Monday, 11 November 2019

Treasures in the mountain - Valldemossa

July 2019

Steeped in old world charm, Valldemosa lies in a valley in the midst of the Tramuntana mountain range and is the highest village in Mallorca.  It's a small village, with approximately 2,000 inhabitants, but home to thousands of visitors during  the course of the year. 

The last time I had visited Valldemosa was with my Mum, just over thirty years ago, so for me it was a poignant trip down memory lane.

Views of the plains of Mallorca and
 on to the Mediterranean 
Set in beautiful countryside, with panoramic views of Mallorca and the Mediterranean, it is a popular destination for tourists and hikers.The picturesque streets of Valldemosa are decorated with an abundance of brightly coloured bunting, giving you a feeling that life in the village is one long fiesta.  

Decorated streets of Valldemosa 
It's the sort of place that is perfect for sitting in the shade, with a glass of wine and tapas and watch the world go by.  Which is exactly what we did before exploring the streets and soaking up the views!

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Valldemosa's claim to fame is that Chopin and George Sands stayed at Real Cartuja de Valldemosa, the infamous Carthusian monastery where they spent a winter in 1836 and where George Sands wrote 'A Winter in Majorca'.  The monastery is open to tourists and houses the piano that Chopin used whilst in residence.  I think our claim to fame maybe that we were possibly the only tourists who didn't go in the monastery!

Santa Catalina shrine

Valldemosa is also famous for being the birthplace of Santa Catalina Thomas, the patron saint of Mallorca. Walking past the houses through the village, most have a plaque by the front door which depicts Santa Catalina.  Whilst exploring the backstreets of the village, we came across her birthplace which has been turned into a shrine. Situated in an unassuming position, the shrine is made of carved stone, set in a beautiful gated garden. At first we didn't know what it was as there are no markings or plaques and only by doing a bit of research did I find out its significance. 

Palau del Rei Sanç 
The other place of note in Valldemosa is the Jardins Rei Joan Carles. Set between the monastery and Palau del Rei Sanç (Palace of King Sancho) they provide tourists with shelter from the blazing sun and tranquillity from the hustle and bustle of the streets. A mixture of cultivated plants and foliage intertwined with intricate ironwork, set against clear blue sky, the gardens were quite beautiful. 

Jardins Rei Joan Carles

I spent some time in these gardens, thinking about the last time I'd been in Valldemosa with my Mum and how little had changed in the village, but how our lives had changed so much in the last 30+ years. If anyone had told me then that I would be living on a boat, sailing the Mediterranean I would have laughed in their face. But, as my Mum always said, follow your dreams and live your life to the full and that's exactly what we plan to do!

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Treasures in the mountains - Deià

July 2019

From Puerto de Sòller we took the bus to Valdemossa.  Not only were we going to travel through the Sierrra de Tramuntana, but we would also be going through the small village of Deià.  

This area of Mallorca is very popular with the rich and famous as the seclusion found within the mountains offers residents privacy as well as tranquillity.   Once renowned for its literary and musical residents, it is also now a favourite with actors, celebrities and politicians.  

Set deep in the Tramuntana mountains,  I had always been curious to visit Deià to see what the attraction was and whilst we wouldn't be stopping and exploring,  I would be going through it and get to see it.

As you can imagine, this was not Mark's thing at all, he couldn't think of anything worse. But, the temptation of travelling into the mountains and seeing the landscape that we viewed from the sea was enough to entice him along.

Sierra de Tramuntana 
He was not disappointed.  From the moment we left Sòller and started to climb the hillside out of the town, we knew we were in for a treat. And, what made it even better was, he wasn't driving.

Views of the Mediterranean
 from the hilltop
Up and round the windy road we went, with me holding my breath as we took hairpin bends. The spectacular views just kept coming and we were sitting on the right side of the bus to get some amazing photos. 

It seemed incredible to think that only a few days previously we had been sailing along that coast and pas Cala Deià in our little yacht wondering what the views would be like 'from up there' and here we were, looking 'down there'.

Cala Deià 

The mountain road finally left the cliff edge and started to head inland and onto the village of Deià. Set in the shadow of Teix Mountain, we had great views of the mountain and village as we approached it.

Driving through the village, with it's incredibly narrow roads, it certainly did look picture postcard, but for me a bit too cultivated for tourists.

