Postcard from Palma de Mallorca I

You may recall that while my birthday was celebrated with a half-day in Toulouse during a business trip, my beloved’s merited a long weekend in Palma. I confess this was largely because Easyjet had just started to fly from Nice to Palma and he’d booked two return flights for Euros 84,00. Consequently I’d splashed out on a suite in a 5 star hotel in Palma Old Town along with a birthday dinner in its Michelin starred restaurant. What can I say? He’s thoroughly spoilt.

Unbelievably this was my maiden trip to Mallorca. My parents and sisters had visited the island in 1971 while I’d been improving my French, in France, with my penfriend. Thereafter, tales of Brits behaving badly in Magaluf had, in my mind, unfairly turned the entire island into one big Club 18-30. My beloved had visited briefly about 10 years ago, while sailing in the area with his then boss, but hadn’t really done the place justice with the description of his trip. I was prepared to be surprised.

On the day we travelled there was a slight hiccup, easily remedied, when I discovered my beloved had failed to book a hire car. We had an evening flight which put us at the hotel around 21:00 where, upon arrival, we gratefully sank into the plush low seating in the bar and allowed ourselves to be revived with an Aperol Spritz and a few tapas – heaven!

We were staying in a sensitively converted mission where a few of its former inhabitants were still in situ, though they were neither seen nor heard during our stay. Use of a restricted palette of colours and materials in the conversion had preserved the building’s sense of peace and tranquility and left the rooms feeling light and airy.

After a good night’s sleep in our spacious suite, followed by a copious breakfast, we were ready to walk all around Palma. And walk we did, covering some 15km while the sun shone and the mercury headed well above 20C.

We loved the maze of Moorish narrow streets in the historic district between Plaça de Cort and the seafront. We headed in the direction of La Seu, Palma’s famous and spectacular sandstone cathedral, and there was something surprising around every corner. A lot of the old mansion properties have been renovated and are now hotels, cafes and restaurants, although there’s still more to be revived. Within a 10 minute walk you’ll see all sorts of architectural styles which gives a sense of the history of Palma going back well over 1,000 years. Finally, you emerge from this labyrinth of lanes and suddenly the bay opens up before you. It’s quite magical.

It’s worth noting that the hugely impressive cathedral took an astounding 600 years to build, and due to its size and placement on the old city walls, is almost impossible to miss. It boasts one the world’s largest stained glass rose windows, and some of its 20th-century renovations were undertaken by famous Modernist architect, Antoni Gaudi. The cathedral stands on the site of a Moorish-era mosque, meaning that anyone kneeling at its altar is facing Mecca rather than Jerusalem.

Palma was particularly busy around its main tourist spots largely as a consequence of the numbers disgorged from those supersized cruise ships,. You know they’re the ones which look as if they’re about to topple over at any moment. There were three parked up in Palma’s port, plus there was a boat show in town and a cycle sportif, Mallorca312.

Palma’s labyrinthine streets provided some shade though we still needed regularly refreshing, taking refuge in some of the other main hotels’ shady gardens. Knowing we were having a multi-course tasting menu for dinner, we grazed on a few tapas over lunchtime to keep our strengths up.

Footsore and weary, back at base, while I dallied in the library, my beloved enjoyed a private pampering session in the hotel’s spa. Much refreshed we enjoyed our multi-course tasting menu. Mine was vegan while my beloved tucked into lobster, sea bass, fois gras and baby lamb. We both enjoyed our respective menus but did feel that on some of the dishes the chef had tried “too hard” and there were elements superfluous to our overall enjoyment of the dish.

We opted for the suggested wine pairing which gave us an opportunity to taste a generous serving with each course, all of which were Spanish, many local and mostly new wines for us. Luckily dinner took three hours otherwise I might have been rather unsteady on my feet on leaving the table. But after another good night’s sleep, we were ready for more sightseeing!

Trip to Cannes and Le Suquet

Mention Cannes and one automatically thinks of the star-studded Film Festival, the fabulous Croisette, designer shops, five star hotels and all manner of glamour. However, it’s not always been that way! Like many a resort on the Cote d’Azur, Cannes has humble beginnings. It was once a fishing village, but go even further back and its history is rather more colourful than you might expect!

Ancient times

The town dates back to almost 1,000BC. Archeologists found evidence of human life in the Neolithic and Iron ages. Its first recorded settlers were probably a Ligurian tribe who inhabited Le Suquet (Cannes Old Town). An archeological dig revealed an early settlement that dated back to 6th Century BC – an acropolis, a true urban settlement with public buildings. The Romans  – those boys got everywhere! – occupied Cannes and its nearby islands for almost five centuries during the Republican period when the islands served as a large Naval Base. The period after the collapse of the Roman Empire, the so-called “Dark Era,” was characterised by attacks from all sorts including the Visigoths, Lombards and Saracens.

