Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year!

Yes, I know I'm early but as I won't be around blogland for a couple of days I just thought I'd take the opportunity to thank all of you for reading my blogs this year.  It goes without saying that 2015 has been a very tough year, both personally and for the wider world, so you'll understand why I want to say "good riddance" to the year which is ending.

I'm no fan of "new year" as such but on the positive side it gives us yet another blank page - or in this coming year, 366 blank pages - to write on.  So may your pages be filled with happy events and good times in the year ahead.  (And at least we've got Eurovision season to look forward to).

And though it's been said, many times, many ways....."hope it's better than the last one!!"

Best wishes to you all - and particularly to those very special friends who have stuck by this blog for the past 8 years.  You know who you are!

Finally, just to say that the top 20 of my 2015-50 chart will be published on 1st January, so check back after that date to find out who's topped my chart of the year.

All the best for 2016!

Laura  xx

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The 2015-50: No. 30 - No. 21

No. 30: "Stolen Car" - Mylene Farmer and Sting. 

It's not the first combination you'd have thought of, but she's got "previous" (Les Mots with Seal) so in hindsight another duet turned out to be quite logical.  Mylene's last two albums have been a bit disappointing for me, so I wasn't expecting too much from "Interstellaires" but on limited listens so far, it seems to be an improvement.  Anyway, back to "Stolen Car": it's actually a rework of a Sting solo track, reinvented Mylene-style and it works very well.  But if you live in the mystical Mylene-fandom, the last thing you'd have expected was a) an appearance on an American chat show and b) a top comedy moment from the goddess herself....

Stolen Car video:

No.29: "Waiting For The Sun" - Simon Erics.

OK, so it's just a little bit generic, borrowing from that Avicii country-dance template, but it soundtracked most of my spring (and certainly much of my spring holiday as I listened to a lot of Rix FM whilst on holiday in Brussels).

It's infectious, catchy and with a whistling hookline you won't forget in a long time.  This was the great European hit which got away - it had the potential to be a massive continental spring/summer hit.

No.28: "One Last Time" - Miriam Bryant.

Success is all about good timing.  And Swedish singer Miriam Bryant was certainly in the right place at the right time as she turned out to be the major breakout star of this year's series of Så mycket bättre on TV4. Miriam delivered one inspired cover after another - right now she's dominating the Swedish iTunes singles chart in the same way that our own charts have been full of Justin Bieber. The best of her covers for me was this one - an inspired take on Niklas Strömstedt's "Sista Morgonen".  Niklas himself also remarkably reinvented Ace of Base's "Happy Nation" in honour of Jenny Berggren's appearance in the show, as "Lyckolandet" with his own anti-racist take on the Sweden Democrats and similar groups:  

One Last Time video:

No.27: "Plastic" - New Order. 

One morning whilst on holiday in Port de Pollença in September, I had the radio on whilst getting ready for breakfast.  And a song came on which jumped out of the radio and stopped me in my tracks. Immediate thoughts: 1) That sounds like New Order.  2) That definitely sounds like New Order, but I haven't heard that song before.  3) Wow.  That's like an old-school New Order song, but so fresh.  But I didn't expect them to be making any new I hearing things or what?

As it turned out, it was a new song, from New Order, and it was this one.  What a massive return to form.  As usual, don't expect a three-minute pop song when you can have a seven-minute epic.  New Order would go on to release a pretty great comeback album (and birthday present!) "Music Complete".  You haven't heard the last of it in my annual chart either....


No.26: "Pressure Off" - Duran Duran.

OK, so while we're talking inspired comebacks by '80s icons, let's move on to Duran Duran who provided one of the other pleasant surprises of 2015 with this brilliant, funky collaboration with Nile Rodgers and Janelle Monae.  But you will probably not have heard this song on your local radio station - because this year they've been too busy playing Adele, or Ellie Goulding, or James Bay, or Sam Smith, or Ed Sheeran.  But my advice to you is: dig deeper and you'll discover gems like this one for example.  And even if the musicians get old, the music never does.

No. 25: "Me Quemo" - Kendji Girac.  

