Palma's sinkhole on the Avenidas due to storm Juliette. | Ultima Hora
That sinking feeling ...
Storm Juliette did what severe storms have a tendency to do - which is to deposit huge amounts of rain, to produce hurricane force gusts, to whip up massive waves and to cause general chaos. Yes, the amount of snow was unusual, but even more so was that Juliette was threatening to sink the island. This, at any rate, was the situation in Palma, where not one, not two but three sinkholes suddenly appeared.
Mayor Hila, who has pressing issues of re-election on his mind, went along to stare into the abyss of the giant Avenidas sinkhole. It was only six metres deep, but six metres are a long way for a politician or anyone else to fall and they are also deep enough to expose relics of Palma’s past. How many drivers were aware that beneath the tarmac was a sixteenth-century bastion? The Avenidas in fact conceal much of the old wall that was built as protection against the Ottomans, but fortunately Juliette confined herself to exposing just the one bastion.
What are they going to do with it? Restore it by creating a small square in the middle of the road with glass panels so that tourists can take photos of what once housed a cannon? Hardly. No, the hole will be filled in and the bastion will again be out of sight and, by and large, out of mind. Not to historians, though, as there are records of what lies beneath the Avenidas.
When trapped doesn’t mean trapped
Juliette’s snow resulted in some people being trapped up in the mountains, trapped primarily having meant that the likes of Lluc were cut off. Responding to their plight, emergency teams battled their way through snow and fallen trees and arrived on Tuesday evening, only to be told by a group of hikers at the refuge near the monastery that they didn’t want to be rescued. They were more than happy to stay put and enjoy the snow.
So, being trapped wasn’t necessarily as dramatic as the headlines were making out. Somewhat more serious, though, was the case of the father and his two children who got trapped in their car in a Palma torrent.
The emergency advice when there is rain as heavy as Juliette was producing is to steer clear of torrents. With this incident, the father didn’t just go near a torrent, he actually steered his way straight into it. The part of the torrent in question runs by the ‘El Hoyo’ gypsy settlement in the city. There’s normally never any water in it, and so the bed of the torrent is used as a crossing-point. On this occasion, however, it was quite literally a raging torrent. The car was swept some 100 metres by the force of the water. The family was rescued safe and sound, and the father expressed his deepest gratitude. Rather more thanks than the Guardia Civil had seemingly got from the hikers in the refuge.
The torrent incident could have ended in tragedy. Mercifully it didn’t, but there was tragedy just as Juliette was beginning to announce herself. There was some filthy weather around on Sunday evening, but this probably had nothing to do with the accident in Pollensa that left one person dead and a second person in a serious condition. They were the occupants of a car that collided head-on with a bus on the road between Pollensa and Puerto Pollensa. This is a road that from the Cala San Vicente junction to the port is perfectly straight. For the investigators, the question was why the car had been in the wrong lane.
Thoughts of summer
Winter weather now perhaps having concluded, thoughts can turn to sun-kissed summer beaches, and so Playa de Muro once more popped up in the latest TripAdvisor best beaches lists (for 2023) - 17th in the world and fifth in Europe. Very fine it is too, but it would be interesting to know which part of the beach attracts most of the traveller plaudits, as there are both urban and rustic stretches.
Playa de Muro is one of the island’s resorts that can expect to be pretty busy come April. The Mallorca Hoteliers Federation is forecasting that 88% of the island’s hotels will be open by the end of April - 88% of the 840 that are affiliated to the federation, that is, as there are over 1,700 of all types of establishment in Mallorca. The federation partly attributes this positive statistic to the increased flights to Palma that have been scheduled not just for April but also for the whole season. It is positive, the forecast for the summer is positive, but 88% opening is actually only four per cent more than in both 2019 and 2022.
It remains to be seen whether the UK Travelodge chain comes under the federation’s umbrella, it having announced that Palma is a Spanish city on its hit-list for expansion. Travelodge plans for Spain reflect the fact that “the Spanish hotel market is growing at pace, with demand exceeding supply”. In Soller, meanwhile, five new boutique hotels will be opening this summer. There is hardly any building of new hotels from scratch in Mallorca, but there is a good deal of conversion - the Soller hotels are all one-time grand homes.
