1 June 2009 by Duncan Mills
Raindrops are falling on my head as i walk across the terrace of the Valldemossa Hotel. Small puddles form on the Mallorcan stone underfoot, the rain freshening the air on a dark and still evening.
Large iron candlesticks, lined up along the walls of this rampart-like building, stand out against the moonlight. Their dampened candles, together with a scattering of tables laid out among gnarled olive trees give a hint of the intimacy and romance that this location would offer on drier evenings fi lled with stars.
Daylight, heralded by the crowing of a cockerel nearby the following morning, reveals the fi ne surroundings this elegant retreat is set in. The terrace is now dry enough to sit out on, and as the sun rises above the Serra de Tramuntana mountains the gentle thrill of relaxation takes hold in no time at all as I sit down in a broad wicker chair, and enjoy the view.
Around me is a valley patched with farms growing olives, oranges, cherries and lemons, which funnels down towards Palma Bay a mile or so distant, its waves a faint smudge. Closer to the hotel, the braying of donkeys and occasional bleat of a goat on the hillside provides the orchestra of the morning. Music – and raindrops of the kind I’d witnessed the previous evening – have a close association with this valley. Above the hotel is the tranquil mountain village of Valldemossa and its star attraction, a beautiful Carthusian monastery which was for a brief time a retreat for the celebrated Polish composer, Frédéric Chopin, and the French novelist, George Sand.
The monastery and the valley inspired them both, Sand wrote A Winter in Majorca; Chopin completed several works here, including his Preludes Opus 28, a set of music that includes one of his most famous compositions, commonly known as the ‘Raindrop’ Prelude. Looking out from the balcony of the monastic cell in which he lived in 1838/39, you can certainly appreciate why he referred to it as “the most beautiful place in the world”. The hotel has, in homage, named rooms after Chopin and other creative souls. Mine, a spacious room decorated in pastel colours and antique furniture is named after Ramón Llull, a thirteenthcentury Mallorcan poet and courtier to King James I of Aragon and King James II of Mallorca. Whether the two beds pushed together that make up my ‘double’ are to Llull’s specifi cations I’m not sure, but it’s comfortable all the same.
Comfort and intimacy are hallmarks of the hotel. With just 12 rooms spread across several levels, it feels somewhat like a sprawling country house – with secluded wings off the grand entrance stairway that leads up from the driveway to the terrace and pretty gardens.
One secret path leads to a heated indoor pool and spa, while on a lower terrace at the rear of the hotel is an outdoor pool and, beyond that, a cherry orchard and charming outdoor patio area, often used for outdoor dining and other private functions. The dining at Valldemossa is top drawer – and draws top diners, too. The actor, Michael Douglas, who has a house nearby, is among the restaurant’s admirers. And the evening menu that I try doesn’t disappoint: from the delicate and inventive prawn carpaccio to the tasty open ravioli with sobrasada – Mallorcan sausage meat – and delicious cinnamon ice cream.
Breakfast on the terrace brings mention of another creative fi gure. While I ponder over choices on the menu, I see the name of Luis Borges, the Argentine writer and poet, written alongside the morning’s specials. He also lived for a time in the village. And Valldemossa was also the birthplace of Catalina Thomas ‘La Beata’, the only Mallorcan saint. The village and hotel together make a simply divine combination.