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Lazareto and Tagomago, the Balearics’ lesser-known islands

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TO PREVENT contagion, authorities sent suspected cases to quarantine on one of the Balearic Islands, including any arrivals from countries with a high incidence of infection. Whilst there, they could visit the ‘Tower of Whispers’, the panoramic viewing point and the museum, then after they were restored to health or disease-free, they were allowed to continue on their journey.

Lush gardens and beautiful architecture – the perfect spot for quarantining (this photo and pictures 4, 5 and 6 from the island’s official website, Lazareto de Mahón)

All this sounds very much like a review of summer package holidays in 2020 – but was actually a snapshot from the late 18th century, which shows history has an eerie habit of repeating itself.

The poetic-sounding Lazareto Island was purpose-built for isolating contagious conditions in 1794, and 227 years on, is now a major tourist attraction just outside the port of Mahón, or Maó, the capital town of Menorca.

Although the name, in translation, is far less beautiful: From the Italian Lazzaretto, sometimes referred to by the French Lazarette, it in fact means ‘quarantine station’ or ‘leprosy unit’.

To this end, other walled-off outposts for quarantining patients with bubonic plague, leprosy, yellow fever, typhus, cholera and similar diseases elsewhere in Spain are known as lazaretos.

But you cannot always judge an island by its title. Lazareto is a lush green haven with an elegant sandstone fortress in its centre and splendid Baroque and neo-classical architecture, and an official national heritage site.

Once a sanatorium for patients with contagious illnesses, the fortress – and, in fact, the whole island – are now official national heritage sites (photo: Menorca tourism board)

Nowadays, it is used for global conferences, political meetings, and the site of a university-level summer school in science subjects – as well as regular guided tours, given that it is one of the Balearic Islands‘ most popular visitor attractions.

Created by order of King Carlos III’s minister, the Count of Floridablanca, referred to in the Balearic languages – of which menorquín is one – as a Llatzeret, this stunning, verdant corner of paradise was still owned by Spain’s national health authorities until 2015 when it was handed over to Menorca‘s island council, or Consell Insular.

Before and since, it has been a backdrop for screen productions – the most recent being the episode of MasterChef aired today (Monday, October 18).

Lazareto Island’s location is no accident – being the easternmost point of Spain, Menorca and the port in its capital was a key gateway to the country and to the wider continent of Europe from the Middle East, Far East and Africa, used heavily for goods traffic and general long-distance travel.

Given Mahón’s close contact with the rest of the world, it could also be a major entry point for any infectious or contagious diseases doing the rounds outside Spain’s borders – social distancing on board ship in those days was not easy, meaning the entire crew could end up catching whatever conditions were circulating.

Green and beautiful, Lazareto Island is one of the Balearics’ top tourist attractions (photo: TripAdvisor)

Once ships docked in Mahón, anyone who was known to be suffering from a fast-spreading illness or who had been in contact with someone affected would be given bed and board inside the Lazareto fortress, where medical workers were on site to care for those who needed it.

Inside, it’s a long way from the grim, grey and soulless sanatorium you’d expect; bright white walls, huge windows, pointed arches and a network of columns, gardens with wells and palm trees, open grassy areas, semi-covered patios, cobbled squares and, in short, such a visually-attractive design that, if you were dropped there out of the sky and nobody told you what it was, you might have thought it was a monastery, a collegiate, a palace, or a stately home.

It’s a pity it doesn’t have the right facilities for quarantining any more, since travellers to the Balearic Islands would probably not have minded at all if, during their compulsory post-arrival isolation in times of Covid-19, they had to stay in this unique and beautiful enclave.

More than two-and-a-quarter centuries after it was built, you don’t have to have been diagnosed with a contagious illness to enter – actually, if you did test positive for Covid, you wouldn’t be allowed in at all and, as the pandemic is not over yet (albeit drastically improved thanks to the vaccine roll-out), you still need to wear a mask when visiting outside as well as inside parts, use the hand-sanitiser at the entrance, and make sure you keep a safe distance from others not in your household or family and friend group.

