If you’d asked me a couple of months ago if I had plans to spend a few days in Menorca, a Spanish island in the Mediterranean, I’d have said not anytime soon.
However, when you have a daughter who is a seasoned world traveler and lives in Barcelona, Spain, you learn to keep your options open.
Andrea found a terrific buy that included:
- Round-trip flight from Barcelona.
- Five days and four nights at Meliã Hotel.
- Five days car rental.
And all for only $350 each. I said, “Book it!”
So after a few days in Barcelona spent with friends from Germany and England, we headed for Barcelona-El Prat Airport and after a 45-minute flight, landed in Menorca.
Hotel Meliã served as our “home” for the next few days. It was top-notch, beautifully appointed with spectacular water views, the best breakfast buffet I’ve ever experienced (which is saying something given I lived for 20 years in Europe and have done a fair bit of traveling). On our last day, we especially appreciated being able to check out at 5 p.m. vs. 11 a.m., since our flight was at 7 p.m. Basically, we got an extra day at no cost.
Menorca — in some places spelled Minorca — is one of three Balearic Islands, touted in tourist blurbs as “the treasure of the Mediterranean.” It is one of the best preserved and most unique natural environments in the Mediterranean. The other two islands, Majorca, much larger and more touristy, and the smaller Ibiza.
After driving along some of the 134 miles of coastline, I wasn’t surprised to learn that Menorca was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1993.
For sure, its pristine sandy beaches are its main attraction leading to the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. Locals claim that it is easier to get around on a horse than by car due to the miles of meandering bridle tracks and country paths.
The island excursion turned out to be a delightful surprise and one of the highlights of my 17-day trip to Barcelona for so many reasons. We were there Oct. 21-25, which was a great time to go, since most places including our hotel had or were closing for the season the following week.
With the hotel at probably 25 percent occupancy, there were no lines or wait times for service at restaurants, cafes nor any of the other attractions we visited.
The stunning beach cove in front of our hotel had only a fraction of the normal high season swimmers and water activity that made for a more relaxing, quiet atmosphere. We shared the vast comfortable dockside seating areas with only a handful of other hotel guests — mostly from England, France and Germany — for our afternoon glass of wine or plate of tapas. A few times, I was on my own with my leg raised icing an injured hamstring — with a gin and tonic in hand to make it all better — while Andrea was off exploring the more rugged points of interest on the island.
Speaking of gin, I did try the local gin, which is famous for its characteristic distillation process used for 200 years. It is made from alcohol derived from grapes vs. grains. The taste was definitely different. I think I’ll stick with Beefeaters.
The temperatures were great, too, for which I was grateful as I don’t do well in hot weather. We enjoyed high in the 60s and 70s with cooler evenings. Keeping with the annual precipitation averages of between 3 inches to 17 inches, we only experienced a few raindrops on one day.
I was happy to take advantage of the Red Cross station next to our hotel right on the beach. It provided me with a free wheelchair for my entire visit, which came in handy when we visited some of the prehistoric sites featuring Talaiots, huge stones of megalithic construction in various locations throughout the island.
One day I hopped on a plastic 3-wheeler, and a Red Cross worker pulled me the few meters to the beach where — with the help of special water crutches — I was able to stand in the clear, cool water which was great therapy.
Given my walking limitations and the season, I thought we did pretty well to visit eight out of the 14 “unmisable” activities listed in the 2017-2018 Menorca Explorer tourist guide.
Fun things we visited:
- Maó, a town at the east end of the island near the airport with one of the largest ports in the world; a busy waterfront with restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shops; and Town Hall with a neoclassical façade and clock. We stopped for coffee and tapas at an outdoor cafe. Then we visited the outdoor market where I bought a cool pair of Spanish trousers.
- Prehistoric sites where signs of ancient settlers and fortresses are left from the island’s British occupation.
- The ubiquitous, fascinating dry stonewalls called Paret, which are constructed without mortar or cement using different size stones to create miles and miles of boarder walls typically three to 4 feet high protecting livestock and serving to separate properties.
- A Son Martorellet production of the famous Somni black stallion dancing horses in Ferreries, www.sonmartorellet.com.
- The Ria Factory Tour & Shop also in Ferreries (www.ria.es), where I bought two pairs of their famous handmade leather sandals called abacus.
- The plentiful wild olive woods called ullastrar, oak groves called alzinar, pine woods and tamarisks near the beaches.
- My favorite town, Ciutadella, at the west end of the island with its old quarter of labyrinth of streets, shops, bars, cafes, restaurants, churches, historic art, interesting old buildings, beautiful port and the main square called Plaça des Born with its newly restored Cathedral of Menorca.
Would love to have …
- Gone on a boat trip around the entire island, however they had stopped for the season.
- Taken an adventurous visit to the caves — both on land and underwater — to see fish, birds and animals like the famous Mediterranean tortoises and sargantana lizards in their natural habitat.
- Stopped at the Menorca Museum.
- Traced the full permitter of the island on the Cami de Cavalls to appreciate it’s ecological and environmental significance.
- Photographed the five lighthouses which protect ships sailing near the island.
Where to stay:
Where to eat:
- Sa Lluna Restaurant, best restaurant in Cala Galdana, https://www.facebook.com/salluna.calagaldana. The owner, Pere, was fun and gracious, we kept going back night after night!
Watch for my upcoming blogs about Barcelona:
- A €62 Bowl of Lobster Soup
- Barcelona by Bus
- Sagrada Família: Over 100 Years in the Making