Bon Sol resort, Mallorca
This lovely resort is an almost indeterminable sprawling estate
The Bon Sol resort cascades down the side of a hill in Illetas Bay, though you would hardly know it. Let me explain.
My accommodation, a standard double with a blacony and sea view, was in the main section of this hill-perched hotel. There are several places to dine, but despite being on a hill I could take breakfast at the beach side restaurant, but getting there is quite a treck.
It means catching a lift to the reception, crossing a road and descending 200 steps through various garden terraces.
Alternatively I could hitch a ride on a lift to a sweet smelling, beautifully tiled subterranean tunnel passing a tiny chapel and the odd antique to bypass the outdoors.
Either way the jaunt takes at least 10 minutes and to get to the beach level yet still have to pass through a tropical garden, a waterfall, some signs pointing to French boules, tennis and squash courts (which I never did locate), a couple of outdoor swimming pools and kid's pool and a series of beach side villas to have breakfast (or lunch or dinner for that matter). This overlooks the privately owned horseshoe of wave-whishing sandy beach and the Balearic Sea.
Ironically, it's easy to miss the entrance to the Bon Sol. The entrance is Paseo de Illetas. It is a glass doorway is reached by a set of ten stone steps and through an arch adorned with carvings of all manner of facial expressions and framed with flowers and foliage. It is a smallish area and gives no hint of the unfolding, sprawling mass of this resort.
But if not for Antonio Xamena, originally from Felanitx, it may never have existed at all.
Antonio's wife, Roger, was lonely in Mallorca, a place he loved. So he came up with the idea of combining the well-being of his wife with his love of this mountainous sea enveloped land. They would develop a hotel.
They bought a villa that once belonged to Castle Bendinat in a small bay in Illetas, around five miles from the capital, Palma.
The 14-bedroomed Bonsol hotel accepted its first guests In 1953. The next year, Errol Flynn stayed awhile and though it was becoming more popular, it didn't have the sea frontage so revered by holidaymakers.
Undeterred, Antonio bought all the land down to the beach and developed a complex of villas with restaurants and pools. But to get there from the main reception guests had quite an arduous trek. So the underground tunnel was born.
The Bon Sol comprises 240 beds within a range of suites and villas and is now run by Antonio's son Martin together with wife Lorraine and son Alejandro. Together they are building on a superb legacy of hospitality ensuring that each guest exchanges pleasantries with at least one of them every day.
At check-in everyone is given a map and welcome drink voucher to be taken at the bar, a room of dark wood, burgundy chairs, just off the reception area. This incidentally morphs into a dance floor later when the atmosphere brightens up with dimmed lighting and the rhythms of live singers churning out easy-listening music.
I took a few minutes to relax in the bar's flowery al fresco terrace to devour the map. There are 20 places discover, apart from the bedroom, and I needed apply my internal compass to get my bearings.
The décor in the hill top segment of the resort is very much Spanish Castilian in style. Wood floors, low beamed ceilings, red carpets, light stone walls, chairs with burgundy upholstery, and precious porcelain and antiques in nooks and crannies.
From the top of the main staircase, a series of steps lead left and right. To the right is a bright winter garden conservatory for informal meals. This leads to an outdoor pool and Jacuzzi. Elsewhere on the first floor another glass door leads to a fabulously lush mini-golf complex.
A sitting room and a library are superbly decorated in relaxing muted colours with antiques, exotic adornments from as far afield as Burma and Thailand and some bizarre object d'arts that the couple picked up on their world travels. Many of the paintings were inherited: an uncle had restored a monastery in Felanitx and these were a gift from the grateful monks.
Within these rooms are a golfer's corner (Martin sorts out rounds of golfs to the Bendinat golf course at preferential rates) and a cards room.
A couple of floors down are the yoga and exercise rooms. The classes are taken by Lorraine in candle-lit, soft- hued rooms. The gym, small but adequate, is on another part of the resort. A lift opens straight onto it.
A brown door opens up into a solarium with three sauna's and steam room, a wet room and flash cold shower area. This is where a snooze on a cushioned sunbed in front of glass windows was inevitable. To refresh I went through French doors onto the terrace for a dip in the plunge pool and a jacuzzi.
The spa and beauty parlour is one floor down. All sorts of anti-stress, anti-cellulite, anti-aging and anti-anything bad treatments are available.
There are several dining options but we opted for formal dining in Las Antorchas restaurant, a room clad with chandeliers, stone walls and medieval lanterns. Staff were courteous and noticed a theme in the items we were ordering. "Are you vegetarian?" the waitress asked and offered a vegetarian menu.
Indeed, the whole experience is a very civilized affair. Even the suits of armour that stand guard at strategic places amusingly don a skirt for modesty reasons.
Being a short walk to Illetas's public beach and a ten minute drive to Palma and the harbour area means being able to combine the slow, traditional pace of the resort with everything that the Mallorcan day and night life offers.
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