It does not require a religious event, a saints day or birthday to be a cause for celebration.  In the last week it has been the promise of decent food, good wine, a spot of sunshine and, most of all, old school banter blended with rib tickling laughter.  It started with a curious SMS from Paul, a fellow founder of this blog many years ago, announcing that he had booked a villa just outside the town of Valldemossa and the village of Deia on the North West coast of Mallorca.  I had never been to these islands before so was quite pleased to be given the opportunity to fulfil the annual quota of at least one trip on Spanish soil.  The big pay-off was the unexpected company.  Due to some prearrangements, Paul's wife, Jo and her friends, were to occupy the villa in the latter part of the week, whilst myself, Julian, David and Paul were to be in the seat of power during the first half.  This had all the hallmarks of a trip fit for a Secret Sommelier.

View from the cliff, Deia, Mallorca

We settled into our very fine villa, a marble clad dwelling with large pool and views out over the expanding vista.  As the sun came up we were drawn out into the landscape and Julian, our designated driver for the trip, braced himself for the death-defying run to the beach.  The roads are raised high with extraordinary bends, twists and turns and are not quite wide enough for two large cars to pass.  That aside we sped at a good pace to the Port de Valldemossa.  The descent to the port was incredible.  They wind down so tightly that after this one trip we vowed that we'd not take this chance again.  Even so, the swim down there was pleasant and the food being served up in the only restaurant appeared mouthwateringly good.  But onwards.

We arrived in the small village of Deia with the sun pouring in across the Mediterranean wetting out appetites for the next swim.  The tranquil beauty of the place as we entered was exacerbated by the sight of two bars on immediate arrival.  We banked the car immediately and began  a stroll through the tiny lanes of the village.  Deia is renowned for having one great English author buried in its midst; Robert Graves lived here for many years and is buried in the local boneyard.  His villa is now a museum and is the place where he crafted such masterpieces as 'I, Claudius'.  

We didn't find his villa on the first search but a well placed public map pointed out that we were a long way from the cove and that perhaps we should head back up to the main road and seek out the driving route down there.  We paced back up and made a quick mental note-to-selves:  this part of the island is extremely elevated from the sea.  Though one can look out and breathe in the landscape, getting down to it without flying equipment is no mean task;  take the car.

Back up on the main road we dropped into the most sun-riddled bar and ordered some Padron peppers, calamari and four beers.  The crisp cool Estrella beer was perfectly refreshing.  The tapas was equally reviving.  The service on the other hand was absolutely dire.  The waitress virtually scowled at us.  Not that it dented our moods; with skins as thick as gazelles, we merely laughed along and likely tipped the young misery closer towards a cliff-top dive into the ocean.

Moving onwards we found the slip road to the cove and descended the quiet twisting lane to the bottom.  And how we were rewarded! "Cushty!" David said as we rounded on the glistening the water reflecting beaded sunlight in all directions.  His own banter had hardly yet been given an airing.  As an occupational hazard of being in the motor-trade he has evolved his personal dialect with its own colour and character, reminding me in places of Jack Keroac's beat lyrics of the 1950's & 60's crossed with the comical mockney of Terry Tibbs.

To the left of the high-sided cove is a rickety shack-like building tacked onto the cliff.  Quite blatantly it is a restaurant and on closer inspection it was revealed as a fresh seafood restaurant.  Prayers were answered.  I booked us in but due to the popularity we had to wait.  We took this opportunity to swim across the cove and cool off from the now thirty degree Celcius heat.  What a treat!

Deia Cove from the North side

On entering the restaurant we negotiated our seats to be out on the front of the terrace overlooking the cove.  A perfect setting.  Immediately we ordered a bottle of Alborino to get settled in.  This is, of course, one of my favourite white wines for al fresco sunbathed dining. It is from Galicia in NW Spain and is the perfect seafood accompaniment.  Perusing the menu Paul and I agreed to share a few starters to get a good dose of the local flavours.  We selected Pulpo a la Gallega, that is octopus in olive oil and paprika, a plate of baby squids fried in breadcrumbs, and a serving of boquerones, fresh anchovies, unsalted in oil.  Delicious.  David and Julian looked at us suspiciously.  Julian announced, "Melon… I love melon. I'll have the melon and ham please." With an air or triumph he placed his menu back down. David looked up and ordered the jamon.  One small local tasty treat is the garlic mayonnaise that is presented with the bread before meals in a few places that we visited.  Our party took a big liking to this.

AlborinoThe Albarino was a good choice, especially for Paul and I, as the crispness of the wine and its lemony-bliss taste blended so well with the seafood leaving our mouths clean, fresh and yearning for more after every mouthful.  This was a perfect Gallego lunch despite being on the complete opposite side of this huge land.  The octopus was absolutely fresh and delicious, the squids were full of flavour and the boquerones rich and fulfilling.  The sun was now dipping across the bay but the air was warm and that holiday feeling of relaxation set in with the help of the chatter, of which here is an excerpt:
Me:  So how is Peter?
David: Brown bread!
Julian: Dead? I didn't know that!
Me: How did he die?
David:  He wasn't well.  He had water in his lungs, water in his legs and then he took himself down to the south of France and cooked himself.
Julian:  He did what?

Red Mullet and fritos in Deia Cove

Needless to say, it was time for more Albarino and a second course.  I ordered the red mullet with fritos.  Paul ordered the plaice, Julian upstaged us with deep fried gambas in olive oil and garlic, a favourite dish of mine, whilst David ordered a rather omelette looking omelette.  salut!

prawns in olive oil with alborino

We continued on with the same wine as it was so delicious and the food was themed so well (for the majority at least) for crisp and fruity Albarino.  The meal was over in a mere three and a half hours.  The empty cove nudged us towards having a last swim of the day before popping back to the villa to enjoy the sunset and the first siesta of the trip.

Sunset Over the West Coast of Mallorca

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Last week a picture was posted on Twitter of vines in Shabo, a large estate that lies to the west of Odesa on southern Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline. The image seemed benign at face value but the reality, of course, is that the city of Odesa has been bracing itself for attack by Russian forces. 


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On the eve of Britain’s official departure from the EU, my partner and I decided to explore a small town on the Italian Riviera where thewintry cold doesn’t feel so much like cold war bite.

I had warned my significant other that I would be having an inverse departure party, a release of the sanity valve if you like!


Sitting inside the ancient castle walls inside the town of Soave, a short drive from Verona in northern Italy, the unique slightly almond aroma of the indigenous grape, Garganega, rises gently from my glass. The castle sprawls up the side of an extinct volcano that gives the region its variant soil structures that mark out the better quality of Soave wines.


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The cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, the final resting place of Saint James, rises out of the landscape, infested with antiquity. The rambling steep streets give way to shafts of dramatic light, emblazoned chapels, and tightly packed tapas bars, dusty, as old novels pressed together in antiquarian bookshops.


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