Mallorca: Mirabo de Valldemossa – A Hillside Finca


We turned off the main road. Up the drive. Nine hairpins to the top.

Mirabo de Valldemossaan old farmhouse, high on the hillside. Lived in for five generations, and now a small family hotel.

We’d had no idea what to expect. It was the most idyllic spot. Every window framed the perfect view of Autumn in Mallorca. Had we not been booked  for dinner at Fera in Palma, we would have just stayed by the window and looked out in awe.

After the peace and quiet of the countryside, and driving the mountain roads for just two days, being in the city seemed a shock. So many cars, so many lights.

At Fera we ate rustic bread with apricot and kimchi aioli, followed by course after course of unusual dishes – Nori rolls with Aberdeen Angus beef tartare and truffle emulsion, corn mousse with pumpkin and crisped corn pieces, re-constituted olive with orange, suckling pig dumplings with Shimeji mushrooms, duck with carrot and yuzu, chocolate pudding with smooth olivey ganache.

Full to the brim. Back to the Finca.


In the morning, at breakfast, we sat across the room from a couple who’d caught the ferry from Germany so that their dog could travel with them. When no one was looking she, a velvety soft Weimaraner, sidled up to Adam and leant heavily against his leg. I think he was secretly pleased.

Everything inside the house was lovely. Furniture, paintings, glass and ceramics, dream Bang & Olufsen speaker. Just lovely.

We wandered outside, yellow leaves falling in the Autumn sun. Palm trees standing tall. Swimming pool bright blue and falsely alluring (I’ll never be fooled again) and the most beautiful and open view across the hills, olive trees and Holme oaks.

And all too soon it was time to get back in the blackcurrant berry of a Fiat 500 hire car, and drive down what must be Mallorca’s only motorway. Back to the airport, back to the other Autumn we’d temporarily retreated from.

Mallorca: Son Brull – A Rural Sanctuary

I brushed the crumbs from the seat, clues of previous passenger’s snack trolley delights. The best thing about the Ryanair flight was the oversized house fly that had hitched a lift and was bombing up and down the aisles, racing between the headrests.

After picking up the blackcurrant berry of a Fiat 500 hire car, and driving down what must be Mallorca’s only motorway, we arrived at Son Brull. A beautiful rural sanctuary on the north of the island.

I’ve been to Mallorca before, accidentally. I told my friend we could do anything she liked for her birthday, she suggested a comedy club, I suggested Eurostar to Paris, she suggested 3 nights in a hotel near Magaluf which was powered by a petrol generator on the roof and had yellowed plastic sheets on the bed. To be fair, those weren’t her search requirements, they were just by-products.

We were shown to our room, a light and airy junior suite. Champagne, oranges and fresh flowers greeted us. Tall shuttered windows with long white linen drapes, high above my head. Washed oak beams and dark concrete floors. A Jacuzzi bath in the corner, and sun hats at the end of the bed. What an absolute dream.

We found our way to the bar and bistro, through the cobbled courtyard of the old monastery, passed the pelargoniums and ferns.

Two enormous olive presses lined the walls either side of the room, and above the large copper bath that would have boiled the olives for their second pressing, a wispy wire sculpture representing steam.

Millstones and big white sofas, like heavy clouds. Good dinner. Nice atmosphere.


The shutters kept the sun out, room pitch black and cool. Outside the window, sunshine and strawberry bushes, palms, and bottlebrush trees with neon fronds.

We took our breakfast on the terrace. Blueberry juice. Eggs benedict. Swimming pool lapping, sparrows darting in for crumbs.

Later, I wandered around, looking at fruit, taking pictures. A woman (from Jersey) stopped to talk to me. Whilst I looked away, she discreetly held up her mobile phone and took a photo of me. Except, it wasn’t discreet, the loud ‘kercher’of the iPhone camera alerted me to it. She didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything.

Adam and I sat in the shade, listened to goats and to the wind in the leaves. Looked at the mountains.

We drove into the mountains. Zipping around in the little Fiat 500, looking for somewhere to pull in, to take in the views. Adam said, ‘We can stop here if you like?’ and I read the sign, ‘prohibited military zone’. We drove on.

At the top of Es Colomer we stopped, walked up to the viewing point, blown by the warm wind, ate Patatas Fritas at the café Mirador.

In the evening we ate at Son Brull. 365 Restaurant, understated and comfortable. Cobbled floors, white linen, subtle lighting, and on the tables, little wound-wire lamps that looked like they were modelled on potatoes.

