Last night was WILD.
I wore lipstick, didn’t get home until 9.30pm and I had one non-alcoholic beer.
The Streets are alive with the sound of music
Whenever I’ve cycled to any of Menorca’s inland towns they’ve been so insanely quiet I thought they may have been deserted. Their dark green shutters were always closed and chiming church bells seemed to be the only sounds that echoed through their winding white-washed streets.
But every Thursday of the month, Es Mercadal comes alive.
From six thirty onward, every balmy Thursday evening throughout the summer, hundreds of stalls are set up along the small streets of the town selling fruit, traditional street food and all things artisan.
There are stalls selling handmade jewellery, leather purses and handbags, hand-printed and naturally dyed clothing, the famous avarca sandals, screenprints, candle holders made of driftwood and all sorts of other little creative masterpieces using up what natural resources the island has to offer.
The streets are lit by the hazy skies that calmly morph from one pretty pastel shade of heaven to another. Above your head there are rows of small white light bulbs bobbing in the soothing breeze and as the sky shades deepen to indigo, the moon illuminates to match.
After a month living the confines of the meditation centre and spending most of my days out at quiet coves, the liveliness of el mercat de nit was a pleasant shock to the senses.
People. There were people everywhere.
The artisan stall sellers tended be in their late twenties and early thirties; everything about them gave away their lifestyle. Healthy, holistic and spiritual beings with yoga-esque bodies and glowing skin. The kind of people who don’t go anywhere without their yoga mat, whose homes smell of Palo Santo and whose smiles start somewhere in their stomach.
Everybody seemed to look like a model from some sort of fashion magazine for free spirits.
The men were tall and tanned with beards that have never been introduced to a trimmer and hair that probably hasn’t seen shampoo since 1986. They seemed to be leaning casually against walls with one foot pressed up against them or lazing casually on collapsible wooden chairs, modelling their latest bohemian basics.
They were wearing things like plain cotton t-shirts, loose linen shirts and long linen trousers, decorated with old tattered scarves draped around their necks and beads around their wrists. They had that attitude about them -that kind of sexy nonchalance toward life that makes you want to know what they’re about.
The women were a whole other level of ridiculous.
Their faces were naturally beauty-full and illuminated by their warmth. Slinky clothes draped from their bodies and their hair was effortlessly thrown up into shabby top-knots and loose waves that would take hours for runway stylists to perfect.
Their styles were a colourful blend of Far East and local influence and they somehow made those loose-fitted Aladdin trousers with crotches that almost touch the floor look flattering.
Behind the other stalls selling fruit, earthenware and street food, there was a totally different crowd.
There were stereotypical old Mediterranean men with beer bellies that make them look fourteen months pregnant, sitting there in silent contentment, watching the world go by. Then there were the older Menorcan women, the mamas of the kitchen, wearing bright coloured skirts and aprons covered in flour, nattering amongst themselves.
but they all had one thing in common; everybody had a smile on their face.
Arts & Crafts
My former Squanderlusting-self would have been in spending heaven and I would have walked away at least hundred euros lighter.
But my new-found frugal, minimalist, conscious-consumer-self just loved admiring the craft from afar. I saw plenty of things I loved – prints for the walls in the house I don’t have, hand-dyed crop tops and plain linen jumpsuits for wardrobes i don’t own and lots of other pretty little things I can live without.
These days, whenever temptation to buy crosses my mind I repeat my new mantra, grâce à William Morris…Have nothing in your backpack that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
Having said that, The Idol had wired me thirty euros and told me to buy something I adore from wherever I travel. So as she wished, I kept my eye out for some sort of cherishable keepsake.
I found the most magical stall of handmade floral hair accessories, something I’ve been obsessed with since the days of making daisy chains on the grass at school. They were not only handmade, but made with real pressed flowers.
I fell in love with one duck egg blue piece in an instant and so twenty euros and a few crushed petals later, it was all mine. It’s probably the most impractical accessory you could ever think of for a reckless traveller planning to live out of a backpack for the foreseeable, but I’m okay with that.
Food is music to the body, music is food to the heart
After strolling around for a while we plonked ourselves down to sip a non-alcoholic beer and gulp down the atmosphere.
Scents of fresh fruits, salty cheeses, bread and incense wafted over from the stalls and the mix of holiday sweat and aftershave (a guilty pleasure of mine) drifted over from passers-by.
There was a live band on stage playing Rat Pack classics and reggae but everything had a Spanish twist. Kids ran about, playing in the square while the parents sat on plastic chairs enjoying their wine and tapping their feet.
On our way back through the market, heading home, we tested out the local delicacies. I tasted every cheese from every cheese stall, at least three times over and still couldn’t pick a favourite.
Now that my veggie game is strong I wasn’t even remotely tempted by the meats, in fact I was a tiny little bit repulsed. I’ve had sobrasada before, and it was incredible back then when I thoroughly enjoyed eating dead animals. It’s cured pork mixed with paprika, salt and lots of spices with a texture that is akin to nduja – almost like a spreadable chorizo. But I left that and all the other cured meats for the carnivores.
What I did test out was a flaon de queso, a cheese pastry which was almost sponge-like in texture and packed with flavour, and an empanada de spinaca from the next stall.
Stomachs and hearts full, we headed back to base and said Buenas Noches to Es Mercadal.