`Life is better in Bikini`, or so the slogan on the young and trendy (and jolly nice , friendly staff), T-shirts tells you.
We have just come back from four fabulous days at one of the most on-trend, Instagram-able , inspiring ,( designed within an inch of its life by German designer Armin Fischer, inspired by the San Francisco hippie movement of the sixties) hotels , adults only, that I have ever stayed in. The original hotel was built in 1969, and it became Bikini Island and Mountain Hotel just four years ago, keeping the bones of the original buildings, and of course fully embracing the aesthetic of the time.
The hotel clutches the lower slopes of the mountains that surround the bay in the Port of Soller in south west Mallorca, with panoramic vistas over the beautiful beaches and yachts.
I love this Balearic island, and have been here many, many times, but it`s been fifteen years since our last visit, and with a big birthday coming up soon for my husband, I decided that a surprise early birthday treat was in order. It was groovy!.
It was an easy , just over an hour and no customs to go through, trip from Malaga to Palma, and then we were whisked away by taxi through the ( very green compared with Andalucia), olive groves and honey coloured stone walls surrounding almond, orange and lemon trees , that is inland Mallorca, then around the coast to the Puerto de Soller. An easy half hour drive.
Bikini Island is just WOW. It`s an original, extraordinary concept. It`s flower power, it`s hippie chic, it`s Woodstock, it’s colourful, it`s the Summer of love… it`s macrame, rattan, walls of mirrors, stacks of interior and travel books and vinyl, it`s vibrant art, peace slogans ( including an amazing one in mosaic in the vast ( cooled water) swimming pool, and swathes of woven esparto shading and shaggy lampshades.
The bedrooms have day beds on the terraces, sun hats and kikois, delicious herby hair and shower products, blue tooth speakers, retro dial telephones, incense sticks, and coffee machines…
The guests were an eclectic well -heeled crowd, happy to chill, read (books not kindles!) by the pool ,and generally love each other… ( its very couple-y), a sort of of gap year beach retreat meets five star hotel. There were English, German, French, and a quite a few Americans. You can fly direct from New York to Palma-who knew?!
The minute you walk in the door ,you are hit by much needed ( it was 38 degrees and beyond humid) icy air conditioning, and the most delicious smell-sort of posh perfume, joss sticks and sun warmed rattan and bamboo is the only way I can describe it!
Music plays all day, inside and out. So very cool. The hotel even has its own playlist on Spotify that I have of course downloaded. Think Michelle, Aquarius, Summer Holiday, All my loving, Do you know the way to San Jose….So very fab.
I read the other day that it is somehow possible to feel nostalgia for something you never experienced, and that is how I feel about the whole sixties vibe. I was born in 1960 ,so missed being part of it, as I was very much a little pigtailed, red sandal-wearing child at the time. But this fuzzy, previously only imagined, idealistic hey-day of music, peaceful protest, and spiritual experimentation, comes to life here, carved out of Scott Mackenzie`s San Francisco, a tangible reality fuelled by grainy Woodstock footage.
Music returns us to moments of our lives therefore, even if they are imagined!
Who wouldn’t want to return to that perfect summers evening, that one magical kiss. Music can take you back to them. And I loved my sweet flirtation with all that was the sixties…
The hotel is a quiet escape, it`s boho-chic, peaceful and chilled out, it`s juice of the day, smoothies, stupendously big breakfasts, colourful cocktails and za`atar sprinkled popcorn at the Donkey bar, and fusion-y, Israel-y food at the uber cool Hotel restaurant Neni.
The best design touch for us is the `stairway to heaven`-flower painted steps that lead out of the hotel down to the port( a feat in themselves in the relentless humidity). Just uber cool.Hand painted, and including sixties song lyrics…`imagine all the people…..`
They must be the most photographed steps in Mallorca. We obliged too of course.
Puerto de Soller is a pretty port, lined with restaurants and bars, and shops selling beachy kaftans, baskets and all things ikat,( the famed print of Mallorca). We had drinks at the chic Esplendido Hotel on our first night , followed by tapas at the Albatros , sitting by the water, listening to music. There is something that I love about a port. It`s not just the yachts, of which there were plenty-big, small, wooden , fishing , and gin palaces, I guess it’s the stories that go with them…where have they come from ,and where are they going. There seems to be a glamour about it all.
Soller is also very famous for its historic, wooden tram. It now trundles back and forth through the orange groves from the port to the old town , taking about 40 minutes. In the past , it transported fish to the docks in Palma, and oranges to the ships that sailed to France. It’s a most enjoyable journey, and I think the only breeze we felt during the whole trip.
