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Discovering Mallorca: La Granja de Esporles

Sometimes the very best discoveries are those made by chance. And such a chance recently led us to a jewel of Mallorca’s Tramuntana mountains – an ancient palace surrounded by the most lush gardens and grounds – of which we previously had no knowledge. Almost like entering a kind of Lewis Carroll surreal wonderland, we came upon La Granja de Esporles in a densly forested turn in the road as we entered the mountains near Valldemossa. Through an opening in the vegetation, a grand building decorated with a series of elegant arches framing an open portico came into view. Around it, a mix of floral gardens, free formed parklands and formal lawns were just about visible. And in the air, a distinct harmony of birdsong became even more evident than normal. We knew that we had to park the car and discover more.

The lush surroundings of La Granja

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Reaching the front gate, the surreal feeling of this wonderland grew stronger as we encountered people dressed in traditional Mallorquin costume. Only a camera in their hand and a cash booth for tickets betrayed a sense of modernity, but beyond we were once again plunged back into the past as we toured a house packed full of the artisan crafts – lenguas fabric, pottery making, wine production – which are famous across the island, and beyond, the sense of surreal unease increased as we toured a cellar full of medieval torture instruments and childrens’ dolls with two heads…

From the ancient to the surreal…

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The pure light of reality flooded down upon us as we entered gardens abundant in flowers and larger than life trees. But this was a better kind of reality – a kind of bucolic nirvana in which birds gave out almost tropical sounding calls, and the air was suffused by the fresh dampness given off by a nearby 30metre tall waterfall. Meanwhile beyond this watery masterpiece, sun-dappled forests were enriched with further touches of wonderland, as we encountered baby donkeys asleep under trees, and mountain goats strolling fearlessly across our path. Had we entered paradise?

Freely roaming animals, a vast waterfall and other touches of paradise…

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Paradise or otherwise, La Granja is a former lorded estate today owned by the Segui family and opened as a museum in order to promote recognition of traditional Mallorcan crafts and to share the kind of blissful manor house living which was once possible on the island when you had pockets full of money to match. Amongst the natural beauty and a house packed full of history, a horse gala showcasing the incredibly skills of Spanish horses (rearing up on hind legs, trotting to rhythm and so on) rounded off a thoroughly fantastic, much unplanned discovery. Now we are looking forward to the next secret we stumble upon on this ever intriguing island.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Mallorca Sketchbook: Orient Olive Tree

Recent readers of The Daily Norm will know that I am in love with the graceful free-form beauty of Mallorca’s olive trees. So it was only a matter of time before I put pen to paper, and made the olive tree a feature of my sketchbook too. It doesn’t take much in Mallorca to stumble upon a stunning olive specimen, but in Orient, a tiny hamlet nestled in the Tramuntana Mountains, these trees are at their most abundant, and some are pretty ancient too. The tree which I chose to sketch must be hundreds of years old, such are the bountiful folds and undulations of its ancient trunk, and drawing these free forms was nothing but a pleasure, and an act of pure admiration for this incredible work of nature. I hope you like it.

Orient Olive Tree (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Orient Olive Tree (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Discovering Mallorca: Mountain miradores from the Monastery of Lluc

Just when I thought Mallorca’s Tramuntana mountains couldn’t get any better, I stumbled (or rather drove, extensively) across the uniquely magical village of Lluc. Built around an ancient monastery-come-school, and set at the peak of some of Mallorca’s highest mountains, Lluc feels so steeped in historical wealth and religious fervour that we could feel a kind of magical aura suspended in the thin mountain air.

Founded in the 13th century after a Moorish shepherd reputedly found a statue of the Virgin Mary on the site where the monastery was later erected, Lluc is today considered to be the most important pilgrimage site on Mallorca, not least the ancient statue herself, around whom a queue of the faithful gathers even at the quietest times of the year.

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However as beautiful as Lluc may be with its ancient grand basilica silhouetted gracefully against a stunning mountain backdrop, and a lush botanical garden full of surreal statues and flowering plants, the real highlight of my visit was the mountain scenery surrounding it. Lush multi-layered mountain strata, olive-tree lined slopes, thick green forests and brick-red rugged rocks; this was scenery to truly take the breath away, and is the focus of today’s Daily Norm latest discovery in Mallorca.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A homage to the Olive Tree

If I were a poet, now would be the time to lapse into a suitably poetical homage to what I consider to be one of the most beautiful trees on the earth: the olive tree. And I should know, for living now on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, I find myself surrounded by them. And yet poetry has never been my strong point, hard as I might try, but happily I always have my camera, and a photographic homage is surely apt adulation for a tree which is, after all, so visibly magnificent.

