Majorca, an Island of Calm

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A POOL WITH A VIEW: At Es Castell, a hotel that brings you closer to the authentic Majorca

As a top European holiday destination, Majorca has gone through a few reinventions. It began the last century among Spain's poorest regions, became one of the classiest vacation spots on the Mediterranean in the 1920s, exploded as a package-tourism destination in the 1970s, and ended the century as the most expensive part of Spain, a favorite hangout for stars such as Michael Douglas and Claudia Schiffer.

With the island's identity shifting so dramatically, it can be hard to know if you're getting the "real" Majorca. Even the agriturismos — farmhouses converted to rustic hotels in the 1980s — increasingly style themselves as "rural retreats," complete with spas, plasma TVs and low-fat exfoliants.

You know where you are with Es Castell (, however. A sprawling 12-bedroom stone house dating from the 11th century, the hotel is tucked into the southern slopes of the Tramuntana Mountains in the north of the island. To walk through the doors is to step back in time — the tiled floors, white walls and exposed beams make it difficult to argue with manager James Hiscock when he describes Es Castell as "one of the prettiest hotels in Majorca."

The hotel's philosophy, Hiscock says, is to give guests something a little different from the minibar-and-flat-screen experience so familiar from their business trips. Which means no minibar chilling tiny bottles of vodka and $5 peanuts, just an "honesty fridge" stuffed with San Miguel, lemon sodas and ice cream. No bells-and-whistles entertainment system, but a TV discreetly placed in each room and a library of children's DVDs to choose from. And in the restaurant, no culinary chemistry of foams or jus, just a beautifully simple $42 four-course dinner that makes liberal use of the figs, olives, oranges and lamb grown and bred on the farm.

With all that and a stunning pool, a series of beautiful courtyards and friendly, helpful staff, no wonder guests find themselves quickly easing into long days of warm indolence. After all, why bother to go looking for the real Majorca when it turns out you're already staying there?

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