Springtime in the Balearics

A calm and uneventful 22 hour passage from Valencia on 15/16 April, interrupted only by some delightful dolphins swimming alongside us at dusk, saw us arriving outside the Port de Sóller, Mallorca at dawn.

We had slowed down for the previous two hours, not wanting to enter an unknown anchorage in the dark but by 8.15am we had dropped the hook and were well dug in.

As you can see, the port is in a lovely setting. A wide horseshoe shaped bay, surrounded by forested hills, encloses crystal clear water.

A weekly market….

… and plenty of bars and restaurants make it a pleasant place to stay – especially as you then get to see the early morning mist over water….

….but most visitors seem to come just for the day, transported from inland Sóller Town by the famous Sóller trams.











Even more famous is the Sóller Train…

….which runs back and forth across Mallorca to Palma.

Having decided we wanted to do the train ride we caught the bus to Palma, had a swift look round – taking in the promenade area to the northern end of the town which we hadn’t seen on our previous visit, where we chanced upon this clock.

In high season all the trains are full and, even in April, the first train out of Palma and the last back get booked up in advance but we were perfectly happy with a mid-afternoon ride.

Waiting at the station

….points change














Off we go…

Fantastic views of Soller as the train twists down the hillside

At both ends of the line, there are exhibitions of the works of Joan Miró…

“Archipal Sauvage”

…whose maternal grandfather came from Sóller. The larger exhibition is at the Sóller end where three of the old station rooms are dedicated to Miró’s work….

Iconographs represented in his paintings

“Le crepescule rose caresse les femmes et les oixeaux”

….and two to his friend, Picasso’s, colourful ceramics.

“Bright Owl” ….which of course caught my eye


A photograph of them takes pride of place in the station entrance.

Sóller Town is well worth a visit in itself and we spent the best part of a day there wandering the narrow lanes and taking in the buildings. The main square – Plaça Constitució – is dominated by St Bartomeu church.

It is described in the Lonely Planet guide as a “neo-Gothic remodel of a medieval original, with a couple of Art Nouveau flourishes thrown in”. Its enormous rose window is certainly striking as is the heavy balustrade above.

The rear – as seen from the market entrance and looking up to the mountains beyond

Equally flamboyant is the bank next door which was designed by Joan Rubió, an acolyte of Gaudi.

What we particularly enjoyed whilst staying in Sóller were the walks into the countryside….

Which way next?

Old pathway

Still a bit of water around

…. when we saw spring growth at its best.


…and two tone leaved Olive


… and lemons – fruit, seed and blossom


…and fig











Finca Es Bosc

Produce “for sale” – no price…make a donation

Our enjoyment was enhanced further when “Coriander” and “Destination Anywhere” arrived in the port. A reunion in the usual fashion was called for…

“The usual suspects with Soller regulars, Mark and Nikki

…and one of our party got rather carried away with a party trick!

Sorry Gill….couldn’t resist…am sure you will get me back!

Not a “trick” exactly, but certainly a skill which more and more people are learning is paddle-boarding. Owl and Pussycat seems to be about the only boat that hasn’t got one! This family certainly know what it’s about…

… Steve seems to have got it sussed – though I don’t have a photo to prove it – and Malc is learning!

We tried to top up with fuel in Sóller only to find that in the off season months the fuel dock doesn’t open at weekends! Still we had sufficient in the tank not to worry too much and motored for 6 miles in almost no wind to Cala Tuent – a lovely secluded anchorage where we enjoyed a short walk ashore…

…..were treated to an exhibition of drone flying by Steve and Gill – resulting in some great photos …..

Coriander and Owl and Pussycat share an anchorage at Cala Tuent

…and then drinks and dinner on Coriander before an early night.

The following day we got a fairly early start…

….even though it was only 2.5 miles round to the most famous anchorage on Mallorca, Sa Calobra.

We expected it to be very busy and, in respect of people, it was but they were mostly dropped off and picked up by tourist boat and/or bus so during the evening and the following morning we saw the surroundings at their best.

