Menorca. Spain.

Tuesday, June 9th 2015

"There are moments that I know I will long for, even as I live them"

For two ocean lovers lucky enough to reside beach side all year round, four weeks of frenetic travels through fast paced cities that seemingly never slept had us yearning for a wide expanse of blue, the endlessness of clear skies and the clarity of uncluttered horizons. We went in search of ocean, of islands, seeking spaces seemingly unaffected by tourism or traffic, high-rises or hurriedness….a search that began and ended with the discovery of Menorca - a destination so magical that there were moments, many moments when we questioned our own reality there, wondering aloud to one another if we were dreaming, can this island and its idyllic existence even exist? 

 A quick one hour flight from Barcelona, Menorca, the least known of the four Balearic islands (Ibiza, Mallorca and Formentera) sits serenely in sparkling clear seas, blessedly unspoilt by the 'sceney-ness' so associated with its infamous sister islands. A visual hit-list of Mediterranean highlights (all olive trees, whitewashed houses and cobblestone streets, breathtaking beaches and wildflower filled countryside), Menorca offers idyllic 'pinch-me' moments at every turn, each scene unfolding and revealing itself in unhurried island time. A sense of wonder, a feeling of 'why didn't anyone tell me about this earlier?' permeating our entire stay.

 As far has honeymoon destinations go, we felt as though we'd unearthed the holy grail, a place where you can truly exhale, simultaneously offering serene relaxation, explorations on foot and easy navigation by car, beautiful (yet unpretentious) dining, romantic escapism, beaches, towns, seaside, countryside, all no further than 40 minutes from anything else - the time it takes to traverse the entire length of the island. Destined for Ciutadella, the charming fishing village at the Western end (see our separate post on this magical town postes soon!), we were perfectly situated for ocean explorations and countryside adventures. Our first stop, twin blue lagoons.

You know those beaches you see on Pinterest and wonder if they're really real? And if they are, where they could possibly be? Those places that seem so dreamily blue they appear almost otherworldly, and you question their natural existence? The hidden beaches of Menorca are just such places. Veritable lagoons of clear turquoise, aqua expanses of impossibly crystalline water and powdery white sand. 

 Beautifully, the magic of these beaches begins with the journey there itself. A trip from central Ciutadella down winding, hair raisingly narrow roads (seeking signage confirming their two-way direction of traffic, sceptical a second car could possibly fit!), snaking country roads lined in ancient drystone walls and dotted with olive and orange trees, cypress dotting horizons and wildflowers sprouting from unlikely crevices. Whizzing past flashes of orange and purple, giant wild daisies and delicate fringes of Queen Anne's Lace, we follow wooden signage eventually turning down an even narrower dirt road, through hand whittled wooden gates and a track lined with boulders so enormous they feel prehistoric. A sense of anticipation in parking beneath these Jurassic looking stones, not knowing quite what to expect ahead, but believing it to be magical.

 And it does not disappoint. Treading the short path to Cala Macarella, the scene that opens before you is one of an arcing turquoise lagoon, a giant natural horse-shoe shaped pool streaked with patches of deeper indigo, against a backdrop of sheer white cliffs. Breathtaking, in a way that celebrates not only the natural beauty, but the unaffectedness of such a place. An impossibly beautiful beach seemingly forgotten by time, unspoilt by development and to our eyes, bizarrely unpopulated by people. Admittedly there during the shoulder rather that high summer season (in our opinion the best time to visit the islands for temperature / crowds / prices) but even so, the only signs of civilisation are a handful of people dotting the sand, a handful of buoys in the water and a beautiful (empty) wooden lifeguards tower. We pause, a serene sense of amazement and wonder washing over us, struck again by an even deeper sense of 'where is everyone?', 'why don't more people know about this…or come here?'. In that moment, we believed we'd unearthed the Mediterraneans best kept secret. 

 Walking up the narrow track hugging this giant lagoon (in search of the smaller, second secluded cove, Cala Macarelleta), the water grew bluer the higher we climbed, the scene beneath us becoming more incredible with every step. And so followed and almost comical forty or so minutes (traversing a track that should only take five), of constant stopping and staring, first at the water then at one another, then back at the water in a kind of speechless wonder. Every meter offering a new angle to capture, framed by a different view, the need to photograph (with both our minds and cameras) every detail, drinking it in.

