Monday, 28 May 2018

Menorca: Cala Galdana - Algendar Gorge and Cala Macarella

The mouth of the river Algendar at Cala Galdana

For today's walk we have come to Cala Galdana on the south coast of Menorca to do two there-and-back walks.

The first one is along the gorge of the Algendar. We head away from the town, initially past an array of bars and restaurants, with the river, already narrowing, in a concrete channel on our right. Quite quickly we reach open country and see the high right hand side of the gorge over to our right.

We are in fact walking along a track to a house, but soon the path veers right and we are surprised to find a rather beautiful hen in the long grass.

Here is our first view of the gorge proper.

It's very overcast and quite cool. There is a lot of birdsong from mainly invisible birds, but soon we start to see numbers of Speckled Wood butterflies, the orange European race.

There are lots of small whites too. Gradually the the gorge opens out and the vegetation changes. We see blue and brown damselflies.

Rocky heights loom ahead.

Quite suddenly the imposing left wall of the gorge closes in on us

It looks like we have reached a dead end. Our walk book describes an open gate and we can see the gate ahead but it looks - and indeed is - firmly locked. We see if there is a way round, but the obvious desire path to the right has been barricaded too. We chat to a very pleasant English couple who have been birding and they point to the Egyptian vultures circling above us.

There is no option but to turn back, having foregone about a quarter of the walk. Things brighten up on the butterfly front though and we see a Cleopatra and a Small Copper.

We return to Gala Galdana and have some lunch.We then head off on the steep and direct route towards Cala Macarella. There are great views back over the bay as we climb.

At the top the path levels out and becomes quite wide, if rather uneven in places. There are a number of orchids to the side of the path.

But not many butterflies, until I spot two or three Painted Ladies off to the left.

After a while we come to the wooden staircase which leads down to Cala Macarella. I think I counted 190 steps before we reached the back of the beach.

The path joins the beach at the right side in the photo. I decided to head round to the cliffs on the other side to take this picture.

By climbing another stair case it was possible to get a view of Cala Macaretta, a delightful concealed inlet on the side of the main bay. It is so secluded that it is apparently the preserve of naturists.

After returning to the main beach and enjoying the view for a while, there was nothing for it but to climb the 190 steps and make our way back to Cala Galdana.

Conditions: warm, but rather cloudy.

Distance: about 6 miles.

Rating: four stars.

From: Walk! Menorca by David and Ros Brawn

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Menorca: Cape Artrutz to Ciutadella

The lighthouse at Cap Artrutz

We started this walk along the Cami de Cavalls at the lighthouse at Cap Artrutz. No longer in use, it is now a cafe.

We walked along the coast road with suburban houses on the right and a rocky foreshore by the sea.

It was grey and cool, but suddenly the sun broke through and the rough scrub that we had reached revealed itself to harbour some butterflies. We quickly saw both male and female Clouded Yellows. The female turns out to be a separate form of the Clouded Yellow, form Helice (Colias croceus ssp. croceus f. helice).

There was also a nice female Common Blue.

We passed through a classic drystone wall and headed away from the village.

Soon we passed a dry stone hut on the left.

The sun went in again and we walked steadily along a rocky track with not much going on. Eventually the path approached the cliff edge and I moved closer to take a shot of the coast looking back: basically a lowish, rocky plateau.

 A but further on we passed through a gate in a spectacular drystone wall (I am a great fan of the drystone walls of Menorca)

Now we had a clearer view of the coat ahead and Cap de Menorca (the most westerly point of the island) to the left on the horizon.

Gradually the path become more level and the sea more blue ...

... and before long we entered the village of Cala Blanca, effectively the southernmost suburb of Ciutadella. The creek was a beautiful blue and was happily not too heavily developed. We paused for a light lunch in one of the cafes.

Obviously the next stage was going to be more suburban and the early omens were not encouraging as we passed the Blarney Stone Irish Pub, however we soon spotted many examples of these beautiful pink flowers which were a bit reminiscent of mimosa.

The next port of call was Cala Santandria, wider than Cala Blanca. We thought it quite an inviting spot.