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Whether they be young trees cultivated in long lines for the mass production of their oil, or the stunning old trees whose every twist and turn and ancient nook and cranny tells a thousand stories of its longevity on the earth, olive trees are a veritable feast for the eyes. Every tree is so different, and the older they get, the more whimsically sculptural their trunks become – like the creation of the maddest surrealist or the most imaginative fantastical painter. And amongst leaves of near-silver, plump fruit of purple and green, and sometimes even a polished lacquered black are the perfect product of so complex and beautiful a tree.

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So with photos taken across Mallorca, this is my homage to the olive tree.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The Daily Norm Photo of the Week: Mountain Goat

Mallorca’s mountains are full of goats. Little bouncing hairy goats, roaming the mountain plains in herds and on their own, and reaching the dizzying heights of cliffs and precipices, seemingly able to balance on the most precarious of terrain. I love the goats of Mallorca. Almost everywhere we have gone in the Tramuntana mountains, they have been a feature, whether it be avoiding a near collision on a mountain road, or watching a family of little kids gently baaaahing their way around an undulating pasture.

This week’s Daily Norm photo focus is one such Mallorquin mountain resident who posed so elegantly in this photo, with his two chocolatey dark eyes staring straight into the lens of my camera, that I could not help but make him a feature. Wild and timid by nature, there was something deeply satifying about photographing this marvellous animal at such close quarters – a rare and intimate moment captured in the most stunning of Mallorca’s landscapes.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Discovering Mallorca: Formentor and its beach

If the word “spectacular” was to be given a pictorial definition, a photo of Formentor, the North Eastern most tip of Mallorca, would be it. Having heard much of the beauty of this narrow strip of mountainous rocky land, it was only a matter of time before I braved the multiple-meandering roads to get there, and a visit by my parents provided the excuse. So firmly belted into my hire car, the four of us (earnest partner included) braced ourselves for a twisting, turning adventure rife with hair pin bends and steep sloping plummets and headed to the Cap de Formentor.

The day that followed provided so many visions of beauty that we became sick of finding new superlatives with which to describe it. The first stop, the Mirador del Mal Pas, scaled to vast heights along a snaking stone staircase up to the top of a mountainous outcrop from where the views not only stunned, but scared in equal measure – the vertical plummet straight down to the cliffs and the thrashing sea hundreds of metres below is not for the faint hearted. 

Views from the Mirador del Mal Pas

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Beyond the mountains, the road led us to the beach of Formentor, a cala whose beauty could not be easily surpassed by the Caribbean, let alone other beaches in the Mediterranean. On this little strip of paradise, with the dappled light of shady pine trees on one side, and the most astonishing cerulean blue waters on the other, we laid back on the indulgent loungers of the nearby Barcelo Hotel, and celebrated Spanish Dia de la Madre in style.

Cala de Formentor

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Our final stop was onwards, to the very end of Formentor – the Cap de Formentor – where a 19th century lighthouse stands proudly atop a remarkably engineered snaking road which lies, like an abandoned silk ribbon, across the sloping mountain scenery.

Cap de Formentor

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Somehow, with legs shaking a little and our nails bitten down to their roots, we arrived back in Palma de Mallorca in one piece, the car unscratched, but our minds permanently etched with the visions of stunning beauty the day had provided.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Discovering Mallorca: The Jardines de Alfabia

It’s been far too long since I last posted on The Daily Norm, but discovering the precious island of Mallorca which I now call home is a time consuming endeavour, particularly when juggled alongside work. Happily, with a little more of this earthy paradise explored, I have plenty to share, and I start with a place which is surely a gem in Mallorca’s bejewelled crown – the gardens of Alfabia.

Found just off the main Carretera de Soller, the Jardines de Alfabia are a truly abundant utopia of moorish-styled lush gardens set out in a complex mix of symmetrical waterways, tightly clipped hedgerows, and wildly grown bounteous parkways. And the moorish style which predominates is not a mere style choice – rather it dates back to the history of the palace which sits at the heart of the gardens: a house which used to be the residence of the Moorish Viceroy of Mallorca dating from around the 12th century.

