22 JANUARY 1972, Page 28


The Balearics

Carol Wright

Last year, 900,000 Britons took holidays on the Balearic islands. Majorca is Europe's premier (in numbers) holiday spot, eclipsing the Blackpools and Biarritzes of yesteryear. She had a good head start on her sister islands with an early established international airport and an impressive array of modern hotels many with swimming pools, many with night clubs, and all giving that much craved sleek brochure glossy impression of the jet set world.

The recent publicity of £1 winter weekend visits to Majorca and eight days winter holiday for £15 with full board at the hotel gives chances to judge Majorca's summer potential in advance. Though it's easy to scoff at cheap pop spots, the mass catering to international tastes that inevitably dilutes local flavour, Majorca offers honest value for little money. Away from Palma, there are many small sand bay resorts. Her hot sun, as with the other two islands, lasts well into the winter months. Bargain times when sea swimming is possible are from late October to early December. After Christmas, weather resembles our tearful, gusty April. But when beaches are out of climatic bounds, the island offers a surprising variety of scenery to explore by car. The north-west coast is secretive of rocky cliffs and small pebbled beaches. Georges Sand and Chopin sought the precious commodity of privacy here when they stayed at Valldemosa. Near here is Deya, made home by Robert Graves since the mid-'thirties. Now there's a hotel Es Moli below the clustered houses in the hilltop village where at night the art set meets in the 'talk' bars. Rating an 'intimate charm' title is the C'an Quet pension, now run by an excellent Spanish cook. This hillside setting of simple comfort is for the sturdy who can face the twenty to thirty minutes' walk down the donkey tracks through olives and vine terraces to the small headland-clasped beach. There is a casual restaurant/bar where again the artists spend their days talking of creation and doing little more than flop into the remarkably calm, clear water.

Congenial atmosphere in my definition of hotels combines local character with good service in which you are at least an individual face not a group number. This is found at the Ila d'Or in Puerto de Pollensa in Majorca's north. This hotel has no beach but is quiet and overlooks its own sunning and swimming jetty.

The Balearics have been slow to go for the de luxe market but there are signs they are aiming for the monied as well as the mass tourist. Majorca has long had its Formentor hotel tucked smugly into a superb sand bay reached through lush flowered gardens from gracious patio verandahs of the hotel near Puerto de Pollensa and below the spectacular headlands of Es Colomet.

Quietude is for me a prerequisite of holiday comfort. On my preferred hotel list apart from those mentioned above, is Ibiza's new Hacienda Na Xamena in the north near San Miguel village. The halffinished road snakes from the village round villa developments among pine woods and the hotel itself is an attractive multilevelled arrangement of white arched colonnades and terraces with three swimming pools (one indoors) and huge bedrooms looking out on the sea, a hardy climb below. No other buildings are visible on the sheer drop cliff tops. The serenity and excellent service of the hotel was a little marred by the prevalence of damp patches on the walls, which will no doubt be eradicated. Na Xarnena is not cheap; a double room costs from about £7 a day. The hotel manager told me he wanted to keep the hotel for individual bookings rather than groups. But with the new BEA Golden Wing scheme, the individualist who likes to select his hotel can now get the price advantage of group bookings on scheduled air services.

On Minorca, a characterful small place is a hotel set in Admiral CoIlingwood's former home near Mahon. In addition to rooms in the Spanish Georgian mansion, there are modern patio rooms set round a pool area. Another small hotel of charm is the Hotel Bahia on Cala Santandria beach, family-run with local cooking; it is near Cuidadella the island's former capital and shoe making centre.

Compromise privacy can be found in the many villa developments sprouting on these islands. Inter home specialises in villa lettings without a travel content and have attractive-looking offerings at Cala d'Or on Majorca, and Isla Plana and Isla Botafoc on Ibiza. Minorca has early developments like Cala n'Porter much favoured by the British but its barrack-like blocks cramped down to a bay beach are not appealing to me. Above in the c.!1 a cave discotheque and the area is PL tea rooms and pubs. Bini Beca, on tb6iP hand, though somewhat contrive', apartments close together in a al,it maze of alleys and arches, twisul turning from the sea and boat,I,L-Irecreating a Grecian fishing village Rating the islands, Majorca I like,,R big, not too brash welcome and tiiin. provide all things to all men. Iblfri afraid I do not like. My very firs,i'la was marred by mosquito bites booked hotels. I was eventuanY a room which underlooked the ij;t1 kitchen. When the air was cool eilo sleep, the hour was late enough Wi the first cymbal clash of paella palls and the swimming pool terrace rf surrounded by builders' rubbish',si second visit was softened by the:0' charm of the Hacienda Na Xanal. scruffiness of beaches at Puerto ei Miguel was not enhanced bY banked, mighty blocks of hotel nesting boxes filed up the steep be,a irs( Santa Eulalia clings to artistic charm providing plcrity of pavenieriteb with basket chairs in which to sip 3 amontillado before a sea food dinaqeIi Sa Punta restaurant overlooking t";,,!0 San Antonio Abad still seems t° „',Ii to its last name and I shunned clumps round a still beachless hha' admired instead Ibiza town wilic'o a like a splendid castellated wedding white cubes above the tall schooner in its harbour. At night one dranRid Cellar Balear, in the Avenida Wallis, apparently touristy in its is lined bar, but in the severe whit dining room beyond, a serious Old is locals to eat. There's Spanish f004 „ such as the superb parillada de Pr', ‘-• good wines and service. More interail; ti in cuisine, but captivating in settifii the restaurants like Da Olivo's in Pr3tif (the old city) in mini-squares hie, street narrows where one can eat ON( the stars by soft gold street larnPs background guitar plaint. r Of the three Balearics (a tc Formentera, is only creeping CI tourist arena with as yet one hoteb a; pensions and a 11 hour boat confir a with Ibiza) Minorca where a naval gS was established in the Nelson er9„ sentimental appeal for the Brit sees •his pink Georgian residence( th hill, hears the surnames of localS after the ships from which ancestral fathers came — there's ' Victorys,' a virile ship — and t-P'i m herb-inspired Nelson's gin sold for.o st 50p a stone bottle in the little below the massive, ruddy hued fu harbour of Mahon. Minorca has good beaches, 501,9 dr best bedevilled by bulldozers, but stltr are many small sand coves to be Pic motoring across the flattish is13/: IGII nacled in the centre with Mouri;ftwi Minorca is but a baby in tourisir a baby has wind (mostly in s134 1.:i si; with her new airport in building;6in soon no doubt catch up her neighAti flaunting those visitor and be" figures beloved of tourist directors.