Learning the Lingo

Whether you’ve just made the move to Mallorca, or are a seasoned expat with many years of living in Spain under your belt, I’m sure that your first ever priority, upon arrival, was to ‘learn the lingo’. Mine sure…was. When I first got to the island I started out at full speed and, with ‘mucho gusto’, sunk my teeth into the ‘Me llamo’s’ and ‘Hola, Que tal’s’ of the first few language lessons. I bought all the books and even organised for my teacher Miguel to be put on the crew list as a chef, just so he could troop down to STP twice a week to teach me some Spanish. However, a few months later, español took a dip behind those new, cool yoga classes I found in town and, a little later, became something I only practiced if there was any time left at the end of the week. Which, sorpresa sorpresa, there usually wasn’t. And still isn’t. So now, after having been a guiri for two whole years I can at the most label my skills as being basic. So, what happened? Or, to be more precise… que pasó??


It’s not that I don’t find it important, because I definitely do. I have oodles of reasons why I want to be able to speak Spanish.

Firstly, it’s a matter of respect. I’ve chosen to make Mallorca my home: I soak up their sun, slurp their Rioja, munch their patatas bravas and loll around their beaches. The least I can do is learn to ‘hablar espagnol’ while I enjoy these things, right?

Secondly, it makes life a helluva lot easier. Ordering a cafe con leche is one thing but getting vodafone to sort out your wonky internet connection is quite another, is it not? A man came unannounced to my house the other day in overalls and armed with a clipboard. I let him in and it took me a full 5 minutes to find out why exactly this guy was sniffing around my kitchen. Turned out he was there for the gas digits. I cook on electric. So only twenty minutes later we both knew we were completely wasting each other’s time. Hmmm, it made me think

Last but certainly not least, being able to converse makes every experience so much more meaningful. Shooting the breeze at the bus stop or having a giggle while standing in line at the supermercado; it’s little impromptu jokes and chats shared that make day-to-day life so much more fun. And equally as funny are the many mistakes. Just yesterday at the dog park I used the phrase “un ano y un pico”. I’d heard that being said somewhere, or in any case, something like it. The guy I was talking to belted out a big laugh and asked me what I thought I’d just said. Err…a little over a year? Apparently my concocted sentence literally meant a year and a shot of heroin. Quite an odd thing to say about the age of your dog…

text here-3But, unfortunately, as abundant as my incentives, so are my excuses: “This week I’m too busy with work”, “I’ll start next month, I’ve already spent all my money on a remote controlled boat”, “Today I have a cold and I’m sneezing too much to be able to speak Spanish’.

One week rolls into another until suddenly you’re a year further and you can still only converse in the present tense (hands flapping forward means the future, hands flapping backwards means the past, well, what else?)

This is the thing though: learning a language is hard work. A couple of lessons won’t do the trick nor even doing your homework as we’re talking daily dedication to get to that unimaginable level of being able to use the preterite and the imperfect tenses, perfectly.

And while there’s plenty of apps and sites to help you on your way at home, nothing beats having an actual teacher, with fixed times, dates, a healthy dose of pressure and you promising you’ll really do your homework.

Un copa de vino blanco  por favor ;)

Palma based language school Glossolalia boasts scientifically proven, modern learning techniques like Superlearning and Suggestopedia. It sounds pretty snazzy and it also actually really works.

We’ve teamed up with this school and will be running a little quiz monthly from the start of May. A sort of win win situation really, as we’ll be able to learn bits and pieces and be in to win a bottle of vino tinto on top. Perhaps, that’s just the kind of incentive I was looking for…

At Glossalia they make learning fun, and wouldn’t it be cool to finally have full on conversations in Spanish rather than just being able to order a glass of wine? 😉

Mallorca’s Plastic Problem and how to make a difference with your own Dos Manos

If you’re reading this blog there’s a good chance you’re lucky like me in being able to say you live on the beautiful Balearic island of Mallorca. Strolls along the Bay of Alcudia, sunset drinks in Portixol and Es Trenc tanning sessions; it’s all everyday stuff for us 😉 But because of those stunning beaches Mallorca’s hardly the Med’s best kept secret!

Only last year over 9 million people flew in to soak up some rays and slurp on seaside sangria’s which is why you’ll hear anything from Danish to Dutch, and from Mancunian to Mallorquin on any of La Isla’s abundance of beaches. Our beaches are bu-sy and this gets reflected in the amount of rubbish left behind every day of which the sight alone is enough to make you shake your fist in fury! But apart from blighting our beaches it’s affecting our marine life and ecosystems in ways that will be impossible to reverse. Last year it was estimated that no less than 250 billion pieces of micro plastic are floating around the Mediterranean, turning the sea into a plastic soup ingested by fish and even plankton, the base of the whole food chain! Also according to a study recently conducted in Barcelona 70% of Balearic shearwaters, a critically endangered species, contain plastic fragments! 70!

