all my heroes are weirdos

We're All Mad Here

The bicycle whore of Alaior

Today my gluteus maximus loves me; I’m back on a familiar saddle.

Despite lugging my beloved bicycle one thousand three hundred miles, there was a minor hiccup in the assembling operation which meant that for the first week or so I was borrowing one from the meditation centre.

It’s one of those ram-horned road racer bikes with sticky handles and the skinniest saddle. Face down, ass up, is not the way I like to ride and it’s done absolutely nothing for my posture, I’ve been walking round the place like the Hunchback of Menorca.

Sa Roca

So now I’ve been on this island fourteen days, cycled over four hundred kilometres, visited umpteen towns and countless beaches, I can safely say that Menorca is the perfect lump of land to explore on two wheels.

The roads here are often referred to as a fishbone. There’s one spine that runs from the new capital Mahon in the East to the old capital Cituadella in the West, and from that branches off lots of smaller roads to the various beaches and towns.

Sa Roca, where I’m staying, is located about one third of the way West from Mahon and is central in terms of North to South – my geography skills have taken a bit of a nose-dive since GCSE so if that explanation doesn’t make much sense, let’s just say it’s in the middle but a little to the right.

This relatively central location makes everywhere on the island accessible. However, the fact that it’s high up on a rock means that no matter how fun it is freewheeling out of there, you know the return journey will be one hell of an uphill climb.

Cami de Cucanya

Alaior is the closest town, just twenty-five minutes along the Cami de Cucanya, so whenever I get a few hours free from volunteering I tootle along this shaded path to experience life outside of the temple walls.

The Cami de Cucanya is a lot of fun to cycle; it’s a little bit like a bike park for big kids who appreciate greenery and scenery. It’s shaded by trees on either side whose branches kiss above your head, and surrounded by fields of crops on either side.

The route is a favourite route with the professionals, they zoom past you in all their fancy cycling gear at such a speed that they’re just a moving blur of gaudy lycra and bronzed muscles. There’s not a millimetre of fat on their bodies and they breathe as though they’re sat on the sofa having a cup of tea. It can either be totally inspirational or make you feel like a blimp of a human with a deflated soul. 

Tour of Alaior

As you leave the Cami de Cucanya, you take a left onto the main road and after about seven minutes of cycling, you’re at a beauty-full, well-kept cemetery and about to turn right into the town.

On your right there’s a horse riding centre with well-groomed mares, being paraded around in circles and to the left is a farm with yet another barbarous guard dog, hungry for some meat from a trespasser’s’ leg. The stone walls leading towards Alaoir are painted white on top, leading your eyes straight ahead to the small, gleaming white tower at the entrance to the town.

From a distance Alaior is nothing but bleached white stone buildings with cinnamon rooves, but as you get deeper into the steep and narrow cobbled streets, more and more colours begin to appear.

The first colour I noticed was the pretty pale lemon decoration around the door to the Convent of San Diego, contrasted against its frosted facades and guarded by two huge palm trees. As you walk further up the winding narrow streets, you start to notice the speckles of colour everywhere.

There are vibrant kaleidoscopic tiles lining the doorways, dark green worn out shutters sheltering every room from the blistering heat of the sun, small colourful house numbers, ornate painted letterboxes and old fashioned cast iron street lamps. And if you look up, there are rows and rows of rainbow coloured bunting dancing in the breeze above your head.

Although it’s dubbed the third capital of the island, no matter what time of day I wander the streets of Alaior, it always feels like a little bit of a ghost town. The only notable noises I’ve heard were the incessant bell chimes of Sant’Eulalia one Sunday morning at ten, and the soft chatter of coffee-sippers in Plaça Nova just before lunch.

It was founded in 1304 and still houses a few architectural gems from that time.

There’s the convent of San Diego I mentioned earlier, known for its beautiful cloister Sa Lluna, a construct of the island’s colonial past. The Can Salort Palace, now the headquarters of the University of the Balearic Islands in Menorca and the small, whitewashed church of San Pedro nestled somewhere in between the rooftops. Chiesa di Sant’Eulalia rests upon it’s highest peak and can be seen for miles around. Inside it’s dark and a slow moving tornado of dust swirls around, sparkling in the sunlight that creeps through the tiny windows.

But apart from the ancient architecture and testing your calf muscles out on the cobbled slopes, it seems there’s little left to do other than eat, drink and be merry. The whole place reminds you of the simplicity of life and a skill that’s been mastered in plenty of places in the Mediterranean….

…the art of doing nothing but enjoying everything

 

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