New Year walking holiday on Menorca

by John Devine | Jan 09, 2014

My first ever attempt at writing a blog has been inspired by our New Year walking holiday on Menorca last week.

If you didn't already know, Carolyn and I have been organising walking holidays on Menorca for the last 10 years and these have generally taken place during the spring and autumn. As well as launching painting and cycling holidays on Menorca, we've also expanded into similar activities on the neighbouring Balearic Islands of Mallorca and Ibiza over the last few years. As you can imagine, we've welcomed many guests over this period and, most of these, more than once. We had often been asked if we had considered organising a Xmas or New Year singles walking holiday, to which we'd replied, thanks, but no. This was due to still having kids at home and wanting to share the last few festive seasons with them as a family. This year we felt that the time was right to launch this type of holiday, due to our daughter now living in France and our 16 year old son being delighted to find out that we' d be occupied with guests on the 31st and would therfore be leaving an empty house in which he could hold a "quiet" New Year's Eve supper, with just "a couple" of close friends. In short, as anyone with a 16 year old son will verify, he couldn't have wished us further.

Initially, we only contacted our existing data-base and expected a moderate take up. The response was, quite frankly, staggering and nearly all of the 25 places on offer to us were sold within a week. Given that this was a singles holiday, Carolyn and I had anticipated that we'd be welcoming people who would be on their own at this time of the year and wanted company for what can be a lonely time for a single person. The reality however was that nearly everyone who booked had other options, but couldn't wait to get away from the tensions involved with spending the festive season with family. As we had expected, we knew nearly every single person on the holiday from previous visits including 1 lady who's company we were enjoying for the 3rd time during 2013. Anyway, that was the bookings taken care of, now to make sure that everyone who joined us had a good time.

The problem with an annual event is that you only get one chance a year to get things right. With our weekly holidays in spring and autumn, if something goes wrong, we can make an immediate change for the next week. This kept us awake quite a bit during the run up to the holiday, but by the first day of the holiday (27th December), we'd got rid of our Christmas hangovers and were ready to go. Given that so much is closed here on Menorca during the winter, we chose a small family run hotel in the village of Ferreries, right in the centre of Menorca. These villages are not seasonal and the bars restaurants and shops are generally occupied by locals only at this time of year. As you can imagine, 23 English people dressed in walking attire during the festive period became minor village celebrities as the week went on. The money spent at some of the local village bars probably didn't hurt with this notoriety either. The walks that we chose were different to those we offer during the spring and autumn and reflected the green and almost Devonian type Menorcan landscape during the early winter. We also wanted to show our guests some genuinely deserted beaches, which of course required accompanying good weather. In this respect, we couldn't have been luckier and, apart from 20 minutes on Sunday morning, we enjoyed wall to wall sunshine for the whole week.

Food and drink are a big part of what we offer and this is a bit more difficult to organise in the winter, due to all of the holiday resorts on the island being closed. For this reason, we chose a combination of meals in local restaurants, along with others at the hotel. One of these included a grand New Years supper, where everyone had the chance to put on a posh frock, eat great food, drink fine wine and dance away until the early hours of the morning. Carolyn and I have grown used to celebrating New Year with our Menorca friends, but it was great to see our walkers seeing in the New Year and mixing with the local village people. The start of the next day's walking was delayed until lunchtime, in order for everyone to clear their head. Yet again the weather on the 1st January was bright, sunny and warm and more than one of us took a slightly masachistic pleasure when hearing about how the weather was in the UK.

As I said earlier, an annual event needs careful planning and, in case all else went wrong, we decided to play our trump card on the last night. Our favourite restaurant on Menorca is just around the corner from the hotel in Ferreries and we decided to blow our food budget on what should have been the meal of the week. It turned out, however, that the day before, 2 waiters had walked out and the owner was now serving the food as well as cooking it. Chilled pork sirloin and cold squid were not an ideal way to end the holiday and Carolyn and I were quite franky gutted about the situation. Fortunately,I have a friend with a bar around the corner and for 200 euros and a promise of future business, he put on a spread of pizzas, tapas and other local goodies. This accompanied by plenty of liquid refreshment and, somewhat bizarrely, "Abba's Greatest Hits" on the Jukebox, allowed us to pull back from the brink of a last night disaster.

The final airport day was an interesting experience and far from being glad to put our guests on the plane and regain our liberty, Carolyn and I were both quiet on the way home. It was like we'd just said goodbye to friends or family and it felt a little bit sad. Will we be doing the whole thing again next year? Definately. Will we be making a few changes to the itinery? Probably. Will we be letting our son have a "few close friends" around next year onthe 31st? Absolutely not. you should have seen the state of the house when we got home.