What a treat for Jim and me to return to the island of Menorca! We visited a few years ago for a September holiday and had such a blast with my friend Susan Unger and her partner Carlos that we knew we would be back. We loved swimming in Menorca’s uncrowded crystalline coves, stargazing, and our delicious seafood lunches in the charming towns of Ciutadella and Mahon. What a pleasure to stroll again the island’s lovely towns, and enjoy evening cliff walks and beach swims. On this visit, we also spent more time just relaxing at S’Olivera, Susan’s stylish farmhouse surrounded by wild olive trees, which is now available to rent all or in part on Airbnb.
S’Olivera is an oasis of calm. The enormous fig tree that shaded our rooms was as beautiful as ever. Jim loves a morning walk and his daily hike took him past stone walls, wooden fences, and Menorcan fields dotted with lemon trees, rosemary bushes and wild sage.
Stone walls of Menorca
Menorca is the smallest of the Balearic Islands off Barcelona. It is only 10 miles across east to west, and 30 miles north to south. Of the 3 Balearic islands, Ibiza is well known—perhaps too well known—as the summer party destination of the Mediterranean. Mallorca has been a favorite summer getaway of artists and writers throughout the 20th century. Now Menorca is having a moment. Charming boutique hotels and enticing shops are springing up in the island’s towns. Decades ago, Susan began creating fashion and accessory collections under the label Binichic. Bini means ‘House of’ and it’s frequently seen on the names of the island’s beaches and roads. With Menorca drawing more and more attention as a stylish destination, the name of her brand couldn’t be more apt.
Susan in Mahon with one of her Binichic bags
S’Olivera is right in the center of the island, near the lovely small town of Alaior which has all that you need if you plan an Airbnb visit. Given the small size of the island, Susan’s home in the countryside is an easy drive to all of the island’s glorious beaches. The Ciutadella and Mahon, charming towns both with fewer than 30,000 inhabitants, are very accessible too.
Dancers at Litica
Menorca is a magical island of unexpected delights. On our last visit, Susan introduced us to Litica, an arts center dramatically set within the monumental stone walls of an old limestone quarry. In its medieval garden, we happened upon an impromptu dance performance, with the dancers silently interacting in the garden dotted with pomegranate trees and wild herbs. It was poetry in motion.
Afternoon light at Binigaus
This time, the unexpected magic happened on one of our favorite beaches, Binigaus, which is also one of the closest beaches to S’Olivera. Among the charms Binigaus offers are several secluded coves, cliff walks in both directions from the main beach, and a cute little beach bar where we enjoy evening drinks.
At the Binigaus beach bar with my Ibiza Binichic beach tote
From the bar looking out at the sea, as you walk to the right, the coves along the path become increasing secluded (and clothing optional).
We came upon a group of people who had brought horses down to the beach. They were Menorca’s own breed of beautiful black horses; this breed is a symbol of the island. It was thrilling to watch the bathers ride bareback into the gentle waves. The horses with their riders were comfortable in the water, prancing in the gentle sea. “What a beautiful gift to see this,” Susan said.
Susan grew up in Pennsylvania. She found Menorca while traveling in her 20s, marrying an artist who lives there. The marriage didn’t last, but the pull of Menorca was strong, and she stayed there to raise her daughter Ona. (Ona means wave in Catalan.)
Susan and Ona in Menorca
Susan bought S’Olivera nearly 40 years ago. Ever since she has been creating her beautifully silkscreened fashion and accessories, working with local artisans with a long tradition of crafting leather and fabric to realize her designs.
Menorca has a fascinating ancient history. On our last visit, we visited monumental ruins—archaeological wonders—with a guide from Menorca Arqueologica, who helped us learn about them and about the people who settled the island in 2100 BC. The ancient ruins are as significant as Stonehenge, particularly Torres D’en Galmes, the best preserved settlement of the Talayotic period. (850 – 550 BCE)
Torre D’en Galmes
Amazingly, you can still walk through these ancient settlements freely and without crowds. These mysterious stone remnants invite you to imagine the origins of the island’s culture and the people who lived there.
Susan and Carlos have made a beautiful life for themselves at S’Olivera. It’s a gorgeous idyll. While the house is almost fully reserved for this summer, including repeat visitors, we’re hoping to cue new people who might enjoy reserving it for future visits.
I am so inspired by Susan’s life and work that I am introducing her collection of Binichic handbags as my first collection as a Contributor to HipSilver.com. They are made from fine grain genuine leathers that she has silkscreened with motifs of the island—waves from the azure coves, grasses and insects, foliage, and stone patterns from the ancient roads. Binichic handbags define the word artisanal as it is meant to be used: made by hand by skilled craftspeople, in small quantities on beautiful Menorca.
Susan and me with her Binichic Natalia pouches
When I think of Menorca, I dream of its deep blue sky and the bright red Hibicus, and so many shades of blue as the sea meets the sky in the afternoon light. Thank you, Susan, for sharing S’Olivera with us. I’m happy to know our recent visit won’t be our last.
Hibiscus in our room at S’Olivera
Shop Binichic handbags at HipSilver:
With my favorite Binichic Atlas Messenger bag now available at HipSilver
Rent all or part of Susan’s farmhouse on Airbnb:
S’Olivera living room
Getting to Menorca:
We flew from Barcelona on Vueling: https://www.vueling.com/en/
Susan and Carlos took an American flight to Menorca via Madrid which is another option, allowing more free baggage than Vueling.
Lithica, the cultural center with sculpture installed throughout the monumental stone walls and beautiful botanical and medieval gardens:
We booked a fascinating tour with Menorca Arqueologica, exploring the ancient site of Torre D’en Galmes:
Susan and Carlos, Jim and me on our tour at Torres D’Galmes
We were charmed by this boutique hotel we toured in Mahon:
See more of Susan’s artistic inspirations and life in Menorca here:
And more from our visit to Menorca in our Instagram stories:
Jim and me in Ciutadella