All back to Mahón: a return to Menorca

C

Cassia Geller

Guest
Rustling palms, hooting owls, pintxos and sangria … After a lockdown-enforced hiatus, a writer revisits the quiet Balearic to revel in joys old and new

A peal of bells marks the start. Then comes a beating of drums. A barely perceptible breeze carries the scent of hay. Collectively, a crowd of thousands holds its breath, shoulder to shoulder in the plaza principal. Among them, standing tall, is a single rider, frock-coated on a glossy black stallion. He is the first caixer (horseman) leading a cavalcade that will dance through the vein-like village streets, as the bolder members of the throng – hyped on local Xoriguer gin and Fanta limón (pomada) – touch the horses’ hearts for luck. This is the jaleo. This is Menorca.

The scene plays out all summer along the easternmost and sleepiest Balearic, lower-key and less crowded than Mallorca and Ibiza. It is also the greenest island, growing cautiously, a Unesco biosphere reserve for almost 30 years. But under Menorca’s slow, siesta-dazed surface is an intensity most keenly felt at its fiestas.

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