Number limitations on the island are not thought to be in place, since it is only accessible by the regular catamaran connection from Cales Fonts in Menorca, meaning crowd sizes will never be able to exceed the maximum passenger numbers per once-daily crossing.

A round trip, including a guided tour and the short boat ride, takes about two-and-a-half hours and costs €18 per head at full fee.

Children aged eight to 15 inclusive get in half-price, at €9, whilst pensioners and the over-65s are entitled to a 25% discount, paying just €12.

Kids under eight years old can enter free of charge.

Booking is advisable to make sure you are not left on the shore hanging around for the next crossing, but during off-peak times, you may simply be able to turn up – those wanting to make the trip should be at Cales Fonts (Es Castell) 15 minutes before scheduled set-off time.

Trips are organised from June 19 to October 31 inclusive, when boats run on Tuesdays and Sundays from 17.00 – or from 16.00 during October – and on Saturdays from 10.00.

Physical sale points for tickets are the tourist information offices in Mahón port and in Ciutadella, or at Viatges Magon travel agents’; online outlets include the latter’s website, Viatgesmagon.com.

Celebrity playground and pop video filming location

Lazareto is somewhat cheaper to visit than the other, heavily-frequented but little-known island in the Balearic archipelago.

But if you think the entry fee to get onto Tagomago, about 800 metres (a mile) off the coast of Ibiza, is ‘dead money’, you might consider buying it instead and charging for tickets yourself.

Tagomago Island is up for sale for €150 million (this photo and pictures 9 and 11:Tagomago-island.com)

That said, if you can spare the €150 million Tagomago is up for sale for, you probably wouldn’t have to save up too hard to pay the price to rent it for the night – €20,000.

Perhaps this is not as outrageous as it may sound to the average earner: If you have a very large extended family and social circle and are planning a wedding or milestone birthday party, you might be able to drum up 1,000 guests and convince them to pay €20 each, or 2,000 guests and ask them all to chip in a tenner.

They wouldn’t all be able to stay the night there, though, as the staffed luxury villa, Can Domingo (complete with butler, chef, the works), with its huge outdoor pool and jacuzzi and spacious dining hall and lounge, only has five double bedrooms – admittedly, each with an en suite bathroom, spa area and sea views.

Can Domingo – luxury and privacy assured (photo: Kühn & Partner)

But you could use it for an all-day party with guests coming in shifts of X hours each, contributing their €10 or €20 a head for their visit, and then stay the night yourself.

Has anyone already splashed out the (literally, in some parts of Spain) house-sized fee to spend the night on Tagomago?

Of course they have. Welsh footballer Gareth Bale proposed to his now-wife Emma Rhys-Jones there; former Real Madrid ace Cristiano Ronaldo has held parties there before, and in general, it’s hugely sought-after by wealthy celebrities because, as well as being spacious enough for your 2,000-strong wedding reception – at a total of 148 acres – on Tagomago, you can completely guarantee privacy, so you’re safe from the prying camera lenses of the paparazzi and know there’s no danger of embarrassing pictures of you appearing in all tomorrow’s glossies around the globe if you overdo the cocktails and pass out in the pool.

Tagomago has been a popular hang-out for the stars for generations – long before Ronaldo and Bale were born.

The Rolling Stones, The Police, and the late reggae legend Bob Marley have all used it either for social and family gatherings or as a location for their record videos.

You’ve probably already seen Tagomago on TV without realising it, in fact.

The catchy, universally-recognised Lambada – frequently known by its Portuguese title Chorando se foi or by what is thought to be its original Spanish title of Llorando se fue – exploded onto the chart scene practically everywhere on Planet Earth in 1989 and, it seems, has never stopped being played since, with even the grandchildren of the original young adults who bopped to it in its release year recognising it instantly.