The Balearic shearwater, a critically endangered species.  Licensed under the CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

The Balearic shearwater, a critically endangered species.
Licensed under the CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

And while I’m no beach bum myself I still prefer my beaches bottle less thank you very much, which is one of the reasons I love Dos Manos, Mallorca based Asociación Ondine‘s approach to dealing with plastic pollution . ‘Take 30 minutes and two hands to clean up yOUR world anytime, anywhere’ is their slogan. And while they support the spirits of the big international clean up days Dos Manos call upon people like you and me to organise an ally (or not), pick a date and see what you can do with 2-4 hands in thirty minutes. And it’s this taking things back to grassroots what makes this project so cool as it concentrates on the things you and me can do for the places we care about anytime we want. Whether that’s picking up the crisp packets and plastic cups along Palma’s Paseo Maritimo, the chocolate wrappers and coke bottles on Cala Comtessa’s fine, soft sand or the random pieces of plastic in the port of Pollensa. And whether you do it because you’re concerned about the state of the Med, you want to protect seagulls from getting entangled in plastic six-pack rings or the sight of the abandoned remains of a picnic on your favourite stretch of sand is enough to wish you could track down the culprit and chuck him in the middle of the Pacific Trash Vortex, what you or you and a mate can do with two manos is easy.

Only a couple of minutes into the clean up!

Only a couple of minutes into the clean up!

So how does it work?

1) Get gloves, a bag / bucket together and download the Dos Manos audit sheet

2) Spend 30 min picking up as much plastic pollution as possible

3) Take a pic of you and your ‘haul’

4) Dispose of the collected rubbish correctly

5) Post your pic on the Dos Manos Facebook Page, sharing the results of your activities and letting the Dos Manos people know what plastic pollution you have removed from our beaches.

Me? I live a very fortunate 5 min from Anima beach in Palma and was curious to see how bad things are in winter. From afar the beach seemed quite clean but on closer inspection the shore was actually chocker with trash. So I set out last Saturday morning and after half an hour had collected a confused jumble that could inspire most contemporary artists to create a masterpiece! I picked up: 59 plastic bottles, 9 crisp packets, 18 plastic cups, 7 random bits of foam, half a chair, part of a trolley, an umbrella, torn police tape (?), a paint tube and a big heap of plastic bags which all together culminated in half a k of cleaned up beach.

I’m fully aware I didn’t save the planet that Saturday morning and definitely don’t deserve a big pat on the back but I did make Mallorca a teeny, weeny, tiny bit cleaner and that’s a helluva lot better than sipping cafe-con-leche’s complaining about those lousy litterers right?

And just imagine if half of all 858.313 Islanders would use their two manos for half an hour to pick up some plastic? This would result in no less than 214.000 km’s of beautifully, clean, clear beach. That’s the equivalent of all Mallorca’s 179 beaches… times 4280!

Just sayin’.. 😉

30 min and half a K of clean beach later!

30 min and half a K of clean beach later!

Palma’s Top Places for Tapas y Pintxos

Although we all know the word ‘tapas’ comes from the Spanish tapar, (‘to cover’), there are quite a few theories floating around on what the source of this meaning actually is. The most shared is that a piece of bread was often placed on top of a drink to protect it from fruit flies and at some stage it became custom to top this ‘cover’ with some ‘queso’ or ‘jamón’. We however also quite like the least known possibility where Felipe III passed a law which declared that when buying a drink, the bartender was to put a small snack over the mouth of the goblet. This to try and restrict rowdy drunken behaviour, particularly among soldiers and sailors! The idea being that the food would slow the effects of the alcohol. Ha! I’m not sure about soldiers but I know most sailors would need a lot more than a few ‘croquetas’ to stop them from being three sheets to the wind and having trouble staggering back to their ship..

La Bóveda's Bellota

La Bóveda’s Bellota

In any case Palma counts more tapas restaurants than you can shake a shrimp skewer at but just like you we only like to nibble on the best of boquerones and tuck into the tastiest tortillas thank you very much. And although we’ve been going around trying and testing the traditional tapas; so many calamares, patatas bravas and pimientos de padron! We’ve also done some serious snacking on tapas of the more contemporary kind and have thus come up with this list of solid places that serve up the most scrumptious of mini meals and finger foods for you to gorge on.