 The path itself, a fairytale'esq hand whittled staircase (the banisters worn smooth over time) follows a natural stone staircase, winding through tree roots and around a cliff corner, revealing a paler, more translucent, impossibly beautiful scene. Somehow even more stunning than the bigger, deeper cove, this smaller beach gently slopes into the sea offering a shallow, duck egg blue, crystalline lagoon. Bronzed bodies in various states of Mediterranean undress dot pristine white sands, their umbrellas and bikinis offering pops of colour against an otherwise natural palette. A streak of amethyst marine ephemera (jewel like, semi-translucent shells on closer inspection) shimmer at the tide line. A sense of even the sea life here being a bit more magical and otherworldly than anything we've seen back home. Post swim (life changing after so many weeks in the cities) lying on this beach, this serene and sparkling expanse, after a month of frenetic writing, shooting, shows and scheduling, we're utterly and completely transported, vowing to remember every detail, mentally savouring each moment.

 As the sun dipped, somewhat reluctantly heading homeward to Ciutadella through Tuscan looking countryside, (the only clue otherwise being occasional shimmering glimpses of water on the horizon), we observe ancient white washed churches, pristine in their upkeep, musing at the dreamy un-fussiness of marrying in such a setting, flying in only the closest family and friends. Languid days spent beachside in the lead up and aftermath of the wedding itself. Old farmhouses, many of which have been converted to boutique hotels in recent years, dot the islands centre and offer sublime settings for a rustic wedding reception. A little like a scene from Stealing Beauty, imagine white washed buildings, terracotta flanked swimming pools, spilling succulents and olive trees, buildings connected by winding gravel walkways. Hammocks are strung between orange trees, grapevines growing on neighbouring vineyards and breakfasts taken at intimate tables dotted throughout the estates. A sense of feeling deep in the Tuscan countryside one minute, having just returned from greek looking beaches and the Mediterranean fishing village of Ciutadella, only a short drive away. 

 The longer we spent, the deeper Menorca dug its roots. The measure of a special place for us being whether it's mentally crossed from the 'travel-to-do' list after visiting, or becomes a destination you dream of returning to one day (a big call with so many incredible places on earth to visit in one lifetime). Menorca for us fell unequivocally into the latter camp, proving an island we dreamt of re-visiting, before we'd even left. Those places you're filled with a desire to share with everyone you love most, to have others to experience the same magic you felt, even if only to validate its very existence.

 MENORCA BEACHES

Cala Macarella & Macarelleta
(pictured above) - These are twin coves, one large arcing lagoon, one smaller and narrower. Dreamy beyond belief. The cafe at Macarella appears touristy and a little tired looking, but reluctant to leave, we shared a simple, late lunch of grilled, super fresh calamari, prosciutto and honeydew melon, mineral water, Albariño and espressos…it was beautiful, post-swim perfection!

 Cala Turqueta - Small and secluded, lined in beautiful rocks with a stretch of white sand and a pool of clear, shallow water.

 Cala en Brut - A stones throw from Ciutadella town, this is a giant natural swimming pool surrounded by flat rocks and stone stairs (no sand). Water access is via ladders. 

 MENORCA FARMHOUSE HOTELS

Hotel Torralbenc
- Beautifully restored white farmhouses, overlooking vineyards and views of the Mediterranean. We love the various nooks designed for lounging, dotted throughout the estate offering private corners to retreat to. Situated between Mahon and Ciutadella in great proximity to most of the islands beaches. 

 Hotel Rural Morvedra Nou - Close to Ciutadella and the Western beaches, yet beautifully intimate, tucked into secluded countryside. Dine poolside beneath a bougainvillaea vines or lounge on hammocks, strung between trees. 

 Hotel Sant Joan de Binissainda - An expansive, whitewashed state with simple and luxurious rooms (there are only twelve in total). The perfect setting for simple weddings performed beneath a canopy of trees and an idyllic honeymoon retreat. Close to beaches and Mahon town centre. 

See more travel, honeymoon & destination wedding locations worldwide, handpicked for The LANE Brands.

Barcelona.

