Getting stuck on Menorca and Mallorca

I had been stalking the weather forecast for the Balearic islands for 2 weeks before finally arriving to Menorca. I arrived on a Saturday after 5 pm and got one lucky stroll thru Mahon city center, in pleasant weather with lots of life around. My couchsurfing hosts were two American English teachers, and we made seafood paella and salsa danced the first night away. The next 6 days were nearly all lost for exploring local life, since all was dead on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday were holidays, and the only bits of Monday, Wednesday and Thursday I saw outside of siesta time was clouded by stormy winds and pouring rain.

Cami de Cavalls

Cami de Cavalls

On Sunday, me and Joe managed to hike 22km, most of it along the Cami de Cavalls track with circles the island. We didn’t ride horses, but found lots to cuddle with, and met one crazy farmed who only keeps land to house his 5 ducks, 10 chickens, and 25 cats! By the end of the day, it had hailed once, and we had to hitchhike the last 3 km to Mahon because the wind literally wouldn’t let us walk forward anymore.

On Monday the storms really started. Ferries got cancelled, shops didn’t open, and people didn’t leave their homes. It snowed in Mallorca for the first time in decades and people told me it was the worst weather week in 35 years for the islands. By Tuesday, all the holidays events had been cancelled, but not the holiday, so everyone stayed in another day, hidden under their blankets and jackets even inside (the houses here aren’t built for cold). But since it’s a tiny island with a few thousand inhabitants, the barbeque and dances and other festivities just got moved to Saturday.

wind mills in Menorca

wind mills in Menorca

I attended one indoor barbeque, where potatoes were roasted inside the fire place, and had other visits to locals home since no one was going out. I visited a wanna-be producer and jammed out on his piano with two singers/guitarists. I sat infront of a space heater with some other Spaniards on their couch under a blanket and shared travel stories.

On Wednesday the ferries were still cancelled, so I had to fly to Mallorca. These are the kinds of moments where I love to have airmiles laying around, so instead of paying 100 euros for a 30 minute flight, I just paid 2.20 in taxes and got my ferry tickets refunded. The Mahon airport was the loneliest little terminal I’ve ever visited, although a similar sight after being on a deserted island where everything was also closed.

the only sunny day, in Palma under the cathedral

the only sunny day, in Palma under the cathedral

Palma de Mallorca was a bigger city, where winter and siesta don’t affect the local life as much, and can still keep a tourist entertained in January. The shops were open, and streets full of pedestrians. I couchsurfed there with a 67 year old woman and her 34 year old ‘friend,’ who could have been playing the role of a male mistress but maybe he was just a lost artist. A lot of people are in Spain as transitioning musicians or something similar. He had the rockstar hair any guitarist would dream of, but unfortunately also half of it ended up on my breakfast. After the 5th hair in 6 bites, he noticed and promised he tried real hard to keep it back, but I gave him the rest of my eggs and potatoes garnished with hair. We were in the heart of the city, and another festival had to be celebrated Thursday night. San Sebastian is a day where everyone flocks to the streets for public barbeques and outside concerts, and finally the little bit of wind and rain never stopped anyone.

BBQ in the street for San Sebastian festival

BBQ in the street for San Sebastian festival

My ferry to Ibiza, however, did get cancelled, but it may not have been because of weather. Its strange to be from Iceland, where the average weather is equivalent to a storm warning in the Balearics, but the weather did interfere a lot more when you’re trying to be out and about with a backpack to explore a place deserted of life. I knew January was off season, but I didn’t know I’d be so off.

