Marathon moments in Palma

Yesterday, despite being a Sunday, I was up at 6.30am and donning my running wear ready for the annual half marathon race in Palma. Some years ago I ran the whole marathon but as the 42km course consists of two quite onerous loops, I decided that once was enough!

A few years after completing the full Palma marathon, I attempted the half and found it very enjoyable. Since then I’ve run marathon courses in different countries, clocking up eight altogether and 19 half marathons. Yesterday made it my 20th so an auspicious day. However, over the last few years I’ve been plagued by back problems so running has had to take a back seat. Still, with help from my physio and Pilates classes and swimming, i’ve finally got my strength back.

As usual the Mallorcan sun was hot but not quite as sizzling as it’s been for other marathon races. All the same the first 12km along Paseo Maritimo and up to Porto Pi zone and back was tough going. Once inside the old town and city, we were afforded some shade by the buildings and trees so the course improved no end.

There was a wonderful sense of occasion with well-wishers of all nationalities lining the course and cheering us on and music playing in the streets. In total 10,000 runners participated from 45 countries with Germany topping the list taking a 36 per cent share. interestingly the average age was 44, showing that running is becoming a popular sport for older people, probably keen to keep up their fitness levels.

Unsurprisingly, only 17 per cent of brave participants attempted the double loop marathon, the rest preferring to run the 21km or 10km races. This has become an important fixture in the Capital’s annual calendar and builds on its own success every year. We need more of these happy, festive and inclusive events that bring so many nationalities together and create a wonderful feeling of harmony and unity. Roll on next year!

Posted by Anna on 16 October 2017 | 4:59 am

Scrumptious fare at Santi Taura of Lloseta

One of my guilty pleasures here in Mallorca is returning again and again to restaurants that awaken all the senses and offer a gastronomic experience that isn’t about pomp, mores and manners but rather focusing on relaxation, warmth of ambience and the food and wine. Friendly, informed and discreet staff go a long way to making the experience special too.

So that’s why one of my favoured boltholes is Santi Taura found in a modest townhouse in the unassuming village of Lloseta. Despite being away from the cut and thrust of Palma life and any of the main tourist hot spots, this intimate and petite restaurant is always completely full and that’s because it has a waiting list for the cognoscenti; those who know their onions from their rognons. It represents exceptional value too.

today I popped by – actually that’s a fib – I stayed for nigh on three hours, savouring appetisers and a five-course exquisite menu del día that included the likes of pumpkin soup, fish croquette, burballes pasta, local white fish, squid and onion, slow cooked black pig with ensaimada, caramelised aubergines, rose ice cream and on and on it went!

I dined with my good chum, Deirdre O’Connor, founder of Mallorcan Tonic that offers great out of season deals at many of Mallorca’s leading hotels. We chose a bottle of Twenty Twelve a deep and delectable ruddy-hued rosé from the organic finca, Es Fangar which is owned by German couple, the Eisenmanns. A combination of Callet, Manto Negro, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah created a memorable crisp wine of huge flavour and delicacy.

Next time I am keen to sample Dins, the rather longer and more indulgent menu offered by the lovely Santi, the eponymous owner, in another hideaway room. But first I’ll need to starve myself for a week!

Posted by Anna on 11 October 2017 | 12:21 pm

Scrumptious Santi Taura Restaurant of Lloseta

One of my guilty pleasures here in Mallorca is returning again and again to restaurants that awaken all the senses and offer a gastronomic experience that isn’t about pomp, mores and manners but rather focusing on relaxation, warmth of ambience and the food and wine. Friendly, informed and discreet staff go a long way to making the experience special too.

