Combine a group of friends, a love of tennis, fine wine and food with a stunning villa and you’ve got the perfect recipe for fun in the sun.
It’s become something of an annual tradition for a group of us to pick a country, find a villa with a tennis court and pool that will accommodate all, a location that offers interest and distraction – and then get stuck into full-on enjoyment for a week of games, great dining and lots of laughter.
This year its Mallorca – or Majorca depending on your preference for spelling – and we’ve found a place in the sun on the north-western end of this stylish island.
Whilst tennis is our excuse for getting away as a group, a privately rented luxury villa can offer the perfect venue for gathering friends or family together in one place; for a birthday, celebration, reunion or simple escape that gives you the independence, privacy and choice not always to be found in a smart hotel.
Catering can always be contentious, especially if the girls, quite reasonably, object to the stereotypical role of ‘cook’, wanting to enjoy their holiday as much as anyone else – so we circumvent this by each couple taking responsibility for catering on one evening, with the others acting as ‘helpers’ to keep the chefs topped up with wine and to help clear up afterwards.
On one evening this year, we also brought in professional gourmet chefs to cook a magnificent traditional Paella and fresh salads with a first course of Tempura calamari – all simply delicious and a welcome break from the kitchen for those less gifted in a culinary sense – although, to be fair, every evening brought wonderful surprises from the chefs who each stepped up to the mark.
Temperatures oscillate between 30-35 degrees C for the week so our tennis ‘tournament’ is restricted to 0730-1000 and 1830-2000 each day to avoid exhaustion or sunstroke! To call it a tournament is to exaggerate its seriousness as we all play enough games to each play with all different partners in mixed doubles matches for the highly prestigious ‘Tosser’s Trophy’!
The ‘in between times’ during the day enable us to play a riotous game of Pool Volleyball, where there’s a distinct disadvantage for the ‘deep-end team’ who spend much of their time submerged, amidst great laughter and banter.
Forays to the market are a pleasing distraction, as well as necessity, to replenish water, provisions, wine and more wine.
Pollenca (as opposed to Porta Pollenca on the coast) is our nearest town and it has to have the biggest and most impressive weekly market we’ve ever seen – crammed full of high quality crafts, clothing, materials and fresh foodstuffs that seems to involve the whole community and many of the town’s streets that radiate from the main square.
With the Euro/Sterling hitting a low whilst we’re in Mallorca its pleasantly surprising to find that shopping for food and drink is far more economical than simply buying meals out in hotels and restaurants.
In between long relaxing periods of lying about with a beer and a book by the pool we also visit some of the more notable spots locally.
An hour’s drive finds us in Calle Torta, near Arta and within the National Park. After a journey of pretty villages and wide sweeping panoramas, the last couple of kilometres are on uneven and broken gravel track that leads to the beach.
Easily navigable by car, it tends to put off the less adventurous who opt for the better groomed and accessible resort areas.
This bay of crystal clear turquoise coloured water and soft fine sand is a haven from the crowds of other Mallorcan beaches and we are in the company of no more than a hundred or so other people around the entire arc of the cove.
Before settling on the sand we take the opportunity for a cool beer at the only shack on the beach, where we soon spot one of the family lugging bucket loads of fresh fish, straight from the sea into the kitchen behind.
We book ourselves in for lunch at 1pm, hire a beach umbrella and scamper back over the hot sand to establish our base beside the sea. Whilst virtually the entire beach is for conventional sunbathing, the extreme eastern end of the bay permits naturism – so decide how much flesh you want to display or witness before pitching your umbrella!
After dipping and swimming in the beautifully refreshing sea, drying off under shade from the roasting sun and dozing languidly in this little corner of paradise, lunchtime comes around all too soon.
Make sure that you have sandals for traversing the gap between your shade and the shack, as by now the sun has turned the sand into a roasting, excruciatingly hot dash for cover. The only cooked soles you want are of the fishy variety!
We had previously ordered the ‘fish platter’, partly because we couldn’t decipher the various names of fish on offer, partly because we wanted to try everything anyway. We have never seen such a magnificent platter of fish and the photo in this article doesn’t reveal the five whole fish buried beneath the mountain of mussels, calamari and langoustines. Five of us had ordered the platter with accompanying bread and salad, added three bottles of rose wine, bottles of water and a couple of beers and still had change out of 35 Euros a head. Excellent value, beautifully fresh and quite an effort to finish it all – such was the quantity of food.
As well as Pollenca and Arta, another town nearby to us at the villa is Alcudia – it’s quite large and modern for the most part but has a quaint medieval old town that encloses many boutiques and stylish street front restaurants within its ancient fortified walls – well worth a visit.
It’s here that we finally realise why the Spanish eat so late, never really thinking about dinner with their families until after 9pm at night – the heat of the day doesn’t really dissipate until then; especially within towns and a cool evening by candlelight is much more preferable to eating whilst heat radiates from the pavement simply because the English eat early.
Each day finds us back at our villa for more tennis, good company and sumptuous meals with wine and banter thrown in for good measure.
We’ve made no compromises with luxury in renting this villa – an ex-olive farm – and with seven double bedrooms, each with bathroom facilities, large interior and exterior dining areas, large kitchen with all amenities, airy hallways, air conditioning throughout, tennis court, swimming pool, table tennis table, barbeque, heated spa tub, shady spots and covered sitting and dining areas we couldn’t have asked for more at circa £250 per head for the week.
It’s too easy to default to hotels when you want luxury, in the mistaken belief that if you spend more you’ll always get more. Our villa is a prime example of spend less, get more – and the minor inconvenience of self-catering is more than eclipsed by the ‘all hands to the pump’ attitude that prevails and the huge amount of fun we generate by all being together within a communal space that permits close encounters when desired, with sufficient space for private moments when we wish.
Why not consider your own luxury villa for a family or group getaway somewhere special?
Here’s the link for full details of our villa on the Vintage Travel website