Ah, tourists! Don't you love them? I mean, us? I've come to the sad conclusion that unless I live in my hometown I will always be a tourist. I lived in Hong Kong for 29 years and spoke the language, but still the locals treated me as some kind of not very intelligent tourist who needed things pointed out in English. For example, one day I was in a supermarket in Causeway Bay and paused momentarily in front of the refrigerated goods section to contemplate, oh, probably the meaning of life as I normally do. An assistant came up to me: "This. Is. MILK."
Fortunately the locals in Mallorca don't treat me like that at all, so it's much easier to live here. And now I'm starting to suss out where the good places are so I won't fall into too many tourist traps. But sometimes I get visitors like the delightful Ellen (see photo above) and we're walking and she has a step counter and it's 34,000 steps and suddenly we're in Plaza Major and... have ordered something with cheese! Now, I'm not big on cheese, but I have to say they do have some melted cheese over salad things with blueberry jam (!) and other cheeses that I have found quite appealing. We picked a 5.3 euro thing and waited 45 minutes. The restaurant was empty, it being only 7:45, yes PM!
THIS is what took 45 minutes to prepare. No more Plaza Major! I have eaten there twice before and each time it's been crap and over priced. There are so many tourists, they simply don't have to try. There, I've said it. Avoid Plaza Major.
My relentless quest to eat my way through every restaurant in El Terreno continues, but I'm warning you: After I, or rather some Norwegian friends of mine who came to Palma to celebrate a big birthday last month discovered Hostal Corona and its insanely delicious tapas, beautiful setting and great and fun staff, I don't really need to try out any other places.
Where shall I start? The vaguely hippie/indian setting would ordinarily have made me think "Oh dear" but in this dark and mysterious courtyard the lanterns and little fountain somehow work. But even if the courtyard of Corona was a concrete slab under fluorescent lighting, the food would have made me go back and back.
When I first tasted tapas last May on my reconnaissance trip to Mallorca, I have to say I wasn't very impressed with them, thinking they were greasy and over-microwaved. Oh well, I could just cook Sichuan food for myself every day I thought, and left China anyway. Then I discovered Corona.
EVERYTHING is beautiful, beautifully laid out, quickly brought to the table by personable proprietor Cristobal Navarra, who is not only funny but kind. Yes, when the three of us ordered five dishes, he warned us that we wouldn't be able to finish them. He was right!
Four dishes was more than enough to make us explode, and it was with difficulty we managed to finish the shots of a scrumptious cinnamon-tasting liqueur he handed out free at the end of the meal. Yummmmm
The patatas bravas, the melted camembert with blueberry jam, the dates wrapped in bacon ... and oh! The little fried green peppers! Corona is the best. THE BEST!
And oh, it's also a hotel, apparently. AND they have a pool table.
Carrer Santa Rita 17
Phone +34 971 731 935
Having lived out of Hong Kong for eight months, I still notice Chinese people in the street and in shops, and feel they are somehow "my" people. So yesterday when I spotted a place that could very well have been a café in China in that it looked like a Starbucks with the logo and lettering slightly altered, I pricked up my eyes. And sure enough, inside the simple cafe, what would I find but four Chinese working away.
"Have you any Chinese food!" I cried, nay, sobbed. "Yes, well, kind of," they answered, after we'd been through the "Wow, you can speak Chinese!" pleasantries. They showed me the menu and there was indeed some photos of pan-fried dumplings and noodles. Yes! Noodles! Extra spicy, I said, crying tears. We had a bit of a chat about how the Spanish don't understand the concept of hot/warm water instead of iced, and how I always sought out Chinese-run restaurants because in them I don't have to explain for ten minutes that I'd just like a cup of water, not tea or coffee, with my meal. (Hot water is great for you, just look it up!)
The noodles arrived and - it was spaghetti. The extra spice came in a plastic bottle. And worst of all, when I saw the bill, I saw they had charged 1 euro for a tiny cup of water. It was hot, though, I'll give them that. (Down with bottled water! )
As I ate the food - it tasted good and I'm sure spaghetti and Chinese noodles are exactly the same but it was of course psychologically damaging for me because they should have been rice noodles - I heard the people discussing "lao wai" (老外) inside. Lao wai is a term for foreigner that some Chinese say is derogatory, others "just a word for foreigner". I don't know if they were talking about me or the Mallorcans, but I couldn't help remarking upon leaving "Hey, guess what! You're the lao wai now!" at which they laughed uproariously.
