Brondo Architect Hotel, Palma

Brondo Architect Hotel, Palma

Over the last few years, we’ve been very lucky to be able to pack in a huge amount of travel – as well as actually move abroad, relocating from Manchester to Istria, in northern Croatia. We’ve spent the last couple of years renovating a stone house and exploring our new environment. But, one place has so far eluded us – Mallorca. Even though it’s always been on our radar, we’ve always found ourselves plumping for somewhere else. Until now. A combination of being very busy with our design business, cracking on with the house renovation and some pretty unseasonal weather – rain, rain and more rain – made up our minds and we booked flights to Mallorca. First port of call was Palma, and a night in the absolutely beautiful Brondo Architect Hotel.

There’s so much choice, accommodation-wise in Palma, but we have a very clear idea about the kinds of places we want to stay. Wherever we stay must be at least as nice as our home. It must be unusual. It must give us interiors inspiration. It must also be mid-range, budget wise. Too cheap, you get what you pay for. Too expensive – just silly. We’ve not got a bottomless money pit. So, Brondo Architect Hotel seemed to tick all of our boxes when we spotted it on Booking.Com.

Tucked away down a cobbled side street, but less than a 10 minute walk away from Palma’s iconic cathedral, the hotel is set in a 17th century Mallorcan building. From the moment you step into the reception area, you know that this is going to be a special experience. A huge eye-catching mural, featuring Rubenesque women dominates the entrance – it is bold and brassy and totally in keeping with the style of this unusual hotel. Public areas feature quirky artwork, astonishingly beautiful Spanish floor tile, exposed brickwork and copper piping with striking lighting features.

Our room was more of a junior suite, with a large bedroom and seating area, and a big separate bathroom, with an adjoining corridor. The decor and furnishings were really lovely – a super comfy four poster bed, two squishy armchairs, great artwork, map wallpaper. A stylish mix of retro and modern.

Our stay was short, unfortunately – but, we will return as we genuinely loved this hotel – so we didn’t get to experience the roof terrace. There’s also a gym, and massages can be arranged. However, we did enjoy a welcome drink (a nice touch) on the terrace outside the restaurant. We stayed early season, so there didn’t seem to be too many guests, which was lovely as we largely had this decked courtyard area to ourselves. Eclectically furnished with low sofas, brightly coloured parasols, big cushions, olive trees and bouganvillea and mis-matched tables and chairs, this is the perfect spot for an early evening drink, before heading out into the bright lights of Palma.

Morning coffee, in the warm May sunshine, was an absolute treat on the terrace. Those colours. And that sky…

The restaurant is quite simply, stunning. Packed full with interesting and unusual objects and pieces of furniture – and a very pretty cherry blossom tree – it’s the perfect place to enjoy breakfast. And, what a breakfast! There’s a huge choice – pastries (sweet and savoury), pies (yes, pies for breakfast!), cold meats, cheeses, fruit, youghurts, juices, breads and a really good hot selection. I always tend to avoid the hot options, which have usually sweated all morning in silver catering trays. But this one was exceptional – the food is obviously refreshed regularly, rather than allowed to sit and become rubbery, and we enjoyed a Spanish style full English. Very, very tasty.

Communal areas are filled with quirky artefacts and artwork.

The hotel is located on a pedestrianised side street, but we found a car park, just a 5 minute walk away which meant that we could dump the car and not worry about parking restrictions etc. Brondo is also really centrally situated, so wandering the labyrinth of Mallorcan streets is a joy.

I’m delighted that we opted for this hotel for our first night – and by sheer coincidence, as we had absolutely no idea when we booked that they were connected, our next stop was the exquisite Lluna Aqua Hotel in Sóller. The sister hotel of Brondo, and the second in the tiny chain of Unusual Hotels…

This is NOT a sponsored post. We paid the full price as quoted when we booked & have received no payment for this blog. We just wanted to share this lovely find of a hotel in Palma.