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With their lavish tropical planting mixed with occasional english country garden informality, all set within the shadow of the Tramantuna mountain ranges, the Jardines de Alfabia are amongst the most stunning gardens I have ever set foot in. With sun sparkling through a plethora of flowers and leaves, the trickle of water from ancient moorish irrigation systems, the smell of orange blossom filling the air, and even a host of animals, from frogs to goats, to enjoy, these gardens engendered in me every feeling of childhood happiness and summertime enthusiasm. A true marvel.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

My travel sketchbook: Ibiza Town

Ibiza’s charms not only manifested themselves in the photography i featured on The Daily Norm on Wednesday but in a little artwork too. For despite long working hours and a lot of time out and about, I occasionally returned to my hotel before nightfall and one such late afternoon return was accompanied by a precious sunset which sunk over the island’s famous Dalt Vila. This area – the old town of Ibiza’s capital – is the very antithesis of the club scene for which the island is better renowned – a historical citadel clustered around a domineering hill all set within mighty great ancient walls and crowned with a cathedral on top. It was this ancient view that I was lucky enough to enjoy from my hotel, and I could not help but open up my travel sketchbook to capture the old town, in the late afternoon sun, before I got back down to work.

Ibiza Town (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Ibiza Town (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  

Reflections on Ibiza in bloom

My January weekend on the infamous island of Ibiza feels like an age ago, and while my recent return to the island to open a new restaurant for work was only around 8 weeks after my first visit, the island was transformed. True, it was not the boom-beat party-rammed hedonistic madhouse into which the island metamorphoses in the height of the summer (thank god!), but with the onset of the Spring, it was an island transformed. In the streets on the foothills of the Dalt Vila (old town) where I was based, restaurants had reopened after a long winter break, squares were once again filled with life, and an atmosphere of allegria seemed to waft through the air.

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Now being as project managing the opening of a restaurant is a fairly hefty role, it will not surprise you to know that I did not have all that much time to enjoy what are otherwise the beautiful surroundings of the island around me. However, when the odd opportunity afforded it, I took out my camera to snap Ibiza, and this post is the culmination of those odd moments – my reflections on an Island in bloom, whether it be the yacht filled marinas, or the squares newly dappled with sunlight through fresh spring leaves.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Discovering Mallorca: The beach at Deia

Recent readers of The Daily Norm will know that I have fallen head over heels in love with the little Mallorquin gem of Deia. With its mountainous location in the shadow of the mighty Teix mountain, Deia is characterised by a breathtaking setting which cannot help but inspire its visitors to near ecstasies of superlative-loaded expletives and/or jaw-dropping silences such are required to contemplate the beauty of the town. For myself, I have reacted to the setting through painting, and through returning, and my first visit to the paradisal town has now benefited from a prompt sequel; a second dip which did nothing to dispel the town’s capacity to inspire.

In fact, on my recent trip to Deia, I was to discover that further treats lay in store. For incredibly, the beauty of Deia is not limited to its mountainous town. Down a steep craggy winding path extending down the mountainous valley towards the sea, the town benefits from its own little stoney beach which is every bit as stunning as the town up above.

The beach at Deia

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Crystal clear water, steep rocky cliffs, and two little cafes overlooking the most incredible view of the mediterranean and this seductive little cove, the beach or cala at Deia is a true delight. No wonder it has made its way onto postcards aplenty, and tempted countless visitors to make the somewhat challenging walk down the mountain to bear witness to this picture-perfect slice of heaven. With its little fishing boats stacked up on the shore, and hostile rocks jutting out to sea without a single sign of urbanised development, this is a port which retains the ultimate in Mallorquin authenticity, even if it must be shared with the other tourists who have been tempted by its almost legendary status.

The stunning mountainous surroundings

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Our little trip to the port was every bit an awe-inspiring experience as our first and second encounter with the town in the mountains up above. The pure waters licking the stoney shore; the cerulean blue waves bouncing light across the russet-coloured rocks; the magnificent journey down the mountain through a ravishing spectacle of glorious lush landscapes; and to top it all, an excellent little restaurant whose grilled squid and ice cold albariño made for the perfect accompaniment to this new elysium… even if it did make the return journey up the mountain something of a struggle.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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