Back to Menorca… West Coast: Cuitadella, Cala Blanca and Cala Son Bou

Menorca has so much to offer that going there just for a weekend getaway does not simply cut it. You need a week or maybe even a fortnight in order to see all the charming places brimming with things to do, photos to take, and specialties to taste. On the westbound reading train, today we will stop at only three places, but I owe to tell you that the Western coast has so much more to offer… gorgeous beaches, such as Cala Morell, Cala en Bosc, and Cala en Forcat, just to name a few.

Contrary to the busy and noisy capital Mao (Mahon), in the peaceful and colonial Cuitadella, time does not fly and the atmosphere is calm and lazy. You can stroll through medieval cobbled streets that wind up and down, and around. Let you mind wonder and tune your nose to the fine smells coming from many fish restaurants and bakeries. DSC03645The town has had a interesting history and came under attacks many times: the most severe and bloody being the attack by a Turkish naval unit some 500 years ago. Over 3000 people were enslaved and most of the town plundered.

Treat yourself with an ice cream as you slowly continue towards the town’s port, situated right next to the breathtaking Placa d’es Born. Apart from many souvenir shops and cafes, visit the town hall (in the picture below) and other palaces made of that golden sandstone that serves as a natural building air conditioning.

DSC03652DSC03650

Cala Blanca *the white bay* is located only 4km away from Cuitadella and it boasts brilliant white sand beach, framed by the green backdrop of a pine forest of trees. The water is crystal clear here and you can follow schools of fish as they circumnavigate around you as you swim.

There are many bars and cafes in this area, so stick around till the sunset since the view is amazingly romantic!

Cala Blanca5
Romantic sundown at the Cala Blanca

Platges Son Bou is the longest sandy beach of the island with nearly 3km of heavenly golden sand. It is an ideal place for families with children, with small playground and good showers and toilets. You might also want to stop by and see the remains of a the Basilica de Son Bou which was erected in the 5th century AD. Again, highly recommend is to watch the sunset from the Son Bou beach…it is phenomenal!

Playa Son Bou
Playa Son Bou

Falling in Love with Faro and la Ilha Deserta

DSC05349

In today’s post I am taking you to the southern coast of Portugal – the Algarve region. Known for great food, picturesque countryside and juicy oranges, it is also a magnet for many tourists… Beware! Get ready for the most amazing beaches in Europe, lots of caves and waves, mouth-watering specialties, and the most friendly people I have ever meet.

To kick things off, I will take you to Faro, the most important town on the southern coast. It has had a dynamic history, as has the whole region. In fact, it was precisely from here that the Portuguese ships had set off in search of new continents, peoples, and, well, fortune. The moment your captain says that you have begun landing, glue yourself to the plane’s window and enjoy the view… sandy beaches as long as your eyes can see, rocky cliffs, lush green golf courses, and to top it all off, the delta of the Ria Formosa Natural Park with numerous islands scattered around, many of which are completely deserted. The airport is relatively small and well organised, so get yourself a rent-a-car vehicle and your Algarve adventure can start.

To get to know more about this amazing place, go to http://www.faroportugal.org . My best friend and my partner in crime, Ronny, and I drove directly to the port of Faro, where you can find a spacious (and free) car park, and after a few minutes walk, we found ourselves in the busy streets of the downtown Faro, with crowds of tourists everywhere around us and wonderful examples of architectural mastery in the midst of rows of orange trees.

DSC05409

Faro Cathedral
Faro Cathedral

A company called Animaris (http://ilha-deserta.com/) offers boat trips to the Ilha Deserta (the Deserted Island), as well as private guided tours of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. This uninhabited island boasts 11 km of pristine beach, as well as unique biodiversity and ecosystem typical of the entire delta. After a comfortable and chilly boat ride, we arrive at the island and we take the road on our right. DSC05356A tiny hiking trail forms an inner ring around the island. You might see examples of rare species, such as the birds called Sacred Ibis or the Brant Geese, but don’t be surprised if you see some Humpback whales swimming around. Time and time again we stop to take pictures, but finally we sit our small bums down. Believe me, hours mean nothing when you are there, stretched on that soft sand. An occasional seagull or a big wave break the silent magic that will wrap you up, warm and relaxed. And the best thing is… no people in sight. If you are the kind of person who enjoys sunbathing naked, well, here and now is the chance! I cannot confirm we did that, but neither can I deny it 😀 !!!

On the way back, we stop at the only building on the island, the Estamine restaurant and enjoy sipping on a espresso latte, while waiting for our boat to take us back to the civilisation.

DSC05348

You do just walk in the sand, you wade :D
You do just walk in the sand, you wade 😀
Can we please just live here?
Can we please just live here?