Mallorca : One To Avoid…

Mallorca : One To Avoid…

It’s hard to imagine that there could really be anywhere to avoid on Mallorca. We’d discounted Magaluf, as unfortunately we’re no longer in our early twenties, and so, when booking places to stay, we were pretty confident that every place we chose, would be a winner. When we travel we do our homework. We read reviews, check out websites, look at the area etc. My rule of thumb is, if it’s not at least as good as our own home, we’re not staying there. So, Brondo Architect Hotel in Palma, Lluna Aqua Hotel in Sóller and Petit Sant Miquel Hotel in Calonge were all amazing, and we’d highly recommend.

We decided that we wanted to have a few days doing absolutely nothing, apart from lazing around a pool. We quite fancied a hotel on the western side of the island, so we could catch the sunsets. We definitely wanted a pool. Somewhere that played quiet, chilled out music. Somewhere a bit funky. And we definitely thought we’d found all of this when we discovered La Concha Soul Boutique Hotel, in Paguera.

Now, we’d not been to Mallorca before and so had no idea what Paguera was like. Not that it really mattered when we were looking for accomm0dation, as the plan was to pool lounge for a few days. For those of you who know Mallorca well, you’ll probably know what’s coming, as we checked out of the beautiful Lluna Aqua in Sóller after two amazing days, and set off for Paguera. Looks pretty snazzy, doesn’t it?

The website certainly suggested it was a cool, laid back, chilled out kind of place and the photography certainly reinforced this. Reviews were promising. Just what we’d been looking for.

The first sign that things weren’t going to be as expected, was as we entered Paguera. Gone were the beautiful Mallorcan townhouses, and individuality and beauty, of Sóller and Palma. Instead, a long beach front strip of fairly down-at-heel hotels, souvenir shops, bars, fast food joints and hoardes of tourists. Now, nothing wrong with any of this, IF this is what you’ve come for. But we hadn’t. And I was already beginning to wish I was somewhere else.

However, we’d already decided that we wouldn’t really be investigating Paguera, as we were going to be relaxing around the pool, so all would be OK. Only, it wasn’t. The hotel, on arrival, definitely did not look as pristine as the one we’d been seeing online. A hunch told me that this wasn’t going to be a long stay, so the suitcases remained in the boot of the car as we went to reception. The main entrance – at least we think it was the main entrance, as we couldn’t find another – was around the back of the hotel, where the car park was located. Plus point – free parking. You’ve got to find these plus points somewhere. The entrance was in need of some TLC – peeling paint, scuffed door, neglected plants. However, we decided to give it a chance – even though the reception area had the feel of a youth hostel…

See, I wasn’t exaggerating. This is the main entrance. OK, that tree to the right looks OK, but I mean, look at the plants on the balconies…

We were advised we’d been allocated a superior room on the top floor, with a view of the pool area. Unfortunately, this was where it all started to go really wrong. There’s no lift in the hotel – not a problem at all, as we’d left our luggage in the car – but it did mean that we got to see the communal hallways in all their glory. Filthy. Scuffed walls and ripped wallpaper. Cleaning was still going on – a plus point, because at least we witnessed that cleaning of sorts happened – but on one of the landings, dirty towels were all over the floor. So many of them, that we couldn’t step over them. There was no way I was moving them, so we had to walk over them. The cleaner wasn’t arsed in the slightest. Unreal. And then, the room. The superior room…

Yep, this is what we walked into.

