Saturday July 28, 2012
By Andrew Marshall
Musicians wax lyrical over it, poets visit and stay put,and golfers like it, too. You can’t go wrong with Mallorca in Spain.
A SKY like turquoise, a sea like lapis lazuli, mountains like emerald, air like heaven,” wrote the Polish composer Fryderyk Chopin in his letters home from Mallorca.
This was in the late 1830s, when he swapped grey northern winters for the warmth of Mediterranean sunshine.
Chopin described the island in typical touristy prose that could have come straight from the pages of a brochure more than 100 years later. Another celebrated devotee of the “Golden Isle” was Robert Graves, one of the great English love poets of the 20th century, who arrived for a second time in 1946 and never looked back.
Since the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the first charter flights began to arrive in Mallorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands, has continued every year to attract millions of visitors who come in search of its sunny climate, vibrant nightlife and to claim some of the most beautiful stretches of sand in the Mediterranean.
But there’s much more to this island than the beach scene. For starters, how about the historic capital of Palma, the picturesque mountain village of Deya, the spectacular Tramuntana mountain range, top-class golf and the rich local gastronomy?
A culinary experience
The island’s benign climate, fertile soil and sea provide a great variety of produce for chefs to work with.
From the land comes pork, in particular from the indigenous black pig, which for centuries has supplied sausage-type products such as local favourite sobrassada.
Then there’s tender wild lamb and smaller game like rabbit and partridge that provide the ingredients for traditional stews and soups. Lining the shelves of Mallorca’s larder are quality virgin olive oils, fine cheeses, succulent oranges, honey, almonds and world-class wines awarded with a Designation of Origin.
The sea provides a rich array of seafood such as grouper, red mullet, scorpion fish, octopus, cuttlefish and the red lobster – the main ingredient in some memorable dishes such as seafood stew or caldera.
More than 2,500 restaurants offer everything, from simple home-style Mallorcan cooking to gourmet fare, and the culinary experience can range from a simple breakfast of café con leche and a delicious ensaďmada pastry enjoyed in a rustic bar, to dishes prepared by the island’s top chefs. A good example is the Michelin-starred Marc Fosh, who has recently opened his third restaurant on the island, called Misa Braseria + Bar. Each of his three Palma restaurants has its own character and style: Misa is casual and accessible, Tasca de Blanquerna offers Mallorcan cuisine with a twist, and Simply Fosh is upmarket gastronomic.
Try the Grilled Squid with Black Rice, Saffron Aioli and Tomato or the Catalan Fish Soup with Monkfish and Mussels or the Slow-cooked Beef in Hay and Mountain Herbs.
An excellent and authentic way to get into the island’s gastronomic swing is to join the locals on the Ruta Martiana or tapas crawl (starting around 9am on a Tuesday night in Palma’s Plaça d’en Coll area).
Tapas are basically a generic name for small portions of anything edible to be enjoyed with a drink, followed by a main meal, but for many people they can be the main focus of an evening by going from bar to bar.
Tapas can vary from simple to gourmet, it could be a bowl of olives or tortilla espańola (potato omelette on bread) or more sophisticated offerings like angulas (baby eels on toast).
Away from the food, you must find time to taste some of the island’s other activities and places of interest.
With its tree-lined promenades, seafront paths, harbour area and swirling Modernista architecture, the island’s capital, Palma, is an attractive city to explore.
Don’t miss the island’s best cultural attraction – the majestic 800-year-old Cathedral. This unique triumph of gothic architecture, features a 12m-wide rose window studded with 1,236 pieces of stained glass and decorative works designed by Spain’s most famous architect, Antoni Gaudí.
For shopping, you should head to the centrally located Avinguda Jaume III and Passeig des Born, where international brands are to be found; and for traditional shops, boutiques and art galleries, you must visit the pedestrian streets behind des Born.
When it comes to exploring the rest of Mallorca, you must make sure to include one of its best drives. Almost 70km of mountain road with more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie novel, separate the town of Andratx from the valley of Soller, in the island’s southwest, where spectacular cliffs, stunning sea views, ancient fortresses and twisted olive trees on mountain slopes are the star performers.
Of interest to nature lovers and located in Campos on the southern coast, is Es Trenc, one of the island’s few virgin beaches and home to more than 170 bird species.
For reasonably experienced hikers, a walk through the Tramuntana Mountains, a recently anointed Unesco World Heritage Site, is a must-do with the dry stone route to Lluc Monastery well recommended.
A Golfer’s Paradise
Mallorca is also a great destination for golfers, offering 24 quality courses with several within chipping distance of Palma.
One of these is Son Gual, which since opening in 2007 has quickly gained a reputation as not only a “must play” but also one of Europe’s top golf destinations.
What was once 156ha of flat non-descript agricultural land on the outskirts of Palma has been transformed into a polished layout that winds its way through a landscape of gently rolling hills, a thousand mature olive trees, fields of wild flowers, pockets of vineyards and water features, all overlooked by an early 20th-century Mallorcan manor house.
Another great course is the Robert Trent Jr-designed Club de Golf Alcanada, situated on the picturesque north coast and set to the stunning backdrop of the Bay of Alcudia, with several “open up your shoulders” shots from elevated tee blocks that see you driving high above sea level into the watery horizon.
A great day out for adventurous families is The Reserva Puig de Galatzó near the mountain village of Puigpunyent, where you can feel the thrill of Aventur, an adventure park with suspension bridges, climbing walls and a series of amazing zip lines. Enjoy a swim under the waterfalls and finish off with a lunch under the trees.
Over the years, the coastal mountain village of Deya has adopted a number of artists and writers attracted by the beauty and bohemian atmosphere of the location.
The new La Residencia Sculpture Garden (opening in March 2012) will showcase a mix of contemporary and classical pieces, comprising of different materials and styles.
With the backdrop of the ever-present Tramuntana Mountains and the aquamarine Mediterranean Sea, the collection will be split, with pieces placed on the landscaped gardens and spread up through the mountainside and positioned around sun-drenched olive terraces where visitors can explore the collection by following pebbled pathways.
Entry to the sculpture garden will be complimentary with all pieces available for purchase.
Another attraction under development, which promises to be the new luxury meeting point for the yachtie and glamour crowd, is the revamped mega yacht port of Port Adriano in Mallorca’s southwest.
Planned for completion by May 2012, it will feature a new commercial and restaurant area designed by French super star designer Philippe Starck.
Balearic Tourism Agency: illesbalears.es
Is distributed throughout Europe at select golf courses. For the discriminating traveller to Mallorca, Golf&Go! offers gourmet, wine and shopping tours and golf travel packages.