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Menorca Britannia.

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Despite numbers being down as the date coincided with another event which some members had already arranged to attend, twenty lucky people boarded the Norbus for this promised trip.

Bryce and Sheila Lyons, ever hospitable, welcomed us aboard and Bryce, the ‘incurable’ tour guide, began our day with a lively résumé of Menorca’s troubled history – particularly the various attacks of Ciutadella over the centuries by successive invaders and, especially, that by the Turkish Ottomans in 1558. He explained the rise to power of the ruling ‘houses’ of the island and their desire to construct impressive palaces on the green-field site outside the city of Ciutadella (now the big square with the obelisk).

The weather was exquisite and we had a lovely drive down the ME1. The island was looking its best as we travelled past luxuriant road verges and green fields full of cows recently released from their summer incarceration.

At 9.45 we arrived, having approached the centre through narrow streets from the ringroad. First stop was the Salord Palace, the building to the right of the pedestrian entrance into the main central shopping area. The palace is no longer inhabited apart from during the famous Saint Joan Fiestas, when the balcony provides a magnificent vantage point to view proceedings. Nevertheless, the enclosed garden – a haven of quiet in a busy city – the furnishings, paintings, exhibits and general atmosphere evoke a sense of grandeur in a bygone era. Even the big old kitchen was on show with its original ovens.

Almost too quickly we had to leave for the Olivera Palace, another treat with an impressive staircase, and exhibits of beautiful suits, saddles and regalia worn by the family at the fiestas. We were encouraged to take a rambling tour of the house. There were drawing rooms lined with portraits and boasting impressive wall and ceiling paintings, a dining room, bedrooms, a bathroom - always fascinating to see a glimpse of how things used to be.

We were privileged that both buildings had been opened especially for us having closed at the end of the summer season although either palace would justify a more thorough visit.

At 11.15 we met outside the Cathedral and were given a generous welcome by Acting Bishop Gerard Villalonga (past Parish Priest of Es Roser Church in Es Castell). He introduced us to Juan who gave us an inspirational tour of the Cathedral – it was a joy to be shown around by someone so enthusiastic about their subject. Like so many religious establishments, it has suffered from a succession of damaging events, marauding invaders and most recently the Spanish Civil War. Originally built on the site of the old Arab mosque, it has been lovingly rebuilt and refurbished more than once. We were able to see the transitions it had been through both by descending underground and having a comprehensive tour of the roof. Additionally we had a privileged view of some of the Cathedral’s treasures, including beautiful precious metal vessels and objects and exquisitely worked vestments.

After a brief coffee we met up at the obelisk to be led up to the viewpoint on top of the Governor’s Palace, now the City Hall. The weather was perfect so the view of the harbour and the city behind against a clear blue sky was spectacular.

After lunch at the Club Nautic, Bryce had been given special access and the key to the Torre de Sant Nicolau. After a dizzying climb up a narrow spiral staircase, the views across the harbour, town and the island were spectacular, indeed so good was the weather that Mallorca was clearly visible. Eventually we reluctantly climbed down and onto the waiting coach for the trip back to Mahon.

Lunch, incidentally, was a magnificent feast in a spectacular location. Club Nautic surpassed themselves – so much so – that the combination of such a full and interesting day together with the quality and generosity of the restaurant meant that on the journey home, little could be heard above the snoring. Thanks are due to all concerned for organising and providing such a lovely day.

Written by members David Smith & Annie Roberts Of the Asociación Menorca Britannia

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