Deià village

Deià in the shadow of
Teix Mountain 

The village only has 600 residents, but given the number of houses, together with cafes, shops and hotels you couldn't help but think that the inhabitants were there to serve the tourists and rich and famous celebrities that descend upon the village in summer months and that any building development taking place was to satisfy the demand of holiday homes rather than local demand.

I'm glad that I finally got to see Deià and as beautiful as it is, I felt it was soulless and cant say I'd hurry back there. 

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Treasures in the mountains - Sòller

July 2019

Puerto de Sòller is a beautiful little port on the northern coast of Mallorca.  Sòller was once a very affluent area and was renowned for growing and supplying oranges, lemons and olives.  The port, once a major link to Europe, is now a very unassuming, quaint little port, reminiscent of a bygone age with grand hotels and a tram, which links the port to the main town of Sòller three kilometres away.

Puerto de Sòller 

Tucked into the foothills of the Sierra Tramuntana, Puerto de Sòller was an excellent place to shelter from any weather fronts that may arise.  It also has excellent links to other parts of the island, including Palma, so made a great place for us to use as a base.  We loved it so much there, we ended up staying for nearly two weeks.

First on our list of places to visit was the town of Sòller.  It was one of the places that I wanted to revisit and show Mark as I fell in love with the town many years ago.  

All Aboard!
From our anchorage we had first class views of the little tram going back and forth to the town.  With the toot toot of the whistle as it went around corners it looked great fun, so instead of walking the 3 kilometres, we took the tram. We were not disappointed. 

The journey on the tram to the town lasts about 25 minutes and during this time it slowly climbs the hills up into a valley in the Sierra Tramuntana, passing through small hamlets along the way.  It was a great way of seeing these places although there were times during the journey when it was so narrow, you would see people virtually holding their breath, whilst pressed against the walls of buildings.  I wonder if the locals enjoy it as much as the tourists!

Oranges, lemons and mountain pine!
It also took us through some of the most beautiful landscape, with orange and lemons growing in the fields and along the track.  Our eyes were also treated to glimpses of the imposing mountains in the distance,  whilst the smell, fresh air, citrus and pine was intoxicating.  If only I could bottle that,  I could make a fortune!

Plaça de Constituciò
Once in the town, the tram took us through the main square and past the very grand church, evidence of the affluence that once prevailed and onto the tram/train station.  

The Sòller tram at the station
The tram/train station has been restored to its former glory and is home to Ferrocarril de Sòller, the company responsible for running the trains that runs between Sòller and Palma.  It is also home to art collections from Picasso and Joan Mirò, both of which are open to the public free of charge. 

Town Hall and Church

A short walk down cobbled streets took us back to the main square, the Plaça de Constituciò, which really is the heart of the town.  It is home to the church of Sant Bartomeu and takes pride of place.  To the east of the church is the very grand building which is home to the town hall, but for me, it was the building to the west of the church that captured my attention.

Banco de Sòller 

Home to Banco de Soller is a remarkable building designed by Catalan architect Joan Rubio i Bellver, who was a follower of Antoni Guadì.  I could certainly see similarities in the design of the building and the ornate ironwork.

As you would expect in an old small town set in the hills, the streets are very narrow and can mainly only accommodate one car at a time. However, the buildings that lined these streets have obviously been maintained and cared for over the years and demonstrate a sense of pride that still prevails in the town.

Ornate buildings and mountain views

Walking through the streets of Soller, you couldn't help but get a sense of what life once was in this beautiful little town.  Even on a hot day in July, with the hustle and bustle of tourists, there was a quiet serenity to the place and if it all got too much and you needed solace, you walked to the end of the street and into the mountains! 

Sunday, 15 September 2019

En route to Puerto Soller

July 2019

Following our stay in Puerto de Andraitx we headed out to start exploring the north coast, from Isla Sa Dragonera to Puerto de Soller.  I had visited Soller a few times as a young girl and wanted to show Mark the beauty of Soller, Valldemossa and Deià.

Leaving Puerto de Andraitx early afternoon we knew that we wouldn't get to Puerto de Soller until way after sunset, so we decided to take our time, enjoy the scenery and drop anchor along the way.

Isla Sa Dragonera
Hurray, the wind was with us and although the forecast was for variable winds, once outside the shelter of the harbour entrance, we had a light south westerly wind with a 0.5-1.0 metre swell, which made for comfortable sailing. So, with foresail and mainsail up I had a happy skipper! 

It took us about an hour to get to the entrance of the channel between Isla Sa Dragonera and the mainland.  With the wind as it was, we downwind gybe tacked to keep up a decent speed and reduce the risk of gybing in the 1 metre swell funneling in the channel.

