A Week in Menorca

Introduction

Just after noon on Friday 16th June 2017 Debbie and I arrived back at Cardiff airport having just spent a week in Menorca at the Los Delfines hotel, which is Catalan for “the Dolphins”.

It is also the name of the red coloured district around the hotel, which is marked as a ringed “>” in the street map below.

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It was our first visit to Menorca and also our first experience of “all inclusive” package holiday from Thomas Cook which cost us a very reasonable £400 each.

Day 1

We got up at 2am listening to the early general election results on radio.  Our daughter Emma had stayed up wanting to see us off before we left for our 6am flight from Cardiff airport.

After saying our goodbyes to Emma and drinking the coffees she’d made us we departed Llanfoist in the Galaxy just before 3am, stopping only once on the A465 at a deserted Brynmawr Asda cashpoint, when it started raining!

As we got to the A470 near the Abercynon turnoff, I had to turn election results off the radio to concentrate on driving through an immense downpour.  Fortunately it seemed to stop as we neared Barry but as we entered the airport car park just after 4am the heavens opened up again.

We’d prepaid the car park right next to the terminal building, but despite running as fast as we could with our two large red suitcases we still got drenched!  Fortunately the terminal was warm so we soon dried off and joined the short check-in queue full of excited holiday makers.

We got through security quickly and headed to the bar for a celebratory glass of wine and boarded MT1206 at 5.30am.  Compared to Heathrow, Cardiff airport is so quiet and relaxed…

We sat next to each other in seats 15B and 15C on the A320 plane, although Debbie took the window seat as soon as the doors shut as the flight wasn’t full and I shuffled across to join her.  Pushback was on time and we celebrated a perfect take off in the sunshine with some more wine before tucking into our pre-ordered James Martin cooked breakfast!

Two hours later we banked steeply to land in Menorca’s Mahonn airport and after a short taxi we were able to disembark via a ramp direct into the air conditioned terminal building.  After a short queue for passport control and collecting our luggage we were met by the local Thomas Cook airport rep who quickly allocated us to our coach a short walk away.

The coach driver started his engine and the air-con as we arrived and loaded our luggage while we boarded.  We couldn’t help but compare this stress free comfortable experience with the chaos at Rhodes airport we’d experienced the year before on our Pefkos holiday.

Bus 55 ready to depart…
First selfie!

As we made our way across the island Menorca seemed much greener and a lot more hilly than I’d expected with lots of small enclosed fields with dairy cows.  Just under an hour later at 11am we arrived at the hotel where we were greeted by Grace the Thomas Cook hotel rep with a glass of cava!


We had to pay a sustainable tourism tax of 23.10 euros to the hotel on arrival but no other extras for air-con, food or local soft or alcoholic drinks during our stay as we were on an all inclusive package.  We were asked to wear shiny blue wristbands to make sure we weren’t asked for payment during our stay.

As we’d arrived so early in the day, we had to wait 30 mins for our room to made ready, but our luggage was stored away at reception and we headed first to the restaurant which was open for mid morning snacks of hot dog, burgers and salad!  Since lunch was due at 12.30pm we decided to quickly head to the bar and had a choice of wines on tap, chilled cava, gin and tonic,  beers, coffees and ice creams all free of charge!

Me realising that going all inclusive whilst maintaining weight is an impossible dream!
Debbie looking pleased with the holiday so far in the outside dining area next to the restaurant!

Back inside after a quick snack and drink there was still a queue of people waiting to check-in but Grace spotted us hovering so she got our keycard for us without further waiting!  Our room 104 was in the main hotel as opposed to the outside apartments.

After taking a lift up to the first floor we discovered our room had the air-con turned up to the max, an ensuite bathroom with a power shower over a bath and toilet with a large sink area with a hair dryer.

The flat screen TV was attached to the wall in front of our bed and had both ITV and BBC English channels available from where we discovered the final general election result. There were loads of hanging space and shelves to put away our clothes .  We also had free wifi which allowed us to check on Molly and Hamish on their kennel’s Facebook page…

Easy-grass at the kennels too!

Result!  🙂

So we unpacked and changed into our swimming gear and headed out to large pool and secured two sun loungers nearby.  It was very hot by now so we plastered ourselves in sun tan lotion had two dips in the pool followed by two more wines from the poolside bar!