Brazilian band Kaoma’s version of Lambada (Chorando Se Foi) has kept the world dancing for 32 years – and the video-clip was filmed on Tagomago (photo: Screen shot from official Kaoma video)

Although its origins are much disputed, the version that is arguably the most famous to date is by the predominantly-Brazilian band Kaoma on the eve of the 1990s – but its video wasn’t filmed in Brazil, or even in the native countries of its bassist (Martinique) or its guitarist (Guadeloupe Française). The entire clip, with those dance moves we’ve been trying to imitate for the last 32 years, was shot on Tagomago.

Currently managed by German millionaire Matthias Kühn – partner of 11 years of Spanish actress and TV presenter Norma Duval – and up for sale for a nine-figure sum, contact details for hiring what is described as Europe’s most exclusive private enclave are given on Tagomago-island.com.

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Medals for Spain's service personnel who evacuated 2,200 Afghans

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ARMED Forces members who helped evacuated more than 2,200 people from Afghanistan in August to fly them safely to Spain have been given medals in recognition of their excellent humanitarian work in the face of extreme danger.

Defence minister Margarita Robles (centre, in the pink coat) with Air Force and Land Army members awarded an Aeronautical Merit Cross for their vital humanitarian actions in Afghanistan (photo: Ministry of Defence)

A reminder to the public that ‘the Army’ is not just about fighting in wars, but a crucial tool in foreign and home-soil aid work and emergency response, the actions of Spain’s military hogged the headlines this summer as they put their own lives on the line to shelter Afghan families from Taliban attacks at Kabul airport, accompanied them in flight, and greeted them on arrival in Madrid to coordinate their transport to safe accommodation, ensuring they had everything they needed for the immediate future, giving them information and interpreting for them.

The highly-dangerous evacuation operation ran until August 27, with Spanish troops leading the 2,200 onto A400M military aircraft in Kabul, heading for Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Once there, they boarded planes chartered by Spanish carrier Air Europa to take them to the military base in Torrejón de Ardoz, in the Greater Madrid region.

Although Spain’s foreign and defence ministries were working to ensure all Spanish nationals who wanted to leave Afghanistan were able to do so securely, the vast majority of those evacuated in August are Afghan nationals fleeing a régime which had taken over their country 20 years on.

Many are adults who would have been very young children when international troops moved into their country, and have since grown up with, and developed a life in, a society that has been much safer, more free, wealthier, and with facilities and opportunities closer to those of the west – as well as women being largely considered equal.

To this generation, a life of repression, persecution and constant fear of death and torture is alien, and their existence has been turned totally upside down.

Those who are now in Spain with their immediate families and attempting to start their lives all over again include a 17-year-old female student who has reportedly learned Spanish in just over three weeks and who is keen to study medicine at university, a student dentist who spent his ‘sandwich year’ in Madrid and whose dad and sister were in danger as they worked for the old Afghan government, and the captains of the women’s and men’s national wheelchair basketball teams, Nilofar Bayat, 28, and her husband Ramish, who have now been offered similar rôles in the sport in the Basque Country.

Some of the Afghan evacuees were interpreters and other support workers who guided Spanish troops when they were on missions in the western Asian country.

At present, Spain’s government is in ‘informal contact’ with the Taliban through the Spanish embassy in Doha, Qatar, diplomatic sources confirm, but ‘under no circumstances’ will Spain formally recognise the Taliban as Afghanistan’s ruling régime.

Spain’s Air Force and its Land Army Special Operations unit have all been given the Aeronautical Merit Cross with ‘red distinction’ in a ceremony presided by defence minister Margarita Robles.

During her speech, Sra Robles remembered the Spaniards who had lost their lives during the long conflict in Afghanistan which began in late 2001, and expressed her gratitude on behalf of both countries for the vital work carried out by Spain’s Forces in Kabul.

“Throughout those days in August, all of Spain was trembling along with you,” Sra Robles told the newly-decorated service personnel.

“All of Spain was, on some level, right there at the gates of Kabul airport with you.

“We feel proud as a country, we feel proud of our Armed Forces.