Unfortunately the wind died before we reached the end of the channel,  so it was back to chugging along on the engine, but at least we'd had a couple of hours sailing. 

Coastline from Isla Sa Dragonera 
Once we had got through the passage between Dragonera and the mainland, we were greeted with spectacular scenery.  Talk about rolling hillsides, this was just mountain upon mountain upon mountain. 

I had an inkling of what the scenery would be like, having been over it by land, but nothing could have prepared us for just how jaw dropping beautiful it was.

We carried on motoring for another couple of hours.  The scenery was enough to keep us occupied and the time soon past, but as it was starting to get late, we needed to find somewhere to drop anchor. We saw a number of boats anchored in Cala de ses Ortigues, which is east of Punta de na Foradada, so went in for a look. 

Cala de ses Ortigues
Although the anchorage was quite crowded when we arrived (around 30+ boats),  we knew by experience that by 20:00 it would be practically empty because most of the boats are either charter boats or boats owned by locals who take their families out for the day or have groups of young people on them listening to music and just having fun. 

With this in mind, we dropped anchor in 14 metres of sand in this beautiful bay with a backdrop of woods and inland cliffs.  And yes, by dusk it had cleared out and with no one in close proximity to us, Mark dropped our stern anchor to stop Offbeat rolling with the waves in the night.

All that was left to do was settle down for supper and another beautiful sunset.

The next morning we woke to find that there was only 4 boats (including us) in the anchorage.  We felt very lucky to be waking in such a glorious place, with water that was so clear you could see the ripples of the sand.  

I should say that by now, the daily temperature was in the mid 30s and night time temperature didn't fall to much below 27 degrees.  Humidity in the boat was a constant battle, ranging from 70 to 85% most of the time.  So, with crystal clear blue water enticing you, there was nothing for it but to jump in and have a glorious swim before breakfast.

After our swim and breakfast, we headed out of the cala.  We had noticed the previous night that there was some sort of fishing installation in the northern corner of the cala, but didn't really take much notice of it.  However, on our way out Mark saw something  very similar to a dolphin fin swimming in the marked area.

He told me about it as we headed out, so I got the binoculars to have a look.  I couldn't see anything but Mark couldn't leave it, if it was a dolphin he wanted to do something to help release it.  

So we headed back in and saw quite a few people either on paddle boards or in dinghies around the fishing area.  One who spoke good English confirmed it was a dolphin and explained that divers were in the water opening the trap doors so that it could get out.  Reassured that rescue was at hand, we headed out of the cala and headed north.

Rolling mountains of
Sierra de Tramontana 
There was a bit of westerly wind, albeit very light, so Mark raised the Foresail, but then replaced it with the ghoster.  We sailed with the ghoster for a few hours, but after being at the helm for a couple of hours (whilst Mark had his siesta) and only doing 1 to 2 knots, we took the ghoster down and put the engine on.  Don't get me wrong, I too love the tranquility of the wind rustling the sails and the sea gently lapping past, but when you're doing it in 35 degrees with very little shade and the scenery isn't changing, it can get a bit tedious.

Having said that, some of the scenery was outstanding.  From the calas of Valdemossa and Deià, to the rock formation of Punta de sa Foradada and the rolling mountains of the Sierra de Tramontana, we were mesmerised. 

Cala Banyalbufar

Cala Deià

Cala Valdemossa 

Punta de Sa Foradada

Puig Major in the distance
With Puig Major watching over us, we finally arrived in Puerto de Soller late afternoon.  

The Anchorage was already very crowded and as we were setting our anchor, Mrs Bouquet from the boat next to us stood on deck with hands on hips informing us they had 30 meters of anchor chain out.

Puerto de Soller
Boats continued to pour in at a rate of about one every couple of minutes.  The poor woman next to us was having kittens and last we heard, they had 50 meters of anchor chain out.

Ho him, first world problems. 


Now, where's that wine! 

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Andratx - Mallorca

July 2019

Living life on the hook (anchor to non yachties) can take it's toll on you, especially if you're not 100%.  So, after nearly a week of Mark suffering with his back and no sign of it getting any better, we decided to head to Puerto de Andraitx and check into the marina so Mark could see a Chiropractor. 

So, with no wind to speak of, I pulled up anchor and we headed off literally round the corner to the next bay.  It took a couple of hours to get there, but the views were stunning on the way.

