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The Real Mallorca

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Cheap air travel is now a given for all of us but back in the early eighties I had my first experience when booking a charter flight to Corsica. I boarded the plane somewhat fearful of the riffraff I might be sat with, to be put instantly at my ease by the sight of BBC TV reporter Brian Hanrahan (“I counted them all out, and I counted them back again”) in the row behind.

I looked around at my fellow passengers and all of them looked suitably civilised, a couple of them even wearing Panama hats and holding books – serious books – not Ben Elton or Being Jordan, and I knew I would love Corsica. Fast forward 20 odd years and I experienced that self same trepidation when recently dispatched to the holiday island of Mallorca.

For several years I have been reading how everyone from Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones via the King of Spain, Boris Becker and Alex “red nose” Ferguson himself, make this their destination of choice. But how come the airline queue in front of me boasted an endless mass of gormless, multi-tattooed families in matching football shirts stretching as far as the eye can see. Which was the real Mallorca of the “noughties”?

The chic second home of the international jet set or the terre promise of the likes of the Gallaghers from “Shameless”.

Few places in Europe now boast so many design and boutique hotels and that’s always a good clue as to how “in” any place is. The international cognoscenti think nothing of paying several hundred euros for a rabbit hutched size room as long as it has been anointed with a couple of pieces of Philippe Starck object d’art.

There is also a clutch of Michelin starred restaurants too. My first port of call is the recently opened Son Julia

The whole object of the exercise is to provide an oasis of pampered luxury…

the second such enterprise on the island after the Gran Hotel Son Net – for the Stein group. This beautiful 15th Century mansion was stunningly restored and opened its doors barely a year ago. Incredibly, it has but 25 rooms and suites and yet with its two outdoor and one indoor pools, its spa, tennis court and beautiful grounds make it a true retreat.

It doesn’t boast a coastal location but few of the best boutique hotels do because the whole object of the exercise is to provide an oasis of pampered luxury, so that guests don’t need to go out into the harsh realities of the outside world. The East of the island is like a little Germany – with more Ottos and sauerkraut than you could shake a stick at – and yet just a few miles from Arta lies Son Gener, a sympathetically restored 18th Century farmhouse.

Its owner/architect has combined the best of old and new and whilst not overburdened with any great facilities, it is a gloriously stylish environment in which to loll and lollop. Journey but a few miles West and another new kid on the block, Son Penya has also recently opened offering much of the same. Situated in San Llorenc, it’s the home of, in my opinion, the islands best Michelin starred restaurant Es Moliden Bou .

Mallorca’s boutique hotels are not merely confined to the countryside, with Palma having several such, including the much talked about Puro, the nearby and the charming Hotel Jamie III. Just half an hour back East and 09 beyond the otherwise innocuous town of Manacor lies La Reserva Rotana, the daddy of them all and in many ways my favourite, having been established by the wonderfully characterful Swiss owner back in the seventies.

Here from its elevated position guests can enjoy a private nine-hole golf course, on top of all the usual blandishments, along with some of the best cuisine the island has to offer.

Relax with a post prandial night-cap in the incredible Safari Bar, where the owners unrivalled collection of stuffed wildlife couldn’t fail to impress even the most principled subscriber to the WWF.

He explained to me how in the 35 years since he’d been out there – having realised there was more to life than sitting behind a desk running the family firm – he had developed this one time disused farm house into a veritable sanctuary of laid back luxury.

Stroll round the grounds and enjoy the flora or, preferably, lie recumbent on one of their huge feature swinging beds, that look out across this most verdant of landscapes. Incredibly La Reserva Rotana has over 40 staff, which works out practically 2 per guest and this is very evident should you want either another Mojito or to enjoy some of their flavoursome Nurembergers available at their all day barbecue.

What’s more, with its discrete heli-pad those guests with their own transport will be able to avoid the roulette wheel of journeying en masse. Because in answer to my earlier question “which is the real Mallorca?” – it’s actually both, as my rather unfortunate journey home all to vividly demonstrated.

Sat next to the personification of “chav”, a two hundred pound, lobster coloured, sweating and pupating example of Albion, who started knocking back the first of at least six or eight brandies straight after take off, before falling out with his wife and threatening the man in front.

He explained that flying made him nervous – but what impact he had on his fellow passengers God alone knows. He was a regular – you see – to Magaluf and so captivated by its charms that he regularly ran the gauntlet of flying. Mallorca, it’s apparent, is all things to all men and whether it’s chic sophistication in a beautiful rural location or kiss me quick hats and a bucket of sangria you will be well catered for – just be aware that Catherine and Michael rarely catch the 6.30am Jet2.com flight from Blackpool.

Mallorca, it’s apparent, is all things to all men

SON JULIA
07620 Llucmajor, Mallorca
Tel: (+34) 971 66 97 00
www.steinhotels.com

GRAN HOTEL SON NET
07194 Puigpunyent, Mallorca
Tel: (+34) 971 147 000
www.steinhotels.com

LA RESERVA ROTANA
Camí de S´Avall, 07500 Manacor,
Balears
Tel: (+34) 971 845 685
www.reservarotana.com

SON PENYA
07530, San Lorenzo, Mallorca
Tel: (+34) 971 826640
www.esturodesonpenya.com

PURO
Monte Negro 12, 07012,
Palma de Mallorca
Tel: (+34) 971425450
www.purohotel.com

HOTEL TRES
Calle Apuntadores 3, 07012,
Palma de Mallorca
Tel: (+34) 971 717 333
www.hoteltres.com

HOTEL JAIME III
Paseo Mallorca, 14B, 07011,
Palma de Mallorca
Tel: (+34) 971 725 943
www.hmhotels.net

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