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Menorca/Minorca 2009

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Offline Technopat

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« on: September 12, 2009, 02:05 AM »
Greetings All,
Well, we finally made it to Menorca - Unesco Biosphere Reserve - after years of procrastinating. Must confess to having been slightly reticent ‘bout going there – irrational inbuilt rejection no doubt caused by mid-60s/70s images of Watney’s Red Barrel and high-rise hotels, but must have been thinking of some other place, as several sources insisted that such was not the case and spoke wonders of natural “virgin” beaches, friendly natives and good food. And peeping into chapter 2, that was indeed the case. And then some!

My original reluctance/resistance was compounded however, when, on arrival at Mahón airport, we were unable to rent a car to take us to the other end of the island, some 38 kms away. So why did such a meticulous, almost obsessive planner as myself turn up at the airport without ensuring that a car would be there waiting, I hear y'all ask? Simply ‘cos, according to three of Mrs Tp’s sources :-X , each of whom are regular visitors to the island, there was no need: one just arrived, had a butcher’s at the best offer and jumped into the chosen vehicle. Sigh! Not a sausage! Long queues for the half-dozen operators – for people who had actually had the foresight (!) to book ahead. No other cars available.

Finally managed to get hold of a car, some six hours later, from a really nice chappie who runs his own one-man biz. based out of Mahón city, not the airport, and who told me that due to the crisis, the big firms had reduced their annual orders for new cars and there were 5,000 fewer new cars available than last year. He himself had planned to get 20 new cars for summer but no bank had given him the necessary credit. Somewhat surprisingly, he didn’t blame the government, but the “c*br*n*s de la banca”.

Note for my next visit/prospective visitors: Unless you're specifically planning a cycling hol., the official Menorca tourist board offers a car hire service on their web page. Go for it! It's approx. half the price of the name operators and only very slightly cheaper than the price I paid - but my chappie was a really nice guy & I’m more than happy to encourage the individual who dares to take on the big ‘uns. Drop me a line if you want his phone number.

Note 2 for my next visit/prospective visitors: if you wish to visit virgin beaches and/or travel around the island in general, just get the smallest car they have/you are willing to squeeze into, ‘cos the country lanes are often only single lane, and even on the main road, you’re unlikely to go over 80kph. Ours was a silly little Chevrolet Matiz, which when I first saw it, nearly made me take the next plane back to Madrid. But the guy had recommended it and I must confess he knew what’s what.

So, semi-expecting to find our accommodation to be still under construction (irrational blah, blah, caused by mid-60s/70s etc. etc.), headed off to our rented “duplex” in the north-east and what was to be both Mrs Tp's & Technopat’s best holiday ever in many years of holidaying in Spain.

As usual, this posting is already much longer than originally planned, so I’ll call it a night now and continue on the morrow. G’night All.
 
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2009, 13:29 PM »
Part 2
The island is small, but if you take things calmly, almost inevitable on Menorca, and don’t try to visit more than one cala a day, nine days is no-where-near enough and I’m already looking to planning next summer’s trip to “do” the rest of the island. And repeat visits to some of the nicer calas - of which there are many. The official Web site, http://www.visitmenorca.com/, is useful, and in fact we booked our accommodation through it.

Relatively flat (I seem to remember reading that the highest peak was around 400 metres), the general layout is of rolling countryside with windy country lanes and wind-swept trees. [Insert pic here but can’t find the ruddy cable for downloading from camera :banghead: ] We had two nights of shutter-rattling high wind in the northeast but after a 20-minute drive to the south coast there was only a pleasant, gentle breeze – with no mountain range in between. Curious.