Montréal: City of random where anything is possible

I’m living in Montréal for a little over a month, nestled downtown where the latin quarter and gay quarter meet, not too far from Chinatown or the old harbour, and every day something interesting is bound to happen. Montréal is a city where french, festivals, sex stores and drag-queens reign, and has been affectionately nicknamed the cultural capital of Canada. Just this month in Montréal, there has been the Fashion & Design festival (think outdoor runway show with a free concert by K-os), L’off Festival of Jazz, the world acclaimed International Jazz Festival of Montréal,  a White Night Festival (a night time, outdoor street-art festival), the World Beer festival, and the infamous Fringe Festival where people from the “fringe” of society from all different parts of the world come to perform an art, theatre or music shows that differ slightly from the norm. I went to one such show last night, entitled Perverts!, and it mostly consisted of completely nude performers jiggling around on stage and acting out various forms of sexual affection that would push the comfort limits of any spectator. There wasn`t much dialogue, dance, or decipherable message, but the shock factor alone entertains.

Clio and I at Cirque du Soleil´s Ovo

Montréal is also a place there it doesn´t matter if your male, female, transitioning from one to the other or both, and homosexuals, bisexuals and heterosexuals can all thrive since anything goes.In a lot of newspaper classifieds, the “Escort Services” section is bigger than the employment, housing and cars-for-sale sections combined. Sex shops, strip joints, peep shows, and “bath houses” are everywhere along my section of St. Catherine, the main street through the gay village. Sunday night I went to a bar entitled Mado`s where dragqueens and hopeful transvestites put on an amazing lip sync/dance performance, and if I wasn`t enjoying myself enough watching dressed-to-kill males more beautiful than myself prance around on stage, I was even more pleasantly surprised when the last performer came out and performed Bjork`s “It`s Oh So Quiet.” Iceland represent! The nightlife in general is always entertaining, since I went to the most impressive gay bar I`ve been to yet called “Sky” which consists of 5 different dance floors with their own separate dj`s and bars, complete with a rooftop terrace, a swimming pool and a jacuzzi hot tub that stays open til the wee hours of the morning.

one of Montreals many festivals, Fringe

During the day there is also a bustling underground world, where the subway system and an entire shopping mall of 200+ stores lay underground downtown Montréal. The architecture of Montréal is a melange of old French and English colonial buildings, with more modern glass and concrete sky scrapers around, dwarfing them. There are a lot of old, beautiful cathedrals also scattered throughout, and when I spotted one such church tower in typical gothic style, I walked in through the massive wooden doors only to realize I`d walked into a university building that was built on the site of this church, but kept the tower as its entrance.  Very confusing.

rooftop bar with my roomies

Its noticeable how many students this town caters to, with 4 major universities speckled throughout the centre of the city and an extremely friendly student nightlife. From all the parts of Canada I`ve visited, Montréal has by far the cheapest and most accessible alcohol, with every cornerstone selling cheap beer and wine and the province regulated liquor store still boasting comparatively low taxes, great selection and long opening hours. There are a bunch of restaurants which allow you to bring your own wine without paying a corking fee, and last Monday I polished off a bottle of pinot grigio with a kilo of steamed mussels at a white-table cloth restaurant for less than $20 with tax and tip. And when I want to eat a budget meal, poutine is easily and cheaply available 24 hrs of the day within a few blocks from wherever you end up after a night of drinking with the drunk munchies.

Montréal is of course the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil, which is in my opinion the most random but amazing spectacle I`ve ever seen. Even though I`ve been to it in Vancouver and Vegas, seeing it here at their home stage seemed like a necessary thing to do, so me and my best friend Clio went on Tuesday night, their 25th anniversary show. Then, by random chance, a guy asked us for directions to the show tent on our way there, quickly followed by “I have 2 free tickets, are you two going?” We said yes, but that we would take them anyway and called 2 of my roommates who got to come for free. On Sunday afternoon, we went to the base of Mount Royal (a huge park in the middle of town) where hundreds of people come together to play percussion instruments, practice tight-rope walking, or reenact medieval battle grounds complete with middle age wardrobe and plastic weapons. Other random occurrences include  a man riding a bicycle with a cat standing on his head, another guy riding past with an iguana on his shoulder, a police horse trying (and almost succeeding) to eat my Guyanese-gold bangle off my arm, and the current top male model in the world staying at my place for almost a week since he just happens to be my roommates best friend. Very, very random.