THE LATEST DE LUXE HOTEL

Simon Rees has a luxury hotel in Mallorca – for dogs!

A glass of delicious-looking cava started it.

– Two friends had bubbly at Hotel Bendinat and sent me a photo. I decided Mallorca was irresistible, says the owner of Pooches Luxury Hotel for Dogs in Molinar, Simon Rees, with a chuckle.

Simon, originally from Wales, has been living on the island for a little more than three years now. Anyone who visits loves the stunning views of the turquoise sea from the luxurious penthouse at Simon’s Pooches Hotel. As we approach, we can see the sleek grey and clear crystal of the stylish facade, and hear the pitter patter of tiny paws, followed by some sweet yelps. 

Luscious kisses

– Come in and join the crazy crowd, says Simon, and one by one six little doggy darlings approach the entrance to shower us with kisses.
There are two golden-haired spaniels, Kanga and Roo, who are just about to check out of the hotel. They have had a great holiday. They are bursting with energy and doggy love. Little Teacup is shy, and very cute, with a natural coat of brown and white, and loves getting attention. 
Hooper is black and brown and looks a little sleepy in front of the telly. Definitely the relaxed vacation mode going on there. Remo, on the other hand, a gorgeous golden brown bundle of joy, bounces about a lot, as if she was in charge of the aerobics. Meanwhile, little Mallorcan princess Fudgie, the only permanent visitor at the hotel, likes to tell the other dogs who’s boss…WOOF!

Garden strolls and snuggles

Like the hotel director he is, Simon Rees uses just the right tone of quiet authority as he steers his clients, and the reigning diva duchess, about among the fancy facilities.
Downstairs the TV-room is full of lavish lounges and comfy dog beds, all meticulously cleaned every few days or so. If the hotel guests feel so inclined, the decorative garden next to it is available for strolls and sniffs, or even for a snooze in the shade.
Upstairs bedrooms, with real beds and dog beds, are ready for when the guests wish to get tucked in. Some dogs even get to snuggle under covers… 

The Balinese Dog Bed

But long before then, the pièce de la résistance, the party area on the third floor beckons with treats and gossip. The penthouse provides panoramic views, a Balinese bed and a lovely sofa area, and lots of opportunity to watch dogs and people passing by. 
What a wonderful existence, I can’t help wishing I was a dog that could check in too.

– Dog rates are 25 to 30 euros for 8 hours of day care and 40 euros including an overnight stay (pups are 50 euros), says Simon. And no, I have never regretted liking the look of the cava my friends were drinking in the photo they sent from Hotel Bendinat. I am so glad I came to Mallorca – I love my life here with the dogs! 

Property development

In London Simon Rees worked with first banking, and later in property development in the northwest, buying properties, working on architectural aspects and seeing if the properties could be made better. 
– I had a super life in London driving Bentleys and living in super glamorous homes, says Simon, who spent 25 years there before he decided to retire and enjoy life, just before turning 50. 

 – When Brexit was about to happen the economic climate was changing. and I needed to do something else. Mallorca provided a great opportunity to do that. When the last dog I owned, a chocolate coloured lab, died, my mother said I should never have another, but I missed having dogs in my life, and I know it is much easier to meet new lovely doggy people when you have dogs too. I decided a Luxury Hotel for Dogs might be just the thing for me.

International owners

Simon has two dear friends staying in houses some 20 metres away on each side of Pooches Hotel. Friends often come to see him, and bring their dogs over too. Thanks to Facebook and Instagram people with semi permanent or permanent homes on the island from Switzerland, Spain, Scandinavia, France, Germany and Britain have found Pooches Luxury Hotel for Dogs. 
Most days there are 6 or 7 doggies staying there, and despite the time it takes to feed and entertain the clients, Simon has started a charity sideline as well.

– I wanted to give something back, Simon says. There are rescue dogs who badly need new homes, and I like to help provide dogs like that with good homes. We have placed 7 dogs so far, and have handed out lots of blankets, doggie beds and other dog items. 

