The Permiso de Conducción

I received my renewed Permiso de Conducción (driving license) in the mail yesterday.

About ten years ago, I had handed in my fold-out British driving license to exchange it for a Spanish Permiso, and was issued with a local one. The whole process was really easy peasy. I had to pass a medical test, then, including a rather silly computer screen steering and mobility test, as well as an eye examination. The British driving license was revoked at the time, and the new Spanish one was valid for a period of five years.

Five years ago, same procedure again. This time, the new Spanish driving license was the size of a credit card.

The second period of validity was up again mid-June this year. So, off I went for another examination of my sensuous abilities. This time, my blood pressure was taken as well at the clinic in Felanitx (see photo). The hearing test was now conducted inside of a sound-proof cubicle and involved some high-pitch noises, one of which was so high that I could only guess but not hear it. Luckily, I was given the all-clear again. And, as I mentioned above, the new Carnet arrived in the post just then.

The thing is, as a tourist you don’t need to do any of this when driving in Spain. But as a resident, your foreign driving license is only valid in Spain for up to six months after your arrival. After that, you have to pass a Spanish driving test, unless that is, unless your driving license was issued by one of the European Union countries, in which case the driving license held will simply be swapped. All you have to do is what I had to do, have some passport photos taken, plus pay some 70 odd euros (50 something for the examination and 20 plus for the Dirección General de Tráfico), hand over and revoke your old license and sit and wait for some six weeks for the new card to arrive at your door step.

If the Tráfico police will catch you without the proper Spanish Permiso, you will incur some trouble and may be fined.

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: June 15th, 2010. The time was 17:28:16.

The Permiso de Conducción

Dead Fish

Llucmajor (Lluchmayor) has changed quite a bit over the last few years. First of all, when the motorway out of Palma in the direction of Santanyí was extended, the ciutat of Llucmajor suddenly found itself cut off by way of a bypass. A stream of visitors that used to pop into town, now don’t any more. Not everyone was happy about losing quite a bit of their economic clout.

Then, three wise men at Llucmajor’s Ajuntament decided to give the town’s focal square a face-lick complete with a botox injection. You can see the result for yourself any of these days. The new market square now looks mind-numbingly boring and all puffed up when a few months ago, it was attractive and alive. I do not know how much money was spent on the remodelling exercise but, I am told the Consell de Mallorca chipped in with 1,600,000 € to help finance the surgical operation. The infamous Plan€ did the rest.

As one might expect, political wisdom did not stop there.

One of the nice features of Llucmajor undoubtedly is the weekly market (Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays). In the old days, the market trading happened indoors. To that end, a Mercado Municipal building was erected in 1915, in the Modernismo style, without a doubt one of the most attractive market halls on the whole island. Thirty years ago or so, the market building was transformed into a fish market whilst the food and veg market moved under the open skies to the centre of the Plaza Espanya. The Peixateria (fish hall) must have been the best place to buy fish anywhere outside Palma, with the emphasis on have been. Because the fish market is no more. All gone. Dead.

The Mercado Municipal building has now been converted into a tourist information centre, open daily from 09h00 to 14h00, including Sundays (and festivities). The exterior was stripped of its patina, whilst the interior has the eeriness of an airport arrival hall, i. e. all functionality, high-tech, open space, anonymity, boring, dead, without life. When I was there a few days ago, no-one was seeking information. To be unbiased, no-one came in to ask for fish, either.

It is all very sad, I must say.

The photo (top) was taken in Llucmajor, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 26th, 2010. The time was 10:36:09. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of the Ajuntament de Llucmajor.

Moltes gràcies.

Dead Fish

The Final Bullfight?

Yesterday, the autonomous Parlament de Catalunya in Barcelona approved with 68 against 55 votes (and 9 abstentions) a move to disallow bullfights. The new law will come into effect from 2012 and will only be valid in Cataluña. After the Canary Islands, Cataluña is now the second province in Spain that has declared an end to corridas, bullfights and novilladas. The hearts of Spanish bullfights and bull runs (Madrid, Andalucía and Pamplona) will not be affected by the new legislation.

In my opinion, the new ruling is not really only a vote taken in favour of the toros in question, protecting animals rights. Catalunya has never really been the greatest of fans of tauromania and its related emotions. In Cataluña, it is felt that bullfights are really a passion of centrist Spain and were imposed by Madrid on a culture that sees itself rather represented by the donkey, and not the bull. The ruling has to be seen in the light of the Catalonian constitution that only a week ago was partially rebuffed by the Supreme Court in Madrid. The Barcelona ruling might have been a message to the Spanish nation that Cataluña wants to do things their own way and not always follow the lead from Madrid, sometimes even in an independent spirit.

In the long run, the Catalonian ruling may have repercussions here in the Baleares as well. I would guess, however, that here such a ruling might still be a few years away but, it will come sooner or later.