We did go ashore for a while and took the tunnel walk…

….but rather than joining the crowd on the beach…

…. we walked part way up the box canyon through which a trickle of a river makes its way towards the sea.

Most of the year it just forms a milky pool behind the sand bar but it can, apparently, be a force to be reckoned with after heavy rains.

We had said goodbye to DA in Sóller and it was now time to part company once again with Coriander – they were going back west to Santa Ponça while we were heading east to Pollença.

Pollença anchorage is at the head of a large bay….

…and we were lucky to find a sandy patch to anchor in near the outer edge of the harbour and outside of the permanent local boat moorings. We were very surprised at how secure the anchorage was even in fairly brisk winds.

Altogether we had five nights in Pollença during which time we did everyday things like laundry and shopping and some boat maintenance but we took two days out to visit Pollença old town and Alcúdia – both short bus rides away from the bay.

Founded in C13, Pollença is a pretty town with the usual main square and church and maze of narrow streets.

Interesting downspout

South of the main square is an old watchtower…

…behind which lies the deconsecrated church of Nostra Senyora del Roser in which are held temporary art exhibitions.

Photograph of a fish market – I could almost see it in action

Very clever use of everyday objects and lights

Although it was great to see the modern art it seemed a shame that some of the church’s original artwork was mainly hidden.

In the former monk’s quarters is a small museum with some quite interesting exhibits…

Tibetan prayer circle with pots of the coloured sand used to create it

Bull shaped sarcophagi – the oldest example of bull worship in the Balearics

…and one, outside, without much needed explanation.

Pollença’s main attraction is the “Puig de Calvari” [Calvary Hill] and the long, steep stairway which climbs it.

By accident we found an easier way up….

….following the Stations of the Cross.

At the top is a fairly simple sanctuary…

… some spectacular views….

…..and this doorway.

The plaque says “El Calvario”

Alcúdia, encircled by a restored thick crenellated wall…..

…. and overlooked by the decorative town hall bell tower….

…has quite a history. First recognised in 700BC by the Phoenicians, it was used as a stopping off point for sea trade. However, that town disappeared when the Romans came and built “Pollentia”.

Looking at the names you, like many historians, can be forgiven for thinking that modern Pollença rather than Alcúdia must surely have been Pollentia but, in 1887, the discovery of an inscription on the base of a statue confirmed that Pollentia was just outside the walled city of Alcúdia.

Unfortunately many of the stones from the Roman buildings have been used for other purposes but you can still get an idea of what it might have been like.

Plan of Pollentia

The Forum


Uncovered burial chambers

A small one room museum – Museu Monogràfic – displays a selection of artifacts.

Seems obvious where our coins came from

Bronze pin

Part of a marble statue showing a typical breastplate

From north coast Mallorca we sailed across to north coast Menorca on 28th April. A very pleasant day sail…

…taking just over 8 hours for the 52 miles from Pollença to Fornells.

A narrow entrance and a long “lagoon” makes it very popular with sailors….

…..and land based tourists seem to come for the various water sport activities but I am afraid we found the place rather plastic.

It didn’t help that on the day after we arrived we experienced 30kn sustained wind with 40+ gusts, one of which caused anchor drag. Well, to be truthful, the anchor didn’t exactly drag – it came up with a lump of seabed mud and weed twice its size stuck firmly to it making re-anchoring a bit of a nightmare.

We persevered with the place and went ashore the following day for a look at the old Castell de Sant Antoni…

…. and the remains of some later British fortifications…

…. including the Torre de Fornells.

We also dinghied across to Isla Sargantana where there is another watchtower…

…..and where we saw a species of lizard apparently unique to the small islet.

As the guide book had told us, to the untrained eye [ours] it looks just like many other lizards but to those in the know  – it isn’t!

Mr and Mrs Lizard

From Fornells we moved round to Maó [Mahon] – the city we enjoyed so much last September. Our sail down the east side past Cabo Favaritx shows that all sailing is not blue sea and sky!

