Fernando Barthelemy Paz, Operations & Product Manager Menorca
What makes you a local?
I actually grew up in Madrid, but have lived in Menorca for more than 25 five years. I now live with my family in the capital of the island, Mahon, in a beautiful neighbourhood called Alaior, which is near the fantastic port of Mahon and Son Bou, one of Menorca’s largest and loveliest beaches.
My first memories of Menorca couldn’t be more local and authentic – I used to visit my older brother, who at that time worked in Cavalleria Lighthouse as one of the last lighthouse men, doing an already extinct job. This lighthouse is situated in the most northerly point of the island and it offers amazing, almost mystical, views over the sea. We would spend the day listening to the whistle of the wind, smelling the sea and letting the scenery disappear in the horizon. Today, it is the spot to enjoy a perfect sunset.
What do you love about Menorca?
Menorca’s unspoiled natural beauty was love at first sight for me; I am surrounded by natural landscapes where I can go hiking, whether it is along the coast, down ravines and behind Menorca’s hinterland, which are the ones I like during winter. We also have amazing weather and can swim in the sea seven months of the year. Just as important is the island lifestyle, a much calmer pace of life, especially coming from Madrid where the day-by-day is hectic; getting stuck in traffic and constantly checking your watch. In Menorca. Here we locals have joie-de-vivre.
Is the local very culture different to others?
Definitely. There is a clear differentiation from the rest of Spain and even Mallorca and the other Balearic Islands. Menorca has been ruled by many empires, which have left a visible footprint in architecture and an intangible one in our customs. Menorcans speaks their own dialect (a variety of Catalan), produce their own shoes (the avarcas) and is known throughout Spain for autochthonous horses, beautiful and proud animals present at all our festivities, such as San Juan, one of the oldest and most popular celebrations in Spain. However, we are most proud of our gastronomy; the DO goat cheese, Menorcan Gin and the famous “sobrassada”.
How are you different from other experts in Menorca?
As Menorca is a small destination, I am constantly looking for new opportunities, especially considering that many visitors are repeaters. Also, after living here for so long and working in tourism, it is not hard to make connections with the local authorities, agencies, suppliers and hotels. Intercruises has a good reputation, which also helps.
What would you recommend others do in Menorca?
Menorca is easy to discover in a few days, but it is also easy to fall into tourist traps – you need the advice of a local! I always recommend the beautiful cove-beaches, mainly on the North and South coast. Another impressive sight is the port of Mahón, the second largest natural harbor in the world. If possible, try to visit during the local festivities, although crowded, the experience is spectacular, especially “Jaleo”, when both animals and horsemen show their abilities in the middle of a crowded square. Finally, you cannot leave the island without trying our tasty cheese (especially as I know a few of the prize-winning cheese-makers!) and sobrassada, washed down with our “pomada”, gin and lemonade. Really refreshing!
Describe how Menorca affects your senses?
Admire the beauty of its coves, smell the aroma of its flora, the sea, hear the whisper of the waves and above all the silence of the calm nature. The Cheese Route, is a great place to really give your senses a ride!
How will Menorca change in the next 5, 10 and 20 years?
I have seen and experienced the evolution of Menorca from a quiet destination, into a busy place during summertime and recently there has been a significant investment in infrastructures and improvement of services all over the island. However, as the island is a UNESCO Biosphere Nature Reserve, there is a limit to what changes can be made.
What do you like about working for Intercruises?
I love the international environment and variety; each season, each day is different – one moment you are looking for new products and the next you’re at the pier meeting guests and crew of all nationalities and cultures – a new experience every day! I am also very proud to show off my island to visitors. The greatest reward for me is to see the final satisfaction of our visitors for a job that we do with passion and in a reliable and honest way.
What is the biggest problem/challenges you have faced during your time at Intercruises?
The transportation strike, especially considering that you can’t bring buses from elsewhere. Rough negotiations took place and finally we could offer the service. Another challenge is if a guide is sick and we get last minute notice – this is very challenging with only a limited amount of guides in Menorca.
Have you developed any innovative products or service solutions?
This year we developed a tour where families reach the Son Bou Beach and parents can have some quiet time, while kids are being entertained by a sand sculptor, with beach games and activities. Another new initiative is a visit to the “avarcas” artisanal crafting center, where guests get a glimpse at an age-old tradition and can buy a few pairs!