I was away from French music for a long time and missed this guy's rise to fame.  Here in the UK we're not used to winners of "The Voice" having any kind of career, but it's a whole different situation in France.  After his success at the 2014 edition of the NRJ Music Awards I immediately bought his album and have become a huge Kendji fan over the past year.  "Me Quemo" is the first track released from his second album "Ensemble" which came out this year and didn't disappoint - yet another example of his trademark flamenco/latin-flavoured pop.  Irresistibly infectious.

No.24: "Sugar" - Robin Schulz featuring Francesco Yates. 

Back in the day - 12 years ago to be precise - the original version of "Suga Suga" by Baby Bash became a big hit in Europe, particularly in France, Belgium and Germany where it was never off the radio.  So that recognition-factor ensured that Robin Schulz's reinvention of the song would find much appreciation at EuropeCrazy HQ.

Schulz brilliantly reinvents the song in his trademark dance style with guitar riffs, and the vocals by big-haired young Canadian talent Francesco Yates top the song off perfectly.  And you probably won't be too surprised to learn that this song didn't do so well in the UK.....

No.23: "Make Me (La La La) - Dinah Nah.

So we have a Swedish woman with a ridiculous name, who bears a great resemblance to Crown Princess Victoria, only with a head of cascading pink hair, making her debut appearance in Melodifestivalen with a song with a silly title.  I never really rated this at the time, but then something happened.  Over the spring and summer this song had a grip on my iPod and wouldn't let go.  It was one of those songs which took on a life of its own after Melodifestivalen and went on to become a big favourite.

No. 22: "Crossroads" - Satin Circus. 

After Finland sent Softengine to ESC. this was a natural successor.  Accessible guitar-pop with shades of One Direction.  The more I heard this, the more I believed that it would represent Finland at Eurovision 2015 and get a very good result...  But fate has a funny way of intervening....Satin Circus did well despite a way-below-par performance of the song in the final, but it wasn't enough to beat a a certain punk band with the shortest song ever sent to Eurovision.

No.21: "People On The High Line" - New Order.

New Order's influence on what we know as 'dance music' today can never be underestimated.  And now, all these years later, they have brought back that fabulous vibe on several tracks on their latest album, "Music Complete". "People...." is yet another effortless house anthem.  The other pleasant surprise on that new album is the significant dimension which Elly Jackson (La Roux) brings to several tracks.  Now you know that I've never been a big fan of her's, but I've had to revise my opinion, because her contribution to this album is just magic.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The 2015-50: No.40 - No.31

No.40: "Drag Me Down" - One Direction.

Life’s full of surprises.  Who’d have thought we’d ever have seen the day when a 1D song would make my annual top 50 – don’t get me wrong, they’ve given us a number of catchy tunes over the years but nothing which would automatically be guaranteed a year-end chart place.  Till this one.  It’s grown-up and credible boyband pop.  And now they're taking a break, so it will be interesting to see a) if they come back, and b) if they reinvent themselves on the scale of the next band in my countdown. 

No.39: "Hey Boy" - Take That. 

We weren't expecting a new Take That single, but this came completely out of the blue.....and it flopped, big time.  OK so "Hey Boy" isn't up there with the timeless Take That greats, but it's a catchy pop song and if it belongs to another time, then what's wrong with that?  Because if you're a Take That fan, then that's for life, and for me they can still do no wrong, even if their best days are behind them.

No.38: "Du Swipa Höger" - Emil Berg.

A couple of songs from this year which were 'of their time'.  One of those was "Selfie" by Samir & Viktor; the other was this one.  Or as I like to call it, “Son of Selfie”.  Emil jumps on the Tinder bandwagon, which I'm probably too old to comprehend.  But whatever the theme it’a a very agreeable pop tune and well catchy.  "You've got a match, girl!"

No.37: "Se Telefonando" - Nek.

Nek reinterpreted this 1966 song (originally sung by Mina) on cover-versions night in Sanremo this year, and it went down so well that he released it as a single and also on his "Prima de Parlare" album.  Nek effectively tackles the song's complex structure and as the legendary Louis Walsh would say, "you made that song your own".  

No.36: "Tu Enemigo" - Pablo Lopez featuring Juanes. 

