Now we’re back home, here are some random thoughts about the three weeks we spent in the eastern corner of Iberia.
- I was worried, before we arrived there, about its reputation for crime. It’s possible I may have been lucky or simply unperceptive (the latter having a high degree of probability), but at no stage did I feel uncomfortable or threatened, even in the crowds of the castellers festival or the metro.
- Barcelona is a very rewarding place simply to walk around. It’s justly famous for many things, but I found that the unexpectedly quirky things one stumbles upon were delightful.
- It’s very crowded. Anything which is on the main tourist trail will likely be packed unless you’re there in very low season. Don’t just rock up, book in advance.
- Also crowded. We were there right at the end of the season, and the main tourist attractions were still full of people. This was a noticeable change from our previous visit, some 25 years ago, and it took some getting used to.
- A significant consequence of no. 1 is that parking can be really problematical. This is something to bear in mind if you hire a car when you’re there.
- Hiring a car is a good idea – it’s quite a large island, and the public transport is not comprehensive, so a car is a good way to see the sights. But if you do, make sure, if possible, that it is (a) small (to fit into small parking spaces), (b) powerful (to help with some really steep mountain roads – for the narrowness of which a small car might also be an advantage) and (c) automatic, as incessantly having to change gear up and down said mountain roads is wearisome.
- The second language of the island is German. It is ridiculous that I was surprised at the popularity of the island with German tourists.
- Whilst Mallorca is a good place for a holiday, Menorca felt much more like somewhere nice to live. That’s, obvs, a very personal feeling, and it’s based on a short period of observation when the weather was perfect. Apparently it’s cold, windy and wet in the winter, thus maybe not worth leaving the UK for then, as you can experience that much more cheaply at home. But I really liked the Menorcan vibe.
- That said, beside some nice beaches, pleasant walks and the megalithic sites, there’s not a lot to do there, particularly if you’re relying on the buses to get around. It’s probably worth hiring a car if you want easily to experience the island’s highlights. We felt this particularly keenly as we were there in October, and the bus services to the extremities are very limited after the end of September.
- If we come again to the Balearics, we’re much more likely to stay in Menorca than Mallorca.
Three weeks, then, in three different places, each with its unique vibe and nicely complementing each other – major city, major tourist island, minor tourist island. We’ve seen facets of each that we hadn’t seen before and our lives are the better for it.