Soller old town was busy and buzzy, and very colourful. Everything centres around the Plaza de la Constitucion, lined with bars and cafes and the stunning Sant Bartomeu church towering over everything. Ferias, live music, and an orange festival take place here.
We had intended to have lunch, but it was simply too hot to eat, so we drank cold limon drinks and ate ice lollies, before visiting the charming Sala Picasso y Sala Miro.
What a treat! This small museum is housed in the railway station with its grand courtyard, and is dedicated to works of art by Joan Miro-loved them, and a fabulous collection of ceramics by Pablo Picasso-I wanted to take them all home with us!
On Friday evening we headed to the far end of the port to the office of Bonnie Lass Charters, where we were to jump on a small tender to board this amazing 17 metre Ringnetter built on the east coast of Scotland in 1949. She is rare, beautifully classic, and retains many of her original features. We found out about her and her amazing owner Pete Lucas, on a tv programme, and I was determined to book us onto a sunset charter. Pete is one of those charismatic, fascinating, fun characters who is just a pleasure to be with. He has 20 plus years as a professional yacht Captain under his belt, with 150,000 nautical miles of world wide sailing experience. Oh and so many stories to tell. Google him!
The trip was Captained by Pete, and hosted by him, Ryan and Christina-with other interesting guests, making it twelve of us altogether ,and a lovely dog called Rumba ! It was great, lots of chat and laughter, wine, nibbles, swimming and a stunning sunset to boot. A perfect evening.
In between our forays out ,we relaxed in the sun , then the shade, then the sun again-and swam lots of lengths of the pool, and read ( my kindle) and just enjoyed the whole Bikini experience.
On Saturday night, we headed to the mountain village of Deia ( burial place of writer Robert Graves). We have been here lots, but not for a while, so first stop had to be Café Sa Fonda, a chilled out , hippie bar ( actually not so hippie now) , that we used to frequent-more boutique gins and tonics now-but enormous ones , I must admit.
Deia is a windy, honey stoned, green shuttered village with a handful of excellent restaurants-one of which is Sebastian, another old haunt of ours, owned by the lovely Patricia and her chef husband Sebastian. We sat outside on the terrace ,surrounded by olive trees in pots and twinkling lights, ( oh and Jason Donovan and friends on the next table).
The wine and food were delicious-we ate Mediterranean fish soup, grilled prawns with a citrus sauce, and tuna tartare-all exlemporay.
Sunday lunch was at Patiki Beach. Now I spotted this place on Instagram, and I have been following (and salivating), for a few weeks. It serves deliciously fresh food , with ingredients supplied by neighbouring growers. We got a taxi there as it`s way around the bay, and it was swelteringly hot, with temperatures nudging up to 40 degrees.
It’s a simple, but chic chiringuito, bamboo chairs, bare feet, young, fun staff and the food-well…
All I can say is oh wow! The plates are for sharing, and are not just colourful and creative ,but full of joy ,and an explosion of flavours, and I take back from there , the determination to replicate many of the dishes at home. We ate simply some of the best food we have every eaten.
We ate charred organic sourdough rubbed with garlic and dripping with local olive oil, sweet melon with gooey creamy burrata, lemon olive oil, salsa verde and sea salt… and tender calmari a la Plancha , served on a bed of potato puree, basil alioli and tomatoes. I can`t tell you how good this was. Oh and a meringue and marinaded strawberry pudding. Just yum.
It was a real foodie day, as we ate at Neni in the hotel that evening too. The photos I took were a disaster , hence there is only one. Neni at Bikini is Spain`s first restaurant from this group of seven, owned by the Molcho family. The cooking style is an eclectic mix of recipes and flavours from around the world, inspired by their home country of Israel.
Once again, sharing plates of colourful , salady,full of flavour food, that was interesting ( lots of herbs and spices that I hadn’t heard of), and healthy .Our plate of minute steak with za` atar and pita croutons, herb salad, harissa and spring onion was mouth wateringly delicious, as was the pulpo on a stick, with harissa and preserved lemon. Full marks has to go to the pudding though-as if I needed one. But it was now or never.
A traditional speciality from Jerusalem no less. Oh my. It was called Knafeh-baked mozzarella, ricotta, orange blossom, and lemon with kataifi pastry ( a bit like on Greek baklava),and topped with a tangy yoghurt ice cream and pistachios…
So…we had the best time ever,and came back last night inspired to cook new things, listen to a new playlist, and add some exciting new design ideas to our casa, oh and a bagful of orange blossom incense sticks!
We loved it all!
Make love not war( so the cheeky embroidery on the pillows on the hotel beds tell you), under the scorching sun , and be sure to wear some flowers in your hair!