Thursday, May 29, 2014

A guide to summer fiestas and folk traditions on Mallorca (June-August)

We tend to talk a lot about local festivals, but we often concentrate on the mainland and overlook the rest of Spain out in the middle of the Mediterranean. But the islands are every bit as festive as the mainland, and so today I want to give you a run down of the most popular local summer traditions on the island of Mallorca. So without further ado:


Corpus Christi. All the towns and villages celebrate the fiesta of the Eucharist. In Palma, n'Eloi, the largest bell of the Cathedral is rung. A Mass is held and there is a procession in which the Host is accompanied by the lledània, a cross made of wax flowers. The Anguiles dance in Pollença and Sant Joan Pelós also comes out onto the streets.
Fiestas de Sant Pere en Alcudia, Mallorca
Sant Pere Fiesta

13 Sant Antoni de Padua. On the feast day of Sant Antoni de Padua, also known as the fiesta of the Albaricoques (Apricots), the cavallets and the dama dance in Artà. There are two red cavallets and two black ones; the lady's horse is white.

24 Sant Joan: Fiesta del "Sol quan balla". The summer solstice is celebrated and, the night before, it is traditional to light bonfires (foguerons) near the sea. The fiesta should carry on till sunrise: "el sol quan balla" (when the sun dances). As well as in Palma, Sant Joan (John) is cause for important fiestas in Calvà, Deià, s'Esglaieta, Muro, Felanitx, Son Servera and Sant Joan. Sant Joan Pelós comes out to dance in Felanitx.

Sant Marçal pottery fair
29 Sant Pere. St Pere (Peter) is the patron saint of fishermen. There are celebrations in Alcúdia and Palma. Seagoing processions are organised in nearly all coastal towns.

30 Sant Marçal. Marratxi's main fiestas in are held on June 30th, the feast day of Sant Marçal. There is an excellent market of siurells, a craft fair of ceramics and pottery, art exhibitions, dances and fireworks.


1/2 Nuestra Señora de la Victoria. The fiesta takes place in the Hermitage of la Victoria in Alcúdia. On July 2nd, there is a Mass where an offering of camomile is made. Immediately afterwards, the traditional "corregudes de joies" (Races of Joy) are held.

16 La Virgen del Carmen. This is a day of seagoing processions at which the hymn, Salve Marinera, is sung.

20 Santa Margalida. The town of Santa Margalida celebrates their patron saint's feast day with a week of fiestas. The cavallets take to the streets to dance in Felanitx and concerts and dances are held. Santa Maria del Camí also celebrates their patron saint's feast day.

25 Sant Jaume. July 25th, the feast day of Sant Jaume (James) is an important day in the calendar of fiestas in Mallorca. As well as Alcúdia where Sant Jaume is the patron saint, there are fiestas in Llucmajor, Muro, Sa Pobla, Algaida, Santanyí, Calvià, Binissalem and Portocolom.

26 Procesión del Sant Crist. Every three years, the procession of Santo Cristo is held in Alcúdia to commemorate a miracle in 1507, when, it is said, the figure of Christ in the parish church sweated blood and water, thereby putting an end to a period of drought.

28 La Beata. On this day, the Blessed Catalina Thomàs is honoured in Valldemossa with a great parade which usually starts at 7 pm. Vilafranca de Bonany has fiestas during the last week of July.

30 Sant Abdó i Sant Senén. These are the main fiestas in Inca. Sant Abdó and Sant Senén where two Persian Kings who converted to Christianity and died as martyrs. Two giant figures, n'Abdó and na Maria, parade through the streets. Some of the activities are ball de bot (flok dancing) and bullfights.


2 La Mare de Déu dels Àngels / Moors and Christians. Pollença recalls the battle of the townspeople led by Joan Mas against Dragut, the Corsair. There is no shortage of mesclat, a strong alcoholic drink during the fiesta.

6 Sant Salvador. On August 6th one really should visit Artà for the celebrations of Sant Salvador.

15 Mare de Déu d'Agost o Mare de Déu Morta. The feast day of the Mother of God of August or the Dead Mother of God is celebrated in Caimari, Campos, Esporles. Es Molinar (Palma) and Sineu.

16 Sant Roc. The saint is carried in a parade accompanied by the dancing crossiers in Alaró. In Porreres, the fiestas last eight days.

20 Romeria de Sant Bernat. On August 20th, the procession of the Romeria of Sant Bernat from Plaza Cort in Palma to the Monasterio de Sant Bernat in El Secar de La Real is held.

Festa de les Llanternes, Alcúdia
24 Sant Bartomeu. In Sóller, the fiestas get off to a start ten days early. The Vall de Sóller Literary Prizes are awarded. There are competitions os skill with the slingshot and races. In Alcúdia the Festa de les Llanternes is held (Fiesta of the Lanterns), in which the children of the town parade singing traditional Majorcan songs carrying lanterns made of melons or water melons. In Capdepera, there are concerts, folk dancing and drama in the open-air. There are also fiestas in Consell, ses Salines and Jornets. In Montuïri the cossiers dance outside private houses and bars, in exchange for presents given to them by the townspeople.

28 Sant Agustí. In Felanitx cultural and religious acts are held in addition to a famous series of concerts. The "cavallets" of the town come out to dance.

Check January and February Fiestas in Mallorca
Check March, April and May Fiestas in Mallorca
Check September, October, November and December Fiestas in Mallorca

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Top 5 parks in Barcelona

When we think of Barcelona most of us are drawn immediately to its history, architecture and vibrant city life. Restaurants, Gothic buildings, churches, Gaudi, Las Ramblas....there is so much to see and do that sometimes you just need to stop and smell the roses. So today I want to bring the topic around to where you can do just that. The city of Barcelona, when it expanded, was built to incorporate green spaces. Some are easier to find than others, but they are all unique oasis of tranquility and a great place to step out of the hustle and bustle for a day, or even just a few hours. Sit and read, have a picnic with your friends, or just stroll the gardens and enjoy their peace and beauty. I'll leave Park Guell off the list for the time being, as Gaudi´s urban adventure is a different topic all together.

