The Straits of Messini and the Gulf of Amvrakia

Following our sail past Stromboli [how could you ever forget that scintillating photograph at the end of the last post!] we headed south and slightly east towards Scilla at the northern end of the Straits of Messina. Timing is everything with the Straits. If you get wind, tide or current – or, heavens above, all three – wrong then it can be a bit of an uncomfortable trip, at best!

We had downloaded the App for our Android phone – look for “Correnti Stretto di Messina” on Google play or, I assume, something similar for i.phone/i.pad – which enabled us to select the best time in respect of tides and currents and used this in conjunction with “Windyty” – our favoured wind App – to work out our passage. It transpired that, on Thursday 31st May, between 6am and 8am was the best time to enter and we timed our approach pretty perfectly.

Dawn broke as we approached Scilla….

…..and at 6.30am we cleared our transit with the Vehicle Traffic Scheme. We had elected the mainland side of the Straits as we were heading east and didn’t want to have to deal with the “roundabout” half way down the straits which the ferries use to cross between mainland and Sicily.

Having read some threads on various sailing forums we were very wary of coming into close proximity of either the above mentioned ferries or the swordfish fishing boats which ply these waters between mid-March and late June. Maybe some people do have bad encounters but all I can say is that the pilots of both these types of vessel were well aware of us and although they came close – sometimes very close in the case of the fishing boats…

Swordfish fishing boat in the Straits with Sicily in the background

…. we never felt as though they were intimidating us or expecting us to give them special right of way in the designated small shipping lane.

Of course, it does help having an AIS transponder to have prior warning of who and what might be coming your way.

My sister’s new favourite piece of boat equipment!

The swordfish boats are a sight to behold – fascinating. These are the modern motor boats with huge lattice steel masts and massive bowsprits up to 50ft long…..

…a far cry from the original wooden boats with a 10ft mast for the lookout, four rowers and a chap on the bow with a hand held harpoon.

In the channel we encountered one fairly strong counter current but it didn’t last long and having passed through the narrowest part of the Straits Mike turned the engine off and we had a pleasant sail for a while round Capo dell’Armi and along the southern coastline….

Not much to see…. a few hamlets with fishing boats pulled up the beach

……until it bent north at Capo Spartivento….

Capo Spartivento lighthouse

…… whilst we retained our more north-easterly heading towards Preveza.

At around 2am we were about 40 miles south of Capo Rizzuto when we were beset by waves coming from two or three directions – or so it felt. Very much a “being in a washing machine” effect which rolls the boat in a most uncomfortable manner. We decided to go with the strongest wave on our stern quarter which meant turning about 30 degrees to the south. We were now heading more towards Cephalonia or Zákinthos – but at least it was still Greece!

Fortunately after riding this for around three hours we cleared the worst of it and turned once more for Preveza. Having entered Greek waters at 6pm on 1st June, our final [third] night proved calm and uneventful and at 11.55am on 2nd June we entered the Preveza channel.

Marinas ahead – we didn’t investigate them – popular over winter storage

We chose to anchor immediately north of the town in Ormos Vathy – a splendid anchorage…

….with an easy dinghy ride to the small fishing harbour to access the shore.

We had chosen Preveza as our Greek Port of Entry partly because it seemed like an obvious route from the Messina Straits and also because other sailors had reported on Noonsite/Captain’s Mate etc that the process was fairly simple in Preveza with easy access to all authorities. That proved absolutely correct. Having arrived on a Saturday we couldn’t actually do anything until Monday because the bank was closed but as EU citizens – just! [DAMN Brexit and what chaos it might create – but that’s a rant for whatever and whenever it happens!] – we had no immigration or transit log issues and all we needed was the DEKPA [basically, a permission to be in Greek waters which must be renewed annually and produced whenever asked for by the relevant authorities].

