S‘Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca’s Wonderful Wetlands

While most people visiting Mallorca are out grabbing a beach chair, we decided to experience nature among the hustle and bustle of the Spring crowds in a quiet haven for wildlife called S’Albufera.

I guess I had neglected to visit S’Albufera Natural Park, because I usually visit Mallorca to hikes in the Tramuntana Mountains. After an injury put me on the hiking sidelines, I decided to take the chance to experience S’Albufera.

Getting to S’Albufera Natural Park

Getting to S’Albufera was a bit tricky. The point of interest to the entrance is Pont dels Anglesos (the Englishmen’s Bridge) which our navi and Google Maps couldn’t locate. Drive south of Port d’Alcudia on the MA-12. If you see Grupotel Natura Playa (Playas de Muro, 5, 07458) on your left, you have just passed the Englishmen’s Bridge. On the MA-12, you can also look for the signs Sector 2, Platja Sector 1 (V -1 VS-2 V-3). If you are still lost, you will see plenty of people entering the park near the Englishmen’s Bridge.

The parking lot is small but you can find places to park near the entrance of better yet, the Can Picafort – Port de Pollenca L352 bus stops near the main entrance.

Get your Visitor’s Permit

The park entrance is free but you need to get a visitor’s permit. You walk 1km from the entrance until you reach the information center. There you have a chance to view the exhibit of the park animal photos and chat with a ranger. Once you pass the information center, it becomes more tranquil as you roam the park past the center.

The Bird Hides

I was not an avid bird watcher before I visited S’Albufera Natural Park except for the occasional pigeons and crows that visit my balcony. Sitting in the bird hides gave me an appreciation for the hobby. You need a lot of patience to wait for birds and wildlife which is quite therapeutic. As a reward for my patience, I spotted many Black-winged Stilts. With a surface area of 1646,48 hectares, you’ll have to return many times to see it all.

In the Spring visitors are likely to see Woodchat Shrikes, Sandpipers, waders and several species of Heron which include Purple Heron, Night and Squacco as well as Little Bittern. Stroll along the canal footpaths to see Cetti’s Warblers, Nightingales and Blue Headed Wagtails. Birds of Prey are common with regular sightings of Marsh Harrier’s, Ospreys and Eleonora’s.

Sitting in a bird hide watching nature was for me, as peaceful as my daily meditation.

We visited three bird hides all of which are open to the public. They provide you and nature a natural barrier, still allowing human onlookers to get close-up look at nature. You are close enough to see the beautiful array of birds with your human eye, but binoculars are recommended. My husband rigged a one-eyed binocular from his camera equipment. After an enjoyable day viewing the birds, we decided to invest in a pair of binoculars for future bird watching.

In the reserve, you will walk among pine woods, see fresh water pools and lagoons, reed-beds, and salt marshes. There are numerous species, too many to list, too many to count. On one of the canal stretches, I heard male frogs croaking in the ponds, competing for females. It’s Spring after all, so love is in the air!

On your next visit to Mallorca, take a chance to escape the beach crowds and visit the S’Albufera Natural Park.




Surviving a Visit to the U.S. Embassy and Consulate for a Passport Renewal

My passport is due to expire in a few days so I went online to follow the renewal procedure. Why? Because visiting an embassy in person requires lots of time a patience and I have sort of been short on both lately.

You need to make an appointment to visit a U.S. Embassy. Even if you have an emergency.

I needed to visit the embassy here in person because, unfortunately, aside from a renewal fee increase, you have to pay the fees for an online renewal by money order in US Dollars. Hhmm. How can I get a money order in US Dollars in Europe? The only option is to be invited to a U.S. base, find a bank, and hope that the bank will give a non-customer a money order. Not happening because I do not know anyone at any US base!

The next option (and my least favorite) is to go to the U.S. Consulate General in person. You need to make an appointment for US consulate services, even if you have an emergency.

