on the phone, says that they had intended to put the fire out with extinguishers, but ... . Perhaps most troublingly, workers are quoted as saying, since the incident, that "no protocol exists to deal with such situations".

More on the orchid and the finca
And of course in the aftermath of the environment ministry having made its announcement about the orchid on the Son Bosc finca (yesterday), up pops the oppostion on Muro town hall to say that the finca should be deemed as land covered by the law on the coasts and therefore protected and considered as part of the nature park (of Albufera). The reasoning behind this is that the finca, so the opposition say, forms a second line of dunes and that therefore there should be a reclassification of what constitutes - in this case - public coastal land which cannot be built on.

Oh God, on it goes, and on and on, and for all the environmental discussion and argument, we never seem to be presented with a really good case as to why the wretched course should be built.

Yesterday's title - White Stripes ( Today's title - best known by? But who did it first?


Friday, May 15, 2009

Blue Orchid

Once and for all, but probably not, we seem to be heading towards something like a definitive ruling on the most sensitive aspect of the planned golf course on the Son Bosc finca near Playa de Muro. The environment ministry has made it clear that the rare orchid on the finca should be protected by an area of 150 metres around where it grows. By coming up with this restriction, the ministry has, in effect, given its blessing to the project, though it has also stated that the eighth hole of the course cannot be sited where it was originally intended as it would interfere with the orchid's natural habitat. The ruling, if one can call it that, is now being presented to the various interested parties, one of which - the environmental pressure group GOB - will doubtless have a finca-full of objections. Others, like the hoteliers' association in Playa de Muro, which has backed the project from the off, will probably be only too happy to spin the whole thing as their being environmentally conscientious - a golf course that preserves the natural rarity of a species. One can almost read the literature now. Presumably, the eighth hole will go somewhere else, unless the course is to have a unique selling point in being the only one on Mallorca with seventeen holes.

Clear blue water (or maybe not) - Puerto Pollensa
Pollensa's mayor may not have been flavour of the past several months in Puerto Pollensa, but the other day he was able to appear in more favourable light and to announce that the long-lasting problems with water - of different types - have pretty much been solved, up to 60 million euros having been spent over the last eight years to arrive at the solution: four pumping stations have cost 40 million alone. This upgrading of "sanitation" is, according to the mayor, more important than the general beautifying of the port, though there is some suggestion that the frontline and the church square will be given a facelift - at some point. However, projects for doing so will have to await financing, which suggests that there may be a bit of a wait. Having spent 60 million on getting the water right, there may not be a lot of spare cash sloshing around, albeit "The Bulletin" is indicating that the flower beds in the square might be for the chop. Strange, I should have thought that flower beds, kept tidily, would make the place quite appealing. And unlike drainage systems, they wouldn't cost a shedload.

Scratch cards
The scratch-cardists are back. There we were thinking that that "for rent" sign on the office in Puerto Alcúdia's Calle Maristany opposite the small parking area meant that they might be no more. But no.

I don't really wish to go into all of this, well not yet anyway. The point to make, though, apart from the hassle and sometimes verbal abuse that those in the street subject tourists to, is that anyone approached should be very, very wary. It's best to just say no and walk away. Don't be taken in by what is usually a nice manner. The company involved is called To Holiday, which appears to also be Real Liberty; both names are on the office.

For the time being, here are a couple of links, one from Holiday Watchdog, the other from "The Independent":

Today's title - husband-and-wife but claimed to be brother-and-sister duo.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cook's Tour

Thinking that it might be cheaper to stay in the UK for the annual holiday this year? Thomas Cook would suggest otherwise. Reported on in yesterday's "Diario" is a cost comparison for various holiday destinations, based on various prices including those for a beer, a coffee and a three-course meal. The most expensive of the eleven destinations is the UK. Of others, Mallorca is the second most expensive behind Cyprus. The island may not be cheap in the way that Goa is (slightly less than a third of the Mallorcan daily cost), but it still comes out some six and a half euros less than the UK. Of the three items quoted, the prices in Mallorca - on average it would seem - are 2.78 euros for a beer (and this is for a caña, i.e. more like a half), 1.67 for a coffee and 22.26 euros for the meal.

