Your weekend in Menorca, Spain
Europe is sprinkled with magical islands harbouring ports, sandy beaches, fresh seafood and rich histories. Menorca is arguably one of the lesser-known of the Balearic Islands - with Ibiza's clubs and Mallorca's package holidays hogging the limelight - but this little island is quietly and steadily making itself known. It lures in couples looking for a chilled-out gateway and groups of friends wanting to explore this small part of Europe at their own pace. P.S. Drinking of wine is mandatory.
Ease yourself into the day with a boat trip, letting the sun warm your shoulders as you familiarise yourself with the area you have just arrived in, Port Mahon. The Yellow Catamaran is a good way to do this. Sit up on the open-air deck to take in the views and sparking water as the recorded voice tells you what you are looking at - from a lonely island with crumbling boundaries once used as a quarantine for those with contagious diseases, to the summer house where Lord Nelson is said to have holidayed with Lady Hamilton. When the boat anchors, you can head down the stairs to its glass-bottomed hulls to see the world lurking beneath the sea: swaying sea grass and shoals of tropical fish going about their day.
Menorca is a small island, but it's worth hiring a car so you can explore. Start by heading for the beach at Cala en Bosc on the other side of the island (still only about a 30-minute drive), stopping at Restaurant S'amarador in Ciutradella de Menorca for lunch along the way. Nothing beats sitting by the harbour side, tucking into freshly caught seafood - and here it is particularly good.
Once you reach the golden sands, don't be tempted to laze the day away; instead, join one of the (rather hot) instructors for a kayaking session. Paddle out and around the cove to reach hidden caves, ripe for snorkelling. Admittedly on our visit we were told not to swim in the water as it was jellyfish season; although that didn't stop us taking an impromptu dunk when our kayak capsized. We are happy to report we emerged sting-free, although we lost a large chunk of our dignity at sea thanks to the unladylike act of climbing back into a kayak while trying to keep one's bikini in place...
After that good workout, we deserved an amazing meal and a drink or 10. This in great supply at Barcelo Hamilton hotel in Cales Fonts. The food at its water-side restaurant, Sa Cova, is truly exquisite, and whatever you have (we recommend the lobster, egg and chips), be sure to finish it off with an iced Pomoda: a citrusy sorbet muddled with local gin. Seriously addictive. Head up to its rooftop spot, Blue Sky Bar, for after-dinner cocktails. Try one of their innovative gin and tonics infused with a variety of herbal teas.
Spend the night in your luxury king-size bed and have a peaceful slumber thanks to the hotel's no under-17s policy. Hoorah to that.
If you can tear yourself away from the rooftop Jacuzzis and day beds at Barcelo Hamilton, then 1. You have more will power than us, and 2. You should head into the town of Mahon, Menorca's capital, for a little exploring. To being the town to life we highly recommend hiring a guide from the tourist board, in particular a spritely chap fantastically named Fernando. A life-long resident, he is super passionate about his town and appears to know everyone and everything. Explore the town hall, the cobbled streets and the stunning old opera house, while learning the history of the town and quirky facts such as, according to Fernando at least, mayonnaise originates from Mahon. I t was called 'Mahonaise', but the French Duke who liked it so much he introduced it to the rest of Europe, pronounced it 'Mayonnaise'.
You absolutely have to spend a lazy afternoon at Binfadet Winery. Not only will they give you a free tour around the cellars, giving you an insight into the process that go into making a bottle of your favourite pionk, but you can take a pew on its delightful, leafy terrace, hemmed in by climbing vines rich with fruit, and sip away to your heart's content. Their chardonnay was our personal favourite, while we finished off our meal - fresh cheese, meats, olives, tomatoes, Spanish omelettes and thick, warm slabs of toast smeared in a divine wine marmalade - with a glass of the sweet Muscat wine and a few cheeky scoops of wine ice cream.
Although lying on our stomachs after that lot may not have been the best idea, it's impossible to resist checking in for a massage back at Barcelo. Not only that, but they actually use grape extract from the Binifadet Winery, so if wine wasn't already oozing out of your pores, it would now be smoothed into them in the form of a gentle scrub and lotion. And do you know what? Not only is wine great for guzzling, it's great for your skin too.
Quite possibly one of the coolest club locations we have come across, the Cova den Xoroi is literally in a cave, with its opening perched on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Sip a drink on its caved-out terrace area, which is the perfect spot to watch the sun sink behind the sea, before heading inside to party the night away until you see the sun re-appearing again. Simply unmissable.