Catholic Priest blesses Birds, Vegans
Do you have a pet owl that you want blessed by a Catholic priest? Then Palma de Mallorca is the place for you.
When last Friday I went to chronicle the fabled festival of Sant Antoni, patron saint of animals, I expected to see dogs, cats, possibly goldfish. Owls and falcons, not so much. But there they were, perched on their owner's arms and glaring. The owl, in particular, looked positively psychotic and ready to kill.
“Is he... afraid?” I asked the owner.
“No, I’m the one who’s afraid!” was the answer.
I would be too! Those claws could dig straight through my arm, and the beak looked like it could take off someone's head. The falcons look bored, more than anything. Well, I thought they looked bored, but actually, I don’t really know what a bored bird looks like. Probably much the same as an un-bored bird.
I also didn't expect three different sets of musicians; drummers, a big marching band and two traditional Mallorquin musicians. What joy! Oh, Mallorca is such a paradise in so many ways.
The procession started outside Palma's mighty cathedral La Seu amid much excitement. It was supposed to begin at 10, and I was afraid to have missed it all when I got there at 10:40m, but fortunately it hadn't even started yet. About 11:15 the music started up, and a sea of dogs, birds (of prey) and proud owners wound its way through the narrow, medieval streets of the Old Town to San Miguel Church. That’s right, San Miguel, or Sant Miquel, was actually a saint, not just a beer. A priest was waiting together with a statue of Sant Antoni, blessing every beast as it padded by.
Some vegans also joined in, with a poster showing pigs, cows and chickens saying: "We also deserve to live." I asked them if I was allowed to have some eggs at least (for I too think that animals deserve to live... in a dignified way, until it's time to humanely slaughter them) but NO, came the categorical answer. Not even an egg? Count me out.
But oh, what a beautiful morning in the stunning city of Palma, and what a lovely tradition. I think all countries should have a day for blessing animals.
The next day I saw a report about a place in China where people had forced a pig to bungee jump 70 metres before sending it to the slaughterhouse.
Slightly Surreal Coffee with Gay(?) Porn
Sometimes life in sleepy backwater Palma de Mallorca can be slightly surreal - fortunately! Yesterday was yet another festival; this time it was Sant Antoni, the patron saint of animals, when people take their animals to be blessed by a priest. That would make for some good photos, I thought, and sure enough. The streets were full of dogs and musicians, and it was really fun. But after a couple of hours of walking and waiting I got bored, and besides there were too many people to get a good shot of the actual blessing. So I dove down a mysterious looking side alley and into the first coffee shop, or cafeteria, for a coffee.
Oh joy, there was a Chinese guy behind the counter! I greeted him with my usual "哥們兒，怎麼了“（'Dude, what's up, in Mandarin). Yes it has come to this - after two years in Spain I now automatically address Chinese people in the imperialist crap language Mandarin. He mumbled something. Then I looked closer. That face! It could only be a Cantonese face. Oh the relief! He brightened up no end when I started with the real language, and we had a good old natter.
I asked him to write his name in Chinese characters, but then he suddenly looked wary: "Are you a missionary?" Ha? No! Only to get the whole world to speak Cantonese. Yes I still haven't given up on that one. Anyway, Mister Lau had been here 30 years and had only been back to Guangzhou six times in those years. The only Chinese food available in his (very Palmaese) café was cup noodles. Waaah. (Expression of admiration/surprise/head shaking in Cantonese.) He spoke fluent Spanish, naturally, and quite excitedly told the other customers about my, or should I say our mutual background, in southern China. The two women by the window listened particularly raptly it seemed, amid much cackling. I talked Spanish too, made silly jokes, got cackles - oh! What a laugh we had! I enjoyed myself tremendously.
And: beer is beautiful again:
When I stood packing up my photo equipment, one of the women (not the one in the photo) came up to me, slyly it seemed: "Do you speak English?" Yes of course. "Good! Look, only for you." She showed me her phone, from which blue swirling lights and some kind of thumping music were emanating. Was it a fashion show? I looked closer. A procession of male models(?) Naked. Very toned. Walking around some kind of stage. The music must have been very thumping indeed or I had missed part of the video, because they were all in a state of bobbing, metre-long tumescent protuberance. OKAY, gay porn. I hope! The cackling became deep roars and screams of fishwifey laughter.
Hm. Did I look like a gay man? If not, what could possibly be the reason for showing me this? But surreal, definitely. She must have been 75 or 80. I know age is just a number. Like, 75 is the new 12.
Still, a new Cantonese person has been discovered! The fourth one so far.
TAKE LESSONS PEOPLE. Save the culture. I'm on Skype every day!
