Tuesday, May 30, 2017

HIDDEN MALLORCA AT BELMOND LA RESIDENCIA


Long before mass tourism, artists, writers and composers hid away on Mallorca to create masterpieces. We have sought out some of their hideaways – where refined five star hotels offer an indulgent escape in stunning surroundings…far from the madding crowd.



First stop will be Deia, an enchanting village at the foot of massive rocky mountains – home of artist’s since the sixties. 

Here lies Belmond La Residencia. Stepped up the slope in the same honey coloured stone as the village, it blends in harmoniously, surrounded by lush gardens erupting with gigantic roses, lemon, orange and olive trees. 



One of the must-dos is to sit on the terrace waiting for the moment the sun sets and suffuses the soaring cliffs with a red glow. For the occasion we definitely had to try a Miro cocktail – named after Joan Miró, whose original artworks decorate the Miró Café bar and bistro.

The very moment that the  rosy hue begins to glow on the crags 


Miro cocktail, Miro art
Miro's Archipel sauvage V, 1970

Art is a passion at Belmond La Residencia. The hotel has three resident artists, the gorgeous grounds contain a sculpture garden, and the walls are hung with 800 curated artworks – including the impressive collection of 33 originals by Miró in place until September 2017. 

 Belmond La Residencia’s resident sculptor, Juan Waelder, knew the artist personally and recalls: 
“Joan Miró illuminated the world of art, and the spirit of millions of people...”

Art workshops are offered by the hotel including sculpture sessions with Juan Waelder, and you can also join art walks with a guide to meet the village artists - more about that later.


The loving touch


The hotel welcomes you warmly and pampers you in style. Originally an olive oil farm or finca, the farm mansions have been converted artfully into guest rooms of every size and shape, all enlivened by original paintings and antiques, and a refined rustic style with terracotta tiles and wooden beams.

This junior suite superior lies closes to the breakfast restaurant and has a narrow garden curved around it with sunbeds and table and chair, with the mountain peaks rearing up behind vegetation 
The hotel’s caring touch extends up the mountain through its own centuries-old olive groves. La Residencia spends a considerable budget on restoring the archaic stone walls that terrace the steep slope, and in removing unwanted plants for the sake of the precious olives and the beauty of the surroundings.

As allies in this effort they keep donkeys that nibble away between the olive trees. These beasts of burden add colour and authenticity to what is already a hotel full of Mallorcan atmosphere.

Sharing their passion for their environment with guests is in itself a passion for hotel management and staff. Once a week they organize a walk up the slope with donkeys carrying your drinking water to a stone shed high up with views of Deia and the sea. There you sit down at a rustic table to hear about local ways and eat rustic food – a range of Mallorcan sausages and “pa amb oli” with fresh made bread, which you rub with wild tasting Mallorcan tomatoes, various salt mixes, and olive oil of various local varieties.

Towards the beginning of the stiff walk we saw a new platform with stunning sea view – destined for romantic private dining. The velvet blue of the sea peeps between the gnarled trunks of olives.


One of our companions - families can hire him for a walk with the kids to make them really happy



The hotel in reviving its large olive plantations is grafting fresh olive plants onto the old rootstock of well adapted Mallorcan olives. The higher we walked, the more sea we saw

Sea and mountains

Glimpsed way below the hotel, the sea is not really so far away. It’s a mere 5 mins drive or some 20 to 30 mins walk down a rustic path from La Residencia to Cala Deia. Nestled in this rocky cove with sparkling seawater is a small beach strewn with kelp and pebbles. Cosily it has two tapas bars, where you can sit in the sun and drink gin with hibiscus tonic – which went down very well with our party who were now wondering how to get hibiscus tonic back home.

At a rustic bar at Cala Deia with Kate from the Belmond team

In the summer the hotel offers boat trips along the coast to other sights and beaches. Or for hikers, you can stride for some 2 hours over mountain passes to Port Soller to enjoy its beach and bars, feeling you really deserve it.

Back at the hotel swimming is a pleasure from spring to autumn. The main pool is heated, and there are two more pools including a spa pool.

Deia  and the Tramuntana mountains beyond the heated pool
One of the golden stone villas of Deia beyond the hotel gardens - backed by those mind blowing mountains

Tapas and village culture

With their stunning backdrop of towering mountains and gardens simply erupting with flowers, the hotel terraces are sublime spots for breakfast, lunch and cocktails – and of course for tapas.

Both Miro restaurant and El Olivo are worthy F&B destinations with guests coming from far afield. In the picturesque village there are 8 restaurants so that creates a bit of competition which helps to keep a high standard all round.

Other boasting points in Deia are a museum and a lovely church with the churchyard where the English poet Robert Graves was buried. He lived here for decades from 1929 until his death in 1985 and his home can be visited.