La Bóveda We’re certain you’ve eaten at this la Lonja classic where you’ll never spot an empty table, noise levels are suitably high, waiters occasionally grumpy but the quality of the Jamón Bellota always so incredibly good you want to slowly slide that plate over to your end of the table, create a barrier with your right arm and refuse to share any of it with your fellow eaters. We’re also quite partial to their pata negra and the house plonk, a crianza, is pretty good too.

Quina Creu in Palma's Old Town

Quina Creu in Palma’s Old Town

Quina Creu This hip hideaway features the cities coolest retro interior made up from weird murals, funky flea market finds and old style island treasure. It has two entrances; one for the restaurant and one for the pintxos bar where if the sweet sounds of bossa nova won’t lure you in, the sight of their selection of pintxos will. Their small skewered snacks are cheap (1,50€ each) and tiny which affords you to totally indulge. Chefs here come up with crazy, creative concoctions like the goats cheese, nuts, sugar and cinnamon one of which we inhaled four even before ordering our first verdejo.

L’Ambigú Bar Hidden in the dark windy streets of the old town you’ll find this cosy terrace lit by fairy lights and kept toasty during those two months Palma pretends to get cold with outdoor heaters and fluffy blankets. Unpretentious and always packed this place boasts an impressive display of imaginative pintxos like the tiny towers of smoked salmon/ grilled aubergine/ avocado or artichoke/ boquerones/ cherry tomatoes/ balsamic glaze which keep getting refreshed and kept us coming back for more.. Don’t forget to order a slice of the tortilla, it has some secret ingredients inside making it exceptionally delish..

Antiquari Cafe

Antiquari Cafe

L’Antiquari L’Antiquari used to be an antiques shop a few years back which is still evident in the quirky antiques everywhere so don’t be surprised to share your table with a singer sewing machine or to have to rest your drink on a black and white style telly. There are the ‘cafe con leche’ crowds during the day but come early eve it starts to buzz with locals and foreigners filing in to slurp on draft Guiness, friendly-priced cocktails and tuck into their pa amb oli’s, croques and salad’s.

Appetising, affordable, filling and all prepared fresh from their itty bitty open kitchen.

Gaudeix This place is tucked into a tiny square on Carrer de Can Sales and made us feel like we made a local discovery only seconds after we first sat down. There are tables outside on this pretty little plaza and as the street’s pedestrianised the terrace’s got a cosy backyard sort of feel to it. They serve tapas and pintxos but both are cooked to order so you’ll never need to wonder how long these tiny treats have been on display. The broad bean stew and oxtail are absolutely delicious and they serve a black pudding with a hazelnut inside so fantastically flavourful you’ll want to talk about it for the next two days..

Santa Catalina's Patxi

Santa Catalina’s Patxi

Patxi looks very closed for most of the day but after 8pm opens its shutters to attract a lively mix of locals and visitors keen to swill rioja and devour some traditional but very tasty tapas. There’s a restaurant at the back but it’s at the front in the bar where the noise, the action and fantastic platters of pintxo’s are at. When you walk in it looks like any other tapas place in town but don’t let these modest surroundings fool you as at Patxi’s it’s all about the food. Watch Patxi himself cook his socks off in the kitchen or wolf down the melt-in-your-mouth meats to know what we’re on about.

¡Buen provecho!

Patxi didn't fit but can be found in Sta Catalina

Patxi can be found in Sta Catalina at the end of San Magí on your right on Carrer Espartero No 28

No Nightmare Before Christmas

It’s that time of year again when you’ve got those good intentions of being ultra efficient and super organised but still end up finding yourself a few days before Christmas fighting crowds and frantically traipsing the ‘tienda’s’.. The good news? That’s not going to be you this December, as you’ll be snuggled up on the sofa sipping gluhwein smiling smugly thinking about those poor souls still working their way through their lists. There’s a neat pile of perfectly packaged prezzies under your colour coordinated, non-needle dropping tree which will be sure to get a lot of ‘ooh’, ‘ahh’s’, ‘how did you knows’ and will make those sock, scarf and voucher givers hang their heads in pure shame. How?

Well, we know some real gems which will allow you to do your shopping in one swift swoop and especially good is that they’re all independently owned so aside from sure places to score they’re also a shout out to the little guy. Hurray!

