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Following artistic footsteps in Mallorca Back to News
Monday 25th February | Posted by Heather Bamber
In November 1838 the ship El Mallorquin entered Palma harbour carrying a precious cargo – the composer Frédéric Chopin and his lover the writer George Sand, along with her two children. They were seeking a warm climate to alleviate the ailing health of both Chopin and George’s son Maurice. Things didn’t work out quite so well as they hoped – the weather was terrible, they fell out with their Mallorcan neighbours, and Chopin was frustrated by his piano being held up in customs for several months.
By mid-February they were gone, but their winter lodgings in Valldemossa can still be visited. Cell No 4 consists of a few simple rooms, now a small museum, in the Real Cartuja – a former Carthusian monastery from which the monks had been evicted in 1835. It’s also worth taking a little time to see the chapel, pharmacy and library of the monastery, before stepping out on the next day of your Mallorcan walking holiday.
Despite the trials of their visit, the countryside around Valldemossa and particularly the outlook from their rooms made a huge impact on George Sand. She wrote “It’s one of those views that overawes you, because it leaves nothing to desire, nor anything to the imagination. Everything a poet or painter can dream up has been created here by Nature. Vast compositions, infinite details, inexhaustible variety, confused forms, sharp outlines, vague depths; its all here, and art can add nothing to it.”
The poet and author Robert Graves had an altogether more rewarding experience in Mallorca, and made the artistic village of Deia his home for over 40 years. He built a house called Ca n’Alluny there in 1929 which you can visit on a small detour from our route after walking the Archduke’s Trail*. He was buried in the small cemetery of the village church, marked in the local style by a simple slab with his name written into the drying concrete by hand. Above all titles and international recognition, he considered being dubbed “Adopted Son of Deia” the greatest honour of all.
* To go off on a slight tangent for a moment – the Archduke was another interesting character who settled in Mallorca. Luis Salvador was born in Florence in 1847, son of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. He first visited Mallorca aged 20 – it was love at first sight, and he soon started buying up estates between Valldemossa and Deia, instigating a series of ambitious restoration and construction projects. He spent a fortune improving the local roads and establishing hostels with free lodging for weary travellers.
The Archduke improved the network of charcoal paths running across his estates, and the “Cami de S’Arxiduc” (Archduke’s Trail) was one of his major undertakings. This stone-laid trail with numerous miradors (viewpoints) was built purely for his riding pleasure. It runs from Valldemossa up to the high country from where he could admire many of his properties below, and you will walk the most spectacular ridge-top section of the path during your holiday, with views down to the coast. He also restored ancient mountain hermitages (eg Cova de S’Ermita Guiem which dates from 1635, close to the start of the Cami), maintaining a tradition that stemmed from the 13th century.
Luis is considered as a prototype ecologist thanks to his avid interest in Mallorcan flora and fauna which he described in a nine volume book “Die Balearen”, a valuable resource still referred to today. The evergreen shrub Rhamnus Ludovici-Salvatoris is indigenous to the island, and was named for the Archduke who identified it. Sadly many of the endemic species he identified are now under threat of extinction.
Needless to say, the Archduke’s stay was very beneficial for the promotion of Valldemossa and Deia: members of the Austrian Imperial family and of various royal families, scientists and financiers and artists came to visit Miramar, the Archduke’s preferred home, and spread the word abroad.
Walk the Serra de Tramuntana mountains of Mallorca with On Foot Holidays. Explore Palma before heading north to the quiet hills and the dramatic coast. This eight-night self-guided route costs from £1085 per person, and is graded medium.
“It was one of the most enjoyable holidays we have had. The scenery was breathtaking and everyday was a new adventure.”