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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.

The Daily Norm photo of the week: Cúber Caterpillar

This will not be the first time that my photo of the week has prompted me to bless the macro zoom feature on my camera. It never fails to surprise me just how much more becomes visible in a closely shot photo than can be noticed by the human eye, whether it be in the ugly form of an insect, or in the stunning stamen of a flower.

This week’s photo focus goes to one such example of close-shot mastery – a lovely little furry caterpillar that we spotted crawling along a random rock by the stunning lake of Cúber in Mallorca’s Tramuntana mountains. Its incredible spiny fur, burnt umber colours and rippling body form is all there to be enjoyed in precise detail under the zoom of my camera. If only this image was shot in movement too, as the caterpillar’s steadily rolling passage across this crumbling old rock was almost hypnotic to behold.

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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. Unauthorised 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 weekend in Fornalutx (Part 3): The Embalse de Cúber

If there is one thing that living these past 5 months on the stunning Mediterranean island of Mallorca has taught me, it is that mother nature is truly the best creator of beauty. With pristine white beaches flanked by momentous mountains, sweeping orange and lemon groves and vast surreal rock forms of every shape and size, Mallorca is truly nature at her best. However, as the final experience of my recent weekend in the mountain village of Fornalutx demonstrated, man too can do his level best at creating beauty within the confines already set by nature, and this has been no better evidenced than through the creation of the Embalse de Cúber located on the other side of Mallorca’s highest mountain. DSC02243 DSC02138 DSC02213 DSC02244 DSC02042 The embalse, or reservoir, looks to anyone passing by like a perfectly appointed mountain lake. Set within the shallow basin formed when some of the island’s most magnificent mountains come together, this lake fits perfectly into these momentous surroundings. And yet this reservoir, constructed to supply water to the bustling capital city of Palma de Mallorca, was made by man. And what a job he did. Gasps escaped our mouths when we first saw the sight of this stunning lake. Expansive, perfectly still and forming a wonderful reflection of the mountains surrounding it, the lake is a visual delight in this most incredible of landscapes. With paths lining the full length of the lake, we were able to appreciate the lake from up close, and there appreciate a multifaceted landscape which changed from one stretch of the lake to another. DSC02062 DSC02071 DSC02197 DSC02186 DSC02240 DSC02231 DSC02223 DSC02194 DSC02033 DSC02168 In one section, small prickly donught shaped plants interspersed with large craggy rocks looked like a landscape from out of space. A little further along, pine trees stood so perfectly erect and symmetrical that they appeared to be almost plastic in their lego-land perfection. And round on the other side of the lake, imposing cliffs of huge rocky forms rounded off a series of landscapes which thrilled along every inch of this incredible waterside walk. And just in case we became bored of the landscape, nature’s habitats were there to thrill us as well, including many number of colourful little birds, a snake, and even a big hairy bull… DSC02093 DSC02105 DSC02228 DSC02137 Now that was one encounter we were not expecting as we rounded off an incredible weekend in the mountain scenery of Fornalutx. 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: The Tramuntana from Fornalutx

It’s been a horribly long time since my last entry in my travel sketchbook, the trusty book I like to take with me on my travels and in which I instantaneously capture my surroundings with a drawing in pen. But then again my travels have been somewhat overshadowed by a mighty great move from London to Mallorca, and all of the career and lifestyle changes that has entailed. However, now 5 months into my Mallorca move, and starting to spread my wings from Palma to the nearby plentiful natural scenery that permeates this stunning island, I have reached once again for my travel sketchbook to capture some of the beauty which I find all around me.

The Tramuntana viewed from Fornalutx (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

The Tramuntana viewed from Fornalutx (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

I drew this quick sketch from the wonderfully appointed balcony attached to our room in the Petit Hotel in the village of Fornalutx. What the hotel may have been missing in luxuries, it gained from a stunning location on the edge of the village with unparalleled views of the surrounding Tramuntana mountain scenery. This sketch attempts to capture something of that wonderful view from our room, enjoyed, all too quickly, for a mere 20 hours stay in the town.

