"Déu sagrat!" or "Quan estava a Artà"

Posted by Alex | | Posted On Sunday, 30 May 2010 at 17:48

All good things come to an end eventually, and when that happens it's a damned shame. However, I suppose I'll just have to get over it, and the best way to do that is to let people know how amazing the last six days actually were.

Day #1

Well, if you want to talk about bad starts to a holiday, I suppose now's the time. I got to the airport at 3.30 and was charged more than I had budgeted for a taxi. Then, my online booking failed epically on me so I had to queue for an hour to get a new boarding card. Next up was the eyelets on my shoes setting off the metal detectors, so I had to be searched. And when all that was said and done, I did sweet sod all on the plane except read Martí i Pol until I fell asleep.

The journey out to Artà was a bitch, to be quite honest. After the twenty minute bus ride into town, on a packed aerobus, I managed to squeeze in some breakfast at the Ses Estacions Palma; and followed it up with a long train ride out to Manacor. Even that didn't go to plan, as the line was closed from Sineu onwards, which meant a bus ride to Manacor, and then on to Artà. However, I did get my first tallat (a Catalan cafe cortado) at the Ses Estacions Manacor.

What then struck me was the fact that despite being in the middle of nowhere, Artà was so much nicer than what I'd seen of Palma and Manacor. It was both quaint, in that "pueblo" kind of way, but, it was civilised and thought-out in a way that most places never seem to be. It was the perfect amalgamation of "new" and "old", if you like. Possibly, it was the best thing to come out of a day where for 10 hours I was either on my feet, or travelling.

Day #2

The best way to wake up is to the prospect of breakfast, so, on heading out into town, the plan became a trip to Ca'n Pere, the local bakery. It was here that I got my first taste of Catalan life, meeting two locals - Tòfol and his brother-in-law Oriol - who turned out to be the nicest men I could ever wish to meet. While they're both kind and generous and friendly, they also know how to hook a brother up with bad language. Today's words and phrases included:

Cago'n Déu - (Cag-on Day-oo) - equivalent to "Holy shit!" [Literally "I shit on God"]
Els teus collons - (Els Tay-oos Coy-ons) - equivalent to "Are you shitting me?" [Literally "You're balls!"]
Déu sagrat! - (Day-oo Sag-rat) - can mean multiple things, in the same way as "Damn!" [Literally "Holy God!"]

After my lesson in language, and one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten, I spent the afternoon exploring town. Some of the street names were quite clever, like the fact that the Carrer de's Sol backed onto the Carrer de S'Ombra [Sun and Shadow]. From there, I walked on up to the Sanctuary, perched high above Artà. Honestly, the views were amazing; all the way out to Cala Ratjada on the coast, and right over the town.

The day ended with typical Spanish drinking - Kalimotxos [red wine and cola] and Xopets [lager and lemon fanta].

Day #3

Honestly, not much happened on this day. Really and truly. There was some late night drinking involving Pitlingorrí [red wine and fanta orange], and some rather rich food. Possibly it was the best food ever cooked, thanks to my host's wonderful cooking skills. I attempted to write down the ingredients and the recipe on the plane home, but I think I may be wrong:

Cholesterol Carbonara

To make the sauce:
                 Add some bacon lardons to a pan, roughly one small pack per person.
                 Once the pan is sufficiently greased from the bacon, add double cream or creme freche.
                 Reduce slightly before adding butter and blue cheese (of your choice)
                 Add some vaguely-cheddar-esque cheese to thicken the sauce back up
                 Season to taste

From that point on, you mix in your pasta, and since all the ingredients were estimated, you can practically end up with a heart-attack in a bowl. In fact, the feeling once you finish it is pretty rare - you're either going to be dead thanks to a cardiac arrest, or, you're going to feel like you've had the best metaphorical oral sex ever. C'mon, why else would I dub it "Blowjob Food"?

