Tuesday 11th February To Menorca (not Chile) 20km (in Menorca)
Our plan had been to go to Chile for 2 months. Adrian had found a good priced flight, and had spent weeks (months) planning it. However, after our return from the Balkans, it became obvious that my health wasn't going to make this possible. We changed our plans to having two weeks staying at one place in Minorca!
Hence we left on 11th February, after violent winds, the aftermath of which we thought might disrupt our flight.
The alarm went off at 4.45 am, but we were already up! I was in the loo, and thought that the noise in the kitchen was a mouse, but in fact it was Adrian clearing up!
All of our kids had phoned us, Simon was going to call in with Manolo, but we wouldn't be there.
Things had got more difficult for us, with me having to go back on chemo, as the tumour appeared to be growing, and my balance was really bad, meaning that I sometimes fell down. Also my heart beat was erratic (Atrial fibrillation). Our life was one of hospital appointments! On top of this, Adrian's back was very painful, whereas it was me who had always suffered with my back.
It was still dark when we set off on the M4, but it was already busy!
However we had no problems, and arrived at Gatwick at a different 'Meet and Greet'. Once we'd located the place and found which way to go, which entailed a long, windy walk, but was otherwise good, we used 'Special assistance' in the airport, which worked well.
The flight was fine, if cloudy - we had a jolly, nicely spoken hostess. I had a wheelchair at Mao (in Catalan - Mahon in Spanish). The lady took me right to the Hertz Car Hire, where she left me sitting on a seat, while Adrian sorted the booking. The Hertz lady seemed to be in a great hurry and managed to dispatch 4 cars in about 15 mins, and didn't even try on the 'do you want an upgrade' - she just gave it to us, so we got a VW Golf for 8.5€ a day! She then left and got out of the main door before us!
Adrian then drove us to the cottage, a few miles away. We were immediately greeted by Lola and her husband Michael. They were keen to show us over the property - understandably, as they had done a lot of work on it. Everything was spick and span. The pine wood and the green had recently been painted and had only just been finished. Everything was lovely, except it was a bit cool - obviously great in the summer, but we would have liked a bit more sunshine now!
Trip to Menorca February 2020
When they had left, we set about trying to unpack, and then having some sort of late lunch (now 2.30 local time) - one hour on.
We then set off for a local Supermarket, although I hadn't felt like shopping. People here, as everywhere today, were very pleasant. We had forgotten change for the trolley, but the nice assistant lent us 50 cents, and was surprised when Adrian returned it later. Having done our shop, we came back for supper, including a bottle of bubbly, celebrating having got here!
Adrian by our 'cottage' at Marés, Mao, Menorca
Wednesday 12th February An afternoon drive 51km
We spent the morning at the house. Adrian felt extra sleepy, probably the result of the pills that he was taking for his back pain.
After lunch we set off in the car for S'Albufera des Grau, to drive to the end of the peninsula at Favaritx Lighthouse.
The countryside had become more and more stark and was now just barren rock. We saw no wildlife, but there was a pleasant remoteness about it. The sign at the end of the road had read 'private', but we ignored it. There was a large seawater lagoon at the end of the road to the lighthouse and it looked as though everywhere is very flooded in bad weather.
Yellow wildflowers by dry stone wall on the way to Favaritx lighthouse
After this we drove on to Port d'Addaia passing the rare Minorca cows, looking normal, but an ancient breed.
Our hire car in the barren landscape at Favoritx lighthouse
. There were no people about today, but the harbour was full of grand yachts! We didn't stop, but drove on to nearby Na Marcaret, a past fishing village, now a tourist village, but devoid of people today. The fence was of criss cross wood, like we'd seen in Madeira.
Adrian had wanted to go further, but we now made our way back to the cottage. The weather had stayed fine and dry, but a bit cool (15°C).
After supper we played Yahtzee and 5s&2s.
Thursday 13th February Mao (Mahon) 41km
It was a fair day, and sunnier than yesterday (17°C). We left after coffee at 11.20 for Mao, the capital. Again we saw the lime yellow flowers which we had first encountered in Portugal many years ago.
Mao was very quiet today, and didn't really excite us. We didn't find the fish market as we drove to the front to view the port
. We had lunch in 'Ooh lala' cafe opposite the harbour, which was filled with mostly grand yachts. We ate calamari - better than expensive ones, and local cheese on toast, and shared a beer. All very good.
