Enjoy Life in the Slow Lane in Magical Menorca; the Great Escape KEN BENNETT VISITS THE BALEARIC ISLAND WITHOUT THE BUSTLE - AND A HAVEN FOR THE UNASHAMEDLY LAZY

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Byline: KEN BENNETT

THE scrawled, hand-written sign in English in the window of the downtown restaurant read: "Closed today - for no reason."

Christina, my local guide, completely unfazed by this unexpected hiccup, says with a knowing smile: "Not to worry, I bet they have gone fishing."

Unlike its high-flying neighbours, life in Menorca, the second largest of the Balearic Islands, moves at a pace that makes raising an eyebrow seem a chore.

We are in the capital Mahon, a noon day sun shimmers down on the regal, but almost deserted, main square.

"It's busy today," my guide observes. Busy? I count just 17 people lounging over drinks.

No glitzy cafe society here, unlike like its closest neighbour Majorca. No hazy streetcred music that lifts Ibiza to another hip level.

Menorca is so incredibly buttoned-down I actually start to believe the deep shadows cast by the buildings surrounding the square are yawning.

My view in heightened with a gentle lope by car across the calming, almost whimsical, landscape. Because, erratically, that at anytime of any day at least one of the islands four petrol stations are closed too.

"If it's sunny, then there's every chance they could be at the beach or taking a beer in a local bar," adds Christina.

But things could be moving up a gear or three in this genteel, placid, laidback land. Monarch Airlines, the low-cost carrier, are gambling on filling 131,000 seats this summer opening up a new tourist gateway from Birmingham and Manchester.

And, in a further pioneering step this winter, they will be the only scheduled airline offering direct flights to the island from Manchester and Luton.

Yes, Menorca is undoubtedly an island destination waiting to happen.

You can be easily be charmed by its tidy, twinkling villages, bright green fields, and the one sensible, direct road that runs East to West across the island, linking Mahon to the former capital Ciutadella.

But viewed from an exhilarating excursion on a dancing, hand-built motor-yacht, the island reveals much more of its beguiling secrets which make it an ideal escape for holiday sophisticates, discerning couples and young families.

Set against a backdrop of bright skies and high cliffs, tiny, bite-sized beaches and coves, scrubbed to shining perfection by the sea, demand to be explored.

Swirling, lusciously turquoise waters wallow over jagged-jawed outcrops of limestone protecting the sublime, untroubled, vistas of superb hotels.

For example, when we arrived at the Hotel Audax, an emblem of style and grace at Cala Galdana, you immediately feel your stress levels ebbing away. Forget the mobile, the emails and conference calls, this is a haven for the unashamedly lazy.

Here, Gabriela, the stylish hotelier, wafts along cool corridors showing with delight splendid spa and well being facilities and airy balconied rooms. …