Eventually the temptation of lunch became too great and I piled on various local meats with salad drenched in olive oil and white wine vinegar, onions and pickles and cold filtered water to rehydrate, then back to our room for a restful short sleep.

Afterwards we made our way down to reception for the local street map where we tried to navigate our way to the main entertainment area called the “strip”.  Alas my map reading hasn’t improved since leaving the territorials so we walked the wrong way past a  local “Top Markets” supermarket before heading back to the hotel and going the right way.

We passed lots of bars and restaurants which made us realise just how much we were saving going down the all inclusive route but I still fancied some grilled prawns being an inveterate seafood lover!  Alas I only saw some on a rather confusing street menu that seems to go with a baked potato and looked rather expensive so I passed it by.  The sun by now was very hot so with sweat dripping we made our way back to the hotel to get showered & changed ready for the night’s entertainment after our evening meal.

Mealtimes were very well spread time-wise and varied each day

Much to my surprise and delight on offer for dinner was grilled prawns which were so delicious I went back and had a second fuller plate, this time without the superfluous salad accompaniment!

Plate no. 1 of grilled prawns, skipping the salad on the next…

We ate this delicious meal on the outside terrace adjacent to the restaurant overlooking the stage and entertainments.  For the young children aged between 3 and 4 they had a mini disco each night with usually three excellent young entertainers called Egon, Megan and Abbey for dancing and singing, along with a bear called “Bernie” and a giraffe called “Lollo” for cuddles…

Lollo cuddling the kids, Debbie & I preferred Bernie…

Some of the younger & older couples hadn’t realised that there’d be lots of young pre-school children on holiday with their parents and grandparents but we didn’t mind as all it did was whet our appetites for those long wished for grandchildren.  Hint hint! 🙂

There was also a quiz each night and Debbie won one round by guessing “feel like a woman” to qualify for ticket no. 23 to win a bottle of cava through a lucky dip.  We commiserated with each other by ordering 2 glasses of “free” cava from the bar when number 28 was chosen. 🙂


The act following the draw was great fun called “puppet mania” which was more like a pantomime with shrieks from the kids (and some adults) whenever a green caterpillar appeared along the top of the stage!

Day 2

This morning’s breakfast consisted of sausages, bacon, scrambled egg, tomato, beans and buttered toast & was washed down with a glass of chilled cava…

After returning to our room we got changed into our swim-ware and digested the food by lounging on the sunbeds along with the occasional dip in the pool fortified with a number of librations from the pool bar.

Life is good!  Spot multiple empty plastic cups by my right foot…

At 10.30am we headed back inside for an interesting talk that Grace gave on Menorca and the various trips on offer and the local sights to see.  We thought the suggested walk to Pirate’s Cove beach at Cala en Blanes sounded interesting and even contemplated waking from there along the coastal path to Ciutadella!

Subtle approach to merchandising Bernie & Lollo at Grace’s talk on Menorca

Numerous trips to the pool bar afterwards and the odd plunge into the pool preceded lunch which we took outside again this time with rose wine.  Lots of meat and salad for me and pieces of fish, chicken and asparagus for Debs.

Afterwards some of the older kids got cuddles from Bernie and Lollo…

Bernie my friendly bear

Debbie being unfaithful on our holiday
Obligatory selfie of the big kids!

Back to our sun-beds Debbie started chatting with two Geordie couples in self catering apartments nearby whose husbands were both ex-infantry soldiers.  I remember one was called “Moans” by his wife for some strange reason…  Deb went inside one of their apartments which had very powerful air-con & were ice cool.

They were regular visitors to the hotel and told us that the air-con (and outside parasols) had only been installed   about three years ago, which made me wonder how people had coped with the heat previously.

Eventually they left to go out for a meal so we moved our things to the side of the pool and bathed for half an hour before returning to our room for a shower and change of clothes before dinner.

The England vs Scotland World Cup qualifying match was on TV in our room but we left for our Tex-Mex menu with tacos, avocado, asparagus, fish, chicken and my favourite pieces of very lightly cooked sushi of salmon and tuna with green wasabi mustard!

Feeling sated and relaxed we then decided to walk to Pirate’s Cove by turning right at Irish bar, through the blue archway and passing lots of local families eating out in shade of their gardens.

