IN THE depths of winter Mallorca may not seem like the ideal holiday destination. Many businesses and restaurants are closed for the season and the water is far too cold for a dip for all but the hardiest of bathers.
The island out of season isn’t to everyone’s taste.
Take the experience of lovers George Sand and Frederick Chopin, who are credited with putting the island ‘on the map’ nearly two centuries ago in the 1830s.
They amorous pair fled Paris where their affair provoked a scandal to seek refuge on the hitherto unknown idyllic Mediterranean island of Mallorca where she hoped to write and he to compose.
However Chopin’s piano was seized in customs and the traditional Catholic peasantry made life difficult for the unmarried couple, who stayed in the basement of a charterhouse in the inland town of Valldemossa.
Sand’s “Winter in Mallorca” is a scathing travel diary, disappointed with the ‘backwardness’ of the islanders and unexpected cold.
Sand, which was the pen name for Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, wrote: “As the winter advanced, the gloom froze all my attempts at gaiety and calm…We felt like prisoners.”
Supposedly, the islanders hated her right back, calling her ‘the devil’s own hand-maiden’…
The couple’s stay on the island was cut short by unwelcoming locals and lovers tiffs, and it wasn’t long before they left for Barcelona and then returned to Paris.
However, with such puritanical attitudes among locals most definitely confined to the past and thanks to indoor heating, there is much to recommend a winter visit to the island.
Look beyond the beaches and you’ll find hidden gems which are best visited outside of the busy summer season when the island is heaving with tourists.
It’s the perfect time to appreciate the island’s untrodden corners.
Es Baluard Museum in Palma
The Es Baluard museum of modern and contemporary art has over 500 works of modern and contemporary art by locals and international artists with links to the island, including Miquel Barceló, Santiago Calatrava, Rebecca Horn, Francesca Martí and Picasso.
The contemporary arts centre in Andratx shows photographs, installations, sculptures and paintings by local artists as well as changing residencies for artists.
Chopin Museum, Valldemossa
In the Museum Chopin in Valldemossa you can visit the monastery Chopin and George Sand stayed in 1838, where Chopin created some of his greatest compositions. Read about his life and work and you can even see his original piano.
Robert Graves Museum, Deia
The Robert Graves Museum preserves the auditorium, house and his garden of the renowned English poet and writer, who lived in the mountainous village of Deià in 1929. The writer lived in the village until his death, only leaving briefly during the civil war.
Graves was a fan of Sand and Chopin, describing Sand as “the uncrowned queen of the Romantics”, a conscious pioneer of a “modern”, liberated lifestyle.
Museu del Fang, Marratxi
The Museu del Fang in Marratxi is an ode to the extensive history of traditional mallorcan ceramics. The museum has over 900 unique pieces on display, 400 of which are traditional ceramics. You can also admire the clay pottery from Marratxi as well as explore pottery studios nearby of local vase makers and artisans.
Enjoy the relief of colder temperatures to visit monasteries across the island which has deep Catholic traditions.
Lluc monastery is surrounded by the breathtaking mountain range of the Serra de Tramuntana, where it lies at an altitude of 525 m in the heart of the mountain range. This monastery attracts pilgrims all year round and is regarded as the spiritual centre of Mallorca.
Sanctuary of la Mare de Déu de Sant Salvador
The Sanctuary of la Mare de Déu de Sant Salvador dates back to the mid 14th century and was built during the ‘Black Death’ as people believed the higher altitudes would protect them from the plaque.
It’s located in the municipality of Felanitx on the top of Puig de Salvador, 509 metres above sea level.
Santuari de Cura Monastery
The Santuari de Cura Monastery, Randa, stands at the top of the Puid de Randa mountain. It is looked after by the Franciscan Tertiary order who restored it in the early 20th century.
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