First thing Monday morning we got the DEKPA application form from the tourist office, paid our €50 at the bank and went to the Port Authority. An extremely professional and competent Port Officer helped us to fill in the necessary paperwork and very quickly we were properly processed. The one and a half hour wait at the bank for our ticket number to come up was a bit of a pain – but that’s just how banks are in Greece.

Over the weekend we had had time to explore Preveza Town – and what a surprise. I think I expected a “typical” port town – a bit dingy and a bit dusty and no real Greek feel. Completely the opposite. The harbour front had a nice promenade and once into the backstreets it was full of old buildings…..

……quaint…

….very clean….

…with wonderful café’s and restaurants….

On the Sunday morning with, seemingly, the town to ourselves…

…we could explore further and came across one or two quirky things…

Our folding bikes are probably more sensible on the boat!

“Bootleg”!?

… and had all the fun of the empty fair.

Bad positioning Claire!!!!

We had decided that as the Gulf of Amvrakia lies directly behind Preveza we should explore. The pilot shows more than a dozen anchorages scattered round the Gulf but we chose to visit just two, the first being at the far end and so, with a 20 mile trip ahead we set out at 10am on 5th, in absolute flat calm.

“Path” leading away from Preveza in the background

As with much of the coastal Greek waters there are several fish farms to avoid …

… though we didn’t expect to pass a boat “graveyard”….

… or see a Pelican. [Yes, I know it’s almost as bad as Stromboli, but by the time I had worked out what it was it was some distance away!]

More birds awaited us ashore in Mendinhion…

Eurasian Magpie

“Hungry birds”!

The locals thought I was quite mad sitting on the pavement in the heat of the day trying to get a decent shot of the swallow fledglings.

Mendinhion itself was also a delight.

O+P at anchor

…and the small harbour – we could possible have gone stern to at the end

Very quiet with mainly local people and a few Greek tourists, passing through rather than staying. Let’s hope they at least stopped for an Ouzo – each of which, for just €3, came with fantastic Meze…

Meze 1- 3 types of seafood

Mmmm… Tzatziki and Chips.

When Mike started to raise the anchor to leave the following morning he called me to the bow and told me to bring my camera. All along the part of the chain which had been just below the waterline, and now fallen on deck, were tiny starfish.

We used the washdown pump to safely return as many to the sea as possible.

Two thirds of the way back up the Gulf was our second stop – Vónitza – where, once again, we chose not to go into the small town harbour but to anchor in what proved to be a very sheltered spot in lovely surroundings behind Nisis Koukounitsa.

By day…

…and all lit up at night.

The town was about a 20 minute walk away and had, atop the hill, a Venetian fort to visit.

Outer walls

Main gate

The church. Mike is supposed to be adding perspective to show the relatively low height of the door

Great views of the inland lagoon….

….and over the town quay to our anchorage

Whilst eating dinner on board that evening we were entertained by fishermen laying their nets in the bay….

 

….before being treated to our second glorious sunset in the Gulf.

Mendinhion sunset…..

….and sunset in Vonitza. Both lovely

The following morning we made an early start back to Preveza as we wanted a spot on the harbour to make provisioning a bit easier. Also, whilst I went to be pampered in the hairdressers, Mike sorted our Gas Bottle situation – we now have a Greek system [bottle and regulator] as well as a Spanish one and Camping Gas. Equipped for the world – until we get to the next place!!

All in all our re-introduction to Greece was brilliant and it was now time to explore the northern Ionian – but that’s for next time.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2018/08/10/the-straits-of-messini-and-the-gulf-of-amvrakia/

South Sardinia, Ustica and the Aeolians – all in three weeks

Early [6.15] on the morning of 9th May we left Mahon and the Balearics for the 200 mile crossing to Sardinia. Initially we headed south of the most direct route as our friend Steve’s magic passage programme had shown that we would get more wind and from a favourable direction that way. We didn’t! We gybed a few times and tried to keep to that plan but at about the point in the log where I wrote “another wind shift – bugger” we decided that we would be as well just going the shortest route rather than continuing to move further away from our destination.