Alas it was very hot and Debbie’s feet hurt in her new shoes.  The beach at Cala en Blanes was rather small and we were a bit tired.

So ignoring the restaurant and bar, managed we were told by an absent dreadlocked Captain Jack Sparrow, we returned to hotel where I was persuaded to make a paper aeroplane in a competition to see who could fly it the furthest game from the stage.  Alas I didn’t win…

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One, two, three doh!

Next we watched a medley of 21st century pop songs from three of the Thomas Cook local entertainments team.  Megan (below right) and Abby were great singers but their male counterpart a very tall Egon (below left) sang a little flat as the songs chosen didn’t really suit his voice, but he made me laugh until my sides were splitting!  The kids and Debbie and I loved the three of them as they were so energetic and hard working and to be honest made the stay there a lot of fun.

Back to room late after lots of draught San Miguel beer we decided to go to Ciutidella tomorrow after breakfast and take a taxi there and back.  One last glimpse of Facebook at the dogs back in Wales showed that Hamish may be having a slight bit of bother with one of his friends…

Molly trying not to look…

Day 3

We awoke after a good nights sleep to have a leisurely breakfast and order a taxi from reception to take us to the town centre square in Ciutadella where it would be easy to find a taxi rank for the return journey.  After 5 minutes the large minivan taxi arrived and we were glad despite a single fare of 9 Euros that we’d declined the option of the coastal walk!

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The morning was really hot so we were amazed when the driver closed the front passenger window and I promptly opened the rear driver side window to maintain some ventilation!  After a ten minute drive we arrived in the beautiful surroundings of Ciutadella which historically was the capital of Menorca.

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Overlooking the marina with her eyes closed!
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What a huge erection!

After misreading the street map again and getting lost we accidentally decided to go down to the marina (we had intended visiting the cathedral) which was full of locals drinking hot coffee and gossiping.

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In the evening I guessed (correctly) that these establishments would become seafood restaurants but that was not to be on this particular visit.

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Cleanly shaven now but still wearing a bum bag & Asda £2.50 white t-shirts!

After numerous wrong turnings and dashed hopes from a number of friendly locals we still hadn’t found the cathedral so we collapsed down on a shaded street cafe called Panaderia I Cafeteria.

We opted for a delicious glass of “capuccino leche”, quite unlike those we find at home in the UK, for only 1.50 Euros each.  Funnily enough the waitress was English from Essex and she explained her father had emigrated and set up the business years before and she’d followed him!

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Thank Christ my feet are killing me!
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OMG I have google maps!

After realising that Vodafone don’t charge extra anymore for European data roaming, my iPhone successfully navigated the two of us to the cathedral without any further problems, apart from unsuccessfully avoiding a clothes shop where Debbie decided to buy a dress for later in the week!

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Eventually we find the cathedral…
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…only to find that on Sunday it’s shut to non-worshipping visitors!

Eventually we made our way back to the taxi rank and we asked to be dropped off at the Irish bar frequented by our Geordie friends rather than go back to the hotel.

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I’m not wearing a head-dress in this photo!

At a nearby shop I decided to buy a new Menorca t-shirt with fashionable buttons to gain equality with SWMBO.  On the way back to the hotel we passed this Bart Simpson bouncy castle but we couldn’t wait to get back into our air-conned room!

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We were rewarded at dinner for our day out with incredible seafood, comprising of paella for Debbie and seared squid chunks for myself, yum!

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Unusually I had onion rings, leek and pork rib to accompany the squid
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By now I had switched to rose wine to cool down

After more entertainment we sloped back to our room to have a well deserved rest, but not before one last glimpse of our canine friends back home…

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When are you coming back?

Day 4

I woke first to the unwelcome news on my iPhone that Prime Minister May has become so desperate to cling onto power she has brought back “traitor” Gove to her cabinet.  She has now sunk even lower in my estimation and the last vestiges of sympathy for her have evaporated!

I decided to relax reading “Code of the Wooster’s” by PG Wodehouse which I’d borrowed from the hotel library the night before, a perfect antidote to the ghastly news from Blighty!  Debbie was still asleep next to me as she was tired after her exploits the evening before being women’s leader in the dancing game!

Breakfast finally beckoned then after changing again we made our way back to usual sunbathing spot.  It was so hot that after one dip in pool I had to shelter under the parasol reading as I was starting to burn.

