It was pretty late, I’d just finished packing when my phone buzzed across the table, there was message from my mum wishing me a good trip to Menorca.
I wasn’t quite sure whether I had ever been before but there was some faint memory of a distant family holiday, fishing in a quaint little harbour with the most crystal clear water you’ve ever seen. My mum wanted to know if I remembered our family holiday when I was 5 years old, it had been a good holiday by all accounts.
Although I struggle to remember the details but I do have a sense that Menorca was a friendly, calm and peaceful place to visit. It was a time when my dad was still alive and although we had many holidays before and after Menorca I get the feeling this one was filled with particularly good memories.
I wasn’t quite sure whether I’d find that holiday place from the 1980’s that I had distant memories of or if I’d find a place that had lost some of its soul to years and years of tourism. It seems that Menorca for the most part has managed to resist the tide of development and huge holiday complexes that taint its larger neighbour, Mallorca.
The Mercat des Peix (Fish Market)
Arriving in Mahón I found myself surrounded on all sides by large plates of chorizo, olives, an array of fine cheeses, tortilla, bread and olive oil whilst clutching an ice cold cerveza in my hand. Peering beyond the plates of food through a window to the outside world I watched locals singing, dancing, eating, drinking and generally socialising. Was this a daily lunchtime routine or just a standard Saturday thing I wondered?
Either way, this was my kind of place, a place to relax, socialise, eat, drink and be a little bit merry… the local food market. Although I wasn’t just in Menorca to fill my belly and sample the wine, the next few days were filled with exploring the different ways to experience the island.
Kayaking – Welcome to my office!
We were up early, flattering wet suits on and paddles in hand, ready to hit the ocean in our kayaks with Artiem Audax Sport & Nature. Our guide, Mathieu was incredibly friendly, welcoming and helpful, showing us the basic kayaking techniques that surprisingly I’d never been shown before! Once we had made our way out beyond the shelter of the in land cove, Mathieu suddenly announced… “Welcome to my office!”, at first it made me laugh but after hearing it more that once I was little intrigued. I later learned that Mathieu, originally from Belgium had been bogged down in the world of corporate banking before leaving the stress behind, travelling and eventually settling on the island.
“we paddled deep into the darkness of Dragon’s Cave, surrounded by loud rumblings from deep within the cave”
Paddling off the coast you can see why Mathieu was relishing his office environment, cliffs, coves and sandy beaches. With head torches on we paddled deep into the darkness of Dragon’s Cave, surrounded by loud rumblings from deep within the cave, apparently caused by sea swells rather than an actual dragon… slightly disappointing.
We paddled on and into a cove just as the sun broke through the clouds and onto the Mencoran aqua blue sea. We dragged our kayaks ashore and admired the view across the cove, there wasn’t a single boat, kayak or tourist in sight. A perfect secluded beach sheltered in a cove, as I stood looking out over the water thoughts ran through my head about re-planning my holiday this year and Menorca had just sneaked high up on the list of destinations.
As if sea kayaking was’t enough of a work out for one day I found myself nervously awaiting my horse at a stables of Es Calafat farm for a afternoon trek with Menorca a cavall. I was met by the bearded beaming face of Alex, my guide for the afternoon.
Alex was originally from Barcelona but had grown up riding horses, training them and taking part in competitions, it’d taken him as far as South America but he, like Mathew had found himself settling on the quiet, peaceful island of Menorca. It was the second time in a day that I’d met someone with a real passion for what they do who’d both moved to settle in Menorca.
Like the kayak experience earlier in the day my brief horse riding experience led me to thoughts of a longer trip, perhaps horse riding around the island, visiting hidden beaches, cliffs, coves and turquoise blue sea? I’ll be writing more about my horse riding experience soon but although it was brief and I’m not really that keen on horse riding, I had a really great experience that I really wasn’t expecting. You can see a glimpse of this in my video at the top of page.
Tales of Sailing
Arriving in Port de Maó we (Michael Turtle – Time Travel Turtle and Sarah Lee – Live Share Travel) were greeted by our captain for our day of sailing, Jacob (Menorca Envelero). He was keen to get us involved, experiencing a bit of real sailing perhaps, I was grateful not to be picked first and had a leisurely time cruising out of port. Jacob like Mathew and Alex the day before had that passion for his work and was understandably keen to pass on some sailing experience even if it was only ever going to be a tiny faction of the amount he knew. We anchored in a scenic cove for lunch and tales of travel and sailing the atlantic.
“Best two days of owning a boat is the day you buy it and the day you sell it”
Michael had been harbouring dreams of buying a boat and sailing the Balearics, anchoring in a hot sunny place before adventuring on to the next. This dream was put on ice after Jacob educated us on the upsides and downsides of owning your own boat… “Best two days of owning a boat is the day you buy it and the day you sell it”. Our sailing experience was a great little adventure in itself but also a taster of what sailing around Menorca would be like in the summer months, we disembarked the boat having met another local character full of stories, passion and a love for the island of Menorca.
Characters and Stories
Like the horse riding experience the day before I wanted to come back, spend more time exploring the island, maybe take a week on a horseback trail around the island or sailing and kayaking.
At the end of the second day it struck me that part of the reason for wanting to return, was the people I’d met, the interesting characters, their stories and way they went about showing us their home, Menorca. There’s something gleaming in their eyes and in their demeanour that gives away their secret, that they’re in a good place, doing something they have a connection with on an island that they truly love. It’s a trait that all the best guides you’ll meet on your travels possess, a real passion, connection and ability to communicate what they love to people who come to visit.
It’s this passion, friendliness and genuine interest in educating and striving to make visitors holidays as enjoyable as possible that sets a smaller island like Menorca apart from the rest. It’s not just the charm of beautiful quaint harbours lined with sailing boats or the historical churches, buildings and towns that make Menorca a special place, it’s the people their passions and love for the island.
What I realised quite early on into my Menorca trip is that the reason I have fond memories of a holiday I only vaguely remember, is not because of the food, great weather or beautiful beaches (although no doubt that helped) but because of the people and how welcome they made us feel for our short stay on the island.
Disclosure – I travelled to Menorca as part of a project between iAmbassador and Visit Menorca.