My brother used to have a statue of an old smart guy in his garden. The massive bronze casting appeared to be of an old man, sitting, pondering something or other. But when you walked up to it, you could almost feel what was going through the man’s mind as he was thinking. As for me, I would like to believe that the statue of Voltaire was whispering, “Le paradis terretre est òu je suis.” I was reflecting on this today when I realised that paradise is where I am.
After several weeks playing with Amélie – actually getting to know her better and discovering what secrets she has hidden away in the many lockers onboard – I am pretty comfortable with the whole ‘spending time in Andratx as well as Sol y Mar’ thing. And because of my escalating comfort level, I thought I would write to tell you a bit about where Amélie is on the island.
First, she obviously isn’t on the island. Amélie is currently on a swinging mooring in the harbour of Port de Andratx. There is a town of Andratx, but that is a few kilometres inland, and I think I have only been there a couple of times. But the port is where I am currently spending about one-half my time lately.
According to a massively in-depth (five minute) Google search (does anyone actually look stuff up in books anymore?), I discovered that Andratx “has been inhabited since pre-historic times. It was initially part of the Ahwaz Al-Madina district when the Muslims were in power. This district was then awarded to Berenguer de Palou, who was the Bishop of Barcelona after the Catalan reconquest.” (okay, don’t worry, I promise there will not be a test on all this) “Andratx was at the centre of the "Barony of Andratx". This area also included; Calvià; Puigpunyent; Estellencs; Banyalbufar; Marratxí; some areas of Pla de Sant Jordi; and the parish of Santa Creu. For the most part the people on Andratx settled on the coast. During the fifteenth century continuous pirate raids pushed them inland in search of safer places. A defence system was built all along the coastline. Today the famous watchtowers are one of the areas main tourist attractions. The Bishop of Barcelona controlled this area up until 1835. Then Mendizábal permitted the State to expropriate and sell Church lands off in public auction. Tourism arrived in Andratx in the 1960's (yadda, yadda, yadda). Okay, enough of what I found on Google. What I found on my own exploring is a bit more in line with what Voltaire said.
Andratx, or more appropriately, the port of Andratx would be a wonderful sleepy little fishing village, if it weren’t for all the tourists. The port covers two sides of a natural harbour, with one side being almost completely occupied by the Club de Vela (where all the up-your-bum yachties seem to hang out) and the other side filled with shops, restaurants, and cafes. This side is also where all the non-gold-braid-adorned sailors and boats are. And amongst these boats is still a little fleet of fishing boats. They look so adorable as they all stream out each day at 05:00 in a long line; repeating the same basic manoeuvre 12 hours later. When I say the part about them looking adorable, that means if you would be standing on shore. If you are on a swinging mooring, as Amélie is, you get to experience what is often a pretty wild ride, as the line of boats go plunging past twice a day. I am still not sure about the preciseness of the 05:00 to 17:00 thing. Apparently the fishermen here are members of a pretty powerful workers union and get to knock off work each day at the same time; or, the fish have a strong lobbyist in the EU Parliament in Brussels who says that fishing after a certain time would infringe on their rights. Right. It is probably an EU thing…everything is these days.
So, back to the reality of where Amélie is…I think I like the town better at night than during the day. This is not to say I actually go into the Port at night, but the lights of the little town do look fabulous each night as they shimmer across the water. Amélie is close enough to the centre of the Port to get a sense of all the activity, but far enough away to avoid actually getting stuck in it all. The vistas are pretty great.
And for those of you who are probably wondering how I am actually existing when I stay onboard, there are two clues. One is that Amélie not only has eight extremely large solar panels that make enough electricity to serve all the refrigeration needs of the boat, but she also has a water-maker.
I used to think that having a water-maker was some luxury that only ocean-crossing boats would need to have, but I am so chuffed that instead of having to come to shore every couple of weeks to refill the onboard water-tanks, now all I have to do is press a button and this machine begins to turn sea-water into clean potable water. And when I do want to go to shore (usually to have a fab pasta salad with Pesto at a restaurant on the sea-front), I just step into the tender and motor on in. There are other situations when I use the tender (other than the never-ending quest for pasta con pesto). Every morning I get into the tender and row. Yes, this is like having a rowing machine in your house, except this is a real rowing machine. If you know anything about hard-shell inflatable tenders, you already know that they were not mean to be propelled for any great distance with oars. But I figure that this is brilliant exercise, and each day I row between 1.5 and 2 kilometres. And if that isn’t exercise enough, when I return to Amélie, I usually then fall into the sea and go for a swim.
Speaking of swimming, I thought I would leverage my swimming exercises and the other day bought a pair of swim-fins. I found one pair that looked okay, but as I was walking to the check-out, I saw another pair that looked even better. These puppies are long and I reasoned that the longer they were, the more exercise I would get from using them. Well, the first day I plopped them on and then slipped into the water (25 degrees centigrade, which is wonderful to swim in), I realised that with the fins, I feel like a rocket-man. Okay, a speedy-swimmer might be more appropriate. Zoom, zoom, zoom…just call me old-smart-turbo-swim-fin guy.
Voltaire, trying to figure out the answer to it all
Port de Andratx...the home of Amélie
nestled nicely in the harbour
a helicopter on the back of the big boat...a bit much I think
a brilliant sunrise in the harbour
what Voltaire was talking about
my 24-inch, zoom-zoom-turbo-blaster swim fins
copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, James B. Rieley