A weekend at the Lake Constance (Bregenz and Lindau)

There is nothing like a weekend getaway, especially if it involves camping at a lake with someone special. Lake Constance, or Bodensee, as they call it in German, is smartly located near the Alps. Yeah, that sounds crazy, and it is. The lake was formed by the Rhein glacier during the ice age. The water collects there from all the snow-capped Alpine peaks, but don’t worry, it’s not freezing cold. Somehow, it is always sunny at the Constance lake, and the atmosphere is quite Mediterranean, with orange and lemon trees, lots of tourists, and all-around fun and relaxed atmosphere. You can get to the lake from one of the three countries: you’ve got the German side with gorgeous places such as Lindau, Friedrichshafen, Meersburg, and Constanz, of course; but, mind you, half of this city is situated in Switzerland, as well as other lovely places like Rorschach and Romanshorn, and the smallest part lies in Austria with the stunning city of Bregenz.

It was in June and the sun was high in the sky, scorching hot but still welcoming. As I said, it was on a Friday in June, and we were on the Autobahn, but so were loads of other people. You see, on that Friday, or that weekend, it was a bank holiday in Germany – Pfingstferien. Originally heading to Lindau, we were met with endless queues of cars with trailers in search of a camp site. One ‘belegt’ (full), another one full, and another down, and another one bites the dust… My boyfriend is not the most patient man on Earth and he was desperately in need of a dip in the lake. So, we ditched the original plan and just continued driving – over the border, into the Austrian territory, through the city of Bregenz and towards the camp sites on the left bank of the lake (there are a few camp sites and you can surely google them in a sec).

Sunset in Bregenz
Sunset in Bregenz

Luckily, they did have a few spots left, and we were happy to put up a tent right next to the fence, face to face and feet to, well, hooves, with a herd of friendly-looking cows. All good, people, all good! Further down the road was a nice little cafe that serves typical fast food, such as Pommes (chips/fries), Currywurst, Rote Wurst, Bratwurst (I will not pretend to know the difference between all these sausages, but I do know my favourite one is die Rote Wurst) and other specialties. From the bar, it’s a 100m walk to the the beach, a small and crowded pebble beach. Not too shabby, let me tell you. The view is amazing, especially the sunset, and people actually gather there at around 9 to watch the magic happen. Highly recommend comes a walk along the Bregenz promenade, and a visit to the (free entry, but you do need to pay to watch a play) Festspielhaus Bregenz. The building is an architectural masterpiece located partly underwater. It was also featured in a few Hollywood films, one in the Bond series, I believe.

Just imagine watching a play here - the Bregenz Theatre (me: readjusting the straps on my sandals)
Just imagine watching a play here – the Bregenz Theatre (me: readjusting the straps on my sandals)
Use the cable car in Bregenz and enjoy the view of the lake
Use the cable car in Bregenz and enjoy the view of the lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the weather is nice and the sun is shining, pack you hiking shoes and head to the Hausberg Pfänder; a cable car that will take you to a quite popular viewpoint located at 1064 metres above the sea level. From here, you can see all three countries surrounding the lake, some famous mountain peaks and a great deal of the lake. There is a small but pricey restaurant, and a few shops, as well as a souvenir stand. At the lower station that is located in Bregenz city you can pick up a map of the upper station and surrounding area, as well some recommended routes and practical tips for hikers. Due to high temperatures and general laziness, we did not go hiking, but bought a beer and just enjoyed the view.

the magical Pulverschanze view point
The magical Pulverschanze view point

From Bregenz you need 15 minutes to Lindau, and then: ah, Lindau… Words do not do justice to this place. The town itself is partly on an island, or a peninsula (it is an island connected by two bridges to the mainland) and partly on the mainland. Our first stops were the Pulverschanze and the Pulverturm view points. Make sure your camera is fully charged, since the view is simply stunning. Locals bathe in the lake, using stairs attached to the outer walls to reach the water. No beache, though. Turning left, you will come across one of the coolest shops ever, called Wiedermann Decoration. Chairs, coffee tables, and lots more make this place an all-things-interior heaven.

Wiedermann Decoration
Wiedermann Decoration

My advice is to use the bridge to cross the train tracks from there and tune your ears to the noise of the busy port. Sailors, tourists, locals. Fish, salads, cakes. Aperol Spritz. Friendly waiters. Bayerische Löwe (the Bavarian Lion) and the Neuer Lindauer Leuchtturm (the New Lindau Light Tower) look onto the ships entering the port, and, let’s be honest, look amazing on pictures. Treat yourself to a cold drink and some local fish, possibly a cake. As we drive back to the mainland, the bustling town on the island calms down and the dusk colours the island orange and red. These words escape my mouth: ‘You are one pretty little town, Lindau!’