At 12.30pm the hunger pangs returned and lunch comprised of an octopus paella starter with grilled sea bass main washed down with rose wine.  Sigh it’s a hard life!

A quiz beckoned at 2.30pm but not before Debbie sampled a delicious looking  coconut slice…

My head or more accurately my scalp fealt rather sore even when dipping in the pool so manfully I decided to go to the local supermarket and buy a rather natty looking hat!

Drinking while reading while shaded from the sun, who says men can’t multitask?

All this chilling by the pool only increased our appetite for the Italian themed dinner
and ominously for my waistline I had 2 servings of beef carpaccio drizzled in olive oil and parmesan with a delicious side salad for my starter…

I’ve started, so I’ll finish…

A main of pulled pork in clear gravy followed along with a special treat of ice cream  scattered with hundreds and thousands and covered with cherry sauce, with a slice of watermelon and garnish of strawberries to finish!

The evening entertainment was provided by the hotel and were an absolutely brilliant Motown Three Degrees tribute band.

Seats in the front reserved for little kids!

After they finished I asked them if I could take a picture with them next to Debbie at the outside bar adjacent to the stage.

Debbie is second from the left 🙂

Feeling happy but tired we returned for a good night sleep just looking at pictures of the hounds on Facebook before we nodded off…

Day 5

Having stayed up for the first time past midnight listening to the Three Degrees act we got up rather late at 9.20 am.  By this time we discounted another cove trip as it was too hot and we were feeling too lazy so with my new hat for protection I decided to read a quality newspaper on sale for only 2.50 Euros…

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The “all inclusive” battle of the waistline

 

This hat enables me to sit by pool in full sun sipping two gin and tonics with ice and lemon and then stay in pool a long time just relaxing.  One thing that struck me though was the fact that Debbie and I were quite a rare breed, not so much due to our age or not travelling with kids, but because neither of us had a tattoo, something which on our return we will have a careful think about rectifying!

Debs loves the Geordie accent and so do I although there’s quite a lot of Welsh, Scottish and Manchester accents to be heard with the odd sprinkle of French.  The staff here are so hard working and cheerful, they keep with place spotless and always serve you with a smile.

I reflected this place is great for kids, parents & grandparents, even couples and we must come consider coming back one day.  Some of the kids are handicapped and I’m in awe of the dedication of parents and grandparents looking after them, I remember that it made me feel quite humble to be honest and that I should never complain again about trivial things that occasionally annoy me.

Debbie’s new dress bought in Ciutadella!
I think Debbie was happy with her choice of dress!

After dinner we got dressed up for the evening entertainments which consisted initially of a series of games between two “volunteers” from the audience called Natalie and Michael, in a series of 1 minute challenges, with ten points awarded to the winner of each challenge.

The first challenge was to build the highest tower made of paper plates and plastic cups – Nathalie was the winner.

The second challenge was who could attach the most pegs to their face which was won by Michael.

The third challenge was who could amass the most kisses of cheeks in the audience and much to my relief it was Nathalie doing the pecking on your truly and she won by a mile…

The fourth challenge was keeping an ice cube in mouth for a minute and who would have the biggest chunk remaining at the end which Nathalie won again!

The fifth challenge was a series of Dermot O’Leary X-Factor walk-on spins and on this occasion Michael managed the most although I was primarily relieved that neither contestant fell of the stage!

The interim score was thus Nathalie 30 Michael 20, then each had to lead a conga dance through the audience and up to the stage where a series of dance moves and simulated loudest barking challenges eventually ended with Nathalie’s team being declared the winner!

Feeling rather proud of being part of the winning team we then sat down to listen to some 1980s singing by the entertainments team before retiring exhausted but happy to our room.

Day 6

We awoke to some disturbing news about a tower block fire in London that was very upsetting.  Back in the early 1980’s I’d shared a flat on the 27th floor with a nurse in London near Bromley by Bow, it had spectacular views of the London skyline but it never felt safe to me.

I remember always feeling anxious about the single stairwell that acted as an emergency exit and how when the lifts were regularly vandalised I had to slowly climb up them and descend to get in and out.  I remember sunbathing in the gardens surrounding the tower when some idiot threw a ripe beef tomato from high up which landed close by and exploded all over me…

It was a huge relief when I managed to move out to a low rise “hard to let” flat near Canning town shared with Jeff Howard a fellow part-time MSc student!