I was unfamiliar with Pablo's music but randomly purchased his CD on a trip to Palma during our Mallorcan holiday in September.  I'm glad I did - he is a very talented and accomplished singer, songwriter and musician and I'd love to see him represent Spain at Eurovision one day.  This collaboration with Juanes has over 9 million views on YouTube and the song's lyrics and video are very timely in a dark year for the world.  

No. 35: "Emergency" - Icona Pop.

Over here they are in danger of becoming remembered for only "I Love It" but I'm very surprised that this didn't become an international hit.  It's so infectious and also features uncredited vocals by Erik Hassle - yet another Swedish artist who didn't get the success he deserved.  Shades of "We No Speak Americano" about this - "Emergency" would have made a great summer hit.  

No.34: "Golden Boy" - Nadav Guedj.

On paper, this shouldn't work.  A mish-mash of styles, from plaintive ballad to funky Timberlake-style workout to Eurovision-eastern-ethnic-song-written-by-committee.  But it does.  Nadav, the world's oldest-looking 16 year old (at the time of the contest) did the impossible and got Israel to the final.  And even if his vocal performance didn't quite match his enthusiasm, it's still impossible not to smile at "ok, we gotta go, three minutes, bye bye!" - the first Eurovision entry in its history to pay tribute to the three minute rule in song.  Oh, and he's the king of fun.  

No.33: "Shut Up And Dance" - Walk The Moon. 

Uplifting and obscenely catchy radio fodder which has been a massive worldwide hit. A couple of things I must mention: this song was used in a stunning Strictly Come Dancing professionals’ group dance this year - probably my favourite professionals' routine of the series:

The other thing is that Walk The Moon's lead vocalist, Nicholas Petricca, was also the featured singer on Madeon’s brilliant electropop ‘Finale’, released in 2012 but I didn't discover it till a couple of years later. If you haven't heard that song, here it is:

No.32: "El Perdon" - Nicky Jam featuring Enrique Iglesias.

The year's other big Latin hit all over the continent.  Heard it a few times on my summer holiday and the song continues to enjoy enduring popularity if Swedish radio playlists are anything to go by.  I even heard it playing on a Spanish food stall at the Glasgow Christmas market recently and had to restrain myself from bopping around (!)  

Oh, and there is an English-language version of this, but who really needs that?  

No.31: "Le Paradis Nous Trouvera (Paradise)" - Josef Salvat. 

For some reason I thought this guy was French, but he's actually Australian.  Josef first came to my attention with his cover version of Rihanna's "Diamonds" but then I forgot all about him until this started turning up on French radio and I immediately sat up and took notice.  This bilingual song is a modern yet timeless mid-tempo slice of electronic pop, and his command of the French language is highly impressive. I'm looking forward to hearing what he'll do next. 

No video yet but have a listen to this great song at

The 2015-50: No.50 - No.41

No. 50:  "El Mismo Sol" - Alvaro Soler.

The days of the pan-European "summer hit" may now sadly be numbered, but this was one of two big Latin hits keeping the flag flying this year (the other one appears later in my chart). Jennifer Lopez even got in on the act later on, with a re-recorded duet version.  This is a very catchy song which Europe fell for in a big way.

No. 49: "Johnny Delusional" - FFS. 

Supergroups.  A strange and somewhat outdated concept, conjuring up visions of overindulgent 60s and 70s rock.  But when supergroups work, they can produce something spectacular.  So the hilariously-named FFS - Franz Ferdinand and Sparks in other words - seem to be a perfect fit.  If they hadn't invented FFS, someone would probably have had to invent them.  "Johnny Delusional" is a tale of unrequited love with what you'd expect from that combination - intelligent and witty lyrics.

No.48: "Ritornero da te" - Giovanni Caccamo.

Sanremo 2015 was a very successful one for this young singer and songwriter. Not only did he win the newcomers section of the contest with this one, he also co-wrote the excellent third-placed "Adesso e qui" sung by Malika Ayane.  "Ritornero da te" is a very commercial and accessible song which stands up to repeated listening.  He'll be back in the 'big artists' section in Sanremo 2016, duetting with Deborah Iurato so I hope he can produce something equally as good as this.