So that’s why one of my favoured boltholes is Santi Taura found in a modest townhouse in the unassuming village of Lloseta. Despite being away from the cut and thrust of Palma life and any of the main tourist hot spots, this intimate and petite restaurant is always completely full and that’s because it has a waiting list for the cognoscenti; those who know their onions from their rognons. it represents exceptional value too.

today I popped by – actually that’s a fib – I stayed for nigh on three hours, savouring appetisers and a five-course exquisite menu del día that included the likes of pumpkin soup, fish croquette, burballes pasta, local white fish, squid and onion, slow cooked black pig with ensaimada, caramelised aubergines, rose ice cream and on and on it went!

I dined with my good chum, Deirdre O’Connor, founder of Mallorcan Tonic that offers great out of season deals at many of Mallorca’s leading hotels. We chose a bottle of Twenty Twelve a deep and delectable ruddy-hued rosé from the organic finca, Es Fangar which is owned by German couple, the Eisenmanns. A combination of Callet, Manto Negro, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah created a memorable crisp wine of huge flavour and delicacy.

Next time I am keen to sample Dins, the rather longer and more indulgent menu offered by the lovely Santi, the eponymous owner, in another hideaway room. but first I’ll need to starve myself for a week!

Posted by Anna on 11 October 2017 | 11:30 am

Cheeky Chicks!

It doesn’t matter how many times my hens spawn new broods of baby chicks, I always greet each batch with wild excitement and wonder. I know that a few will sadly perish along the way but I try my utmost to protect them from danger and to give them a fighting chance.

Of course living in the countryside in Mallorca brings all sorts of hazards for a baby chick, not least genets, weasels, rats and eagles and let’s not discuss feral cats roaming about the terrain. In fact it’s quite a miracle that any make it past their first few days of life and yet – hurrah- many do!

Our very raucous and imperious cockerel, Carlos II was – and he should remember this – once a tiny chick at the side of his father, Carlos I. Poor old Carlos I went to meet his feathery maker last year but his spirit lives on along with his lungs, in his cocky offspring. Who could imagine that this towering, crowing and feathery beast was once so vulnerable and small?

So today I celebrated the lives of our new brood and watched in wonder as they hopped about their mother, disappearing under her downy feathers whenever our local eagle made a beady-eyed swift recce of the orchard.

Who can say how many of this latest clan of fluffy little chicks will make it through the night but I console myself knowing that each day of life is precious and that these tiny souls certainly make the most of their time here on earth. Let us raise a toast to mother nature and to our tiny feathered friends everywhere! The world would be so much the poorer without them.

Posted by Anna on 30 August 2017 | 10:16 am

All about the famed annual Marxa des Güell overnight walk - Palma to Lluc!

I was delighted to be interviewed by David Holzer for Deia Olive Press, on behalf of Charles Marlow, the exclusive estate agent in Deia. Here is the interview in full:
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Writer Anna Nicholas walks the Marxa des Güell for charity – by David Holzer

I’ve always been fascinated by the Marxa des Güell, the overnight walk from central Palma to Lluc monastery that takes place every year around this time. I’ve even contemplated attempting it.

Last Friday, while strolling down Carrer del Sindicat in Palma, I bumped into the writer Anna Nicholas who told me she was doing the walk the next evening. Fortunately, Anna didn’t ask me to join her. She did, however, answer my questions after she’d completed the walk.

Could you tell me about the Marxa des Güell, Anna? What actually is it?

The Marxa des Güell is an annual walk whose origins go back to 1974. There used to be a popular bar named Güell in the Plaza of the same name in central Palma. One day the owner’s six-year-old daughter was in the bar holding a syphon which exploded. She escaped any injury so the family decided to make a pilgrimage of thanks to the statue of the virgin at Lluc monastery. A group of 30 friends joined Tolo Güell, the child’s father, for the first walk on 18, July 1974.

By 1980, with sponsorship from Sa Nostra bank, the walk had grown considerably with a purported 40,000 participants. The date also changed to the first Saturday in August which this year fell on 5, August. Participants pre-register online and get a bib number and little booklet that needs to be stamped at four stops along the way. On arrival at Plaza Güell they receive their first official stamp and set off once the fireworks have been launched at 11pm. There’s a festive spirit with live performers and plenty of laughter and music.

