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A Home in Fornalutx

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April 3, 2012


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Gabrielle fell in love with Mallorca in the mid-‘60s, while filming scenes here for Krakatoa, East of Java. She and first husband, actor/writer Olaf Pooley, returned for a holiday in 1968, and were soon renting a place in Llucalcari, commuting to the UK to work. Their search for their own property ended in picturesque Fornalutx, where they bought a tumbledown renovation project for just $500 US. It became their perfect home for the next 20 years.

Their Mediterranean idyll suffered a cruel blow when their 21-year-old daughter Amanda died of cancer, just one day before her wedding to a local mallorquín. Sadly, Gabrielle’s marriage didn’t survive this loss, but her relationship with Mallorca remained as strong as ever and the island also became home for her eventual second husband, cinematographer Michael Davis.

Gabrielle and Michael busied themselves in the Fornalutx property market, including acquiring a beautiful hillside 9th century village home. An extensive renovation was done whilst continuing their high-pressured careers shooting and directing films – flying regularly to LA, London and beyond, but returning to Mallorca, which Gabrielle believes will always be home.

Today, she is again a formidable team of one. Three years ago, Michael passed away and – drawing on the experiences of building two homes from scratch and renovating 11 more properties – she threw herself into a project that would have made her late husband exceptionally proud.

Near-neighbour to one of the two remaining towers of Fornalutx’s 11th century castle, Gabrielle’s señorial home, C’an Amengual, was renovated in the French art nouveau style in 1910 but had been untouched for the last 30 years. Enlisting the services of local crafts- and tradesmen again, Gabrielle spent the last two years installing modern conveniences, re-plumbing and re-wiring throughout, whilst preserving period details such as ornate tiling and elegant ceiling roses, to create an exquisite five-bedroom residence.

She has transformed the garden with a swimming pool, ornamental pond, fruit trees and Mediterranean shrubs whilst, next door, C’an Amengual’s former wine cellar is now a self-contained holiday let. With Juliet balconies onto a quiet village street and contrasting rear views to protected peaceful countryside, C’an Amengual is the perfect antidote to the bustle of LA and filmmaking.

“I adore living in this incredible mallorquín valley town,” says Gabrielle. “Life is very peaceful, relaxed and real, unlike the UK which seemed to lose grip on reality and enter into moral collapse last summer amongst the riots.

“Fornalutx itself has barely changed since we first visited in the 1960s.  Granted, back then people still travelled by donkey and cart, and our washing-up had to be done in a bucket using water from a rooftop cistern, but architecturally it looks the same.  Construction has been sympathetically conducted in the same stone, each building appears to be of a similar age and there’s no unsightly signage or billboards.  Approximately half of the now 400 homes are owned by us ‘foreigners’, but you can barely tell where the old blends into the new. And it has everything we need on the doorstep, including a little supermarket, a bakery, chemist, three bars and seven popular restaurants.”

Enthusiastic and capable cooks Gabrielle and Michael owned and successfully ran Café Med, overlooking the main square, for two years: “But it was hard work, certainly harder than any film I have ever directed, and whilst we enjoyed every moment it was the right time to sell on.”

Gabrielle has now essentially retired from directing: “I simply can’t stand on set all day anymore – it’s too tiring. When I was directing Hill Street Blues, for example, we’d do 12 episodes a year, working 16-hour days, and I can’t contemplate doing that again at my age.”

She is now busy writing two books – one of which is a history of her inimitable family: her father a Gurkha Major, Indian linguist, master swordsman, accomplished pilot and actor/manager; her mother a much admired comedienne and theatre/film star, and her mother’s cousin, the playwright/author Daphne du Maurier.

It will also chart her own road to fame, from playing Michael in her parents’ production of Peter Pan, aged six, to starring in Billy Liar in the West End, breaking ground as the first woman to direct TV shows such as Miami Vice, Cagney and Lacey, LA Law and Hill Street Blues – for which she was Emmy-nominated in 1986 – as well as blockbuster Star Trek: The Next Generation and TV special Diana: A Tribute to the People’s Princess, shot in Mallorca.

And there might be another – more modestly sized – renovation project: Gabrielle’s C’an Amengual masterpiece is for sale, as she looks for a smaller home for herself, her cats and gregarious parrot Lola.

Priced at €1.795 million, C’an Amengual is available through Mallorca Sotheby’s International Realty on telephone: (+34) 971 67 48 07, email or visit Property Reference: 5384.
Original text by: Sarah Drane edited by Jan EdwardsRestaurateur, Emmy-nominated film director, property developer, actress, novelist  . . . and they’re all one woman.  Sarah Drane meets the talented Gabrielle Beaumont.

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