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.