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North West Majorca Tourism Guide - Frederic Chopin

Valldemossa, just up from Palma de Mallorca is rather dominated by the Chopin and George Sand visit, especially as Sand wrote a rather uncomplementary book about that winter stay in Majorca. Seems the pigs worried her a little! Her book 'Winter in Majorca' is well worth a look, as you can probably dig out of it a little insight into both Sand and Majorca, and positives and negatives about both. Sand seemed a little ill-prepared for her Mallorca trip and Majorca still retains shall we say some of it's Conservative character. Still, if ya can't be bothered to learn the language, at least a little, then I guess you get the treatment you deserve!

Chaterhouse, where Sand and Chopin stayed, is well worth a look. It does get crowded, and it can turn into a bit of a comedy act as you look round. You'll be quietly contemplating Chopin's cell, when sudden either a Spanish, German or English band will cram into the cell for a talk by their guide. There's some great animated guided tours and you'll find yourself sitting through some of them, even if they're in German! Note the tiles in Charterhouse, easily missed these on the floors as they're quite worn. There's some superb designs here.

Valldemossa Mallorca

Valldemossa and Chopin eh! They've certainly made a meal out of just the few months that Chopin spent on the island of Mallorca with his mistress George Sand (we'll get onto her shortly, radical woman of her time indeed wearing trousers and so forth). Valldemossa has become somewhat of a tourist mecca most recently. Cultural tourism a la tacky style. You may well prefer the creativity of dance music in Magaluf? The restaurants are a little expensive here, still there are some high points, particularly the views to be had from the Valldemossa Hotel's terraza across Cartuja.

Valldemossa has come a long way from it's Moorish origins and not long since it's small, picturesque village character. It's only 11 miles from Palma, so has become extremely popular as a day trip with many tourists staying in the Bay of Palma. They come mostly to visit the monastery complex where Chopin and Sand stayed in the winter of 1838-9, which had miserable weather much pointed out in Sand's book 'A Winter in Mallorca' on sale everywhere in the 'resort'.

Hey up, the celebrities are in. Actor Michael Douglas is to promote the Balearic Islands in Fitur 2005, reports the official Balearic Islands website, thanks to an agreement reached by the Government of the Balearic Islands with the Hollywood star - well done. How come he was up for selling his and Zeta-Jones' Cultural Centre Costa Nord a little while ago then.

They continue, Douglas is convinced that the Balearic Islands are the ideal place for visitors from all over who wish to spend quiet holidays enjoying the beaches of the coastline and discovering the archipelago's cuisine and cultural activities, of which Centro Costa Nord, created in Valldemossa by Douglas, is a good example. Umm, gee, what's good for the goose (Douglas), is good for the gander (Regional government/tourism), or not as the case may be? You decide.

George Sand, Changing Personal Relationships

My profession, said Sand, is to be free'. Although it is her most favoured lover Frederic Chopin who is most celebrated in Majorca, (essentially because the two stayed in the monastery complex in Valldemossa in the abysmal winter, weather wise, of 1838/39 and Sand wrote a book about it), George Sand is of equal interest to her lover. She did not play a key role in the French Revolution, but she supported it and in her literature, letters and pamphlets she made a strong stand on changing relationships between men and women, a focus on the personal if you like, and a rejection of male dominated 'public' politics with it's neverending games. She was well respected for her understanding of the revolution, but critiqued for her withdrawal from it. But the reasons for withdrawal are clear, a tiring of others inability to recognise that revolution starts with changing yourself and your personal relationships. A most interesting free woman of her time, "I ask the support of no one, neither to kill someone for me, gather a bouquet, correct a proof, nor to go with me to the theater. I go there on my own, as a man, by choice; and when I want flowers, I go on foot, by myself, to the Alps." (George Sand)

Sand liked a bit of drama, and was rather ambitious. She left a husband she didn't love, and travelled to Paris in 1830 to follow her literary interests. Sand mingled with the celebrity company of the day, who were most taken with her, including Delacroix, Balzac and Liszt. However, Sand's great love though was apparently Fredric Chopin. Sand produced a considerable amount of literary work, in all 70 novels, 24 plays, and 40,000 letters, amongst other writings. It's her character that is remembered particularly, as she rather stuck out in her day as a free woman, challenging traditional expectations of women, wearing trousers and demanding equality in relationships. Her letter to Mazzini of June 15 expresses where she stood on social views. She stated her belief in an ideal republic, based on community and equality, promoted by an enlightened proletariat, that would give expression to the new Christianity. Speaking against violence and fear, she confidently posed the existence of "a collective and abstract being," le peuple, which stood above petty political squabblings. She repeatedly said the only party she belonged to was this "parti du peuple."