No.47: "Jealous" - Nick Jonas.

I never really got all the Jonas Brothers hype back in the day (their fandom reached On Direction-style proportions of hysteria) however Nick has matured into a rather good pop star.  Following the ambitious and impressive "Chains", "Jealous" is just a good mid-tempo pop song which still sounds equally as good all these months later.

No.46: "Reality" - Lost Frequencies.

You must have been living on the moon this year if you managed to avoid that song about drinking Margaritas and listening to the Mariachi....yes, "Are You With Me" was everywhere, all the time, and it still haunts radio playlists to this day.  But the follow-up, "Reality" holds much more interest for me.  Whilst it sticks with that breezy acoustic-dance template which was massively popular in Europe this year, there is a kind of wistful sadness here contrasting with the jaunty beats, and giving it a rare depth missing from most other pop-dance tracks.

No.45: "Avenir" - Louane.

It's been a phenomenally successful year for the young French singer who came to fame via "The Voice" and then the film "La Famille Belier". It took a long time for "Avenir" to grow on me, but it finally did thanks to my renewed interest in listening to French radio.  This song has also been a big hit in various European countries.  What impresses me about Louane is that she is allowed to be just a normal young woman with natural girl-next-door charm,  A refreshing change from the over-made-up, fake-tanned and over-sexualised norm.

No.44: "Firestorm" - Conchita Wurst. 

I'm not ashamed to say that the 2015 staging of ESC in Vienna was not among the greats. Unimpressive presenters and a bloated final which achieved an all-time record of the longest ever, at 4 hours.  But one of the high points was the interval act performance by Conchita, proving that she is equally at home on dance anthems as she is on showstopping ballads.  Her larger-than-life persona often overshadows her incredible voice which is shown off to great effect here.  And as an ambassador for tolerance, she is unstoppable.

No.43: "Roads" - Lawson.

Lawson are often unfairly labelled as a "boyband" when they clearly are not; they are a band.  They are also one of Britain's most underrated pop bands too - despite reasonable commercial success, they never really get the attention they deserve, and in a time of (mostly dreary) solo artists they are a refreshing change.  "Roads" is a cracking little upbeat pop song with a singalong chorus and deserved much more success than it had.

No.42: "Adesso e qui (nostalgico presente) - Malika Ayane.

Malika is one of my favourite Italian singers.  I love the soulful and jazzy tone of her voice.  I mentioned this song earlier - it came 3rd in Sanremo (the two songs which beat it will also appear later in my chart....) and it's an incredibly classy ballad thanks to Malika's controlled yet expressive vocals.  Good to know that many Italian female singers don't subscribe to the conventional norms of big bawling belters which we have to put up with over here in the UK.

No.41: "Köttbullar" - Steili Kressä.

Long-term readers of this blog will know how this works.  Most years I seem to throw a daft and totally nonsensical song into my chart, thus denying a place for what would probably have been a more deserving entry.  But it's my chart, so if I want to include a hilarious song about meatballs, submitted to the open song submissions to represent Switzerland at ESC 2016, then I will!  (Sadly it didn't make it to the Expert Check stage). The video for this is, well, ROFLMAO (or whatever the young people say these days).

The 2015-50: an introduction

Yes it's time for the 9th annual running of my annual year-end chart of my top 50 favourite songs of the year.  At one point earlier on in the year, I wondered if there would even be enough songs to make a top 50, which probably said more about the fact that I hadn't really listened to, or made an effort to discover, much music this year.

However, when I began to count the contenders, I ended up with around 75 songs which I've shortlisted to the top 50.

Who will follow Salem Al Fakir, Swingfly, J-Son, Oskar Linnros and Albin featuring Kristin Amparo to be crowned my chart champion of 2015?  Will it be yet another in a long line of Swedish artists - or will the Swedish domination be broken for the first time?

The criteria....

As usual, my chart, my rules, blah blah blah.  So you'll see some songs from 2014 songs in there, but I will explain the reason why when they make an appearance in the chart.