What then followed was a period of re-building, largely to protect the existing settlement, including Le Suquet’s castle, from the threat of Barbarian pirates. To reward the feudal lords who’d helped to expel the Saracens, the Count of Provence gave Rodoard, the head of a powerful local family, the rights to Cannes. In 1030 Rodoard’s son became a monk on the Lerins islands and subsequently, with the Pope’s blessing, donated Cannes to its Abbey.

The name “Cannes” first appeared in this deed of donation with the mention of “De Portu Canue”. The word Canue is derived from a Ligurian word meaning ’height’ or ‘peak’ – a perched settlement.

Between 13th and 16th centuries, Cannes was disrupted by the plague, and in 1520, an epidemic broke out killing over half of its population. Ownership also changed hands frequently during this period going from the monks to Catalan counts, then the Angevins, who were both Counts of Provence and Kings of Naples, the House of Savoy and finally France.

The British in Cannes

The Lord Chancellor of England, Lord Brougham came to Cannes in 1834. He was on his way to Italy via Nice but due to a recent cholera epidemic in Nice he made an unscheduled stop at the tiny fishing village of Cannes. Lord Brougham was delighted by what he found and decided to build a holiday villa there. In one of his letters back home he wrote:

….enjoying the delightful climate….the deep blue of the Mediterranean glimmers before us. The orange groves perfume the air, while the forests behind, ending in the Alps, protect us from the North winds.

In his honour the council erected a bronze statue of him which is next to the town hall in Cannes old Town. Unsurprisingly, Lord Brougham opened the flood gates for large numbers of British aristocrats and Royals to have residences in Cannes. Possibly, the first wave of Brits to have European holiday homes.

Belle Epoque

After the British came the Russians – the most famous being the incredibly wealthy Alexandra Fedorovna Tripet Skrivistkin. This established Cannes as a resort for wealthy Europeans, Russians and Indian viceroys who came in the wake of Lord Brougham and built beautiful ornate residences. Cannes was a favourite haunt of Guy de Maupassant and Stephen Liegeard who first coined the region’s French name the “Côte d’Azur”.

Further examples of ornate residences are the wonderful ‘Belle Epoque’ hotels: The Carlton, The Martinez and The Majestic  – all now popular places for brunching – which were built in order to accommodate Cannes’ growing popularity amongst the wealthy European aristocrats. Cannes’ port was built in 1838, followed by its train station in 1863 thereby dramatically shortening the journey between Paris and Cannes to 22 hours and 20 minutes. The village soon became a city and expanded westwards towards La Bocca. Its population rose dramatically from 3,000 inhabitants in 1814 to 30,000 in 1914 though WWI halted this growth and many of the hotels were converted into hospitals for the sick and wounded.

WWII and beyond

The inaugural Cannes Film Festival was scheduled for 1939 but was cancelled due to the outbreak of WWII, during which Cannes was occupied firstly by the Italians and then the Germans. In August 1944 it experienced its final attack from the sea during which an American actor, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, the captain of a US Naval ship helped Cannes defeat its enemies. The Film Festival was reinstated and the town’s popularity increased beyond its wildest expectations.

We regularly visit the town either riding through it on our bikes, for Sunday brunch or just for a pleasant stroll around its streets, shops, markets and to admire its architecture. I particularly like the views afforded from the Old Town of Le Suquet. What do you like best about Cannes?

The Sunshine Blogger Award IV

If someone is kind enough to nominate you for an award you should respond, it’s only polite. Plus, of course, it’s awesome getting awards particularly at my stage of life, or indeed at any stage.

This time my grateful thanks go to the gorgeous Priyanka Nair who around two years ago started her wonderful blog. And, in that short time she’s achieved much – just check out her “About” page. Her writing is inspirational and brings that veritable ray of sunshine into our lives. You just know that this determined lady will go far! If you don’t already follow her blog, you should. You won’t regret it.

Award Rules

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you √

2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you √

3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and ask them 11 new questions √

4. List rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post /or on your blog √

5. Notify the nominees about it by commenting on one of their blog posts √

Priyanka’s Questions

1. What is your favorite colour and why?

I don’t have a favourite colour. As a child I loved red because my party shoes were red but nowadays I embrace all colours. Though I would say that I’m not overly fond of blue when it comes to decor and don’t like sleeping in predominantly blue bedrooms.

