Sunday 24 May 2015

Running and mooching around Menorca.....

Our Hotel - the Xuroy, right on the beach    (Click to enlarge pictures)
      We must like it because we've been again. Indeed, such is the popularity of the Xuroy Hotel on the island of Menorca that a number of clientelle have been visiting annually for well over 20 years. Unfortunately, we didn't discover this idyllic spot until 2014 so I'll be well over 100 by the time I can boast as many visits. But I'll try, for one couldn't dream of a more beautiful setting, at the head of a sandy inlet that's ideal for safe swimming or snorkelling. Council workers, we assumed, cleared the beach of flotsam and seaweed each morning as we watched from our breakfast table.
The illuminated pool by night, from our balcony.....
      Rooms are basic but mainly adequate for our simple needs. No television (thank God), no fridge (one thing we'd like), no bedside cabinet or table to write on - just a wee shelf at the bedside for an alarm clock, a few shelves for snorkelling gear and sun cream, a wardrobe for the few clothes we need, along with immaculate shower and toilet facilities. Air conditioning consists of a whirring fan which, in the cooler month of May, hardly gets used. Much to my surprise, and unlike last year, I was given a Wi-Fi code for the whole of our holiday.
..... lounging at the pool side by day
      We'd asked for a room overlooking the pool, and got it. Perfect for lounging on the balcony, chilling out with a glass of wine as the sun was setting, watching stars gradually fill the sky before underwater lights illuminated the pool. Unfortunately a new rule, introduced this year, made use of the pool strictly verboten between 8pm and 10am. We got shouted at by management on one occasion for infringement, but managed to sneak in again on other mornings, after our run, when they'd forgotten to lock the doors. Albeit, I'd to slide in silently, like an otter, and swim with hardly a ripple.
.....and a daily swim in the pool
      A bit disconcerting, for me, was the total lack of northern voices, not one was heard in all two weeks. And with a limited collection of odd rags of running gear, mostly prizes from various races, I felt a bit out of place among articulate southerners, or lilting Welsh, who wore different clothes every time I saw them. I'm not very good at remembering faces but tend to recognize folk by how they dress - particularly if they happen to be wearing anything bearing a Nike, Asics or Salomon label. How am I expected to recognize them if they're always changing?  The 'tsunami man' (don't ask) always wore yellow breeks. I could manage him.....
On a short run to the Martello Tower, watching my feet along the stony Cami de Cavalls
      As on a previous visit last September, we ran in the early morning, every day bar one, while it was still cool. From short 1½ mile runs to the Martello Tower we gradually extended to 6 miles+ around Trebaluger and Binissaida, returning by the Cami de Cavalls - part of the island circular route. There was always something different to see, or hear. One beautiful bit of birdsong I thought was a song thrush was, according to a knowledgeable lady, the wonderful up-and-down fluted notes of a nightingale, a song we often heard on the island. There were hoopoes too, an exotic crested bird, but such a monotonous voice.
We were careful not to tread on these little fellows....
      As always our runs were punctuated with regular camera stops to photograph flowers and shrubs, pigs, cattle and calves, horses and cats, seascapes, distant horizons - and tortoises.
"If you see a piece of rock on the track ahead of you, and it moves, it'll be a tortoise" I said to an elderly white-legged couple who'd just arrived on the island. We could hear them tittering as we ran on - probably wondering what the heck I was talking about - when suddenly an excited cry went up. They'd found one. We photographed four tortoises of various sizes that day - but a snake was having none of it and slithered quickly through a gap under the wall.  A heron flapped over on lazy wings while unrecognizable birds of prey circled high in the boundless blue.
The taula at Talati de Dalt
      It wasn't all running. I was cajoled into other things - being dragged from my sunbed by the pool to visit archaeological sites of which, I'm told, there's knocking on for a thousand scattered throughout Menorca. We didn't do them all. Rather cleverly, my wonderful partner directed me to one of the more impressive ones first - the Talaiotic Settlement of Talati de Dalt with it's huge natural cave that was once a burial chamber, quaint underground living quarters hewn out of rock, a towering T-shaped taula reminding us of Stonehenge, and a tall stone built talaiot we climbed to the top of for an overall view of the ancient village. I wont say I was hooked but admit to being mighty impressed at the accomplishments of those ancient people of around 1500 BC who, with primitive tools, constructed such an inspiring place. But equally memorable, on a scorching hot day, were two cans of cold Fanta from the gate-keeper's hut - one on the way in and the other on the way out.
How did they lift that great stone up there? Another taula with my wonderful partner giving an idea of scale
      During a long, hot 12 mile walk we visited two more ancient sites that day, an early Christian basilica that looked more like a half built barn of steel girders, and the fine Talaiot de Torello which was inaccessible other than by a death defying climb over a high stone stile with narrow steps and rather a large drop off the last one. Oddly, it gave a list of opening hours which I took to be for the benefit of anyone who could climb to 'Severe' standard.
The fortress of Talaiot de Torello
      For me, the most mind blowing features of sites we visited were the colossal taulas (Catalan word meaning table), Stonehenge type megaliths with horizontal flat stones of enormous weight balanced on tall upright plinths reaching nearly 4 metres high. No-one really knows the significance of these structures, maybe they were built for religious, astronomical or healing functions. One theory, based on finding a bronze bull figurine in one of the sites - an animal revered and possibly worshipped by those people - is that taulas represent the horns and face of a bull, on a grand scale. Being born under Taurus, I'll go with that.
The marina at Cuitidella, old capital of Menorca
      Ever restless, my wonderful partner planned other days visiting deep harbours, fusty museums, the incredible Fort Marlborough, convents and cathedrals in the beautiful cities of Mahon (think mayonnaise) and Ciutidella. I tagged along, between times poking my nose into dozens of likely looking shops in a vain search for a plain plaited leather neckband thingy I'd rarely ever wear but which would always remind me of everything Menorcan.
At Cala de Rafalet - a favourite place
More infrequently, we slowed down sufficiently to enjoy the odd cappuccino while watching the world go by. And I recall once (because it was the only time) we loitered long enough in Ciutidella for an al fresco meal and glass of house wine that robbed our wallets of 10 hard earned euros - each.  By gum, we'd think twice about that back in Yorkshire!
....and Happy Hour back at the Xuroy
      The Xuroy, a family run hotel, is only open from May to October and it's apparent the other six months are spent renovating and decorating. Everything and everywhere is in pristine condition. Like all other buildings in Alcaufar (and in most of the island) all walls are painted white. So much so we wondered if there was a grant for this? The walls of our west facing balcony did not escape and such was the reflected heat during our first week we couldn't bear to sit out until sundown.
On the rocks at Cala de Rafalet
      Along with two other couples who'd arrived from Cardiff the same Friday as us, we were the first arrivals of the year. Not many faces to remember. Three days later another 40 people arrived, including a couple we'd met last year. By Wednesday the place was heaving and sunbeds round the pool were suddenly at a premium as 'whities' became intent on scorching tender parts of their skin into some amusing patterns. My wonderful partner lingered just long enough to sort out the next expedition from guide books, leaflets and maps before leading me away to another heap of ruins. Fortunately, there were no topless ladies.
Starting a morning run but, being 83, I've forgotten where to!
      Seriously, I enjoyed every minute on the island and would return tomorrow if I could. But not so much the long journey home that was tinged with sadness - and other negative emotions. Starting our flight as the sun gouged into the western horizon, all the young kids and babies who formed half the passengers (or so it seemed) burst into unanimous shouting and screaming the like of which we'd never heard on a plane before. And just when I needed it most, my mp3 player gave up the ghost. In good old Manchester my wonderful partner's luggage took 50 minutes to arrive on the carousel, so it was well after midnight when two very tired people sat down for a much needed cup of tea. Next time we fly with Thomson's we might ask for a passenger list and get the times of tea breaks for baggage handlers.......
Sunset, and the start of our flight home
   I can't wait to go back again.