Sea kayaks are great for short trips, but I recommend considering the not-quite-so-ecological option of renting a boat (€35 an hour for a 13.5hp outboard motor – enough for visiting local calas and doesn’t require any kind of licence. Anything above that hp requires varying licences, but there is the possibility of paying €135 for a “titulín” which allows for more power) for longer excursions to the many places that are inaccessible by road. (Pics. 1,2 & 3) Costas http://www.mma.es/portal/secciones/aguas_marinas_litoral/ is very strict and all but the remotest calas have yellow buoys clearly marking the limit for motor craft. The guy we rented a boat from complained that if he were allowed to apply supply & demand criteria to his business, he’d have been a multimillionaire but his concession – a monopoly in the area – only allowed for ten boats. Power to Costas, I say. Cala Galdana, the place in question (full of Brits), has a couple of grotesque hotels, one of which was constructed on a hill leading down to the beach with a licence for two storeys above road level, but they excavated down on the other side of the hill – the one on the sea front – and the resulting monstrosity sticks out like a sore thumb (Sp. anyone?). No pics ‘cos I didn’t want to spoil my post-hol viewing.

The older houses in the towns, i.e. terraced houses in streets, are very often so typically English-looking that there were moments that it looked as if I was in me old man’s village down in Kent: sash windows abound and a very pleasant difference from much of mainland Spain is that there are no iron bars on the windows anywhere. The English influence is also evident in the dozen-or-so villas built in the Palladian style http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palladio, but I didn’t actually get round to seeing any of these this time round.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2009, 15:00 PM by Technopat »
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline Clive

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« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2009, 17:56 PM »
Waiting for part thrree! :)

Thanks for taking the time to do this Tp, great stuff..... Pictures?
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2009, 22:05 PM »
Hot off the keyboard:
Part 3
Having packed wife & kids & luggage onto the regular coach service ‘tween the capital and Ciutadella, which was the nearest town to our final destination, a visit to Mahón (Maó in Catalán/Menorquí) while waiting to be able to pick up the car gave me the opportunity to stroll around the place for 5 hours. Good vibes, at least the part I visited, which is built up on the hillside from the natural harbour below and with spectacular views. Originally founded by Hannibal’s brother, Magon, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mah%C3%B3n says it’s the second deepest natural harbour in the world (the kind of claim that always brings out the scepticism in me) and the Brits made it the island’s capital during their occupation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capture_of_Minorca. The previous capital had been Ciutadella, at the opposite extreme of the island, and whose port is much smaller. I imagine another reason for the move, apart from the obvious defensive advantages, which when you see the place are obvious, is that the rissaga http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,1248.msg10911.html#msg10911 would make His Majesty’s Royal Navy look pretty silly if they suddenly found their ships keeled over in a waterless harbour.

OK, so I’ve remembered to include a bit ‘bout the architecture, the language, the gastronomy http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,151.msg21101.html#msg21101, transport. What else could possibly be of interest to iberianatureforumers? Aha! How ‘bout  a bit of flora ‘n’ fauna?

Holm oak abounds, and the walks/hikes to the most secluded calas invariably pass through large groves of these trees, many of which look as if they were literally centuries old. Ditto pines. Anti-processionary caterpillar bags hang everywhere and on all kinds of trees. The groves usually extend out onto the sand dunes and the change in vegetation is very gradual. Many parts are cordonned off by various environmental agencies as part of dune regeneration plans.

Posidonia is plentiful and I came across one blade over a metre long floating in the water.

One of the most pleasant surprises was the total absence of mosquitoes. Not a single mozzie! No bites! No buzzing! I realise that this statement may be difficult to accept at face value, but those iberianatureforumers who know me from way back know perfectly well that this is an issue that I would never joke about. It didn’t occur to me to ask the locals whether it was just that time of year, but I certainly shall next time round. It’ll probably turn out that they fumigate the whole island with DDT every July.

On the very last morning of our stay, while out taking snapshots of the beautiful surroundings of the house (Pic. 5), I was swooped on by the following large bird - UPDATE: Which now that I have been able to match enlarged version with books & internet, I would hazard a guess is an Egyptian vulture (Pic. 6) one of a family of three, but was unable to get a better pic of it. It literally came out of the blue - I hadn't seen it before. UPDATE: Since returning to Madrid, I have on two occasions imagined I've heard the tremendous swooosh as it came past - freaky! When they saw me moving away from what was obviously their nesting ground, they soared up and away to other hunting grounds. On returning to the house, I actually saw from a distance one of them fly down into the bushes where I had been walking and which must be where they nest, but we had a plane to catch and I was unable to return – I have taken a couple of photos with landmarks to locate it next summer. Some 50 metres from that spot I had taken the following pics (Pics 1 & 2) of what must be the nest of a pretty large bird but I didn't see any feathers or leftovers of dinners. UPDATE: Forgot to mention - entrance was approx 1 metre wide.

