Came to Menorca for a meditation retreat, broke free and made the local headlines – I’m not sure anybody could have predicted that one.
The day before the Treasure Hunt began, I sat outside a café in the north corner of Plaça del Born with my accomplice Louise. We scribbled out homemade posters on A4 paper while testing out our first ensaïmadas, a local pastry in the shape of canine excrement which we later found out is made using pork lard – so oops, there goes my vegetarianism (again).
We spent the whole afternoon aimlessly wandering the cobbled streets, dipping in and out of little bohemian shops, pottering around courtyards and nosying inside ancient buildings.
Ciutadella is one of those cities where you don’t need to exhaust yourself running around with a map, ticking off the sights and making sure you’ve got a selfie in front of each one. On their own, maybe some of the pretty little streets could be nothing particularly out of the ordinary, but collectively they make Ciutadella feel like something special.
The majority of buildings are gothic and crumbling gracefully. They’re a beautiful almost peach-coloured stone and some are speckled with moss and mould in the same charming way that freckles bedeck summer cheeks.
Down some of the narrow streets you’ll see the typical white-washed buildings with dark green shutters but down others you’ll find every house and every shutter is a different shade of Wes Anderson cinematography. There are tall iron streetlamps and palm trees, mosaic tiles line doorways and if you look up every so often you’ll see a small Catholic shrine embedded into the wall above a doorway.
As night fell we ambled around the streets of the old town once more taking in the lantern-lit ambience. There was a night market on at Plaça del Pins selling all sorts of locally made crafts, slabs of sobrassada and Menorca’s famous salty cheeses. The square was swarming with families enjoying their evening meals while children played noisily under starry skies, ring fenced in safely by the towering pines.
After a few non-committal cheese tastings, we walked along the harbour where the atmosphere was much more serene. Couples leaned over their candlelit tables to hold hands while the moored up boats beside them bobbed up and down in the dark waters, serenaded by guitar. We found a cute little Italian restaurant down a side street near to the cathedral and perched ourselves outside to nibble on some pan con tomate and listen to the church bells chime.
Every quaint little corner we’d turned, we’d decorated Ciutadella with our handcrafted banners.
The Floral-Trousered Philanthropist
The next morning I was up with the birds as usual, but this time it wasn’t to go for a run.
It was 6am and I had precisely four hours to cycle into town, lock up my bicycle, cover it with signs, put up a few more posters, think of five clues, leave those clues dotted around Ciutadella and write a blog post with instructions.
To some people I guess that would be a little bit stressful, but to me it was just as exciting as if I was taking part in the treasure hunt myself.
So fuelled with adrenaline, I bombed around the city in my floral capri trousers, armed with a marker pen, some business cards with my website address on them and a roll of sellotape. I finished my task with literally with seconds to spare, sat myself down outside Bar Imperi for a caffeinated celebration and pressed send on the first clue.
The hunt started with a quote which took participants to the twenty-two metre obelisk that stands tall in Plaça del Born, then on to the steps of the museum, to the Santa Clara convent, the market at Plaça de la Libertat, the municipal art gallery on Carrer des Seminari and finally to the Santa Maria cathedral where I’d hidden the padlock key, sellotaped to the underside of a public bench facing the main entrance.
The Floral-Trousered Philanthropist
Louise and I sat on the steps of Santa Maria watching people walk past and almost everybody would stop to take a look.
Some people just grinned and carried on walking, some pointed and beckoned family and friends over, some took photographs and others could be seen immediately retrieving their phones from their pockets and scrolling through my post to find clue número uno.
There was one boy in particular we noticed who was overtly excited about the whole thing; he hovered around the bicycle Googling out the first clue and then off he went on his mission to hunt down the treasure.
I had to take my bus to Maó at 1.30pm, but about ten minutes into the journey I was tagged in something on Instagram. It was Alesandro, the boy we’d seen start the hunt a few hours earlier, and he was now the proud owner of a semi-new bicycle.
Although I wasn’t there to see him collect his prize, Louise had magically happened to wander back past the cathedral just at that moment when he unlocked the bicycle and managed to capture the whole thing on camera.
If I’d made one hundred euros selling my bicycle on eBay, I would have smiled, digitally pocketed the cash and that would be that. Creating a treasure hunt, seeing peoples’ excited reactions to my idea and finding out that an adorable boy raced around the city for hours solving the clues before anybody else, and won, is a value that cannot possibly be paid out in banknotes.
It left me with happy tears in my eyes and an overwhelming sense of goodness for days.
Moral of the story? Be a nice human and do something to really make somebody smile today.