  1. Replies
    1. Indeed it was Karien - except for the flight home!

  2. What a stunning place sir. Glad to see you in good health and looking trim :-) Hope the summer running throws up some more great pics. Hope you guys are well

    1. Thanks Richard and yes, Menorca really is a wonderful place. You'd love the trail running along the Cami de Cavalls. Stick at it....

    2. Fantastic. I'm off to Lanazarote in August with the family. Looking forward to daily plods there for sure. No big races now having finished the South Downs 50 miler and Thames Path 100 miler but looking to run any chance I get :-)

  3. Don't think of the homeward journey ......

    Your holiday to Menorca looked wonderful. I enjoyed all your photo's and hearing about your stay.I've never visited Menorca and it sounds a very interesting Island, and quite an historic one too..

    Hope your Bank Holiday weekend is going well.

    Welcome Home and back to blogging .....

    All the best Jan

    1. The homeward journey is already forgotten Jan, pushed into oblivion by a welter of wonderful memories. Bank holiday is being spent recovering from all the miles of running and walking - not to mention catching up with my blog, gardening and a host of other things.....

  4. Summer looks so much more fun that the winter we are heading into... So enjoy every day for us who are looking at months of winter ahead of us!

    Very jealous!

    1. It was fun down in sunny Menorca Coach, back here in Yorkshire it's cloudy and cold. I put all the heating on after a 5 mile run this morning. I'll bet your winter is warmer than our so-called summer..