Sand wrote quite a lot of propaganda for the French Revolution and the provisional government, and she published at least six brochures, and several letters. She created the fictional peasant character Bonnin, and through this populist persona, expressed the lofty goals of the revolution and its place in the historical development of France. She also had considerable input into the Bulletin de la Republique between March 13 and May 6, and some of her work here caused a little bit of a stir! She also published and wrote much of the short-lived Cause du peuple (April 9, 16, 23) which included a series of four articles on socialism.

A group of feminists proposed George Sand for the national assembly (text published in La Voix des femmes). A few days later she responded in an open letter in La Reforme and La Vraie Republique, where she vigorously disassociated herself from the group which nominated her and categorically refused to stand for election. In mid-April she wrote a much longer letter to the members of the central committee clarifying her position on the question of women's role in political life. Women must and will participate in politics in the distant future, she argued, but in order for them to do so, society must first be radically transformed. As long as they are "under the tutelage and under the dependency of a man by marriage," women cannot be free-thinking agents in political matters. Civil and educational equality must precede political equality". Until then, women will display the "ruses of the slave," characteristic of all oppressed people. At the same time, Sand also insisted on the importance of women's roles in the private sphere: "your house burned, your domestic is imperil and you will have to expose your self to the outrages (railleries) and public affronts." (Correspondance, VIII, 407). Modern feminists have lampooned Sand for this, and her aversion to public life and her distrust of politics, which may have influenced her position, but in many ways she was years ahead of her time, picking up on the private sphere as a fundamental needing change. The personal was political for Sand. " Politics, properly named, I detest. It is the school of dryness, of ingraditude, of suspicions and of falsity." (June 12 1848, Corr.,VIII, 507).

Frederic Chopin & the Chopin Festival

Having rambled on about George Sand not getting as much attention in Majorca as Chopin, they did celebrate the bicentenary of her birth last year, 2004, with an exhibition of her favourite landscapes. Her book on Majorca, as well as other works by her are on sale everywhere in the area, a little ironic considering she was rather attacked by a group of Palma lawyers after 'Winter in Majorca' was first published.

Last year's festivities (2004) included the Sonata in B minor by Franz Liszt, and by Mozart, whom George Sand considered the greatest of all musicians, the Sonata in B flat major, followed by Chopin's Variations, Op. 2 on a theme from Don Giovanni, the Mozart opera that filled the writer with such passion. There's always a good choice of Chopin music of course at the festival, but with a mix of other classical works as well.

The Festival always celebrates young Spanish talent, and has recently featured such up an coming notables such as Iván Martín, an islander from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. He's a bit of a young hotshot on the young Spanish musical scene.

Majorca's Chopin Festival is held every August in Valldemossa. It dates back to 1930 this festival and takes place in the chapel at the Cartoixa de Valldemossa. Expect a programme primarily consisting of works by Chopin, but there are works by other composers too, performed by renowned musicians and up-and-coming talents. As well as concerts, which fall on four Sundays in August, there are exhibitions and other events related to the festival.

Photos of Frederic Chopin

Rural Majorcan women. Find gems like this at Charterhouse, Valldemossa
Rural Majorcan women. Find gems like this at Charterhouse, Valldemossa
Charterhouse, Valldemossa. Famous for Chopin and Sands brief stay
Charterhouse, Valldemossa. Famous for Chopin and Sands brief stay
Relaxing on the terraces of Charterhouse, Valldemossa
Relaxing on the terraces of Charterhouse, Valldemossa
The chapel in Charterhouse, Valldemossa
The chapel in Charterhouse, Valldemossa