"One week is not enough sunshine" was what Claire said when I booked a week in Kos for July. So after a painful booking process, during which TUI charged me 4 times for the £600 deposit, I managed to bag a bargain week's all inclusive in Menorca for October.
And then we had three months of sunshine at home.
Oh well, the holiday was booked, so on the Friday before the October week off, we drove down to Manchester in torrential rain, stayed over at the Holiday Inn Express and found the car park at 6 in the morning ready for our 8am flight. We were a bit late checking in but that meant the whole process was really smooth, and a nice flight found us debarking in a warm sunny Menorca airport.
We stayed at the Mestral and Llebeig apartments in Santo Tomas, thankfully on the Mestral side as I didn't know how to pronounce the other one. We had a two bedroom place with a big balcony overlooking the pool, and arrived in time to have lunch at the buffet restaurant just across the road.
Claire had a lie by the pool and Cate and I went down to see the beach. This was just a couple of minutes walk. There's a walkway along the front, with a shrub-covered dune in front and some boardwalks over that to the beach itself. Which was lovely, with soft sand and a gentle slope into the sea. The sea was decently warm for October and we had a good swim before heading back. Dinner at Las Dunas (the buffet place) was followed by a game of Stop the Bus (TV character, country, film, superhero, song and fish) and an early night after a long day.
Next day was Sunday but no churches to go to nearby. Instead we went to the welcome meeting after breakfast, where we heard the good news according to TUI - lots of excursions were available. We opted to hire a car for a few days, so let's see how that goes later in the week.
After a time at the pool, Cate and I again went down to the beach, this time with Cate's latest acquisition: a body board. It was a good choice as the wind had picked up and the breakers were... well, breaking, on the beach. We had a great time in the surf and I only got whistled at twice by the life guard.
It's a Meiklejohn tradition that once on each holiday, I take the family on a long and pointless walk, with bonus points if I manage to get us lost. Monday was this year's effort. There's a bridal path that follows all the way round the island, and I thought we could follow it as far as the next town along the coast, Son Bou. The satnav suggested a short route, but that turned out to be a private hotel road, so we found the proper path down by the shore. The first few hundred metres were a bit rocky, but soon smoothed out and we passed some nice farms. However the path didn't take us on a straight line, diverting inland to avoid a huge marsh. We got about two thirds of the way there and decided to turn back. It was only on the way back we discovered we could have skipped onto the beach from an early point and had a much easier time of it. Oh, well, character building they say! Later in the evening the hotel had their weekly bingo night. There were only two games, they ran out of pens and we could hardly hear the caller, so it wasn't a great success. Come back Dana, all is forgiven.
Tuesday is market day in Mahon, the capital, so we caught the bus into town. It's built up on the cliffs so the road down to the port is steep, and the streets in the town are very narrow, but it has plenty of shops and a fairly quaint atmosphere. Most of the places in Menorca seem pretty safe and well kept, and the people have been pretty friendly. We managed to find a couple of markets to browse round and Cate sampled a sausage and egg tapas thing. The indoor market also featured a friendly cow. Not the most exciting trip but it filled the morning. In the afternoon we went down to the beach in the lovely sunshine but had to abandon that after an hour when a heavy shower came over.
We picked up the hire car from Owners Cars across the road, a wee Fiat 500, much to Cate's delight, and set off to discover Menorca on our own. The first stop was Mont Toro, the highest point on the island. Thankfully this has a road to the top, and it also has a church and cafe at the summit. The views were great from the top and we appreciated an ice lolly from the cafe.
Next was Fornells, just along the road, on the north coast of the island. We parked at the start of the town and walked in. It was very picturesque, but there wasn't much to do so we quickly made our way out again. There was a beach place nearby so we tried that, but the beach was over a headland from the car park and there were many steps. Claire didn't fancy it.
Instead we crossed over the island again and went down to Son Bou. We hadn't made it on foot but got there in the car and spent a while on the beach, which was very shallow but quite rocky.
On the way back from Son Bou we stopped for 10 minutes at a place called Torre d'en Galmes, where there are remains of an ancient settlement, with communal buildings made of stone in dome shapes. Cate was so excited about this that she stayed in the car.
The forecast was for thundery showers for the whole of the next two days. It started raining hard during dinner so didn't look too hopeful for our last two days.
It rained all night but cleared up a good bit for the morning, so we decided to go to the local zoo. It's hardly Whipsnade, with no big cats or African beasts, and in fact including mostly farm animals. But it had some monkeys, and a short bird of prey show, so it killed an hour or so.
Next was a longish drive to the north, to see a lighthouse. It was shut, but the owners had neglected to build a giant wall around it so I still managed to get a photo. The resort of Cala en Bosch was nearby so we went there, had a walk on the beach, and visited Burger King.
Back to base (still managing to drive on the right) and a dip in the cold pool before dinner. We'll see if our last day follows the forecast or not. For October we've had a lovely warm week and been out every day so far.
It poured overnight but by the morning looked like another pleasant day. Friday was market day in Cuitadella so we drove there. Google led me to Cuitadella Parking, which turned out to just be the street, but we eventually found a space and walked into the town centre. This was quite a bit more attractive than Mahon, and had plenty of shops and old buildings to explore. Cate bought a definitely-genuine Armani watch from the market.
Back out of the town and down the road next to our one (the island features a main highway from one end to the other with a series of roads splitting off to the coastal towns) to visit Cala Galdana. Once we found our way to the beach we commandeered a couple of loungers and Cate was given a lilo by a guy who was on his way home after his last day at the beach.
Galdana was a lovely sheltered cove, ideal for swimming, and had some steps up the cliff at the end. I climbed up to find some expensive-looking villas and a good view down over the cove. A short shower sent us back to the car and back to base via a petrol station to fill up the car (an attendant filled it for us and took the money. Are you supposed to tip these guys?) After a bit of packing and a final dinner at Las Dunas, we returned to our rooms with the strains of Chu Chu Wa from the kids disco fading away. (They had an English version of Vio Vio - sacrilege.)
Anyway, the transit back to the airport in the morning was smooth and everything went fine for the flight back to Manchester. Oh, except for one thing. When weighing our luggage the girl at the desk mistakenly typed in 163kg instead of 33. The system informed her that we owed £1700 for excess baggage.
Back at Manchester I was a bit worried about getting out of the car park as I hadn't been given an orange token on arrival the week before. However the barrier lifted and we were off. A 4 and a bit hour drive later and we were home. And the washing machine broke down with the first load, but that's another story.
So we had a decent week. The sun was more bearable than in midsummer, it was lovely and warm and we managed to avoid the rain. Menorca was more interesting than Kos, especially with the hire car, and the apartments were great, with a decent variety of food at the buffet. The only thing that would have made it better would have been not having toothache for the whole week.
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