These findings are not especially surprising, though the fact that Mallorca is nine euros per day per person more expensive than the Iberian peninsula does make one wonder as to relative costs between the island and the mainland. But of the Mallorcan prices, all seem a bit on the steep side. It depends where you drink a beer or a coffee or eat a meal, but each can be purchased for less than the amounts mentioned. A coffee (café con leche) is typically 1.50, but you can pay less. A three-course menú del día can be as low as seven or eight euros, and there are places that are offering them for less. The problem with the menú del día is that all too often your average tourist will not avail him or herself of it as it tends to be confined to "Spanish" restaurants and therefore funny foreign food. The second problem is that the menú del día is not to be had in the evenings, which is when, typically, tourists might prefer to take their main meal of the day. The third is that you don't get a lot of choice.

Nevertheless, it is still quite feasible to have a good evening meal for a lower price. It also depends how hungry you are, but there are plenty of places which will serve up seriously good portions as a main meal that will set you back maybe 12 to 13 euros. The starters are often pretty substantial as well; a main course will usually suffice. As far as beer is concerned, the British brews will always tend to be more expensive than local ones. But if one's taste is for Tetley's rather than a Saint Mick or Cruzcampo then it will make more of a dent in the budget.

As a comparative exercise between different destinations, the Thomas Cook survey is probably, in general terms, fairly accurate, but the savvy holidaymaker can do it for a lower amount. It may require a bit of looking around and drawing your own comparisons, but the prices stated should not be taken as gospel.

An historical curio about Mallorcan trains
Occasionally, one stumbles across something quite unintentionally. And so it was yesterday. An article reproduced from "The Railway Magazine" for April 1936. Here are some snippets:

On actually getting to Mallorca: "the most usual route - via Paris and Barcelona, and thence by the very fine 3,000-ton motor-ships that ply nightly, reaching Palma, the capital, in the early morning. The journey by way of Barcelona takes about 43 hours."

On railways themselves: "In March, 1921, an extension from Manacor to Arta, 30 km. (18¾ miles), was opened." (It no longer exists of course but may be reactivated.)
"At the present time extensions of the railway are proposed from La Puebla (Sa Pobla), about 14 km. (8¾ miles), to serve the growing residential town of Alcudia and the port there, at which an increasing number of steamships call."
"The island is increasingly popular with both Spanish and foreign tourists, and there would seem to be scope for the development of more speedy rail transport, such as might be provided by fast and comfortable railcars."

How fascinating is this. It once took nearly two days to get from England to Palma, the Alcúdia extension was planned over 70 years ago and there was a call for more speedy rail transport. Of these, only the time of travel to the island has really changed. And note when this was written. 1936. The year of the start of the Civil War and thus the Franco era and thus, for many years, economic stagnation.

For the whole article, which does have a lot of technical stuff about gauges and such like but which is thoroughly recommended, go to

Yesterday's title - Paul Simon ( Today's title - no question, just an explanation. Cook's Tour was what Thomas Cook first offered his travellers; the journey to Palma was once something of a Cook's Tour in terms of time; and meals are made by cooks. Oh well, suit yourselves.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Still Crazy After All These Years

There's going to be another "day" soon. On Monday to be exact. Know what it is? Go on, you must know. No. Oh well, not that surprising. It will in fact be the 31st international museum day. There. I'm sure you're glad about that. I confess that I had not, until today, known that there was such a day. That would be 30 previous years that had passed me, and probably you, by. I only know that this will be the 31st because Alcúdia town hall emailed me; the Pollentia museum and the Roman town will be participating.

