Chopin and George Sand stayed here

By | Category: Travel destinations

The French novelist, Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, may not be known to many by that name as she is better known my her nom-de-plume – George Sand.

The Cartuja (Carthusian Monastery) in Valldemossa

Just as tonight’s new BBC drama, Gentleman Jack, also portrays a woman who opted to dress in men’s clothes, so did Sand. She dressed as a man finding the clothes cheaper, more comfortable and which provided a passport into parts of French life that – in those days – women did not enter. The difference may have been that Sand was recognised as a women and tolerated probably due to her immense popularity as a novelist.

By her late twenties she outsold Dickens and Hugo. Few seemed to care about her mode of dress and her smoking in public, another no-no for ladies in those days of the 1830’s.

Splitting from her husband, she had a series of affairs and by the late 1830’s was in a relationship with the Polish composer, Chopin who suffered from undiagnosed TB. To try and improve his health, Sand, her two children and Chopin moved to Mallorca in 1838 and where they all stayed in a “house” in Valldemossa for the winter.

The house was in fact an old Carthusian Monastery and the group stayed in the old ‘Hospederia’ – a residential part of the monastery where nobles would stay.

Although the monastery has been open for viewing it was only last month, after restoration, that the hospideria was opened so now visitors can not only see where Sand, her children and Chopin stayed but where any number of prominent people in the arts stayed during the latter part of the nineteenth and early parts of the twentieth century.

But Sand and the hospederia have another claim to fame. After returning to France, Sand wrote one of the first travel books about Mallorca calling it Un hiver à Majorque or in English, A Winter in Majorca. Some might call it a novel, it isn’t really a travel guide as we might know it today but this remarkable women has penned a fascinating view of what life there was like. She admired the beauty of the island – as did another famous novelist and travel writer, Robert Graves, who also lived on Mallorca and who translated a version of her book into English – but the harsh winter (by Mallorcan standards) of 1838/9 did nothing for Chopin’s health and they left.

Now that the hospederia is open in addition to the cells of the monks, it gives visitors to Mallorca even more to enjoy on the island.

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