A few days in beautiful Menorca

Monday 12th September

On Monday we see the downside of staying in a big city hotel.

We cannot extend our check out time, just as there was no room for Claud and being turned away from breakfast on the first day because nobody had given us the essential breakfast tickets. I realise it is part and parcel of being in a more bustling environment, particularly when you are one of the cursed ‘booking.com’ people, but the lack of any kind of personal touch still rankles. It feels like they give no consideration to any of our requests, asking to extend checkout is simply refused and when we go to put our luggage in store for the day we find the luggage room massive; plenty of room for a bike, they just couldn’t be bothered.

Claud appears to have survived three nights in the streets of Barcelona and we have a day to kill as our boat to Menorca is not until 11:00pm.

We head for the ‘Mare Magnum’ shopping centre on the harbour, largely as it is air conditioned inside. I wander the shops whilst Louise has her hair done, fair swap methinks.

We take a boat tour of the harbour which is interesting, particularly sailing close to the massive cruise ships moored alongside.

After lunch, we find ourselves in that ‘stateless’ position where we have no room to go to, so we sit around the hotel and read our books.

We venture out a bit later and find some kind of concert on the harbour front. This is mainly attended by youngsters drinking cans of Estrella, but I think we fitted in OK.

We fitted in well at the concert in Barcelona!
We fitted in well at the concert in Barcelona!

We kill another hour in the hotel and set off for the Ferry on Claud. It is dark and this is the first time that we have had to use the lights – another item ticked off the ‘used’ list.

We have to hang around a while at the harbour terminal as there are about three huge boats all being loaded at the same time. With our large ‘Mao’ sign on the front of Claud, there was no danger of being put on the wrong boat!

Waiting to get on the ferry - can't miss where we are going to!
Waiting to get on the ferry – can’t miss where we are going to!

Cycling on board is a bit hairy but we are the only bike and viewed with curious interest. Claud gets strapped in.

The ferry is large, but quite empty. It has a range of food places and a number of bars, including a ‘disco bar’ all with a few people sprinkled across them. The duty free shop is virtually empty. I understand it is rammed earlier in the season with people from all over Spain coming to the Island for their holidays.

We crash in our cabin and set the alarm for 6:45 am so we can get some breakfast before the scheduled 07:30 arrival.

Tuesday 13th September

We awake on Tuesday with Menorca in sight, but it still seems we are a long way from the huge Mahon harbour. After about an hour, there is an announcement that the boat will arrive at 09:30am! Still no idea why it is 2 hours late.

We get off the boat at Mahon to find Joan waiting for us. Fortunately he can see the harbour from his home and his office, so the delay has not caused him too much inconvenience.

We know that Joan’s house is close to the harbour and I remembered there was a bit of a hill involved, so we set off on the bike with Joan following in his car.

This turned into a bit of a comedy moment. The ‘hill’ was actually a 100m climb broken into a series of sharp and sometimes long hills. As we had not bothered to discard any of our luggage into Joan’s car (my fault apparently) it became a struggle. The pressure was on though as Joan was behind us and occasionally passed us to take a photo. We felt compelled to continue and not get off, which we managed only to arrive knackered and sweating profusely.

We grind up the hill; Joan takes photos and laughs.... a lot!
We grind up the hill; Joan takes photos and laughs…. a lot!

We spent the rest of the day at Joan’s house, either in the pool or asleep. We were quite tired from the journey and it was very hot.

Later, Sandra (Joan’s wife)  took us on a tour to the beach area of Santa Tomas and later we all go to a local bar in the town of Ferriers for some tapas. The food is excellent and it is great to be somewhere that is really local.

Santa Tomas
Santa Tomas

This is helped by the fact that the Barcelona Vs Celtic Champions League game is on TV. Barcelona win 7-0 with a Messi hat-trick. Errm, perhaps we could have had one or two of this goals at the Camp Nou on Saturday?

Wednesday 14th September

On Wednesday took our first proper bike trip in Menorca. Nothing too adventurous, just a mooch along massive harbour and a visit to one of the many forts on the Island – Fort Marlborough.

At Fort Marlborough.
At Fort Marlborough.

This is an interesting place and one of a number on Menorca which many years ago was a key strategic location in the Mediterranean due to its large natural harbour.

We take the audio tour to guide us round and it explains the purpose of the fort and some of the history of Menorca. Over the last 200 years or so Menorca has been occupied by Spain, Britain, France, Britain (again) and finally Spain again. This series of different rulers has shaped the island’s culture, architecture and language; the Menorcan dialect includes many words from both English and French.

Jolly japes at fort Marlborough!
Jolly japes at fort Marlborough!

By the time we leave the fort the sun has emerged from the clouds, so we decide to have a swim in the sea. We are told there is a rocky area up the road which is good for swimming but when we arrive we find a couple sitting on the rocks with no clothes on. We decide not to join them. Apparently there are a number of places for nudists in Menorca, often part of or just next to public beaches. This is the third time we have accidentally stumbled across nudists in Europe; perhaps there really is as least one good reason for Brexit.