What is this museum day precisely? It is organised by the International Council of Museums, and this year's theme is "museums and tourism". That, I suppose, is why the town hall and the Balearic Government's tourism ministry are giving it their backing. According to the ICOM website, museums - including, one supposes, the one in Alcúdia - will "be celebrating ethical, responsible, sustainable tourism, showing how heritage can bring tourists and local communities together in new, mutually beneficial relationships". A grand vision. And quite frankly, it sounds like tosh. In other pronouncements on the site are references to "sustainable cultural tourism". We've been to the sustainable tourism theme before, now we must add a second adjective - cultural. It all sounds very laudable, but what on earth does it mean? Doubtless the ICOM have a clear idea, as probably do some "museum professionals" to which the council also refers. But does the tourist in the street or traipsing around the museum care a jot whether it is sustainable? And would he know it if it were to be presented to him or her?

I sense in all this a distance, a distance between the grand ideas and philosophies of bodies such as the council and the public. How precisely should heritage "bring tourists and local communities together in new, mutually beneficial relationships"? Let me suggest that it is not by presenting that heritage in a sterile manner and it is not in a manner that does not benefit local economies. In simple terms, there has to be some monetary advantage; that sounds more like sustainability to me. This all relates, in the local context, to the creation of the new museum for Pollentia in Alcúdia. A mutually beneficial relationship would be one that attracted new tourists and a far greater number of existing tourists who might not otherwise be inclined to go to the museum. And that is done by making it exciting. Sustainable cultural tourism can only be sustained if there are people who are willing to actively engage in it, i.e. by visiting a museum. It will not be sustained and therefore sustainable if it is just dull, which is what many museums can be. And that dullness is merely reinforced by the rather pompous, albeit worthy, mission statements and the rest of the International Council of Museums. When they come to dreaming up the theme for the 32nd year of the International Museum Day, here's an idea they might wish to consider. Museums and Fun. Making museums sustainable by making them places where everyone can have a damn good time. It doesn't mean doing away with the heritage; precisely the opposite. It means promoting it in a way that appeals to a contemporary tourist.

Link to the site for the International Council of Museums -

Yesterday's title - Paul Hardcastle, "Nineteen" ( Today's title - well, crazy is probably overdoing it, but after 30 years ...? Anyway, who was this?


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Almost 800,000

We're heading for another election - not just the European one - but one for the leader of the nationalist Unió Mallorquina (UM) party. Seasoned readers of this blog might be saying that it wasn't that long ago that there was one for this post. And they would be right. It was reported here on 1 December 2007 that Miguel Nadal had been elected president of the party after a fractious process that saw some falling-out with other leading members, notably Alcúdia's mayor Miguel Ferrer who subsequently became and is the party secretary. The new round of selection could well see Ferrer getting the top job. Hoorah for Alcúdia - maybe.

Nadal's name has come up in connection with one of the island's pretty regular corruption scandals, while the party has suffered a period of some instability, a point made by Ferrer. This instability has included the removal of the previous tourism minister, whose job was taken by Nadal. It's probably just politics and political parties anywhere, but Mallorca does seem to have more than its fair share of turnover at the head of its parties: the president of the Partido Popular, Rosa Estarás, recently announced that she was off to a gig in Brussels.

Meanwhile, in the capacity of his day job as tourism chief, Nadal has been outlining to the local parliament what he's up to in that day job, such as the promotional effort in Manchester where fire runs and the like were on display to entice Mancunians to the Balearics. While "hundreds of thousands" (words in translation from "The Diario") were able to get to know what the Balearics have to offer, one has to ask if they will be checking to see if there is some sort of surge from the Manchester area for Balearic holidays. If not ... . Oh, and hundreds of thousands. Hundreds of thousands? What were they doing, including the whole population of the borough and city of Manchester in that figure plus a few more hundreds of thousands?*

Whether it's down to what the minister is doing or not, the general level of tourism activity in Mallorca does not seem as bad as many were fearing. It depends where one's talking about, but June figures are reasonable enough, and it is not only the rather more robust German market that's holding things up; the Brits are coming in greater numbers than had been thought. This is not only reassuring, it is also - I think - not unsurprising. While people have clearly suffered as a result of the economic crisis, there was always the notion that they would not give up on their holidays. Whether they spend a lot is of course a different matter, but if the numbers coming are anything like last year then that should be considered a result.

* Greater Manchester has over 2 million people, but the city and borough itself is about half a million.