Our original intention before leaving Mallorca had been to go to Cuitadella on Menorca’s west coast. However, Ports IB moorings had told us they didn’t take boats over 12metres and Club Nautico didn’t respond to our emails so we decided against sailing there. Instead we went by bus from Mahon – which turned out to be a good way to see the interior. Once there it was clear that we could have just rolled up unannounced as there was plenty of space on the Club Nautico dock.

Ciutadella’s port area really reminded me of Whitby with cobbled quaint alleyways – not that you can see them in this photo!

Originally the island capital, until the British rather abruptly moved it to Mahon in 1722, it boasts a pretty central square, Plaça d’es Born….

Obelisk with the Ajuntament [Town Hall] behind

….the obelisk commemorating the islands futile defence against the Turks in 1558!

Placa d’es Born looking towards the Palau Torresaura

The old town….










….. is a series of twisting alleyways around a central market comprising meat and veg in booths along the walkway….

…and a small, enclosed, fishmarket.

The “Estatua des Be” ….

…. which symbolises the Lamb of God, carries a flag bearing the cross of St John the Baptist.

Just round the corner is the Claustra de Convent de Sant Agustí which houses a museum.

Inside an amazingly eclectic range of exhibits included this C5 BC Greek bronze of a Mesopotamian mermaid….

I hadn’t realised that mermaids were depicted at that time as the body of a bird with folded wings and a woman’s head rather than a half woman/half fish.

As well as Talayotic remains, there were stuffed animals, a collection of land snails and fossils and stuff that looked like it might have been thrown out of school science labs in the mid 70’s – including this different way of demonstrating “squaws and a hippopotamus hide”!!!

Another deconsecrated church made up the other half of the building.













Regular readers might remember that when we passed through Maó on our way west we failed to visit the fort and tried but failed to visit the distillery. We were again unsuccessful in regards to the former – even though we did try. For some unknown reason we expected it to be free to enter as it occupies a rambling site across the headland. Even more unusually we didn’t take the wallet – which we generally do in case there is a beer opportunity! Anyway we got as far as the entrance gate….

…. looked at some of the outside walls….

…and were content instead with the excellent view of the anchorage.

We were, however, successful with the distillery.

We would have been very red faced owning up to missing it again – so just to be sure we actually went twice! Well, with free help yourself tasting of the four flavours of gin plus various mixer liquors why wouldn’t you.

We are really glad that we made it back to both Mallorca and Menorca and, particularly with Mallorca, that we were able to sample the delights of its north coast. What I think added to our enjoyment and prompted the title of this post was that we saw it in the spring. It wasn’t the rather barren landscape we remembered but full of wild flowers and grasses….


… red and yellow

….  and, thus, with more birds and insects etc too.

Sardinian Warbler

Andouin’s Gull – yes it did have a red bill

Cirl Bunting

Migrating Canada Goose

Small land snails

Tree bumble bee

Common Copper butterfly on English Marigold

It has been great to be on the move again and we are delighted that the weather has been kind and allowed us to see these islands at their best.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2018/05/27/springtime-in-the-balearics/

A bit more fun and a lot of work!

Well we have now moved on from Valencia – heading east, but of course we had a bit more fun before leaving.

We visited La Albufera – a lagoon just south of the city where the bomba rice, for which Valencia is famous, is grown.

Dave and Mag came to stay for six nights and, as well as showing them the sights of Valencia and the waterfront,

…… we also took a car trip north to Castello de Sagunto.

Dave finally found a Pizza oven!!!!

It was originally a thriving Iberian community called, believe it or not, “Arse” which was destroyed, in 219BC, by Hannibal – he obviously didn’t like the name! This sparked the second Punic War, which Rome won and a new town, Saguntum, was built.

The engraved stones are parts of funerary and honorary inscriptions.

The small town there was all decked out in its Easter colours – even purple flowers had been planted.

We saw ships old and new visiting the harbour…..

…and made lots of trips to the market…..

and veg – just look at those radishes!

Lovely fruit

Snails anyone!!