So let's kick-off with songs 41-50.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Some Christmas TV tips

Just popped in here to wish all the readers of EuropeCrazy and my other blogs a very merry Christmas.  Of course there are plenty of things to occupy us over the next few days so we aren't bored by all those rotten festive specials on telly:
  • the three-night epic Albanian extravaganza, Festivali i Këngës which will be broadcast on 25th, 26th and 27th December; 
  • the annual Nordisk Julkonsert which is produced by Danish TV (DR) every year, featuring music from artists from Denmark and the other Nordic countries - this will be screened on 25.12.15 on SVT1 and will be available later at SVT Play;
  • SVT's annual Melodifestivalen yearbook documentary, this year all about Mr Zelmerlöw and his big win at a certain song contest in Vienna - this will be screened on 26.12.15 on SVT1 and available later at SVT Play.

Oh, and sometime on or after Boxing Day I will start unveiling of my annual chart of my top 50 favourite songs of the year!

Whatever you're all doing, have a lovely time and I hope you all have a happy and peaceful festive season.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Review: "Jersey Boys" - Theatre Royal, Glasgow, December 2015

"Oh what a night...."

Or to be more precise, oh what an afternoon - and it's not December 1963, but an afternoon in December 2015 when I finally realised one of my long-time theatre ambitions - to see the stage musical Jersey Boys.  This is the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, which for the past 10 years has been immortalised in this fabulous stage musical which began life on Broadway and has gone on to become an international hit and also spawned a movie adaptation. 

For me, the show started with a whole different kind of recognition.  Rewind to 2000, and to a song which soundtracked our spring break in Paris that year. "Ces soirées-là" by Yannick was an infectious mix of rap and pop, but that was a cover of a cover: "Cette année-là" by Claude Francois, which in turn was a French language cover of the Four Seasons' December 1963 (Oh What A Night) - hope this is not too confusing! And it's with this 2000 version of the song that the stage show opens.  I have a little chuckle to myself as I wonder if I'm the only person in the audience who knows all about"Ces soirées-là", as there seems to be some confused faces around me :))  

It's a very pleasant and surprising way to start one of the biggest musical theatre successes of the last 10 years, and used as a starting point by band member Tommy De Vito to make a point about the enduring popularity of the Four Seasons' songs before moving on to tell the story of the band's formation, fame and fortune, highs and lows. For those unfamiliar with the story of what I guess you would call one of the original "boybands", they began life in New Jersey, in a number of incarnations, with links to petty crime and the Mafia - and none other than a young Joe Pesci (himself to find fame playing gangsters on the big screen) would recommend a talented songwriter and producer, Bob Gaudio, whose songs would finally propel the band to stardom.  

But the band would eventually start to unravel, triggered by De Vito's spiralling debts and unpaid taxes which resulted in his departure from the band, closely followed by Nick Massi who ended up being one of the show's most popular characters.  Gaudio also wanted out, to focus on songwriting and producing, to leave Valli fronting a completely new line-up.  Yet despite the line-up changes the hits continued, and Valli's inevitable solo career followed.  Given the show's long running time there is no space for my all-time favourite Four Seasons song, "The Night", nor two of my other favourites, the lesser-known "Silver Star" and "Down The Hall".Valli's "Grease" theme tune is also left out of the equation.  But that just proves what a terrific catalogue of music which Valli and the Four Seasons produced, that there has to be omissions. 

The story is appropriately told in four separate acts - Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter (of course!). Each section is narrated by a different member of the group, all of whom had their own distinctive story to tell.  Lead vocalist Frankie Valli is of course the most famous of the group, going on to enjoy a successful solo career after the Four Seasons split, and he is still performing to this day; however the band would probably not have achieved so much without the inclusion of producer/songwriting genius Bob Gaudio, who went from writing the nonsensical hit song "Who Wears Short Shorts" to all those Four Seasons hit songs which have stood the test of time, and ensured a massive singalong from the audience.  "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", "Big Girls Don't Cry", "Sherry" went down a storm in the hall. 

Where the stage version of JB differs from the film version - which I didn't really appreciate on first viewing and felt it was too slow and plodding, and needed a second viewing to really get into it - is that there's a bit more sharpness and humour whilst maintaining the theme of the group's gritty origins and the subject matter which unravelled into the formation and demise of the band's original line-up: crime, gangsters and spiralling debts.  And on a theatrical note, the set is very simple but inventively and effectively changes lighting, backdrop and furnishing in the way that only theatre can. 