The Mallorcan town of Inca will stage a bullfight next Sunday, August 1st, at 18h30. Toreros will be Juan Serrano ‘El Finito de Córdoba‘, Manuel Díaz ‘El Cordobés‘ and Miguel Abellán. The occasion is the Fiestas de San Abdon y San Senén. The date will be the centennial anniversary of the inauguration of the Plaza de Toros de Inca (see photo below). Tickets are on sale from 30 € to 45 € (sol) and from 40 € to 95 € (sombra). I expect that there will be some anti-bullfight demonstrations, as well.

The photo (top) was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 20th, 2010. The time was 10:29:07. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet. Thanks are due to diariodemallorca.es.

Muchas gracias.

The Final Bullfight?

Wheelchair Access

People who are wheelchair-bound and persons with physical disabilities do not generally encounter Mallorca as a very disability-friendly environment. Although a legal obligation exists in Spain regulating wheelchair access into public buildings, bars, shops, cinemas and museums, how about access conditions at the sights that tourists visiting Mallorca might want to see? What about churches, monasteries, the Cathedral? What about the caves, beaches, harbours, the seafront? What about toilets for wheelchair users?

First the good news. Airlines and PMI airport generally assist the disabled traveller during flights and upon arrival and departure. It is always well worth notifying the airport and the airline on your required needs. You will normally be assisted when in need of a wheelchair, or an escort if you have a sensory impairment, or help with carrying your luggage. You can also get help disembarking from the aircraft, and boarding upon departure. There are wheelchair-adapted taxis but, normally they would have to be booked in advance. Buses and the Metro are also equipped with easy access facilities. It gets a bit more complicated where rent-a-car companies are concerned. Friends of ours made explicit reservations but, had to queue for three hours and were given a regular 5-seater for a party of six including one wheelchair bound person. Surely they would have been entitled to raise hell, but they could not face going back to the desk and queuing up again for who knows how long.

The rest of the story is one of some clumsiness and ineptitude, as far as I can tell. There is precious little information available from the Mallorcan tourist offices, the towns and pueblos, the resorts or the authorities. Churches, chapels and monasteries generally date from bygone times but, have not been modified for easy wheelchair access. This is sadly also true for the Cathedral in Palma. The famous Mallorcan caves are not suitable for wheelchairs except for the ones in Campanet where the first cave can be accessed by wheelchairs but not the subsequent ones. There is no easy access to the Palau de l’Almudaina, I am afraid. Most museums in Palma have been converted and now do provide ramps and wheelchair lifts.

Beaches are not normally accessible with wheelchairs, or pushchairs for that matter. One exception might be the beach of Sa Rapita where a planked walkway has been installed at least for the first few hundred metres. The Playa de Muro is exemplary for having given the need of the disabled some thought. A total of 8 walkways have been installed there to provide access for people with physical limitations. During the Summer, there is also an all-day amphibious chair service for disabled persons, one of only a few of its kind on the island.

Five beaches in the Palma area have wheelchair access during the Summer months: Can Pere Antoni, Platja de Palma, Cala Estància, Cala Major and Ciutat Jardí. A complete multi-lingual Guia de Platges is available as a pdf download.

A nice wooden Paseo Marítimo exists in Colònia de Sant Jordi, allowing wheelchairs to cruise along the seafront, up to the lighthouse and on and around the beachfront. Exemplary.

The seafront in Palma de Mallorca offers miles of palm tree shaded sea promenade, as do Port d’Andratx, Portocolom, Port d’Alcúdia and, to some extent, Port de Sóller. The train to Sóller is a no-go for the wheelchair-bound as, sadly, are the Jardines de Alfabia and the Jardín Botánico de Sóller. Raixa has only limited access for the impaired and the same has to be said for Els Calderers and Sa Granja.

Access to the Centre d’Interpretació de Cabrera in Colònia de Sant Jordi is impeccable. Admission is still free; there are plenty of elevators and a serpentine ramp stretches over three floors. The Palma Aquarium charges a lot for admission but, was also built with the handicapped person in mind.

The photo was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of Panoramio and lor_morena.

Muchas gracias.

Wheelchair Access

A 1923 Helicopter From Llucmajor

Pere Sastre Obrador was a visionary man with a passion. He was born in Llucmajor in 1895. People in Mallorca consider this man to be the inventor of the helicopter as we know it or, more precisely, a Cometagiroavion (see photos above and below). It’s a fascinating story of Don Quijotean dimensions with an unhappy ending.

The first man ever to come up with the idea of an upward gyrating apparatus was probably Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), but his invention (see sketch; bottom) was never built during da Vinci’s lifetime and it certainly never flew, then. Frenchmen, Gustave de Ponton d’Amécourt, Enrico Forlanini and Emmanuel Dieuaide all designed models of unmanned helicopters during the 19th century which never flew on a life-size scale. According to Wikipedia, ‘Thomas Edison patented his own design for a helicopter powered by a gasoline engine with box kites attached to a mast by cables for a rotor, but it never flew’.

