Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘olive oil’

Our week on Menorca flew by, and it was time to depart for our last destination of our Spanish trip – Mallorca. The time tables of the sequence of various modes of transport – bicycle, bus, boat – were carefully planned. We first cycled through Maó, where the cobble streets were being prepared for the weekend’s festival (Festa celebrating the birth of Mother Maria): it’s a pity that I miss a big part of the event, which would be horses galloping through the streets, hence the piles of sand being raked over the cobbles. We bought a seed baguette-style loaf of bread at our favourite bakery, and cycled further to the bus station. The hour long express bus to Ciutadella went very quickly as we passed small villages, megalithic structures on farms and the neatly built dry stone walls typically used all over the island.

Cycle ways along stone walls

Cycle ways along stone walls

windmillsCiutadella has an extensive, well-painted and curbed cycle network throughout the town. It was such a pleasure to cycle from the bus station to the new port where the ferries depart for the other Balearic Islands. The ferries were enormous and looked like buildings. After a relaxed crossing of 2 hours in our own small cabin (where we enjoyed our own vegan food we brought along), we arrived in Majorca (Mallorca). It was a short cycle ride to the bus station, where we caught yet another bus from the top of the island where we landed down to the south, another 1 and a half hour journey. This island is bigger than Menorca, with high mountains resembling the Alps, has a big population and receives many visitors (in 2007 over 22 million tourists came here!!). The island also has a lot of traffic: there is a train line and motorways have 3-4 lanes. The landscape was dotted with creamy-white windmills in various stages of neglect.

Cathedral detailWe arrived in Palma, a rather charmless city, except for La Seu – the huge cathedral built in Catalan Gothic style, rising dramatically above the harbour. It apparently has the largest rose window in the world! The last haul of our busy commuting day was a pretty 15km cycle along the seafront in special cycle lanes. Dog-tired we arrived at our accommodation at 6pm after nearly 12 hours of travelling, only to find the owner – a shady German guy – had misrepresented his holiday rental villa. According to his website, we were supposed to have the entire house with private pool, kitchen, washing machines etc., while instead, he lead us through his untidy house with yelling toddlers, up 2 flights of stairs to a below-average student type flat with a tiny caravan-size kitchenette, with none of the amenities mentioned above. Hmmm.

Typical windows MenorcaAfter a bit of arguing, we left after he paid us 75% back of what we’ve already pre-paid. So, there we were without accommodation, at 7 in the evening in the busiest holiday time of the year and the sun sets in an hour. We first tried the internet on our cell phones for alternative accommodation, with no success; then we cycled from one hotel to the next just to find everything booked up. After cycling a third of the way back to Palma, we finally got a room in a couples-only hotel for just one night. Luckily, after an exhaustive search on the internet the next day we found a hotel away from the sea and partying holiday makers, for the remaining part of our stay. In order to reach the hotel, we had to rent another car. The beautiful hotel is situated in the countryside surrounded by groves of almonds and farms segmented by dry stone walls. The converted and extended farm buildings are arranged around swimming pools in a group of pleasing stone buildings partly covered by deep-green ivy and sweetly scented jasmine. The 17th century chapel on the grounds (in fact just 15 meters from our veranda) as well as an old windmill were lovingly restored. In the evenings we listened to owls in the nearby trees, and watched stunning sunsets as the sky turns soft yellow, pastel pink then a flaming orange.

Our hotel and restored chapel on the grounds

Our hotel and restored chapel on the grounds

IMG_0971Although the original farm buildings had been turned into a stunning hotel, my preference is usually to stay in a place with a kitchen. Especially being so far away from any towns, I did not want to have to eat my meals in the hotel. We solved my dilemma in an ingenious way: buying an electric frying pan with a glass lid at the reliable “El Corte Ingles” department store! This kitchen-in-one was an amazing piece of equipment. I had huge fun making our lunches and dinners in the deep pan. Since we had a garden room, I’d do everything outside: dry-frying spices and setting those aside; boiling rice / quinoa / couscous and setting that aside; using olive oil, frying garlic and onions, adding vegetables (and cold rooibos tea as stock, if using); heating store-bought vegan empanadas; boiling vegan tortellini pasta, the possibilities are endless! Since I also travel with my Tribest blender, I could grind spices and nuts with the grinder blade and make smoothes, sauces and nut creams with the other blade. Here is a photograph of our pantry in our hotel cupboard!

Our food cupboard in Mallorca

Our food cupboard in Mallorca

Salt heaps at Flor de Sel

Salt heaps at Flor de Sel

After a rather bumpy introduction to Mallorca, we started to enjoy ourselves and the first thing I did was to read up about its history. Just like Menorca, Mallorca was also inhabited by pre-historic people, albeit earlier at 6000-4000 BC. The island was then ruled by the Romans from 123 BC, founding the towns of Palma (as Palmaria, on top of a Talaiotic settlement) and Pollenćia. The main economy then, as it is even today, were olive farming, viticulture and salt mining. We drove one day passed Flor de Sel, a huge salt operation with mountains of gleaming white salt being piled high by tractors. Products mostly for sale in the shops at the nearby villages are olive oil, salt and almond products.
A particularly lovely shop selling olive oils and a range of various salts

A particularly lovely shop selling olive oils and a range of various salts

Read Full Post »


I love travelling. And I also love food. As a vegan food writer, I am forever looking out for special vegan dishes on my travels, that:

* I can enjoy ordering straight off the menu – thus collecting traditional, time-honoured recipes from various cultures
* veganizing dishes from the menu – in this way often having the chance to speak to the chef
* devising a vegan (and sugar-free) version of the dish – so having the fun later on to try it out when I do have a kitchen while travelling.


When my husband and I got the opportunity to rent a Tuscan villa for 5 weeks, I couldn’t wait to experience the ancient towns, the various fresh markets, gathering new recipes and immersing myself properly in the Italian language I have been studying diligently for the past year.

From a distance, the town of Montalcino looks like a dollop of caramel on top of a bran muffin. It is town built on a high ridge with a stupendous view stretching in all directions. A few structures remain that still dates from the 10th century. We arrived at our villa, situated just outside the city walls, with the “padrona” (landlady) and her husband waiting for us. My excited babbling was quickly cut short with “solo italiano!”. Well, my home-studied Italian was tested to breaking point as the landlady took me around the house, explaining in a flood of Italian how the old-fashioned electricity works, the washing machine, dishwasher, central heating …

Needless to say, after a long day of driving on narrow country roads, dinner was a simple affair that night. We had some left-over crunchy bread which we toasted and rubbed generously with garlic and poured over a local olive oil, accompanied by truss tomatoes, olives and a handful of grapes. We savoured our feast while sitting on the terrace as we watch the sun dip behind another hill top village in the distance. The next day we would explore the town.

Read Full Post »