Es Mercadal i Fornells

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May 26th 2010
Published: May 27th 2010
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Our fifth day began with our first taste of something nutritious on this vacation, bananas! Once freshened up it was time to get to business and visit two cities in the central region of the island, Es Mercadal. We would have to again depend on the bus system, 3 of them this time, which of course only led to failure after failure and countless hours of waiting. We caught our first bus outside the hotel with little difficulty and arrived in Ciutadella before 10. We then managed to miss our bus to Es Mercadal and so had to walk around a bit doing nothing. Once arriving in Es Mercadal (the name of both the region and city) we found out that the bus schedule was a lie and that we’d have about two hours to kill before bussing to the northern coast to Fornells. Fine.

Es Mercadal, with a population of some 2,000 people, was given market trading rights around the year 1301 by King James II of Mallorca. It is believed to be from this that the name Es Mercadal developed. It is fairly central on the island halfway between Ciutadella and Maó and located at the base of Monte Toro, the island’s highest point. There is a small sanctuary to the Virgin Mary at the top of this mountain but unfortunately mountain-climbing was not on our itinerary.

The town itself was very cute and white-washed with what seemed to be many a sweet shop on every street. One of the main Balearic producers of baked goods, Villalonga, seemed to have a place here as well. We couldn’t help but buy a pack of carquinyoles, little crunchy almond cookies (there’s also plain and chocolate varieties) to occupy our mouths. They were tasty enough but I much preferred the bigger, softer amargos from a few days prior.

We continued through the small winding streets, visited the Church of Sant Martí, and eventually ended up at this Artesan center. Unfortunately it was a disappointment and mainly displayed how different boat parts were produced and then had some locally produced ceramics, leather goods, and children’s crap. Oh well. We’re both craving ceramics, so at some point we’ll have to find a legit place to buy them.

At 1:30 our bus was supposed to leave for Fornells but - SHOCKING - after 45 minutes of waiting it never showed up. We ended up just taking a cab for the maybe 10-15 minute journey north to the sea coast. Why we didn’t do this earlier we have no idea. Arriving in Fornells it was a breath of fresh air - a beautiful port, hustle and bustle, and wondrous blue water all around us. Sigh…

Next it was time to get down to business eating-wise. We had avoided caldereta, Menorca’s famous lobster stew, for it being quite costly, but rather irritated after our bus fiasco we decided we needed to suck it up a blow a sh*t ton of money and eat and drink like kings. Done and done. We started with some grilled asparagus drizzled with a maó cheese sauce (were it not for the cheese our bodies may have gone into shock from a green vegetable) and eggplant stuffed with shrimp and fish. We also ordered a bottle of white from the same Garnatxa grapes as our favorite wine back in Andorra.

We were seated at a lovely table just at the edge of the port where we could feel the sea breeze and enjoy the sights of all the scary tourists. We also knew we had chosen the right restaurant thanks to the large number of old Catalan people absolutely feasting there. Anyway, there was apparently some “confusión” in the kitchen, so we got a free round of fried txipirones (squid) while we awaited our lobster stew. Ok!

Then, it came…a giant vat of lobster stew. The waitress put pieces of crisp bread in the bottom of each of our bowls, then ladled us each giant pieces of lobster and broth. Oh the life we live…They don’t call it spiny lobster for nothing, as cracking the bits and pieces of lobster could have been a rather bloody endeavor, but it was totally worth it. The broth was not too heavy, definitely tomato-based, and the massive chunks of lobster meat perfect. There was enough for us to each get two rounds of soup. Nice and full, not to mentioned buzzed, we continued on our merry way.

Fornells itself was cuter than Es Mercadal, though half the size, and we enjoyed walking along the water, visiting the remains of the old 16th Century Castel de Sant Antoni de Fornells used as a defense against the Barbary pirates. Continuing along we saw the Torre de Fornells, one of the largest defence towers on the island built during the British era between 1801 and 1802 with the aim to monitor and protect the entrance to the port of Fornells. There was also a small Lourdes shrine, but to be honest it was kind of pathetic.

Exhausted after our long day of travel, we started the tedious journey back to Los Delfines, first catching the bus (it chose to exist this time) back to Es Mercadal, then getting back to Ciutadella. Our bus from there literally pulled away as we got to the bus plaza so we were forced to sit and have a round of pomades, the Menorcan gin and lemon drink typical of the island. They were tasty but pretty weak - we make better ones in the hotel ourselves. We spent the rest of the evening snacking on cheese, ham, and sausage, finishing the ensaïmada, and battling the 3 or 4 random power outages that prevented us from watching the Lady Gaga episode of Glee. What a day!

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28th May 2010

It sounds like the lobster stew indulgence was worth it, not to mention the terrifc views each place you eat seems to have. Run into many British tourists lately?

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