We crossed from Spanish to Italian waters at around 1am on 10th and plodded on through the day picking up the odd friend, or three, along the way.

Our intention had been to make for the anchorage at Calasetta, on Isola di Sant Antioco, but I had spotted another anchorage which is marked on the pictorial chart of the San Pietro Channel in Heikells “Italian Waters Pilot” but which doesn’t appear on our Navionics chart and about which Heikell doesn’t actually refer to in the text of his book. However, our AIS showed that there were a couple of boats in there so we went for a look and found an absolutely brilliant anchorage just south of Punta Nera on the Isla di Santa Petro and, thus, just below the anchoring exclusion zone in the Straits.

In the end we spent three nights there with a night in Calasetta in-between, the last two nights being to shelter from some fairly strong N/NW winds – as we felt it was by far the best option other than, perhaps, spending two more nights in the marina.

The marina cost was very reasonable at €37 for the night and, as we wanted fuel, we had been directed to tie alongside on the nearby dock whilst another boat filled up. When we explained we wanted a night there as well they just let us stay side tied so there was no messing around with taking the dinghy off the back and med mooring. Great! With very helpful and friendly staff and a laundry which cost either €7 or €7.50 [wash and dry] depending on whether a light or heavy wash as required it was, all in all, a very good experience.

We also really liked the small town….

One of the main streets

Interesting church – with an apparent Greek influence

…. with its old “Torre Sabauda”…

…containing a small museum of Phoenician-Punic artifacts on the ground floor [originally the cistern]…

Some of the artifacts

The local priest who contributed to and encouraged the collection

….a wedding venue – should anyone want one for a small, select occasion – on the top floor and views from the rooftops.

Over the town to the northern part of the straits

The southern straits

The nights of 14/15 May were spent at Porto Teulada…

….and Porto Malfatano…

Sun rising at Malfatano as we left

….on Sardinia’s south coast from where we made the last hop to Cagliari – a total of 65 miles from Calasetta. Cagliari’s main site is “Il Castello”, the Citadel rising above the sturdy Pisan and Argonese ramparts.

In comparison to other citadels- notably those I wrote about when we visited Corsica – Cagliari’s is quite “scruffy”, but its ramshackle nature had its own charm and it was nice to see a less manicured version of an old hilltop fortress.

The Plaza, Santa Maria Cathedral and the Museo del Duomo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views from the top were pretty good

Looking towards the marinas

Towards the south coast across the lagoon

Built in 1307 the Torre dell ‘Elefante…

….is one of only two Pisan towers still standing. The sculpted elephant guards the rather vicious looking portcullis.

We spent 3 nights at Marina del Sole which was @ €45 per night, the cheapest option. It was a great little marina with a friendly bar open until around 8.30pm daily where a large beer and a glass of wine cost €5 – much more reasonable than town prices. The walk into town along the fairly new promenade took about 25 minutes and, on occasion provided some unexpected entertainment…

“Basket” or “Goal”!

…..or there was the back street option along which we found a couple of chandlers and, on Thursday morning, a Farmer’s Market.

We also visited the main town market where Mike’s favourite purchase was wine from the barrel.

On one of the photographs above I mentioned a lagoon. A flock of flamingos live in the lagoon and, on our departure from Cagliari, we were graced by a pre dusk flight…..

…. followed by a lovely sunset.

Our 202 mile passage from Cagliari to Ustica took just over 41 hours and even though the wind was generally below 12kn – and mainly just 5-7kn on the stern quarter – we managed two periods of sailing of around three hours each.

Greeted by dolphins…

….we arrived at Ustica at 8.45am on 21st May. We had deliberately timed our passage to arrive early morning as we were not sure whether or not we would be able to stay – due to the size of the harbour – and the nearest next landfall is about 50 miles away on the Sicilian mainland which, had we needed, we would have been able to make in daylight.