So many dates to choose from…

…and lovely hams

Bit macabre – its a processed fish stall!

….where we also took Steve and Gill during their short stay in Valencia before and after their trip back to the UK.

Great coffee at the Panaderia

Whilst they were with us we also came across a building we hadn’t previously known you could visit.

Fantastic ceiling in the upstairs room

A bit of detail – can you see all the little heads?

An amazing fireplace in the main hall

But the over winter 2017/18 Valencia stories would not be complete without my telling you a little bit about the work we did between visitors and visits. It’s amazing when you actually sit down to make a list you realise just how much you have achieved. Over the course of six months we did the following:-

Replaced the bow navigation light and bracket

Fitted a new wash down pump and replaced the deck connection

So much for being told the wash down pump was relatively new!

Fitted a holding tank for the forward heads – including a deck pump out. We “lost” a wardrobe in the process – but who needs one of those!

Pipework done…..

….tank in and braced – you don’t want that coming loose!

Replaced the Italian 240v sockets

Fitted a water-maker

At the same time we replaced and moved the galley seawater pipe and also replaced the galley sink cupboard floor

Water maker pump and filters under the sink

….and still room for all the usual under sink stuff

Removed the old water heater pipes

Move the pressurised water pipe connections to make them more accessible and visible

Rewired the navigation station and built new panels and a created a new cupboard

That does look much more tidy inside

Making the bracket for the SSB

All in place

Cut here….!

A place for everything and everything in place!

Replaced the leaking deck prism

Butyl tape works brilliantly and you can’t see it at all

Serviced the davits  and replaced the davit hoist pulleys and ropes

A nice bit of splicing there

Replaced the shore-power socket and rewired the internal shore-power cable

Reverse Polarity switch needed replacing – as you can see

What in heavens name was the previous owner doing…

…and its not as though he couldn’t see from one to the other













Replaced the water tank gauges and senders

Replaced the dinghy grab handle and grommets

Replaced the dinghy outboard fuel tank filler cap

Fitted wire hoist strops to the dinghy

Aha… the trusty hydraulic crimper

Replaced the aluminium exhaust elbow [which came with the engine] with a stainless steel one

Serviced the engine

Had the diesel polished

Replaced the spray hood

Had a lazy bag made to replace the old cover

Serviced the sheet winches and replaced the collets

Serviced the starboard reefing winch

Fitted an AIS

Fitted a new battery charger and a battery monitor

Trying to ensure there is space….

..because the new one is a different shape

now for the shunts and wiring in the house battery compartment

Fitted a dedicated charger for the VHF handheld

Replaced the vented loops in the generator exhaust and the 240v fridge coolant system

Epoxied the fridge door frame

Replaced the catch on rear shower/engine room door

Fitted a handle to the companionway hatch

Marked reefing points on the main halyard and on the reefing lines

Stopped a stern shower tap leak – which had been staining woodwork in the saloon

Made a mattress support [with a little help from Ikea] to allow air to circulate and reduce damp/mold

We had to cut some of the frame and re-staple the tape but it works really well

Whilst doing some jobs – we managed to fit in others

Well I’ve got the angle grinder out….

…so I may as well reshape and sharpen knives which were damaged when Siga Siga sunk

I guess I could go into detail about the work not done, but that would end this blog on a sour note, so I won’t – just suffice to say that our planned bimini and re-designed stern arch work did not happen. This means we are toting around two solar panels and a wind generator in our spare bedroom. Don’t worry forthcoming guests – we can move them to the bunkroom for your visit.

It also means our list for jobs to do in Greece has already started! But, hopefully I will be reporting on many other adventures before then so watch this space.I guess I could go into detail about the work not done, but that would end this blog on a sour note, so I won’t – just suffice to say that our planned bimini and re-designed stern arch work did not happen. This means we are toting around two solar panels and a wind generator in our spare bedroom. Don’t worry forthcoming guests – we can move them to the bunkroom for your visit.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2018/05/04/a-bit-more-fun-and-a-lot-of-work/

Fiestas Valencia style

This post is rather shorter and sweeter in terms of words than my usual ramblings, though I hope that the abundance of photographs makes it a colourful read.