I begrudgingly made an appointment, completed my forms and made three copies, just in case. I went to a German photographer and had color photographs made according to the new U.S. passport sizes (2 inches by 2 inches (5.08 cm by 5.08 cm)). In addition, since the passport will be sent to my home, I had to buy a prepaid envelope. Well, I purchased two (just in case). 🙂

I also needed a name change on my social security card and according to the information online, I simply needed to drop off the form.

Renewing your US Passport
Photograph taken by Robert Rexach www.mkt3000.com

The security is high at the U.S. Consulate and rightly so. I read the online instructions for renewing my passport and even sent emails to confirm my inquiries. OK. I set my appointment for the day after my vacation at 7:15 A.M. That meant I was up at 5:00 A.M. to drive an hour to the embassy. I drove the hectic Autobahn and made it 15 minutes early and was feeling confident I’d be out in an hour or so. Not!

At 7:00 A.M., I stood in the American line (the other one is for non-Americans) and waited for the counter to open. At 7:15, they started called people forward to get a ticket.

Cool, got my ticket. Now on to the pre-security check. “Do you have a smart phone?” “Yes, I do.” The security guard said turn it off so I did. Then the guard asked me to turn off my Fitbit. I informed you can’t turn off the Fitbit Charge 2, but you can do a restart of the device, which is similar to rebooting a computer or cell phone. I would have known this if I was allowed to leave my smartphone on. The guard told me to bring my Fitbit to my car, come back and get in line for another ticket. Aargggh!

A daily meditation practice will prepare you for long waits at the U.S. Consulate office.

After running to the car, placing my Fitbit in the trunk and dumping the allowed contents in my own plastic bag, I waited in line again. I went through the pre-security check again. After 5 minutes, I was invited to go through security and provided a plastic bag to place my contents in.

I waited for my belongings and plastic bag contents full of papers and credit cards to be check and off I was to the U.S. Consulate building. There, I was told to leave the plastic bag. I told security it was “my” plastic bag and was allowed to go through the door.

Then, I had to wait in the Reception line. The receptionist checked my ticket (the second one) and told me to wait until my number was called. I told her I need to drop off the social security papers and she said the colleague upstairs would direct me to the correct counter. After 30 minutes or longer, I went to the door leading upstairs but had to press the buzzer and wait for security to open it from their secret box.

Bring credit cards, US Dollars, and local currency to the U.S. Consulate office.

Finally, I sent to my counter and no one was there. A few minutes later a nice woman welcomed me to the embassy and I handed her my papers. She checked my renewal paperwork, left for a moment and returned to say all was in order. I signed the papers and provided my prepaid envelope, was directed to the payment window, and handed the employee my credit card. She informed me that the machine was not working. Luckily, I had enough greenbacks. Otherwise, I’d have to leave the premises, get cash, get in line, get a ticket, etc.

Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/36495803@N05/8474532085/

The embassy employee asked if I needed anything else and I said I needed to drop off the social security forms. She said, “We have a new policy. You will need a separate appointment.” I’m sure after hearing that news, my blood pressure went up significantly. I had no chance of knowing since I had to leave my Fitbit in my car. And with a smile, I bowed my head, held my hands in prayer, thanked the colleague for her held, and wished her a wonderful day.

I left the premises and the only good thing about surviving a visit to the U.S. Consulate General is that I didn’t see a single photo of No. 45.

Wait. There’s more. Now, I still need to repeat a similar process to update my German work permit.

Hopefully you will never need to visit a US embassy in person, if you do, here’s a link to an official list of embassies from the U.S. Department of State. I recommend adding the contact information to your phone just in case. 😉




The 365 Calvary Steps

The 365 Calvary steps in the charming old town of Pollenca lead up to an incredible Good Friday procession.

Experience the charm of Pollenca and the 365 Calvary Steps (Calle de Calvari), one step at a time.

Up the 365 Calvary Steps, Pollensa, Mallorca
Up the 365 Calvary Steps, Pollenca, Mallorca

If you don’t look hard enough, you could possibly miss an important attraction in old town Pollenca, the 365 Calvary Steps (Calle de Calvari).