However, we were lucky. There was one boat already there but, with space for about four boats, we were able to stay which really pleased me as I had hoped we would be able to visit since first reading about it in the Pilot Guide.

It is a magical place, full of local character!

Tending the garden

Whats going on then…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunchtime meeting and greeting

It was first inhabited around 2000BC and its history is peppered with accounts of mass deaths including 6,000 mutinous Carthaginian soldiers who were abandoned there to die of hunger and thirst and of a Bourbon colony who were massacred by pirates.

The waters surrounding the island have been declared a Marine Reserve and it is now best known for its dive sites which bring tourists and income to the island.

Part of the marine reserve including the no anchoring or fishing zone

Typical “grotto” for divers

A map given to us by a “line handler” when we arrived showed that it was possible to circumnavigate the island by footpath – and eager as ever to see as much as we could we spent a lovely day doing just that.

Tombs

North-East lighthouse..

…and the South-West one

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View from the top

The ancient village…no access on the day we visited

A marshy lagoon – information sign long weathered away

The tower…love the wonky lamp post

It was a good job we had had the presence of mind to pack water and a picnic because there was no café or shop to be found other than in the town. We passed two which might open in the height of season but they were well and truly shut at the end of May.

The town itself is well known for its murals of which the following are just a few examples.

The tiled maps were amusing….

….though both fail to record that the area at the bottom of the island is named “Arso”!

One other sign which we studied was this one about “Jellies”.

It was repeated throughout the Italian islands. Whether it is just this part of the med that has been particularly “infected”, or whether we will find the same when we get to Greece we don’t know. Certainly there were Jellies in some anchorages in the Balearics and we saw some here in Ustica harbour.

Whilst the nature reserve is of the marine variety we saw lots of wonderful flora and fauna as well…..

Some interesting agricultural technique using cactus as shields

Pale Clouded Yellow….

… and clouded yellow

Some lovely poppies…

… and a Goshawk

…. an island well worth visiting. We aren’t really sure if there is a set charge for staying there – or whether it’s all made up according to whim/season! On arrival we were told €40 per night. When Mike went to pay the following morning he was quoted €40 for one but €50 for two – which was an offer we couldn’t refuse as it allowed us to do the walk. Our friends on Coriander who visited a few days after us got the same rate – maybe because they told the harbourmaster they knew what we had been charged but we have no idea what anyone else paid and on noonsite/CA forum various different prices are quoted! Whatever, to us it was well worth the €50 we paid.

However, on 23rd May it was “Goodbye Ustica” at 6.50am….

….. and “Hello Aeolians” at 5.00pm.

We didn’t actually stop at Alicudi as we had been advised by our French “neighbours” in Ustica that the anchoring area was now full of fishermen’s mooring balls which could be “borrowed – for a price”. Instead we passed the famous Filicudi stack…

Who do you think of?

… and made for the island where we saw them anchored in a place which, according to our charts was “out of bounds” and which we didn’t fancy anyway as to get below 20m depth you had to be practically up the beach. So in a rather inelegant fashion, due partly to the height of our freeboard meaning I couldn’t thread the rope through the ring and the fact it was heavy and couldn’t be lifted by boat hook, at our third attempt we managed to attach ourselves to one of the mooring balls here. This was for a €40 charge in what turned out to be an uncomfortable rolling anchorage. Won’t be rushing back there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next anchorage outside the harbour at Santa Marina, Salina, didn’t work either.

We didn’t try the harbour as it is quoted as Band 6+ which normally seems to mean €100 and above for the night. The southern anchorage shown in the pilot is marked on the electronic chart as, again, out of bounds and the northern anchorage was basically pebbles and the anchor would not hold so we moved on to Isola de Lipari and found a brilliant anchorage – hurrah!