Well, they are. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't cook proper noodles, or suddenly charge exorbitant prices for something that should be, dare I say, free? And also, when everybody travels and have a sophisticated palate, why change the food to "fit local tastes"? Locals have their own food. Can't Chinese just be Chinese, without the added ketchup, as it were? (Interesting facet, the word ketchup does come from Cantonese - 茄汁 - keh jap, tomato sauce. The word tomato is 番茄 - faan kei - "barbarian aubergine". You heard it here first!)
*None of the photos were taken in that café. That goes without saying.
Everyone who has met me knows that when it comes to cooking, I'm doctor Jekyll and Mister Gordon Ramsey; fine with the operating table but whatever you do, don't come into the kitchen and put your arms around me when I'm handling burning saucepans (woks) and sharpened knives. And my new kitchen here in Mallorca, beautiful as it is, has a huge and crucial shortcoming: It has no door. Cooking is therefore something of an ordeal for me, scared shitless as I am every second that someone will come in and say "it's only me" and proceed to touch me or try to start a casual conversation about rocket science.
How could I solve this problem?
I was just standing in my bedroom admiring the beautiful obi (Japanese kimono belt) that my friend Etsuko had given me eight years earlier and which I now could finally display in its full glory, when it came to me: I would get a Japanese kitchen curtain! A noren! That way I wouldn't have to get a whole door with all the whittling and hammering that would entail.
It was easy: I just bought it on Amazon. First I found a navy one that I liked, but just as I was ready to press BUY, I saw one in a lighter, fresher blue that looked better. It would arrive on the 10th of October. At night. I waited in all night, but no noren. Around 9pm I checked my postbox; maybe the delivery guy had tried to deliver it and left a note? He had indeed left something in my postbox: The Japanese kitchen door curtain!
I love Japanese stuff, don't you? It's so well made. As I unpacked the noren, I thought how the Japanese craftsman in his white headband had probably spent seven years just holding the needle before he was allowed to start sewing. The material would have been carefully selected from the nostrils and eyelashes of wagyu beef. Woo-hoo! Quality all the way. Long live Japan!
I put up the curtain but... wasn't it a bit see-through? And the material. It didn't feel right at all. It felt like ... really bad nylon.
There was a label on the curtain. "Hangzhou Bingo E-commerce co ltd. MADE IN CHINA", it said.
Still! It LOOKS good.
Oh, and there's no longer any danger of choking on the cement that's been coming off my work surfaces in big chunks every time I have cleaned them or chopped stuff on them. Yes, a 130-year-old-house has many excellent properties, but things do give in to material fatigue. No matter, the kitchen has now been thoroughly fixed by the excellent Michael Mike, who has in fact done all the necessary work on this house. Including finding a solution for my obi problem! Thanks, Mike.
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One shouldn't joke, ever, it seems. As we drove towards Calvia last night to see the first of the newly established Arts Society of Mallorca's talks on art, it was raining lightly. The people who kindly gave me a lift wanted to get an early start because "the rain had made everything slow down" and there appeared to have been some chaos in Llucmajor where they had come from. "Oh, these people don't know what rain is," I remarked. In much the same way as I had often told Hong Kong people that they didn't know what cold is. (They don't.)
Yes. That night, at least eight people died on the island; washed away inside their cars, drowning in their basements or just crushed or pummelled to death by water and objects after a river burst its banks in the torrential downpour. Roads are cut off, people have no power and many have had to flee their homes. It is a terrible tragedy which unfortunately takes away the joy of the Arts Society's meeting. I suppose it's in bad taste to even write about it now. But the Arts Society deserves huge praise for pulling off this thing to a packed room last night after only 10 months in existence.
They had managed to snag famous Antiques Roadshow host Eric Knowles to talk about The Genius of René Lalique, and what an evening it was. The man was so ridiculously knowledgable and the topic so interesting, nay, riveting - well, I had of course expected that. But I hadn't expected to laugh and laugh! It was Art Nouveau slash extreme beauty and skill meets stand-up comedy, old-school style. With voices! He did Yorkshire, American south and mid-west, Scotland and France.
We were roaring with laughter and he played us like so many mouth organs, in his unpretentious way that seemed so natural it must have taken thousands of hours of work to perfect it.
Meanwhile, that natural disaster was going on just a few kilometres away but we didn't have a clue. Oh! I wish that evening could have lasted and lasted.
Still, I'm glad i got a full year's membership of the Arts Society so I'm sure to get a seat at next month's event.