Hotel Bon Sol

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Jun, 2011

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PEERING across to the swanky Puerto Portals marina in Majorca it was hardly surprising that the conversation turned to money – pots of it – and how the other half live. In front of us, long lines of ocean going yachts, one of them boasting a helicopter pad, rested at anchor, their mega-sized shapes reflected in sunlit water. It was a scene that spelled glitz, glamour, gold-plated bank accounts, and a lifestyle that most of us could never hope to enjoy. Or could we… ”All we need is a lottery win,” sighed another holidaymaker who shared our table at Wellies, a renowned harbour front bar and restaurant. Laughing out loud, her husband pushed the reality button. “Don’t be daft, “he said, “it wouldn’t buy you an anchor on some of these boats.” In the end, all four of us agreed our get-rich-quick hopes were slim. But we had lots of consolations, and not least of them was our shared choice of holiday accommodation.

The four star Bon Sol hotel at Illetas, only a few miles from the marina, is as classy and as stylish as the yachts, and returning to it after our lunchtime foray, couldn’t have put us in better heart. It was akin to being bear-hugged by a very best friend. It’s 58 years since Majorcan born Antonio Xamena and his wife Roger (correct), launched Bon Sol as a white-washed 14 bedroomed guest house, a solid old-style property complete with a Moorish tower Hollywood superstar Errol Flynn was one of their first guests. And, just for once, the legendary lothario lost his heart to a place rather than a woman. Bon Sol became his haven where he relaxed and enjoyed himself. Staying for a month, he went on to rent his own house, but never forgot the Xamena family, and their hospitality. Switch to today, and the now lovingly extended hotel – still owned by the same family – has become a jewel in the island’s crown. Antonio’s son Martin Xamena, his London-born wife Lorraine, and their 26-year-old son Alejandro, are the ‘dream team’ who have maintained, and developed, the winning ‘hands on’ formula. Living on the premises, they mingle with guests, and often share their tables for meals or drinks. It’s hardly surprising that their warm-hearted rapport rubs off on the staff. Just one statistic tells its own story. In 30 years, the hotel has seen only three head chefs. By most restaurant standards, that’s a miracle. It’s all part and parcel of why the hotel is so popular. In fact, guests are so happy that as many as 80 out of every 100 book to return. It’s remarkable proof that the Bon Sol is ticking all the boxes. In terms of surroundings, it’s a case of never mind the width, feel the quality. Bon Sol’s original building, with its magnificent main dining room, is packed with paintings and objet d’art, deep leather armchairs, suits of armour and, rather incongruously, the internet link for guests to use. Thanks to a huge expansion project, which involved sinking lift shafts and constructing three tunnels under two roads, the hotel now boasts a total of 120 rooms and villas, most of them with views of the hotel’s small beach. A whole host of facilities ranges from three swimming pools to a health and beauty spa, a tennis court, and a children’s play area. All of it is concealed within a stunning eco-park bursting with pine trees, rubber plants, ferns and flowers. It’s so easy to slip in and out of the sun into leafy shade. For me, however, the Beach restaurant eclipses everything. It’s here that lucky guests can eat and drink as waves gently brush the beach. Full-sailed yachts, or huge cruise liners, slipping across the Bay of Palma, provide a memorable backdrop. At night time sittings, Pablo the Argentinian-born guitarist entertains for hours, as he has done for 23 years. Believe me, ‘eating out’ has never been so good and that’s why you have to book 24 hours in advance to secure a table.

Location is everything. And Bon Sol’s more mundane, but really helpful asset, is being yards away from a bus stop where, for a ridiculously cheap fare, the number 3 service will sweep you into Palma, less than five miles away. It’s an extra-special city that never fails to delight. Just think of what’s on offer…a towering 13th century cathredal, museums, art galleries, a stunning marina, atmospheric back streets, and thousands of shops, restaurants and bars. Enjoy a laugh at the expense of human street ‘statues’. Hard to believe, but one of them poses as the Invisible Man. That takes pluck – and a great sense of humour. Other places you might consider visiting, without wandering too far from the BonSol, include busy resorts such as Palmanova and Magaluf. Things have quietened down a lot from the lager lout days, and an added bonus is that beaches are as safe and as pristine as ever. Whichever way you look at it, Majorca is still the place to beat for all-round value-for- money holidays,and also for experiences that will last a lifetime. All the better to enjoy, though, if you happen to win the Lottery. But I’d give up on buying a yacht!

Frank Corless

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