One of the dogs who needed a new home was lovely Fudgie, who actually spent two months with me as well, in my perfectly non-luxurious ordinary home in the centre of Palma, when her former owner had to go to hospital in the UK. Later, Fudge’s owner came back to Mallorca and Fudge returned to him. Eventually he had to take care of his health again in the UK, and Simon Rees opened his generous arms to include Fudge as a permanent resident at the marvellous Pooches Hotel.

 – I absolutely adore her, even though she is bossy, says Simon, with a laugh, and whispers that she has got a boyfriend now too. 
And guess what, it’s one of the frequent hotel guests…. 
It’s Kanga Spaniel ! Ooo, we love a bit of romance….

Text: Charlotte von Proschwitz.
Photo: Thomas Engstrom.

To contact the Luxury Hotel For dogs check out www.poocheshotel.com 

FILM STARS IN MALLORCA

Michael Douglas. Photo: Thomas Engstrom.

Film stars and celebrities have been drawn to Mallorca since the 1950’s.

It was the British poet Robert Graves who introduced Hollywood superstar Ava Gardner to Deià. Ever since then, Mallorca has held a magical lure to the film community.

Ava Gardner was escaping a disastrous marriage when she came here in the 1950’s.

She was married to the crooner Frank Sinatra, and their fights were frequent and infamous. There was often booze involved, on one occasion they even shot at street lamps and were promptly hauled to a police station. Another time Sinatra threw a douche bag filled with water at Ava Gardner and her pal Lana Turner in public.

So, when things got tough, Ava Gardner escaped, and was invited to Robert Graves’ home in Deià, where she, according to legend, had an affair with a local policeman.

At roundabout the same time, action film star Errol Flynn arrived in Mallorca on board his yacht ”Zaca” on his honeymoon with his third wife, Patricia Wymore. The two came upon the island seeking refuge in a storm, and promptly fell in love with Mallorca. Flynn rented a villa in Illetas, where he invited his close friends Orson Welles, David Niven and Rita Hayworth.

The first Hollywood stars made way for more. A friend of Ava Gardner’s, Grace Kelly, spent her honeymoon with Prince Rainier of Monaco on their yacht in the Formentor bay in 1956, right next to the Formentor hotel, where stars such as Charlie ChaplinElizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Peter Ustinov liked to stay.

Others visited ”The Beverley Hills of Mallorca” – Gran Castillo Hotel Son Vida – and among them were Anthony Quinn, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Brigitte Bardot, Sean Connery, Steven Spielberg, Leonardo di Caprio, Cameron Diaz and Jennifer López.

The night club Tito’s was another Hollywood hot spot, where people like Marlene Dietrich and Frank Sinatra performed.

Stars that have visited Mallorca are Natalie Wood, John Wayne, Mary Pickford, Tyrone Power, Joan Fontaine, Gina Lollobrigida, Johnny ”Tarzan” Weissmûller, Esther Williams, Gary Cooper, Claudia Cardinale, Cary Grant, Jane Birkin, Michael Caine, Candice Bergen, Lauren Bacall, Jude Law and Sadie Frost.

In 2016, the award-winning Night Manager” BBC TV series, based on the John le Carré novel, starred Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman, Tom Hiddleston, and Tom HollanderTom Hanks, Halle Berry and Susan Sarandon filmed ”Cloud Atlas” on the island and Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson made ”Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” here. 

Kelly Preston, the wife of John Travolta, made her last film ”Off the rails” in Mallorca before she died of cancer. Netflix made ”Turn up Charlie” here with Idris Elba. 

Apart from visits and films, Mallorca is a haven of peace and security for Hollywood stars like Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who have spent their summer vacation on their estate in Valldemossa, hosting many top billing names including Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, George Clooney, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Jack Nicholson

In 2019 Orlando Bloom vas seen with singer Katy Perry on the island. Other sighted stars that year were Jason Momoa, Melanie Griffith, Jared Leto  and Emily Ratajkowski  –and the year before that Liv Tyler and Sharon Stone were spotted. 

Among the actors and directors who are said to have homes here are Brad PittMads Mikkelsen, Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Colm Meaney, Uwe Ochsenknecht, Martin Semmelrogge, Til Schweiger Toni Bestard, Ursula Karven, Dieter Wedel, Pierce Brosnan and Esther Schweins.