Often before a meal I begin to feel a little nervous. I have a strange array of allergies and sometimes it’s hard to get that across. I was once told (in a rather unusual restaurant) that, although allergic, I had to eat the ‘gift of almond’ because it was what the chef wanted.

At 365 I didn’t even need to ask. Every member of staff knew who I was and told me what I could or couldn’t have. It was the most attentive and kind response to allergies that I’ve ever experienced.


Sweet, soft, Cannelloni with duck and dark chanterelle mushroom.
Suckling pig with apricots and sweet Tokaji wine.
Prickly pear and fennel sorbet.

All delicious, but then, dessert.

On my list of things which I wish I could eat again (including rice pudding at Neemrana Fort and Sunday dinner at Nanny and Grandad’s), this incredible dessert.

Pine nuts. Soft pine nut brownies. Tiny, beautiful, dark pine cones soaked in honey, rich with the sweet taste of the Mediterranean forest, like fresh cut wood. Creamy pine nut parfait. Pine infused cream.

This may be the most beautiful dessert I have ever tasted. If woodland fairies exist, then this is what they feed on.

In the morning, after a breakfast of eggs, and fresh fruit, and a lot of wishing it wasn’t time to leave, we packed up our bags and headed west.

More mountain driving. Slender curved roads, hairpins, steep drops. Holme oak trees. Goats crossing. We stopped at lakes, listened to lapping water and bird song. Chased velvety chocolate-brown donkeys.


Around every corner was a view to behold. Warm air and the sense of freedom. We turned off the main road, to our next stop. Up the drive. Nine hairpins to the top.

With the greatest thanks to the team at Son Brull for making this trip possible, for hosting us for two nights, and for the power of Chef Rafael Perelló and his puddings.  As always, my opinions are my own.

A Cold Night Under the Stars (CEO Sleepout Fundraiser in London)

I parked my £150 car in the £5.70 carpark and got the £73 train to London.

Anna text me, ‘Are you all set?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘I’ve got a scarf, an umbrella, a tarpaulin and a coat from the nineties!’

The day hadn’t started well. After dropping Adam at the airport and driving home, I realised I was locked out. Then I lost my train ticket. Then M&S wouldn’t sell me a sandwich because their card payment system was down.

I was having a bad day. But bad things come in threes, I thought – at least I wouldn’t die in my sleep.

All the time I was thinking; it could be worse.

I walked along the road, towards Lord’s Cricket Ground, my rather fancy rough-sleeping address for the night. This night had been planned for months (read about it here) and I’d been fundraising for several weeks, but I wasn’t really prepared. I thought I’d just go with the flow.

I started paying attention to the things around me. I’d be sleeping outside for the night, just one night, with the thought of a home to go to. What if that wasn’t the case? I lugged my tarpaulin and sleeping bag passed the couples, laughing with their Halloween fancy dress on, I looked in the window of the Indian restaurant, saw a family eating dinner together, warm spiced food, smiles, steam on the glass. All the windows with their yellow lights on, homely, net curtains and soft furnishings.

Further up the road, buildings with electric gates and eighty-grand cars parked outside. The light of the road island bollard strobed on and off intermittently. A pigeon lay dead in the gutter. Everything seemed poignant.

I arrived at Lord’s to a warm welcome and a cup of tea. I saw the Ashes, a glove that I thought was a bunch of sausages, and a blue cricket ball from the early days of women’s cricket (where they thought that girls would be scared of a red ball coming at them, so they made it almost invisible instead).

I signed a disclaimer form that said I might die or get maimed by other people in the night.

After introductions from some of the charities that CEO Sleepout supports we did the Haka. That’s not a typo, it’s fact of life.

Then it was time to find somewhere to sleep. I hadn’t realised we’d be sleeping in the stalls. I watched and waited for everyone else to find their spots. I found a space between two rows of seats, away from other people, down close to the pitch, and set up my bed nest.

Tarpaulin first, on the ground and then up the back of the seats in front of me, so as to stop any drafts (and then later, to stop the rain). My umbrella I propped on the ground, kind of over my head, wedged between seats, it helped keep the light off, and made me feel a bit more protected.

I put on my massive 1990’s Swedish army coat. I looked around at the North Face and Patagonia badges, patted my old £15 antiques shop bargain with fingers crossed.