Porticello is “mentioned” in the pilot under “other anchorages”. It deserves much more than that as a description. It is an area around 1-2 miles along the eastern coast where volcanic dust has created a sand like bottom with depths of up to 7 metres for about 300metres out. The water was crystal clear and, although the view was a little strange we thought it was great. It would be untenable in strong east or south winds but in the conditions we had it was perfect.

Wanting to visit the Archaeological Museum in Lipari we decided to go into EOL MARE marina in Pignataro

– about 20 minutes’ walk from the main town. We were offered a pay for 2, stay 3 night “deal” which worked out at €33.33 per night. We think we hit on a May bargain as websites for most marinas in Lipari – where we could find prices shown – showed a substantial price hike in June.

Lipari Town is the largest urban centre in the islands and was a very pleasant place to visit.

It has been the most important place in the Aeolians for the 6000 years during which it has been inhabited and its museum, set high on the citadel….

…. explains it all…..

….. though trying to equate the diagrams to the ruins wasn’t always easy.

It was first settled by the Stentillenians who developed a flourishing economy based on obsidian….

WOW.. was my reaction to this piece

Greeks used the island as a base port on their east-west routes and the famous pirate, Barbarossa [Redbeard] was so attracted to the port that he sacked it in 1544!

The museum is described as a “must see” for Mediterranean history buffs.

So much information

Interested as we are in such things we agree that it is really for “buffs”, for scholars of Greek and Roman artifacts who recognise the differences between one vase and another!

Case….

…after case

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A very important one apparently

There were so many exhibits in every category – it was mind blowing.

1125-1050BC Round urns for crouched burials and cremations in “situlae”

Some of the tomb figures were interesting…

Small articles for young girl’s tomb – including a seated Aphrodite

…as were the Greek miniature masks and comic figures which represented the players from staged productions which the audience could buy as mementoes.

C4 “Middle Comedy” fgures

Masks from Aristophanes “Ecclesiazusae” – about women dressing as men to take over government

The skills of Roman craftsmen from C3-2BC is astounding…

…and there were items which remind us that most times we haven’t actually invented anything new.

From Lipari we walked through the tunnel cut into the mountain to the other town on the island – Canneto.

A rather strange town where holiday makers reputedly go for its beach…

… which was a rather uninspiring stretch of pebbles in front of similarly uninspiring cafes. However, we found one bakery which sold some of the Sicilian classics.

Cassata is a concoction of sponge cake, cream and marzipan topped with candied fruit – which, even though I love marzipan, I found much too sweet, preferring instead the Cannoli – a crunchy pastry tube filled with sweet ricotta.

By this time Gill and Steve had arrived on the other side of the island at a small anchorage at the bottom of “Valle Muria” so we sailed round to join them. The usual “nice to be together again” meal, drinks and chat ensued as we watched some late arrivals to the anchorage.

The following day we went across to Isola di Vulcano – the name speaks for itself.

Smoke over the rim

The southernmost island, it is composed of two extinct craters [which originally appeared from the sea in 183BC] and one active crater.

There are two possible anchorages and we opted for Porto di Ponente which provides better shelter generally [except in strong westerlies] and which, having seen them both, is by far the more attractive of the two.

Mud baths seem to be one of the two main attractions of the island, the other being climbing the volcano.

I’m afraid we did neither – we just had a lazy day wandering around enjoying the company of friends.

The following day was our last in the Aeolians and we went north to Panarea to spend the afternoon ashore there before setting sail for Greece.

To get us in the mood for Greece – Panarea’s blue and white theme

BUT, wait just a minute, you may be thinking – surely she must have forgotten Stromboli. Well, no I haven’t. We didn’t actually anchor there but we had planned our route so that we could leave from Panarea late afternoon and sail round the north side of Stromboli at night before heading south again. We looked forward to it with anticipation – to see the volcanic lava bursts at night – but I’m afraid that as we approached the island, the only clouds we had seen for the past week descended….

