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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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