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To celebrate Menorca’s annual outdoor festival, Fiesta del Mar, this June, we challenged writer Georgina Bromwich to take on seven different activities in just seven days Photos Jordi Escandell

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MENORCA

DAY THE ACTIVITY

1

KAYAKING

Es Grau, a tiny fishing village on Menorca’s north coast, was my adventure’s starting line. Arriving early, the bay’s placid waters pushed any apprehensions to the back of my mind, although they returned when Maria Teresa, my guide, explained what to do in case I capsized. Organising anything from two-hour trips to seven-day tours circumnavigating Menorca, exercise was just one part of our outing – Maria Teresa also threw in a geology, biology, archaeology and history lesson. We slowed to admire the fields of seagrass, stopped to examine the bones of the extinct Balearic mouse-goat (Myotragus) embedded in a rock face, and I heard how in 1904, a Menorcan acquired Colom Island – an islet just outside the bay – for a mere €47. Maria Teresa greeted the few fishermen we passed by name, but once beyond the bay, a weathered defence tower and Favàritx lighthouse were the only other signs of life. It was just our colourful kayaks and the deep blue around us. Try it: Menorca en Kayak, +34 669 097 977, menorcaenkayak.com

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DAY THE ACTIVITY

2

HORSE RIDING

Three border collies burst out from a whitewashed farmhouse when I arrived at Santa Rita, a 200 hectare estate. With only stiff shoulders from my kayaking adventure, I was looking forward to a two-hour countryside trot until Raquel, my guide, saddled up Laila, a Menorcan breed of horse that resembled a black beast. “Don’t worry,” Raquel assured as she adjusted the stirrups, “Laila knows the way”. Raquel and her partner, Tomeu, take riders on anything from beginners’ hacks to five-day treks following Menorca’s ancient perimeter path, the Camí de Cavalls. Winding our way uphill, Laila plodded (thankfully) over acornstrewn paths, weaving past stones and twigs cast off by the ancient

olive trees and holm oaks that shaded our route until the woodland gave way to open fields and hillside. At our highest point, we could see both the north and south coast of the island, with the cluttered white houses in Ferreries in the foreground, and on our way back to the stables, we passed an old cement factory and traced part of Camí d’en Kane, a road built by British governor Richard Kane in 1714. Try it: Menorca a Cavall, +34 971 374 637, menorcaacavall.com

DAY THE ACTIVITY

3

WIND SURFING

Miguel, my instructor, talked me through the basics, but once onboard I quickly forgot any new vocabulary (gybe or tack turn?). All my efforts were focused on staying upright as we zigzagged eastwards. A bottlenecked bay on Menorca’s north coast, Fornells is a hub for sailors – its shallow waters make it safe for novices, while blasts of the north wind ensure experts don’t get bored either. Even in the height of summer, “there’s still plenty of bay for everyone”, Miguel assured. Gaining confidence, I risked losing my balance to look up: a British-built defence tower marks the entrance to the bay, while Monte Toro (Menorca’s highest point) peers over the water from the south. The setting sun, which had stained the whitewashed village of Fornells an orangy-pink, told us it was time to head ashore. I felt tired, jubilant (I hadn’t fallen in!), and absolutely desperate to peel off my wetsuit. Try it: Club Nàutic Fornells, +34 971 376 328, cnfornells.com 62

Thomas Cook Travel

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MENORCA

‘All of my efforts were focused on staying upright as we zigzagged eastwards’

DAY THE ACTIVITY

4

BOAT TRIP

Cherished by sailors seeking refuge in the Med, Mahón’s port hides many a story, as I found out aboard the family-run catamaran Don Joan. “If you want to understand Menorca, you have to visit Mahón’s port,” insisted Eduardo, the captain, inviting me onto the bridge. “It would be like going to London and not seeing Big Ben.” Grateful for a not-so-active activity, an hour on the Don Joan was something of a crash course on Menorcan history (in a classroom where you’re permitted to drink local gin). We cruised past fortresses and castles, an ancient British naval hospital, red-painted mansions where British Admirals slept, a quarantine island and defence towers. Eduardo offered supplementary anecdotes in between, pointing out a ladies’ bathing house (conveniently located next to the naval base); celebrities’ summer residences; and that what is known locally as the English cemetery actually has more American occupants than Brits. Try it: Don Joan, Mahón port, +34 971 350 778, rutasmaritimasdelacruz.com

Thomas Cook Travel

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SEVEN DAYS IN IBIZA? WHY NOT TRY…

DAY THE ACTIVITY

5

GOLFING

It takes around four hours to complete Menorca’s only golf course, so I was relieved that Paola, my instructor, took my tired body and inexperience into consideration: she appeared in a buggy and proposed we opted for a reduced route. Son Parc’s golf course mirrors the island’s landscape, with rocky outcrops, dry stone walls, pine and fig trees. “It’s your game against nature,” Paola explained. We had to divert our buggy past three sheep, and ducks waddled towards us eagerly at one pond. “I’ve seen golfers carry bread crusts in their caddies,” said Paola. The ducks didn’t stay long when they realised our pockets were empty. Try it: Golf Son Parc, +34 971 188 875, golfsonparc.com

