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Mallorca moves up-market

Costa Rica

Mallorca is still the perfect choice if you only want those simple holiday staples of sun, sand and sea. But there is so much more to see and do away from the beach on the eternally popular island in the Mediterranean, as the writer discovered on a return visit. Photo, by the writer - Jumeirah Port Soller, infinity pool.

Glam tram

If you want to know the enormous tourist attraction Swansea Bay’s Mumbles Railway, shut in 1960, could have been today, ride the utterly charming tram, built in 1914 on three miles of track between Sóller and Port Sóller. The original wooden cars even have reversible seats - just like Mumbles. Simply reposition the back to face the direction of travel. Trams trundle importantly along Port Sóller’s curving bay, then cross the fierce-sounding Torrent Major on an iron bridge. In Soller they proceed importantly through narrow streets, finally bisecting the central square, Plaça Constitució. Then past the fine church of Sant Bartomeu, to
connect to the equally atmospheric railway that links to Palma. There are two free museums next to the terminus, showing works by Miro and Picasso.

Take a spin

Majorca has become a major destination for cyclists. You can be as serious
and Lycra-clad, or slow and local as you like. We hired bicycles in Port
Soller and ambled up to Centro Capvespre, in the little valley above
Soller, where they showcase the bumper local orange and olive
production. It's a longer jaunt to the town of Valldemossa, where they
have long since forgiven composer Chopin and his partner George Sand, for
negative comments about the winter weather when they stayed on the island.
Nowadays they hold frequent recitals of Chopin's work. My choice for the
most delightful visit on the island is to the house where the devout
little girl who became Santa Catalina Thomás (Mallorca’s patron saint) was
born.

High Sights

Dry stone walls form the frames for an ancient tapestry of terraces,
orchards, vegetable gardens and olive groves on the island’s north west
coast. This land is still worked, a millennium after Arab settlers first
managed the water that tumbles off a sheer-sided mountain range above. An
ingenious system based on qanāts, ancient and still functioning
vertical shafts linked to gently sloping tunnels, transformed a harsh
region. UNESCO awarded Cultural Landscape status to the Serra de
Tramuntana, a “spectacular” example of a terraced, farmed landscape,
dotted with churches, sanctuaries, towers, lighthouses and small stone
buildings. Steep and twisty roads and a network of paths link villages
well worth a visit and only lightly touched by tourism, such as Lluc,
Escorca and Pollença.

Poet’s Corner

Robert Graves, one of the First World War poets, found tranquility in the
rest of his life in Deià. The English writer built a house on a stupendous
plot by the village, mountains behind, the Mediterranean below, on the
proceeds of Goodbye to All That, his candid war memoir. To pay off the
mortgage, he wrote his I,Claudius here. Graves lived in Deià from 1929 until
he died in 1985. The home is restored with all essential details in place,
down to the Aga in the kitchen. A gallery displays the covers of his many
books, alongside newspaper cuttings and letters. There’s a well-kept
garden, with carob, almond, orange, tangerine and lemon trees. As in all
the best homes of famous people, this place of deep peace feels as if
Graves had just popped out for a quick swim down at the beach. Robert and
his second wife lie in the village churchyard.

Hotel Serenity

The Jumeirah Port Soller, a brilliant vision in white clinging to the
cliff high above the town and opened in 2012, is one of the best hotels on
the island. 11 low-slung structures fold gently into the gradient,
a handsome architectural payback to those awful uniform boxes once standard on the
beachfront. They used local materials and traditional local construction
methods. As well as looking gorgeous, the hotel has many eco-friendly
features, including rain water recycling, and renewable energy use. It's a
place of serene retreat, floating above this busy island, with the bonus
of high views far out to sea. I found the staff especially friendly and
helpful.

Find Dining

A short stroll down from Deià, just above a pebbly beach, there are two
simple waterside fish restaurants. We sampled the one on the left as you
face the sea, a perfect example of a little family-run place. They kindly
advised us that one starter of Pimientos de Padrón Fritos, peppers In
fried virgin olive oil with coarse salt, would suffice for two. Our next
meal of distinction was in a far busier place, at Sa cova in the main
square in Soller, where we had octopus ink risotto. Most spectacular of
all was Cap Roig tapas restaurant, facing the setting sun at the very top
of the hotel, just above the infinity pool.
Elegant Resorts, who arranged Gareth’s flights and stay, offer 7 nights at the Jumeirah from £1,175 including breakfast, flights and transfer.

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