2. Are you eating for survival or are you a gourmand?

I’m most definitely a greedy gourmand as my waist (or lack thereof) will testify. Also check out my recipes on my “The Musette” posts.

3. Black, red or white grapes?

Not a big fan of grapes, though my other half loves them. I prefer grapes once they’ve been turned into wine: one of life’s little miracles.

4. What is your favourite dessert?

This is much easier. It used to be my mother’s home-made lemon meringue pie. However, for health reasons, I’ve had to give up dairy and hence generally give desserts a miss. There are lots of delicious vegan recipes which I’m happy to embrace but they rarely evoke the same memories as my mother’s truly magnificent lemon meringue pie.

5. What is your favorite pasta dish?

My home-made vegan spaghetti bolognaise. On eating it, my two sisters declared that they didn’t realise there was no meat in it – result!

6. Do you eat fresh salads?

I’ve always loved fresh vegetables and salads and eat them daily. I’m not vegan, as I eat fish, but I do now follow a largely plant-based diet and feel so much better for it.

7. Sweet or spicy?

I like a mix of hot, sweet, sour, spicy and salty – umami!

8. If you are a woman: dress or pantsuit? And, if you are a man: suit or casual?

I’m a woman with a wardobe full of trousers, and very few skirts or dresses. Though, when I first started work, it was frowned upon for women to wear trousers – yes, I’m that old!

9. If you are a woman: high heels or flat shoes? And, if you are a man: Oxfords or sneakers?

Give me flat shoes any day! I have some fabulous pairs of heels, and wear them when appropriate, but love the current trend for athleisure with sneakers.

10. Do you like your birthday day?

Again, when you get to my age, birthdays just show that the sands of time are running out. My bithday is three weeks after Christmas, never a great date for a birthday unless, like me, you were a keen sportsperson, since age is always taken on 1 January.

11. And the last one: have you prayed today?

Not yet.

My Nominees

I follow and enjoy a great number of blogs on a very wide range of topics but this time I’ve decided to nominate those that I’ve recently started to follow.

Christy

The Lanes

Chef Nikki Meow

Anita

Jess

Russell

Shanon

Irene

Sandmoos

Andy and his other half

Dyami

 

Here are my Questions to You

1. How do you bring sunshine into people’s lives?

2. Describe your perfect day

3. How would you keep an energetic 3-year old entertained? Asking for a friend!

4. What’s your favourite meal?

5. Use five adjectives to describe your personal style

6. How do you like to relax?

7. What qualities do you look for in your friends?

8. If money were no object, what would you buy and why?

9. Describe the town where you live and explain why you live there?

10. Use one word to describe how you felt when you read you’d received this award?

11. How would you like to be remembered?

There’s no time limit for your reply but, remembering my great age, please try and make it in my lifetime.  I’m looking forward to reading your answers.

A big thanks once again to Priyanka and have a great day.

Sheree x

 

Friday Photo Challenge – growing

Today is decidedly unspring-like. Indeed it has been overcast all day. Not entirely unexpected at this time of year, but generally towards the end of May temperatures are a couple of degrees warmer.

We all feel better with a bit of sunshine, it lifts our mood. Must be all that Vitamin D!

Of course it’s the mixture of rain and sunshine at this time of year which helps everything to grow so lushly.

Thursday doors #18

Recent trips to towns such as Montpellier and Aix-en-Provence have greatly added to my stock of doors. This handsome example is on the Cours Mirabeau in Aix, a wide thoroughfare and one of the most popular and lively places in the town. The street has pavements planted with double rows of plane trees. It also divides Aix into two portions, the Quartier Mazarin, or “new town”, which extends to the south and west, and the Ville comtale, or “old town”, which lies to the north with its wide but irregular streets and its old mansions dating from 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

This one is the entrance to the l’hôtel Maurel de Pontevès, also known as the hôtel d’Espagne, located on the  Mazarin side of the Cours. The oldest building in the Cours, built in 1648 by Pierre Maurel, a wealthy cloth merchant. It has two muscular sculptures by Jacques Fossé either side of its front door. The building now houses the Commercial Court of Aix-en-Provence.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

The Musette: sticky ribs

Method

1. Pre-heat oven to 150˚C(300˚F)/130˚C fan/gas mark 2.

2. While the oven is warming, peel and finely chop the onion and garlic cloves.

3. Place a frying pan over a medium heat until it is hot, then add the olive oil, onion and garlic. Fry for 8 to 10 minutes or until the onion has softened but not coloured.

4. Add the chilli (if using), fennel seeds and brown sugar and cook, stirring, for a further 3 to 4 minutes until the sugar has melted.

