With my love for the Spanish language and my fascination for Mediterranean landscapes, the island of Mallorca has been one of my dream destinations for a long time. A couple of months ago or so I had finally decided that 2009 was going to be year for my visit to Mallorca. Spring is the perfect time to visit southern Europe – the weather is usually great, and the hordes of Northern European tourists have not arrived yet.
So I had booked a very affordable flight from Graz to Palma de Mallorca with Flyniki, an Austrian-based low cost airline that flies to a variety of popular tourist destinations across Europe. It is owned by none other than famous former Formula One race car driver Niki Lauda. Around mid-morning my brother dropped me off at the quaint Thalerhof Flughafen south of Graz, Austria’s second largest city. There I met my friend Gary who was going to come along on this trip.
After a brief coffee on the outdoor terrace we were ready to board our flight and barely an hour and a half later we landed in the capital of Mallorca, Palma de Mallorca. Shortly after picking up our luggage and our small rental car we were off to our first destination: Finca Son Point in the village of Puigpunyent.
The gorgeous courtyard of Finca Son Pont
Barely 12 kilometres outside of Palma after a nice stretch of country road and a long winding tree-covered driveway we had arrived at our destination for tonight: a former farm and historic country hotel called Finca Son Pont. My first impression was that the stone mansion with the large inner courtyard was reminiscent of an Arab castle.
It did not take long to find the person in charge: Hector, in his 70s who hails from Argentina and looks after the daily running of this rural hotel. He warmly welcomed us and showed us to our suite which consisted of a bedroom and a private sitting room. Our suite was located inside a separate building with four bedrooms that featured a large central living area and an expansive outside deck with comfortable deck chairs and seating arrangements for the guests. A new swimming pool was beckoning a few steps away down from the terrace.
A beautiful sitting area in our private retreat
The view from our country retreat was just perfect: Finca Son Pont covers 140 hectares or about 345 acres and is embedded in a verdant valley, surrounded by craggy pine-covered limestone peaks. My eyes took in this splendid 360 degree panorama of serenity. My travel partner and I both thought it would be great to spend more than one night here.
I got myself organized and as usually I started a stroll around the property to document this historic mansion. Hector joined me and showed me the Tower Room, a great guest room with a private bathroom that is located in a tower of the main U-shaped complex. This tower used to be the estate’s library and now welcomes guests from all over the world.
Great view over the valley from the Tower Room
Minutes later the owner of the property arrived: Francisco Feliu, a dynamic man in his late thirties who works in international trade development for the European Union. Finca Son Pont has been in his family’s possession for generations. With a bright smile he said hello and welcomed me. He joined me and started to give me a tour of the entire property.
First he took me into the private area of the estate which includes two formal reception rooms that feature historic paintings and furniture. The family portraits cover five generations of Francisco’s family, and I realized quickly that family pride and traditions are very important at Finca Son Pont.
Francisco in the historic salon
Francisco explained that Finca Son Pont used to be a farm that produced olive oil and even wine. Almonds continue to be harvested, and about 300 sheep graze here to provide high-quality organic meat. This finca is one of many historic agricultural properties that dot the countryside in the interior of Mallorca.
Coming downstairs from the formal living rooms Francisco took me into the chapel, which indeed featured an altar and several pews. After turning on the automatic piano, Francisco added that people still request to get married here. He also showed me several priest’s vestments that were waiting in a side room for another ceremony.
The chapel at Finca Son Pont
A few steps in the back is the oldest part of Finca Son Pont: the press room for the olive press. Finca Son Pont was reportedly begun in 1476, but this portion of the mansion dates back to Arab times and last witnessed an olive oil pressing about 50 years ago. Horses used to turn a huge grindstone which produced oil cakes that were moved to a second contraption with a big wooden beam that would squeeze the oil out of the olives. Hot boiling water was added to the oil cakes to ease the release of the olive oil. Various other vintage pieces of equipment in this room testified to the agricultural history of Finca Son Pont.
We then walked across to the main part of the mansion that houses the guest breakfast room and a large sitting room. Francisco explained that the breakfast room was a former kitchen that was anchored by an open fireplace. The fireplace has long since been closed up and a cozy sitting area was installed around the remaining chimney. Several tables welcome guests for breakfast and the other side of the room features a stone cistern, an ancient water collection tank.
Cozy sitting area by the fireplace
Francisco fondly recollected growing up on the estate, and sitting down for meals with the farm workers in this former kitchen. He also used to drink the rainwater that was collected in the cistern.
Next door is now a spacious sitting room for the guests which features oversize white sofas and great views of the countryside. Francisco added that early spring is a beautiful time here because the white almond blossoms are reminiscent of snow. This sitting room was incidentally used as a barrel storage area for olive oil in former times.
Former barrel storage area, now a nice sitting area
Finca Son Pont has five guest rooms, and Francisco is working on constructing three more. He added that the Mallorcan government has very strict guidelines for renovations, and new construction is generally forbidden in most areas. Wireless Internet service is available throughout the property to guests who wish to stay connected.
Having only had a tiny sandwich during my flight I was seriously getting hungry now as we were approaching 6 pm in the evening. I asked Francisco for some advice for a nice restaurant by the sea where we would be able to have an enjoyable dinner, next to the Mediterranean. He recommended us to drive to Banyalbufar, an ancient village on the north coast of Mallorca.
Francisco and Hector
Shortly after this we were in our little rental car, enjoying the scenic ride on tight, twisting mountain roads. It took us a good twenty minutes to reach the coastline although we probably had covered only 15 kilometres. The steep north coastal mountains of Mallorca were plunging into the sea, creating stunning vistas from various lookout points.
Another 20 minutes eastward along the coast we had finally reached our dinner destination: Banyalbufar, a small village that is patched up against a terraced hillside. The terraces had been created many centuries ago by the Moors who lived on the island roughly from the 10th to the 13th century. They were renowned for their agricultural skills and their knowledge of irrigation which involved terraced growing areas.
What an amazing Mediterranean view in Banyalbufar!
As the restaurants would not serve dinner until 7:30 pm we had about an hour and started to stroll through town. On the eastern end of town we found a little establishment called Café Bellavista that featured an absolutely astounding view from its terrace over the town and the Mediterranean Sea, dozens of metres below. We sat down for about half an hour and enjoyed a cold drink against this ultra-scenic backdrop.
Finally, 7:30 pm came closer and it was time to look for dinner. We found an attractive restaurant called San Thomas at the eastern end of town and sat down on the outdoor patio, which offered us a great view over the small bay of Banyalbufar. We started off our dinner with an order of “pan y aceitunas con alioli”, delicious fresh Mallorcan bread with olives, accompanied by a garlic-flavoured mayonnaise sauce. After this tasty appetizer my friend enjoyed a plate of calamari while I had ordered a salad with hot goat cheese.
My colourful salad
It was great enjoying our leisurely dinner in the warm evening air while the orange sun was slipping into the Mediterranean Sea. Our 45 minute drive along the narrow, winding roads was not a problem since there was virtually no traffic when we headed back to Finca Son Pont.
Day one of my Mallorcan adventure had been a resounding success. I was already curious what else this island would have in store for me during the next ten days.
The gorgeous grounds of Finca Son Pont
Beautiful tower room at Finca Son Pont
The on-site chapel at Finca Son Pont
Centuries old olive press
Breakfast room in historic mansion
Driving on narrow roads from Puigpunyent to Banyalbufar
Coastal drive and terraced mountains near Banyalbufar
Main street and main square of Banyalbufar
Great rooftop view over the Mediterranean in Banyalbufar