Our first glimpse of Sierrra de Tramontana
Once in the marina,  Mark went off to see the Chiropractor whilst I meandered around the marina and village, getting my bearings for jobs we needed to do.

Being in the marina in Puerto de Andraitx wasn't like being in other marinas where you're usually stuck on the edge of the town or village and have a 15 to 20 minute walk to get to shops or bars and restaurants.  In the puerto it felt as though we were an integral part of the village, albeit we were on the water.  

Puerto de Andraitx at night
It was a joy being in a marina and this one had greeat facilities including a swimming pool and laundry service.  We spent the first night on a pontoon stern too and a further 2 nights on a mooring buoy close to the marina.  The service from the marina was really good, with a dinghy service to pick you up and take you back to your boat.  I really liked this part, it was like having a driver on hand to run you around.  Mark also liked it as it saved him having to row ashore and enabled him to rest his back.

Andraitx nestled at the foot of
 Sierra de Tramontana

The views from our mooring buoy were beautiful.  To the north east was the main town of Andraitx, nestled in the foot of the Sierra de Tramontana, a spectacular mountain range on the north coast of Mallorca. To the south west was the Mediterranean and where we saw a stunning sunset and moon rise.

Sunset at Puerto de Andraitx

Moonrise over Puerto de Andraitx

The main street of Andraitx town
Having seen the village from the puerto, we decided to take the bus into the mountains and explore the town. With a population of approximately 11,000 people it's not a big town so we spent the afternoon exploring on foot.

Most notable were the views from the church which is set proudly at the top of the steepest hill in the town.  Having climbed the hill, we sat on the benches slightly red faced and glowing, looking down at Puerto de Andraitx, admiring the views.  For some reason it made us quite reflective and we spent some time talking about how we had both started from humble beginnings to now living our dream through Offbeat's Adventures. 

Church of Santa Maria - Andraitx 

Rooftops of Andraitx

View of Puerto de Andraitx

Late afternoon whilst sat in the main square of the town, surrounded by locals and enjoying a cold glass of wine, admiring the views of the mountain range around us, it was easy to see why people fall in love with this part of Mallorca.  With the tranquil pace of life and stunning surrounds, it was bit of a drag to go to the bus stop and head on back to Offbeat for our next voyage.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Ibiza to Mallorca

Tuesday 16th July 2019

Goodbye Ibiza. For now.

We raised anchor at 06:50 and headed out of Portinatx,  hoping for a good sail as the weather prediction for the day was 10 to 15 knots south easterly wind, with an easterly swell.  As we left Portinatx bay, we were treated to a beautiful sunrise over the mountain, which was a perfect ending to our time in Ibiza.

Punta des Moscarter
By 07:30 we had raised the jib and main sail but with the wind at 5 to 10 knots, we continued with a bit of help from the engine.  The sea state was calm, but with even a small northeast and southeast swell converging at the Punta des Moscarter, it was a very confused sea for a while.

By 09:00 we were only managing 2.5 to 3 knots under sail, so we kept the engine on to maintain speed.  Where was this 10 to 15 knots predicted?

By 10:00, with no sign of an increase in wind and still motor-sailing, Mark went down for an early siesta.  His back was still hurting and hauling up the anchor manually just aggravates it more.  Standing at the helm, on my own on a beautiful sunny calm day was quite humbling.  It's one of those days when you pinch yourself as you can't quite believe that you're so lucky to be here, doing this.

I was very excited to be going back to Mallorca as it holds lots of memories for me and there are places I wanted to show Mark.  We had also agreed that we would bring the grandchildren out to Mallorca for a weeks holiday.  

By 11:30 Mallorca was in sight, albeit hazy mountains under a cap of cloud. With 70% humidity it was all a bit murky but we knew we were on the right course as there were 14 other boats in eyeshot.  There was still no wind to speak of, but we were optimistic.

Mallorca in sight
By 13:30 the wind had dropped to nothing and the sea was glassy.  As we were crossing the deep water between the islands we hoped to sea some marine life, but nothing, even with a flat sea there was nothing.  Mark lowered the sails, but kept the mainsail raised for visibility as it's better when there's no wind.

Mountains of west Mallorca 
And on we ploughed, chugging away under engine. Even when the sea breeze kicked in, it only lasted for about 1/2 hour.  Although it was an uneventful passage, it was a hard one.  The sun and heat were relentless and with no wind to speak of, the cabin wasn't much cooler. The one thing that did lift our spirits and keep us going was the sight of the beautiful mountains of Mallorca looming up on the horizon. 