There are also lots of lovely "f" words thrown around so if you're easily offended by bad language this may not be the show for you - but the language is needed in the context of the band's background and origins.   And there are also lots of opportunities to sing along with the hits - even if they're not always sung in their entirety, which can be a tiny bit irritating although at a running time of 2 hours 40 minutes (including 20 minute interval) it could end up a very long show indeed if the songs were played in full!  However it was a joy to hear the elderly lady next to me sing along with every word of "Walk Like A Man".  It was a predominantly 'older' audience at this show - it was nice to feel like one of the young ones for a change!! - but of course you are never too old to enjoy great music! 

So yes, the accents sometimes veered off a little bit at times but there's no denying that the main cast members gelled and performed very well and are all very talented singers - Matt Corner in the lead role of Frankie Valli kept hitting the falsetto heights whilst the harmonising by his fellow actors was exceptional - and the result was a professional but very engaging experience. To call "Jersey Boys" a jukebox musical is a bit insulting; unlike other musicals of that genre, which are basically a parade of hit songs with a made-up storyline tacked on (well hello there Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You and numerous others....this is the actual true story of the band behind the music, and what a fascinating story it is.  The show ends with "Who Loves You", bringing the band's story up to date, and a reprise of "Oh What A Night" which had the audience on their feet. 

"Jersey Boys" is a brilliant show with great music, strong characters and an engaging storyline, and I'm delighted that I finally got the opportunity to see it live on stage.  I would certainly recommend that you go and see it.

A day out at the Edinburgh Christmas Market

For the last few years, Christmas markets have been an annual attraction in many European cities and have now become a big thing here in the UK too.  Despite all our foreign travels over the years, we've never taken a pre-Christmas holiday to the Christmas markets on the continent - here is what we're missing out on!

By the way, one of my friends has an annual tradition of going to Berlin for a pre-Christmas break and she loves the Christmas markets there.  But by this time of the year, faithful travelling companion and myself can't be bothered with travelling and prefer to stick with home comforts and stay closer to home for the Christmas experience.

I make no apologies for always choosing Glasgow over Edinburgh as my favourite Scottish city, all year round. But when it comes to the Christmas experience, one Scottish city leads the way, above and beyond all others....for Edinburgh is the must-visit destination at Christmas time. 

The problem with Glasgow is that although George Square is potentially a great centrepiece for festive events, the main focus of Christmas activity seems to be the ice rink - ok it's a very seasonal activity, but not to everyone's taste.  The Christmas market on St Enoch Square just feels like an afterthought, and closing it on 20th December just feels like they've admitted defeat already.  But check out for what's going on over Christmas.  Where Glasgow absolutely beats Edinburgh is the variety of city centre shopping, so if you're after some retail therapy to suit all budgets, Glasgow is the absolute winner here. 

But back to the Christmas experience.  Edinburgh is blessed with lots of open space in the heart of the city, thanks to the area around the Mound and sprawling Princes Street Gardens, so there's lots of space to effectively make that transformation into a winter wonderland, with everything from rides and shows to the bigger-than-ever continental market from the Mound to the Scott Monument via the Gardens.  And as if that's not enough, St Andrew's Square also hosts a Scottish market with crafts and foodstuffs etc. 

Our traditional pre-Christmas visit to Edinburgh has been a popular tradition for a long time, interrupted only in recent years by extreme weather conditions.  The last 2 months of 2015 have been marked by persistent daily torrential rain, but we were very lucky indeed to get a cold but dry day (a very welcome rarity I tell you).  The big change this year was that we visited at the end of November, just after the market opened, rather than our traditional visit closer to Christmas.  But there was no difference as the city was as mobbed as ever with tourists (although the pre-Christmas 'panic factor' was thankfully absent) and I managed to finally feel festive.  So job done :)

There's a great variety of stalls with everything from hats and scarves to jewellery to foodstuffs to traditional German Christmas ornaments,

I bought a Russian Christmas tree ornament which Russian doll-style, I opened up and there was the pleasant surprise of a little Santa and snowman inside....