Above, was the window ledge. Below, the shower cubicle…

We weren’t sure if the bed had actually been properly made, or if this was how a previous guest had left it…

Word to the wise, guys. If you include the word “Boutique” in the name of your hotel, understand that there will be expectations from guests. Shoddy, shoddy paintwork…

Our superior room, with a view of the bins. Sorry, pool…

Safe to say, the receptionist seemed not in the least bit surprised when we headed back down and told her we wouldn’t be staying, and exactly why we wouldn’t be staying. Because we’d booked through Booking.Com, the payment for four nights had already been taken – at this point, we didn’t care. We just wanted out and away. She was very understanding regarding what we were saying about the filthiness of the room, and the hotel in general – she couldn’t really argue once we showed her the evidence. However, she did want us to give the hotel a chance and offered us another room. We politely declined. The manager was called. He too seemed completely unsurprised by what we were saying. Although he also wanted us to look at another room. There would also be a free BBQ that evening and if we left, we’d miss that. He (and the receptionist), to their credit, took everything we were saying on the chin, and finally accepted that we would absolutely not be staying. We were most surprised that the manager agreed to refund three nights – we definitely did not expect this, and certainly didn’t expect that he would do it as quickly as he did. So, another plus point for La Concha Soul Boutique Hotel – but unfortunately, a hotel which was not boutique, and with no soul. We’ve since looked back at the hotel website – and yes, it does make the hotel look better than it is, but look closely and the tell-tale signs are there. We just didn’t spot them, which is unusual – so maybe, good on whoever designed the website or took the photos. They’ve certainly done a good job of glossing over the fact that this is a pretty dire hotel. Although, we seem to be in the minority having this view – as rave reviews are still coming in for it. Maybe we’re over-fussy. Or prefer to stay somewhere that is clean and isn’t the standard of a hostel, but the price of a hotel. Or maybe, we just arrived on the wrong day, at the wrong time. But, we don’t think so. That grime on the window, and around the door and in the shower, had been sitting there, for quite some time.

But, all’s well that ends well – and very fortunately, the Lluna Aqua Hotel, back in Sóller, had one room left. Which unsurprisingly, we booked. And got out of La Concha and Paguera as fast as our car could take us! An hour after taking the above photographs, we were delighted to be back *home*…

The difference between that awful, slapdash paintwork and these beautiful Mallorcan tiles. Attention to detail = a boutique hotel.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the Lluna Aqua Hotel would be a much more expensive a hotel to stay in. It was more pricey, but definitely not at the kind of prices you’d blanche at. And, it was very, very clear what you were paying for.

A real boutique hotel. Full of soul. The real deal.

Lluna Aqua Hotel, Sóller, Mallorca

Lluna Aqua Hotel, Sóller, Mallorca

When we last visited Mallorca, one of the hotels we booked was the Lluna Aqua Hotel in Sóller. Housed in a traditional Mallorcan townhouse, which we were told had been empty for over eighty years, the renovation had only recently been completed and the hotel only opened a few months previously. It’s located on the bustling main thoroughfare of Carrer de sa Lluna, but once inside the cool interior, it’s peaceful and restful. The renovation has been beautifully done, with as much of the original interior retained and restored. Original Spanish tiles are very much in evidence, elaborate ceilings and beautiful dark wooden furniture. The main wall behind the reception area has been taken back to the the plaster, which looks lovely – and with the addition of suspended bird cages, full of fluffy clouds…

A lovely touch on arrival greeted us – a welcome Cava, meaning that check-in is a much more leisurely process. The reception staff are just lovely – Catarina especially, gave us lots of information about good places to eat (off the tourist trail). If you stay here, and she recommends places to you – go to them! She’s a mine of priceless local information and every single place we tried, that she recommended, was faultless.

We had a perfect start to our stay as we were advised we’d been upgraded. The room we had originally booked had a problem with the shower and so as well as an upgrade to the only room with a terrace, overlooking the mountains, for our “inconvenience” (!) we were also informed that during our stay the mini bar would be entirely free. A marvellous start to our stay in the Lluna Aqua Hotel. Even the tonic bottles are a class act – obviously now back at home in Istria, filled with flowers.

Our room was a bit of a stunner. It was unusual in that the room you walked into was the dressing room/bathroom which were separated by luscious navy velvet curtains. A big tick here – they were exactly the same as ours at home. Unusually, the bathroom was wallpapered – even inside the huge shower. I’m not sure if this was special wallpaper, or had been treated but during our stay, it all seemed OK when showering.

