Saturday, 7 October 2017

Mahon (part 2)

 The entrance hall of Ca n'Oliver

It's our last day in Mahon and the goal is to explore some parts in more depth. We start with the Ca'n Oliver which houses the Hernandez Sanz - Hernandez Mora Collection. Entirely by coincidence Ca'n  Oliver is 100 m from our hotel in Cale Anuncivay. The exterior is featured briefly in my post Mahon (part 1). The house was built in the 18th century as manor house of the wealthy Oliver family. At some relatively recent point it was purchased by the government, refurbished and made into a museum covering aspects of Menorcan history and housing the art collection of Francesc Hernandez Sanz and his son Francesc Hernandez Mora. The entrance hall with its magnificent staircase is astonishing. Above is the first view from the hall and below is a view with more detail of the staircase

The ceiling at the top of the stairwell is beautifully painted as are the ceilings of almost all the rooms.

The historical information is informative and very well presented and there are some nice pictures and artifacts. The great surprise of the building is that there is a tower at the top which offers great views over Mahon. It can be seen from the courtyard at the rear of the building.

 It is not very well publicised and requires a steep climb up a metal staircase, which perhaps explains why we had it to ourselves. There were some great views. This one shows Santa Maria, the C'an Mir and the naval base.

 Now we headed across to the Museum of Menorca, which as luck would have it is located next to the third church, St Francis. Unfortunately, most of the museum is currently closed for renovations, but the exquisite late 17th century cloister remains open and is well worth a visit. The central space with its well is surrounded by massive columns with capitals in an unfamiliar style.

The arcades are even more wonderful.

We also had a closer look at the facade of St Francis and admired this angel sculpted on one side of the main portal. There was another nice sculpture on the other side.

From here we headed down to the port for a boat trip up the harbour. Mahon's harbour is 4.5km long and 1km at its widest. It was one of the most important in the world in the turbulent years of the 18th and 19th centuries. We set out more less opposite the naval storehouse on Illa Pinto, with its gun emplacements.

The next landmark, high on the hill to the left, is the handsome villa Sant Antoni. It was known by the British as the Golden Farm and was reputed to be the location of Lord Nelson and Emma Hamilton's trysts.

This was followed by the Illa dei Rei, once the site of a hospital. British sailors named it Bloody Island as it was alleged that surgical waste was tossed into the harbour.

Further along on the left hand side was this extravagant modern house in a prime spot on top of the hill.

Now we came to the Canal de Sant Jordi (St George).

At the other end there was  a fine view of the Fortress of La Mola, which we have seen from further afield on previous days.

As we approached the mouth of the harbour we passed the massive gun batteries which defended it.

Emerging from the harbour mouth the boat (which was glass-bottomed) moored for a while in a bay called Es Clot for us to see the fish. I have to admit that this was a bit disappointing, but soon we were underway again and passing the ruins of the original fort built to protect the harbour. This was followed by the Illa de Lazareto, the quarantine island. This one functioned between about 1815 and as late as 1918. Venice had one as early as 1423.

Finally as we neared the maritime station, we passed Es Castell and had a lovely view of the shoreline of the old town.

Conditions: bright and sunny.

Rating: four stars. It was very interesting to understand the relationship between the various islands and structures in the harbour. But it was even more pleasing to travel through a harbour that I had read about in  Patrick O'Brien's Jack Aubrey stories.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Mahon to San Lluis

The Grand Talyot at Trepucò

For today's walk we decided it was time to see something of he prehistoric civilisation of Menorca. We constructed a route to two of the sites near to Mahon from parts of other walks in the invaluable Walk! Menorca guide.

We set out from Mahon's main square, Plaça Esplanada and along Carrer Cos de Garcia, where we enjoyed the elaborate towers and facade of the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

We crossed the ring road and passed the municipal crematorium now following signs to Trepucò. One of the key features of Menorca is the dry stone walls and I rather liked the combination of shape and colour in this typical example near Trepucò.

At Trepucò you walk up a stony track to suddenly emerge in front of the Grand Talyot (picture at the head of this post). It is the largest on the island. Talyots typically have an underground chamber underneath a tall tower, and although their purpose is not known definitively, the general assumption seems to be that they were watch towers.

