Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Fornells, Menorca - a quintessential Spanish fishing village

Our first impression of Fornells was of dazzling white washed houses gleaming in the bright sunlight but this wasn't just an impression, fortunately this is how it really is.  Originally a fishing village, Fornell's is still a base for lobster fishermen, albeit now it is more of a tourists' playground. Blessed with a deep sheltered bay 5 kilometres long and 2 kilometres wide it is perfect for all sorts of water sports, however, we had not come to play on the water but rather to soak up the atmosphere of this exquisite village.

 We were captivated from the moment we arrived at the waterfront lined as it is with palm trees and enticing restaurants boasting starched white table cloths and gleaming crystal. Having two young children in tow  those restaurants weren't for us, though, unlike the former King Carlos, who was a regular visitor to enjoy the village's famous lobster stew, eye wateringly expensive at 70EU per serving.

For us the delight in Fornells was wandering the pretty waterfront and the quaint back streets. It is a small place with a permanent population of just 1000 so it didn't take long to wander around but we loved every moment of it, picking and poking at the waterfront market, climbing the sea wall to get a good view of the harbour, eating ice creams under a shady palm tree and admiring the Llauts, the traditional Menorcan fishing boats, jostling against sleek and expensive leisure boats at the water's edge.  Along the back streets we imagined a simpler life in the sparkling white houses lining paved streets and alleyways some with the most attractive rainwater down pipes I have ever seen.

Sun drenched alleyways
Such a pretty down pipe

 It was blisteringly hot so for a time we sought refuge in the cool, simple and perfectly lovely little church of St Antoni taking time to admire the ceiling paintings of the village and the harbour. St Antoni is the patron saint of Menorca and every January Fornells has a public holiday and fiesta to celebrate him. Next we set out on a walk to the Tower.  Built in the 17th century to defend the village against attacks from Barbary pirates the tower was less than successful in that role but nevertheless still stands as a reminder of a volatile period in the history of Fornells.

Fornells and its harbour feature in ceiling paintings in the village church of St Antoni

The Fornells Tower at the harbour mouth

Hot and sweaty after our walk in the sun we retreated to a tapas restaurant for a cold beer and some lunch. The restaurant, Sa Taupa, is one road back from the sea on a pedestrianised street and was just what we were looking for.  NOTE:  you always pay  more for a sea front restaurant. This one had no view, although I understand they have a good view from their roof top terrace but children are not permitted up there. We were just happy to enjoy the street life and the passing parade of strollers.  It was cool and shady, the tapas were delicious and it was peaceful, our two year old obligingly sleeping right through the meal.

Satisfied and tired after our day in the village it was time to leave, rather reluctantly.  Our taxi driver had promised to return for us but something got lost in translation and he didn't arrive. There is only one taxi on the whole island licensed to take five passengers and he was it so I waved farewell to the rest of my family as they took a different  taxi home and I waited for the next one...it was a very long wait not unpleasant at the waters edge but meltingly hot.  Finally the taxi that had taken my family home returned for me.  The driver told me his temperature gauge said 44 degrees, no wonder I was hot! My family told me later that the taxi driver was worried about me waiting in the sun, although I was under a palm tree, and had made the long trip back especially.  What a lovely man! 
Slightly worrying name for a fishing boat!

We all loved our day in Fornells.  It was everything I hoped a Spanish village would be and definitely a highlight of our stay on Menorca.