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Deià: Withstanding paradise

“This can’t be the way,” I protest, as my boyfriend ploughs ahead through rambling brambles and waist-high grass on the edge of a vertiginous terrace. It’s a balancing act: to our right the terrain drops vertically.

Deià: Withstanding paradise
Cala Deià cove, Majorca. Image: Emily Rose Mawson

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To our left, it plateaus for several metres before sloping steeply up the next step. And so the terrace, like a giant’s staircase on this hillside in northwest Majorca, continues until it meets a wooded flank of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Serra de Tramuntana, whose rocky summits are set against a flawless sky.

Around us, bright oranges and lemons dangle tantalisingly from branches. “This isn’t a path,” I’m reiterating, when it dawns on me: we’re crossing a citrus grove.

Ten minutes ago we’d left the village of Deià and its cluster of stone fincas, which are arranged in a helter-skelter around a hill peppered with riotous bougainvillea. A friendly local had told us we needed to head downhill for 30 minutes to reach Cala Deià cove. Driving was a bad idea, he’d said, with “a narrow road and not much parking”.

I blame Robert Graves: we’re following in his footsteps. The English poet and novelist moved to Deià in 1932, and lived here until his death in 1985, using it as the setting for many of his novels.

“Robert Graves kicked off Deià’s fame,” says Miquel, a local guide. “In the 1920s writer Gertrude Stein told him it was the place to be, ‘if he could stand so much paradise’. He went on to invite his friends and spread the village’s name across Europe.”

From his hillside house-turned-museum Ca n’Alluny, with an uninterrupted view of the Mediterranean (he bought the land directly opposite to prevent developers ruining the view), Graves walked to Cala Deià daily.

We backtrack, feeling clammy and desperate for a swim. Mercifully we find what must have been Graves’ route, and continue through a wooded ravine to the tune of cicadas. It’s so still we could be in Majorca back in the days when Deià was a quiet bohemian world.

At last the whisper of the sea reaches our ears from beyond the end of the ravine, and we’re there. We clamber around the boulders that pepper the shingle beach, claiming one to sit on and admire the horseshoe-shaped cove. It’s compact and secluded, with pine trees sheltering the sapphire depths. There’s evidence of the fishing community who still work here — their nets and weathered boats contrast with the luxury yacht moored further out.

I put one toe into the sea. It’s cold, but not uninviting, so I go a step further. It’s funny watching others climbing in: it resembles the stages of human evolution in reverse as they contort into crab-like positions to navigate the slippery boulders lining the water’s edge.

Then it’s my turn. I plop ungracefully into the sea and watch as my legs distort in the rippling turquoise. The cooling water heals my aches from the sweaty hike, which — having reached this little cove — now seems very worthwhile indeed. A dose of ‘so much paradise’? I should certainly think so.