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KAYAK Take a kayak tour around Ibiza’s most mysterious islet, Es Vedrà. Try it: Ibiza Mundo Activo, +34 676 075 704, ibizamundoactivo.com

DAY THE ACTIVITY

6

MOUNTAIN BIKING

My second trip to Es Grau was on two wheels. My guide, Didac, an outdoor fanatic from Catalonia, suggested a 12km route for beginners. But, as soon as my tyres sank into Es Grau beach, I realised that I’d struggle to chat and cycle simultaneously. The inky-blue waters of S’Albufera d’es Grau – a freshwater lagoon set back from the beach – bore no relation to the furious white-tipped waves visible on the other side of the dunes. We followed a track within the Natural Park until it petered out into a narrow path crossing fields – I cycled furiously past a herd of cows for fear that a bull might be within their midst. We stopped at Addaia’s salt pans, an eerie expanse of shallow water where salt was extracted until 1990. With our wheels sluggish from the sticky terrain (my excuse for peddling slowly, at least), we turned to head home. Try it: mtb menorca, +34 669 097 977, mtbmenorca.com

WALKING Head inland – literally – exploring some of Ibiza’s hidden caves as part of a guided walk. Try it: Ibiza Mundo Activo, +34 676 075 704, ibizamundoactivo.com MOTORBOAT CHARTER Whizz across to Formentera in a chartered motorboat. Try it: Ibiza Yachting, +34 971 191 622, ibizayachting.com DIVING Get up close to the underwater seagrass, a sign of the sea’s good health. Try it: Ibiza Dives, Santa Eulàlia, +34 626 144 992, ibizadives.com HORSE RIDING Explore Ibiza’s countryside on horseback, or opt for a moonlit ride on the beach. Try it: Cuadras Can Curreu, Santa Eulàlia, cancurreu.com SAILING AND WINDSURFING Join Ibiza’s jet set as you set sail from Santa Eulàlia’s upmarket port. Try it: Club Náutico Santa Eulalia, +34 971 331 173, cnsantaeulalia.com GOLF Ibiza’s one and only golf club. Try it: Golf Ibiza, Santa Eulàlia, golfibiza.com

Thomas Cook Travel

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MENORCA

SEVEN DAYS IN MALLORCA? WHY NOT TRY…

“There’s nothing like fresh sea air to soothe tired bones”

KAYAK Venture across the bay of Pollença, exploring a sea quarry en route. Try it: Kayak Mallorca, Pollença, +34 648 111 618, kayakmallorca.com ROCK CLIMBING Tackle Mallorca’s abundance of limestone rock faces. Try it: Rocksport Mallorca, +34 629 948 404, rocksportmallorca.com BOAT TRIP Admire the dramatic north coast on a boat trip to Formentor lighthouse. Try it: Brisa, Port d’Alcúdia, +34 971 545 811, tmbrisa.com SCUBA DIVING Scuba dive in the crystal clear waters surrounding the uninhabited islet of Cabrera. Try it: Excursions a Cabrera, +34 971 649 034, excursionesacabrera.es

DAY THE ACTIVITY

7

CHARTERED YACHT

The moment I stepped aboard the Puigmar, a 16m Menorcan cruising yacht, I was grateful that I’d left this particular activity to the last day. My weary body felt like nothing other than flopping onto the plush, orange sundeck, taking a nap in one of the three berths, or simply padding across its polished deck. More about style than speed, Puigmar takes the slow lane as it chugs delicately past the flash motorboats and elegant yachts moored in Mahón’s port. Xavier, my skipper, is all enthusiasm for Menorca. When pointing out his favourite restaurants near his house 66

in Calas Fonts he joked “I learnt how to sail before I learnt how to walk”. Leaving Xavier at the helm, I sat back and watched the coastline pass me by. There’s nothing like a dose of fresh sea air to soothe tired bones. Try it: Menorca Nautic, +34 971 354 543, menorcanautic.com Fiesta del Mar (menorcafiestadelmar.es)

For more about Menorca and the Balearics, visit your local Thomas Cook or Going Places store, call +44 (0)844 412 5966 or visit thomascook.com.

HORSE RIDING Get that full cowboy experience in Mallorca’s wild north. Try it: Rancho Grande, +34 971 854 121, ranchograndemallorca.com HIKING Discover the beautiful island on a guided walk that matches your ability. Try it: Mallorca Hiking, +44 797 965 6332, mallorcahiking.com GOLF Play mini golf on a familyfriendly course in a tropical setting. Where: Golf Fantasia, Calvià, +34 971 135 040

Thomas Cook Travel

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Menorca, Fiesta del mar