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Archive for the ‘Menorca’ Category

Traditional socks and shoes in Menorca

Traditional socks and shoes in Menorca

The Sunday we were in Menorca at Maó, we unexpectedly came across the start of a “fiesta”. Groups of Menorcans were dressed in traditional clothes and holding elaborately shaped mandolins. The women carried bunches of flowers and 3 meter tall figures in wooden frames dressed in Menorcan clothes were being paraded. The procession of musicians, singing Menorcans and children riding floral decorated donkeys
Skilful rider on a Warlander Horse

Skilful rider on a Warlander Horse

were followed by horse-carts and men attired in black riding the massive black Menorcan stallions. These horses, a mix between the Spanish Andalusian and Arabian breeds had been specially trained to perform various movements, notably the one Menorca festivals are famous for (the “bot”, or walking “courbette”): instructing his horse to rear up, a rider walks his horse on its hind legs through the crowd for as long as possible, while the rider sits back in his saddle!

Mahon (Maó) is now the capital of Menorca, after it had been moved by the British in the 1700’s from Ciutadella to Maó. The natural harbour (the second deepest in the world), snaking almost a kilometre inland was an obvious asset. The old town is largely pedestrianised with mansions and lovely Georgian town houses lining the narrow streets. Interestingly, ‘mayonnaise’ comes originally from Mahon. It is reputed that a Frenchman, called Du Plessis that fought the British in Menorca, was served a tasty sauce (“salsa mahonesa”) at a local inn in Maó (Mahon). When he returned to Paris, he introduced the sauce to the royal court which was summarily liked and adopted, becoming “mayonnaise”.

Neat buildings in Ciutadella

Neat buildings in Ciutadella


The other large town, Ciutadella, is incredibly pretty with its pink pastel coloured buildings (while most other towns have buildings painted either in white or dark red), palm trees on its squares and a picturesque harbour, jutting far inland and surrounded by restaurants and little shops. I had a very tasty 2 course vegan lunch in Ciutadella of an asparagus, nut and leaves salad followed by “pisto manchego” a slow-baked stew of zucchini, tomato, bell pepper, and onion served in a shallow baking dish with just the right amount of tomato sauce.
Ciutadella's old harbour

Ciutadella’s old harbour

Pre-historic site of Torralba d'en Salord (1500 BC)

Pre-historic site of Torralba d’en Salord (1500 BC)

Menorca is well-known for its wealth of pre-historic sites – in fact, there are over 1600 on the island. As one cycles along the low stone walls, stopping a few times to pat the gorgeous horses (of course!), one comes across these incredible sites every now and then. The closest pre-historic site is Trepucó, just south of Maó. Near Alaior is Torralba d’en Salord, the biggest pre-historic settlement. The structures were so well-preserved, it almost felt like trespassing!
Food storage cave at Torralba d'en Salord

Food storage cave at Torralba d’en Salord

Es Mercadal, in the centre of the island, is a pretty bougainvilla town. For our morning tea break, we went to a lovely bakery where I had steaming sourdough rolls straight from the oven, filled with walnuts, raisins and orange peel. I found a well-stocked organic shop in the pedestrian area, called Margarita Dietética on Calle Nou 29.

Cycle path between St Lluis  and Maó

Cycle path between St Lluis and Maó

Pretty bay of "Cala en Porter"

Pretty bay of “Cala en Porter”

The beaches on the island are truly stunning. Some of the best are: Cala en Porter, a delightful place and one of the oldest holiday towns on the island with clusters of identical white villas. The sea water is an incredible light blue and the beach is reached via steep winding stairs. Santa Galdana is another beautiful beach, with its white sand and turquoise water. Walk west from there to Marcella Cove, and yet further west is Cala en Turqueta. East of Santa Galdana is Cala Mitjana (but this can be a very busy beach).

Other stunning swimming beaches are: Punta Prima (near Biniancolla, east of Binibeca); Cala Binibeca (at Binibeca Vell – a pretty resort town, built in 1972 to resemble typical Menorcan fishing town with its very narrow alleys and white two storey houses); Els Canutells (west of Binibeca); Son Bou (west of Els Canutells) at 3km it is the longest beach with white sand on the island. There are 3 quiet beaches on the west coast: Cala Blanca, Sa Caleta and Son Oleo. Son Xoriguer is the starting point for horse riding trips into the reserve.

