After a drive through the rugged beauty of the Sierra de Tramuntana, I was expecting La Granja to be a large but simple rural finca. La Granja means 'The Farm' after all. Instead I was greeted with a vision of a stately home with manicured gardens and arched colonnades. Its grandeur and beauty took me by surprise and had me reaching for my camera.
Looking over the walled walkway, I could see rows of white chairs had been set up on the lawn. Notes of classical music escaped from a pretty shed where musicians were practicing. It struck me as a dream wedding venue. In fact it could be as La Granja is available for celebrations and can cater for up to 300 guests. However, you might think twice about booking after you've seen what's in the cellar. But we'll come to that!
The visit is self-guided. You simply follow the arrows and stop at each number. A single sheet of information tells you what you are viewing. Personally I would have appreciated a bit more information. My companion, however, argued that I was supposed to use my imagination. Certainly many things were self-explanatory and there were illustrations too. The tour began outside with the Potter's Mill and the Wash-House, the Bath House and the Natural Spring.
The Natural Spring was the key to this estate's success. The Arabs who originally settled here used the flow of water to fuel its mills. The tiled fountains serve as a reminder of its Moorish past. With the conquest of Mallorca in 1229 by Jaume I, La Granja was given to Count Nuño Sanz as repayment for supplying the Catalan king with soldiers and horses. Ten years later it was handed to monks of the Cistercian Order who cultivated the land, which is why the site became known as The Farm.
The flowing water wasn't just essential for farming and fuelling the mill, it was also a key ingredient in many of the other artisanal activities taking place on the estate. Wool, leather, ceramics, tapestry, lace, perfume, wine, cheese, olive oil; as you wander through you'll start to wonder if there was anything this place couldn't produce!
The living quarters of the aristocratic family are far removed from the rustic working areas. Lofty painted ceilings, walls hung with large somber oil paintings and cast brass chandeliers demonstrate the wealth and standing of its owners in the 18th century. La Granja is located in the mountains near Esporles and though under 20km from Palma, it would have been a long journey in times gone by. The distance and difficulty of the journey didn't stop the family enjoying the luxuries of its time. There's a Florentine drawing room with Louis XV furniture, a stately parlour complete with a large model theatre and a games room.
The women's dressing area revealed an antique hair dryer which looked like a giant metal claw. More sinister devices appeared in the doctor's office and apothecary. I felt my legs tremble at the thought of living in a period of time before anesthetic. At the same time I would have loved an audio guide to hear more about what went on here. It seemed unfortunate that the children's nursery should be next door to the doctor's room, although I can't be sure this was the original set up. The puppets and dolls might have given pleasure to kids in the 17th and 18th century, but with exception of the Three Musketeers, it seemed like the stuff of nightmares.
Of course we stumbled across the real stuff of nightmares in the cellar. There, beneath this incredible home and hub of artisans, was the inquisition tribunal and torture chamber. My companion fled quickly, leaving me alone wincing at the torture instruments on display. My imagination ran wild as I thought how isolated this place would have been and how justice would have been entirely in the hands of the Lord of the estate. Terrifying prospect if you lose your temper and hit the Lord of the estate, like a young Turkish labourer had reportedly done. His hands were chopped off and then he was hung. I didn't stay to read all the horror stories but headed out into a beautiful courtyard to get some fresh air!
The tour costs €15 and includes a tasting of traditional fig bread, cheese and buñuelos, (small Mallorcan doughnuts). I visited on a Saturday afternoon and there was only a handful of other visitors. I felt like I had the house to myself. In low season I expect you'll enjoy a similar experience. In high season the most popular days are Wednesdays and Fridays when there is a special handcraft and horse show from 15.00 to 16.20.
La Granja is well worth a visit and the beautiful drive through the Tramuntana is an added bonus. If you find yourself craving more insight into Mallorcan rural life centuries ago, Els Calderers, though smaller also makes for a very pleasant outing.
Entrance Fee: Adults €15, Children €8
Opening Times: Monday - Sunday: 10.00 - 18.00
Address: Carretera Banyalbufar, KM 1.5 07190 Esporles
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