Day #4

This was the day when I truly learned what the Spanish are like. It had been arranged that we'd go for variats with Tòfol and Oriol, but, the plan was cancelled at the last minute. I can't quite remember why, but, either way, the plan was off. Instead, we went for the nicest patatas bravas I've ever had, topped with a huge dollop of aioli.

After feeling vaguely full off those, we went out that night for tapas. For all of €9.50, we managed to get six raciones of tapas between us: Chorizo en vino tinto, calabazín thailandés, champignones en ajillo, tomate y feta, ensaladilla de mariscos and boquerones en tomate. Honestly, one of the nicest meals I've had. The chorizo in wine was perhaps the most amazing food I have ever eaten, though the butter-beans came close.

That night I also tried my first glass of Hierbas. It's a liquor made in town, though there are other variants of it. The local brand is Moya, and everyone in Artà frowns upon you if you don't drink Hierbas de Moya. Think Ouzo, or better yet Pernod, and you're on the right track. The Secas variety louches in water, while the Dolces one doesn't. And for €2 a glass, it's hard not to get wasted off the stuff.

Day #5

Then things went back to plan. That morning, after a quick xopet at Sa Plaça, we headed off for variats. A variat is a dish made up of many things. You could order one of them, three, five, or all of them, and munch away to your heart's content. In the particular bar we went to, all of us ordered the variat gros, which consisted of the entire menu: meatballs, octopus, mushrooms, ensaladilla rusa, tongue, tripe, and frit (pig's liver in fried vegetables). I've never been so eager to finish a plate in my life - it was the God of all bar foods, and I wish that the Welsh had something similar.

From there, it was a simple step to getting tipsy in the afternoon when Oriol bought us each a glass of a typical Mallorquí drink: both varieties of Hierbas, a dark, high content drink called Mesclat de Matanzes, and a 55% rum called Amazonas which they drink to clear out their tallat cups. Overall, each drink had it's good qualities, but, I'm now totally sold on the Hierbas dolces. It really is quite sweet, but, it doesn't have the backlash that the secas does. Here, there was another language lesson:

Som es puta xot - [Som es poo-tah shot] - "I'm the fucking boss" [Literally "I am the king of the goats!]
Puta pípa - [Poo-tah pee-pah] - "Fucking dick"
Els teus collons són carabasses - [Els tay-oos coy-ons sohn car-ah-baz-us] - "Your balls are like pumpkins!"

To round off the day, we visited Moya, and I found out the easy way that alcohol in Spain is very cheap indeed. I actually regretted only taking hand luggage, rather than a full-on suitcase. What a shame.

The night, however, was passed drinking Cruzcampo and then heading out to the local 'dive bar', Es Pas a Nivell (or "The Level Crossing"), a converted station cafe building which now houses once of the dingiest bars in Mallorca. But, dingy is a word we associate with bad things; realistically, it was far from dingy, it was "full of character" and had a damned fine musical playlist going on with its massive collection of liquors. I even saw some Brecon Gin in there somewhere...

Day #6

It all had to come to an end though. After a baguette of the traditional Mallorcan Sobressada at Ca'n Pere, I spent the last few hours lazing around with my host, chatting, reminiscing, and all that jazz. Then it was off for the bus to Manacor, which, oddly, seems to have more furniture stores per head than anywhere in the world. If they weren't selling muebles they were making them!

After a few magical moments of being lost in translation - such as an Englishman speaking slowly to me to get the time - "Excuse me...do...you...have...the...time?" "Yes, I do. Would you like to know it or something?" - and speaking in nearly "bloody good" Spanish at the airport to the check-in girl, who was most impressed - I had to leave.

Leaving is the worst thing, because you never know what you're coming back to. At least I knew that behind me there were four of the nicest people I know, who were willing to put me up, give me amazing food, a bed for the night; introduce me to one of the most beautiful towns in the world, and generally keep me sane, safe, and satisfied for an entire week. Screw hotels, like!  Ahead of me could have been anything: rain, ash clouds, deaths, famine; you name it.