“This distinction is also for all the other people of Spain filled with goodwill and who believe in peace, who believe a better world is possible and who believe that we have to keep fighting against terrorism.”

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Spain’s ex-king Juan Carlos pleads immunity in English court citing 300-year-old Gibraltar treaty to avoid spying and harrasment charges brought by former lover

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A high court battle brought against Spain’s former monarch took a surreal turn this week, when his legal team cited a 300-year-old treaty that established Gibraltar as a British territory to argue that he should not face prosecution.

Juan Carlos, 83, is seeking immunity from the English courts over allegations he caused his ex-lover Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, a Danish businesswoman, ‘great mental pain’ by spying on and harassing her. 

Lawyers representing the monarch, who abdicated from the Spanish throne in 2014 following a series of scandals, are using the Treaty of Utrecht to argue that their client should be granted immunity under Spanish, British and international laws.

Gibraltar Pavol Svantner / Unsplash
Gibraltar was ceded under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Photo by Pavol Svantner / Unsplash

The treaty signed in 1713 brought an end to the War of the Spanish Succession and ceded Gibraltar to Britain, it also established that the nations would not “endeavour to attempt anything to the destruction or detriment of the other”, nor to help anyone else who might “attempt the same”.

Now, Juan Carlos’s lawyers are arguing that the immunity he enjoyed for any actions before his abdication as head of state, is also covered by his status as honorary king and as a member of the household of his son, King Felipe VI.

Although he denies the allegations brought by Sayn-Wittgenstein in a civil claim to London’s High Court, his lawyers argue that even if he had, his status meant he would be immune from prosecution.

“Such alleged conduct, even if abusive or harmful, would have been in His Majesty’s official capacity,” reads the defendant’s statement to the court.

Sayn-Wittgenstein claims that Juan Carlos sent Spanish secret service agents to spy on her and intimidate her while she was living in London after the relationship soured.

Among the more bizarre claims of intimidation are that agents broke into her apartment and left a book on her coffee table about the death of Princess Diana alleging that it was orchestrated by MI6 and the CIA.

Sayn-Wittgenstein claims this was followed up by a phone call from an unknown Spanish man who told her that ‘there are many tunnels between Nice and Monaco’ alluding to where she then had a home.

Juan Carlos corinna cordon press
King Juan Carlos and his former lover Corinna Sayn-Wittgenstein in happier times. Photo: Cordon Press

In written submissions to the court, her legal team claim that agents carried out ‘trespass and criminal damage’ that included ‘drilling a hole into her bedroom window while she slept at night in her home in Shropshire on June 21, 2017… and gunshots fired at and damaging the lenses of her front gate CCTV on April 14, 2020′.

At the centre of the row between the former lovers is her refusal to return gifts, including €65 million he paid into an offshore bank account in her name in 2012, allegedly using funds donated to him by the Saudi royal as a kick back for business deals with Spain.

Sayn-Wittgenstein is seeking ‘personal injury damages’ for the ‘great mental pain, alarm, anxiety, distress, loss of wellbeing, humiliation and moral stigma’ she allegedly suffered.

Jonathan Caplan QC, representing Sayn-Wittgenstein in the High Court hearing that began on Monday argued that the former king had relinquished the status of ‘a sovereign or other head of state’ when he abdicated and was therefore not entitled to immunity.

He added that furthermore, he could not claim immunity as a member of the household of his son as he was now living in self-imposed exile in Abu Dhabi.

“The defendant is plainly not, and does not claim to be, a dependent of his son King Felipe VI,” he said.

The case comes just days after it was claimed that three of Spain’s largest companies colluded in covering up an affair that King Juan Carlos allegedly had with a former Miss World contestant.

Repsol, Santander and Telefonica are alleged to have each paid €1.8million in hush money to beauty queen Barbara Rey, now 71, on the request of former prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar.

The payments were reportedly made to Rey to prevent incriminating videos she had secretly recorded of pair being intimate from coming to light.

