Frederic Lacroix was born in Mauritius but was a French citizen who combined diplomatic duties with travel writing. In the 1840s he wrote a book entitled Histoire et Description des les Iles Baleares et Pithyuses ... The History and Description of the Balearic and Pityusic Islands. In writing this book, he gave some acknowledgement to a previous visitor to Majorca - Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, better known as George Sand who, like Lacroix, was French and was to attain enduring fame in Majorca because of Un hiver à Majorque, A Winter in Majorca.
Lacroix’s work was different to Sand’s in that it was quasi-encyclopaedic and didn’t contain the types of observation that characterised Sand’s book, which had been a sort of Majorca warts and all. It was more in keeping with publications of that era which were designed to introduce these islands to a public which had little or any knowledge of them. This public was a pretty distinct one, as these books were at least partially motivated by potential trade. In a similar vein, for example, was to come Charles Toll Bidwell’s 1876 work The Balearic Islands. Bidwell had been the British Consul in Majorca.
While Lacroix’s book was essentially a factual account, he nevertheless displayed the virtues of a travel writer. He wished to create an impression of Majorca and the other islands, and in so doing - and unlike George Sand - he described Majorca in the spring ... “The mountains enclose, as they say, peaks of gold and silver. The island is very rich with marble of different colours. The mountains are almost all dressed, from their base to their summit, with mighty vegetation which provides beautiful woods for carpentry and cabinet-making. Pines for naval architecture, and oaks of an extraordinary size. The olive trees reach colossal dimensions and produce excellent fruit."
“In spring, the almond trees show off their branches full of white blossom like silver. The orange trees give a visual treat as well as a scent with their golden fruit and embalmed flowers. The palm tree projects its elegant trunk, crowned in a sky that is inundated by light. Above the slopes of the hills, the carob lifts itself, always green and sown with scarlet berries. The vine covers the low slopes with its robust shoots and later - from July - will offer the fresh liquor of its delicious fruit."
“This rich vegetation; the mountains that soar from the surface of the island; the extreme variety of the locations; the view of the sea, whose blue is painted on the horizon; the splendour and purity of the sky. These all contribute to making Majorca one of the most picturesque lands in the world. But here, this is a picturesqueness of a totally special nature ... .”
And it was at this point that Lacroix admitted an observation by George Sand. His was a springtime view, hers a winter one, but as we know in Majorca, winter can seem like spring, and for Sand there was the character of the landscape. “It is the green Helvetia beneath the sky of Calabria, with the solemnity and silence of the Orient.”
Spring in Majorca can, curiously, be overlooked. The reason lies with how the year tends to be divided into just two seasons - summer and winter, which is the product of the business world rather than the natural and meteorological worlds.
Tourism has defined the seasons, yet spring is almost with us. The yellow-green shoots of trees are encouraged by a warming sun. Soon, they will be full and rich. They will start to obscure but dominate the view as they reach for their seasonal maturity.
This is a time for renewal, for the winter to pass and for spring to enrich and enliven our spirits. Strangely neglected perhaps but now, more than ever, a natural source of solace. But there was once a time when spring was a face of Majorca to the world. Not because of Lacroix but because of Iberia, which was described in those days as “air lines of Spain”.
In 1953, I think it was 1953 anyway, Iberia created a promotion for Majorca. This poster, a kind of collage of drawn images, featured a woman in a red swimsuit.
She was seated on a wooden deck. In front of her was an almond tree with blossom. Behind her was the turquoise sea. The legend, the slogan for advertising Majorca was this: Mallorca, Island of Everlasting Spring.
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