Best of all possible worlds: cycling and swimming

Best of all possible worlds: cycling and swimming

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We woke up early dreading a lo-o-o-ng day of driving, flying, cycling … But 12 hours later, we actually felt surprisingly chirpy.

We set off after our buffet breakfast in Valencia and drove relaxedly the 4 hours to Barcelona. How strange it felt to be back there again after nearly 3 months of adventures and explorations! We took our car (that we got rather attached to) back to the agency we bought it from. The procedure of checking the car over and signing the necessary paperwork didn’t take more than 3 minutes! We clocked up exactly 7512 km!

View from our apartment

View from our apartment

Our 1 hour domestic flight to Menorca left punctually, arriving at 6pm on the island. I had a good feeling about the place from the moment we stepped outside the airport building. The total population is just under 100 000 people. The island is well-developed and modern, with large forested areas, numerous coves and beaches and all the roads are in excellent condition. No little backwater this! Although the road was slightly busy, we each cycled with a rucksack, panier and bicycle bag the 7 km from the airport to the town of Maó (in Castilian, or Mahon in Catalan). Our accommodation was opposite the yacht harbour: a renovated apartment on the top (2nd) floor, fitted out a little too modern for our taste, but very comfortable nevertheless. Arriving after the food shops had already closed, we ordered a plate of grilled vegetables from the pizza restaurant downstairs as a take-away to enjoy in our own space.

Old town of Mao

Old town of Mao


The next morning we walked to the market nearby (the outdoor one is on Plaça Carme while the indoor “Mercat” is next to Església del Carme), housed in a building that used to be a convent. The broad corridors of the square cloister are occupied by small shops and cafés. We bought nuts, millet, quinoa, brown rice, dried white beans and olive oil from an organic shop; dark, heavy bread and whole-wheat crackers from the bakery; teas and spices from the herb and spice stall and went crazy shopping at the various fruit and
Sun-ripened figs and sweet green gages

Sun-ripened figs and sweet green gages

vegetable vendors. There was even a stall that specialised in various chillies! To our delight we found that the figs (one of our favourite fruits) are, regardless whether they had green or purple skins, in fact all deep red inside and incredibly sweet. When cut in half the inside looks like jelly!

The island has some beautiful beaches, small C-shaped bays and secluded coves some of which only reachable after a long cliff top walk or down steep stairs cut into sheer rock. We cycled 50 km one day, visiting a few stunning beaches. The sand on the south side of the island is white, soft and fine as powder while the sea is shallow and calm and the water a light blue colour. It seemed more like a swimming pool than the sea. With our goggles we followed schools of small fish, which would come and nibble one’s skin if you stand still in the water. At one beach an old windmill (of which only a handful are still operational on the island) was converted into a small café.

Stunning secluded beaches on Menorca

Stunning secluded beaches on Menorca


I had fun in the kitchen making my own fermented quinoa milk (after rinsing three-quarters of a cup of white quinoa with clean water, soak overnight in a lot of water; leave to sprout (a few hours), rinse; blend with 3 cups of filtered or bottled water until creamy; squeeze through a nut milk bag (discard the pulp); empty one capsule of probiotic powder in it and whisk to mix; pour into a glass bottle and put the lid on tightly. Stand for 1 – 2 days until effervescent. Store in the fridge.)

Big variety of breads and pastries in even small bakeries

Big variety of breads and pastries in even small bakeries

A traditional cake seen at all the bakeries in Maó, is called “Ensaïmada cabello angel” – pastry made from pork fat, filled with a type of apple-pumpkin mash, and placed rolled up like a snake in a baking dish to bake until golden. A much healthier vegan version could be to use very thin dough (make vegan pasta dough, rolled through a pasta machine to also get the long lengths of dough; or use filo), filled with cooked sweet potato mash, spices and fine orange zest or use almond paste, banana, allspice and preserved lemon peel for a Moroccan touch; rolled up and brushed with lemon-flavoured olive oil, then baked.
A street in Maó, always with the dark green shutters

A street in Maó, always with the dark green shutters

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