….and although we did see a couple of bursts they were nothing like we hoped for. Maybe it was a slow night for lava eruptions? Maybe it is always like that? Lots of people pay money to be taken by tourist boat on a late evening trip and cruise ships stop on their way past. It doesn’t help that I can’t do night photography. So, hope you weren’t anticipating much either dear readers – ‘cos this grainy shot with a small red blob is all you get!!!!

It did look better in “real life” – honest!

Still, at least we can say we have done it.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2018/06/29/south-sardinia-ustica-and-the-aeolians-all-in-three-weeks/

Springtime in the Balearics

A calm and uneventful 22 hour passage from Valencia on 15/16 April, interrupted only by some delightful dolphins swimming alongside us at dusk, saw us arriving outside the Port de Sóller, Mallorca at dawn.

We had slowed down for the previous two hours, not wanting to enter an unknown anchorage in the dark but by 8.15am we had dropped the hook and were well dug in.

As you can see, the port is in a lovely setting. A wide horseshoe shaped bay, surrounded by forested hills, encloses crystal clear water.

A weekly market….

… and plenty of bars and restaurants make it a pleasant place to stay – especially as you then get to see the early morning mist over water….

….but most visitors seem to come just for the day, transported from inland Sóller Town by the famous Sóller trams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even more famous is the Sóller Train…

….which runs back and forth across Mallorca to Palma.

Having decided we wanted to do the train ride we caught the bus to Palma, had a swift look round – taking in the promenade area to the northern end of the town which we hadn’t seen on our previous visit, where we chanced upon this clock.

In high season all the trains are full and, even in April, the first train out of Palma and the last back get booked up in advance but we were perfectly happy with a mid-afternoon ride.

Waiting at the station

….points change

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off we go…

Fantastic views of Soller as the train twists down the hillside

At both ends of the line, there are exhibitions of the works of Joan Miró…

“Archipal Sauvage”

…whose maternal grandfather came from Sóller. The larger exhibition is at the Sóller end where three of the old station rooms are dedicated to Miró’s work….

Iconographs represented in his paintings

“Le crepescule rose caresse les femmes et les oixeaux”

….and two to his friend, Picasso’s, colourful ceramics.

“Bright Owl” ….which of course caught my eye

“Faces”

A photograph of them takes pride of place in the station entrance.

Sóller Town is well worth a visit in itself and we spent the best part of a day there wandering the narrow lanes and taking in the buildings. The main square – Plaça Constitució – is dominated by St Bartomeu church.

It is described in the Lonely Planet guide as a “neo-Gothic remodel of a medieval original, with a couple of Art Nouveau flourishes thrown in”. Its enormous rose window is certainly striking as is the heavy balustrade above.

The rear – as seen from the market entrance and looking up to the mountains beyond

Equally flamboyant is the bank next door which was designed by Joan Rubió, an acolyte of Gaudi.

What we particularly enjoyed whilst staying in Sóller were the walks into the countryside….

Which way next?

Old pathway

Still a bit of water around

…. when we saw spring growth at its best.

Almond…

…and two tone leaved Olive

Oranges….

… and lemons – fruit, seed and blossom

Tamarind…

…and fig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finca Es Bosc

Produce “for sale” – no price…make a donation

Our enjoyment was enhanced further when “Coriander” and “Destination Anywhere” arrived in the port. A reunion in the usual fashion was called for…

“The usual suspects with Soller regulars, Mark and Nikki

…and one of our party got rather carried away with a party trick!

Sorry Gill….couldn’t resist…am sure you will get me back!

Not a “trick” exactly, but certainly a skill which more and more people are learning is paddle-boarding. Owl and Pussycat seems to be about the only boat that hasn’t got one! This family certainly know what it’s about…

… Steve seems to have got it sussed – though I don’t have a photo to prove it – and Malc is learning!

