Agro tourism in Mallorca, worth a visit, or time to ‘finca’ again? Malcolm Bassett-Smith visits life on the farm.
I am sure like all, I get confused with the present day hype, sustainable tourism, responsible tourism, ethical tourism… well I thought why not agro tourism, after all what can be wrong with a farm?
Majorca (Mallorca) is a really quite exceptional island. It has great weather, it’s neither too large nor too small and it has a long and tested history in looking after British visitors. Given all that, I have never been there before and bearing in mind our record of rain over the last year I was ready to give it a bash.
Anything to do with farms appeals to me, there is something wholesome and earthy about them, so my first three days were to be in a finca (farm) hotel. There are quite a number of finca based hotels in Mallorca and many of them are clearly signposted from the main roads – mine wasn’t. Ask at a bar! My dad always told me to ask a policeman, but I have yet to meet one that sells beer.
No one had heard of this place and all the locals gathered around me in the little square of Binissalem each prodding at my map and agreeing that the hotel must be in Palma. Eventually with the help of a phone call my hotelier arrived in his pickup, told all the locals where he was located and escorted me in.
The finca was constructed, but conversion work was still ongoing and there was an air of ‘work in progress’ about it. Not quite an artist impression, but not the greatest start. But for me it was a bed at night and I required little else as I would be out throughout the days. Being in a rural setting meant I did have to rely on car hire rather than public transport, not terribly green, but it did mean I could get to see a lot of the island.
The roads are incredibly well built and maintained here and other than on the motorways there were many cyclists enjoying the summer sun. I started my exploring by heading up to the top corner and working my way across. First stop Alcudia and the coastal road to Pollenca. Alcudia is highly developed and is what I would have thought to be a typical Spanish seaside town. But I found Pollenca and the beaches around it far more to my taste. Were I a month later I might not see the sand at all for the Brits in knotted hankies. This part of the island does get very busy in season.
It’s up and over the mountainous road onto Soller. I purposefully do not stop here because I have promised myself a little treat in the coming days. Robert Graves’s house passes on my left it was here where he wrote “I Claudius” in a matter of days to stave off bankruptcy. Onto Valldemosa where Chopin lived and loved George Sand, the French romantic novelist. I look round for Annie Lennox and Catherine Zeta-Jones, both are locals, but I can’t see them today. We continue and edge past the beginnings of Palma and head out to Binissalem again.
Dinner tonight is rustic, bread, cheese, ham, wine, beer. A cat has adopted me, the finca’s version of livestock. He looks adoringly at me as I eat. I do a deal, I eat all the ham I want, he gets to keep the mice!
Day two is more driving, but this time taking in some of the island’s history. We are in Arta and having parked up we climb the steps to the top of the village and with it take in the fabulous views over the Med. Had we known at the time we could have visited an amazing cave network which runs from the sea under the town – well that’s something for next time.
Another night at the finca and this time the cat has brought a friend and their collective kittens.
Treat time I am going into Palma, parking up and taking the historic train to Soller and the tram onward to Port de Soller. This is a magical mystery tour along a predetermined route. Soller is gorgeous and clearly a tourist haven and the port at the end of the tram ride is just idyllic and a place I want to return to.
Having spent three nights at the finca I am treated to a further stay in a well established and much loved coastal hotel – the Bonsol in Illetes (just west of Palma). The Bonsol started out 61 years ago by a hard working Palma tailor who wanted more for his family. The hotel developed and grow attracting visitors such as Errol Flynn. Now it is a favourite of many with a huge amount of return visits. Second generation owners Martin and Lorraine welcome me like a long lost friend, there is nothing false, nothing put-on, just pure warmth. The Bonsol has a little beach of its own and tons of space to stretch out next to a pool, or surrounded by greenery, or if you really have to you can always take a treatment in their spa. I plumped for all four!
Given the choice of locations, I don’t have to ‘finca’ very long – the Bonsol wins hands down. And, I still feel I am maintaining my green credentials as Martin and Lorraine have bought 2,000 acres of land on Costa Rica to replant trees and employ locals to help reforest a little bit of the Earth’s surface and in so doing offset the carbon footprint they may have created. If only more were like them. Malcolm Bassett-Smith
•Mallorca is easily reached with direct flights from Gatwick Airport, easyJet operate a regular schedule on a
daily basis. www.easyjet.com
•Gatwick – Palma flight time just over 2 hours
•Car rental in Mallorca is inexpensive, but beware of the petrol ‘fiddle’ performed by almost every company!
•The historic rail journey to Port de Soller operates several times each day full adult return 28 Euros
•Further information on the Hotel Bonsol can be found at www.hotelbonsol.es
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