...and I also bought a bag of flavoured coffee beans from this stall!

 We are just a little bit obsessed with cuckoo clocks so here is a gratuitous picture of one.

And where would a German market be without a big sausage or two (ooh-er missus!!)

A couple of years ago I bought my moose at the Edinburgh Christmas market which sits on my fireplace all year round, proving that a moose is for life and not just for Christmas.  

Check out for more information about the city's festivities. And it's not over yet, because the experience continues in Edinburgh until 4th January 2016 and before that, there is the small matter of one of the world's biggest Hogmanay (New Year's Eve) celebrations - and you can read all about that at

Saturday, December 05, 2015

The Puerto Pollensa Diaries: Day 7 - Tuesday 22nd September 2015

Today is our final full day in PP.  So it's all about buying final souvenirs and checking out a few places we haven't seen yet.  It's another beautiful, warm, sunny day.

Time for our daily visit to the ducks at La Gola.  Not too many of them around today.

I get a bargain on a pair of Menorcan sandals which are selling for half the price of what they were going for in Palma yesterday.

A lot of the clothes/souvenir shops on the promenade sell these Himalayan embroidered/patterned hoodies, some of which are quite nice whilst others resemble an 'acid trip' or something??? Anyway I see a nice subtle one in turquoise and purple, but unfortunately not in my size.  The shopkeeper reliably informs me that each top is a hand-made one-off and he tries to sell me different designs which are in my size, each one more garish than the other and not to my taste.  But he was finding it difficult to take no for an answer and I'm guessing that he must have gone to "Turkish shopkeeper school" (those of you who have holidayed in Turkey will know exactly what I mean by that!)

But we manage to escape and after a wander around. Our main aim today is to explore the 'Pine Walk', the area at the top of the promenade, lined with hotels, restaurants and lots of greenery.  But firstly it's paella time, as we have a late lunch at one of the seafront restaurants.

Another view of the seafront.

Here's just a little part of the Pine Walk, which covers a much bigger area than can be seen in this photo.

On our way back to the hotel I spotted some more lovely exotic flowers.

Unfortunately the last day of the holiday means packing our cases, which is always a sad moment :( But we have one final dinner to eat in PP.  We don't have any problems getting a table for dinner tonight, although I am beaten by the enormous tapas portions (below).  I don't know what's happened to me lately - I just can't finish a meal any more. Maybe I'm just getting used to smaller portions, or is it the bigger I get, the less I can eat?

We couldn't possibly end our holiday in PP without one final visit to Bonys.  

No cocktails or sangria for me tonight: strictly Coca-Cola.  Check out the new sign for the toilets tonight.  Pipi dance!!

So that's it for our holiday in PP.  On Wednesday 23rd September, we're picked up from the hotel in the morning and in a strange twist of fate, after a beautiful week of constantly dry and warm weather, the rain comes on as we board the coach.  Torrential rain actually.  So I guess we are going home at the right time, although we're very sad that our holiday is over. 

Puerto Pollensa was just perfect.  Although I will say that the resort trades on its reputation as a "family resort" so it may not be to everyone's taste.  It's maybe best if you go there outwith the school holidays if you want a child-free holiday experience; there were still a number of young families on holiday when we were there, but it wasn't disruptive in any way.  As "non-parents" we would therefore definitely recommend September for a holiday in PP.  The resort has enough slow-paced laid-back charm and although predominantly packed with British tourists and all the usual trappings of a holiday resort, it also has a real, authentic Spanish feel more than some artificial high-rise Spanish resorts, and the surrounding Alcudia and Pollença towns give a true Mallorcan non-resort vibe.  

Update:  This holiday was to have a very therapeutic effect on me, as I felt very calm and rested for weeks afterwards, before all the madness of the run-up to Christmas hit again.  

We had two great holidays this year - a relaxing late summer week in Puerto Pollensa and a cracking spring break in Brussels, which totally gave us a new insight into that city, which we had previously only explored on day trips from Ostend.  I won't go into the recent events which have saddened and sickened the world, only to say that we were shocked to learn of the terror links which resulted in the subsequent "lockdown" of Brussels with pictures of army tanks and empty streets which once buzzed with excitement.  (On a brighter note, the people of Brussels turned a requested social media blackout into a hilarious evening posting cat pictures on Twitter, for some much-needed light relief in the darkest of dark times).  

