Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day trip to Valldemossa

Today I had a day trip up into the mountains to visit the beautiful village of Valldemossa.

In 1838, Chopin and his lover rented a former monk's cell at the monastery in Valldemossa, and Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones own a house not far from the village. But, celebrities aside, the village is just stunning...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dancing with demons

One thing that has always appealed to me about traveling is the chance of you being in the right place, at the right time, and seeing something absolutely amazing that generally only locals get to see. Last night I was lucky enough to have an invitation to dine in the streets of Binissalem with a small group of expats to celebrate the end of the Binissalem Wine Festival, and it was one of the most amazing nights out I have ever had whilst traveling!

The entire village is closed off to traffic - even the locals have to ensure their cars are off the streets and out of the way - and everyone lines their streets with tables and chairs that they decorate with grapes, figs, cheeses, meats, and flowers.

In every street you can smell the traditional mutton fideua (noodle) soup simmering away in preparation for the hundreds of people who will emerge to eat, drink, and laugh together throughout the evening. Whilst anyone can come along to Binissalem to witness the feast and the ensuing pagan festivities, you can only dine by invitation, which was why I was so unbelievably lucky not only to be in Mallorca at this time of year, but also to have a friend of a friend to issue me with an invite to this traditional Mallorcan feast.

Dessert is another traditional Mallorcan dish - ensaimada - which is a warm, sweet bread cake, fashioned into a coil. Ensaimadas can be made plain, with cream, or with a custard filling (which ours was), and it is absolutely divine. My only regret for the evening was that I ate too much fideua and couldn't fit in a second slice of ensaimada!

Dinner carried through from around 8pm until nearly midnight, after which we retired back to Ruth and Martin's beautiful house for a glass of Baileys and an espresso to keep us going until the pagan demons came out at 1:30am!

With sleepy full-belly eyes successfully re-opened, we wandered around the village for a bit, stopping in to listen to some musicians playing at another house, until it was time to head to the village square.

Hundreds of people were already crowding around the "zone of fire" and the atmosphere was charged with excitement and anticipation! Then the lights went out, fires were lit, and a band of demons started drumming whilst a giant she-demon gave birth to a baby demon that later killed her! The she-demon disappeared and a horde of demons exploded out into the zone of fire, tridents blazing, sparks flying, and blood dripping from their tongues!

Those dressed for the occasion (ie wearing protective clothing so that their limbs and hair didn't get burned by the sparks flying everywhere!) swarmed into the zone of fire to dance with the demons to the crazy underworld drum beat. It was completely wild and pagan and brilliant! I couldn't resist!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

For Christ(opher)'s sake!

Today is a day for multiple celebrations. Today is the 18th anniversary of my parents becoming grandparents for the very first time. It's the 18th anniversary of my big brother Micheal, and his lovely wife Caroline, becoming parents for the very first time. It's also the 18th anniversary of my becoming an aunty for the very first time... This, of course, means that today is the day that my eldest nephew officially becomes an adult, can vote in political elections, and can learn the pleasures of a glass of good wine or a fine spirit in public... Today, Christopher turns 18.

I can remember the very moment I found out that Christopher had arrived - I was sitting in my classroom at school, working on an assignment quietly, completely absorbed, when all of a sudden my mother's head was right next to mine, and she was telling me that Micheal and Caroline had had a little boy. She was so excited she'd driven right to my school to tell me. Being at quite a finicky age, when parents weren't so cool, I acted nonchalantly and responded with something like "... So...?" But of course, as only a pre-teen myself, I couldn't possibly have known that one of the most brilliant people I would ever know had just arrived in the world.

One of Christopher's stand out qualities, well known amongst our family, his peers, and anyone who meets him, is that he has an exceptional mind. I have quite often joked (very seriously!) that I look forward to the day when Christopher, by then a self made millionaire, will hire me on a ridiculous salary as his personal assistant! But there is much more to this incredible young man than his distinctions and scholarships. Christopher has a good head on his shoulders - and by this I mean he has the rare ability to know who he is and what he wants, without succumbing to peer pressures. He has the great gift of being able to pursue his own dreams without amending them to fit in with the passing fancies of others around him and I only wish I had his self confidence and self assurance, not only when I was a teenager, but even now!

With a gentle spirit, and a willingness to help others wherever he can, Christopher is already a young man to be admired; I can't begin to tell you how excited I am to see what happens next with my eldest nephew. I am so proud of all of his achievements to date, but more than that, I am proud of the amazing young man he has become. Today, I hope that he has a day filled with nothing but fun, happiness, laughter, and love, and I hope that his future is everything he wants it to be and then some. May all your dreams come true Christopher... Except maybe the one about the rabid turkeys...

Me, Jonathan, and Christopher at Edinburgh Castle, Dec 2007

Happy 18th birthday! xx

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

North for the Tuesday

Today I pulled out a map of Mallorca and decided to travel to it's northern-most point - Cap de Formentor!

The highest point of the Cap is a shade over 380m above sea level and the views are spectacular - both on the drive there, and once you've arrived! The twisty narrow roads with sudden drops off the side however - not so picturesque!