Back to happier thoughts it was another beautiful morning here in Menorca, surrounded by happy young families enjoying the pool and it was even hotter at 32C with a forecast to be 35c tomorrow.

Lunch today was spectacular comprising of delicious slices of fried salmon in olive oil with the skin cooked to a crisp, with a squid ink octopus paella, chips and sweet potato wash down with rose wine.  OMG!

Probably Debbie’s favourite dish of the holiday if you ignore the sprouts…

The Brussels sprouts were not too hot (frozen) but we went back for seconds (and thirds) of the rest, until tucking into the usual ice cream with cherry sauce and lots of sprinkles of 100’s and 1000’s…

Welsh Baywatch – shame we had no surfboard!
View of the poolside bar, the concrete floor was so hot you couldn’t go barefoot without blisters

In the evening Debbie and I were co-opted into the kids mini disco to dance to Lollo and Bernie’s song which endeared us to the entertainments staff. 😅

This was followed by a music quiz which we scored 9/10, robbed by naming the artist Michael Jackson not the Jacksons (or Jacksons 5) which robbed us of a superstar certificate!

Next Megan came on as a cabaret singer and very good she was too until a strange bubble show act come on which was mainly aimed at the younger audience still it was nice to relax and watch and carry on sipping as the evening progressed!

Not sure molly and Hamish like the pool so much…

Day 7

As this was our last full day in Menorca we decided to venture out on foot after breakfast and explore.  On the way to Cala en Format cove we passed a three door Freelander 1 which I posted on my Anglo Freelanders Group on Facebook to make them jealous and I was rewarded almost immediately with their comments!

After a couple of wrong turns using the street map given to me by the hotel we finally found ourselves at the top of some steps leading down to the sea which was overlooked by a huge hotel on the right.

We found it at last!

Walking down to the cove we realised how beautiful it was and the sandy part of the beach was teaming with small fish.

No costumes on so we just went for a relaxing paddle
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Cala en Forcat
Farewell selfie before leaving feeling hot and thirsty!

Retracing our steps and turning left past the hotel we headed down the strip anxious to visit at least one bar in town before we went home.  We’d looked at the Facebook group for Los Delfines and Jimmy Hill’s bar was highly recommended so turning right at the dolphin roundabout we made our way with increasing thirst and tiredness to the “big chin”!

Jimmy Hill’s has a picture of the large chinned man himself in caricature!

We ordered a refreshing drink of ice-cold Guinness pour moi and a huge Campari and Sprite lemonade for Debs and sat down in very comfortable chairs to relax.  To be honest  these imported drinks made a refreshing change from the all-inclusive local alcohol we’d been drinking in the hotel and frankly it tasted so much better despite having to pay…

Sadly while we were enjoying ourself the paper was full of the tower fire disaster

We found the bar so relaxing we didn’t want to leave so to extend our stay we ordered a single portion of chicken kebab skewers with chips and salad, when they arrived we were so pleased as they were delicious!

Sadly after buying a second round of drinks we had to leave, settling the bill of only 23.80 Euros and headed back to the hotel to change, but not before exploring one final beach cove at Cales Piques on the way back.

Hannibal Lector on his way to the beach…
…with his unsuspecting victim!

On arrival the beach was wider than Cala en Forcat although the sand had quite sharp pebbles that really needed underwater flip flops but Debbie was so hot by then she just rushed in leaving me, wearing no swimming costume alas just to dangle my feet in from the rocks to the right.

Chillaxing!

After about half an hour there we decided to head back finally to the hotel for one last dip in the pool before heading back out to the strip for one special farewell dinner.

At the pool we spent a lot of time splashing around and for me the first time in days without my hat swigging a bracing gin & tonic for Debs and a rum & coke for me before  we retired to the room for a quick sleep and to pack our bags ready for the journey back home tomorrow.

Once finished I posted an enquiry on the Los Delfines Facebook group about which restaurant people would recommend for the best T bone steak and the answer of “Es Replec” was pretty much unanimous!  Even better google maps navigated us there without mishap!

