|Menorca / Minorca|
By Russell and Valda England.
We had a great relaxing 2 week holiday in Menorca in September. Although booking the holiday didn't go quite so well, see booking nightmare - its a bit of a moan about Thomson Holidays.
Leaving the UK
The flight was great. Everyone at Birmingham airport and JMC were really helpful. It was the first time we had used the wheelchair for a holiday but everything was sorted out. We were able to use the chair right up to the door of the plane. We were in the first row (which had been pre-booked for us) so we didn't have to walk very far and the attendant said just ask if we needed oxygen. On arrival in Menorca, we were asked to wait for the ambulance transport. Unfortunately, this had just broken down and 2 men carried Val in her wheelchair down the stairs. She was very nervous about it, but found it funny afterwards. On reflection, she could have walked down the stairs (getting up them is the problem!) but they were so nice she didn't want to say anything. We then zoomed through the airport, picked up a hire car and went to the hotel. (There are plenty of car hire desks at the airport - we paid about 250 UK pounds for an air conditioned Corsa for 2 weeks)
Son Bou is on the south coast of Menorca and at over 2 miles long, is the longest beach on the island. The drive took about 25 minutes - after getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road! We were staying at the Sol Elite Milanos/Pinguinos - right on the beach. We booked into reception and the customer services manager came to see us straight away. She explained that Carburos Metalicos had phoned to ask what time we would arrive and would deliver the oxygenator about an hour later. The machine was delivered without any trouble, which was a huge relief and it was the same machine as the one at home - great!
The sun was shining, everything had worked out, we just got straight into relaxing mode.
The weather was fantastic, bright, sunny, very hot days with a nice breeze. I was pleased we had a car with air conditioning. We only had one afternoon of rain, it was torrential!
The hotel food was great - it was a buffet service, just help yourself and there was a good selection. I had never seen Val eat so much before!
The hotel was very good, especially for families and children. There was lots of things to do during the day including shooting, archery, skittles, etc. Next to the hotel, sailing boats (dinghies and catamarans) were for hire and there was a diving school too. There was also a big pool. There are ramps all through the hotel, so pushing the wheelchair wasn't a problem.
Unfortunately, outside the hotel wasn't very suitable for wheelchairs. The beach is lovely, very big but also wide which meant it was a struggle to get across to the sea. At the back of the hotel was a complex with restaurants, bars and gift shops but it was built on a hill. Some places were inaccessible by wheelchair, some of the pavements were narrow and broken and everything was uphill. Car parking is also limited and very tight between cars.
Because we had 2 weeks, we really wanted to investigate the rest of the island. Next stop was Santa Tomas. This was a perfect place for wheelchairs and there was plenty of parking spaces. They have recently built a walkway all along the front between the hotels/apartments and the sand dunes. It was lovely to walk along, which we did very often. There are also boardwalks from the walkway right onto the beach. I could literally take Val straight onto the beach. So we spent most of our holiday sunning ourselves at Santa Tomas. We will probably stay there next year.
Dialysis was at the state hospital - Hospital Virge del Toro in the capital Mahon. There are about 8 machines, 6 with Parker-Knoll chairs and 2 with beds. Val was dialysing Sat-Tue-Thu for the holiday and there were only 2 other patients on those days: 1 was Menorcan (or Menorquin) and the other was on holiday from Valencia.
There were always 2 nurses and a Nephrologist available. Val said the nurses were really friendly and extremely nice, they also gave Val a chance to practice her Spanish. There was air conditioning and Val watched the Sydney Olympics on TV (in Spanish) The atmosphere was very relaxed, in fact the nurses used to tell the doctor to make the tea!
The hospital is on top of the harbour cliffs. Although there wasn't a view from the dialysis room unfortunately. There is a nice walk along the harbour cliff from the hospital, through the indoor market/cloisters and onto the main shopping area. There are plenty of nice views across the harbour.
There are a little car parks either side of the hospital. Or if you can walk, there is also plenty of parking along the harbour walls. My advice for getting to the hospital is to take the harbour side road, go up the steep road at the end and take a right. The hospital is signposted from there. Finding the hospital through Mahon might prove tricky. There are steps in front of the entrance, but there is a lift (elevator) in the entrance underneath the steps.
There are a couple of cafes opposite the hospital and a Spar supermarket nearby - out the hospital, turn right then left, Spar is in the next square. There is a cold water bottle machine just inside the hospital next to the lift (elevator). I couldn't find a chemist (pharmacy) nearby, only chemists are allowed to sell paracetamol.
