If the terrible economic turmoil of the past three years has taught us anything, it’s to count our blessings regularly, and to appreciate the places we call home. That’s why I’ve taken recently to meditating on the best of Mallorca – and I’ve found plenty of reasons to be cheerful.
No matter where you live in the world, it’s not unusual to take your home for granted. You see it every day. And whether you’re a native or someone who has, like me, adopted a new locality, all the wonders that it has to offer, whether natural or man-made, soon become routine.
Well, we shouldn’t let that happen. Not least because, when it comes to wonders, Mallorca is certainly well-endowed. That’s why, when Autumn makes me pensive and I feel like reconnecting with this wild and wonderful Mediterranean island, I get in my car and explore the places I love most.
I don’t have to go far. One of my favourite drives starts right in Andratx, climbing along the C710 – not the most romantic of ways to address a road I know intimately, I’ll admit – between the sea and the pine-scented hills to the picture-postcard village of Estellencs.
They say that life is all about the journey, not the destination. Well, the good news is that on this enchanting little trip you can have it both ways. In the early stages you pass through a tunnel which momentarily cuts out the light. So that when you emerge at the other side with a magnificent view of the ocean … wow, that a revelation!
And it just keeps on getting better. Here you have 21.8 kilometres – I checked it on my tripometer for the purposes of this article just the other day – of sheer heaven, twisting and turning all the way along one of the most captivating stretches of coastline on the island. It’s the perfect Zen exercise for leaving all your troubles behind – metaphorically at least!
And if the C710 is an exercise in leaving your troubles behind, arrival in Estellencs is like stepping straight into another world – with its steep cobbled streets and ancient village well, where some local women still apparently maintain the tradition of washing their clothes (something which, no matter how fond I am of the spot, I’m not going to heartily recommend!).
For those of you old enough to remember, or alternatively, for those of you fond of your old black-and-white movies, think Brigadoon, the 1954 classic with Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse … about the mythical Scottish village that appears only once every hundred years …
In fact, the comparison is not as unlikely as it may seem. Because Estellencs has an unfortunate tendency to become cut off from the outside world every few years by landslides, which pour down from the hills onto the coast road and bring the local authorities rushing to the rescue, resurfacing and replacing the retaining walls. That’s sort of a tradition here as well.
But being cut off from the outside world seems a bit like the natural state of things when you arrive in Estellencs. If you haven’t been there, make the journey as soon as you can. It won’t hurt to add one more person to this village of just 384 souls. And after all, you’re not planning to stay forever, are you?
If you visit on a good day, which is nearly all of the time, the most striking thing you’ll notice is the silence in those little streets, not the silence of a place abandoned, but the silence of a place at peace with itself. The people who live here are exactly where they want to be, at home.
There’s the old square and the church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of the village. And all around the views are breathtaking, whether it’s the panoramic vista to the sea or inland to the verdant terraced olive groves. There’s the steep slope down to the little port with its pebble beach. And in the background everywhere you look, the Tramuntana Mountains rising to an impressive 3,000 feet or more.
An hour or two here and you’ll forget that anywhere else exists – which is absolutely fine …
But places, after all, are just places, bricks and mortar, without the people. And it’s the people of Estellencs which really make me feel as if I’ve just come home – no matter how many times I visit. Stroll into either of the little bars, Sa Punteta, or Sa Tanca, in the lower part of the village, and it’s as if you’re a long-lost cousin … even with my far-from-perfect Spanish, accented I’m sure, with my unusual family mix of English and German! And I hate to break the spell, but, believe it or not, Estellencs is just 50 minutes up the C710 from Palma Airport, the island’s gateway to the outside world. It could be a million miles away!
You see, the thing about this journey is that it could be any one of a thousand different trips through the spectacular countryside of Mallorca … or any one of a thousand winding walks you can take through the medieval streets of Palma or the other towns on the island for that matter.
All of them are special, refreshing and different. But what they have in common as far as I’m concerned – and I know there are many others who feel as I do – is that each and every one of these little corners of Mallorca makes me feel more at home than the last.
I’m sure you have your own favourite place, and if you haven’t, set out right away and find one. Now, the last few months of the year, October and November, is the perfect time to explore. Autumn – it’s when you really see the best of Mallorca!