Between 1919 and 1923, Pere Sastre Obrador had numerous attempts at building gyrating flight apparatuses. He presented his innovation to the Spanish government and its Ministerio de la Guerra (Ministry of War) in 1921 but, found his contraptions rejected on the grounds of a missing application in reality. Instead, the son of the then War Minister patented designs surprisingly similar to the one from Llucmajor amidst accusations of plagiarism. Interesting to know that the impostor’s flight machine only flew above ground for the first time in 1926, when Pere Sastre Obrador’s had done so in 1923. Señor Obrador died in 1965 an impoverished man with his invention unrecognized outside of his hometown.

A full-scale recreation of the Obrador gyro-plane can be seen on display at the Centre de Cultura de Sant Bonaventura in Llucmajor, complete with the original combustion engine of the 1923 copter and its genuine propeller. During the summer months, the Claustre de Sant Bonaventura is open daily from 09h00 to 14h00. The erstwhile Franciscan monastery is a place well worth a visit but, nothing much is going on there at the moment other than the display of the Cometagiroavion. The Festes de Santa Cándida de Lluchmajor are coming up soon, though, and a full programme of activities and exhibitions will be on show, then and there. You might as well delay your visit of Llucmajor until the second week of August.

The photo (top) was taken in Llucmajor, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 26th, 2010. The time was 11:28:14. The photo (centre) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of diariodemallorca.es and the Ajuntament de Llucmajor. The image of the da Vinci drawing (bottom) was borrowed from Wikipedia.

Muchas gracias, Moltes gràcies, and Thank you very much.

A 1923 Helicopter From Llucmajor

Vegetable Oil Refining

People living in Mallorca may have come across small lorry type vehicles parked outside bars and restaurants collecting used cooking oil. Seven of these lorries are currently on the roads in Mallorca, gathering potentially damaging residue from hotels, restaurants, bars and schools for the process of vegetable oil recycling. To this end, Gen Oli Balear (Grupo Ecológico Natural) was set up in Llucmajor with grants from the European Union and a rather substantial financial injection from the Govern de les Illes Balears. A refinery was built where used vegetable oil is recycled, refined, processed, cleaned and mixed with kerosene and alcohol to produce bio-diesel. The plant is said to be the second biggest of its kind in Spain. Bio-diesel is chemically identical to conventional diesel fuel but, without its inherent disadvantages, is helping to keep the environment clean. In fact, the lorry in the photograph is actually running on this very bio-diesel, a fuel with very low contamination or CO² emissions when compared to the traditional diesel combustion product.

Green is in. A Danish company is currently in the process of building a biomass reactor in Mallorca where as of 2012, algae and seaweed will be processed and refined into organic fuel. Micro algae are by many considered to be the most promising next generation bio-fuel. Apparently, the refining process will be based on a micro algae photo-bioreactor technology. The new pilot project will be the largest of its kind in the world and is already assured the collaboration of the Universitat de les Illes Balears. Things are happening in Mallorca. Stay tuned.

The photo (top) was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 20th, 2010. The time was 08:54:29. The photo (bottom) was taken near Llucmajor, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 26th, 2010. The time was 10:11:38.

Vegetable Oil Refining

Sant Jaume Apòstol

Today, Spain celebrates the fiesta of its Patron Saint, Santiago Apóstol (St James), also known as San Jaime Apóstol, or here in Mallorca, Sant Jaume Apòstol. Every few years, this saint’s days falls on a Sunday as is the case today. That coincidence has a particular significance for pilgrims wanting to undertake the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, where a special mass will be held this morning. The Spanish King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía arrived in Santiago de Compostela last night and will attend the Ano Xacobeo church service at the Catedral de Santiago. Later in the week, the Spanish Royal Family will travel to Mallorca, where they will spend most of the month of August at the Palau Marivent as they do every year. There, King Juan Carlos is expected to receive the Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, on August 11th.

In Mallorca, the Festa de Sant Jaume has its own importance whether the day falls on a Sunday or not. Sant Jaume is the Patron Saint of Santanyí, for instance, and festivities have been going on for a week or two by now, culminating today in an Ofici solemne (mass) in honour of Sant Jaume (11h00), to be accompanied by the Coral de Sant Andreu de Santanyí and the Cor Parroquial. The famous Santanyí organ will be played by Mateu Oliver and Francesca Suau. A big fireworks event is scheduled for midnight tonight.

Other Mallorcan pueblos celebrate Sant Jaume as well today, such as Alcúdia, Algaida, Binissalem, Calviá, s’Estanyol, Manacor and Sa Pobla. Programmes can be downloaded from this website, if you so wished.

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 10th, 2010. The time was 15:18:11.

Sant Jaume Apòstol