Del món, Tienda de cervezas

Del Món, Tienda de cervezas, Santa Catalina

On Placa Navegacio 14 opposite the Santa Catalina market is a little drinking den called Del Món. Owner Lorenzo Fiol spent 24 years working for a big aviation company before he traded his desk for dry ale and made it his mission to add craft beer to Mallorca’s beer scene. Good man. Boutique-y del Mon boasts two walls stacked from high to low with anything from brown ale to Bock and from Porter to Pale Ale ‘cos if it’s made in small batches and by traditional methods Lorenzo’s your go-to guy. And whether these bottled beauties come from Germany, Scotland, The States or The Netherlands this beer buff’ll be able to tell you everything about them including which ones go perfectly with chocolate. Lorenzo’s tried and tested almost every brew in the shop and now stocks seasonal beers, Christmas ale’s and winter ale’s as well which can all be arranged in traditional Mallorquin baskets. Cool or what?

Weird, wacky, wonderful Cronopios on Calle Pou 33 is recognisable by its purple walls, crazy papier-mâché cats and the colourful items of clothing on display. It’s run by Argentinian Marcello and his sister Mara and most stuff in the shop has been made by one of the two siblings or their mum! I’ve seen her once on the back of Marcello’s motorbike- she is one funky lady! So what do they sell? Unique pieces of clothing but also dangling clowns, upside down chickens, orange boots, silver stockings and skinny geisha’s..

Inside the Santa Catalina market you’ll find Enoteca Sa Roteta which sells local wines, imports – (particularly French and Italian wine from small producers with and without a DO), as well as gins, cava’s, champagne, chocolate, sobrasada and the local Es Trenc salt. It was founded by Biel Ferra but you’ll mostly be talking to English Holly who definitely knows her Beaujolais from her Blanc de Blanc but is also the first to tell you high end wines can also do low end prices.

Bruno Daureo for Tribeca

Bruno Daureo for Tribeca Concept Store

With booze clonking in our bags we set off to Tribeca on Calle Sant Feliu where Italian Ludovica and her chihuahua Zoe hold reign. Laid-back Ludovica doesn’t pounce but let’s you peruse in peace unless you want to chat that is.. The shop’s made out of three small spaces and has bags of personality as it contains the sort of stuff that makes you smile: treasures you would find on travels and items that have a story to tell. For example she sells dog leashes spliced by an ex captain, bracelets made by girls in Barcelona and light bulbs ingeniously set in painted blocks of drift wood by Mallorquin artist Bruno Daureo. Whether it’s for the home, for around the wrist or something to write in you’ll be able to find an original gift from as little as 8€. And whatever you end up leaving with she’ll make sure it’s exquisitely ribboned and wrapped. I sometimes pass by just to shoot the breeze although Ill admit on more than one occasion I’ve found myself returning home with a vintage suitcase or art deco mirror instead of a pint of milk which is what I originally set out for…

On the same street is Jorge Sosa Balle’s ‘Estilio San Feliu‘ which is the perfect place to find handmade modern Mallorquin things. He sells cushion covers, placemats and bags made from the rather retro Llengos fabric as well as olive wood pieces and pottery painted in every colour you can possibly imagine. I once bought a bright blue bowl to send home which he wrapped so well even DHL couldn’t do any damage..

Glassworks GiorgiaRei

Glassworks GiorgiaRei, C/ Sant Gaieta, Palma

Just a little further and on your left on Calle Sant Gaieta 4 you’ll find an Aladdin’s cave of different coloured shimmer and shine. This spacious shop’s owned by Georgia, a very talented Italian glass artist who mastered lampworking, a melting technique using a lamp or torch, in Venice no less. All studs, dangly earrings, bracelets, necklaces and sculptures are hand made in her Palma workshop from Murano glass and most are made of beads which have been drawn on by hand! And whether you’re looking for stocking fillers or to spend a bit more on something super special Giorgia will have just the thing as prices range between 15€ for a ring to 100-450 for the larger, more intricate pieces. Like Ludovica she’ll leave you to look as you please and try and test if you like while always being happy to help and advise. She’s great for guys who wouldn’t know their choker from their cameo as Giorgia once helped me pick the perfect present for a friend through a photo I brought. For girls the only downside is that’s it’s too easy to leave with something for yourself as well. Oh well.

If you’ve not ticked off all the names on your list I’m pretty sure you’re very close. In any case Bar Ombu on Placa de la Reina is just 2 min away so you can drop your bags, rest your tootsies, order a fish bowl sized G&T and finally start to give in to that fuzzy, festive feeling 😉

A Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Tetley’s Tea from the English Aisle..