Steps  past a drinking fountain leading up towards the church
Narrow one ways and mellow stone backed by the Tramuntana mountains


Intimately part of Deia, La Residencia gives easy access to village life. You can buy Mallorcan gins and olive oil, browse in a few arty shops, and interact with local artists in their studios (most of them simply homes stacked with art for viewing and for sale). No artists will hassle you to buy (however happy they will be if you do). They will tell you why they painted x or y, revealing their dreams or their loves and disillusions. 

On our art walk with one of La Residencia’s art gurus:

Some artworks by David Templeton outside his home - which is packed with paintings and collages from floor to ceiling, lounge to kitchen


Arturo drifted in to Deia on his travels round the world - and stayed decades. No pose of arrogant intellectual mystique - he will tell you a story behind every painting - true if you want or pure fantasy. Vermeer's lady with the pearl earring pops up in various paintings - here she has the background of Cala Deia.Behind is Blind Date - based on a failed date of his own - which lead to the next painting....

Women bear a huge burden of romance - his amusing perhaps sardonic explanation for the flowery lady bearing Cupid on her breast. 

In the gardens at the hotel at least once a week you find local art on display. A big party in the summer that invites the villagers is another high point of interaction with the locals. The band is likely to contain a few of the expat artists who discovered Deia decades ago.

A place of your own

At Belmond La Residencia most rooms have views of mountains soaring heavenward, the lush gardens or the stone village. 

The building lowest down – virtually in the village –  is the oldest mansion (16th century) and some rooms have a more medieval feel ladled with nostalgia. Next tier, the Son Fony wing is where we stayed in an 18th century mansion above the main pool area. Finally, perched high on the slope, is the new Tramuntana wing – recreating the old style but with stunning open views and a number of plunge pools.

The news is that in June 2017, six new rooms will be available high up in the Tramuntana section, with a special attraction for extended families. On two levels you have the possibility to book three interleading suites as two Exclusive suites (each with plunge pool and separate lounge) interlink and interconnect with a Junior Suite Deluxe on each level.   


Summary of a great hotel - worth your bucket list

In short, Belmond La Residencia is a hotel with soul, with refined and cultured atmosphere yet warm and relaxing. It radiates the authentic feel of old stone, original art and antiques – and is wrapped in beauty with tall mountains and exuberant scented gardens, within easy reach of the sea. Hotel arranges activities to put you in tune with Mallorca, its olive groves, artists, and tapas…or just head off on your own.

View at breakfast - the terrace of Son Fony restaurant

Who to stay

They go out of the way for families and have a kids club to keep them active, but it is basically an adult hotel, with generally sophisticated guests who would not really welcome too exuberant children. As it is so up and down with sometimes uneven stone steps it does not suit those with mobility problems or unwieldy baby carriages, but there are a few rooms that enable the guest to get to meals and the lobby without climbing any or many steps.

Quick facts

No. of rooms: 72, 1 villa
Distance from airport: 45 mins
Distance from shopping: The hotel lies in the village of Deia, less than 5 mins from a liquor store, a few arty shops and local restaurants
Pools & spa: Lovely heated pool with fabulous views of the mountains and some hideaway terraces for suntanning. A quiet pool further up the slopes.  The spa: pool Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, 6 treatment rooms 3 with terraces – complimentary use of facilities.
F&B:  El Olivo with a stone courtyard with olive trees and indoor dining - Mediterranean cuisine. Popular with outsiders. Café Miro bar and bistro. Adorned with Miro paintings. Spills out onto the terraces. Son Fony – in beautiful position above the main pool with terrace and indoor area. Breakfast with usual choices on the buffet table, a fair selection of Spanish style sausages and other cold cuts on separate table, eggs and pancakes to order.  Pool restaurant/bar – in summer – a generous buffet offering good value.

In Deia there are 8 restaurants. Especially recommended is Nama (tip from a local artist) and Es Racò Des Teix -  family run restaurant with one Michelin star.  
Excerpt from menu at Café Miro
Guijuelo bellota Spanish ham 31 euros. Beef carpaccio with Cipriani sauce and rocket and parmesan  24 euros (I  had a wonderful tuna version – totally first class). Grilled Soller prawns and salad 38 euros.
Excerpt from the menu at El Olivo
Filete de lubina salvaje confitado en aceite de la finca, calamares e hinojo 38.00
Fillet of wild sea bass in confit of the finca's olive oil, squid and fennel

Degustation menu 128 euros: “El Olivo classics” – 7 courses. “Chef Méndez will surprise you with some of his most acclaimed signature dishes such as Sóller prawns, Monkfish fillet sautéed with citrus fruits from our garden or roast suckling-pig and more.”


