By Rachel Fox
Pics by Rachel Fox
Legend has it that Robert Graves chose Mallorca as his home partly on the advice of Gertrude Stein… “Majorca is a paradise – if you can stand it”, she said. Mallorca became my paradise when I moved here 18 years ago, but now we are hanging on to our livelihoods by the skin of our teeth. All we can do is work when we can and meanwhile marvel in this most beautiful and misunderstood Mediterranean island.
A tunnel cuts a lifeline through the limestone rock of the Tramuntana Mountain Range from the Palma road through to Sóller on the North West Coast of Mallorca. Sóller is a gem nestling in the arms of the rugged landscape. The town has retained its identity and accent despite the more recent influx of Northern European investors. The filming of John le Carré’s Night Manager series and before that scenes from the film Cloud Atlas and now the series The Mallorca Files, has attracted film crews and followers on. The mountains themselves are riddled with paths and trails in the magnificent landscape. Almond blossom has just given way to orange blossom. Every corner reveals fragrance and lush vegetation, complacent lambs or intrepid goats. The valley is at its best right now, with the last traces of snow on the highest peak, Puig Major, highlighted by brilliant sunshine; radiant heat lures you to the seashore (by tram if you like) and a cool breeze reminds you it is only just April.
A year ago, we started to endure one of the strictest lockdowns in the World. Isolated Sóller stayed relatively Covid free for quite some time. We behaved ourselves immaculately. But twice now, there have been surges in numbers. Our economy here in the town and of course the whole of Mallorca is suffering hugely due to the lack of tourists. Business closures and food banks are a sad, daily reality here in the Valley and the economy will take a long time to recover. The town has lost 24 souls to the virus and living with all this shows in the strain on our faces, but also in the resilience in our hearts.
Happily for me, my mother arrived for a short stay from the UK to celebrate her 91st birthday. That was over a year ago and she is still here! My two sons and I have been able to care for her and she has fed us in return. I don’t dare to think how differently it could have worked out.
The Mallorquin phrase ‘poc a poc’ (little by little) sums it up. We want you here, but with great respect and caution. Regulations are complicated as some are issued by central government in Madrid, and another layer dictated by local government. Spanish or non-EU homeowners are denied access unless they are legal residents. Movement between regions in Spain is only permitted for essential health, work or educational reasons. As far as I understand, non-EU citizens are not permitted to enter Spain unless for very specific reasons. EU citizens are permitted to travel under their own regional restrictions, and so thousands of German tourists have been admitted into the Balearics over the last few weeks, all being tested for the virus as they arrived. We are watching the numbers closely. Restrictions can change rapidly as local infection rates fluctuate. Until the vaccination program is more complete, the machine that is tourism in Mallorca will not gain much momentum.
Specifically, there is a curfew from 10pm until 6am. Some cafes and restaurants are open. No seating is available inside cafes and bars, and they close at 5pm. A maximum of 4 people are allowed at each table from two households only. Takeaway services are, however available during the evening. There is no mixing of households at home, (unless you live alone, in which case you can form a ‘bubble’ with one other household that cannot be changed). A maximum of 6 people from two households may meet together outside. There have been strict clamp downs on parking and access to some areas. Masks are compulsory at all times unless you are actually eating and drinking, even on the beach if you cannot keep 2m distance. You are free to walk and travel around the island as you like, but distancing, mask wearing and use of sprays and gels is essential. You will be reminded very swiftly if you forget.
Some hotels are open, others are aiming to open in May. If you can make it here and find somewhere to stay, it is heaven. The beaches are relatively empty, mountain walks quiet and the weather perfect. Restrictions may well ease in the Balearics after April 11th, but I expect a very slow and cautious start to the summer. I hope you too can stand our little corner of paradise.
Rachel – thank you so much for this superb contribution to our ‘new reality’. I send special greetings to Mrs Pepperpot (Audrey Fox) now 92 years of age and handling the disruptions around us like a trooper.