I’d had to buy a sleeping bag (I’d given the one I had to Winter Comfort for the Homeless a couple of years ago). As I shuffled into it and tried to settled down I realised that I’d been tricked. Mountain Warehouse had let me down with their paper-thin waste of time sleeping bag. It did no good at all for keeping me warm. I wore a knitted jumper on my legs instead and wrapped the tarpaulin around me.

I was not prepared, and to be honest, I think that was actually pretty authentic.

It was too cold for my body to relax enough into sleeping. I am rubbish at sleeping in public places too. Can’t fall asleep on a train, can’t sleep on an overnight flight. At one point I scrunched myself up, face down, and managed 20 minutes of sleep. I was pleased, I hoped there was more to come. (There wasn’t).

It rained. Not hard, but enough. That misty rain that you don’t know about until it’s too late and it’s soaked you. I was glad for my umbrella and tarpaulin. It was cold. Some people left during the night. 3am Ubers.

In the morning we were lucky to be met at 6am with tea and bacon buns. An eight-hour night and I was feeling it – feeling the wear on my brain and body, feeling more compassion for those who have to endure this night after night.

I was aching, not just cold, chilled to the bones. I couldn’t grip my cup properly, I couldn’t hold a pen until gone 10am. I felt low, tired and drained. From just one night.

When you hear people saying that homeless people could do something to help themselves, know that it’s hard enough to survive, to just exist, let alone do anything else.

I got on the tube at rush hour. Tarpaulin and sleeping bag in hand. Tired eyes. I felt more pushed and shoved than ever. I felt tired and intolerant. The man behind me pushed himself hard against me, body invading my space. It took all my senses not to just throw my head back and head-butt him. Seriously. More people got on. My bag got pushed into the woman next to me. ‘You’ll be paying for my hernia operation!’she said to me, and I fake laughed, but I’m not sure it was a joke.

The London Lord’s CEO Sleepout raised a whopping £80,000. For some reason my JustGiving total got stuck at £666, but I’d prefer to focus on the amount with Gift Aid, £825. Thank you, to everyone who sponsored and supported.

It was an enlightening and difficult experience. I’ve already signed up for next year. I’ve got to do something, we all have.

Holland: Make It Happen – Rotterdam in 24 Hours

If you know me, you’ll know, I don’t like to rush. I get plenty done, but under the deceptive guise of a tortoise, meandering from distraction to distraction, taking in the details, finding joy in the small things.

There was a time when I would have told you that you can’t get a feel for a place in just 24 hours, but I’ve  proved myself wrong.

Rotterdam is a fascinating city, having been almost completely destroyed in World War II, it has been rebuilt with aplomb and continues to develop and grow with  adventurous modernist architecture.

I walked out of the station, past the sharp angles and high gloss of the tall buildings, and headed to Op het Dak.

This trip, although brief, was to be full. I had several places to be, and things to see, all centred around thoughts on the environment – how we live, and what we do to the earth. I’m in the process of researching for an exhibition on the modern landscape, and Rotterdam gave me food for thought… and food… back to Op het Dak.

Ten minutes from the Central Station is Op het Dak, a simple café serving healthy local food. We ate flowers, hummus and tabbouleh, before exploring their outdoor space – the largest urban roof garden in Europe.

One of the main reasons I was in Rotterdam was to visit the studio of Daan Roosegaarde. It’s not easy to describe what Daan does, but I’d say he’s a socially led artist, thinker, conservationist, and innovator. His projects are brilliant and varied, but to me the best thing is the Smog Free Project – air purifying towers that filter particulates. This ring is full of smog from 1000 m3 of Beijing air.


After a presentation at the Rotterdam Food Garden on De Urbanisten’s new research project, Sponge Garden, we stopped off at Kaapse Maria, where I ate a bowl of olives and drank homemade cherry cola. Nice.

Then we headed to the Kunsthal for the opening of Waterlicht, Daan Roosegaarde’s latest  work. Described as a virtual flood made of LEDs, software and lenses, Waterlicht shows how high the water could reach without human intervention and gives space for thought about rising water levels caused by global warming. I’m interested in the connections between Holland and the drained area I live in, here in the UK, so the idea behind this really resonated with me.


After a brilliant and relaxed dinner at Ayla it was time to retire to the perfumed aircon comfort of The James Hotel. I woke to the 16th floor view over the city, in the distance, the glow of C&A.

I skipped breakfast (The James have a food market where you can buy yourself a mini baguette for one euro) and made my way back to the Kunsthal for a muffin and ginger tea, and to see Stephan Vanfleteren’s Surf Tribe. I couldn’t not – Shutter Hub had listed it in the top exhibitions to see this month. It was brilliant. The photography was amazing, beautifully executed, emotionally relatable, and the scale of the images too, brilliant. But for me, without wanting to sound like an exhibition weirdo, it was the lighting that really made it. Best exhibition lighting I’ve seen.


