Have you ever thought of spending your holidays on the Balearic island of Mallorca ? I don't mean package-tour Mallorca , in that stronghold of mass tourism at Palma , rather that Mallorca hidden away in the quiet, romantic regions! One of the nicest alternatives is to stay with the Mallorcan locals out in the countryside. We have therefore spent a bit of time hunting out the best fincas for you....
When you are fuming in yet another city traffic jam about to be late for yet another appointment, do you some times yearn for some distant country where lemons grow, where spring, like a prelude, is already playing in the woods and meadows and where an old family house will soothe and delight the senses? Mallorca is such a Garden of Eden. The image of it being solely for lobster-coloured beer-swillers and other all-inclusive, mass- travel groups in ancient history. Usually my preferred boutique hotel is the chic and very stylish "La Reserva Rotana" in Manacor, owned by H.R.H the Princess Loretta von Sayn-Wittgenstein. However, a more rural setting is now quite the in thing-a quiet retreat for time to think.
A holiday on the farm - that is the latest holiday option on Mallorca . A group of local farmers and landowners have set up their own association for this to rent out their finest fincas. The intention is to give guests an opportunity to get a closer look at the culture, tradition and gastronomic specialities of the island.
In the Ca`Nai, my favourite finca - you can experience an usually delicious mixture of nouvelle cuisine and plain, but far from ordinary fare. You can enjoy the authentic country lifestyle with the local population. The Spanish-cum-Arabian styled fincas are ideal for families with children and their friends. Other farmhouse are more suited to couples seeking a romantic retreat. Many of the country homes are located around the small mountain villages, perfectly situated between the lemon and orange groves and often fairly near the sea. Most of them offer visitors freshly pressed fruit juices, herbs of every kind and home-made jams, which can also be bought for a few pesetas if you are not staying there. Anybody looking for complete seclusion will find it on the Tramuntana plateau, Col de Soller - perfect for keen hikers. In fact the largest Balearic Island is ideal for people who like walking and want to discover the peaceful side of the island.
The gnarled olive trees were actually planted by the Romans and it was the Romans who gave the islands their names: `Balearis Minors' for Menorca and `Balearis Major' for Mallorca . We think how peaceful it is here as we are walking around! It is difficult to believe that in the 15th and 16th century civil war raged here almost the entire time. It was not until the 18th century that Mallorca 's economy started to boom when the first tourists came to the island.
Taking a break on a Spanish farm can be sincerely recommended - far from the worries of city life, you can build up your resources again. Anybody interested in renting a finca should contact the following links: Fincas for rent ; Rural Hotels & Villas; Charming Farmhouses.
COCKTAIL-BARS ABACO & ABACANTO
After a long day and lot's of new discoveries, we are longing to relax. The best way to do so is to have a good drink at Mallorca 's most famous cocktail bar "Abaco". Come in, into a world of magic, where classical melodies, opulent bouquets of flowers and delicious, colourful fruits remind one of the golden abundance of the land of milk and honey. On the stroke of midnight rose petals come raining gently down from the baroque heavens, enveloping you in sweet scent. You stand here in a daze, rubbing your eyes like a child, afraid to awake from this beautiful dream.
Right in the middle of one of Palma de Mallorca's palatial inner courts, the Spanish interior architect, Salvador Palao, has created a symphony of a hundred candles, a universe of delightful illusions, an oasis of relaxation. He shows me around before we sit down to enjoy one of his cocktail delights and I have to admit I am impressed.
If you enter Abaco, you are entering a real film set. It is as if you were sitting back in your armchair to watch a play or an opera. We are all actors in this play, and the production lies in our own hands. For me, Abaco is an art form, a hands-on art museum. You can enjoy the pure fruits which you see everywhere here...on stairs, in corners, on tables - or you can have of course the fruit juice prepared as a cocktail. Actually, I see myself as an interior designer, but originally I was a Professor of Art. I just love creating special atmospheres and producing beautiful things...
Of course a "secret tip" doesn't stay secret for long. Abaco is an attraction for tourists rather than for locals, but we don't care. The setting is simply incredible. A must go-go in Palma's nightlife! (Calle Sant Joan, 1 La Lonja, Palma, Tel: 971 71 49 39).