We tried to top up with fuel in Sóller only to find that in the off season months the fuel dock doesn’t open at weekends! Still we had sufficient in the tank not to worry too much and motored for 6 miles in almost no wind to Cala Tuent – a lovely secluded anchorage where we enjoyed a short walk ashore…

…..were treated to an exhibition of drone flying by Steve and Gill – resulting in some great photos …..

Coriander and Owl and Pussycat share an anchorage at Cala Tuent

…and then drinks and dinner on Coriander before an early night.

The following day we got a fairly early start…

….even though it was only 2.5 miles round to the most famous anchorage on Mallorca, Sa Calobra.

We expected it to be very busy and, in respect of people, it was but they were mostly dropped off and picked up by tourist boat and/or bus so during the evening and the following morning we saw the surroundings at their best.

We did go ashore for a while and took the tunnel walk…

….but rather than joining the crowd on the beach…

…. we walked part way up the box canyon through which a trickle of a river makes its way towards the sea.

Most of the year it just forms a milky pool behind the sand bar but it can, apparently, be a force to be reckoned with after heavy rains.

We had said goodbye to DA in Sóller and it was now time to part company once again with Coriander – they were going back west to Santa Ponça while we were heading east to Pollença.

Pollença anchorage is at the head of a large bay….

…and we were lucky to find a sandy patch to anchor in near the outer edge of the harbour and outside of the permanent local boat moorings. We were very surprised at how secure the anchorage was even in fairly brisk winds.

Altogether we had five nights in Pollença during which time we did everyday things like laundry and shopping and some boat maintenance but we took two days out to visit Pollença old town and Alcúdia – both short bus rides away from the bay.

Founded in C13, Pollença is a pretty town with the usual main square and church and maze of narrow streets.

Interesting downspout

South of the main square is an old watchtower…

…behind which lies the deconsecrated church of Nostra Senyora del Roser in which are held temporary art exhibitions.

Photograph of a fish market – I could almost see it in action

Very clever use of everyday objects and lights

Although it was great to see the modern art it seemed a shame that some of the church’s original artwork was mainly hidden.

In the former monk’s quarters is a small museum with some quite interesting exhibits…

Tibetan prayer circle with pots of the coloured sand used to create it

Bull shaped sarcophagi – the oldest example of bull worship in the Balearics

…and one, outside, without much needed explanation.

Pollença’s main attraction is the “Puig de Calvari” [Calvary Hill] and the long, steep stairway which climbs it.

By accident we found an easier way up….

….following the Stations of the Cross.

At the top is a fairly simple sanctuary…

… some spectacular views….

…..and this doorway.

The plaque says “El Calvario”

Alcúdia, encircled by a restored thick crenellated wall…..

…. and overlooked by the decorative town hall bell tower….

…has quite a history. First recognised in 700BC by the Phoenicians, it was used as a stopping off point for sea trade. However, that town disappeared when the Romans came and built “Pollentia”.

Looking at the names you, like many historians, can be forgiven for thinking that modern Pollença rather than Alcúdia must surely have been Pollentia but, in 1887, the discovery of an inscription on the base of a statue confirmed that Pollentia was just outside the walled city of Alcúdia.

Unfortunately many of the stones from the Roman buildings have been used for other purposes but you can still get an idea of what it might have been like.

Plan of Pollentia

The Forum

Theatre

Uncovered burial chambers

A small one room museum – Museu Monogràfic – displays a selection of artifacts.

Seems obvious where our coins came from

Bronze pin

Part of a marble statue showing a typical breastplate

From north coast Mallorca we sailed across to north coast Menorca on 28th April. A very pleasant day sail…

…taking just over 8 hours for the 52 miles from Pollença to Fornells.

A narrow entrance and a long “lagoon” makes it very popular with sailors….

…..and land based tourists seem to come for the various water sport activities but I am afraid we found the place rather plastic.

