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Wednesday January 23, 2013

As winter bites everyone in Majorca is enjoying the great ‘indoors’

Last night my husband and I set off to our windswept port in search of one of the very few restaurants still operating during the winter months. There wasn’t a soul about as we strode along the promenade accompanied by a glistening sea as black and viscous as molasses.

As we entered the bright and cosy restaurant the owners gave us a hearty greeting, not least because we were the only customers. We sat nursing glasses of delicious, robust red wine and smothered our warm bread with lashings of garlicky aioli, enjoying the tranquility and relaxed atmosphere. Later that evening another couple pitched up and seemed hugely relieved to have found a welcoming oasis on the barren landscape.

Despite the cheery fiestas of San Antoní and San Sebastià that bob up like life saving buoys mid month, January is a desperately quiet time when most Majorcans hibernate, huddling by their wood burners and enjoying hearty soups and rice dishes. It’s much the same in February which is at least happily punctuated by the Carnival festivities which take place in most towns and villages across the island.

Similarly to our Majorcan friends we do not like venturing out too much at this time of the year especially on cold, dark evenings. The idea of driving into Palma at night –forty minutes away- just doesn’t inspire and even local jaunts that necessitate leaving the comfort of a warm hearth seem to require huge effort. Indeed, lively dinners and lunches al fresco are put on hold until March when shutters are snapped open, hotels and restaurants are shaken from their long slumber and everyone emerges from the long hibernation.

Every year of course Majorca’s tourism entities halfheartedly whisper the dreaded term ‘Winter tourism’ and everyone gives a hearty laugh. With few flights, closed hotels and restaurants and moody weather, it’s unlikely that many holidaymakers will venture over here unless they are the hale and hearty types that enjoy singing in the rain, hiking in the hills and gloriously silent nights.

All the same, I love this time of the year for the simple reason that it is so still. There’s a whiff of wood smoke in the cool morning air, the orchards are lush and verdant and lemons and avocados hang heavy from the trees. Walking in the woods or by the sea is a blissful experience, a time when one can share a friendly word with locals without the interruption of noisy tour groups that smack at the rocks with their metal hiking poles as if they were spearing fish.

At night after supper and a warming glass of vino tinto, there’s nothing more indulgent than curling up in bed with a good book while the wind moans and the shutters chatter like teeth. The tourists will return soon enough but until then I’m going to make the most of life indoors. Silence is truly golden.

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