In the wake of the resouning success of Abaco, Salvador Palao opened another bar "Abacanto" - a small-scale XVII century château before the gates of the city, with a beautiful garden and fountains. Here too there are flowers, candles and fruit in plenty, which are replaced three times a week and polished everyday. (Camino de Son Nicolau, Palma, Tel: 971 71 49 39)
CHOPIN & GEORGE SAND
What would romantic Mallorca be like without the memory of the romantic period! In 1838 the ailing Polish composer, Frederic Chopin came to the sleepy mountain village of Valdemossa with his mistress, the French novelist, George Sand, to improve his health in the mild climate of Mallorca . Chopin wrote to a friend: “Here in the monastery in Valdemossa, I am surrounded by glistening, reddish walls and the perfume of myrtle and lemon trees - it must be one of the most magnificent locations imaginable.”
At the Carthusian monastery Chopin and George Sand moved into three rooms in a monastic cell which reflected the spartan life of the monks there.
”The vases are still on the alters with their wilting flowers and the candelabra with the half-burnt candles.....”
This is what George Sand wrote in one of her most famous works `A winter on Mallorca'. By the way, the original manuscripts are seen next to Chopin's notes and other mementoes of the two in Valdemossa Monastery. George Sand continued: “A rather pathetic piano completed the furnishings. It is the same piano on which Chopin composed those sheets which he modestly called preludes. They are masterpieces.....”
Winter set in suddenly, and was bleak and harsh! Chopin's tuberculosis got much worse. Nonetheless, it was at this time that he wrote his famous “Prelude' of which his lover wrote: “The composition was full of the sound of the raindrops which echoed as they bounced off the tiles of the Carthusian monastery. But in his imagination they had become tears that fell from heaven into his heart.”
Their stay in the cold, damp monastery became tortuous for the ailing Chopin. He began spitting blood. When we listen to those melodious tunes in the concert auditorium, it is hard to believe that the genius that Frederic Chopin was, composed many of his masterpieces while he was going through hell, tortured by sleepless nights, fever and fear of death! George Sands, who nursed him throughout his illness, was powerless to protect him from his fate. She wrote in farewell: "Our stay in the monastery which was intended to be romantic retreat became a torture for him and agony for me.”
The couple finally returned to Paris . It was there in his home, at number 12 Place Vendôme, that the great Polish composer died on 17 October 1849, just 39 years old. Innumerable mementoes have remained in the Valdemossa Monastery as well as Chopin's unforgettable ballads, preludes and nocturnes which he composed here in Mallorca's serene surroundings. He once wrote of the island:
“This romantic valley is just one big garden - a sight that has captured my heart forever!”
ARCHDUKE LUDWIG SALVATOR ON MALLORCA
Archduke Ludwig Salvator von Habsburg-Lothringen was 20 years old when he first came to Mallorca - that is over 100 years ago. His aristocratic background was of little importance to him and so he lived under a pseudonym in his Mallorca residence "Son Marroig" - surrounded by gardens and a Greek temple. Today everyone can visit the whole property, where the aristocratic "drop-out" once wrote his 80 books about the Balearic Islands.
The Archduke's home at Son Marroig, outside Deia, has been turned into a shrine to his memory, with his photographs, paintings and books and a museum devoted to his life. His heirs have managed his property and gardens in much the same style, to the delight of everyone who comes here to visit today. In the gardens is a white marble rotunda, made from Carrara marble and imported from Italy , where you can sit and gaze at the Na Foradada ('pierced rock') peninsula. We, too, are really taken with the romance of this place. Ask at the house for permission to walk onto the peninsula.
In New York, the - great-great grandson of the last Emperor Franz-Joseph of Austria - tells me more about his famous ancestor Ludwig Salvator, also known as the "black sheep of the family"....
Archduke Dr. Géza von Habsburg:
"He was born in 1847 in the Pitti Palace , Florence , as the son of Leopold III of Tuscany and Marie Antoinette de Bourbon. He was a grandson to Emperor Leopold II - you saw his picture before. His brother was my great grandfather (it must sound a bit complicated, I know...)
He was dreaded at the court in Vienna because he was so unusually eccentric. Empress Elizabeth was particularly fond of him because they had that in common. He always appeared inappropriately dressed. One story tells of him using shoe laces instead of cuff links...he must have been a rather shocking figure for the extremely conservative members of Viennese court!
Archduke Ludwig Salvator was, in fact, one of the great scholars of our family, he was a keen botanist and wrote a number of books. Later, after he retired from the court in Vienna , he went to live in Mallorca . Anyway, it is known that he had a mistress there - Catalina Homar - I believe. He owned two ships - "Nixe 1" and "Nixe 2" - and built a series of houses on Mallorca . Among them his "Son Marroig" which is one of the best known. Today it houses a " Ludwig Salvator Museum ". There are a number of scandalous stories about him...his name has been mentioned in connection with a whole series of blonde, blue-eyed children who are supposed to be his offspring".