The Grand Talyot was damaged in 1781 when the Duke of Crillión, leading the Franco-Spanish forces against the British, adapted it for use as a gun emplacement and created a star-shaped fort around it.

Not far away is a Taula, a T-shaped stone. Taula means table and the name derives from a myth that the stones were the tables of giants. It is placed in an stone enclosure and is certainly a most impressive site.

A second, smaller Talyot stands at the rear of the current site - only a fraction of the original town, which is thought to have stretched to 500 square metres.

After this fascinating visit, we set off towards our second site at Trebalugar. We turned right out of  Trepucò and followed a straightish lane leading to the hamlet of Biniaroca. This was a pleasant, if undramatic section. There was a rather nice, rather battered cross by the road at one point.

At bit further we noticed this curious round structure in the grounds of one of the numerous large house. We saw one earlier and wondered what it was for.

We bore left at Biniaroca to then turn left on to the Me-6 road to Trebalúger (yesterday we walked for a while on the wonderfully named Me-2 road) and here at last I managed to photograph one of the many Clouded Yellow butterflies to be seen on Menorca.

A helpful sign on the edge of Trebalúger pointed us towards the Talyot which turned out to be a much simpler affair, but still imposing and mysterious.

This time it was possible to climb up to the top and see a sort of crater with stones and flowers.

And there was a great view north to the La Mola fort at the mouth of Mahon harbou.

We followed the lovely Cami Vell away from Trebalúger along a rather lovely track with meandering dry stone walls on either side ...

... and continued along country lanes through country which became more and more densely populated as we approached San Lluis. Every house seemed to have a sign warning of a guard dog.

San Lluis was founded in the 18th century by the French Marquis de Lannion. It seems all, or almost all white, notably the massive church, and is largely laid out on grid pattern designed by the Marquis. Like Es Castell, it has a windmill at either end of the town.

After a pleasant lunch with Menorcan rose wine we got a taxi back to Mahon.

Conditions: another wrm, suny day.

Distance: about 10 km.

Rating: four stars. The two Talyots were fascinating.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

S'Algar to Mahon (Camí de Cavalls 1)


We got a cab from our hotel to S'Algar in the south east corner of Menorca to begin the Cami de Cavalls (literally Horse or Donkey Path, Menorca's Coast Path). It extends for 184 km / 115 miles. See its website for more information.

It is a small and quiet, but pretty, resort.  To the south you can see a tower (of which there are lots on Menorca) - this one is the Torre de Alcafar Vell) and a lighthouse.

We walked uphill away from the village as a party of 50 or more walkers came towards us and turned right. Here is our first sight of the distinctive Cami de Cavalls sign posts.

We followed the well waymarked track, stony, but otherwise easy to follow and reached the point in our walk book where there was a detour to the right to Cala d'es Rafalet. We had a bit of trouble finding the right path - this is the access point.

We headed downhill towards the cove through a wonderful rocky valley with trees on both sides.

 At the bottom the was a beautiful rocky inlet. A few intrepid Germans had just got out of the water having had a swim. A wonderful spot and well worth the detour.

We continue the route uphill and across quite bare countryside to join a donkey track with dry-stone walls on both sides.

There is a beautiful farm house on the right.

 And another attractive one on the left.

I stop to try to photograph a female Clouded Yellow butterfly and suddenly discover that I am face to face with one of the famous wild Menorcan tortoises (Herrman's tortoises) - in fact there were two. Maybe they belong to the house but who cares.

We continue along a second walled section of donkey trail and eventually, after the walled Villa Eugenia, have an open view to the right. We can see at the rear the great headland with the Fortalesa de la Molea which marks the entrance of the vast harbour of Mahon. In the foreground is a small lighthouse.

 Soon after this the track heads sharply downhill to the pretty Cala de San Esteve (a Cala is a creek).

We climb a steep track and follow the road towards Es Castell. Over to the right we can see the far side of the harbour, with a whole swathe of military buildings behind the Mole fort.

At the entrance to Es Castell there is a rather splendid windmill - and there is another at the other end.