Thought I should just add, as this is about the biggest game of the season, that Barcelona are coming to Mallorca for the annual ritual slaughter of the local team. No Frills have some tickets - go to for info.

Yesterday's title - "Motherless Children", Steve Miller Band ( Today's title - well, don't know if that was the number in Manchester, but where does this number come from? Something with a number as a title. Think Vietnam.


Monday, May 11, 2009

When Their Mother Is Gone

One of Jose Mourinho's more admirable traits is a willingness to make substitutions in the first half or at half-time when things aren't going that well for his team. Do something about it early, rather than wait. It's something of a leap from The Special One to an Indian in Alcúdia, but the principle is similar - I suppose. The second Indian of Siraj, Mother India, which has been maternal for a mere month or so, is to be reborn as a steak house, or maybe that's give birth. Step forward J.R. Ewing, Pammy, Bobby and Miss Ellie, for it is to be called Dallas. I always thought the theme music to "Dallas" sounded a bit like the Mars a day, helps you work, rest and play advert, which I mention apropos of absolutely nothing, save "Dallas". Perhaps though, Pammy will soon awaken from a long sleep and discover that the economic crisis was all a dream and that the world is just one nice warm shower, a big house on a ranch and a Man from Atlantis-husband with an oil company. And so it will be for all of us who will suddenly snap from gloomy crisis mode into a sunny disposition of bulging pockets and a strong pound. Or perhaps it isn't a dream. Anyway, this isn't really the reason for Siraj Mourinho's pre-half time getting the chaps on the bench to warm up; what is, or so it seems, is that the maternal Indian was nicking customers from the - er, where's this metaphor thing going - from the let's call it the mother ship Indian, aka Taste of India. Hence, he's taking off Sachin Tendulkar and bringing on Brian McBride, or something like that - I can't think of any Indian footballers; there must be some, but you get my drift. Don't you?

Catalan protest
Here we go again. Or here we went again. On Saturday there was another demo type thing. Part protest and part mass advocacy. For ... Catalan. I can hear the sounds of pencils being sharpened by antagonised expats preparing to fire off outraged letters to "The Bulletin". Actually, the letters are not normally that outraged. Writers always seem to try and maintain a balance by, for example, invoking the unacceptable discrimination towards and banning of Catalan during Franco's era, but then going on to basically issue a plague on both the Catalan houses - whatever they might be. It's a similar angle to the "I'm not a racist but ..." line of argument.

The gathering of pro-Catalanists in Palma included those from the health sector, defending the insistence on the use of Catalan by medical staff in the island's national health service, as well as some usual political suspects from the usual political party suspects. In other words, the Partido Popular was pretty thin on the ground. The marchers' protests were aimed at "attacks" from the likes of the PP on the language. But one can't help feeling that there is a sense in which the protesters doth protest too much. If anything, one would have said that Castilian was the language under attack.

And how popular was this demonstration? Depends on which figures you want to believe. The police said that there were 4,000; the organisers said 15,000. Not much difference there then. Let's say there were 9,500. Would that be a lot? Don't really know. Perhaps people were too busy doing other things, like running businesses and making pre-half time substitutions.

German nudists
More man in Munich. Yep, he's back and still not living in Munich, but Alastair tells me, further to nude Nordic walking and all things German nonconformist (not in a religious sense but in every sense), that there is in fact a German airline that will fly German nudists - tackle out whilst en route - to some island in the Baltic Sea. What more proof does one need as to German loopiness and admirable individualism?

Yesterday's title - The Eagles ( Today's title - a line from a traditional song given excellent treatment on an album by the joker, space cowboy, gangster of love. Who he and therefore the band?


