A villa vacation can be a whole lot more than just sun-drenched terraces and a pool with a view; writes Andrew Forbes.
Lying in the shade of the orange trees, amongst flowering iris was Monty, a friendly white Fox Terrier that evoked thoughts of TinTin. But clearly, we’re not in Belgium. With a view of striking mountains and terraced olive groves and the scent of orange, lemon, jasmine and rose filling the air, this most certainly is the Mediterranean.
Monty’s owner, acclaimed ceramicist Maria De Haan, is telling me to slow down – funny since the pace of life here seems mellow already, but this is advice I would be wise to follow, since I’m trying to ‘throw’ a clay pot on a wheel that I’m turning too fast! The dark clay is course against my hands. Here, on the sun dappled workshop terrace I feel connected to nature; and I should be inspired. But soon enough my fingers break through the raising clay, and my emerging pot swiftly falls to one side. My moment of creativity comes to a halt. My lack of patient dexterity once again confirmed.
Maria, however, is a good-humoured, relaxed and patient tutor and makes the process of learning fun and interactive. A few of her works sit on shelves on the terrace wall – simple, sculptural ceramic pots with a texture that looks like lava. Her work also encompasses minimalist tableware and her signature smoke fired pieces. Maria collects local organic materials, such as leaves, wood and even seaweed from the Cala de Deiá, and uses it in the firing stage. The resulting pieces have unique, unpredictable and truly striking appearances.
A professional ceramist, who exhibits and sells internationally, Maria also finds time to offer these pottery classes at her picturesque workshop.
Deiá – the artists’ village
My morning’s creativity was just one of the bespoke and original activities arranged by Charles Marlow & Bros., a family real estate firm that specialises in property in and around Deiá. In addition to offering a select portfolio of homes for sale they also have more than twenty villas for rent, and as a guest of Charles Marlow, one can share a therapeutic and inspiring morning in one of these open-air pottery classes, overlooking one of the Mediterranean’s most creative mountain villages.
I’m staying at their Villa S’era. It’s close to Deiá, the once bohemian village, that although now probably has more millionaires than muses, still retains it relaxed, artistic vibe. This mountain community has a strong sense of identity. As well as welcoming wealthy residential tourism and visitors to it swish hotels and luxury villas, it is also home to a creative community that encompasses potters, painters, sculptors, writers and musicians.
Deiá, the once bohemian village, that although now probably has more millionaires than muses, still retains it relaxed, artistic vibe
Renting a property like Villa S’era is a lot more than just getting the keys to an island home with postcard perfect sea views. It can also be a holiday, if you feel so inclined, where you can connect with the destination, meet the locals and be immersed in the ambiance of Mallorca country life.
The charming farmhouse-style villa S’era is a 6-bedroom family home that is surrounded by unspoilt Mallorca countryside, and within a few minutes’ drive of the village of Deiá.
Despite its popularity amongst visitors, Deiá has somehow retained much of its charm and integrity. Thanks to strict construction controls, the countryside remains unspoilt. This part of Mallorca, on the north-west coast, is amongst the most strikingly beautiful.
The charming farmhouse-style villa S’era is a 6-bed. holiday villa
One finds classic rugged shores with those little coves that we all dream of diving into. Then as a backdrop there are the UNESCO Tramuntana mountains; wild beauty that’s perfect for hiking and cycling.
Villa S’era is one of the large homes in this area – a house that commands privileged views out across the terraced olive groves to the Mediterranean beyond. Built less than twenty years ago, this stylish country villa blends beautifully within its surroundings; the local stone, traditional building style and established gardens combine to create a timeless elegance.
There is a classic Spanish courtyard patio with fountain, a sheltered sun-trap. Whilst around the house are terraces and gardens, and of course a pool, with a view.
Most of the simply furnished guest rooms are distributed over the first floor; each with Mediterranean window doors that open to Juliet balconies, terraces and stunning views.
There’s a ground floor owners’ suite too, and also a self-contained annex apartment.
Each morning one wakes to the sound of the sea breeze through the olive trees and the gentle chimes of bells as the goats climb the mountain terraces seeking new pastures. Its idyllic I must say.
Furnished in an eclectic, homespun style, with period art, solid wood furniture, deep, comfy sofas and personal touches, this villa makes for an informal, unpretentious island home for family holidays and escapades with friends.
Afternoon tea in the spacious drawing room is an opportunity to meet some local artists. The friendly folk at Charles Marlow have invited guests to the house. Arturo Rhodes, a Brit who has made Deiá his home since the 80s, has travelled the world in search of adventure and inspiration. Yet Mallorca kept calling him back. His story-telling and art offer a glimpse of the varied arts scene that continues to thrive in Deiá. Admittedly it may be less bohemian than a few decades ago, with the village streets now more crowded with luxury 4x4s than donkeys, but enjoying tea and afternoon cocktails in Villa S’era listening to his stories help capture the magic of the area. Local artist David Templeton joins us at the villa too, sharing examples of his collages, paintings and drawings from an accomplished career based in Deiá.
His sketches of Robert Graves particularly capture my imagination; simple, evocative, resonant works. Graves, the renowned English poet and novelist came to Deiá in the 1920s. He is credited with attracting intellectuals and artists to the village. His home is now looked after by a Foundation, and it is open to the public. It’s a fascinating source of information and historical facts about the writer and this period of Deiá’s past. Graves is buried in the local churchyard. His grandson Tomás Graves still lives on the island, and played in the band, ‘Pa Amb Oli (Bread and Olive Oil)’ together with Peter. It’s a close-knit community and as a guest of Villa S’era one gets a privileged insight.
Pampering and indulging
Holidays in the Balearics are of course also about sun, sea, Mediterranean food and plenty of pampering. I started my stay with a massage; without even having to leave the villa. The property’s private spa area includes sauna, exercise room and treatment space. ‘Spa at Home Mallorca’ is a local business that provides a luxury, professional spa service for villa guests. Each detail is taken care of by founder Louise Loni and her colleague Louisa, from heated treatment beds, plush towels, organic massage oils to excellent treatments.
Days can be spent exploring the island, or taking out a boat, enjoying a bite to eat in the village or lounging poolside. The villa is self-catering but Charles Marlow’s little black book is full of useful contacts and addresses – including a local catering firm called ‘Delicioso’ that promises to offer a tasty meal or full-scale dinner party served restaurant style in the villa’s spacious dining room or on the shaded terrace.
Expect starters like Creamed Goats Cheese on Thyme Marinated Beetroot with Toasted Pine Nuts & Slow Roasted Cherry Plum Tomatoes; and main dishes such as Baked Fillet of Cod with a Spaghetti of Roasted Peppers, Sautéed Potatoes and a Spinach Sauce.
So, next time you’re looking for a villa holiday, maybe think beyond just a great pool and a sunny location – that should be a given.
Consider a villa holiday that offers experiential travel…
If you also relish the opportunity to be immersed in the local culture and meet the people that shape the local community, then Villa S’era might just be the place for you.
Villa S’era is available for rent through my hosts, Charles Marlow & Bros. Prices, per week, vary according to season:
July, August – €18,000
June, Sept – €15,000
April, May – €13,500
March – €12,500
Remainder of year €10,000
Flights to Palma de Mallorca can be found searching on travel site momondo.co.uk
Airport transfers and car hire can be arranged by the agents.