In Search of Illumination in Mallorca

Tranquility, art, and nature converge at boutique hotel La Residencia.



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EVERYONE COMES TO Mallorca looking for something. Joan Miró came for artistic inspiration; Frédéric Chopin for a reprieve from tuberculosis and prying eyes during his tumultuous love affair with the novelist George Sand. Sand was seeking a quiet place to write. When the British poet Robert Graves came to the island in 1929, he never left, saying, “I found everything I wanted as a writer: sun, sea, mountains, spring water, shady trees, no politics.”

When I was there, visiting La Residencia, a tranquil luxury hotel recently acquired by the Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton group, a famous footballer was staying in the hotel, seeking a private vacation with his young family. I was traveling with a group, and we had our own reasons for being there. My boyfriend’s sister had been lightly scolded by her Australian-based company for not using her vacation days, the general recommendation being at least three weeks off because “it often takes the first week to settle into a vacation before you can really enjoy it.” Her friend, who was getting married the following weekend in Germany, joined at the last minute, fleeing the granular demands of wedding planning. I was seeking quiet. My life in California was loud, dominated by an exuberant four-year-old and editing a short-staffed, tight-deadlined magazine. As always, my photographer boyfriend Dexter was chasing what Emily Dickinson called “a certain slant of light.”



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Countless artists have come to the area to find that light. Some of the most famous, like Miró, have come to the small artist village of Deià, where La Residencia is housed. A short taxi ride from the nearby village of Soller, along the winding roads of the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — La Residencia emerges suddenly, nestled among olive and citrus trees in the valley. The olive grove isn’t just for show; olive oil from the hotel’s grove is served in its award-winning restaurants. The property is composed of a smattering of old sandstone buildings with terracotta roofs: 71 rooms and suites, and one villa with its own pool.

Ushered onto the terrace for a glass of Champagne, I knew that what I had come for wasn’t in short supply. After checking into our gorgeously rustic suite that conjured a turn-of-the-century Spanish farmhouse, we did what any sane person would do: ate the lusciously ripe peaches on the coffee table and made our way to the adults-only pool. I am besotted with my daughter, but a secondary ambition of mine was not to lay eyes on a child for the entire trip. At La Residencia, even the children seemed quieter, having somehow picked up on the tranquility around them. A child would never shriek or whine there; a tantrum is probably unheard of. I was astonished the next morning by a toddler peacefully playing with a white balloon while his parents enjoyed breakfast on one of the hotel’s many terraces.

The connection between Miró and Deià isn’t apparent at first. Miró is so modern and rigorous; Deià so old and still. Once at the hotel, however, I suddenly got it. It’s something about the sharp contrasts, the way that, as the sun sets, dramatic lines of darkness fall across the mountains and the facades of the ochre-colored buildings. The Tramuntana mountain range is harshly gorgeous and set against the softly glistening turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The heat visibly sizzles and the elegant pools on the property shimmer invitingly. The silence or quiet clinking of plates is occasionally disrupted by the sound of church bells. Dry and wet, hot and cold, golden clay and dark evergreen vegetation. It’s all very alive, yet serene.


La Residencia has made the most of the area’s artistic roots. It has an on-site curator and over 700 paintings in its private collection, including 33 original Mirós. The art in my suite was alluring. I was particularly taken with a large, orange abstract that seemed to feature a Hindu goddess. There is a “poet’s walk” among the olive groves, an homage to the area’s literary roots, with the names and likenesses of famous poets who visited the island displayed on plinths at intervals along the route. If you continue down the road, you may catch a glimpse of one of La Residencia’s recently born donkeys.

As evening rolls around (when you’re in a place like Deià, there is no abruptness — morning unfolds luxuriously into the afternoon; you don’t dive into pools, you slide into them; you don’t walk to dinner, you stroll or meander), we made our way to Cafe Miró, one of the hotel’s two restaurants on a mountain-facing terrace. After subsisting off jamon and other cured meats for the past several days in nearby Palma, my boyfriend’s sister told me, “If I order something other than fish and vegetables, smack me.” The smack proved unnecessary. Her delicately seared tuna steak with tomatoes and avocado was remarkable, both tender and moist.

Leaving the restaurant, we saw it — that certain slant of light that begs for a photo or a paintbrush. Through a curtained archway, the warmly lit interior of the hotel’s other restaurant, El Olivio (formerly a medieval olive mill) was aglow. Patrons dined quietly by lamplight as servers in white floated from table to table in the sandstone-walled garden. The famous footballer was seated near us, and Dexter pulled out his film camera to catch the light. Click. The footballer turned around suddenly in his chair, no doubt assuming that someone was attempting to disrupt his privacy. When he realized it was the light that Dexter was after, they looked at each other and smiled.


Fine Hotels + Resorts®

La Residencia is a Fine Hotels + Resorts property. When you book with American Express Travel, you’ll receive an exclusive suite of benefits including daily breakfast for two, a $100 experience credit that varies by property, guaranteed 4pm check-out, and more. Plus, book on and you can earn 5X Membership Rewards® points, or use Pay with Points, on prepaid stays. Terms apply. Learn more here. 

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Our Contributors

Laura Smith Writer

Laura Smith is the deputy editor of Departures. Previously, she was the executive editor of California magazine and has written for the New York Times, the Guardian, the Atlantic, and many more. Her nonfiction book, The Art of Vanishing, was published by Viking in 2018.

Silvia Gil-Roldán Photographer

Silvia Gil-Roldán is a photographer from Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain). Her work as a photographer is deeply connected to her experience as a graphic designer.


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