We head into the centre passing the main square with the lovely Town Hall ...

... and the former army barracks opposite and to one side.

After an excellent lunch at a roadside tapas bar we head towards Mahon, passing the Isle de Diable

We are soon forced inland and onto the road. There is just one more sight - the handsome Collingwood House, now the Hotel del Almirante.

Before long we reached the edge of Mahon and were back at our hotel.

Conditions: warm and sunny.

Distance: 12km.

Rating: four and a half stars.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Mahon (part 1)

Mahon harbour

We have just arrived in Mahon, the capital of Menorca. It is pronounced Ma-hon in English and called Maò by the locals. At Gatwick, the announcer summoned passengers to a flight to May-on (maybe the influence of the Conservative Party conference which is currently underway?).

We were on a very early flight and as our hotel room wouldn't be ready for some hours we decided to jump immediately into the walk around Mahon described in the vital Walking Menorca by David and Ros Brawn. We were delighted to find that the route passed close by our hotel and so we started the walk there. Our first point of reference was the 1805 house called Ca'n Oliver, which is now home to the Hernandez Sanz - Hernandez Mora Collection. The side door was impressive.

We headed east to the Park d'es Fregenal where I was delighted to spot a Monarch butterfly, which obligingly posed for some photos. Below is the best one. I discovered later that there are generally thought to be 26 species of butterfly in Menorca, not including the Monarch. So it seems that I was extremely lucky to spot one.

We exited the park and headed uphill past the Theatre and the former Hospital with its adjoining church …

… to reach Plaça de s'Esplanada where there is a monument to those who died in the Spanish Civil War (Menorca was republican).

We headed across the square to reach Carrer s'Arraval, a street with a view to the right of the Porta san Roc, the stone gateway which offers the only remaining evidence of the city walls. We had a better vantage point later in the walk, so I will defer the photo until then. Our route now headed west to the Museum of Menorca, housed in a complex of buildings, the one on the right is the Church of St Francis, a rather handsome 18th century building.

The Museum looks really interesting and we will return for a proper look later in our holiday. We headed past it to the mirador (view point) for our first view of Mahon's 4.5 km long harbour (picture
e at the head of this post).

We then walked along Isabel II street, once the most fashionable in the city. There were some pleasing art nouveau details (tiles, doors) and a real gem further along. We reached the imposing Military Governor's House, but just to its left was this much more interesting art nouveau delight (at least to my eyes).

At the of the road we turned right to reach the Town Hall (Ayuntament). It dates from 1613, but was rebuilt in 1788. The clock was the gift of the first English Governor, Sir Richard Kane.

At right angles to it is the Guard Room (the maroon building).

Also in this small square was the church of Santa Maria, of which more in a moment. A detour uphill brought us to a small square with a fine view of the Arc de sant Roc from the inside. Also known as St Roch or Rocco, the saint is the patron saint of dogs and was born in Montpellier in the 14th century.

We now headed downhill to the quay and then back up via the Parc Rochina. At the top was another art nouveau building which I had identified in my pre-holiday planning, but hadn't been able to pinpoint the location of - the C'an Mir. The closed blinds were rather a shame.

At the top there was an oblique view of Santa Maria, highlighting its beautiful orange colour.

After a leisurely lunch we continued on our way passing the Chiesa del Carme (Carmelite church) (1750 - 1808) ...

… with its rather lovely 18th century cloister, spoiled by a stage and shops around the outside.

Just beyond the church in the Plaça del Princep was this splendid building whose name I haven't yet discovered.

We returned to the harbour and followed a high level path with great views – this one of the naval base on the other side.

Later the path descended to the harbour side.We followed the harbour side for a while, noting some promising restaurants to be tried later and at this point headed away from it, climbing a steep flight of stairs, to return to our hotel. The was just one art nouveau sighting to enliven the last section, this Casa del Poble in Cami des Castell. Casa del Poble translates as House of the Town. It denotes a social, cultural and recreational centre run by the labor associations of the locality.

Conditions: hot and sunny (yes!).

Distance: about 4 miles.

Rating: four stars. Delightful. No single thing was really outstanding though.