Our lovely lemony dessert
New platform for private dining



Sports: gym, 2 tennis courts  


Read more about our Mallorcan hotels see the Select Collection website HERE


Blog text and  images by Select Collection & Gillian Stanbridge -   image of a Miro artwork by Belmond.







Monday, May 22, 2017

GLAMOUR & INTIMACY AT BELMOND SPLENDIDO

Indeed splendid. Our international team of travel advisors were all blown away by Belmond Hotel Splendido – not just the stunning views, but the refined service and heart-stirring ambience…




In this elegant hotel overlooking the beautiful coastline of Portofino, you get a feeling of travelling back in time to the glamorous fifties.  


There is a wonderful ambience, tinged with glamour and intimacy. Sitting in the cocktail bar, you can imagine the illustrious cast of celebrities and royal dignitaries that have spent time there, enjoying the atmosphere and no doubt some raucous celebrations over the years.


In the bar with its hand-painted walls and marble floors an international set gather every night for cocktails and to enjoy the music. The resident pianist Vladimir Gatto has worked at Splendido for 30 years, and is something of an in-house celebrity! He will most likely ask if you would like to sing with him.

Antonio Becalli, the legendary Bar Manager, has been at the hotel 47 years creating cocktails – including one he designed especially for Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. He mingles with the guests and joins in with the singing and dancing; a real character and part of the furniture. His Bellini is noted by many guests as the best in the world!

The formal Italian restaurant La Terazza has an extensive menu and comprehensive wine list. The stunning terrace overlooks the coast line of Portofino. The food is of a good quality. The dress code is smart. You can either sit on the terrace to enjoy the sublime views and classic atmosphere, or in the more formal dining room inside. Service is professional, and attentive but not intrusive.





At the Pool restaurant – open daily for lunch only 1-4pm they serve buffet style appetizers, pizza that will be baked in front of your eyes in the wood fired oven, and a selection of pastas, salads and grills.

Down at the piazetta at the harbour,  enjoy authentic Italian food at at Chuflay. The service is personal and this restaurant is more casual than La Terazza. A perfect spot for people watching in the midst of the colourful harbour.




The staff are highly professional with a hospitable humorous manner lacking formalities. Nightly entertainment with pianist.

Child friendly? Honeymoon-friendly...

Belmond Hotel Splendido is not the ultimate place to bring your children and is more a destination for couples including honeymooners. They do have a kids club called the Smile Club where children between 4-12 are welcome. Here the children can enjoy everything from pizza baking, ice cream tasting or going for a fishing excursion. There is no kids pool but they do have a children’s menu!

Rooms


Balcony with a view to die for - our room looking over Portofino harbour

A room with a balcony is a way to make the most of your stay. New from this year, all types of junior suites have balcony, and they are all facing the sea. All of the junior suites are different. The junior suite superior is the smallest, and junior suite executive is the largest. They are differently decorated, some a bit more modern and others the classic style. Some have separate bedroom and living room. All of them have separate shower and bath tub.

For families there are some interconnecting solutions including a presidential suite interconnecting to a junior executive via entrance door. On some floors the suite may be splendid but the view may be less so – so ask our advice.

A newly renovated room with the inspiration of the lush green flower-filled gardens and some old fashioned glamour

A nice excursion


View of Portofino from our boat. We took a boat from Portofino to Camogli a little village, following the hilly coastline.

How to get there

Colourful Portofino reflected in the calm bay
The small town of Portofino is located 45 km east of Genoa, which will be the closest airport. 

Driving: Driving time to the hotel is from 40-50 min, depending on traffic. The airport is served by Alitalia, British Airways (from Gatwick), AirFrance/KLM, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines and a raft of budget airlines such as Ryanair, AirDolomiti and Vueling. There is a highway (A12) from the airport to Rapallo, and from Rapallo onward to Santa Margherita. 

Bus: From the Santa Margherita Ligure station, there is a regular bus service to the Martyrs Square of Liberty in Portofino. Journey time is about 15 minutes and costs around 3 Euro one way. The road ends in Portofino, and it is a car-free zone - so private transfers from the airport are recommended.

Train: You can also easily reach Portofino by train: The closest train station to Portofino is Santa Margherita Ligure-Portofino. 

The following are some Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.com) route options:

FROM ROME: Roma Termini – (change at Rapallo) – S. Margherita Ligure-Portofino (Travel time: 4hrs 41mins)
FROM GENOA: Genova – S. Margherita LigurePortofino (Travel time: 45 mins) (costs around 3 Euro)
FROM FLORENCE: Firenze S.M. Novella – (change at Pisa Centrale) – S. Margherita Ligure-Portofino (Travel time: 5hrs 12mins).

