What’s more fascinating than an ancient monastery? Ghostly footsteps echo in the halls and vestiges of mystery and intrigue waft through ancient corridors.
(Name of the Rose, anyone?)
One of my all-time favorite monasteries is Clon Mcnoise in Ireland, but today we were visiting the village of Valldemossa on the Spanish island of Mallorca. The monastery was originally a royal palace but became home to a group of Carthusian monks in 1399. It’s known for its picturesque bell tower and gothic charm.
As we rounded the corner and the monastery came into view, I tried not to melt into a scenery induced puddle. (I’ve been told I’m an overly excitable tourist, but what’s the point of traveling if you’re not blown away by the sights you see?!)
The first glimpse of this ancient edifice was like something out of a movie set. Perched on a hill, the tower dwarfed the surrounding buildings, its white stone walls glowing in the morning sun. This was definitely my kind of place.
We followed a winding road up into the hills and enjoyed the views of the local neighborhoods. Upon arrival, we purchased tickets to tour the monastery for 8.50 Euros.
Arched stone passageways complete with swooping birds led to an ancient pharmacy and a library full of old books, odd paintings, and antique furniture. A rustic barred window looked onto a courtyard garden which suggested monastic self-sufficiency. The Cloister area was austere and chilly despite the sweltering heat, so I’m guessing winter here must have been a challenge.
In 1835 the monastery was purchased by private investors The monk’s former cells were renovated and rented to lodgers, the most famous of whom was composer, Frederic Chopin. His piano still sits in one of the rooms where it’s become a pilgrimage site for music lovers.
The piano room was one of our favorite parts of the tour even though we apparently weren’t supposed to be in there. Our ticket was for the rest of the monastery, but when we stumbled onto the unattended piano room it was like we were sucked in against our will. One of our companions is a classical music fan and I blame him for our indiscretion.
As we exited the tour, we peeked into what seemed to be a recital room with a stage and grand piano. When we inquired, we found they were just setting up for a concert of Chopin’s music. The music was magical, and the timing was such that we felt the Force was with us.
By now it was time to head home, but on the way out we discovered a small palace area was part of the original palace. We didn’t really have time to do it justice but took a quick peek and some pictures.
This part of the world is a constant surprise. We’d been told there wasn’t much to see in Valdemossa, I couldn’t disagree more. This was a delightful area and I’d highly recommend stopping by if you’re in the neighborhood.
One quick side note – as we made our way down the highway, we discovered a shopping mall, which – wonder of wonders – contained an entire store devoted to Linder Balls! If you don’t know, Linder Balls are wonderful, creamy, melt in your mouth Swiss chocolate balls. We love them!