Urban beach & the black box

January 25, 2019 in DUBAI | Comments (0)

A sweet incident from the past  – not published then. 

Retracing our steps in Four Beaches and Five Animals, a trip via Dubai to South Africa and Mozambique. Beach one, Dubai.

This is the beach at the Ritz-Carlton, an area where lots of little cafes and restaurants make it a very urban beach. You can hardly be more urban than Dubai, and yet beachy…

Dubai was just a short stopover, baked into the Emirates plane ticket. With some 12 hours in Dubai wedged between arrival and departure, we tried to retrieve as much time as possible for sleep at the Ritz Carlton. That means we ordered Ahlan & Marhaba VIP services to get us through the airport fast.

Like magic on arrival you mosey off to a lounge to sit a short while with a drink while your Ahlan agent rushes off with your passports. Then you are lead quickly through the passport control and through the airport via a currency exchange of sorts (the real one was too far away). They refused our SEK. Outside we were handed to another agent who handed over to a competent driver.

Indeed competent. We asked our driver to change our departure time from the Ritz Carlton, pinning our faith on our VIP service to gain an hour of sleep. And he did, allowing departure from the hotel at 8am. We really needed it…

It was somewhere in the middle of the night when we were shown to our room, which turned out to be much more than a room thanks to upgrade  – a wonderful suite with a curved balcony viewing the pool, the palms, and the glint of water between the beach and that phenomenal man made island, The Palm.

The porter had offered to show us the lights. This  usually has the form of you trying to scrabble in your handbag looking for a suitable note for a tip while the porter finds  yet another light switch to impress you with- We had no dirhams.

So we said no thanks – we are tired.

We would be far more tired before the switching out of the lights it turned out. They are controlled by a little flat electronic tablet we did not notice. No switches work.

We tried pulling out the door key, and sure enough the lights went out, but a deep thick curtain began to groan as it closed, and we were in utter pitch darkness.

Luckily we had a torch ready for our visit to the bush later on. So we were able to make our way back and insert the door key. Work out how to phone reception, and then try to solve the problem. In the end they had to come up and show us where the black computer was…

Next problem was how to switch on the loo light  for a late night visit. There was no way to do this simply in the middle of the night. You would have to switch on the main lights to see the computer controls, and a spotlight would gaze blindingly into your eyes from the ceiling above your bed.

So we had to leave the loo light on all night.

This was a small incident.

The suite was gorgeous. Loads of room for entertaining if we wanted to do more than sleep through our stopover. Lovely decor. Lovely bathroom and dressing room. Wonderful bed and bedding. And a lovely balcony, curved with a view of palms and water. I just had my iPhone which was not up to the scenery at night.

But I took this picture down below on the way to breakfast through the tropical green morning.

Breakfast was a lavish tropical feast, adorablly delicious. We love you Ritz-Carlton…

I am trying to rescue Orbitwithgillian which has been hit by sorrow, loss of my webmaster my beloved daughter, time loss through work pressures and the loss of plugins from WordPress. 


Deia, art & olive groves

in MALLORCA | Comments (1)

Picture 1 of 16

Flowers and lemons, olives and mountains seen from La Residencia

Long before mass tourism, artists, writers and composers hid away on Mallorca to create masterpieces. But it became one of those “‘suburbs” of northern climes where you were more likely to meet a sweetheart than in your own home town, so you didn’t miss a chance, partied till dawn and lay limply uncovered in the sun.

Now it is back as a first class destination. We never once made the beach, and found a beautiful island full of mountains, stone villages and hidden corners, overflowing with cultural interest. We had no time for sunchairs, even by the pool though we had the privilege to stay in four luxury hotels, hidden from the crowds.
The first lies in a picturesque mountain village with a good number of expat artists. The second takes you to the foothills for a 2-Michelin star restaurant and a quiet stay devoted to spa and exercise – perhaps e-biking. The third overlooks Palma with sublime terraces, historical paintings and a vivid retrohistory of celebrities. The fourth is right in Palma, but gently hidden.

1. Deia

Deia, an enchanting village at the foot of the massive rocky Tramuntana mountains  has been home of artist’s since the sixties.

Here lies Belmond La Residencia, occupying the land and buildings of a 16th century finca or farm. 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. I had seen pictures but was unprepared for how gigantic the mountains are, looming up into the sky.

At sunset something amazing happens. It’s as if they catch alight for a short intense moment. Guests and those in the know sit on the terraces of Miro cafe waiting for the transformation. Preferably with a Miro cocktail. And I did the same, in the company of the ravishing Eva, svelte Kate and others.

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 an impressive collection of 33 originals by Miró in place until September 2017.

Belmond La Residencia’s resident sculptor, Juan Waelder, knew the artist personally. Juan runs one of the hotel’s art workshops (which I joined that weekend). You can also join art walks with a guide to meet the village artists – more about that later.

The loving touch

The hotel welcomed us warmly. 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. I had a junor suite superior, which enclosed me sweetly in an earthy mood, and gave visions through the glass doors into a small garden that had a sunbed round the corner and a table, from which you could see the incredible mountains
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. They also encourage guests to adopt olive trees for a price.

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.
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 You can see the sea way below but it’s not so far away. It’s a mere 5 mins drive or some 20 to 30 mins walk down a rustic path to Cala Deia. We arrived at a rocky cove with sparkling seawater and a small beach strewn with kelp and pebbles. We chose one of two tapas bars, to sit in the sun sipping gin with hibiscus tonic – a drink that our party were now wondering how to get back home.
In the slide show you see 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 goes on from spring to autumn. The main pool is heated, and there are two more pools including a spa pool, where one of our party trained before breakfast.
Deia and the Tramuntana mountains add enchantment beyond the heated pool

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 and writer Robert Graves was buried. He lived here for decades from 1929 until his death in 1985 and his home can be visited.

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. One of the managers told us about a big party in the summer to which the hotel invites the villagers – another high point of interaction with the locals. The band is very 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. I liked the Son Fony wing best for its balance of old and newish.

In June 2017, there were six new rooms 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.

in a nutshell – 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.

Post from 2017 that somehow escaped publication…