In keeping with the Spanish tradition, Valencia knows how to party. Fiestas abound. Since the beginning of 2018 we have seen Three Kings Day, Carnival, Falles and preparations for San Vincente Ferrer feast day.

Unfortunately we didn’t see much of Los Reyes Magos [Three Kings] Parade, basically due to the number of people who got there before us! It is very much aimed at children and is the time when they receive their “Christmas” gifts. Throughout the parade, sweets and sometimes small toys are thrown to the crowd by the Kings and their entourage.

The Kings arrive by ship and then walk a route which takes about three hours before they reach the Plaza de Ayuntamiento. We just saw their arrival at the marina.

Whilst Carnival is celebrated, it is perhaps rather more low key in Valencia because of the city’s Fallas festival which takes place a couple of weeks later. However, several of the “barrios” host small carnivals and we went to two of them.

First of all, Cabanyal ….

…. which is the old fisherman’s quarter close to the marina.

Their theme was Mardi Gras.


















The very popular “queen” of the proceedings gave a rousing speech …..

….and all in all it was very much a fun local family affair.









Then it was the turn of Ruzzafa…

……which hosted a “folkloric” carnival with various South American communities being represented.

Decorated cars…













flags…. and ….












Performers and dancers in their hundreds…
































Fantastic costumes…













….and head-dresses….























Bit of a creepy mask…














Balancing acts….

People of all ages…..












A great time was had by all

Then, every March Valencia gets ready to welcome the spring – with the main event in its annual fun packed calendar, Falles – a traditional celebration held in commemoration of Saint Joseph.

Each neighbourhood of the city has an organised group of people, the “Casal Faller”, also known as the “Comissío Fallera”, which works all year long holding fundraising parties and dinners.

The Valencian people, and any visitors lucky enough to be in the city over the festival period, really get to live life to the full as the city celebrates. The general gist is that everything that is bad is burnt and the new season is reborn from the ashes.

There are different versions regarding the origin of the Falles festival but the most popular one seems to be that the Falles started in the Middle Ages, when artisans disposed of the broken artefacts and pieces of wood they saved during the winter by burning them to celebrate the spring equinox. Valencian carpenters used planks of wood called “parots” to hang their candles on during the winter to provide light to work by. With the coming of the spring, they were no longer necessary, so they were burned. Over time, and with the intervention of the Church, the date of the burning of these parots was made to coincide with the celebration of the festival of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters.

This tradition continued to evolve. The parot was dressed with clothing so that it looked like a person; features identifiable with some well-known person were added as well. The “Ninot” [character figure] was born.

These figures, often “disney-like” in appearance might just be fantasy creations but sometimes represent politicians and other celebrities from the local neighbourhood, the city, the country and the world. These were then placed on a pedestal so they could be seen in the distance.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, the falles were tall boxes with three or four wax dolls dressed in fabric clothing. This changed when the creators began to use cardboard. The fabrication of the falles continues to evolve in modern times, when the largest displays are made of polystyrene and soft cork which means they can be more easily moulded with hot saws. These techniques have allowed the creation of falles over 30 metres high.

Each year there is one “ninot indultat” [pardoned ninot]. This has resulted in an exhibition of the best figures, one per Falla, with the general public as the jury. We went to this year’s exhibition – held in the Science museum.

There are so many to choose from and it was really difficult to know what makes a good ninot. We just enjoyed seeing them and didn’t vote.


Recognise him?

A piss take on the British tourist…

Counting people!…….

The Fab Four

Now who could this be…..!

Certainly a popular choice of caracature

All the pardoned ninots, dating back several years, are exhibited in the Falles Museum which, you might remember, we visited in February.

From 1 to 19 March, every day at 2 pm in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, the city vibrates to the sound of the traditional mascletà, a display of gunpowder explosions that beats out a unique sound. We went to the first one and the noise was tremendous. We couldn’t work out a particular beat but the ground certainly shook.

