Our dream villa re­ally was too good to be true

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

We were quite a mob in the car, I re­call: Monty driv­ing, with three kids in the back, all look­ing for the villa we weren’t due to oc­cupy for an­other half an hour. We were tak­ing part in a re­gatta in Mal­lorca, and Mrs Jones had some­how found a place with the re­quired num­ber of bed­rooms. I don’t have the pa­tience.

Now, ar­riv­ing from Palma, we were con­grat­u­lat­ing our­selves on be­ing away from the ma­rina and crowds, but not far away. There was a small beach. There were large trees of­fer­ing shade. There was a quiet road and hand­some vil­las fac­ing the sea. It had to be one of those.

“Num­ber nine!” one of the chil­dren cried. I left Monty with the kids in the car and rang the bell at the tall barred gate. There was no an­swer. I peered in. A 100ft-long drive led to a garage at the side of the house. To the left, partly ob­scured by hedges, was a sun­lit raised terrace. To my sur­prise, the dis­tant form of a woman in a bikini emerged from the swim­ming pool area; she made her un­hur­ried way to the French win­dows fac­ing on to the bay. Per­haps she was get­ting a robe. Had we caught the villa man­age­ment tak­ing a sneaky dip?

I turned to Monty and made a thumbs-up sign. He was lean­ing out of the side win­dow of our rented car, mouth slightly agape. Noth­ing hap­pened. I stood on tip-toe, but could only glimpse dis­tant sun loungers and, sur­pris­ingly, a child.

I checked the num­ber; I rang the bell again. A head and shoul­ders popped up be­hind a cut laurel. It was clearly a bloke, with naked shoul­ders, and his body lan­guage was clear.

A maid came out of a side door, stopped and looked at me war­ily. “We’ve come for the villa,” I shouted. “Do you speak English?”

She hes­i­tated, went back in­side and shut the door. Monty crossed the road. “I just spoke to Mrs Jones. This is def­i­nitely the right place.”

There were more heads now. An el­derly man, in a polo shirt and slacks, ap­peared to be re­as­sur­ing the maid at the door. He walked to­wards us and stood a few feet away but made no at­tempt to open the gate.

“I’m sorry to dis­turb you,” I said. “We’ve rented this villa for the week.”

He didn’t look shocked, just weary. “No,” he said. “I’m afraid you have been mis­led. It’s not for rent.”

There was a splash and the noise of laugh­ter com­ing from the gar­den.

“You’ve been the vic­tim of a fraud,” the man con­tin­ued. “You are the third per­son call­ing here this week.”

Oddly, I didn’t dis­be­lieve him for an in­stant. If he him­self was a fraud­ster, he was a plau­si­ble one – and not un­pleas­ant. He just wanted us to go away. We were a nui­sance. Mugs. We had been de­frauded.

But the place looked so good. We con­tin­ued to stand there, feel­ing that his fam­ily might at least stop en­joy­ing them­selves quite so much. But clearly they were grow­ing tired of hav­ing to ex­plain the sit­u­a­tion.

The po­lice seemed a lit­tle tired too. They kept us wait­ing for a bit, then passed me a form to fill in. Regis, a Span­ish friend who had been hop­ing for one of the rooms in the place, had come along to help me make my case.

“They know all about this,” he

Balearic bliss: how it was meant to be

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