Afterwards we drove down to the end of the peninsula at la Mola, which is an island joined by a causeway. It was sunny and warm, which made such a difference. The whole area had been a vast fort in the past.
We stopped at a parking space outside for a few minutes and then proceeded into the fort. We were just about to park when a lady in another car beckoned us to open our window. On doing so she gave us along spiel in Spanish. When my blank look got to her she said in English 'you have to leave, the fort is closing - you can come back tomorrow'. It seems the Fort closed at 14.00 and it was now 14.30!
We drove on to the nice little old fishing village of Es Murstar, on the coast just north of Mao. It was all painted white, with green doors and red roofs (reminding me of Yattendon). We stopped here on the slipway and enjoyed the village.
La Mola fortification
A bit further on was Sa Mesquida another pretty village. Further on still was Cala Musquida, where there were a lot of cars parked, but it was still quiet. There was a large sandy beach here and we walked to the top and looked at the long way down!
Now it was time to go back to the cottage. We stopped first to view the Kane memorial, erected beside the road to British Lieutenant-Governor Sir Richard Kane, who had built the first road on the island in the early 18th century and done much for the poor, when Minorca was a British colony (1708-1802).
We also stopped at the supermarket, where we bought drinking water, fish(having not located the market) and a good French loaf. We came back and ate some of the bread, with a cup of tea, sitting on the lawn in the last of the sun.
I made a cauliflower cheese for supper, but realised too late that we had no flour! It tasted OK!
After supper, we started the website.
Enjoying a cup of tea in the garden when we got back
Friday 14th February Happy Valentines Day 72km
We exchanged our cards, then ate a boiled egg (from the owners hens) for breakfast. Although a bit cool, we sat outside for coffee in the hazy sunshine and left in the car late morning.
We followed the old 'Kane' highway up the centre of the island. It had a good surface, and was very quiet. It was parallel, and made a good alternative to the main road. We drove up to El Toro, the highest point on the island (362m). There was a monastery here, but also a lot of radio masts. Although it was misty, but we could see down to the coast. Apparently you can see the whole island from here. We ate our sandwich for lunch first before walking across to the monastery church. This was plain and simple, and rather appealed to me, although in my now wobbly condition, I found it hard going, and was glad to sit down inside. There were attractive displays of pots outside.
Valentine's coffee outside our cottage
We set off northwards. Everywhere there were masses of the lime coloured Oxalis which we know as Cape sorrel.
El Toro - highest point on the island
We continued in the car on a gated road to a peninsula as far as Cap de Cavaleria, the most northerly point on the island where there was a lighthouse. There was sea everywhere we looked.
Driving on to Cap de Cavaleria
We continued round to a beach opposite the village of Fornells, which was pleasant today in its emptiness.
Gated road to the lighthouse
The road across the reserve to the lighthouse
The most northerly point on Menorca
We had stopped at some wetlands before, and on the way back, but only saw coots and mallards. We were pleased that it was warm and sunny.
We drove back to the cottage on the fast road and enjoyed a cup of tea outside in a last bit of sun.
Adrian cooked the fresh fish - dorada (bass) outside, but it was too cold to eat out. I made a fruit salad with the fruit that the owners had left for us. A bottle of bubbly made it an excellent Valentines dinner.
Cala Tirant opposite Fornells
Wetlands near Fornells
Happy Valentine's Day
Saturday 15th February The southeast corner of Menorca 62km
It was a fine day. We'd put the washing on, but the machine was still going when we left at 11.30.
Our first task was to drive into Mao to post the cards to our children. We managed to find a blue badge space right opposite the post office. All went well, but you'd have thought that they'd never sold any stamps before! The lady then stamped the cards and put them into a box.
We then went further into the town's maze of one way streets and managed to park for Adrian to go to the bank. This was next to and old entrance to the town, the Santa Roc Gate.
We then drove towaards Fort Marlborough passing two windmills on the way
The Santa Roc gate
. Fort Marlborough is named after the British Duke and we drove round but couldn't see much. We ate our sandwich lunch sitting on a seat by the sea, above a charming little rocky cove. A small group of young people pranced across the beach and proceeded to a cave on the other side. After lunch, Adrian made his way there too in the now warm sun, but it was only a small cave in the rocks. What were the others doing there?
Two ancient windmills at Mao
On the way back to the main road Adrian saw a small entrance in a rock and went to investigate. He found that it was the main entrance to the Fort - it is mostly underground. But like all the main sites, it was closed until April.