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Take It Easy

More road sense or lack of sense. The otherwise wise creation of crossing-points and islands now along the whole stretch of the carretera (main road) into Playa de Muro has nevertheless thrown up the potential hazard that comes from drivers having their views obscured. Always assuming people choose to use the crossing-points, as opposed to wandering across wherever the fancy takes them, the pedestrian access to several of these points is through gaps in the hedges along the sides of the road. Moreover, the parking that is available to either side of the road goes right up to the crossing-points. So what, you might think. Well, the so what is that the combination of parked vehicles and hedges means that pedestrians emerging to use the crossings can and do take you by surprise. It's bad if they are wearing dark clothes and at night; it's not so clever in daylight. The reaction of drivers, on getting a pedestrian suddenly appearing, can be to slam on the brakes; thanks very much, mate, you've smacked me up the back. Or maybe they don't react all. Of course, most pedestrians will not just simply walk across without stopping and looking. At least, you hope that would be the case. It just goes to emphasise that the speed limit of 50 is important to stick to; in summer it is, in truth, too high.

Manners. At the risk of falling into the trap of more cultural stereotyping, let it never be said that the Brits do not have an awful lot of courtesy, the like of which others tend not to. It's remarkable that the Brits ever get anywhere, the time they spend holding doors open, allowing others through or past and saying thank you or excuse me. I have been into a Brit-dominated hotel a couple of times over the past days - the Alcúdia Beach. This is not a hotel with doors that open at the command of a sensor or your weight on a trigger mechanism; it is a hotel with doors, as in those that have to be manually opened and closed. It is a hotel with doors designed with the British in mind. Used as one becomes to there not being a whole bunch of doors-being-held-open, to be plunged into a small part of Britain in Alcúdia comes as something of a surprise. "After you." "No, after you." It can take hours to get in and out of the place.

And with the Alcúdia Beach in mind, the image today shows someone not unassociated with the hotel. It's an image that you will have to get used to as it is part of the front cover of a well-known tourist guide in Alcúdia; in fact, the best known. Though no-one is recommending sitting on deckchairs on roundabouts, the Las Gaviotas sculpture does cry out for some special tourism promotion - and so here it is, with a fat bloke sitting on it, well sort of. It's a visual gag, if you like. And crisis, what crisis is what Jim Callaghan never actually said; it was "The Sun" what did it. The deckchair motif comes from Supertramp and their album with that title. And, as mentioned recently, "The Sun" surpassed itself with its front-page "at least it's sunny" and people sitting on deckchairs - that was what put this image firmly into my mind. The original photo with Minty had "The Sun", but I thought, ah no, let's play around; the "enjoy yourselves" thing is unashamedly borrowed from the excellent Tiberi restaurant in Puerto Pollensa. So there you are. You now know the references when some Mallorcan asks what the hell it's all about and reckons that covers of tourist guides should only ever have the same old boring photos of the Roman town, the walls and all the rest. Roundabout sculptures are far more interesting. And taking it easy, relaxing on your deckchair, reading your paper - oh, come on, that's what holiday's about; not all the rest.

Yesterday's title - Neil Diamond, and here he is with Barbra Streisand ( Today's title - American one-time longhairs.


Saturday, May 09, 2009

You Don't Bring Me Flowers

Flowers grow and flowers die; people grow and people die. Sometimes flowers grow and are placed where people die and then suddenly the flowers are gone, not because they have died but because they've been taken away; the flowers are buried, not along with the people who died because they had died in times past, but wherever it is they bury flowers.

You might remember that, three years ago, two Thomson reps were knocked down and killed by the Delfin Azul in Puerto Alcúdia. There was a floral tribute laid once again this year. And then they came and took the flowers away. Why? Not all floral tributes are removed, or seem not to be. They are regularly to be seen on the treacherous bend on the coast road between Alcúdia and Puerto Pollensa where there have been too many accidents. But removed they were.

There is a little unease not just that the tribute was taken away but also because the driver of the car has now been released. He had been over the limit and had been speeding. Surely he should have received a heavier sentence, argue some. In mitigation, the victims were jaywalking. A minor crime means that a more serious one is dealt with less severely than it might have been. At least, that is a view being aired. I can sympathise, but I say nothing as to the appropriateness or otherwise of the time in jail. It was a shocking incident, but it is now three years distant. The young man who drove the car has served the time deemed adequate. Move on.

But they should have left the flowers where they were.

Just a thought - against the background of the demonstrations following the death of Gabriel Marquet, were floral tributes to be laid (and they would be in the same general area), would they be so swiftly disposed of? I don't know. Maybe they have been left and have been collected by the council disposal unit. Or maybe not or maybe would not be.