It was all overseen by the Fallera Mayor and her entourage.

Each Falla committee has a queen but one is then selected as the overall queen of the Falla.

On the night of 15th March the plantà [installation] takes place, when the falleros and falleras – the men and women who construct the falles, get together to work through the night on erecting them, to have them finished by dawn on the 16th. It seemed that not all Falla societies waited until the official start time of 5pm as Mike saw these guys at around midday.

When we first heard about the festival we went to the tourist office and enquired as to where we might see the figures. The answer was “everywhere” and that was absolutely right. There are somewhere between 450 and 750 constructions, and when we went into the city on 16th March they were in every plaza and on many street corners.

Rather sinister….














A bit bawdy…

Here he is again…

Falles or phallus!…

During the day there were small parades taking place in the local falla committee streets…










Amazing dresses…












…but you have to eat sometime!

Accompanied by bands…











just time for a quick check on mates….

…..and during the evenings of 17/18 March all of the city’s falles members take part in a parade from their respective districts to the Plaza de la Virgin….

….in order to make an offering of flowers to Our Lady of the Forsaken, a Patron Saint of Valencia. The celebration takes place from 4 pm until past midnight. With all of the bunches of flowers given by the falleras to the Virgin, an impressive 15 metre-high tapestry is formed on the main façade of the Basilica and a mantle is made for the Virgin.

Waiting for her flowers…

Now fully bedecked

We went in to the city to see the parade and happened to decide to go for a drink and a bite to eat. The café was showing the event on the TV and we quickly realised that only the people in the parade were actually allowed into the Plaza and that the best view of the proceedings was right there on the screen. So we stayed warm and cosy and watched until they had all passed by when it was time to head for the Alameda.

Every night from 15 to 18 March, the sky of Valencia is filled with impressive firework displays. At 12 midnight, people gather on Paseo de la Alameda to enjoy the best display of colour and light. The most spectacular display is on 18th March – the Nit del Foc [Night of Fire], which is the one that we saw. It lasted an impressive 25 minutes.

These photographs, however, were taken on the 1st March when, for the first time, Marina Juan Carles I, organised a firework display to start the Falla celebrations in grand style. Because we were at the marina we managed to get a grandstand view and didn’t have to fight with the crowds on the far side of the canal basin.

On 19 March all of the sculptures, both those in the large and the children’s categories, go up in flames. At 10 pm the Cremà of the children’s sculptures begins.

“Bomberos” everywhere…just in case

The local young queen setting fire to her Falla



Gone…Children walking and singing around the burnt out Falla

Two hours later it is the turn of the large monuments.

The falla in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento was the last one to burn, at 1 am in the morning.

The Ayuntamiento Falla the night before the burning

It is always preceded by a small display of spectacular fireworks which fill the square with noise, light and colour, leading to the Cremà of the city’s last falla and with it the end of the festival.

The final fiesta – and yet another local holiday! – was for San Vincente Ferrer, another patron saint of the Valencian community. He is known for being one of the most prolific Catholic miracle workers and this aspect gets most emphasis during the day.

Once again there is an offer of flowers made – to an altar outside what was his home. There is apparently a fairly formal procession of religious associations but the most eventful unusual part are the various plays depicting his miracles which are staged by local children under 13. 13 seems to be important as across the city 13 different stages are erected. They are really quite elaborate…..

….and the performances apparently last around 2 hours.

Those of you who are observant might have noticed that I have failed to mention Easter. We did see some small Easter weekend parades [but nothing like the elaborate “Stages of the Cross” seen in other places] and on Palm Sunday there was a special service in the cathedral but Valencia appears to save itself for the Corpus Christi festivities in June. I wrote about the “Rocas” in an earlier blog but, all being well, we won’t actually see this parade as we are hoping to leave Valencia in the next week.

So, as I hope I have demonstrated, Valencia thoroughly appreciates its fiestas and we have very much enjoyed partying along.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2018/04/08/fiestas-valencia-style/