© 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

A weekend in Fornalutx (Part 2): Cemetery and Citrus Trees

The area of Soller is famous for its citrus groves. It must be something to do with the lush fertile slopes of the vast mountain scenery which allows this area to become punctuated by lemons and oranges, and the result is not only a vast bounty of citrus based products made in the region every year, but a landscape which is made stunning by the perfume of orange and lemon blossom and by a palette of yellow and orange fruit. The little nearby village of Fornalutx is no exception in the citrus stakes, and if there was one aspect of the little mountainous haven that I adored above all others, it was the orange trees which were so bounteous in the surrounding landscapes, and whose blossom filled the air with its exquisite spring perfume.

The stunning citrus scenery surrounding Fornalutx

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It was on a walk amongst the orange groves on the afternoon of our arrival in Fornalutx that my partner and I discovered what has to be my second favourite aspect of the town: a tiny cemetery set atop an outermost hill of the city, overlooking its sea of terracotta roofs and surrounding mountainous landscape. Of all the places that could be a person’s final resting place, this must surely be one of the best. Perfectly appointed, beautifully symmetrical with a central chapel flanked by two robust cyprus trees, and with decorative gravestones surrounded by palms and colourful flowers, this place of rest made for a super-tranquil utterly beautiful place of contemplation even for us living.

The tiny cemetery of Fornalutx

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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 weekend in Fornalutx (Part 1): Cobbled streets and Mountainous marvels

Driving around the island of Mallorca is like entering a sweet shop at Christmas time. The island offers such an intense panoply of dazzling spectacles that you almost don’t know where to begin with taking it all in. But as my intense enjoyment of the island continues, so too do my attempts to capture it on this blog, and after a weekend based in the faultlessly beautiful mountain town of Fornalutx in the middle of the Tramuntana mountauns, I have plenty to share.

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Fornalutx is a tiny paradise set amidst the very stunning best of the Tramuntana mountain range. Only around 20 minutes from the popular town and port of Soller, it is nonetheless far less frequented by the tourist masses giving the town an altogether more authentic air. Unspoilt therefore by the ravages which tourism so often bring, and lacking the spoil of souvenir shops and mass-production coach-party restaurants, Fornalutx is like a throwback to another time – a simple little village whose every twist and turn is made beautiful thanks to the most stunning mountainous backdrop you can imagine. And that backdrop is certainly not to be ignored – with the Puig Major, Mallorca’s highest mountain, amongst those vast forms casting their wide shadow over the town, this is scenery at its most dramatic.

The dramatic scenery of Fornalutx

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In this first photographic post, I concentrate on the little town itself: a town built in local stone which slots perfectly into a wide fertile mountain valley full of the most fragrant of citrus trees. The town is like a city in miniature, with a little local shop on a small bustling square, a handful of local cafes frequented by townsfolk and tourists, a tiny cemetery overlooking the stunning local scenery, and a series of twisting sloping streets broken by steep stone staircases and punctuated by colourful pot plants.

The charming streets of Fornalutx

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In tomorrow’s post, I’ll be focusing on two aspects of Fornalutx which deserve far more attention – its beautiful local cemetery and the citrus trees which characterise this beautiful town. Until then.

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.

Interpretation No. 14 – Deia

How could I not paint Deia? Such was my jaw-dropped awe at this village on the slopes of a rocky Mallorcan paradise that i wanted to rush home and start 40 paintings simultaneously. But while more will surely follow, with time short, I opted for the “something is better than nothing” option and set about painting a small gouache landscape to enter my collection of interpretations. Rather than paint the main cluster of Deia’s buildings, such is the image which frequents the most postcards, I opted instead to paint the surrounding mountains and smaller settlements, finding these to be by far the most inspirational. However catching the mountain light and the vast scale of nature’s backdrop was not easy, and while I am fairly satisfied with this initial attempt, I surely need to try my hand at other views of this incredible place. Until then…

Interpretation No. 14 , Deia (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

Interpretation No. 14 , Deia (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache 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

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