Spanish newspaper revealed the story last week after obtaining the notebooks of José Manuel Villarejo, a disgraced former police commissioner currently on trial for spying, fraud and bribery.

One recent book entitled ‘Juan Carlos: The King of 5,000 lovers’ by Amadeo Martinez Ingles claimed the former monarch, who married long suffering wife Sofia in 1962, was a sex addict who had slept with more than 2,000 women between 1976 and 1994.

In October it was alleged that Spain’s secret service had injected the royal lothario with female hormones to curb his rampant sex drive after it was deemed to be a danger to state security.

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Medals for Spain’s service personnel who evacuated 2,200 Afghans

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ARMED Forces members who helped evacuated more than 2,200 people from Afghanistan in August to fly them safely to Spain have been given medals in recognition of their excellent humanitarian work in the face of extreme danger.

Defence minister Margarita Robles (centre, in the pink coat) with Air Force and Land Army members awarded an Aeronautical Merit Cross for their vital humanitarian actions in Afghanistan (photo: Ministry of Defence)

A reminder to the public that ‘the Army’ is not just about fighting in wars, but a crucial tool in foreign and home-soil aid work and emergency response, the actions of Spain’s military hogged the headlines this summer as they put their own lives on the line to shelter Afghan families from Taliban attacks at Kabul airport, accompanied them in flight, and greeted them on arrival in Madrid to coordinate their transport to safe accommodation, ensuring they had everything they needed for the immediate future, giving them information and interpreting for them.

The highly-dangerous evacuation operation ran until August 27, with Spanish troops leading the 2,200 onto A400M military aircraft in Kabul, heading for Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Once there, they boarded planes chartered by Spanish carrier Air Europa to take them to the military base in Torrejón de Ardoz, in the Greater Madrid region.

Although Spain’s foreign and defence ministries were working to ensure all Spanish nationals who wanted to leave Afghanistan were able to do so securely, the vast majority of those evacuated in August are Afghan nationals fleeing a régime which had taken over their country 20 years on.

Many are adults who would have been very young children when international troops moved into their country, and have since grown up with, and developed a life in, a society that has been much safer, more free, wealthier, and with facilities and opportunities closer to those of the west – as well as women being largely considered equal.

To this generation, a life of repression, persecution and constant fear of death and torture is alien, and their existence has been turned totally upside down.

Those who are now in Spain with their immediate families and attempting to start their lives all over again include a 17-year-old female student who has reportedly learned Spanish in just over three weeks and who is keen to study medicine at university, a student dentist who spent his ‘sandwich year’ in Madrid and whose dad and sister were in danger as they worked for the old Afghan government, and the captains of the women’s and men’s national wheelchair basketball teams, Nilofar Bayat, 28, and her husband Ramish, who have now been offered similar rôles in the sport in the Basque Country.

Some of the Afghan evacuees were interpreters and other support workers who guided Spanish troops when they were on missions in the western Asian country.

At present, Spain’s government is in ‘informal contact’ with the Taliban through the Spanish embassy in Doha, Qatar, diplomatic sources confirm, but ‘under no circumstances’ will Spain formally recognise the Taliban as Afghanistan’s ruling régime.

Spain’s Air Force and its Land Army Special Operations unit have all been given the Aeronautical Merit Cross with ‘red distinction’ in a ceremony presided by defence minister Margarita Robles.

During her speech, Sra Robles remembered the Spaniards who had lost their lives during the long conflict in Afghanistan which began in late 2001, and expressed her gratitude on behalf of both countries for the vital work carried out by Spain’s Forces in Kabul.

“Throughout those days in August, all of Spain was trembling along with you,” Sra Robles told the newly-decorated service personnel.

“All of Spain was, on some level, right there at the gates of Kabul airport with you.

“We feel proud as a country, we feel proud of our Armed Forces.

“This distinction is also for all the other people of Spain filled with goodwill and who believe in peace, who believe a better world is possible and who believe that we have to keep fighting against terrorism.”

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