A paradise for dogs and people
Don't know if I've mentioned this before, but the neighbourhood I live in, El Terreno, is the most beautiful place ever. It's a paradis for dogs with lots of walking terrain and even a dog friendly hotel! I'm so glad I came here. So thankful that I'm allowed to live here. You can see some of it in the video above, and in the coming weeks I will present it in more detail.
Book a trip here with Jebsen Holidays (for whom I work, hooray!) and, if you live in Hong Kong, take a crash course in Spanish with Spanish World Hong Kong (for whom, guess what, I also work. But they are endorsed by the Cervantes Institute in Madrid itself, so they are the real deal.)
Here is some of what I saw on this morning's dog walk:
Five Star Food, No Star Prices
Soaring ceilings, funky interior making the most out of an enormous building that used to be a tannery, handsome German chefs, open kitchen, beautiful, nay, stunning food - am I in the meatpacking district of New York? Covent Garden in London? The Whatever they call the hippest part of Paris?
No! This is INCA, a slightly run-down, working class town in the Mallorcan countryside.
The place manages to be both cavernous and intimate at the same time - not a mean feat in a room with a five metre ceiling.The owners have taken great care to create a cozy atmosphere, most importantly by using diffused yellow light and putting up some open-style bookshelves to separate the dining area from the bar, which doubles as an event space. Yes, you can rent it for your next wedding or company dinner, it costs much less than in similar places in Palma AND they have a licence to keep the live music going until 2AM!
But even if you are just going for the food - go go go! It's worth travelling to Inca, or much further, just for that.
I told my friends "I eat anything" but of course that's not true. Come to think of it, I am a rather picky eater. I hate fish, slimy things, things hiding in murky depths of hotpot or soup, any innards... especially liver. And yet I love paté! (I also dislike olives but love olive oil. Discuss.) And the paté of Sa Fabrica is so beautiful, and weird, that if it hadn't been a teasing starter, I would have had only paté for the whole meal.
It came - I'm not kidding - in a drawer, served on a bed of rocks. The bread accompanying it was moist and succulent with a hint of cinnamon - SO good, but even better was the home made tomato butter. Yes the serious looking German chefs make everything from scratch on the premises, even growing their own herbs and vegetables just outside the door.
YUMMMMM! Oh, and the Mallorcan wine (did you know we have 40 indigenous grapes here?) - SO special. If I have to use one word to describe Mallorcan wines, I would say "meaty." It's just so full of flavour, so rich. And get this: Sa Fabrica makes their own cava!
Then there was another local wine called Sa Fita. And then, pumpkin soup. Beautiful! I have never tasted pumpkin soup before because I thought it was too hippyish, but this looked so appetising I just had to throw my anti hippie priciples to the wind. Then came a risotto made especially for me without squid ink, because needless to say I hate squid ink, then a piece of pork belly that melted even on the fork, let alone in the mouth, oooooh, I wish I had it here, now, and finally the absolutely gorgeous beef, the end. Oh yeah, and two desserts, one of which was cheese that looked and tasted like ice cream.
I have never understood this dessert thing and was very reluctant to rinse away the lovely beef taste in my mouth with something sweet, but of course it was fantastic, lovely and great. GO THERE. Oh, and only 30 euros for that whole menu. In Hong Kong it would have cost 110 euro per head, at least!
Then it all came undone, for: "Would you like some Bailey's?" came a sonorous Swedish voice. I love Bailey's. But what they served was a bucket of Bailey's. If it hadn't been for that, I would have leapt out of bed like a young boar out of Schwartzwald this morning, for those Mallorcan wines are super healthy, organic etc. Bailey's, on the other hand...
But SO worth it!
Go to Sa Fabrica. And if you don't live in Mallorca, come over here, come to my Chinese New Year's Party on January 25th (details later), and THEN go to Sa Fabrica.
Hola everybody, clap your hands! New year, new country, new language.
Well, not exactly new. In fact, it's been almost two years that I have been trying somewhat halfheartedly to learn Spanish. It's just not the same as Cantonese. But then again, what is?
But I have to learn it. I have to. Then there's the added concern that I live in Mallorca where the local language isn't Spanish (Castillano) at all, but Mallorquin! So the language I hear around me is different from the one I'm trying to learn. Yes, total "Ahhrgghhhhh". Anyway, the first step is to try to get more victims for Spanish World Hong Kong, through the medium of Cantonese- see the video above.
The second - what else? Make a Spanish course. It's called Learn Spanish without Really Trying. Isn't that what everybody wants? I'm 20 pages in and it's kind of fun! Not as fun as Cantonese. Nothing is. But, you know - tolerable.