Travel review: Majorca
To observe at close range the grazing habits of the Majorcan goat, it’s essential to find a good vantage point.
Mine was the infinity pool at our holiday villa, set in a parcel of rural tranquillity in the south-east of the island, which afforded a perfect view of the resilient goats as they foraged for some elusive green shoots.
Such fascinating entertainment was just the right pace for a lazy villa holiday. And these goats don’t only provide a pleasant visual backdrop for unwinding British holidaymakers in this corner of Majorca. They also act as a reliable alarm clock.
Every morning we awoke to – or were perhaps awakened by? – the tinkling of the bells tied round their necks. Then, after dark, the tolling of those bells made a comforting backing track as we relaxed with a bottle of wine under the stars on the villa’s terrace.
But the real bell-ringer was that this pastoral idyll was just half a mile from a stretch of coastline with plenty of shops, beaches, bars and restaurants. It really was the best of both worlds.
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After two days of acclimatising while enjoying the sights and sounds of Palma, Majorca’s vibrant capital, four of us piled into a hire car and headed east for a week of R&R courtesy of villa holiday specialist Mallorca Farmhouses, who promise stunning locations and luxurious furnishings at all their 100 properties.
Ours was close to the popular resort of Cala d’Or and to find it from the main road we had to locate a gap in a stone wall, follow a rough track and then slide open a heavy wooden gate before driving round the edge of a field and up a bumpy drive lined with palm trees.
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First impressions count when you arrive at a holiday home but we needn’t have worried because there, at the end of the drive, was a splendid, stylish, spacious villa, recently built in the Moorish style and enjoying a commanding position looking out across the goat fields to the sparkling Mediterranean.
Inside there’s a decent kitchen, a huge living/dining room with comfy sofas and four well-proportioned bedrooms, all with modern en-suite bathrooms. But it’s the outside areas which really ticked the boxes: a large tiled terrace – half of it covered – with sun loungers surrounding the gorgeous pool, an outhouse with large barbecue area as well as a very convenient loo, and a double garage with a table tennis table.
Add in the mature shrubs, neat stone walling and (green) grassy area, and you have the perfect platform for a family break.
During our week there, a favourite “circuit” consisted of a rigorous hour of table tennis (don’t underestimate how much energy you will expend) followed by a cooling dip in the pool and then a sprawl on the sunbeds with a glass or two of cold liquid nearby.
While there’s no real reason why you couldn’t spend a whole week following this sort of routine, we felt that would have been a little too insular.
An obvious need to get out and about to buy in supplies led us to the compact supermarket just half a mile away, which stocked everything we could possibly need, including some fabulous fresh seafood, excellent fruit and vegetables and cases of San Miguel beer at the unbeatable price of less than �1 a litre. And with plenty of good Spanish wine available for �3 or �4 a bottle, it’s no surprise that the car was groaning on the way back to the villa.
Cala d’Or has expanded over recent years and now embraces a succession of sandy coves which are popular with sunbathers and swimmers. But the more adventurous can find quieter havens.
We drove for five miles along a tiny winding country lane which came to an abrupt halt in a rough car park from which steps led down to a glorious tree-lined inlet with beach bar and sunbeds for hire – and it was relatively uncrowded. You won’t find virgin coastline in this part of Majorca!
For us villa-dwellers the main attraction in Cala d’Or was the marina with its up-market yachts surrounded by a plethora of bars and restaurants, most offering alfresco waterside dining. The spectrum ranges from good-quality pizzerias to sophisticated places serving top-end cuisine.
We found – and kept going back to – a superb tapas restaurant where the limited menu, as opposed to the huge lists offered by many others, was a strong hint that quality came first. How right we were: the dates with bacon, crispy chicken salad, prawns with garlic, octopus, meatballs and spicy peppers padron were simple but wonderfully tasty.
Other highlights down at the marina included a popular bar run by a laid-back lady from Lancashire where live televised English cricket was an escapist pleasure for many holidaying husbands, and a Hawaiian-style cocktail bar offering outrageously crafted combinations in over-the-top surroundings.
Venturing north away from the coast one morning, we drove up the excruciatingly twisty, narrow road to the sanctuary of Sant Salvador, perched 500 metres above sea level on the top of a mountain of the same name.
Dating back to 1348, the monks have long gone but Mass is still celebrated weekly and the caf� does a roaring trade thanks to visitors who come here to enjoy the truly breathtaking views of almost the whole island.
With lunchtime looming, we headed to Porto Colom, a fishing village set around a deep natural harbour which was named in honour of Christopher Columbus, who is reputed to have been born here.
It’s also linked to King Juan Carlos of Spain who apparently often visits its best restaurant, but we settled for a good three-course lunch for 15 euros a head at a modest but well-run establishment on the harbourside.
South of Cala d’Or, on the way to the popular twin beaches of Cala Mondrago, situated in a nature reserve, lies pretty Portopetro, which has retained its old-world character including whitewashed cottages and genuine “local” restaurants.
A little further south in charming Cala Figuera, where fishermen’s houses line the picturesque inlet, we enjoyed an excellent lunch of locally caught seafood.
It was wonderful to have so many places to visit within a short drive of our holiday home, but the best days were probably those spent at our own pace (ie slow) in the comfort of the villa.
This southeasterly corner of Majorca, with its reliable climate, rural vistas and range of attractions, has more than justified its position as an attractive destination for British holidaymakers. My advice is to select a nice villa in a quiet spot but close to amenities, then lie back and unwind. - GRAHAM BRIGHT
l Graham Bright was a guest of Mallorca Farmhouses, which offers an extensive portfolio of exclusive villas, country cottages and rustic farmhouses, all with maid service, starter pack and private pool. Car hire and private chefs are optional extras.
l Prices in 2011 start from �369 per week for a two-bedroom country cottage, while Exclusive Collection homes start from �725 per week for a six-bedroom traditional farmhouse.
l Reservations: 0845 800 8080 and www.mallorca.co.uk
l Monarch offers year-round flights into Majorca from Gatwick, with summer departures from Luton starting at �46.50 (one way) and �76.99 (return).
l Monarch reservations: 08719 405 040 and www.monarch.co.uk
l Other airlines with direct flights ex-UK include Easyjet, Ryanair, FlyBE, Bmibaby and Jet2.
l A week’s car hire from Alamo starts at �124 (0871 384 1086 and www.Alamo.co.uk).