Ferry: If you’re staying on the Ligurian coast, a great way to visit Portofino and enjoy views of the coastline is by ferry. There are a number of ferry and boat services that link towns on the Ligurian coast. See www.traghettiportofini.it, www.battellierigenova. it and www.golfoparadiso.it.www.golfoparadiso.it.

Getting around

Within Portofino, walking is the best option. The town is not large and most hotels and beaches are a short walk from the harbour. A regular, scheduled shuttle service is available between Belmond Hotel Splendido and Splendido Mare (or take a leisurely, 10-minute walk). The hotel offers free parking and garage for their guests. Prebooking is necessary. 


To get around on the water, you can rent this boat


Note: the train and bus information is subject to change

For more about our fabulous hotels in Italy see our SELECT COLLECTION WEBSITE.

This post was based on a group report by a team of Select Collection travel advisors after a recent visit: Ilse Nyman (Finland), Laila Ånestad (Norway), Astrid Solvik (Norway), Collette O'Connor (UK), Louise Lundius (Sweden), Magdalena Sundberg (Sweden) .

images by Select Collection team and Belmond

Monday, May 15, 2017

ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD AT BELMOND CARUSO


Belmond Hotel Caruso. You come here for views to break your heart, pampered serenity and utmost romance.  Below lies Ravello, one of the prettiest villages in Italy with cute cafes and boutiques, and lemon groves plunging into dazzling sea.


Plunging views from Belmond Hotel Caruso




One of Italy’s most romantic spots is beside the iconic infinity pool that seems to float to the edge of the world.  Lunch is served close by, starting with a beautiful salad buffet followed by a la carte menu. Pizza is highly recommended! You can even arrange to dine on the very edge.



Sip a cocktail, munch pizza, dine in divine style or simply dream on the edge of the world

Lunch in the gardens above the Mediterranean blue
The Belvedere restaurant also adds magnificent views to the experience of the authentic Italian cuisine – especially in summer on the open terrace. 



Open terrace in summer

But we recommend that you eat out more than once as there is a big choice of cafes and restaurants and some hidden gems in the village of Ravello.


Glittering private dinner at Caruso

It is fun to explore Amalfi by foot seeking culinary and other treasures.


In the village - a real Italian atmosphere




Another must is to jump aboard the traditional wooden boat Ercole and see the gems of the Amalfi Coast with a complimentary boat tour.  You can also do daytrips to Amalfi and Positano.


View of Positano from the boat
Perfect for a romantic getaway. To avoid the crowds and traffic go during spring or autumn (May/April and September)  


OUR ASSESSMENT

Perfect for a romantic getaway, in a setting of fabulous gardens, with amazing 360 degree panoramic views, and closeness to picturesque Ravello. Enjoy great housekeeping and spacious rooms. 






But be aware this is not easy terrain for driving around – with steep and winding roads. Nor is it ideal for wheelchairs or people who find trouble walking on stairs and slopes.  If you like duvets – you need to order them as the norm is blankets. The spa is limited to one treatment room.

The rooms are a bit of a “jungle” in the sense that price may bring greater size but does not necessarily bring a better view and/or a balcony. We can help our clients choose the best rooms with the best views.

Herb garden to add to the Mediterranean flavours

Many steps

TIP

Order breakfast in the room to enjoy your private view – no extra charge..

QUICK FACTS

Lemon country

No of rooms: 50  



Ravello is in the region of Campania within the province of Salerno (SA) in Southern Italy. The “Amalfi Drive” stretches over 50 km from Sorrento to Salerno, passing Positano, Praiano, Amalfi, Atrani, Minori, Maiori, Cetara and Vietri Sul Mare.

The nearest airport is  Naples. Distance from airport to Ravello is 59 km and it will take c. 60 min by car to the hotel. Rental car is a challenge, and NOT recommended in Ravello, as the roads are narrow and curved and parking is very limited, especially in the high season. It’s also possible to reach the hotel by bus but best solution is a transfer by the hotel.

The small town of Ravello is easily explored on foot. SITA buses run frequently between Ravello and Amalfi (which is the main bus terminal on the Amalfi Coast for connections) and taxis are available near the main bus stop in Ravello 

Distance from nearest town/shops/restaurants: 0 meters (Ravello). 

Distance from Ravello to Amalfi: 7 km - Taxi costs around EUR 45 one way.

This post was based on a group report by a team of Select Collection travel advisors after a recent visit: Ilse Nyman (Finland), Laila Ånestad (Norway), Astrid Solvik (Norway), Collette O'Connor (UK), Louise Lundius (Sweden), Magdalena Sundberg (Sweden) .

For more, visit Select Collection website HERE

Images by Belmond and Select Collection.