5. Add the tomato ketchup and soy sauce and stir everything together. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens up.

6. Put the ribs into a deep-sided dish and pour over the sauce.

7. Cover the dish with foil and put it into the oven for at least 2 hours, then increase the oven temperature to 180˚C/(350˚F)/160˚C fan/gas mark 4, remove the foil and cook for 30 to 45 minutes more.

8. Once cooked, remove the tray from the oven and let the ribs cool down so they are not too hot to handle before serving.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. You can substitute honey, maple syrup or coconut blossom for the dark brown sugar.

2. If I’m using a bottled rather than home-made ketchup, I’ll also add a tbsp of tomato paste.

3. Feel free to up the garlic and chilli if you enjoy more heat.

4. Depending upon the size of the ribs, you may need to cook them for longer, so that most of the fat has melted.

5. If you want to prepare in advance. Allow the sauce to cool, cover the ribs with the sauce and cover the dish with cling film (plastic wrap) before leaving in the fridge overnight. Remove from the fridge before cooking to allow meat to reach room temperature.

6. The sauce also works well on pork chops and chicken wings.

Trip to La Colle sur Loup

When we first looked at properties to buy on the Cote d’Azur we quickly found a charming house in La Colle sur Loup, a pretty village just down the road from Saint Paul de Vence, which seemed to fit the bill. We pondered long and hard but eventually decided against it as it was a corner property, without a view, on what has become a much busier road. However it’s one of our neighbouring villages, home to one of our favourite restaurants, we enjoy visiting its Jazz evenings during the summer and its other festivals throughout the year.

I few months back I’d spotted it was having a Franco-German festival which we decided to visit. The festival – someone selling vin chaud and bretzels- was a decided let down, but it was fun to reaquaint ourselves with this tranquil and charming place, enjoy coffee and cake in one of its many cafes, plus purchase fruit and vegetables from its Saturday market stall.

A former medieval community, La Colle sur Loup was home to a feudal lord in the 16th century. Consequently, there are plenty of buildings of historical significance such as a 12th century Canadel priory now converted into a restaurant (L’Abbaye) which still has a fortified gateway, corner towers, cloisters and a listed Romanesque chapel. Plus, at the entrance to the village, you’ll find its 17th century Eglise de Saint Jacques Le Majeur which has wonderful stained glass windows and a square bell tower. The place also boasts 16th century Chateau de Montfort and Le Gaudelet, a hunting lodge with a Renaissance facade from the same era.

I like to wander through the village’s historic centre, with its narrow alleyways and lively shopping streets, which has shady little squares with fountains and honey-coloured stone buildings with wonderful carved doors. Formerly renowned for its production of rose perfume – celebrated annually with its Fetes des Roses –  today it’s better known for its antique dealers and decorators, and also for its fine restaurants. In addition, the village has always attracted artists and artisans, such as Yves Klein, the founder of the New Realists, who is buried here, Jacques Ferrandez the well-known cartoon strip artist, the architect Yves Bayard and Raoul Giodan, another cartoon strip artist.

Lying on the river Loup, the village’s surrounding forest is one of its greatest attractions, providing an oasis of cool and peace in the summer months. Activities abound, it’s a mecca for outdoor ones. You can ride horses, cycle, kayak, canoe, hike or fish for trout- or just spend the day with a picnic – you know how the French love to picnic – in one of its two public parks. There’s also a children’s amusement park and a local sports ground.  It’s well worth a visit, perhaps combined with a trip to neighbouring Saint Paul de Vence.

What a lovely surprise!

Typically, I don’t like surprises. I’m a bit of a control freak and like to manage everything in my universe, that way I can deal with anything life throws at me. However, there are exceptions and I’m going to tell you about a very recent one.

I’ve been following the “paintdigi” blog for some time and much admire the work of its owner Ahmed Alozade who presents amazing digital art, along with some beautiful photographs.

This week Ahmed left me a message on my blog:

You are one of my friends and readers most faithful to my site and my art.
To thank you, I invite you to visit the article reserved for you alone, you will find a surprise: “for my premium readers”
Here is the password to view the article:
XXXXXXXXX
Welcome my dear friend

Not unnaturally, I was intrigued and visited Ahmed’s page to see three variations of a digital painting. He asked me to pick my favourite, give it a name and in return he would send me a copy of it.What a lovely surprise!

I called the picture below “Reflective” and I’ll explain why.

