Is Autumn the best time on Britain’s long-time favourite holiday island?
“For me,” said Jane, our very experienced Solos Holidays rep who’s lived there for years, the lucky lady (and lots of other places) “it’s just got to be September-October. It’s so much quieter; the sea is still warm and the walking is great. In the autumn Mallorca is my favourite place on earth.”
Surely a pleasant surprise for those wanting more than a sun bed on a safe beach for a late holiday, and this prettier-than-they-paint-it island has so much extra to offer, even outside ‘the baking season’.
The British love affair with Mallorca goes back at least to the Fifties when it was the last word in honeymoon hideaway chic and we called it Majorca – its Spanish name. Today, proud residents prefer their own Catalan language version, although it sounds the same. Pronounce it ‘Ma-yorca’, rolling the ‘r’ if you can, and honour will be satisfied.
Earlier fans were the international set of 19th century romantic composers and writers such as Chopin and his creative friends in search of mild winters and clear air. What poets and artists loved was the civilised pace of life and the wonderful light. No tanning on the playas during the hot months for these delicate flowers. They preferred the rustic simplicity and sheer scenic beauty of the mountains along the west coast. In particular, they fell in love with a village dating from when the Moors ruled much of Spain and named after one of them called Musa. He tamed a mountain spring to farm in this sheltered valley, and now it’s world-famous as Valldemossa, where Chopin wrote some of his most beautiful nocturnes.
An excursion to this iconic place, barely 30 minutes from Palma through wooded countryside, is a must at any time of year. Chopin’s house, the museum and gardens are a step back to a more gracious age, with recitals of his thrilling virtuoso pieces by local performers on most days.
Set on a huge southern bay, Palma is the island’s all-year-round hub for yachting types, dedicated boutique shoppers and those who appreciate classy architecture in the twirling form of a Gaudi-style cathedral, a royal palace or two and state-of-the-art fountains in the squares. If it’s breezy, there’s hot chocolate and the kind of cakes to diet for (afterwards) in stylish little cafes along the grand avenue from the main port to Placa Rein. Or try the back alleys for that nostalgic joss-stick scented, hand-crafted, faded hippy ambience which is always reinventing itself among the warm stones of ancient towns all over the Mediterranean. For even more nostalgia, there’s even a C&A.
Seafood is usually on the menu anywhere on the island. In fact, the Spanish royal family pay an annual visit just for a slap-up lobster feast, and not just to keep an eye on their more independently-minded subjects – or so the locals say. Once you’ve cracked how to order tapas, hankerings for a hamburger and fries quickly subside. If in doubt, point at the pictures and interesting things will appear on tiny plates – but pace yourself – the best titbits come last.
There are still plenty of coastal villages and little towns that have fishing boats drawn up on white arcs of sand or anchored photogenically in the blue waters of dozens of craggy creeks, known as calas. Counting off the calas is a brilliant way to walk off extra calories by way of well-sign posted coastal paths. Calas of all sizes look stunning when the autumn light tints the sun-bleached rocks almost pink. Umbrella pines stand out against the blue, and aromatic herbs from an Elizabeth David cook book add their scent to the salt tang of the sea.
The Bay of Alcudia is a massive bite out of the island’s flatter north coast and home to its best beaches. Without the summer crowds, there’ll always be sheltered spots along here and elsewhere for some late sun worshipping as it slowly loses its fiery heat but not its golden glow.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Solos Holidays