Tuesday, May 26th 2015

Barcelona. A city we originally journeyed to for Bridal week, but left with our minds stretched, our eyes opened and our souls enriched. A city of contrasts, of waxing and waning, a city that feels forever in flux. Changeable, yet in so many ways, remarkably unchanged. The ebb and flow of energy, a calm descending at siesta, a peacefulness found in particular pockets, quiet nooks and cool lane ways mere moments from well trod paths…only to turn a different street corner and shift to a different gear, switching moods as the sun sinks low. 

 The trip from any airport into the heart of the city offers a fascinating glimpse, a first impression later embedded or completely altered, depending on your experience there. A fast twenty minutes by taxi to Barcelona's centre, we whizzed by clues of the dry Mediterranean climate and ancient history of this place, cactuses spilling down hill sides, a curious forgotten cemetery dug almost vertically into steep cliffs, a port (we learn one of the busiest in the world), filled with ships. Impressions of a city that is at once present and modern, yet surrounded by, and proud of its rich past.  

Arriving at our sunlit apartment, its Eixample location a stone's throw from everywhere, we happily unpacked the Spring layers lying patiently dormant in our NYC suitcases. Looking at both of our wardrobes slightly bemusedly, realising they'd been identically filled, with chic travellers staples…a mix of monochrome neutrals, black and white blouses, broderie anglaise dresses and flat sandals - effortless pieces to layer, perfect for city explorations on foot. Just in time for sunset, the balcony of The W Hotel beckoned, admittedly not an entirely immersive experience of the 'real' Barcelona, (better found in lane ways and down at street level) but offered instead an unrivalled view down the entire length of Barcelona's beach & place to unwind in our jetlagged states! A vantage point perfect for people watching, that first-afternoon overview of a city, allowing you take it all in, cocktail in hand with tunes hinting at the change in pace, about to unfold at sundown. 

Waking to a spectacular Spring morning our search for breakfast (craving something more substantial than the European coffee and croissant!) led us to Brunch and Cake, a quaint whitewashed cafe we fell in love with, tucked on a beautifully leafy corner. Indulging in a small feast of avocado toast, potato scramble eggs with spanish ham, granola and yoghurt, and plenty of coffee, we sat outside in complete sunshine, mapping out our day - with plans to return at a more appropriate hour than 9am for the decadent homemade cakes! 

Headed on foot to explore the Gothic quarter, our stylists brains forever scouting backdrops and locations, our eyes (and lenses) were drawn in all directions, with so much beauty hidden beneath feet and above eye level. Decorative pavements and tiles, ancient gargoyles, intricate lace ironwork and surprises revealed around every corner. You can certainly take a tour (the architectural history is rich and unique), or do as we did, simply wandering intuitively, allowing the unexpected discoveries (like buskers playing ancient instruments we've never seen before) to find you. Later, climbing high above the city, in the Spanish Village (tucked behind the museum), we unearth a miniature church and an adjacent stone enclosed courtyard, so perfect for an intimate, character filled reception, complete with breathtaking views on arrival.   

Musing later at dinner over all we'd seen so far, our impressions, our loves, our favourite moments of discovery, we decide Barcelona embodies the Roald Dahl quote of the best kept secrets always being hidden…a sense that those who don't believe in magic, will never find it…at least not in Barcelona. As a city that presents itself to you in layers, the best details found just beneath the surface, and far away from tourist trails, Barcelona extends an invitation to look a little closer, to search a little deeper. Our favourite, most surprising discoveries - the diverse and eclectic dining scene, cafes, bars and restaurants, each designed with a distinct personality and identity. Eclectic interiors of the considered rather than confused sensibility, each masterfully crafted and beautifully styled. A layering of textures and patinas, smoke mirror and bespoke hardware, tanned leather and decorative surfaces. Artful spaces in which we wanted to photograph every detail, and seasonal menus of Catalan simplicity, where we wanted to order every dish.  

