And the snake comes free...

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Overseas -

Nowhere is the Bri­ton who strays abroad made to feel more at home than in Ma­jorca, cour­tesy of its siz­zling full-English break­fasts, fast-flow­ing lager, karaoke and tee­ter­ing piles of tabloid pa­pers. Along the pop­u­lar east coast, the bois­ter­ous echoes of Blighty are even more jar­ring: Union flags flut­ter from bal­conies and ex­pat bars, while lo­cal wait­ers fret for their jobs un­less their com­mand of Inglès im­proves rap­i­da­mente.

It is, for the hordes who re­turn year af­ter year, a made-to-mea­sure frolic in the sun – easy on the pocket, al­ways pre­dictable, rarely dis­ap­point­ing. Such is the spread of the tourist towel that oth­ers who do not wish to run with the bull­dog pack and pre­fer some­thing less fe­ro­ciously home-fromhome, are of­ten hard-pressed to find sat­is­fac­tion.

Now comes an al­ter­na­tive, in the shape of the Hide­aways Club, a very exclusive, private-res­i­dence scheme whose Ma­jor­can prop­er­ties were launched last month. The club of­fers a com­bined pack­age of lux­ury hol­i­days and prop­erty own­er­ship. Mem­bers are guar­an­teed the use of “beau­ti­fully fur­nished, lux­u­ri­ous homes” via a scheme that puts at their dis­posal hol­i­day jaunts to fully-man­aged prop­er­ties in Croa­tia, Cyprus, the South of France, Italy, Morocco, Por­tu­gal, Switzer­land, Turkey and Spain.

The homes – in which mem­bers hold shares across the whole port­fo­lio – are (usu­ally) de­tached, with an av­er­age floor space of 2,500 sq ft, three/four bed­rooms and bath­rooms, private gar­dens and pool. They each prom­ise to blend the de­lights of their lo­ca­tion with the ben­e­fits of con­tem­po­rary liv­ing.

Each home has a value of more than £1 mil­lion and – all right, let’s get this over with now – so will you: the Hide­aways join-up fee is £207,500, with a fur­ther £10,000 charged an­nu­ally for run­ning costs.

Worth ev­ery penny, ac­cord­ing to co-founder, chief ex­ec­u­tive and “se­rial en­tre­pre­neur” Stephen Wise. “It’s an ex­pen­sive club to join,” he ad­mits. “We are aiming to at­tract sin­gle-digit mil­lion­aires – peo­ple who want to know what they’re go­ing to get.”

And what will that be? Du­ti­fully, I set forth to be “pam­pered” in the man­ner of a club mem­ber. First off, the taxi ser­vice from Palma Air­port has much in its favour: free, on standby at ar­rival and there­after steeped in the hushed awe that eastcoast Mal­lorquinos re­serve for their all-too-rare mil­lion­aire vis­i­tors.

The com­pany’s flag­ship fam­ily villa is Gran Vista (a sec­ond, smaller al­ter­na­tive nes­tles nearby), close to the sleepy vil­lage of Ca­longe and a re­as­sur­ing mile or so from the heav­ing hol­i­day-fest of Cala d’Or.

“Ah, Gran Vista,” coos my cab­bie rev­er­en­tially, be­fore speed­ing me heav­en­wards in ap­pre­cia­tive si­lence. Half an hour later, there is the com­fort­ing crunch of ex­pen­sive gravel be­neath the wheels. I am, at least for a day, home.

I’ve not set foot out of the car be­fore a beam­ing fig­ure ap­pears at the front door to bid me wel­come. This is Matti, my able and charm­ing concierge, charged to over­see dawn-to-dusk hap­pi­ness for the du­ra­tion of my stay. You won’t be left floun­der­ing in the man­ner of awk­ward, per­spir­ing tourists when you fetch up at Gran Vista. Swiftly up the cool, stone steps to the bed­room and its yards of Egyp­tian cot­ton, bal­cony doors flung open, birds twit­ter­ing ex­ot­i­cally, pris­tine bath­room with sauna, and would I like a drink?

The decor is taste­ful – the plas­tic fruit could go, mind you – rather than op­u­lent. Wisely, Gran Vista is braced for its visit­ing chil­dren. So­fas and chairs, for ex­am­ple, are com­fort­able, but not so ter­ri­fy­ingly hip that par­ents need fret about stains, smears or the oc­ca­sional scuff­ing. The sit­ting room of­fers an im­prob­a­bly large flat-screen TV, DVD se­lec­tion ( Mary Pop­pins, I Love Yoga), broad­band and hand-picked pa­per­back li­brary (full marks for the William Boyd). There’s a bulging wel­come box, too, fea­tur­ing bot­tles of wine, ground cof­fee and a bril­liant pyra­mid of sunkissed (real) Mediter­ranean fruit.

Out­side, bougainvil­lea tumbles gen­er­ously from the ter­race roof as a breeze whis­pers through the pines, date palms and ole­an­der. Ta­ble ten­nis and pris­tine bar­be­cue await in the shade.

And so to the pool. Trunks at the ready, I quickchang­e for a plunge into re­fresh­ing obliv­ion. “You have the wa­ter to your­self,” Matti solemnly as­sures me. If only. Soon, along­side this heav­ing white man’s ef­forts to cool down un­der the Mediter­ranean sun, there’s colour­ful com­pany all too close to hand. A snake.

“Ab-so-lutely harm­less,” calls Matti, af­ter I re­move my­self faster than you can say time­share for toffs. “I shall have it re­moved im­me­di­ately.” Ser­vice, of a sort, I sup­pose.

Speak­ing of which, there is lit­tle the club fails to of­fer its high­brow guests be­yond Gran Vista’s long private drive, al­beit at ex­tra cost. In­vestors are pro­vided with child­care, golf, horse-rid­ing, yacht hire and tick­ets for con­certs and sport­ing events.

If Hide­aways can be said to have pulled off a sin­gle smart trick, it is to have tapped into the skills and spirit of the lo­cal com­mu­nity. Apart from ex­pat Matti, Sylvia (a mean paella), boat skip­per Pe­dro and masseuse Pia are all on hand to pro­vide op­tional ex­tras, de­liv­ered with grace and panache.

The high­light of my fleet­ing visit is to jump aboard Pe­dro’s fish­ing boat for a tour of the coves up and down the coast, div­ing into clear wa­ter off the back of a boat, in his ebul­lient com­pany.

Back on shore, it is time for my full-body mas­sage at the hands of Pia, so un­shake­ably pro­fes­sional that she be­trays not a flicker of alarm on find­ing I have my dis­pos­able thong the wrong way round. Re­lax? Not easy af­ter that…

And sud­denly, it’s all over. Lit­tle beats a de­scent into Lu­ton air­port for a reac­quain­tance with re­al­ity as, all too soon, Gran Vista slides ir­re­vo­ca­bly into the past.

Ver­dict: a proper pam­per­ing, all right, but in ex­change for such a prodi­gious out­lay, noth­ing you don’t richly de­serve.

High class: GranVista, its grounds and pool (briefly in­vaded by a snake). A Hideaway high­light is a boat trip with Pe­dro Cañel­las (left)

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