At around 17:30 we dropped anchor in the bay just past the entrance of Santa Ponsa marina and although there were a lot of boats, we found a good patch of sand and staked it as ours for the evening, glad that we had finally reached Mallorca.

Santa Ponça

Portinatx, Ibiza

Friday 12th July to Monday 15th July 2019

We arrived in Portinatx early afternoon and dropped anchor about 400 metres from the beach.  It isn’t a very big cala, but it is very popular with yachts coming from or going to Mallorca so can get very crowded.

We planned to stay here for a few days and wait until there was a favourable weather window to blow us over to Mallorca.  What we didn’t know at our time of arrival was that it was fiesta weekend, celebrating Virgin del Carmen.  Stella Maris, as she is also known, was adopted by fishermen and Mariners as their patron. But more about that later!

We had a leisurely afternoon on Friday, Mark's back was still niggling so we didn’t go ashore.  We spent the time pottering about and people watching.

Having dinner in the cockpit I noticed a fork lift truck lifting speakers off the back of the lorry onto a stage that had been erected in the corner of the beach.  “Ooh” I said to Mark, “I think there's going to be a concert". I did a quick check on the internet to see what was on in Portinatx over the weekend and that was when I found out it was the fiesta of the Virgin del Carmen and that it was the party of all parties in Portinatx over the weekend with folk dancing, parades, live music and their famous beach party.  

Having never being into the Ibiza party scene, we were unaware that the party is an annual event where DJs from all over the island come to play a set from 10pm Saturday evening until 5 am Sunday morning.  Oh well, good excuse to have a lay in on Saturday as it will be a late one!

Saturday we rowed ashore and headed into town to pick up a few bits.  Shopping done, we stopped at a bar for refreshments and they just happened to have the women's Wimbledon final showing.  I haven't watched a final in years, so with wine in hand I settled down for the afternoon.  Wow, what a match.  Although it didn't last long, it was brilliant to watch and made a nice change for us.

We headed back to Offbeat to have a little siesta before dinner as we knew we were in for a long night.  The locals had been talking about the beach party in the bar we were in, explaining that it is very loud and no one sleeps whilst it's on.

Mark was still suffering with his back so we decided not to go to the beach, but like other boats in the bay we would get in the spirit and decorate Offbeat.  We put up the bunting, lit the candles and even the disco ball made an appearance. It was fascinating watching the boats come in and drop anchor right in front of the beach.  There were about 7 or 8 boats rafted together right next to the swimming buoys. With best seats in the house, they were in for a good night!

By 2am we'd had enough of listening to house music, so we went below and spent a few hours planning for Mallorca.

We woke late Sunday morning to find that Mark's back had gone altogether and being in pain, he was very limited in what he could do. So, whilst he rested I carried on with planning our trip to Mallorca.

Sunday night was the highlight of the weekend for me, with the celebration of the Virgin del Carmen.  Her much loved effigy is placed on a flower decked throne and paraded through the streets and taken for a tour round the harbour, accompanied by a flotilla of fishing boats.  Brass bands play, crowds cheer and fireworks are let off.  We didn't get ashore, but I could hear the brass band playing and watch the procession along the seafront from Offbeat.

The procession around the harbour bay was lovely.  With local boats following, the statue of the Virgin del Carmen was taken to the entrance of the bay on a local tour boat, accompanied by clergy, dignitaries and parishioners where a blessing was given and wreaths, for those who have lost their lives at sea, were placed in the sea.  The formal bit over, fog horns were sounded around the bay.

Procession over, we were treated to more live music from a live band that had a hot air balloon as a stage prop.  It was all a bit random, but they were pretty good and played songs that I knew, so with glass of wine in hand I danced to the music on Offbeat.

Monday and Mark was feeling a bit better, so we rowed ashore and had a wander through the town.  I say wander in its loosest term as there are 4 streets to the town.  Still  its a pretty town with friendly people and we enjoyed our time there.

Back at Offbeat we made final preparations for our crossing to Mallorca.  We were planning to leave at 06:30 so wanted to have everything ready before bed.

It's amazing how much work goes into prepping the boat before a long sail. Checking sails, lines, rigging, engine, fuel etc., stowing all the stuff that’s gathered on deck and the dinghy.  Then there's below, everything needs to be stowed and secured and when it’s your home, that can be a lot of stuff!

Still, we did it.  We had our last dinner in Ibiza on deck and watched the sunset whilst wondering what Mallorca has in store for us.