The bedroom area was just oh-so stylish, with the original tiled floor, navy velvet drapes, cool lighting and doors opening out onto the terrace.

The terrace was a perfect size, with a couple of sun loungers and an ornamental wood-burner. Another tick here as it was very similar to the vintage one we own, which we’ve just sprayed gold. It was a perfect place to pop a glass of cava on, too. And those views! Across the rootops of Sóller to the mountains beyond.

The communal areas of the hotel were again, so well thought out, designed and stylish. Deep, rich colours, metal balustrades, quirky pieces of artwork, tiles, original artefacts repurposed to bring new life to them. Just lovely – a rich source of inspiration for me to bring back to Istria 😉

We were quite sad to leave Lluna Aqua after two nights, but by another twist of fate – horrible next hotel – we were very lucky to find that they had one room available for the next two nights. And so, hours after checking out, we were checking back in again – and this meant we got to see another room. This room unfortunately didn’t have a terrace, like we’d gotten used to, but it was as cute as a button. Maybe not for those who want absolute privacy though, as only a pair of those lovely navy velvet curtains are there to protect your modesty 😉

And, again those tiles. And attention to detail. Loved the quirkiness of this place.

When we stayed, because the hotel has only recently opened, they were still in the process of adding the final touches to the breakfast room (which was due to open within the week), so we were given vouchers for breakfast at the beautiful bakery just next door. It’s worth a visit, just for the pastries and coffee – as well as the gorgeous interior.

And, what really caught our attention, was the exposed well – just like ours!

As usual, this is not a sponsored or paid for blog post. It’s just what we thought of a very nice place we found – and maybe it’ll inspire you to check out Lluna Aqua Hotel, too

 

Petit Sant Miquel, Mallorca

Petit Sant Miquel, Mallorca

Petit Sant Miquel, Mallorca

After spending time on the western side of Mallorca, we decided to explore the eastern side of the island and found a gem of a hotel, called Petit Sant Miquel in the very pretty and very traditional village of Calonge. Renovated and opened in August 2018 by a Mallorcan couple, it is the epitome of relaxation in contemporary and very stylish surroundings. We stayed right at the beginning of the season, which for us was fabulous, as it meant that we literally had this small, but  perfectly formed, boutique hotel almost to ourselves.

Petit Sant Miquel, Mallorca

The interior of the hotel is spotlessly clean and well thought out, design wise. Furnishings and accessories are subtle and stylish, in the colour tones we love – blues, greys and whites with natural touches. The ever-present Spanish floor tiles are much in evidence and as ever, just very beautiful. We stayed two nights and chose to have breakfast outside, in the internal courtyard, because the weather was gorgeous – just like the courtyard, in fact. As with the interior, the exterior just oozes calmness and effortless style. The owners certainly have good eyes for design detail. Marble topped tables, olive trees, lanterns, candles, palette planters and well thought out lighting all create an environment where it’s impossible not to feel completely chilled out. Breakfast is simple but again, well thought out – there are the usual cold cured meats and cheeses and breads and pastries and juices but these are all of a very high standard. We didn’t check, but wouldn’t be surprised if everything was sourced locally. Eggs, to your taste, can also be prepared – always a nice touch.

Petit Sant Miquel, Mallorca

Petit Sant Miquel, Mallorca

The hotel also operates an Honesty Bar, with very reasonably priced wines and beers and snacks – and the lit up courtyard is a perfect place to enjoy a drink at the end of the night.

