Today’s highlight was the antique wooden train that rides on a narrow gauge track and has been rolling along since 1912 across the 27 kilometers from Palma to Soller. This old timber-paneled bone shaker winds along Palma’s streets before heading through gorgeous countryside that reveals rows of olive trees with tiny ochre colored villages in the distance; all nestled in the surrounding mountains. The occasional curves in the track offer a wonderful look back at the port of Palma below. There are a series of tunnels that present themselves before eventually we arrived in a clearing across a viaduct and then one last tunnel entrance before the slow roll down into the absolutely charming town of Soller.
In Soller, it is time for a café cortado and a wander through the charming streets that spoke out of the central plaza. Then we grabbed the tram that took us all the way down to the port. How charming the port was with its beautiful beach, the promenade with lovely restaurants, and spectacular views across the bay with the promise of more isolated beaches on the other side. At this point, it is possible to take the boat to Salobra and then head all the way back to Palma by sea. However, we elected to take the bus to the towns of Deià and Valldemossa.
The drive to Deià was spectacular, adding to the Gems of Mallorca. There were a series of sharp turns against the mountain backdrop of the Puig des Teix. The rocky landscape is terraced with dry stone walling and there are miraculous groves of citrus fruit, almond trees, and olive trees.
We headed to La Casa de Robert Graves – a beautiful three-story stone house sitting amongst colorful gardens which serves as a museum of the writers’ works. The home is also a fascinating look at the home interiors, his writing studio, and a compelling video of his life of works that spalls endlessly as part of the show.
Graves moved to Mallorca in 1929 and abandoned the house in 1936 due to the Civil War. He then moved back 10 years later to find that his housekeeper had kept it perfectly intact as if he had simply popped out to the store. I could have stayed there longer. This was the house where “I, Claudius”, one of my favorite books, was written. However, the day was running out on us and we had yet to visit Valdemossa.
Valldemossa is another gem on this beautiful island. The Real Cartuja de Valldemossa, the monastery, dominates the town and all of the cobble streets point towards it.
We had picked up our guide in Soller amidst groans from the group. Although he was fairly unspectacular, I had grown to ignore him and replaced his droning of dates with fanciful images of a time gone by in this beautiful place. As is the case with so many guides, he was not cut out to present facts and figures in any way, shape, or form that would make it interesting or curious to the casual bystander. On the contrary, he was determined to drone on about dry stone walling and the Moorish invasion that took place in 1906! We were not sure if he was talking about immigration problems or if he had slipped up by a 1,000 years! But he was happy and we did not question it.
As we walked through the monastery, it was easier to imagine and discover for oneself this place where Frédéric Chopin and George Sand stayed during a particularly bad winter in 1838. Even though George Sand wrote unfondly of her time there in the book “Un hiver à Majorque,” the town has made its name on the basis of the miserable six months that they spent there.
Her unkind words have been translated into millions and millions of tourist dollars as the town makes the most of the composers name and honors him each year with a festival. You can even visit the monastic cell that the two bohemians stayed in during that time. It was quite the scandal and sadly they did not stay to enjoy the gorgeous summer months that surely would have prompted a more positive book called possibly “Un étè à Majorque”! Oh well!
History has a way of righting itself and we had to get back to Palma for another 10:00 pm dinner with a drink and conversation along the waterfront. Such is life in the Balearic Islands.