No matter where I have travelled in Europe, I have been pursued. I’ve been surrounded. I’ve been suffocated. None of those things are actually true, but hyperbolizing can help me get to this point: Europe has too many people and not enough room.
But this past weekend I found a sanctuary. If you find yourself studying abroad in Europe and you start to get overwhelmed by the lack of open air and the constant aroma of cigarettes, pack your swimsuit and sunglasses and head to Menorca.
Menorca is about 90 miles off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean Sea.
Our program advertised the island as the least commercial and least developed of the Balearic Islands and they were absolutely right.
I would probably go further to say it is the least developed island west of the Turkish coast and east of the Atlantic Ocean.
After a three-hour flight delay in Barcelona and a 55-minute flight — obnoxious, I know — we landed on the island. We spent the afternoon touring the Medieval Arabic and Catalan architecture and I was surprised to say that I was already enjoying Menorca more than I had liked Sicily.
Menorca’s biggest cities are more like small towns on an American scale and they were quiet. I even commented to a friend, “It’s nice to walk the streets without fear of being hit by a car.”
The next morning I set out with the rest of my program on a bike ride that we believed to be a casual stretch of the legs. Eight kilometers in four hours, someone had mentioned. But that was a lie. This was not a scenic tour on paved — or even gravel — roads. This was an all-out mountain bike adventure of 25 kilometers. I’m not one to show up unprepared: Go big or go home is my motto. Unfortunately, I was misinformed about the nature of our ride. I showed up wearing jeans, a leather jacket, a merino sweater and Ferragamo boots. This wasn’t exactly ideal bikewear.
The trip started off relatively easy. We were happy, relaxed and naïve. Six kilometers in our trip, we took an abrupt turn off of the nice roads with easily maneuvered potholes and onto a rock path full of low-hanging branches and lakes of mud to cross. Ferragamo is not a fan of mud.
The key I learned when biking through mud is to not bike too fast and risk getting mud kicked up in your face by your wheel, but also not to bike too slow and risk getting stuck and falling in the mud. Be cautious, but not too cautious. Lucky me, I didn’t have to learn this firsthand as several others went before me and taught me by their mishaps.
The climax of our ride was when one of the guides told us to get off our bikes because this part was not bikeable. Really? Did you bring me on a bike tour where I can’t bike? We then climbed over a stone wall with our bikes and down into the ever-present mud.
We returned to the hotel and more than a few of my fellow bikers made a beeline for the bar to wash away the memories.
Despite the epic bike journey and the rain we encountered the next day, I had fun in Menorca. It was quiet and the people were warm and talkative. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a relaxing weekend or an outdoor adventure.