The Lion and the Tower, the Port of Lindau
The Lion and the Tower, the Port of Lindau
This is what happens when you give me Apperol Spritz!
This is what happens when you give me Apperol Spritz!

The emerald jewel of the Mediterranean, Menorca

Having spent some time in Catalonia, you are bound to hear it not once, not twice but a million times from the locals, you need to visit Menorca. The Balearic islands are the place to go for all the Catalans, there are cheap flights and affordable ferries, they share the language and I thought that there was nothing more to it. Well, last October, I decided to have a look for myself and see what the fuss was all about. And you know what, it is freakin’ amazing!

Menorca (or Minorca) as the name suggests, is the smallest of the Balearic islands, and (luckily) less frequented than its sisters, Majorca and Ibiza. If you like spectacular scenery, long sandy beaches with turquoise water, seeing endemic species of animals, down-to-earth smiling and not annoyed-looking locals, plus great fish, then Menorca needs to be on your bucket list.

Given that it is a relatively small island, we were able to see most of it – driving from the capital Mao (also Mahon) to the second biggest town of the island, Ciutadella, takes about one and a half hours, while to get from the the northern to the southern coast will take you about 45 minutes. Today’s post will be about my experience on the southern coast: Es Canutells, Cales Coves, Cala en Porter, and Cove d’en Xoroi.

After a big and yummy breakfast at the hotel (we were staying at Barcelo Pueblo Menorca in Punta Prima), we set off to another day of adventure – exploring the nooks and crannies unseen by all the tourists is right up our ally – so logically, our first stop is the lovely village of Es Canutells. Located in a small bay, the village prides itself on stunning white villas and emerald sea, but there is only a 20m long (yet sandy) beach, occupied by a group of mean seagulls. After taking a few photographs, we bid them farewell, and continue driving westward. It is a breathtaking view and the village seems like a quiet relaxing place.

A hippie gene in me urged me to see Cales Coves, ever since the moment I read about their exciting history in the Marco Polo travel guide book. It said that 3000 years ago the Menorca inhabitants buried their dead here, and you can also find traces from the Roman period. But what attracted my attention was the fact that many hippies lived in the caves surrounding the bays, from the 1970s to the mid 1990s when they were forced to move out. The access to the bays is uneven and rocky, so consider putting on your hiking shoes, but the view is magical. There is a fresh water spring as well so the beach area is in a state of constant swamp, and at the time that we were there, quite dirty. However, the strongest emotion or a memory that I have of the place is this feeling of unease, a feeling of guilt for trespassing into someone’s territory. That sea there is the most beautiful corally blue I have ever seen, and there is this calmness in the air, but looking up, you will notice hundreds of ‘windows’ in the rocks, former homes of the hippies and who knows whom else in the past. Either because I knew about all the dead that were burried here or because of many caves that look like real homes (we ventured into one of them, of course), I felt strangely connected to something or someone there…I can’t quite explain it, and it was not spooky at all, but this place is more than just a beautiful bay.

At this point, we were craving a dip, so we make our way to the Cala En Porter, praised for the wide fine sand beach and loved by both the locals and the visitors. On the one end of the village is intact nature, while the other hosts a holiday resort particularly loved by the British. The currents could be strong so stay away from the rocks, but if you are a good swimmer, do go for it! It was a windy day, so there weren’t too many people, but it’s far from being a deserted bay. There was a nice cafe and a few shops. Treat yourself with a cortado (a ‘longer’ espresso with a dash of milk) and an ice cream and hop in the car. According to the guidebook and various blogs, the most beautiful sunset in Europe can be seen from a place just behind the corner. On the way, you will drive by some pretty villas with lush gardens and fuchsia flowers, and there it is – Cove d’en Xoroi.
It is a nightclub and a cafe, and it is a must! Eight euros goes a long way here – you get one drink, cave exploration, great music, and getting up and personal with the Sun. The name Xoroi comes from a Moor pirate who was hiding in the caves (there are over 100 of them) for many years, and even had a wife and three children. As the peasants found his hiding place, he hurled himself into the sea, but was later celebrated in songs for his bravery and courage. As we make our way towards the bar, it was impossible not to make about 50 photographs of the sea. The costal cliffs are turned into stairs that go up and down, until you come to a landing with the first bar. Though the view is great, do not stop there. Just around the corner is another bar, with a real dance floor (in a cave) and many secluded rocky booths. As the sun sets, the rocks of Mallorca appear on the horizon. Pure magic!

Es Canutells beach
Es Canutells beach
A girl and a flamingo at Cala Coves
A girl and a flamingo at Cala Coves
Breath taking sunset at Cova d'en Xoroi
Breath taking sunset at Cova d’en Xoroi
Cala En Porter, white villas & fine sand beach
Cala En Porter, white villas & fine sand beach