Whether you live in Barcelona, Binissalem, Palma or Puerto Banús and whether you’re a Brit a Kiwi or a Clog chances are if you’re reading this you’re what the Spanish call a ‘quiri’. As I’m sure you already know this is not a derogatory term it just means you came here for the sparkly blue bay and the sunshine. Like I did, almost two years ago.. Now, there are quite a few things I’ve caught myself doing since I made the move and I’ll admit maybe they’re just me, but I do have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone on some of these quirks.. So have a look at the following list as maybe you’ll recognise a thing or three and if not you’re very welcome to frown -God knows I’ve become used to baffling people on a daily basis by mixing words, muddling tenses or making stuff up by sticking an O at the end..

IMG_0190Although I’ll be using the royal ‘we’ we all know who I’m talking about here. Me.

1) When prowling around Carrefour Planet you have a trolley full of Seville Oranges, sobrassada sausage and enough local wine to sink a ship (Two for one!!) but when you all of a sudden ‘happen’ to find yourself in the English aisle you can’t help but squeal: ‘Minstrels’!! And feel the need to stock up.. just in case.. (what?) You never ate them at ‘home’ and now you have 16 family packs. Why?

2) You can’t help but feel smug while complaining about the heat, a smirk plays around on your face while you try and compete in a ‘my house is hotter than yours in summer competition’. It’s not just that you’ve escaped from the dark and drizzle to a place which boasts 300 sunny days a year – it’s even accepted to complain about it. Double whammy or what?! You’ve made your beach and are oh so happy to lie on it and bitch about it 😉 On the other side when you speak to friends that still live ‘over there’ you try desperately to play it down. “Yeah it’s ok. We had a day that was part cloudy a few weeks ago so you know the weather’s not perfect all the time”

3) You’re first in there with the eye rolling and tongue clicking when it comes to those red faced tourists. There are too many of them, they stop in the middle of the street to look at a map, they’re too loud, they order beer in English/ German/ Gibberish and wear pastel coloured shorts. We sigh ‘cos we’re so not like them and never have been, we’re special.

IMG_00214) Just like some like to lie about their age or the price of their shoes we lie about the amount of time we’ve lived here. Well I do, I halve it. And then I gleam with delight when told my Spanish is pretty good for someone that moved here only a few months ago. “Muchas gracias” I then humbly mumble sometimes even complemented with a “Estudio mucho, si”. Oooh, yes! Shame on me!

5) Which brings me to my next one: the big, manic smiles on entering a shop / bank / hairdresser when you have a question or query which you know you’re going to struggle to explain. Subconsciously you’re thinking the banana-sized, bare toothed grin and over animated ‘HOLLLAAAAA! ¿Qué tal?’ is going to make up for the fact that there’s bound to be a lot of “Lo siento no comprendo’s”, more than a few “Más lento’s” with some helpless hand gestures thrown in the mix as well. ‘At home’ I rarely used to walk into a shop smiling like a moron, here it’s part of my cunning plan of masking my Spanglish with a cheeriness bordering on the crazy side. ‘She’s loopy but happy, let’s help her and get her the hell out of the shop’.

6) You just love showing off to visiting friends. You take them to those bars where you can only hear a local dialect and choose from dishes no-one’s ever heard of before even though you’re usually to be found in ‘Hogan’s Burger Bar’. You’ll miss no chances of really rolling out those only few sentences that have had plenty of practice like: “Una-copa-de-vino-blanco-por-favor”. You say it with such speed even the waiter struggles to catch it. You throw in words like’”Venga” and “Vale” while keeping a straight face and your friends almost fall of their chair in astonishment as they were right there with you fifteen years ago when you couldn’t get a c for foreign languages even if your life had depended on it. But look at you now! In Spain speaking Spanish, and hanging out with your ‘amigos’! Such a showoff.

IMG_12687) You get all labrador-like when you meet someone from the same region as you even though hearing that accent when back home makes you break out in a sweat.. Without hesitation the tail-wagging is reciprocated and you both feel compelled to talk about the school you went to / the bakery you used to get your bread/ the postbox you used etc after which you launch into a full five minute session of ‘You knows’ : You know Barry? No? You don’t know Barry? He’s from Hastings/ Hilversum/ Hamburg. Sara then? You know Sara? Oh you must know Sara! And so on..

My Spanish teacher says that ‘we’ all know each other I thinks she imagines us all meeting up to drink the wrong coffee at the wrong time to talk about the weather and where to buy Tetley’s. Do we?? I then asked my Spanish friends whether there were things they thought only us expats do. What followed was a lot of elbowing, glance exchanging and sniggering. Which ones in particular was their answer? The Scandinavian ones, Los Ingleses? Los Alemanes? Apparently we all have different quirks depending on which testing climate we left behind. Oh, ok let’s say the English then. More glancing. Then silence!? So maybe we’ll keep that for another blog. Or you know what? Maybe we’ll just leave that one altogether 😉 …