Text: Charlotte von Proschwitz.

BECOMING A MALLORQUIN

In Palma he is known simply as ”Miguel”.

The owner of La Paloma restaurant speaks Spanish like a native. Mikael Appelqvist from Sweden bought a Palma palace 30 years ago and became a local.
– I never wanted to make Swedish meatballs at my restaurants, explains ”Miguel”.

La Paloma’s creator is now the owner of not only La Paloma in La Lonja, but of restaurant Chez Camille around the corner, and imports and sells Kamado Monolith grills in Spain.

– Thirty odd years ago people used to drink a lot on their holiday, says ”Miguel”, as he shows us around La Paloma with its stylish blue velvet chairs, beautiful old stone and cosy wooden beams.

– At that time there was a restaurant in Palma with typical Swedish food, where people were always very drunk. I didn’t enjoy that kind of situation much. I really prefer the Spanish style of going out, where people eat, drink and are merry without falling over… So I decided to adopt the Spanish style food and ambiance.

Nowadays he still serves local fare such as pa amb oli, patatas bravas, pata negra ham, baby squid, beetroot tartare, spare ribs, octopus taco and beef tenderloin.

”Miguel” was the first of a long line of successful Swedes doing business in Palma. Ola and Grethe Holmgren, who founded Palma Pictures, were pioneers also, then came Micke and Johanna Landström of the Portixol Hotel group, Mats Walhström, who once started Purobeach and Puro hotel, Barbara Bergman and Klas Käll who created Rialto Living, the former part owner of Hotel Tres, now part owner of Hotel Cort, Ture Stendahl, Gran Casa Can Bordoy’s owner Mikael Hall, and many, many more Swedes have become prominent Swedish figures in Mallorca’s business world.

Mikael Appelqvist was never considered Swedish in Palma, however, he was ”Mallorquin”. 

But ”Miguel” was born on a Swedish island called Gotland in 1962. Interestingly, Gotland is almost the same size as Mallorca, and island life has always attracted him.

His first professional education was that of a foreman, specializing in the art of cutting meat. Butcher by trade, he branched out, and explored the food business at Hotel Reisen in Stockholm, and as a chef at a famous restaurant in Göteborg called Johanna, where the well known chef Leif Mannerström presided.

Crazy breakfasts

– In those days we worked very hard, and used every penny we earned on travelling, says ”Miguel”, who was about 19 years old at the time
– I went on one of my trips, and ended up working at the old luxury hotel El Encanto in Santa Barbara,California, where California’s founding father, the Jesuit priest Junipero Serra, born in Mallorca, once lived.
– The famous cooking teacher Julia Child visited ”El Encanto” while I was there and signed her cookery books at the hotel.

– Every two weeks all the chefs had breakfast duty – what a nightmare that was! Imagine keeping track of all the different ways Americans want their eggs done, and in record time as well! Not just the soft boiled 3 or 4 minute eggs, but all the ”over easy”, ”sunny side up”, ”hard scrambled”, ”soft scrambled”, ”poached”, ”shirred”, ”baked”, ”basted” ”ranchero” and so on … Tough while working against the clock.

After the US, ”Miguel” travelled to a very large island called Australia – and from there he decided to visit his brother Putte ”Pablo” Appelqvist, who was working on the island of Tenerife, one of the Spanish Canary islands.

Canaries next

–  Our grandfather had been one of the very first Swedes to visit the Canary Islands, says ”Miguel” Appelqvist. So we decided to try our luck there too.

–  It was crazy – but good. Not being able to speak Spanish was hard, and everything took forever. I remember we needed to wait a whole year to get a phone installed. And afterwards we noticed there was not much point in having it. No-one else had one, so there were no calls!
”Miguel” and ”Pablo” worked at Ferdinand restaurant in Los Cristianos, Tenerife.