The same stroll also came up with the following (Pics. 3 & 4).

A very loud rustling in the bushes startled me at one point, and thinking wild boar I jumped back a few paces before returning to investigate. The bush was too thick to see anything, but for a fleeting second I was able to see a small tortoise, which I reckon was this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermann%27s_Tortoise Surprisingly noisy for such a little chappie. None of the photos I took show anything due to the thickness of the shrub.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2009, 15:18 PM by Technopat »
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline Clive

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« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2009, 22:31 PM »
Stop teasing Tp..... Pictures! Especially of the tortoise!
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2009, 01:17 AM »
Finally managed to download some pics. but have forgotten how to upload 'em here - will try again on the morrow. As I mentioned, Clive, no tortoise ones were worth salvaging.
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2009, 15:32 PM »
Updated Part 3 with some pics - just mentioning it 'cos the Recent posts function doesn't register modifications, and while the pics themselves are not especially interesting, the effort I've made uploading 'em deserves some sort of feedback  :clapping:

Am-also-glad-that-I-was-switched-on-enough-to-be-able-to-prevent-any-of-the-shots-of-me-nicely-tanned-backside-sticking-up-in-the-air-while snorkelling-from-accidentally-appearing-on-this-family-Forum regs.,
Technopat
« Last Edit: September 14, 2009, 15:33 PM by Technopat »
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
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Offline tonyninfas

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« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2009, 19:08 PM »
So there are obviously some beaches on Menorca where it is possible to sunbathe 'au naturel' TP.

What happened to the WNBR thiis year - did you take part ?

Offline lisa

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« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2009, 21:17 PM »
 :dancing:  :dancing:  :dancing: Photos!  :clapping:

Sounds like you all had a wonderful holiday. I'm surprised to hear that Menorca is so flat. What with Majo Mallorca being so mountainous........
I wouldn't have thought that your burrow/nest belonged to the Egyptian vultures (or perhaps you're not even suggesting that it is). As far as I know they nest on cliff faces. Also, they are particularly sensitive to disturbance while nesting/rearing young, so please be careful next year! Anyway, thank Darwin that your cable was found, and that your photo uploading went smoothly  :)
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« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2009, 21:27 PM »
Hi Teeps et al,

Fabulous holiday by the sound of it. I've always wanted to visit Menorca so now I'll have to go! Not sure how or when but watch this space!

Regs

Simon

PS very interesting tip about the car hire - a must do for the rest of Spain methinks!

Offline nick

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« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2009, 23:39 PM »
Not read all of this yet, but how big is this burrow?
Nick
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2009, 00:38 AM »
Greetings All (and thanks, Lisa, for acknowledging the technical skills involved in uploading smoothly),

Tony, who said anything 'bout nudist beaches? You just slips yer man €5,000/week
http://www.barcosdealquiler.com/d-reserva-805.php and you can skinny dip to yer 'eart's delight without causing people to crane their necks and/or snigger. :angel: The only snag is that even tho' you're paying for a week's hire, you have to bring the boat home to roost every evening - they've obviously had too many holidaymaking landlubbers smash their boats up against the rocks at night.

Not that yours truly is quite in that league (the 5 grand a week, I mean - not the landlubbers who...) - yet - so although the official Web site states that there are no nudist beaches on the island, the reality is that all the beaches outside urban areas (i.e. those without Red Cross vigilantes de la playa) are effectively nudist :dancing: - and Technopat avoids urban beaches like the plague. As for this year's WNBR - it came & went before I'd realised what had happened - bit like that Egyptian vulture. No doubt if I'd been popping in regularly here, someone would have reminded me.

Nick, it's not so much a burrow as thick bushes covering up a smallish cave between two rocks. What is curious is how the hole has been made in the bushes. It did occur to me that it was a manmade hide for hunters, but in fact it more or less faces out over the cliffs as opposed to inland.