It won't be too long until we're planning our next holiday.  We've already got something in this space for more holiday news in January :))

The Puerto Pollensa Diaries: Day 6 - Monday 21st September 2015

During our holiday we've been very impressed with the local bus service (check this out if you're planning a Mallorcan trip -

With a bit of forward planning, we decided to pay a return visit to the city where we spent our summer holiday 2 years ago - Palma de Mallorca.  Thankfully this time round I don't have a horrible viral infection which marred that last holiday!  The local bus takes just under 1 hour 30 minutes from PP to Palma and takes us into the underground bus station next to the train station on Placa Espanya - I love all of this interconnected transport! - and the first stop on our journey is the iconic Spanish department store El Corte Ingles, just a few minutes' walk away.   CD shopping has always been a highlight of our holidays over the years but is now a very endangered delight due to all this digital music so it is nice to indulge in a favourite old hobby.  I buy 3 CDs (which I hope to eventually review on here, although you know the way things are going with this blog so don't hold your breath!).

One of these is a relatively new CD by Pablo Lopez (above), whom I knew nothing about apart from the fact he is doing well in the Spanish album chart but it was a bit of a risk as I didn't know what he sounded like; as it turned out it was a risk worth taking and I'm glad I bought the album. That's what I love about Spanish-language music: you almost always know what you're getting and it makes few concessions to what's globally "popular".  Long may it continue.

The weather in Palma today is much, much hotter than in PP and occasionally the heat just becomes a bit unpleasant for me but doesn't spoil the day.  

Despite discovering big chunks of the city in 2013 we come across undiscovered areas of Palma and briefly get lost before ending up on Placa Mayor, before making our way down through the city centre to the street with the row of restaurants where we regularly used to have lunch on our last holiday in Palma.  I'm not very good with street names in the Mallorcan capital so had to look it up on Google Maps - the street is called Av d'Antoni Maura.

OK so this area may be a bit of a tourist trap but it's a welcome oasis after walking around for a while.  Palma is, as ever, packed and faithful travelling companion comments that it's even more noticeable today when you contrast it with the laid-back PP.  Palma is always a big destination for cruise ship passengers and when I get home I check out which ships were in Palma today: it turned out that there were ships numbering approximately 6000 passengers so imagine if they all got off the ships - then you'll understand just how busy Palma can be.

As if we haven't had enough of them on this holiday, it's tapas time again!

We then explore the area around the Royal Palace.

Of course I can't go to Palma without a visit to legendary ice cream shop Giovanni L for my favourite lemon ice cream.  Which I have to eat very quickly as it's melting at record speed in this heat.

What I love about Palma is some of it's weird, funky, wonderful shops. Here are a couple which I came across.

I'm also fascinated by Desigual too.  And someday I'm going to pluck up the courage to buy something from there, although I'll probably have to take out a bank loan to pay for it!!  Anyway here's a picture of a Desigual bag, all £64 of it, from their website.  I'll get one if I ever win the lottery.  (Just need to start doing the lottery).

We make our way back up to Placa Espanya via familiar and unfamiliar streets.   A quick stop-off for a drink at one of our old haunts on Placa Espanya from two years ago, before crossing the road to get the bus back to PP.  Palma is a fantastic city and is often overlooked when people think of Mallorca as a holiday island.  I would highly recommend it for a city break.  Although it is big, busy and buzzing, it's also walkable too - try to get a hotel near the city centre.  Or if you are in one of Mallorca's resorts, you must take a day trip there. I'm really impressed with the bus services on the island and they make it so easy to get around.

It's a quick turnaround and we're back out for dinner, at one of PP's steakhouses.  This is the evening when I would discover the wonders of Jack Daniels Barbecue Sauce, and life has never been the same since. Chicken and chips....

OK so don't even ask where we end up for a late-night drink (clue: a certain bar on the square).  Make mine a sangria!

Tomorrow: our last full day in PP.