Have you visited the famous Cube Houses in Rotterdam?  I’d seen so many similar images on Instagram that I just  wasn’t that interested, but, with all the hype, I thought I should have a look – I was pleasantly surprised.

Designed by Piet Blom in 1984 as a kind of village within the city, inspired by the woods –  futuristic tree houses in modernist urbanity. Structurally they’re just bizarre. Like those paper folded fortune-tellers you used to make as kids.

They look like a collage. All snippets of 80s style. Great colour combinations, and a shop offering hair removal services. Why did the ‘influencers’ not show me this on the gram?

I stopped  in Sint Laurenskerk, the church beautifully restored after the war, light glass windows, and chandeliers. On the big bronze doors, (designed by Giacomo Manzu) the distressing scene of war. When the doors are opened, the light floods in and this beautiful dove is revealed.


Heading back to the station I stopped and ate chips at the Markthal, I noticed it looks like a grown-up bouncy castle, made up of luxury apartments and delicious food offerings.

Other things I noticed  in Rotterdam:
A statue of santa holding a butt plug.
Very healthy looking pigeons.

On my way home, in the queue to board my flight, I met a plastic packaging saleswomen. She told me that she did feel sad that the dolphins are dying and the plastic is getting round the necks of turtles, but plastic is environmentally friendly as it’s made out of waste oil, and if we don’t use it our peppers will go off.


I didn’t make it to the Nederland’s Fotomuseum, but there’s so much to see and do in Rotterdam, I don’t have any excuses not to go back.

With the greatest thanks to Rotterdam Partners for making this trip possible. As always, my opinions are my own (and my ability to meet the ‘interesting’ people whilst travelling is something that should be investigated!)

These Recent Things: I’ve Been Away But Now I’m Back

The sun is shining, I’ve been up since the early hours, and I’m waiting for my friend Maddie to arrive so we can go and swim in the sea. It’s good to have the occasional day without too much responsibility. It’s good for the brain and for the soul. I do most of my best thinking when I’m in the bath, or on a long drive, so I’m expecting a double whammy of inspiration today!

We’ve had such a lot of hot weather, and aside from rendering me dozy and useless, it’s had a big impact on the little animals. I’ve been putting bowls of water and food in the hedge, but it’s not enough. When the rain came it was joyous. Thunder storms that lasted six hours, power cuts, flash floods, trees down, and in the morning, the smell of damp earth, and pigeons stood waist deep in puddles.

I don’t know where to start with these recent things, because it’s been three months, a quarter of the year, and that’s really not that recent, is it?

Perhaps I should tell you the saddest thing first.

April the chicken (the one with the hearts on her feathers and a penchant for a shoulder ride) has gone. She was taken by a hawk. I couldn’t believe it either. Four years she’s lived with us, watched me through the window while I worked, pinched fruit from my puddings, stayed out at night in storms, ran around the garden in circles like Basil Fawlty, and needed to be lifted down from the tree each night and put to bed. She was a very sweet little creature, and all I can hope for her is that it was quick.

I didn’t know what to do with her last eggs, they suddenly seemed so precious, so I did what we used to do and entered them into the village show. She won first prize, of course, she always did.

Now there are just two. Sasha and Margaret. What will we do?


I took a trip to Haarlem with Polly. We wandered the streets, saw blossom and cats and beautiful window displays. We ate croquettes and tapas and things we probably shouldn’t have eaten. We bought souvenirs from the second-hand market and postcards from everywhere we went, and a very kind man gave me a tea towel. What a dream. Haarlem is a beautiful city, with a selection of amazing museums – Het Dolhuys, Frans Hals Museum, the Corrie ten Boom House, and Teyler’s Museum (with it’s incredible collection of rocks and shells, fossils and bones).

Full adventures in Haarlem, available to read here.


I went to Grenoble, rode the cable car to the Bastille, drank Chartreuse, saw the street art, ate the cheese, visited the Museum of Art, headed out to a vineyard.

I went to Vienne, rode the tram to the hill top, ate vichyssoise, saw the Roman temple, headed out to a pancake house, ate jam.

I also involuntarily mooned half of Grenoble airport. You should read about that here.