No, Lisa - I don't think the nest is that of the vultures, but it was some 50 metres from where I later saw one of them fly down into the bushes - or a clearing among bushes. It's not clear from the pics. I've posted, but in both cases we're talking 10 metres from cliff face in an off-the-beaten-track place where I'm sure I'm the only person who's walked in many months. Fresh rabbit droppings all over the place.

As for the high spots, y'all know how I tends to exaggerate and most of you probably thought I was doing so when I reckoned that the highest point on the island was only 400-odd metres. Guilty as charged: Monte Toro is only 358 metres http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Toro

Simon, yeah, we finally made - and well worth it! Fabulous is indeed the word. I'm not yet an expert on Menorca, but I certainly plan to become one over the coming years... By the way, for you music lovers, we happened to pop in at a Sunday evening open air gig in the Plaza de la Constitución of a large village/small town by an excellent local blues band - The Hoochie Coochie Band (check 'em out if they ever make it over to the Peninsula) and without exaggerating, apart from the obvious exception of the Technopatlets, Mrs Tp & I were literally the youngest in the audience of approx 100 people. It was hilarious to see the old folks dressed up in their Sunday best irresistably tapping their feet in time to the music and then shake their heads in apparent disapproval whenever someone they knew walked past!

Would-love-to-stay-and-chat-but-busy-day-on-the-morrow-so-I'm-off regs.,
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2009, 13:22 PM »
Greetings All,
Someone has just told me that my Egyptian Vulture could well be an Osprey http://www.flickr.com/groups/birdguide/pool/tags/Pandion%20haliaetus - as y'all know they all look the same to me, so can anyone confirm my initial diagnosis of Egyptian vulture and descartar (En. anyone?) the possibility of Osprey?

Doubting-in-Madrid regs.,
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline coatimundi

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« Reply #13 on: September 18, 2009, 16:04 PM »
Hi TP

That is definitely NOT an osprey.  :booklook:

Mark - who is very slowly learning the various vultures when out in Spain, but when home in Scotland has nesting Ospreys within a 15 minute drive and can tell one when he sees one...... :)
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Offline Sue

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« Reply #14 on: September 18, 2009, 16:45 PM »
Hi TP,
I find that the diamond cut to the tail is the easiest way to see that it is an Egyptian vulture!
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #15 on: September 18, 2009, 17:14 PM »
Greetings Sue 'n' Mark, :sign:
Thanks for your positive IDs - so Technopat's actually made his first correct diagnosis of a bird of prey  :dancing:

I-won't-let-it-go-to-me-'ead- :angel:-but-just-watch-me-smoke-regs.,
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
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Offline Dave

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« Reply #16 on: September 18, 2009, 18:49 PM »
Hi TP
Well the report was great it certainly sheds a new light on what I have always thought of as a package holiday destination, and all that that means
Regards
Dave

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #17 on: September 18, 2009, 20:56 PM »
Cheers, Dave!
I, too, had had that idea (see my original ref. to Watneys), but several Usually Reliable Sources had insisted that there were indeed several unspoilt spots - in fact the place we were staying at, some 7kms north of Ciutadella was out in the sticks - although there were other holiday houses in the vicinity, there was no noise, no nightlife.

Talking about shedding light, we did venture into town one evening, I s'pose it must have been Saturday - and just as we were heading off we saw this bright glow over the town. As we approached the outskirts, we saw that it was the floodlights at the local football ground (no grandstand - not even gradas). Been thinking of writing to the local ecologistas and getting 'em to put a sort of visor to direct the light down onto the pitch rather than contaminating the sky.

In fact, in this energy-saving day and age, the bloody things should be banned outright - why the hell can't they play the game at normal times in broad daylight? Tv audiences? Correct me if I'm wrong, but Superbowl matches and Olympics finals aren't held at night, and I seem to remember that both events have higher viewer rates, Wimbledon? Floodlit cricket?

And-while-I'm-having-me-rant-what-price-F1-and-other-stupid-energy-wasting-motor-sports-or-does-that-also-come-under-the-name-of-culture? regs.,
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
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Offline Clive

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« Reply #18 on: September 18, 2009, 21:23 PM »
Steady on there Tp... It is definately an egyptian vulture.... :)
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