The name Valldemossa obviously isn’t a biproduct of last century’s Latin American poet residents, though. The village’s connection with the arts and learning stretches back centuries. The remarkable Mallorquin mystic, philosopher and writer Ramon Llull founded a monastery at Miramar between Valldemossa and Deià in 1276 and the first printing press on the island arrived here in 1485.
That first view of Valldemossa rising to the ornate church tower and that of the Cartoixa de Valldemossa behind it never fails to make me feel blessed to live on Mallorca.
Although Chopin had rather a tough time of it in Valldemossa, according to the book A Winter in Mallorca, written by his lover George Sand, I’ve always found the village to be a benign place. It’s true that, as Valldemossa resident Mechtild Pauli puts it, ‘this is still a close-knit community’ and foreigners only make up 5% of the population. But if you prefer to live quietly and keep yourself to yourself, Valldemossa’s ideal.
While there are certainly plenty of tourists in the summer months, the average visit is around two and half hours and they’re usually gone by 5pm, leaving the streets of Valldemossa wonderfully calm and peaceful.
For American artist Meghan Edwards who has lived in several of the world’s most vibrant, busy cities, Valldemossa offers blissful anonymity. ‘I’m not there for a community feeling,’ she says before adding ‘and I like the insurgence of strangers around mid-day. It’s a great feeling to wander through people, receiving their energies.’
I’m sure Meghan is right but what a joy it also is to wander the tiny, ancient cobbled streets that lead away from Placa Cartoixa and the throng of people.
Perhaps it’s the presence of plaques in honour of Santa Catalina Thomas, the patron saint of Mallorca, on almost every house that add to Valldemossa’s lovely, restful air of tranquillity. When you go, be sure to visit her birthplace on Carrer Rectoria 5 which has been turned into a shrine.
The fact that Es Teix, the enormous mountain that towers over Valldemossa, is believed to be sacred by the Buddhists may well also have something to do with the peaceful vibe here.
One of the things I really love about Mallorca is the way Mallorquins are so proud of the history of their food. And, even on this tiny island, there are regional specialities like coca de patata, invented by the bakery and café C’an Molinas.
Coca de patata is a risen pancake made from potato, sugar and pork lard and dusted with more sugar. Like the llonguet of Palma, it’s not actually the world’s most exciting baked item, although it is delicious in a mildly indigestible kind of way. But I’m extremely glad it exists, especially at a time when traditional regional delicacies are vanishing at an alarming rate.
The best place to eat coca de potata is on the terrace of the branch of C’an Molinas at number 15 Via Blanquerna in the town.
As you may well know, when Mallorca was being menaced by the Moors from the eighth century onwards, communities on the north-west coast in particular divided into the village proper and a cala or port where the fishing boats were kept. This was watched over by a tower from which the pirates could be seen and the alarm raised. The women and children spent their days in the village high up in the mountains where they could be better defended.
I can’t imagine any pirate would make the effort to climb up from the cala at Valldemossa. Today, the road is narrow and snakes somewhat unnervingly. This makes any trip down to the pretty, rocky beach an adventure.
But it’s helped preserve the beach from over-development so it’s well worth the trip. The beach is also mainly used by Valldemossa locals who, as I’ve said, keep themselves to themselves so you’re going to be left alone. There’s also an excellent, traditional restaurant at Cala Valldemossa.
The best time is to go is before 10am. Leave after 7pm and the drive back up is fine.
I don’t know about you but living in Mallorca for me is very much about being in the great outdoors. I’ve climbed Es Teix – OK, only once but it’s doable if you’re in reasonable shape. And I’ve also done the walk that begins halfway down the road to Cala Valldemossa and winds its way along the coast to Son Marroig, outside Deià.
This is a fabulous hike that takes you past S’Estaca, the strangely Arabic looking white house film colossus Michael Douglas still owns with his ex-wife Diandra. Diandra’s connection to the island stretches back to the late 1950s.
Archduke Ludwig Salvator’s love of Mallorca is the main reason why this stretch of the north-west coast is so unspoilt. We owe him our heartfelt thanks.
The walk also takes you very close to a miniature fishing village that’s just a collection of a few houses nestling on a rock in the tiniest of rocky calas. When you arrive below Son Marroig, prepare yourself for a serious walk up a winding road to the top. The first time I did it, it came as rather a shock after the relatively easy, if rocky, ramble-clamber along the coast.
Before the climb, you might want to try the restaurant at Sa Foradada. But be sure not to over-indulge in the fantastic paella. Trust me.
As far as I’m concerned, if it’s good for Michael Douglas, Es Taller restaurant is certainly good enough for me. A splendidly open and airy space, Es Taller is reasonably priced and the food – simple, fresh and Mediterranean – is delicious.
For Meghan Edwards, ‘Es Taller offers everything I want. The quality of the food and the environment are great. I can’t speak highly enough about it.’
It’s fair enough to say that Valldemossa used to be somewhat dead at night, especially compared to Deià, but the Underground bar is a revelation. As Mechtild says ‘it’s really nicely done. There’s great live music and DJs and it’s a cool, friendly place.’
Quite apart from the regular pleasures of dining at Es Taller and boogying at Underground, Valldemossa does also offer plenty for the culture vulture. There’s an annual Chopin Festival, which has just finished. The Centre Cultural Costa Nord hosts international stars of the calibre of Patti Smith.
The Gathering at Ca Na Susi on Carretera de Valldemossa is a happening that takes place every Thursday evening between 6 and midnight. There’s a DJ, live band (last week it was the great Omar, a Senegalese musician who plays a fantastic mix of funk and Africanmusic), Xtatic dance and open air cinema.
Described by its creator Antoine Bonsorte as a ‘Summer of Joy Pool Party’, I really recommend The Gathering. It’s also perfect for families as there’s a nice big pool for the kids to swim in.