Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tales Of The Llevant: Cala Bona

Ninety years ago, on 20 July 1924, there was an inauguration in Cala Bona. It wouldn't have been a grand affair. It is doubtful that numerous dignitaries and general freeloaders attended. This, after all, was just a tiny place on the east coast with a wee small port and some fishermen. Nevertheless, on that day ninety years ago Miquel Vives Servera and his wife, Matilde Maria Gonzalez Miralles, opened Sa Fonda de Can Cupa, sometimes also referred to as Sa Fonda de Can Bona. Their daughter, also Matilde, who was eighteen years old at the time, came to be renowned for her bouillabaisse and lobster à l'Américaine, but even then she had a good reputation. There may not have been many dignitaries at the opening, but the fonda (inn) attracted people from various parts of Mallorca. They came from Sineu, they came from Sant Joan, and the doctor in Vilafranca also came. The inn flourished and the inn became a hotel. The Hotel Cala Bona.

In 1960, just as the tourism boom was about to get underway, the hotel could boast all of fifteen rooms. The clientele wasn't foreign. It primarily came just the short distance from Manacor to sample a new speciality of the house, red mullet. In 1961, a plan was put forward to put two more floors on to the hotel. By the following year, the German tour operator Quelle had entered into an arrangement with the hotel, and the rest, needless to say, was history. Cala Bona, as a tourist resort, was born, and its pioneer was Matilde's son, Sebastian Bauzá. In 1963, the Hotel Llevant was opened, but immediately hit problems. The failure of a tour operator it had contracted with left it with more waiters than guests. By 1964, though, things had picked up. And there was another hotel, not one that was the creation of local Mallorcan families but of a Swiss couple, Wolfgang and Trudel Schrader, who had been invited by a friend to Cala Bona in 1960, had bought some land and had built a hotel. It was the Gran Sol.

In 1992, Matilde Vives was honoured by the Cala Millor hoteliers' association. She was asked if, back in the days of the original inn, she could have imagined how the inn and then the hotel would come to play a part in the new tourism world. It was a daft question. How could she have been expected to have foreseen what was to be? And especially on the east coast of Mallorca. As she commented then, while Cala Bona had its inn, Cala Millor had nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not even a house and certainly not a hotel. It wasn't until 1933 that a hotel emerged in Cala Millor - the Eureka - by which time there were also some small houses.

In the inter-war years, the east coast was all but overlooked when it came to the early development of resorts (Porto Cristo and especially the caves were a different matter; they hadn't been overlooked). As I remarked yesterday, Cala Ratjada, which had its rich villa and palace owners, might have become one of those inter-war resorts, but it didn't. The only true tourism development was way down on the south-east corner in what was to be called Cala d'Or. When tourism development kicked in in the 1960s, it was development with a large "D". The coast from Cala Bona down to Calas de Mallorca was referred to, in derogatory terms, as the "wall of concrete", and it was compared with a similar "wall" along the Playa de Palma. There was, however, one pretty crucial difference. Playa de Palma was planned. They actually wanted to build a wall of concrete in Palma. It was within one municipality, i.e. Palma, and stretched from the original resort of Ciudad Jardin to the border with Llucmajor and so Arenal, which, as an incipient resort development back in the 1930s, had been called Bellavista. The east-coast wall was not planned quite so systematically; it couldn't have been because there were three municipalities involved. 

This so-called east-coast wall came into being in a more piecemeal fashion. Calas de Mallorca, at its lower end, wasn't a factor until a 1963 law on "the centres of national touristic interest" declared it a zone for development (Playa de Muro was another resort which was covered by this law). By the time that Calas de Mallorca was being legally defined, Cala Millor had been, as tourism legend tells us, "discovered" by Skytours.

Mallorca's tourism history is full of pioneers, those like Sebastian Bauzá and indeed his mother and father. But these pioneers, down Mallorca's east coast certainly, were not all, as was the case with Cala Bona, local people. There were the Schraders as well. And there were also the Belgians. Which is another tale entirely.

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