However, it did seem to be a mecca for cyclists, and I even found a pair of half-marathon runners... presuming they weren't going to turn around and run all the way back too... Crazy Germans.

One of the things that really struck me, coming from the land of the windswept cliffs back home, was the fact that the seas were so calm. No waves rushing in and smashing up against the cliff faces - the sea serenely comes in to meet the land and they carefully kiss each others cheeks (both sides) in greeting.

The lighthouse at Cap de Formentor was built between 1857 and 1863 and because the terrain was so harsh, special dispensation was granted by the Bishop of Mallorca for the men to continue working on Sundays and special holidays.

On the way back down from Cap de Formentor, you can see the village of Port de Pollensa, where I stopped for some lunch and a wander before heading home.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I just have to say that my niece is awesome to the power of infinity.

Today however, she is especially awesome, because today it's her birthday :-)

Ellie is the milk in my tea, the lemon and sugar on my pancakes, and the llama in my hat. In short, she makes life supremely fun and is one of the most delightful young ladies you could ever have the pleasure of meeting.

She is the sweet little shortbread that the Smart Cookie was named after, and would give Julia Child a run for her money in the kitchen (as long as they were making chocolate souffles or semi-raw pancakes!).

She is a complete drama queen in the best possible way, who laughs with me at all the silly things we find on Youtube, and who is working with me closely on perfecting the art of growing up without growing up.

Without her, there would be no toe-sucking frog at my feet, Perth would be located no where near Canberra, and clouds would not be made out of fairy floss. So, on her birthday, I wish my darling niece the happiest, sparkliest, shiniest of days - may her hair be perfect for the entire 24 hours, may her teachers give her a cupcake with every piece of homework, and may the little somethin' somethin' I left for her brighten her day as much as she brightens my life.

Happy birthday Ellie! xx

Friday, September 17, 2010

Casa sweet casa

On Sunday I received an email from a friend of mine asking if I would be interested in flying to Spain, living on the island of Mallorca, and looking after her aunt's gregarious ten year old girl, two dogs, and a cat for three weeks... Oh heck yes!! Within twelve hours I had my flight booked to Palma and now I find myself back in summer clothing, drinking Spanish wine, and hanging out with afore-mentioned friend for a few days before she and her partner continue their European adventure. Could life be any better right now??


Shanty, post operation and a little moopy

Tom, a bit annoyed that I'm disturbing his siesta

View from my bedroom window

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An M T day

Tomorrow is my oldest brother's birthday. Tomorrow being the 16th of September. We could say that Micheal, being my oldest brother and my parent's first born, is therefore my number one brother. 16 minus one is 15 which is the date today. So it is for this extremely befitting reason that I pen his birthday blog on this day, and has nothing at all to do with the fact that I fly out of England this afternoon and am not sure if I'll get the chance to do it again before his birthday is over...

Micheal, not wanting to get girl germs (or so I presume), pretty much left home as soon as I was born. He joined the Royal Australian Air Force and lived far, far away - out of easy visiting distance - and as such, I don't have a handy plethora of young childhood memories of my big bro laying around inside my head. I do, however, have memories of him helping me with my maths homework over the phone when no one else could, and of receiving presents of Beverly Hills 90210 merchandise he posted to me for Christmas one year when I had a huge adolescent crush on Luke Perry. The latter he teased me about mercilessly for months!

Micheal has always been my go to person for logical advice, and that hasn't changed as I've gotten older. The questions may have changed from queries about cosines and matrices to mortgages and tax returns, but Micheal has always been there to guide me through life's assignments, paperwork, and contracts, giving me the benefit of his experience and knowledge.

Three years ago, my big bro was also the inspiration and catalyst for my finally visiting the UK. He had planned a fabulous trip for his family to the UK and Europe for Christmas and, like all good little sisters, I decided to tag along! Traveling to the UK and Europe had always been high on my to-do list so, with the knowledge that I could not only travel, but have Christmas overseas with my brother and his family, I just couldn't resist the pull. I love that I was able to explore a bit of London and Edinburgh with my big brother, sis-in-law, and nephews, and to share my first winter Christmas with them all. The photos I have of us all from this time together are some of my most treasured, and I cannot wait to do it all again with them this year, this time in rural France! (And yes... I may have tagged myself onto this trip too... It's what little sisters do when awesome big brothers let them!)

So, on this very auspicious day before his birthday, I want to wish my brilliant big bro a very, very happy birthday. I hope that his morning rushes past in a flurry of birthday hugs, kisses, coffee, cake, and presents, and that his afternoon is filled with a dream round (or two) of golf played under a clear blue sky. Failing that, and erring towards the assumption that he'll be off to work like any other week day, I hope that it's at least as carefree as possible, that his secretary has at least organised a birthday morning tea for him, and that he takes time out at least once every hour to remember that his little sister loves him more than she ever loved Luke Perry, and that she'll be thinking of him and sending him love at least once every minute today (tomorrow... you know...), if not more.

Happy birthday bro! xx

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thames Festival

Today I popped into town to check out the Thames Festival. A short commute, because I've actually moved back to London! Ahh London... where even scary sheep men can get girlfriends, and where it's ok to wear flowers on your top hat or dye your hair bright orange.

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