Mahón or Maó as its known in the local dialect, is the largest city and port of the second largest island (Minorca) of the Balearic Islands which are part of Spain. It is the second deepest natural harbor in the world at 5km long and 900m wide, with very clear water.
The Carthaginians occupied the island in 205 BC and named the port after Mago Barca, the brother of Hannibal. In the middle ages Mahon was occupied by the Moors. In 1287 it captured by Alfonso III of Aragon who established the Kingdom of Majorca, a vassal state to the kingdom of Aragon. In 1707 the British took the island from the Spanish and kept it until the Napoleonic Wars in the 18th century when it went back to Spain.
Many people believe that the city of Mahon is the birth place of mayonnaise, after the french defeated the British who were inhabiting the port. The sauce was originally known as “salsa mahonesa” in Spanish and “maonesa” in Catalan (as it is still known in Menorca), later becoming mayonnaise as it was popularized by the French. As well, a traditional cheese is still made on the island (formatge de Maó) and is named after the city.
In the above map, Minorca is the island furthest to the right.
Our arrival into port was wonderfully quiet and serene. We arrived at the island early in the morning and started the long gentle glide towards the city, moving from the rougher waves of the Mediterranean into the protected and smooth waters of the harbour.
We softly glided past the still-sleeping rows of houses built along the banks including one built for privacy in the harbour itself. (Apparently it is known locally as “little Venice” and is sometimes rented by Richard Branson)
After we docked we went on shore to wander around the Port of Mahon for a while. Also docked on the quay near our boat was a Spanish galleon that was attracting the locals. We checked it out and took some pictures before signing up for a catamaran ride and local history tour of the harbour and the town along its shores.
Returning to the port, we walked around the old town built majestically on a cliff as a protective and defensive solution to all the invading armies.
As always it was soon time to leave and set sail for Port-Vendres (France)
Port-Vendres is a typical Mediterranean fishing port, situated near the Spanish border on the Cote Vermeille in south west France. Port-Vendres is renowned for its numerous fish and sea food restaurants and is one of the few deep-water ports in this part of the French Mediterranean coast. It takes freighters and cruise ships, as well as large and small fishing boats.
We were feeling tired and needed more of a down day, so we just wandered around the town looking at the local sights and taking pictures.
We found this fun pile of old cannons — the sign says that this is a transfer areas for the paulines protected habitat and that any explosives should be kept in this zone. Discharge of explosives is forbidden. Brian found that sign and old canons together, really funny.
When we left port, the weather was starting to get a bit more intense for the first time in the cruise. The waves were getting choppy and there was a wind coming across the bay of lions. The boat had a bit of a roll but nothing too over the top or difficult to deal with. Both of us found it quite fun to feel the boat roll and sway.