Affordable Luxury  June 20, 2017

The 13th Century Mallorcan Estate That Turned Out to Be My Soul Place


by Larkin Clark

Isn’t it strange to find a place that feels so familiar and foreign at the same time, when you’re such a long way from home?

For the longest time, I had an Architectural Digest travel story on Mallorca pegged to the side of my refrigerator in Brooklyn. The image I tore out was of an old country mansion draped in blazing magenta bougainvillea, olive groves and mountains just beyond. I looked at that photo daily as I lingered over breakfast or tapped away at my computer doing work. Whenever I’d get stressed, I’d glance over at it and imagine myself there, lounging in the sun. I’ll come for you, I whispered to the picture like a crazy person. We will be together someday, I promise. 

So naturally, when I finally did start planning a summer in Europe, Mallorca was at the top of my hit list. My dear friend, Sarah, was going to meet me there and we’d travel together for a few weeks before she started a new job. As Mallorca was my idea, I started the online hunt for a place for us to stay. It had to be reasonably priced (we were shooting for $100 per person per night, max), not haunted, and, most importantly, it had to be magical. That last attribute is a bit difficult to measure through pictures online, so I had to trust my gut. And it led me very quickly – thanks to the powerful prowess of Airbnb – to Possessió Binicomprat.

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Less than a 30-minute drive from Palma de Mallorca, this finca (the Spanish word for a country estate or farm) is far enough inland to feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but still within driving distance to the island’s major hotspots. After about twenty roundabouts (Mallorcans love roundabouts), we finally turned off onto a country road flanked by sun-flecked golden fields, crumbling ancient walls, and quiet, rural vineyards.

While it is not the mansion in the photo I’d pinned to my fridge, Possessió Binicomprat was something better: a private retreat that simultaneously felt grand and like a friend’s cozy country home. And it was draped in bougainvillea – score.

It is a “hotel agrotourísmo,” which means it’s a working farm in addition to a B&B. You could use it as a home base while you explore the island as we did, but you could also just set up shop there and not move for a week and be completely content.

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This place is steeped in history and you can feel it as soon as you step through the door. The estate’s original structure dates back to the early 1200s, when King James I conquered Mallorca. In the 1500s, it was acquired by the Oliver Moragues family, which has overseen the property ever since. The energy of that lineage somehow comes through, both in the attentiveness of the staff, some of whom belong to that family, and the warmth and openness of the grounds.

When we arrived, the proprietor during our stay, a young woman named Rocío, greeted us warmly and immediately took us down to the wine cellar to choose a bottle of wine to enjoy during our stay (a solid introduction, in my book). The estate is flanked by hand-tended vineyards and the resulting wine, branded OM Oliver Moragues, is distributed in limited production in Europe.

To our shock and delight, we were upgraded to our own little cottage right across from the vegetable garden, which we were told had once been the farm’s stables. It had its own little lawn and a covered patio and was decorated in traditional Spanish style – elegant enough to evoke the pages of Architectural Digest, yet undone enough to feel as if you were a guest in someone’s country home.

In the mornings, a fresh buffet breakfast was served in the centuries-old dining room: fresh yogurt, platters of local meats and cheeses, and vegetables pulled from the garden right outside our cottage. The original chapel is still open on the ground floor of the main house, and though I’m not particularly religious, I found myself returning to it over and over to escape the heat and enjoy the peace of the relics it stores.

Our days at the finca were long and lazy, dotted with trips to the beach and drives along the country roads. Rocío lingered with us one morning on the back patio, telling us about her family’s long history on the finca and how she produces documentary films in Africa in the off season. We journaled and booked the next leg of our trip sitting at the marble cafe tables spread throughout the property, seemingly placed for just that kind of “work.” (There is WiFi on the property, but it can be spotty.) At night, after dinner in nearby Algaida or across the island in the fishing village Deia, we’d come back to our little cottage porch to dream and scheme under the stars.

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The finca way of life was, in some ways, strikingly different than the way things are at home (the way time moves more slowly, to start). But given the estate’s surroundings – vineyards, hills, forest, proximity to the sea – it also felt as if it could have been nestled somewhere in Northern California, a forgotten piece from a long-ago time. Sarah, who is also originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, confirmed this on our drive to the finca, during which she exclaimed, “I hate to break it to you, but this feels just like Woodside!” as we wound our way through rolling, golden fields and oaks.

Isn’t it strange to find a place that feels so familiar and foreign at the same time, when you’re such a long way from home?

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At the end of that summer in Europe, when I returned to Brooklyn, the photo from Architectural Digest fell out of one of my journals. I felt proud knowing that, with the help of the Internet, I had made that travel dream come true.

So if find yourself dreaming of a trip to Mallorca, think of me dancing through the Possessió Binicomprat vineyards at sunset, Sarah reading in the pool, and at night, the two of us traipsing around with wine in hand, lounging on our porch and marveling at bougainvillea-draped walls like caftan-clad aristocrats.

And then imagine you’re us and book a room.

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Words, styling, and travel photography: Larkin Clark
Photos of Larkin: Sarah Wendell

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