– After a while, just working and being on a banana island so far away from Europe, started getting to me – I missed the seasons of the year too. I did some research, and decided to give sunny Mallorca a try instead.
When he arrived on the island, the luxury port Puerto Portals was just being built.
– I worked for a retired English footballer at his bar ”Fat Sam’s” in Portals at first. He had lots of contacts and it was a great way to start.

A shady part of town

For a while, ”Miguel” had an evening job at the bar, and a dayjob at a real estate agency. In the early nineties parts of Palma’s amazing Old Town areas were still rather suspect. ”Miguel” Appelquist went for a stroll in one of the most central parts of the Old Town. Very close to the bar Abaco, popular then too despite the murky corners around it, he saw a stunning 15th and 16th century palace that was for sale.

The stalls from the old bordello, that had been lodged there, were still upstairs, says ”Miguel”, shaking his head with a laugh.

– The location was great. My imagination of how it could be transformed got going.

A lot of work was needed. ”Miguel” initially planned to live on the second and third floors himself with his wife, the corporate and private event planner Camilla Alverus, whom he had met in Palma. The entire bottom floor of the palace was already a Spanish style restaurant called ”La Paloma”, that had been founded in 1938, and the logical thing to do was to keep the name and upgrade the kitchens and the décor. Later, Camilla’s event company got the name La Paloma too.

– I don’t remember the exact price I paid for the La Paloma building, says ”Miguel”. – But yes, real estate was a lot cheaper then.

Great prices

”Miguel’s first line apartment in a brand new building in the popular beach resort Illetas, just outside of Palma, was just 72.000 euros in 1989. Looking at some of the old newspapers ”Miguel” has, that originate from 1975, long before his time in Mallorca, a central large Palma apartment with many bedrooms, a salon, a dining room and bathroom was the equivalent of just 6.000 euros to purchase!!!

– Once we got started, La Paloma worked better than I expected, says ”Miguel”.

– We had to wait until 1993 to open our doors. But when we finally could begin it was so crowded! People didn’t mind if they knew each other or not. They just sat down together and chatted and enjoyed themselves anyway. When it got jammed, plates of tapas were passed over people’s heads until they reached the right table!

Staying away from serving Swedish meatballs turned out to be a really good idea. A lot of foreigners and locals loved sampling Spanish specialties, and on the whole people vere very merry and behaved themselves really well at La Paloma.

Through the course of about 28 years there have been many more refurbishments and a lot of investments made. Beautiful old stone walls, wooden beams and gorgeous floors from the 15th and 16th centuries are now visible in the palace. ”Miguel” created a fabulous event space on the second floor and offices too. Today there is a mixture of classic Palma palace style and new design there, courtesy of Swedish designer Yvonne Börjesson at La Paloma.

–  Take a look at this old photo from 1948 – one of the children standing outside La Paloma actually celebrated his 70-th birthday in our party room, says ”Miguel”.

–  It’s hard to remember all the celebrity visits we have had through the years.The Swedish film ”Jönssonligan på Mallorca” was partly recorded here. The golfer Seve Ballesteros dined here, as did several famous British footballers, the art collector Baron Thyssen’s wife Carmen Servera visited us, as did Sweden’s Princess Birgitta, businessman Stellan Lundquist, the Swedish musician Sven Erik Magnusson, radio profile Kent Finell, DJ Clabbe af Geijerstam, drag show artist Lasse Flinckman and many more.

Movie set

Catering to the movie industry became a side business for La Paloma, and film crews such as the one from ‘‘Vendetta” ate spare ribs, croquettes and tapas from his palace in Palma. In the stunning upstairs party zone lots of event planners have held memorable fiestas for their conference groups and birthday parties. Guests from Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Britain, Ireland, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Poland, Russia, the US, Canada and many many more countries have enjoyed themselves there over the years.
– On occasion we have even had traditional Swedish Christmas food ”Julbord” served at exclusive events in the party room, he confesses.

A few years ago ”Miguel” added Chez Camille to his portfolio, and his Palma Old Town empire expanded.
– To me there is no better place to survive Covid than in Mallorca, says ”Miguel”.
–  When things pick up we will be among the first to feel the benefits.

Text: Charlotte von Proschwitz.
Photo: Thomas Engstrom and La Paloma.