So here, in no particular order, are five of my favorite parks within the city limits of Barcelona.

1) Parc de la Ciutadella - The largest, and most visible, park in the city. Very popular with locals and visitors alike, it stands on the remains of the military prison built by the conquering French upon the fall of Barcelona in 1714. Site of the 1888 Universal Fair, it is famous for hosting several modernista treasures, including Domenech i Montaner's Tres Dragons and the Gaudi fountain. It's also home to the Catalan Government and the Barcelona Zoo. The walkways and fountains are usually filled with joggers, walkers and friends enjoying the Mediterranean climate. For people watching, laying on the grass with a good book or just a quick break on your way to the Arc de Triomf, this park is a classic of the city.

2) Parc de Cervantes - At the end of Avinguda Diagonal we find one of the most overlooked parks in the city. Tucked into a corner between two of the city's main thoroughfares, just at the entrance into the city in the fashionable Pedralbes district, from April to November the park is more of a giant rose garden (over 230 varieties of roses are on display in an area of about 10 acres known as the Pergola. The rest of the park is a combination of lush green areas, plants and trees, perfect for escaping for a stroll, a jog or a picnic and just let yourself go.

3) Parc de Laberint - Barcelona's oldest park, dating back to the end of the 18th century, the Park of the Labyrinth draws its name from the maze of cypress bushes, it encompasses over 100 acres of woodland beauty in the Horta-Guinardo section of the city. The original garden was expanded under the watch of Elias Rogent, one of the most influential architects in the early modernista movement. Recent changes to policy make this one of the few parks that charge a nominal surcharge to enter, but the fee is small and woodland setting make this an ideal romantic getaway for an afternoon or an escape with the kids.

4) Parc de l'Oreneta - Up the hill of Collserola, this is one of the best places to get a different perspective on the city. It is ideal for families, as it has a miniature train that runs a route of just under a half mile, going through three tunnels and guaranteed to provide your kids with an unforgettable experience. But for adults, this park in the Sant Gervasi section of the city built on the remains of the Oreneta Castle is the connection between the city and the foothills that encircle the city. Whether you choose to bring a picnic and spread out under a tree to admire the city from above, or you choose to stop at the restaurant, plan at least a half day to get a new perspective on the city.

5) Parc de la Creuta de Coll -  The last park on the list is also a bit of an odd one. This park, in the heart of the Gracia district, is most notable for it´s giant public swimming lake (open in the summer months) and the works of art that you will find there. Built over a former quarry, one of the highlights is the 50 ton Elogia de l'Aigua by Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida (whose works in San Sebastian are on the cover of guidebooks around the world). It is a small park with picnic benches, walkways and offers visitors a different sort of park to stop by and enjoy.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Eibner group in #Barcelona - from the boat and back, and more to eat than just tapas

The Eibners love travelling, and do a fair amount of it. So when we designed their shore excursion in Barcelona, we wanted to make sure we could maximize their time without compromising The Spanish Touch personal details that we offer. When you are working with a group that includes vegetarians and people whose idea of a good tour is not a 3 hour stroll through the streets of Barcelona, you have to set your targets in a slightly different fashion. So when I met them at the port, first we went over the day's events. 

First up on our tour was the Sagrada Familia, because, well let's face it, there really is no excuse for not visiting it. On the drive from the port, we discussed Barcelona's history, from Roman times into the 21st century, albeit skimming over it. I wanted them to have enough of a base to get started, and a brief history of the city plus an explanation of the Cerda Plan (the grid layout of the city and the chamfered building corners) Gaudi's masterpiece rises up as in an in-progress 8-spire salute to the genius of one man and the passion of the city he called home for so long. Meeting Dolors at the gate we began our immersion into Barcelona. 

The sheer volume of things to see and learn about at Sagrada Familia makes it both mandatory and impossible to see all in one day. In fact, some of us visit it multiple times a month and still learn something new every time. So two hours after entering the Expiatory Temple, we were headed back across town into the old city. 

Barcelona's maze of streets in the Gothic Quarter are famous for good reason, but that doesn't mean that you have to walk them all to get a good idea of what's going on. And today we were going to keep it short. We had a lunch to eat and Montjuic to visit, and you don't ever want to push so hard that people stop enjoying themselves. We visited the Cathderal (and the 13 live geese in the cloister), the Plaza del Rei and Palau of the Generalitat among some of the other sites in our overview of the city. And while I appreciate the diligence of the Cathedral in monitoring the situation, it seems a bit ridiculous that a professional guide is chided for giving explanations when you compare it to the muted roar of cameras and tourists talking.  

Lunch was up next, and combining a vegetarian option with an emphatic no! to eating tapas, we sat down for a traditional lunch at the Cafe D'en Victor. Lunch was an enjoyable experience, but time stops for no man so off we went again to Montjuic. The group had decided to do the Cable Car that goes up Montjuic to the Castle at the top of the hill, 174 meters above the city below. Given our time restraints we didn't have much time for dilly-dallying, but there was still enough time to get up to the castle and take a look over the Mirador del Alcalde for one last panoramic view of Barcelona before we headed back to the Port. 

All in all a busy but enjoyable day, and customized to the group's requirements without sacrificing our commitment to quality and a personal touch. I hope we have not seen the last of this group, as they were a great bunch and made my job so much nicer.