Worn down from thousands of Christian devotees and tourists, there are numerous steps required to reach the top, in fact, one for each day of the year. If you feel fatigued half way to the top, enjoy a rest under the cypress trees or the fourteen tall crosses evoking Christ on the way to his crucifixion.

Along your journey, catch your breath and view the gorgeous homes and shops dotted along the steps. You will also find the occasional cat enjoying a siesta under the trees – a welcome sight to get your mind off the steep trek. Once you reach step number 365, enjoy gorgeous views of the Traumantana Mountains.

A cat along the 365 Calvary Steps in Pollensa, Mallorca
A cat along the 365 Calvary Steps in Pollenca, Mallorca

The Knights Templar were the first owners of this mount. Today, it hosts one of the most impressive traditions of Mallorca’s Easter week celebrations.

On Good Friday, the Calvari steps is where the Davallament (Descent from the Cross) takes place. A carving of Christ is removed from the cross. Then, in a somber torchlight parade, the carving is carried down the steps. The ritual is performed in silence except for the beating drum. Locals and tourists follow the procession led by members of various brotherhoods dressed in hooded robes. The parade ends at Our Lady of the Angels, the parish church dedicated to the patron saint of Pollenca, the Virgin Mary, and St. Michael the Archangel.

What goes up, must come down.

You can retrace your steps down the hill or venture along the side streets back to Pollenca. Reward yourself for your efforts and massive fitness tracker step count at one of Pollenca’s many restaurants.

Tip: One of my favorites is La Font del Gall. Just look for the fountain with the rooster on top at Calle Montesion, 4.

The 365 Calvary Steps Pollensa,Mallorca
Down the 365 Calvary Steps Pollenca, Mallorca




Palma Super Yacht Show 2017

The Palma Super Yacht Show 2017, one of THE important events on the Mediterranean’s yachting scene.

The Palma Super Yacht Show is held again this year from April 28th to May 2nd, 2017 in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

Just in time for bikini and summer yachting season, the 2017 Palma Super Yacht Show exhibition showcases an array of impressive yachts and super yachts. From the 70 yachts on display to purchase or charter, you are sure to find a style that best suits your preferences and price point too.

Obviously, this event is geared towards the super-rich, but it’s also suitable for anyone likes fancy yachts or anything nautical.

Yes, the yachts are outrageously expensive. Yes, to even place your foot on board to look around, you’ll probably need to present your American Express Centurion Card. I haven’t the money nor the AMEX card, but am going anyway. The Palma Super Yacht Show runs concurrently with the Boat Show Palma where you can purchase a ticket for only 6 EUR per person.

Palma Super Yacht Show Sailing Yachts
Palma Super Yacht Show Sailing Yachts

The beauty of the both boat shows is not only the premiere yacht designs, but the venue. The exhibitions are located at Moll Vell on the old pier. With the Palma Cathedral Le Seu in the background, you will be dazzled as the seas glitter and glisten on the beautiful Mediterranean.

And what about the food? Plan to hear a lot of cork popping and see lots of Champagne being poured. For us common folk, I’d recommend looking for a food truck serving fish and chips. 🙂

You may not be able to afford a yacht so check out some of the other exhibitions. You’ll find information on nautical tourism, diving schools, leisure fishing, a second-hand market, food, bands, and fun for all.

Ahoy for now mates, I’m headed to the Palma Super Yacht Show.




How to Make Self-Rising Flour

Learn how to make your own self-rising flour with this quick and easy recipe

We don’t have self-rising flour in Germany. It’s a shame because so many great recipes like my recipe for scones call for it so, I just make my own.  All you need are three simple ingredients and a minute or two!

Homemade Self-rising Flour

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Servings: 1 cup

Instructions

Measure all ingredients and whisk to combine. You can double or triple the recipe if you more self-rising flour.

Note: The shelf life of baking powder depends on the ‘best by date’ and how it is stored (a cool, dry place such as a cupboard). With this in mind, you may not want to make large batches of self-rising flour if you don’t plan on using it soon.