It didn’t help that on the day after we arrived we experienced 30kn sustained wind with 40+ gusts, one of which caused anchor drag. Well, to be truthful, the anchor didn’t exactly drag – it came up with a lump of seabed mud and weed twice its size stuck firmly to it making re-anchoring a bit of a nightmare.

We persevered with the place and went ashore the following day for a look at the old Castell de Sant Antoni…

…. and the remains of some later British fortifications…

…. including the Torre de Fornells.

We also dinghied across to Isla Sargantana where there is another watchtower…

…..and where we saw a species of lizard apparently unique to the small islet.

As the guide book had told us, to the untrained eye [ours] it looks just like many other lizards but to those in the know  – it isn’t!

Mr and Mrs Lizard

From Fornells we moved round to Maó [Mahon] – the city we enjoyed so much last September. Our sail down the east side past Cabo Favaritx shows that all sailing is not blue sea and sky!

Our original intention before leaving Mallorca had been to go to Cuitadella on Menorca’s west coast. However, Ports IB moorings had told us they didn’t take boats over 12metres and Club Nautico didn’t respond to our emails so we decided against sailing there. Instead we went by bus from Mahon – which turned out to be a good way to see the interior. Once there it was clear that we could have just rolled up unannounced as there was plenty of space on the Club Nautico dock.

Ciutadella’s port area really reminded me of Whitby with cobbled quaint alleyways – not that you can see them in this photo!

Originally the island capital, until the British rather abruptly moved it to Mahon in 1722, it boasts a pretty central square, Plaça d’es Born….

Obelisk with the Ajuntament [Town Hall] behind

….the obelisk commemorating the islands futile defence against the Turks in 1558!

Placa d’es Born looking towards the Palau Torresaura

The old town….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

….. is a series of twisting alleyways around a central market comprising meat and veg in booths along the walkway….

…and a small, enclosed, fishmarket.

The “Estatua des Be” ….

…. which symbolises the Lamb of God, carries a flag bearing the cross of St John the Baptist.

Just round the corner is the Claustra de Convent de Sant Agustí which houses a museum.

Inside an amazingly eclectic range of exhibits included this C5 BC Greek bronze of a Mesopotamian mermaid….

I hadn’t realised that mermaids were depicted at that time as the body of a bird with folded wings and a woman’s head rather than a half woman/half fish.

As well as Talayotic remains, there were stuffed animals, a collection of land snails and fossils and stuff that looked like it might have been thrown out of school science labs in the mid 70’s – including this different way of demonstrating “squaws and a hippopotamus hide”!!!

Another deconsecrated church made up the other half of the building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regular readers might remember that when we passed through Maó on our way west we failed to visit the fort and tried but failed to visit the distillery. We were again unsuccessful in regards to the former – even though we did try. For some unknown reason we expected it to be free to enter as it occupies a rambling site across the headland. Even more unusually we didn’t take the wallet – which we generally do in case there is a beer opportunity! Anyway we got as far as the entrance gate….

…. looked at some of the outside walls….

…and were content instead with the excellent view of the anchorage.

We were, however, successful with the distillery.

We would have been very red faced owning up to missing it again – so just to be sure we actually went twice! Well, with free help yourself tasting of the four flavours of gin plus various mixer liquors why wouldn’t you.

We are really glad that we made it back to both Mallorca and Menorca and, particularly with Mallorca, that we were able to sample the delights of its north coast. What I think added to our enjoyment and prompted the title of this post was that we saw it in the spring. It wasn’t the rather barren landscape we remembered but full of wild flowers and grasses….

Blue….

… red and yellow

….  and, thus, with more birds and insects etc too.

Sardinian Warbler

Andouin’s Gull – yes it did have a red bill

Cirl Bunting

Migrating Canada Goose

Small land snails

Tree bumble bee

Common Copper butterfly on English Marigold

It has been great to be on the move again and we are delighted that the weather has been kind and allowed us to see these islands at their best.

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