Petit Sant Miquel, Mallorca

Petit Sant Miquel, Mallorca

So, to our room. Well, it’s no surprise it was rather gorgeous. Not huge in size, but the space had clearly been really well considered. With a big double bed, a very sizeable (and very pretty vintage vanilla coloured) wardroble and a table and chair, it had everything you would need for a short stay. The toilet and walk in shower were housed in separate areas within the room, divided by opaque glass – the rainhead shower was powerful and the cubicle was spacious. This gets a big tick from me, as there’s nothing worse bathroom-wise, than a cramped shower area. But the best thing of all – always a bonus if you want a relaxing experience – was the free standing bath. Utter luxury, especially when travelling…

Petit Sant Miquel, Mallorca

We also had a tiny little balcony (although still with two sun chairs and a table) overlooking the courtyard – and it did look as if all rooms overlooking this area had a balcony too.

But perhaps our favourite part of Petit Sant Miquel, and what originally caught our eye online when we were booking, was the rooftop terrace, with views overlooking the rooftops of Calonge, the mountains and the shimmering sea. We spent quite a lot of time on this balcony and because no-one else was using it at the same time, we had it all to ourselves. That meant no fighting over the great big sunbed, with billowing side panels. And it also meant that we had the gorgeous plunge pool to ourselves. It was absolute heaven, soaking up the sun, with a cold bottle of dry Spanish white wine…

The hotel is located in a sleepy (at least when we were there in mid-May) village, although it does benefit from two superb restaurants. Restaurant Bona Taula is a traditional Mallorcan restaurant, specialising in meat and fish. The menu never changes – it doesn’t have to as it is excellent. We had a tapas style meal of whitebait, padron peppers, cheese and potatoes, followed by the most delicious Creme Catalan I’ve ever tasted.

And the second restaurant we tried, and thoroughly loved, was Pizzeria Nou which served amazing pizzas. We ate outside in the vine and honeysuckle and wisteria covered courtyard which was just so pretty. Great food, excellent wine and wonderful service. Both restaurants are highly recommended.

We definitely think we found a bit of a gem when we discovered Petit Sant Miquel, and although we definitely preferred the west side of Mallorca to the east, next time we visit, we will be making a return to this lovely boutique hotel. (This is NOT a sponsored or paid for post. Simply our experience of our visit).

 

Andalucia in November

Andalucia in November

For obvious reasons, there’s no celebrating of 5th November out here in Andalucia. But the absence of a bonfire and fireworks weren’t the only reasons why the 5th November – to me, the real start of winter – seemed a bit odd yesterday. What seemed odd, was spending it on a beach in sunshine that hit the mid-twenties. In November! But that’s Andalucia for you – not a million miles away from home, but at this time of year it could be…

So, today, in the spirit of the onset of winter back at home, we’re chasing the snow and heading up the Sierra Nevada – we had torrential rain on Tuesday and this will have meant the first snowfall of the season, high up in the mountains above Granada. We’re not expecting skiing conditions, but it will be another trip ticked off the list when we can do the “snow in mountains in the morning, beach in the sun afternoon”.

To make it even more special, we’re planning a return to The Alhambra, first visited about twenty years ago.

And to me, that’s the beauty of Andalucia – so many diverse things to do and see, in quite a small area, and very accessible from home. Just over three hours from home (and flights are now so inexpensive if you can be a little bit flexible), and you can have all of this on your doorstep. Plus, if you really miss the fireworks, there are fiestas and festivals mostly all round – just not on the 5th November!

Semana Santa, Seville

Semana Santa, Seville

Easter may be well over now, and it’s a couple of weeks since we returned, but memories of Seville are still burning very, very brightly. We were lucky enough to be there during Semana Santa (Holy Week) and, oh my word! What a spectacle!

The week features the processions of pasosfloats of life-like wooden sculptures of individual scenes of the events from the Passion, or of the Virgin Mary. The processions are organized by hermandades and cofradías, religious brotherhoods. During the processions, members precede the pasos dressed in penitential robes, and conical shaped hoods. The processions work along a designated route from their home churches and chapels to the Cathedral, the ones from the suburban barrios taking up to  14 hours to return to their home churches. The processions continue from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday morning. The climax of the week is the night of Holy Thursday, when the processions continue throughout the night, into Good Friday morning – the madrugá.