Airport and airline “strategic investments”
Back at the airport, and the Aena airports authority is currently in the process of spending over 400 million euros on modernisation. This is work, Spain’s transport minister insists, which represents “strategic investment” and is not about expansion. In Mallorca, one of the coalition government parties, Més, has expressed its scepticism about Aena’s intentions, claiming that passenger numbers will increase 55% by 2026.
It does appear, though, as if there may well be a record number of passengers this year. The increased numbers of flights and seats certainly imply this, with one source for an “excellent” tourism season (in the words of the Council of Mallorca) being the US, thanks to a “great improvement in connectivity”. Well, United Airlines from Newark will be operating for three more weeks this summer than last year and will be flying three times a week rather than the two in 2022.
Two airline liveries that are very common at the airport are those of Iberia and Air Europa. They will no doubt continue to be separate liveries as and when the takeover of Air Europa is finally done and dusted. To believe some reports over the past few days, IAG (the Iberia parent) has already acquired the Mallorca-based Air Europa. It hasn’t. IAG has merely done what it had to do by a deadline - formally announce its intention to acquire the 80% of Air Europa’s shares that it doesn’t already own.
The Hidalgo family, who own the 80% at present, had initially wanted 1,000 million euros for the airline. Covid, debt and loans have all influenced the valuation, which has been cut by half. For Iberia, Air Europa is a “strategic investment” in that it will strengthen Caribbean, Latin American and Asian routes. The big challenge now is convincing the competition authorities. The Balearic government, meanwhile, is demanding that no jobs are lost and that the Air Europa Llucmajor HQ remains open. The government is also seeking assurances about flights to and from the Balearics but recognises that the competition authorities will have the final say on routes.
Beverly Hills in Mallorca
The great improvement in US connectivity may well persuade an American buyer to hand over 69 million dollars (65 million euros) for the modest Villa Soltaire in Son Vida. Replete with Zen meditation garden, a sunken conversation pit and an underground car park that doubles as a nightclub, this was where Nicole Kidman (who else) stayed while filming Lioness recently. US luxury-lifestyle magazine the Robb Report has highlighted the property, insisting that it is in Mallorca’s Beverly Hills.
But could Beverly Hills in a Mallorca style be on the cards? The island is set to become the “new Hollywood” of the Med apparently. This is because a “giant” film studio is planned for Marratxi. The Council of Mallorca has given its backing to the project, the Council’s attitude to filming (and Hollywood) now a far cry from the time when it dug its heels in over paying a 150,000 euro grant that had been promised to the producers of Cloud Atlas. (It did pay the grant in the end.)Whether the island’s Beverly Hills or elsewhere, prospective American buyers form part of the ongoing foreign buying debate, into which has entered the EU’s Islands Commission, of which Francina Armengol is president. At its general assembly in Palma, it became clear that foreign (or non-resident) buying is far from being an issue just in the Balearics. Greece’s secretary general for insular policy highlighted large increases in the price of homes on certain Greek islands and observed that “regulations must come from the EU”.
The claims by Polish woman Julia Faustyna that she is Madeleine McCann gave rise to recalling a reported sighting of Madeleine in Cala d’Or in the summer of 2008. This has been followed up by a further claim by a family who say that their mother saw Madeleine on two occasions on Cala Gran beach in Cala d’Or that same summer. The child in question was in a pushchair and was apparently wearing a wig.
Storm Juliette leaves trail of destruction
Storm Juliette has left a trail of destruction across the island. Heavy rains have caused trees to be blown over and streams to overflow.
Nicole Kidman's luxury stay in Mallorca
Nicole Kidman stayed at this "architecturally impressive Villa Soltaire in the upscale Son Vida neighbourhood of Mallorca" during film of of the Paramount+ series Lioness.
The aftermath of Storm Juliette in Alcudia
Torrential rains have caused fallen trees, power cuts, people trapped on rural properties and flooding in many areas of our territory. Fortunately, there were no reports of personal injury. All photos from Ajuntament d'Alcúdia
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