Of all the famous foreigners attracted to Mallorca 's northwest coast, none is so admired locally as 'S'Arxiduc', Archduke Ludwig Salvator. An ecologist before it was fashionable, and a hippy who wore Mallorcan peasant clothes, he bought up estates along the coast in an effort to save them from development. He also was well known for buying old olive trees and letting them live rather than allowing them to be cut down. He completely devoted himself to studying and recording Mallorcan wildlife and traditions. His seven volume "Las Baleares" took 20 years to produce and is still an authority on its subject. Ludwig Salvator died in 1915 in a Bohemian castle. Click for more information on his manor house "Son Marroig"
On the way to Porto d'Andraitx we meet a large property owner and his family, and receive a regal reception from Juan Nigorra on the patio of his parental home, definitely the most beautiful private finca on the island. The Nigorra's are one of the richest families on Mallorca . Like all the locals they are a little reserved, but extremely hospitable. Miguel Nigorra is president of the largest bank on the Balearic Islands and heads one of Mallorca 's most exclusive golf clubs, `Santa Ponsa'. His finca resembles a Spanish castle and just to walk round the property takes a good half an hour.
Mallorca is the pearl of the Mediterranean. From Senor Nigorra's luxury yacht, we are now able to admire the island from the water. We glide past the magnificent sandy beaches and romantic bays as we head for the yacht harbour of Porto d'Andraitx, where top model Claudia Schiffer also spends her summer holidays. Here, on the shore is one of the most beautiful of all hotels. It is not a finca but a magnificent Italian hotel and it is here in the luxury `' that we savour the remaining days of the holiday in absolute bliss.
The magnificent building, first built back in the 20's was recently completely renovated. The family-run villa has 22 apartments, all of which are tastefully fitted. The furnishings include marble baths and halls, textile wall-coverings and period furniture. We can wholeheartedly recommend the white luxury suite which has a view of the harbour. Beside holiday in a finca, the`Villa Italia' is definitely the nicest way to enjoy life on Mallorca - that enchanting island, as a poet once wrote, which each day opens up like a peacock's fan to display it's full, colourful glory.
GOLF WITH THE PRINCESS OF SWEDEN
Mallorca's brilliant sunshine knows no season - which is what makes the Balearic Island so attractive to golf players. The Santa Ponsa golf club, approximately 18 kilometres to the south of Palma is one of the most popular courses. And it is here that we meet Princess Birgitta, King Karl Gustav of Sweden's sister and wife of the German Johann-Georg, Prince von Hohenzollern. Each year the `Princess of Sweden Trophy' is played in her honour in Santa Ponsa and, if you are a golf-player, you can take part too.
I have arranged a game of golf with the Princess Birgitta.
The was inaugurated in January 1977. The 10th hole is one of the longest in Europe
and many national and international tournaments take place here. It's one of Mallorca's most beautiful courses
with many indigenous trees, vegetation, water obstacles and bunkers. King Karl Gustav of Sweden is at home, but also taking part in the game is a man who usually avoids the limelight, although he has many fans all over the world including me. The people on the island say that Mallorca has two famous artists “Miro is dead, but Mordillo and his large-nosed characters have always been more famous anyway.”
The golf course is an ideal setting for Mordillo's ideas. And, of course, his cartoon figures are as mad about sport as he is.
After working for 48 years in Buenes Aires, the Argentine cartoonist moved to the island of his dreams where he has been living now for more than 15 years. It was in his studio on Mallorca that his famous little men were created. On calendars, postcards and poster they bring pleasure to his fans all round the globe. The cartoons have even been made into films for TV or cinema.
Guillermo Mordillo's cartoons have been collectors' items for some time. I am lucky - I get my very personal cartoon with Mordillo's signature...
* This special feature "Mallorca" has been one of more than 300 Portraits, produced by Nathalie Gütermann for her TV-Shows 'Nathalie's Lifestyle' and 'Nathalie's Art of Living' that were broadcasted between 1990 - 2003 in Germany and in 15 countries world-wide. The content has been updated with actual information in 2008 for Nathalies-Lifestyle.com © 1990 - 2008. The reproduction or other use of any text, photographs, layout etc. needs the prior written permission of the Chief Publisher.