Yesterday's title - Pink Floyd, said to be about Syd Barrett and Roger Waters ( Today's title - they do, though. Ah yea, lovely song. Who?


Friday, May 08, 2009

Poles Apart

Recently, one of my main German correspondents took me slightly to task in respect of my generally held view of the German propensity to appear like complete lunatics, notably when stomping the streets of Playa de Muro or Alcúdia with two skiing poles or indeed hanging around the supermarkets with the same pointed sticks: not in a threatening manner as in they are about to hold up the Trabilsa security van, but as in well it's the most normal thing in the world, isn't it? Which it isn't. But therein lies the rub or the "Rübe", a word to which my class was introduced by a German student doing some teaching duties at my old school who claimed that it was slang for penis (it is actually a word for carrot, so if you like ...). The rub, however, is that for many a German it is quite normal. Quite normal, that is, to appear less than normal, as defined from a British perspective.

This all relates to a none-too-rare cultural discussion as to the German trait of conformity and the British one of individuality. My man in Munich (strictly speaking, he isn't in Munich; he's about two hours drive away, but it sounded better in an alliterative way) argues that the great Panzer divisions of Germans yomping, with strength and joy, across the wheat fields and along the "Strassen" of the country are demonstrating an individuality that the cynical Brits simply can't understand. One might say that there is indeed a conformity to be observed in the massed ranks of Nordic walkers marching in an easterly direction towards Poland. And within the boundaries of the Bundesprepublik this may indeed be so, but not when the Nordic art is transported to the likes of Alcúdia. At this point, it becomes an expression of individuality, and I can see the logic of the argument, because - at heart - it is an expression of quite honestly I couldn't give a toss what anyone else thinks of me, especially the British.

This is a not unworthy trait at all. The more one thinks about it, the more the conformity-individuality axis is spun in favour of an axis-power non-conformity. German men, for the most part, have an admirable absence of any dress sense. I know one who wears a pink beret, for example. And no, he's not, in case you were thinking otherwise. It must all stem from a desire to wear strange hats with feathers and tight leather shorts. And trust me, such people do exist. But there goes my British cynicism. I should stop it.

How really can one condemn for lack of individuality a nation populated with men and women who, at the first hint of warm weather, are prone to getting their kit off (just as well, given some of the clothes they wear). This is also admirable, albeit it does rather depend where and which men or women are indulging in some "Freikörperkultur", the abbreviation for which is FKK: only the Germans could have invented a term for nudism that sounds like something else. I daresay that there is a nudist Nordic walking movement somewhere in Germany. Just so long as they don't start doing it along Alcúdia's beach. Especially not with those poles. Ooh er, missus.

And when one thinks of conformity, what greater degree of conformity is there than that of the British male who has wandered off the set of Eastenders? The British male is defined in terms of Phil or Grant Mitchell. Just take a walk along The Mile, and see for yourselves. And they would never, ever be seen with two poles.

Yesterday's title - Jackson Browne ( Today's title - it is said that the lyrics were about two of the founder members.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Running On Empty

Tried buying petrol or diesel lately? There's no shortage, nothing like that, but what there is, is falling demand for fuel - to the tune of nearly 12% for petrol across the islands. A combination of factors has, according to a report on 5 May in "The Diario", led to this fall - the cuts in construction and associated businesses, the cuts to car-rental fleets and simply a cutting back. It is reckoned that around 10% of petrol stations are at risk of closure. In Puerto Alcúdia, the Campsa station by the Platja d'Or is closed certainly for fuel sales, and has been closed for some while. It seems slightly surprising. One business one might think would be largely immune to economic difficulties is petrol, and given the scale of vehicle ownership in Mallorca, it is doubly surprising. But the sheer volume a station has to turn over annually to be commercially is enormous - 3 million litres. In Alcúdia and Playa de Muro, there are five stations, and I'm told that the Campsa one was always a bit more expensive. Don't know if that was so or not. Personally, I never take much notice; give us twenty euros worth, and that's it.