Mahon (Spelt Mao locally) is the capital of Menorca. Mayonnaise (Mahon-aise) was created here during the French occupation. Gin and Lemon (Xoriguer) was created here during the British occupation - apparently it is more similar to Dutch gin rather than London gin. There is a gin distillery on the harbour side.
Mahon is the second largest natural harbour after Pearl Harbour and was an important strategic harbour for the various navies that occupied it. The British occupied the island for most of the 18th century and many of the buildings have a Georgian/British flavour, especially Es Castell (formerly George Town).
Along the harbour side are lots of restaurants and cafe bars. Our favourites were Indigo and La Minerva. Indigo is a little cafe, run by a French couple that make savoury and sweet pancakes and lovely tea in a proper teapot with tea cups and tea strainer. The Minerva was a bit pricey compared to other restaurants on the island, but the food was superb, very well presented and well worth it for a special evening. We opted to dine on the floating pontoon overlooking the harbour - although one of the waiters very nearly fell in!
There are plenty of shops in Mahon and there is an open air market on Tuesdays. Almost everything closes about 2pm for the siesta. There is a nice walk from the harbour, although it is quite steep. It winds up from where the cruise ships dock, through the main street to the open air market at the end.
A casino is being built on the harbour side which will be good for evening entertainment. It was due to be finished this year, but it wasn't finished when we were there (Most building work is only permitted during the Winter). There is a hotel nearby called Hotel Port Mahon, which is also within walking distance of the hospital and has terrific views of the harbour - it looked very expensive though!
Menorca (the local Catalan spelling, Minorca is the national Castilian spelling) is the second largest of the Balearic Islands and about 1/3rd the size of Majorca. The Balearics are off the East coast of Spain in the Mediterranean. Menorca is also the eastern most part of Spain.
We went to Menorca for the first time last year. We had been to Majorca for dialysis a few times and also Tenerife, but last year we fancied a change. It is a lovely island, very very quiet and lots of nice beaches - in fact it has more beaches than the rest of the Balearics put together.
We toured most of the island, usually on the half days. Ciutadella is the old capital and worth a walk through the quaint cobble stone streets - it looks very Spanish. There is also a small but pretty harbour and Majorca can be seen from the headland. There is a cyber cafe in one of the main squares.
Most of the island can be seen from the top of Monte Toro, which is a hill almost in the centre of the island. There is a monastery and a gift shop at the top.
There is a lovely horse display on Wednesday evenings at a riding school on the road to Cala Galdana. These are the famous jet black stallions that are used during the festivals at the end of June. It is considered good luck to touch the horses heart as they rear up on their hind legs.
There is a Jazz jamming session (musicians are welcome to join in) in San Climente on Tuesday evenings which finishes about 1am. There are also trotting races in Mahon and Ciutadella on Saturdays.
Other favourite places were Cala Galdana on the South coast, Es Castell next to Mahon and Es Grau in the North (lots of ducks).
We never experienced any trouble on our holiday, there are no street or beach sellers (they aren't allowed onto the island) and it is a very safe place to walk around. The only exception are the numerous sun loungers, they and the umbrellas cost 800 pesetas each - 2400 pesetas which is about 10 UK pounds. Nice for a treat now and again, but we bought a couple of airbeds and our own umbrella.
The journey home
We got up late for our journey home (surprise, surprise) and only just made it to the airport. At one point I was pushing Val so quickly that the wheelchair was on 2 wheels. We were further delayed because I couldn't find the entrance for the hire car parking (even more frustrating when I am normally exceptionally good at navigating). But we made it with minutes to spare. This time the ambulance was working okay. We boarded a long looking bus that had rail track for the wheelchair wheels. We could see a ramp at the front of the bus and thought that would go up - but we were quite surprised when the whole bus went up into the air and the front door almost touched the aircraft door.
The weather for the flight home wasn't very good, so the plane flew at a higher altitude to avoid the turbulence. Val noticed the difference in air pressure and found it difficult to breathe. She was relieved to have the onboard oxygen. The oxygen was in a small cylinder that looked very thick and contained about 3 hours worth of oxygen.
We had a great time - very relaxing, nothing to worry about and perfect weather. Menorca is a lovely, quiet island, with lots of nice beaches and perfect for a relaxing holiday - take plenty of good books.
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