In short: Right now I miss Artà and all that it had to offer, but, I'm not too worried about all that. Exams permitting, next year I'm returning there for Sant Antoní, since I have an invite, and they're apparently the village that puts in the most effort.

Artà, jo no et oblidaré!

"Au idò, vagi bé" - The Pre-Mallorca Summary

Posted by Alex | | Posted On Monday, 24 May 2010 at 01:20

Well, a month has gone by without updates. In fact, I think it's been longer than that. Actually, who cares? What matters is that there's one right here, right now; as the Chemical Brothers song goes.

So, the last month has pretty much been hellish. It's exam season, in case you haven't already guessed. There was the fun of "functional translating" for Italian, followed by an oral exam on Italian novels and, yup, you guessed it, functional translations. That was swiftly followed by a Spanish exam, possibly not the hardest I've done in my life, but, still, one of the trickiest tense-wise. A week of freedom, if procrastination and revision can be called that, was followed by another Italian exam - one of the silliest exam papers I've ever had the misfortune to encounter - uh oh.

Now, in this glorious sunshine (well, the glorious sunshine that existed earlier, since it is a quarter to one right now), the prospect of one more exam is looming on the horizon. It's Catalan. It's going to be different, because I've never done a Catalan exam; we've never really been formally tested on it to be honest. Orally, we just speak in turn and ask questions about grammar; aurally, we listen to Manel and Whiskyn's and Estanislau Verdet and learn a few new words here and there; grammatically, we have a sound basis, but, I don't think I could hold my own for long in Catalonia.

That's why I'm throwing myself in at the deep end. I've had an entire two weeks off from exams, so in less than six hours I'm flying away to Mallorca to stay in the deepest, darkest part of the Mallorquí countryside. There'll be plenty of avis and avies to chat to; maybe a few nens and nenes. The plan is to leave at 3am, bum around in the airport for a bit, spend two hours on a plane reading Miquel Martí i Pol, then get a bus into Palma. There, I'll probably spend an hour hunting down a farmàcia to get some crema de sol. If I find one a bit faster, maybe I'll grab myself a tallat and some pa amb tomàquet for breakfast before heading off on the train to Manacor. Then, I'll do some mild sight-seeing in Manacor, before getting the bus out to Artà, where I'll be spending the next five days.

Hopefully, I'll be able to come back with some improved Catalan, and maybe some improved Spanish. I really need to get up to speed with both really; I feel unqualified in the one, and rusty in the other. It's such a brilliant thing that Mallorcans tend to speak both, especially in the more rural areas. However, it does mean that every sentence in Palma will start with Le importa si hablo Español, porque no hablo bien el catalan. (or if I feel confident Usted sabe catalan? Le importa si nos utilizamos?). My one downfall will be the conditional, but, beyond that I should be able to handle myself - I'm even packing a Catalan dictionary. How sad. I wish I could pack Wikitravel's Catalan Phrasebook to be honest - the more I look at it, the more I remember words from way back in the first semester. Ho sento, no puc comprar-ho. És una miqueta massa cara per mi. Pero, moltes gràcies per la seva ajuda sprung to mind on reading it.

The worst bits of all of this will be killing time and staying awake. I mean, I've been up since 8am; done 3 hours of shopping; had two hours of extra sleep on top of the 6 I've already had; drunk a pint of coffee; and it's still only a quarter past one. I have another hour and three quarters before my taxi turns up, and another four hours and three quarters to take-off. It's all a bit much really.

However, as previously stated, I did hope to vlog some of this holiday. The more I think about it, though, the less I want to. I feel like it's just going to be a holiday of relaxation and some mild language use, so there's not going to be anything worth vlogging about. Maybe I'll save those for my real year abroad, when I can dictate the flow of the tourism. Until then, you'll just have to wait with bated breath for me to return, gather my thoughts, and write up some form of post-trip bloggage to keep you hanging on for something infinitely more interesting in the forms of Pavia and Lleida.