The most recent series of Love Island was filmed on this beautiful Balearic isle and has apparently been responsible for a whopping 23% surge in bookings. My daughter, a fan, was keen to see it for herself. I, not a fan, was equally keen, but for quite different reasons.
Miss Gallivant was possibly a little disappointed when we arrived at Hotel Bon Sol in the tiny ‘resort’ of Illetas to find a pool surrounded not by young upstarts sporting pert pecs and counterfeit cleavages but by a more, shall we say, ‘mature’crowd. But she hid it well.
We arrived at lunchtime to a lavish buffet, served on the terrace with a view down towards the hotel’s pocket sized beach. There was a sailing race on in the distance so we enjoyed watching yachts skip across the waves as we feasted on seafood.
The utterly charming hotel owner, Martin, dropped by for a chat. I later realised that this wasn’t just because I was here on a writing mission – he and his equally delightful (British) wife, Lorraine, get to know everyone who stays here. It pays off. Legions of loyal fans return year after year and he seems to know most of them by name.
Much of the time Hotel Bonsol does tend to attract an older crowd, except in school holidays when families descend, lured by the genuinely warm welcome and beautiful surroundings. This is not a place for water aerobics and 24 hour fun, fun, fun. It’s where you come for a gentle time, with low key attractions – there are tennis courts, table tennis, mini golf, yoga and a spa. A free kids club runs during school holidays.
There are 120 rooms, yet it really does a feel a bit like you are staying with family friends. Your average visit to friends, however, wouldn’t include the entertainment we experienced that evening. We wandered downstairs at 8pm to find a crammed restaurant. A beautiful young couple dressed in flamboyant, frilly outfits (turns out to be Martin and Lorraine’s son, Alejandro, and his wife) whisked us to the last available table – because a flamenco show was about to start. It was very good – although we did giggle at the camp and ever so serious guy who led the troupe. Boy did he enjoy the sheer extravagance of it all. And so did we. As we watched, plates of food were paraded in and out efficiently. I couldn’t fault it – exquisite morsels of charcuterie, olives, bruschetta, and cheeses were followed by a main course of fish and tooth achingly sweet desserts.
Then it was back up to our room – not flashy but comfortable – with a huge balcony and sea view. The rest of the hotel is crammed with antiques and art. It is not in the slightest bit trendy but has old school charm… actually a rather refreshing change from so many modern, identikit, hotels.
Palma by bus
Next morning it was an easy 25 minute journey into Palma, Mallorca’s capital, by bus – it stops right outside the hotel. I love this city. It’s an easy place to just wander around, with a few good sights, some cracking restaurants and a gentle buzz. The cathedral is stunning. As we explored the interior, beams of multicoloured light shone down on us – not some benediction from above, but sunlight streaming through two incredible circular stained glass windows. The eastern rose window, with a diameter of 14 metres, is the largest gothic example in the world.
A stop for coffee and sweet, flaky ensaimada pastries at Ca’n Joan de S’aigo (founded in 1700 it’s the place to have them) revived us to wander through the warren of small city streets, stopping off to gawp at a pretty courtyard garden here, an interesting old house there. Some rather interesting boutiques beckoned too.
After our tapas lunch, we could have carried on with our sightseeing but the heat was rising and a refreshing swim beckoned. Hotel BonSol has three pools, set in beautiful terraced gardens, so it never feels overly crowded. An excellent pre-dinner massage in the hotel spa completed the unwinding process.
Dinner was a lot less noisy that night, although it still comprised several courses, with a piano tinkling away in the background. We opted for an early night as next day we had organised a long guided walk in the nearby Tramuntana Mountains. Miss Gallivant is one of those rare children who actually enjoy walking!
A phone call awoke us to say the walk was cancelled as the weather was too stormy and predictable. What? I looked out of the window at the calm sea, blue sky and dazzling sunshine. At breakfast we saw Martin, who explained that the mountains have their own little micro climate but that the weather was predicted to be good if we stayed where we were. He suggested if we wanted to walk (which we really did as I felt like I’d already gained several pounds with all the delicious food we’d consumed) we should maybe take a stroll to Puerto Portals.
What a glitzy place! Just past the beautiful beach, super yachts jostled for position in the harbour. Across the road the pavement was lined with prime real estate and yacht agents, shops and restaurants. We picked one for lunch and then watched as Lamborghini after Ferrari after Rolls Royce slowed down – their very own catwalk past us voyeurs in front row position.
As we started our walk back to the hotel, Miss Gallivant’s eye was caught by a bikini in one of the shops. My eye was caught by the extortionate price. I idly speculated that this was the sort of place that the Love Island contestants might have come to buy their swimwear.
‘See – all style over substance, just like them’ I muttered. Miss Gallivant rolled her eyes and stalked off. Oh dear. It had all been going so well.
- Classic Collection Holidays ( 0800 047 1064; classic-collection.co.uk) offers 7 nights at Bon Sol, Mallorca from £1134 per person. Price based on 2 adults sharing a classic room on a half board basis and includes return flights from London Gatwick ( other UK departure airports available) to Palma and private transfers.