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Juiced perfect; It's possible to discover perfect peace in bustling Majorca - if you head for the hills.

Byline: MARJORIE YUE

Most visitors to the biggest of the Balearic Isles make a beeline for its popular seaside resorts. But only having a couple of nights to unwind on Majorca, my plan was to bypass the buzzing hotspots on the coast and head inland to the serenity of the hills - the Serra de Tramuntana range, to be precise.

We made the peaceful town of Soller, at the foot of the mountains, the base for our short escape, giving us the best of all worlds - the sophisticated city of Palma 20 miles away, the seaside chic of Port de Soller, a mere three-mile hop, while the dramatic mountain scenery was right on our doorstep.

And I was relieved to find that little had changed in this charming town in the northwest of island, since my first visit a decade ago when Soller welcomed the opening of a new hotel, L'Avenida. Then, owners Paul and Tania Slijper had just restored the 100-year-old modernist-style building, transforming it into a hip but welcoming hotel.

The British couple had a bit of an advantage taking on an original building designed by Joan Rubio I Bellver, a pupil of a certain renowned Spanish architect, Antonio Gaudi.

And it retains many of his original features including ornate frescoes, the magnificent marble floors and grand spiral staircases leading up to 12 rooms.

Paul's background in interior design is also in evidence, with antiques scattered tastefully around and beautiful chandeliers lighting up the wonderfully high ceilings.

The check-in was so welcoming that it was if we were old friends turning up for a casual house party. So it was no surprise to learn that over the past 10 years, this stylish hotel has acquired a clutch of accolades, including being acclaimed as one of Spain's top 20 hotels.

We arrived around lunchtime on Saturday afternoon, giving us time to nip round the weekly market before it closed.

All roads lead to the main square, Placa Constitucio, and towering over it, the Church of Sant Bartomeu - the modernist facade of this neo-Gothic church was also the work of Rubio.

At Bar Es Firo, one of many cafes lining the square, we ordered coffees, whiling away an hour people-watching as we decided where to dine that evening. We toyed with the idea of sampling one of Port de Soller's fine seafood restaurants, but in the end we opted for a five-minute stroll to tapas restaurant Casa Alvaro.

In a little lane off the main square, chef Alvaro serves up sensational tapas and divine seafood. The huge grilled prawns tasted as if they'd just been hoicked out of the Mediterranean minutes ago, the mini rack of lamb cooked over smoked olive wood and cardamom was full of flavour, and the patatas bravas were simply the best I'd ever eaten.

I still had room next morning for breakfast on the terrace by the inviting pool and patio garden filled with bougainvillea and geraniums. A platter of serrano ham, local cheeses, heritage tomatoes and huge cherries, with hunks of rustic bread, coffee and freshly pressed Soller oranges, set us up for a day trip to Port de Soller.

The fishing and yacht harbour is only an [euro]8 taxi ride away but it's much more fun to travel by tram. Majorca's first electric tram line opened in 1913. Now it's the last in Spain. Leaving via the Placa Constitucio, the trams trundle through orchards laden with oranges, close enough to lean out and pick them. The sea comes into view as the tram winds round the bay by the side of the promenade.

Since my last visit, the Port has had a makeover. Restaurants and bars now spill over onto the new pedestrian boulevard. There are two beaches - Es Traves and Playa d'en Repic.

That evening, a thrillingly theatrical thunderstorm almost derailed a planned trip to Palma on our last day. But we woke to sun and got a ticket to ride on the famous antique train (built in 1912) between Soller and Palma.

Its wooden carriages rattled along the 17-mile narrow gauge railway track through the Serra de Tramuntana, past forests of oak and pine and orange, lemon and olive groves.

Magical Soller had done the trick - I flew feeling incredibly relaxed. Those few days in the laidback town had truly been a tonic.

TRAVEL FILE GET THERE Monarch flies to Majorca from Gatwick, Birmingham, Luton, Leeds Bradford and Manchester with one-way fares from PS39. monarch.co.uk BOOK IT B&B doubles at Hotel L'Avenida cost from PS175 per night (based on two sharing). Check out discounts and offers at avenida-hotel.com or call 0034 971 634 075

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TASTEFUL Room at L'Avenida
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 20, 2017
Words:783
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