 This vibrant, dynamic city, whose streets and lane ways ease into festivities (hitting their stride at midnight), offers an adjustment for foreigners, but a welcome one. With an energy that you feed off, Barcelona sets a unique pace and mindset you slip in to, all too quickly. Afternoons stretching endlessly as though only midday and midnights creeping around faster than you think, nights here feel forever young. There's that ever present pull, that flux, between these two energies, an un-hurriedness found by day, tranquil explorations, a city in siesta…and the awakening, the transformation, the buzz than envelopes you later. Describing this intangible feeling, trying to place the juxtaposition, we learned of its Catalan name, the ancient conflict between the calm, the sensible, the rational, and the pull of the creativity and the crazy. The locals call it Seny Rauxa. One of those curious, beautiful terms that even in another language sounds exactly as its means, rolling off the tongue in a way that you understand the contradiction, you feel it also. The perfect analogy for the duality of this unique city, that perfect balance you look for in any destination, between the downtime and the uptime, a cool measure of calm with just enough of the crazy. 

BARCELONA EXPLORATIONS

The Gothic Quarter / Head here for incredible, historical explorations on foot, architecture at every turn, secrets found down narrow laneways (& stop in at Federal Cafe)

Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya / Go even just for the scenic ride up the hill, the breathtaking views over the entire city, the architecture and the building itself (The Pronovias show took place in the magnificent hall here - an opulent almost cathedral like space).

The  Spanish Village  / An cross section of Spanish architecture and culture, all nestled into a micro village, with tiny cafes and bars dotted throughout. We fell in love with the orange trees and potted geraniums lining terracotta enclaves, the amazing stonework under foot, and dreamt of long lunches in quaint courtyards.

Barceloneta A triangular shaped pocket of old harbour, a grid of streets, in the old fishermans quarter, best explored on foot - the port on one side and beach on the other. Take in the boats, the beach and laid back atmosphere where tourists and locals alike congregate at bars and restaurants lining the water, for a spritz in the sun and a seafood lunch.

Park Guell / One of the major works of Gaudi in Barcelona, this surreal collection of sculptures and space, a play on scale and proportions, mirrors and mosaics and majestic stairs offers a designers exploration of magic and imagination. The peak offering an amazing panorama of both the city the sea.

Gaudi's Iconic Buildings - throughout the city / Even if you know nothing of his work or care little for architecture, it is impossible not to notice (or be slightly mesmerised by) the incredible Art Nouveau works of Gaudi knitted into the fabric of Barcelona's buildings. Unmistakable, you'll intuitively recognise them by their sculptural, slightly surreal shapes and decorative details, unexpected discoveries to find on foot.

BREAKFAST / BRUNCH / LUNCH:

Brunch & Cake  / A cute cafe on a quiet leafy corner offering delicious breakfasts, brunch, lunch and mouthwatering (giant!) cakes. Perfect for hard to find fixes of fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, avocado toast and eggs. Expect a brief but worthwhile wait.

Granja Petitbo / A relaxed cafe of laid back charm complete with couches and magazines for lounging, fresh juices, fantastic breakfasts and lunch, with brunch on weekends. Starving on the day we arrived for a late lunch around 3pm we ordered lasagne - a generous portion of super fresh pasta, cheese and tomato served with toast - so delicious we ate it all!

Federal Cafe / We favoured the Gothic Quarter outpost of this cafe for it super friendly staff and blissfully tranquil setting, tucked down a quiet lane. Wifi, baked eggs, fresh juice and incredible looking (we refrained!) cakes and baked treats, the perfect accompaniment to a great coffee. 

DRINKS / DINNER:

Toto  / Possibly our favourite dining find, this beautifully appointed bar and restaurant, a sensory feast of detail and surfaces offers a mouthwatering (more Mediterranean than strictly spanish) menu. Many dishes are cooked in the wood fired oven or over coals imparting a delicious smokiness, using seasonal, locally sourced ingredients paired with delicious spanish wines.

Cornelia & Co / A restaurant, bakery, providore, fromagerie and homewares space. Great for brunch and lunch also, but at dinner time we favoured the fresh pasta and risotto, small spanish dishes and grilled goat cheese salad. Stop by for oysters, tapas, wine and aperitifs, or stay for dinner. By day they also offer take-away picnics, perfect to take to a park or the beach. 

Boca Grande / Tucked down Passatge de la Concepcio, this restaurant, cocktail bar, terrace and generally chic nightspot is a stunningly designed sensory feast of interior details, with different dining nooks and spaces. Go for the incredible seafood (beautifully displayed), perfectly mixed cocktails and delicious wine list. 