I thought maybe the painting was a self-portrait, it’s hard to tell because on his blog the only picture of Ahmed shows him wearing glasses. He’s wearing a loose and flowing blue garment, maybe a djellabah though those tend to be lighter in colour. He’s standing in front of a painting of what look like mountains, maybe the Atlas Mountains which run through Morocco? Behind that looks like a map of the world. There’s lots more going on in the picture. For example, does Ahmed have wings? Are those dark shapes at the bottom of the picture more mountains? Anyway, I decided it was a painting of Ahmed thinking of his home country and hence called it “Reflective.” Perhaps Ahmed can explain below in the comments below.

You’ll note that Ahmed has kindly signed and named the painting (and sent me a certificate of authentication) which I’m going to have printed onto high-quality paper, then I’ll frame it and hang it on my wall. Everytime I pass the painting I’ll think about Ahmed’s kind and thoughtful act.

I can’t claim to have a wide circle of acquaintances from the Magreb but the few I know are all like Ahmed, kind and thoughtful.

 

May’s afternoon tea party with The Little Mermaid

Who doesn’t love afternoon tea? Exactly! Sadly I have to be rather more careful since most afternoon teas are chock full of dairy which is now strictly verboten. However, I have found that many hotels (pictured above) can pull off a vegan afternoon tea with a bit of notice. Alternatively, I can DIY (do it myself – pictured below).

When I first moved into my current apartment, I used to hold physical tea parties for some of the very elderly residents who’d befriended me. They used to love coming round but it wasn’t for the food, it was for the company and a chance to have a chat. I much enjoyed these as the ladies  – sadly none of whom are still with us – had all lived such interesting lives.

Consequently, I’m (finally) joining in with The Little Mermaid’s eighth monthly tea party on her website. This one unfortunately doesn’t include scones with strawberry jam and cream unless, of course, you provide your own. No, the whole point is to encourage an affable exchange of dialogue among the invitees because blogging is more enjoyable when done interactively.

The Little Mermaid’s tea party is the ideal occasion for socialising and making, as well as maintaining the acquaintance of those in the blogosphere. It’s a chance to truly relax and to take some time to recharge one’s batteries by engaging in light-hearted conversation, to be with friends and simply delight in one another’s company. While the first tea party was open-ended, subsequent ones have been topical and this month’s theme is MUSIC, probably not the best topic for me as you’ll see from my responses below.

Here’s The Little Mermaid’s questions:

1. What is your taste in music?

I like lots of different types of music though my beloved accuses me of having the taste of a 14 year old adolescent boy largely because I enjoy Rap.

2. Can you play a musical instrument? If so, what do you play?

As a child I learned to play the descant recorder which had the added advantage that I learned to read music. I have zero musical talent and have no interest in either learning to play any musical instruments or, indeed “sing.” I’ve put that in inverted commas as I cannot hold a note and have a voice like a fog-horn.

3. What is one of your preferred songs?

This feels a bit like “Desert Island Discs,” a UK radio programme where each week a guest is asked to choose eight recordings (usually, but not always, music), a book and a luxury item that they would take if they were to be cast away on a desert island. I have no idea how people manage to whittle their choice down to eight, let alone one! Consequently, I’m going with a track from the first album I ever bought in 1972, which was Tapestry by American singer-songwriter Carole King: “You’ve Got a Friend.”

4. Do you have a favourite band or singer?

No, not really though I tend to favour singer-songwriters.

5. How does music make you feel in general?

Like many people, I generally find music uplifting. When I was younger, much younger, I always listened to music while I was studying. I found it helped to drown out background noise. Now I listen to it while driving my car or riding on my home-trainer (bike). In the same way I prefer sport live, I also like live music and attend a number of concerts every year. Here’s an artist I last saw in Monaco – John Newman.

The May 2019 tea party runs until the end of the month, so why don’t you join in?

But before you do, check out The Little Mermaid’s tea party etiquette:

-Etiquette Number 1- Introduce yourself.

Introduce yourself, your blog or even your latest post to the community in such a way that it encourages others to converse with you. Avoid posting just a link as a comment which looks rude and spammy. Be polite.

-Etiquette Number 2- Mix and mingle.

Tea is a communal experience and there it requires that you meet and greet at least some of the other wonderful people in attendance. Participate by actively reading others’ comments and visiting their links/sites.

-Etiquette Number 3- Share & reblog the most recent tea party.

The purpose of the event is to create a platform where everyone benefits from real diversity of thought; and for that we need to find people who genuinely hold different views and invite them into the conversation. So, please spread the word in the blogosphere through reblogs.

That’s not too difficult is it?

So, drag up a chair, pour yourself a cuppa, help yourself to some cake and introduce yourself. There, what could be nicer?