An astonishing display of theatre…

 

Nerja, Andalusia

Nerja, Andalusia

So, thanks to a friend, we’ve managed to get away from walls being smashed down around us as our house/office is refurbished & have found a beautiful piece of Andalucia where we’re currently working – and using as a base to explore Southern Spain. Perfecto!

2014-04-16_0003 2014-04-16_0004 2014-04-16_0005 2014-04-16_0006We’re based in Nerja, about 50 km east of Malaga, so really accessible from Manchester, as there are daily direct flights. The traditional styled Andalucian house is about a km up the hill from a beautiful beach, but because it’s high, gives you the most beautiful views. Literally all we’ve heard for the last week has been the general sound of bird-song.

Nerja is a perfect base to explore from – tomorrow, we’re heading off west, to experience a full-on Semana Santa in Seville, only about 250 km away. It maybe a bit hopeful, but we’re also hoping to get to Ronda, Granada & Jerez – as well as some local highlights which have been recommended.

If you fancy getting yourself out here and catching some early summer rays, the apartment is owned by Simon Connolly’s family (the *other* Simon, from Greens, West Didsbury) & booking details can be found here. Simply cannot recommend this place highly enough!

Our review of Calle Capuchinos

We stayed in Calle Capuchinos in Nerja, which is about 50 km east of Malaga, so it’s really accessible from Manchester, as there are daily direct flights. The traditional styled Andalucian house is about a km up the hill from a beautiful beach, but because it’s high, gives you the most beautiful views.

The apartment was the perfect play to stay, to explore not only Nerja and the nearby coastal region, but also because we’d hired a car it was a great base from which to travel quite a bit further afield. During our stay we headed out west and managed to visit Puerto Banus (close enough to do in a day) and see how the other live! We also visited Ronda, Seville and Tarifa, so definitely an excellent base if you do like to explore. A little closer to the apartment, and up the hills behind Nerja, we visited the beautiful Andalucian town of Frigiliana – white washed traditional houses, narrow cobbled streets and with a view of the sea to die for.

Calle Capuchinos 24 is extremely easy to find, because of the excellent directions you are given by Leanne. It’s accessed by a stone staircase, with a two tiered terrace in front of the apartment, which is incredibly well equipped. There was literally nothing that we were lacking when we stayed – and an additional bonus was super fast, reliable broadband, for a small additional fee. Well worth it. The kitchen, although quite small, is well equipped and is connected to the living room, so feels spacious, and there is a washing machine which is another bonus. We stayed as a couple so had plenty of room – it’s certainly big enough for four people/a family and you do also benefit from access to the complex pool (literally two mins away), with lawned areas for sunbathing, overlooking the sea below.

Nerja is a short drive down the hill, about 30minutes to walk and really lovely town. The beach was perfect when we visited (late April), although it is large (and very clean) so I’d imagine even in the summer it wouldn’t feel overly packed. We took the advice of the owners t visit the paella restaurant on the beach (there are quite a few but this one is at the far end of the beach, away from the town) – huge portions, cooked in front of you, very inexpensive and packed full of Spaniards. Always a good sign. The town itself has plenty of places to eat, but as we just wanted some R&R we opted to cook in the apartment most nights. There is a brand new Mercadona supermarket (bottom of the hill, turn left and it’s on your right), which we frequented a lot. Sitting on the top terrace watching the sun go down and the lights of Nerja twinkling below, was really magical.

Leanne is an exceptional owner, on hand if you need anything and is an absolute fountain of knowledge about the area. Given the combination of factors – ease of access from Malaga, location, base for further travelling, beautiful apartment, weather, views etc , we simply couldn’t recommend Calle Capuchinos highly enough.

Top tips from Leanne & Simon :

• Car hire – “You Do Spain” online booking – we’d never heard of them, but had the best customer service & ended up with an upgraded car
• Visit Frigilana – stunning
• Pour a glass of wine, sit on the balcony – and take in the view. We did – and we still dream about it now!