Cafe Kafka / A cosmopolitan, bohemian bistro with chic, eclectic interiors (including the unisex bathroom fit out!) divided into several bars, rooms and spaces. Delicious Catalan food, with the tiniest of Asian twists.

The W Hotel / A shiny, unmistakable monument perched at the beginning of the beach esplanade, the W offers an unrivalled vantage point over the sand for a session of sunset drinks, people watching and an international vibe. 

MASSAGE:

Ban Thai Massage / The most incredible Thai massage you'll have at this tiny little spot we stumbled across after long days exploring the city and late nights working from bed which our necks/shoulders were not thanking us for!

WHERE TO STAY:

El Paluet Living (pictured above)

One of our favourite places to stay in Barcelona was El Palauet Living, a luxury boutique hotel in the heart of the city, on one of Barcelona's most emblematic avenues.  We fell in love with this art nouveau building, its stained glass windows, ornate ceilings and light filled suites which was the perfect space to work from and retreat to after long, busy days and late nights!  After exploring the city by day, be sure to head up to the rooftop terrace for a heated spa to watch the sunset with wine and tapas.

A truly indulgent experience, each suite is assigned its own personal assistant who can take care of anything from hotel reservations, car rentals, massage services or organising their chef to prepare breakfast in your suite's kitchen & dining room!

Other hotels we recommend...

Praktik Rambla

W Hotel

See more travel, honeymoon & destination wedding locations worldwide, handpicked for The LANE Brands.

A Dream Soho Loft.

Thursday, April 30th 2015

In a SoHo loft perched high above Grand St, behind a dark door tellingly marked with an anchor, an enormously dreamy space imagined and executed by the inimitable hands of Sibella Court (and friends) offered us an indigo oasis amidst the mayhem of New York Bridal week and the frenetic pace of New York City. 

An infinitely more beautiful experience than many hotel rooms (with the bonus of being significantly, vastly, more spacious) these lofts (there's a sister Loft 4 on the floor below), are a little like stepping into the pages of one of Sibella's many books, filled with unexpected, thoughtful, imaginative details at every turn. 

They're also filled with unexpected little discoveries of luxury, luxury in the true, unpretentious sense of the word. Besides jaw droppingly beautiful furniture throughout, there's gently crumpled linens in a signature palette of pales across bedding and drapes (bedding that feels amazing to crawl into each evening and drapes that pool on the floor framing impossibly large arch windows). Then there's the bathroom appointed with an antique mirror, Aesop and Diptyque candles, bottles of Voss mineral water waiting by each bed, iphone chargers, fresh flowers delivered weekly, Society Inc. crockery…you get the idea.

The whole space feels beautifully considered and elegant, yet completely effortless and relaxed, filled with details to make you feel at once at home (admittedly, the home of an impossibly stylish friend in possession of quite amazing SoHo real estate), but home none the less. Home in a way that a hotel room never does. 

Serene, supremely relaxing, light filled and honestly the loveliest space to pass time in, we literally lost track of hours (frantically writing and editing bridal week shows) each perched on the most enormous of indigo sofas, beneath sunlit branches of blossom. Pausing from our laptops to occasionally look up we'd find ourselves (happily) distracted by the layers and layers of styling, details that revealed themselves the longer you gazed…natural fibres, textures and tints, timber and indigo of every nuanced shade all nestled amongst antique flags, antlers, mirrors and custom hardware. For those with more spare time than us, there's also an enviable collection of books and reading material (a collection that remained shamefully untouched during our stay!).

Perfect for pretty much every occasion we can think of, this incredible space lends itself particularly well to honeymoons, girls weekends away, small scale events (think intimate dinner parties around the giant table) or anyone looking for a unique New York experience. 

We stayed in the indigo magnificence of Loft 5, which sleeps 4 people. One floor down, Loft 4 is slightly more adventurous in spirit, also sleeping four people, with one bedroom taking the form of a giant indoor tent! Visit Air BnB to book both Loft 5 (our loft, pictured!) and Loft 4.

Photography: Karissa Fanning / The LANE 

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