Saturday, April 01, 2017

The Early "Summer" Of A Mallorcan Spring

We have a seasonal problem. Defining it. Not so long ago it was easy. The Mallorca summer started on 1 May. Contracts were signed, hotels opened, bars followed suit. Summer is now earlier. We have to redefine it as starting on 1 April or before, even if there is still some official insistence that at the stroke of midnight on 30 April, winter passes and summer commences.

As always, there is the issue of how universal this is. Even within resorts, universality does not apply. In Alcudia, much of the main tourism centre is still a building site - streets dug up, hotels with ongoing renovations, dust flying everywhere, combining with the pollen and keeping the car washes hyper-busy. Otherwise, the perception is one previously reserved for later in the "summer". Great activity, the roads are like velodromes, and it isn't April until tomorrow.

More fool we, though, for thinking that "summer" has been lengthened? The Mallorcan summer? Starting it in February will take some believing, but April seems increasingly apt. And providers of tourism numbers - the tour operators - are saying that this April is the new June; Easter does help in this regard.

Is this all the consequence of what experts call geopolitics, better known as security issues elsewhere? Partly it probably is. Otherwise, I remain unconvinced that it has a great deal to do with the regional tourism ministry. It will glow in the sharp light of a Mallorcan spring (aka early "summer") and insist that it is all to do with efforts to tackle seasonality. But there has been talk of tackling seasonality problems ever since seasons began in Mallorca: around about the time that tourism started to acquire its initial 1960s' mass.

There are plenty of others who do the ministry's work for it, such as those who loiter on social media, terrain that the ministry's promotional gurus don't appear yet to have heard of. Social serendipity, coming across a Mallorcan early "summer" by chance, seems to play as much of a part as anything. Then there are the cyclists. Yes, the cyclists. Hotels don't only house them, you know. The spin-off from all those wheels spinning around and clogging up the roads is a beneficial one. Hotels which didn't once open now do. Airbnb, speak its name quietly and not in front of a hotelier, may also have inadvertently done some of the ministry's work. Much to the ministry's chagrin; hence its search to stop this work being done for it.

And we do perhaps also have to thank Palma. Its growth as a city-break destination and the affectionate media spotlight that has been shone on the city are advantageous not solely to it. Palma is part of Mallorca. Just a part. There is an afterglow for the "part forana" (anywhere that isn't Palma), as reputation and recommendations radiate out beyond the Via Cintura.

What of this early "summer", though? What's it like? April is bright, extraordinarily bright. It has the light that painted many a canvas. Clear and sharp and minus the ozone haze of real summer. Such clarity is in the air, the freshness of the breezes that are not quite cold, fooling winter skins into feeling that the sun is not at its more penetrative. It is, even with moderate UV ratings.

The early "summer " of April passes into later early summer, namely May. And it does so with superyachts bumping into each other on gentle waters in the bay of Palma, carefully avoiding collisions with the returning leviathans of the seas, disgorging their saturating tourists. Palma's boat show is the fairest of all the seasonal fairs. It is an occasion only partially reserved for politicians. For the Balearic president and the minister for employment, trade and industry to announce how important the nautical industry is to Mallorca, how significant it is for economic diversification, how vital it is in the pursuit of the Holy Grail of deseasonalisation.

Prior to Palma, the old fishermen of Alcudia sew their nets on the quayside and wait for their remuneration from the sale of sepia. Alcudia's boat show is more an attraction than a point of sale. Vessels to be ogled, as thousands of visitors stroll towards the greater temptations of three-euro-a-pop cuttlefish tapas. Giants do what giants do. They stand and guard, unblinking in the startling light. Bigheads parade, launch flour on unsuspecting spectators, beat on the ankles small children who chant their teasing rhymes. All the fun of the early "summer" fair.

In Muro on the weekend after Easter, they celebrate Saint Francis of Paola by climbing a tree and liberating a rabbit. Someone will probably say that they shouldn't. There's a law against it. Maybe. It depends on how many years the rabbit (not the same one) has found itself in an abnormal situation on top of a tree.

These are the spring (early "summer") fairs. Santa Margalida's heralds the arrival of Holy Week. The fair is always on Palm Sunday. The palms are blessed, the oddly terrifying religious garb parades as it also parades later in the week. The terrifyingly moving ceremonies of the "Davallament" glorify the Good Fridays of Arta, Felanitx, Palma and Pollensa. Silence descends on the Cathedral steps for the staging of Llorenç Moya's "Via Crucis". And the week after Holy Week becomes picnic week, the annual pancaritat pilgrimages. The greatest number of pilgrims head for Bellver Castle on the Sunday after Easter for the Day of the Angel.

This is early "summer". The new season. It begins on 1 April. Or does it?

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