I went to Cheese Valley. It’s a real place, not a dream. I can’t even begin to explain what an incredible, enjoyable and fascinatingly bizarre time I had, and that’s okay, because I’ve already written about it in full detail for you, here. If you like cheese and cats, and more cheese, and stroop waffles and songs about cheese, and cheese warehouses, giant cheeses and ginger cheese, then you need to know about the cheese mecca that is Cheese Valley.

It was all so good that I wrote a Foodie Finds special on Cheese Valley for Surf4, and an article on grass cheese for Smallholding magazine.

On my way home I popped in to the gallery at 5&33 in Amsterdam to do a bit of research. I’ve been invited to curate an exhibition there, I’m excited about the possibilities.


We launched the new Shutter Hub website and services. It’s been a really positive experience, seeing how well it’s all been received. We’re a small team and we work hard, so every bit of feedback has been really valued.

We’ve been invited back to Cambridge University to partner with Art at the ARB on an exciting new exhibition project, and we’re working on exhibition projects in London and Amsterdam, too.

I sprinted the Elise at MIRA, Silverstone Stowe and Blyton Park. No trophies.

We went to my brother’s for his birthday, ate lunch in the garden, got annihilated by gnats in the woods.

We took part in our village yard sale. People asked for gun sights and Manchester United merchandise. I told a man that my dead grandmother would haunt the dinner service he haggled me on.

We went to Belgium, to Graspop festival, to see Killswitch Engage, and Iron Maiden. We visited the university city of Leuven and explored the beautiful streets during the longest day festival, we ate delicious food and toured the gothic town hall.

Before coming home we visited the Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis, the oldest botanical garden in Belgium. If I could live in a palm house, I would.


I went to Croatia, wow, Croatia, and I glamped, which is something I never thought I would say, or want to say, but I loved it. I think it was helped by the brilliant company, but staying in a fancy pants tent at the side of the Adriatic Sea, eating the best food and drinking honey grappa, walking the historic streets of Pula and taking a boat to the National Park island of Brijini, well, it was all pretty unexpectedly epic to me.


Jayne and I went to France, to St Gilles Croix de Vie, to Festival Pil’Ours, to launch the Shutter Hub Because We Can! Exhibition.

We hired the cheapest car,‘ Chevrolet Spark or similar’, it said on the Thrifty website. It turned out to be a cute convertible Fiat 500. Not an Abarth, but still, cute.

We drove 130km from La Rochelle airport, and arrived at our hotel, Ker Louis. It was closed. We phoned and were told ‘Come back tomorrow!’ Jayne persevered, struggled, held her own in French, and was eventually told, in English, that there was a code for the door and our keys would be in our rooms. We chucked our bags in and then headed out to see if we could find some food. We asked in the hotel restaurant, no, we were too late, we were told. Then it clicked. The man from the phone! From his seated view in the restaurant, he watched everything, just didn’t help. It was like Fawlty Towers, but without the comedy.

Our exhibition launch was very well received, people were lovely, the festival was great, and opportunities to do more in the future were presented. Later in the afternoon we headed over to Le Fenoullier to see another one of the exhibitions. The local mayor appeared to be very taken with Jayne, talking very closely to her for quite some time, in French, which I struggled to understand fully. When we went to leave, he reached out and shook Jayne’s hand. In politeness, I extended my hand too… he pulled my finger. It wasn’t a joke (but it has provided me with lots of laughs!)

In the evening we ate a supermarket (Super U) picnic by the sea, and watched thousands of tiny silver fish swarm in the dark blue water of the bay. Later, when we walked into the town, there was an accordion band playing, and dozens of people dancing. It was more than wonderful.

Jayne came home vowing to be more French (she’s been eating cheese and watching Amelie) and I decided it’s about time I cracked out one of my piano accordions and got playing!

There’s a full report, feedback and lots of photos of the Because We Can! exhibition over here, on the Shutter Hub blog.

Oh, and,the Toiletries Amnesty website is up and running (and awesome, yeah!) We’ve even been featured by the Big Issue!

We really do still need your help though – if you can spare a few minutes just to have a look at the website, have a think and see if you know any organisations who would benefit from free toiletries, have a look and see if you’ve got something you can donate, tell your friends and help spread the word, and, if you can help financially at all, either through a small donation, or some kind of fundraiser, we’d be eternally grateful.

I guess this all explains why I’ve not written for a while? I’ll try to tone it down for a bit. Promise.

Welcome to the World of Karen Harvey: photographer, writer, creative consultant… self proclaimed cat whisperer, chicken wrangler and chief cake taster!