The annual threat from the sea, your friendly jellyfish, always gets an airing around this time. Will there be a plague, won't there be, what are they doing to prevent one, etc. etc. Well, we can add something else to the threat, something rather more ominous - the "carabela portuguesa". A carabela was the style of ship fancied by the likes of Columbus; the shape of its sails were not dissimilar, apparently, to the thing in the water, the devil of component parts - run for your lives, or swim for your lives, the Portuguese Man o' War. Oh no, it's coming, it's coming.

The Ibizan version of the Diario has reported on the appearance of the Man o' War heading into the Mediterranean; normally, it stays out in the Atlantic. But no, the rotten thing has decided to float into calmer waters. Damn its tentacles. Hopefully, it stays well put out in deeper waters. Don't want that bloody thing hanging around when going for a paddle. Inicidentally, it isn't strictly speaking a jellyfish, which I suppose is some comfort; it all has to do with it not being one thing but four. Damn weird if you ask me - four bits of malevolence flopping around and looking out for some likely limb and skin to have a go at.

Yesterday's title - "Laid So Low", Tears For Fears ( Today's title - ageing American rocker/folkist.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

When Tears Roll Down

With a different meaning, one more perhaps in keeping with the film, yesterday's title of "Mean Streets" could have been as appropriate today. There was another demonstration in Alcúdia at the weekend; a demo and sobbing and wailing. I had known about it, but had been in two minds whether to mention it, but as it made the press then ... . This was the second demo in response to the violence that claimed the lives of Gabriel Marquet ("Gaby") and a British tourist in separate incidents a month or so ago. Actually, it had everything to do with Gaby and little to do with the tourist, but the latest demo, on the Sunday of the first weekend of the season, was surely not coincidental. Nor will future demonstrations be. Give a dog a bad name, or give a resort a bad name ... . Not that there should not be demos, not that they should not be reported, but what actually do they achieve? The first one could be viewed as an outpouring of grief and anger, as much as anything else, and so be it. But to do it all over again, and then again?

When the first march - against violence - was announced, one of the aspects that was highlighted was the "impotence" of the local community in the face of violence. Demonstrations are an expression of this impotence. They may appear to be doing something, but what? Let me say that I am not objecting to demonstrations. I am firmly in favour, and it is a shock to me that the growing passivity and complacency of the British have not produced more marching against encroachments on all manner of liberties. God knows, I had little sympathy with the Countryside Alliance, but at least they were willing to take to the streets. That, though, is an entirely separate subject. However, take away the anger and the frustration, what is there?

The violence that has occurred, and it is not, it must be stressed, a specific Alcúdia issue, is as a consequence of a social condition - of disaffection and alienation, lack of control and of alcohol and of drugs. It is a universal problem. To march against it is to march against society as it has become. It's a tall order. Ramón Socias, who is the delegate for the Balearics to the central government, spoke after the Marquet incident about people who cannot control themselves when drinking. He said that they shouldn't do it - drink, that is - if they can't maintain control. What world is he occupying? If nothing else, though, the drinking, the violence and the demos are all a bit of a shock to the cosy and unrealistic impression of a Mallorcan society in which everyone, well the indigenous Spanish at any rate, respects alcohol and does not indulge in the British-style disease of so-called bingeing followed by bundling. It's rubbish.

The fact that violence may be connected to the street-drinking parties (the "botellones") that have occurred at weekends by the Magic roundabout is something which should have a practical solution. In this regard, the demonstrators are surely right to draw attention to the problem. What then did the mayor of Alcúdia, who was on the first demo, plan to do? Was he simply there for form's sake? The town hall has a law against all street drinking. In which case, why does it not seem to be effected? A heavy clampdown would not end drinking or violence, but it would be an attempt to remove the circumstances which can result in violence.

Tears for Gaby and for the violence that took him, but tears and marching are the emasculation and pathos of what went wrong. Island paradise, anyone? Sad.

Yesterday's title - Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro. Today's title - the sub-title of one of the most remarkable songs with a "violence" theme. Huge favourites of this blog.