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Debbie’s mum Glenys favourite flower which grew in the garden of 44 Brynteg

After toasting Debbie with a Spanish red (Beamonte tinto) we ordered the speciality of the house a huge 1.2 kg  T bone steak lightly grilled, then sliced and served with a metal hotplate to cook to perfection in its own fat and a separate jug of pepper sauce.

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Let battle commence!
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OMG I’m drooling as I write this caption!

By this time passers by had seen what we were eating, smelling too as the windows were completely open and the place rapidly became packed!  Demolishing the 50 Euro steak took quite some time and a second bottle of tinto so we plumped for a crema Catalan for myself and a coconut ice-cream for SWMBO. 🙂

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My Crema Catalan was different from those in Tarragona

Feeling rather full and polishing off a small grappa (I think) to round of the evening we headed off back feeling like super heroes and on the way back this was confirmed when Batman asked for a selfie…

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I’m the chap on the right…

Not wanting the holiday to end we retraced our steps back to Cales Piques cove where it was getting dark for a romantic last paddle and with a glorious sunset we headed back past Es Replace to the hotel.

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I’m not sure what time we got back but it was fairly late as the evening’s entertainment was just finishing but feeling very happy we made our way back to the room, a last peek at Hamish & Molly, then off to sleep with the alarm set for 5.30am, as the pickup by coach number 76 the following morning was due at 6.55am.

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Day 8

We got up on time and made coffee for the first time in our room and ate some buns I’d pinched from the restaurant the day before.  We were glad the night before to cut off our blue plastic wristbands but much to our surprise the restaurant was open for early breakfast although we were still pretty full and gave it a miss.

The Thomas Cook rep cam early and made sure everyone was getting on the right bus which arrived bang on time and we headed off to the airport just over an hour away.  Checkin was fairly smooth although as usual I chose the line with the trainee learning her craft (slowly) but we sailed through security and had plenty of time for a refreshing drink and some shopping before the 10.15am flight.

 

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Third and final selfie at Mahon airport

We were allocated seats 1C & 1D right at the front of the plane.  Flight MT1207 pushed back & landed on time and we were first off and through passport control before our luggage had been unloaded.  After a short walk to car and we drove home well in time for the dogs being delivered at 4pm by the Royvon pet taxi.

So here are my final conclusions about this great holiday we’ve just been on for those few of you determined to make it to the end of this lengthy post!

All inclusive at Sunconnect Los Delfines is fantastic value for money and in this instance good quality largely throughout, however it is quite restrictive in that you feel obliged mainly to stay in the hotel for eating and drinking as anything outside costs extra.

As a result apart from our early trip to Ciutadella we tended to stay put only venturing out on the last day and thoroughly enjoying the 2 coves and 2 restaurants we visited.  The local beers, spirits and wines seemed a little diluted compared to those in the UK as on no occasion did I have a hangover, mind you that’s no bad thing!

Los Defines is largely geared to those with young families so couples beware unless like us you are a child at heart and enjoy their company.  The three pools are fantastic, there seemed enough sunbeams and parasols to us and the cleanliness of the facilities and friendliness of the hardworking staff was beyond reproach.

Free wifi is ubiquitous and we had full Vodafone signal reception and the air-conditioning works!  It is possible to go self catering at the hotel and we met two couples who do that each year but they were definitely in the minority.

The beaches or coves in the area are rather small and rocky so if you like wide extensive beaches within walking distance of the hotel go elsewhere.

Lastly the afternoon & evening entertainment laid on by the Thomas Cook staff and by the hotel itself was huge fun.

We definitely had a brilliant time in Menorca, so would Debbie & I go back?

The answer is definitely yes, but probably only with our future grandchildren (and possibly their parents) as and when they materialise!  Menorca is so easy to get to from the UK and Thomas Cook made the travel experience seamless and the hotel’s facilities and all inclusive tariff is a saviour for families that otherwise would spend a fortune.

For us to return as a couple I think the answer would be no, unless our funds became very tight in future.  I think we’d prefer the variety and choice of leaving the hotel each day as long as we could afford it going forward!

Roll on our next holidays with a return to Pefkos and next year Kefalonia!

🙂

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Debbie and I back home in Llanfoist the following Sunday heading to a Father’s day Indian restaurant at the foot on the Blorenge with Emma (& James) taking the photo behind us!

 

A Week in Menorca