We might well think we know everything about Mallorca – possibly spelled Majorca and often pronounced with a hard ‘j’! It’s evidently a tapestry of an island and so far we are just considering the name!
This is a beautiful island which has laboured under the touristic yoke of cheap package tours and ‘English Pubs’ with all that they imply. But there is another face of Mallorca – one of history, culture and the arts. This represents a far greater proportion of the island than the relatively small area of high-rise hotels and iffy t-shirts.
Composer Frederick Chopin and his lover George Sand discovered the charm of Mallorca in 1838. That was before modern trippers fell upon the island’s beaches. His health was failing with what was later diagnosed as tuberculosis.
Frederick and George made a strange and noteworthy couple, although it should be mentioned that the aforementioned George was a woman, a French author called Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin. She was evidently a radical cigar-smoking, betrousered lady who was bound to arouse comments. They were evicted from their villa near the capital, Palma, due to the fear of Chopin’s lung disease and the couple’s unorthodox lifestyle.
An original manuscript from Chopin
They discovered a 13th century Carthusian monastery in the hilltop town of Valldemossa. Here they lived for the following months. The monastery was originally built as a royal palace; however in 1399 it had been converted into a monastery. The Spanish government had confiscated monasteries in the 1830s and sold the estate to private owners. One can learn something of their experiences in a book written by George Sand called A Winter in Majorca.
The monastery is now a museum where one can see the three rooms and a garden terrace once enjoyed by Chopin and his lady-love. There is a jar-filled pharmacy dating from the 1720s, an original manuscript from Chopin’s final work, and what is thought to be his piano.
Valldemossa is a beautiful and unspoilt village and worth a visit even if Chopin isn’t your favourite composer. There are small shops and bars, bakeries and stunning views across the valley. These stone buildings offer a glimpse of life centuries ago. It’s often cooler here than on the coast, with refreshing breezes and the perfume of wild flowers.
The joy of Mallorca
Decades later writer Robert Graves discovered the joy of Mallorcan hill life. It was he who wrote I Claudius and many more popular novels of the 20th century. He lived in Deià, from 1929 (with a short break for the war) until his death. He was fleeing the psychological damage that had plagued him after he was badly injured at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.
His house has been refurbished and adapted for visitors, and was opened to the public in the summer of 2006. One can see the kitchen, bedroom, sitting room and office. One has the sense that the great man might just have stepped out into the garden to collect some artichokes. The vegetable garden is well-established and will be of great interest to anyone with green fingers. Yes, those artichokes are flourishing but so are the fruit trees, giving oranges to be made into the quintessentially English marmalade.
There is a section of the house which has been transformed into a museum and this holds manuscripts, memorabilia and books giving an overview of the life of Robert Graves. There are copies of his novels in a multitude of languages, showing just how internationally well-regarded he was. Perhaps some holiday reading should be the memoir “Good-bye to All That,” with its focus on World War I, which had such an impact on the author. Robert Graves died in Mallorca and lies in a surprisingly humble grave under a great cypress tree in the lovely local churchyard. It’s a must-visit for his many literary admirers.
Where to stay
But where to stay in Mallorca? The Hotel Bon Sol (review here) makes a convenient base for visiting all the attractions of Palma, just a short bus ride away; and also the hills behind with those beautiful villages and their cultural connections. Mallorca has more to offer than an English Breakfast.
Hotel Bon Sol Resort & Spa has 146 rooms and villas spread through the grounds, with excellent dining and leisure facilities including a luxury spa, 3 swimming pools, tennis, and a quiet beach cove.
Visit Hotel Bon Sol Resort and Spa here
Classic Collection Holidays offers 3 / 7 nights at Hotel Bon Sol from £727 / £1252 per person. Prices based on 2 adults sharing a classic room on half-board basis with return flights from Gatwick (other regional airports available) and private transfers.
To book this hotel and others visit Classic Collection Holidays here or call 0800 294 9315.
For more information on Mallorca visit Fomento del Turisme www.fomentmallorca.org/en/.
Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018