Why did you decide to go on it?

I have always known about the walk and wanted to participate one day but just to do it without a cause seemed to lack purpose. By chance, a few weeks ago, I met Ron Hawes, founder of local children’s charity JoyRon, and he told me he was looking for walkers. He himself usually participated but had been ill and his doctors had advised him against it. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to help a worthy cause and attempt the walk.

Did you do much preparation?

To be honest, having decided to take part so late in the day, I had little time to prepare! I persuaded two sporty girlfriends to join me so we all shared duties on buying energy bars, gels and snacks – oh and blister pads – for the journey. I run three times each week, swim and do pilates so I was sure I could complete the walk, even if hard work.

Were there many people walking?

I was told that there were 5000 participants this year. It was hard to tell as we were right at the front of the start line and couldn’t see how dense the crowds were behind us. The majority of participants were young Mallorcans who I believe view it as a rite of passage.

How would you describe the Marxa des Güell?

To be honest, it’s a very tough walk and I say that as someone who’s run eight marathons! Aside from the heat – it was 32c at the outset – it’s an overnight adventure so tiredness and darkness are slightly disorientating factors. On a normal walk or run you can at least be distracted by scenery but you’re a long time in the dark until dawn breaks and you’re walking on asphalt the whole way which is a killer on the feet.

Having said that, it’s very convivial and we formed a small group and shared snacks and laughter along the way. There were a fair few water and fruit stops after the first 2.5 hours of walking and that kept our spirits up. In fact in Selva, at about 6am, they even doled out real coffee which was sheer bliss! It was quite a party atmosphere and everyone relaxed on the side of the road or grass to stretch and recuperate before the really steep final 18km ascent to Lluc monastery.

Were there any especially memorable highlights?

I enjoyed chatting about chefs with a young Spanish cook who had eavesdropped our conversation about food. We had a lively chat about cooking – sort of ironic given how frugal our nighttime diet was. We loved reaching Selva and being given fruit, water and coffee which we spiced up with a touch of brandy and sugar!

The moment we reached Lluc and walked down to the monastery was fantastic. We all felt elated and loved getting our official certificate. It was very buzzy with lots of happy, relieved and sleepy people about.

How long did the walk take?

Apparently people take between 8 and 13 hours to complete it. We did it in exactly 10 hours so we were pleased.

What would you tell anyone thinking about doing the Marxa des Güell?

Really make sure you do some long walks and even runs over a period of time – on asphalt – to prepare. Also it’s much better to go with a group as you can chat and buoy one another up along the way. We spent a lot of time discussing our various aches and pains and putting the world to rights!

We noticed that many people gave up the ghost en route starting at around the three-hour mark. There were ambulances and vehicles picking up exhausted stragglers from Santa Maria onwards and I can only assume that they hadn’t realised how hard the going might be.

Could you tell me about the charity you supported by walking – how can people donate?

The charity is JoyRon and the project we are supporting is the building of a cinema for terminally ill children and their families to enjoy at Son Espases state hospital in Palma. The charity hopes it might be complete for Christmas if they can raise sufficient funds.

How’s the writing going? Are you working on anything at the moment?

I am always writing! Currently I’m working on a novel set in rural Mallorca but I have numerous other projects up my sleeve as well as a fair bit of journalism for the Telegraph and FT.

How do you feel about August in Mallorca?

I scuttle away and hide in my writing playpen until we can all breathe again in late September!

You can donate to JoyRon via the donation page at www.joyronfoundation.org/donate/ which allows you to donate via a bank transfer or credit card.

Alternatively, make a direct bank transfer from your bank to the Foundation´s bank account – Deutsche Bank Puerto Portals – Account Fundacion JoyRon, IBAN – ES02 0019 0192 2840 1000 9933 – BICDEUTESBB

Posted by Anna on 9 August 2017 | 6:04 am