On the way to the Fort we had stopped on the harbour side in Mahon for a coffee and some breakfast. As we arrive, a huge cruise ship arrives and docks very close to us. 20 minutes later the area has gone from a quiet area to a seething mass of people and coaches as a couple of thousand people arrive. You can see how these visits give a boost to the economy of the Island.

On the way back we stop at the town of Es Castle which is a town created by the English with a former barracks and parade ground in the centre. By this time it is very hot so we make the climb back to the house and immerse ourselves in Joan’s pool.

In the evening we go for a meal with Joan and Sandra by the harbour at Es Castel. This is a beautiful setting and we eat at a restaurant that is owned by Sandra’s cousin. The highlight is us sharing a large Scorpion fish for main course, cut into large pieces and grilled with garlic. It really was something else. We are well looked after and enjoy chatting to Joan and Sandra immensely. We try to persuade them to come to Jersey next summer as we certainly won’t be going away!

Eating Scorpion fish with Joan and Sandra
Eating Scorpion fish with Joan and Sandra

The second highlight of the evening comes when Joan gets his iPad out and gets the last 25 minutes of City’s Champions league game on his sports app. We see the last two goals in a 4-0 victory; City have now won 7 games on the trot so I think we need to stay away until next May to continue the good luck!

Thursday 15th September

On Thursday, the plan was to take the short ride to the massive La Mola Fort, which is quite close to where we are staying.

We leave late, which has the benefit that we leave under the cloud cover which has rolled in late morning.

Though short, the ride has a couple of decent hills, which are made all the harder by the gears slipping drastically near the top of one. The gears had been slipping intermittently since Girona and I should have got them checked out in L’Estartit, but I settled for a good clean and some lubrication instead. Mistake. This was a massive slip from the top to the bottom of the block and causes some choice language from the stoker. I need to get this sorted before we leave Menorca.

We visit to La Mola which a massive fort protecting the mouth of the harbour. It is so big you have the option of renting a golf buggy to tour the site. We elect to walk and take the audio tour. The fort is a magnificent structure but we find the audio tour goes into too much detail about the construction of the barioisnparts of the building, rather than the history of the site. To be honest, I am quite relieved when the battery on my listening device conks out after about 20 minutes.

La Mola - Built to protect Mahon harbour
La Mola – Built to protect Mahon harbour

When we return I am keen to sort Claud out. Joan gives me a tip for a decent bike shop, though it is about 10k away. I cycle Claud alone and when I arrive and explain the problem their initial response is that they may be too busy to sort it. Sandra arrives and, after a few words, someone is looking at the the rear mech and tutting. After about 10 minutes of looking, grunting and adjusting, Claud is declared fit. It seems this has been another spin off from having Claud boxed up, the rear mech was a bit loose and just needed some adjustment. The ride home confirmed that all is well again and the shop charged me 4€; which proves the value of a little local knowledge.

We spend the evening indoors with Sandra, the highlight being watching the last 30 minutes of Utd being beat by Feyenoord. I think I am beginning to enjoy Thursday nights!

Friday 16th September

We left early in the morning and dropped down into Mahon for a mooch. The plan was to look around Mahon and then perhaps cycle to one of the beaches for a swim.

Claud gets a good parking spot in the middle of Mahon
Claud gets a good parking spot in the middle of Mahon

Whilst in Mahon I have a haircut. I hate having haircuts, but it was time according to Louise. A decent shearing I think, made all the more entertaining by Joan sticking his head in halfway through for some banter with the three brothers that run the shop. I smile gamely, though I don’t really follow why they are pointing at me and laughing.

To make it worse, when I emerge with my new hair do someone on Facebook says I look like Gary Barlow. Have I put on THAT much weight?

Gary Barlow? You are having a laugh.......
Gary Barlow? You are having a laugh…….

By this time it is roasting hot and all thoughts of a long cycle to the beach are abandoned. Instead, we make our way to the old fish market for a cheeky beer.

This is another example of an old building being put to fantastic use. Half of it still functions as a fish market and the other half has been converted to an eating area with a range of different stalls selling fish, paella and all kinds of tapas that can be washed down with a glass of wine or beer. As we leave it is well mobbed, even though it is early for lunch in these parts.

We elect to climb the hill home and jump in the pool, a bit lazy maybe, but cycling in these temperatures is not a barrel of laughs.

In the evening I have an nice moment at the Ferrieres FC stadium when I bump into four of the young Menorca players from the 2015 Island games in Jersey. I looked after the Menorca team during that week, which is when I met Joan. The guys come over and chat for a while before their training session, which strengthens my view from their time in Jersey that their behaviour and manners are a credit to their Island. Not bad footballers either as they scooped the bronze medal at the games.

The Island Games 2015 - I looked after the Menorca team with Joan (centre) the manager and Biel (left) coach.
The Island Games 2015 – I looked after the Menorca team with Joan (centre) the manager and Biel (left) coach.

We leave Menorca on Saturday on the ferry and have mapped out the next few stops before the coach journey to England a week later  we will take a train from Barcelona and head for a few days in a camp site in the foot of the Pyrenees before moving to Rosas on the coast, where we will pick up the bus.

The end of the journey is nearing, but there are a few cycle rides left in us yet.

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