At the mouth of the Cala is the Torre des Castellar. It was one of the defense towers built by the British between 1799 and 1802 with the intention of defending the coves of the island as support for the Castle of Sant Nicolau, before a possible enemy (French) landing. It is somewhat similar to the Martello towers built on the South coast of England at about the same time.

We walked along the far side of the Cala and spotted a Cleopatra butterfly (one of my favourites) before going round a small pretty inlet.

Soon we were back on a suburban road and heading around the edge of the ferry port.

A bit further on we looked across the entrance to Ciutadella harbour towards the Castell de Sant Nicolau which we saw yesterday. It is apparently illuminated at night.

A final mile or so brought to our hotel on the west side of the city centre.

Conditions: cool and cloudy for much of the time, eventually becoming bright and sunny.

Distance: about 8 miles.

Rating: fours stars.

From: Walk! Menorca by David and Ros Brawn

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Menorca: Ciutadella de Menorca

 The Town Hall (Ajuntament)

We are in Menorca for a few days, stayimg in Ciutadella. This walk around the town comes from the excellent book Walk! Menorca by David and Ros Brawn. It starts at Placa Esplanada, a large leafy square where today there is an open-air chess tournament for kids going on. It made a fine sight.

We cross from there into the Placa d'es Born where the splendid Gothic Town Hall dominates the left hand side. In the centre of the square is a grand obelsisk which commemorates the almost complete destruction of the town by Turkish invaders in 1558.

What were they doing there I wondered? Apparently the Balaeric islands had been subject many such raids in the past. This one came about because the Ottoman Empire was allied at the time with the French against the Habsburgs (who ruled Spain at the time). The raids only ended after the Turkish defeat at Lepanto in 1571.

There is a nice view over the small harbour.

Opposite the Ajuntament is the handsome Palau Torresaura with its twin loggias.

On the corner of the square is one of the few Gothic buildings to have survived the Turkish raid, the Eglesia de Sant Francesc. The solidly built interior is quite imposing.

We followed the route through winding streets passing the 17th century Casa Saura with a wonderfully carved overhanging roof.

Soon we reached the central market (1868) in Plaza de la Libertad.

Then we passed the rather beautiful doorway of a small Baroque chapel (the Capella de Sant Crist, 1667)  ....

... and a little further on, another lovely loggia in beautiful reddish stone.

More narrow streets brought us to the Convent Santa Clara. It was much restored, but with a lovely courtyard in front of it.

Now down the narrowest street so far, the wonderfully named Carrer Qui No Passa (the street that no one may go down?). It was indeed quite narrow and lacking in people.

This eventually led us to the Bishop's Palace, where to gate was open to a delightful courtyard.

Then a priest arrived with a cameraman in tow. He greeted us courteously, but we felt it was time to leave and we headed round to the adjacent Cathedral.

Inside was spacious but quite plain. The roof bosses were interesting, but we couldn’t quite work out what they signified.

The entrance ticket also offered the opportunity to see the Baroque Convent xx, principally famous for its cloister. We are generally rather anti the Baroque style, but it must be said that the cloister was one of the highlights of the walk.

The cunningly constructed route meant that we were now close to where we started and it remained only to walk down to the harbour and choose a restaurant for lunch.

After an excellent light lunch we decided to complete our exploration by walking past our hotel to the end of Passeig de Sant Nicolau, where we were delighted to discover the 17th century Fort Sant Nicolau. The cruise ship in the background is just a sign of the times.

Nearby was an excellent statue - of  David Glasgow Farragut. The citation says that he was an American admiral who became an adopted son of Ciutadella. Wikipedia reveals a much more interesting story: Faragut was a Southerner who fought on the side of the Union in the American Civil War and the first American to be promoted Admiral. He captured the city of New Orleans and later achieved a famous victory at the battle of Mobile Bay. His father was from Menorca.

Now we walked back into Ciutadella along the harbourside. This is the view cross the harbour mouth.  The harbour is long and quite narrow - a typical Menorcan Cala.

One interesting sight on the way back was this new-looking house in the style of a Greek temple.

Conditions: a lovely sunny day.

Distance: about 4.5 miles.

From: Walk! Menorca by David and Ros Brawn

Rating: four and a half stars. Interesting and varied.