The cove below Fort Marlborough
We now drove around the southeast corner of the island, which must be very crowded in summer, but was delightfully quiet today. We drove along the rocky coast from Alcaufar to Binidali before making our way back. Some of the conurbations did not seem too bad, (at this time of year).
The main entrance to Fort Marlborough!
On the way back, we stopped at the important ancient prehistoric site of Talati de Dalt, which is a bit like Stonehenge to Menorca but of course was again closed, but would have had quite a few customers today, as several people also stopped to wander around this grassy area which was bestrewn with ancient artefacts (later we found out that in winter it was not closed but open and free so we shall have to revisit)
The coast in a conurbation at Binidali
As we now passed the supermarket, we stopped to buy eggs (we had run out), fruit juice and biscuits. It was almost 5 o'clock when we got back, so we didn't bother with hanging out the washing, but sat instead on the lawn in the sun with our cup of tea.
After supper we did more of the website.
An ancient water trough at Taliti de Dalt
Sunday 16th February To Ciutadella - the second town on Minorca 114km
We slept late. It was cool, but better than the storm in England. We hung out the washing and left at 11.00. We followed the fast road to Ciutadella, which was surprisingly large and busy for Sunday. The supermarkets and the markets were closed, so there was no fresh fish for us. We eventually stopped at the front by an old tower for a late tea/coffee. It felt very cool, and we noticed that everybody was wearing their dark winter clothes.
We drove to the centre, and parked in the Placa d’es Born by a tall conical memorial erected in front of the town hall to commemorate the futile defence against the Turkish invasion in 1558
St Nicholas Tower, Ciutadella
. I was feeling particularly unstable. I managed to walk with Adrian to the cathedral, then sat on a seat while he wandered further. He walked up to the cathedral door which was open and was about to climb the steps to the door to go in when a man in a group of people outside said goodbye to them, ran up the steps, then closed and bolted the door. It is Sunday after all!
Memorial & Town Hall in Placa d’es Born, Ciutadella
We drove around, and ended up above a long inlet where we parked and ate our lunch looking down to many sailing boats in the harbour. The sun came out - what a difference!
The cathedral in Ciudadella
We set off again to the north. There were many new developments - we wondered what it was like in the old days. We drove right round to the sea, where there were many housing developments above, and several isolated ancient towers. We left and headed inland trying to get to one of the towers, but only managed to find 'Hipodrom Torre del Ram' a horse trotting racing circuit. We then tried to find a church at Sant Rita on the outskirts of Ciutadella without success. There doesn't seem to be one only a large geriatric centre- maybe that's what we should have found!
We headed back to the cottage, on the way looking in at Naveta de Rafal Rubi, one of the many ancient tombs in Menorca (900 BC).
Lunch stop overlooking the water at Ciutadella
We got back at 3.40 and brought in the dry washing before having a cup of tea. After supper we did more of the website.
Naveta de Rafal Rubi
Monday 17th February A shitty day 27 km
We decided to stay in the cottage for the morning. The cloudy and cool weather didn't entice us out anyway! At about 1.45 we left for Es Grau, the small whitewashed village on the coast that the reserve is named after. When we got there, I had a turn of the 'screaming abdabs', and so we tried out the new portable loo. Lucky that nobody was about! Adrian had suffered badly with constipation in the morning - probably as a result of the pills that he is taking for his back pain. Then, as we stopped at Es Grau, he stepped in some dog poo. With the weather being overcast and very cool it was a truly shitty day!
We'd walked onto a little footbridge leading to the reserve where it was very sandy and obviously great in summer (but crowded!).
Today it was practically deserted. We left Es Grau and returned to an entrance where you could drive in to the reserve. Adrian went in to the tourist centre, where he was told of the many walks one could do (oh, if only we could!). This area was very strange as although in the reserve there were many roads and tracks laid out for a huge conurbation, there were only perhaps 50 smart homes scattered over a large area. Presumably these were built before it became a reserve and now building had stopped.
We drove back to our cottage, stopping at Dia supermarket as I fancied a change from the one we'd been visiting. Sadly, there was no fresh fish, or smoked salmon. so we stopped at the other one anyway, and Adrian nipped in! Something about 'better the devil you know!'
Once back at the cottage, we decided to cook the fish tonight. Adrian found the temperature OK outside, so it was 'a la planca'. We ate inside though, and then did more of the website.
Panorama looking across S'Albufera lake in the reserve from the footbridge
Panorama looking across S'Albufera lake in the reserve from the village of Es Grau
Adrian barbecuing on the patio