It’s been a week!

I’ve been in Menorca a week and I feel completely at home and in my element. I’m back to the old me. The me who embraces life and enjoys every experience. The last week has been nothing short of amazing. Seriously one of the best of my life.

It’s been so busy – up at 0515h every day to be eat and catch the bus to the dig site and start by 0715h. Dig for 3 hours in intense humidity and heat, catch the bus to the lab and either lecture or clean or label pottery, then bus back to the residence by 1500h. Because it gets so hot by 0900h, we start early and finish early. By 1500h, we are free to do whatever.

Cala Macarelleta (top) & Cala Macarella (bottom), Menorca

The dig site has been amazing. We were filmed for an interview on local tv news, and I’ve learned so much about a late antiquity Roman settlement. I’ve also been pretty lucky to find two coins, bronze fish hooks, a lead weight, and some pretty neat bone fragments. I’ve learned more about ancient Mediterranean pottery than I ever thought was possible, and gotten quite the workout with a pick axe. ⛏

Most of this week has consisted of walking the old town’s back alleys and gorgeous buildings, trying and eating amazing tapas, drinking frozen pomadas, and parking my ass on one of the many gorgeous beaches. Yesterday, I did my first dive for my open water certification. Quite the experience.

Today, my roommates and I ended up at Cala Blanca, about ten minutes away from Ciutadella. We swam, napped on the beach and finished up with an amazing few hours at Hola Ola Mediterranean Bar. Such a fun, kitschy bar with an eclectic decor and delicious cold drinks on the edge of the cliff with the perfect view of the setting sun. It was so fun to just relax with some friends and enjoy a gorgeous sunset in a completely laid-back environment.

So excited to see what week 2 brings. Tomorrow we’ll be trying our hand at actually trying to identify and classify pottery sherds… should be interesting! Thursday is excursion day to see the Talayotic sites across the island, and hopefully some more beach time. I head to Rome and Pompeii on the 18th for five days before returning to wrap things up here and head to Barcelona.

I have to say, I was a bit worried about my language skills but I’m pleasantly surprised at how quickly and easily I am picking up and understanding both Spanish and Catalan. The locals are so happy to practice and explain and I’m enjoying every second of it. I’m also enjoying every second of tapas for dinner here! 🤤😋 Menorca is such an amazing and special place and I am already excited to plan a return trip soon.

The fun thing about traveling is that each new place I go, I leave a piece of my heart behind. I fell in love with Menorca on day 1. It captured my heart much like Rome did.

Made it to Menorca

Finally settled in and made it to Ciudadela de Menorca, where I’ll be staying while at the Sanisera Field School. Menorca is, from what I’ve seen, a pretty neat little island. It’s part of the Balearic Islands, which also includes the better-known Ibiza and Mallorca. Menorca is the less touristy, more laid-back and not developed island. In fact, it’s been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It is very hot and dry, but the beaches are some of the best anywhere in the world.

Menorca has its roots in pre-history. Dotted around the island are tons of talayotic settlements from the islands first inhabitants. These sites are stone and very unique – they’re not found anywhere else in the world. We’ll be doing some site visits later in the course, so more on them at that time.

Fast-forward to 123 BCE, when Rome entered the picture. Sa Nitja was a City at the northernmost tip of the island – on the Cape of Cavalleria. In 123 BCE, Roman General Quintus Caecillis Metellus conquered the islands for the Roman Empire as a strategic trading outpost in the Western Mediterranean. He built a fort at the natural harbor, which later turned into the city of Sanisera, which is where I’ll be digging over the next few weeks. He also recruited the local Balearic “slingers” (expert slingshot-men) into the Roman Army.

Today was mostly history and overview of the island and the city/dig site. We discussed what types of artifacts we can expect to see and what building we’ll be working on excavating.

I also walked around the old city Ciudadela a bit today and was pretty impressed with its old architecture and charm. Fast forward to the 7th-8th centuries CE (AD), and the island was taken over by Moorish invaders as they conquered Spain. That influence can still be seen today. It was re-taken in the 17th century by the British, who have also left a distinct mark on the island. Fun fact: gin is a local favorite on the island held over from the British occupation- mixed with lemonade and called pomada. Eventually it became part of Spain once again – in the Catalunya region. Most of the residents speak Catalan, which I’ve been trying to pick up, but all speak Spanish as well. My Spanish is rusty, but I’m surviving.

Tomorrow is the first day on the dig site, and my first day of scuba certification class, too!

The Northernmost Point in Ireland

We stayed at Trean House, which is a quaint little B&B in Co. Donegal on the Inishowen Peninsula. It’s a working sheep farm, which was awesome. So. Many. Sheep. 😍After breakfast, we walked the five minutes down the street from the B&B to the beach – Tremone Bay (& were joined by the owners’ dog, Finn). Before we knew it, Will was in the water clothes and all (with Finn not far behind). Ella took the opportunity to jump in as well, though she was smart enough to take her shoes off. The look of pure joy on their faces is what life is all about. So, we’ve all managed to make it into the (freezing) North Atlantic and the (even colder) Irish Sea on this trip!

After walking back to the B&B, the owner asked if we’d like to see the sheep. He was very sweet and gave the kids some food to feed the sheep with. Again… the looks on their faces was pure joy! The sheep were so much softer than I expected… literally little cotton balls!

After we left we took a drive up to the northernmost point in Ireland – Malin Head. If you’re a huge Star Wars fan, this is where “Star Wars Episode VIII” was filmed in part. It was very windy and cold, and we did the walk along the cliffs -2+ miles in all. The views were stunning not only at Malin Head, but on the drive there and back as well. Ireland is probably the prettiest place I’ve ever seen in my life.

Family-filled and Gorgeous Views

We spent the morning relaxing and feeding the donkeys at Aunt Noreen’s next door. Because it has been unusually warm and sunny here the last few weeks, everyone wanted to take advantage to go down to the beach. My cousin, Pol, and his kiddos came in from their home to spend the day with us. The kids had a blast playing with their cousins, and none seemed to care that the water was freezing! It was such a pleasant afternoon with a view to match. On the way back, we visited Nana’s grave, and I have to say – she has quite the view. The sea in front of her and Errigal Mountain behind her. Not bad, Nana. Not bad.

After, we headed up to Bloody Foreland, an area about 20 minutes north of where my family lives. It’s gorgeous, and it’s also my parents’ most favorite spot on Earth. I can see why. It’s rugged and windy and just amazing. It’s the very northwest tip of Ireland. Ever feel like you just belong somewhere? That’s how I feel about where my family lives in County Donegal… like I just belong here. Which makes sense, because this is where my roots are.

After a dinner out with some of the family, we brought some flowers back up to Nana’s grave and cleaned it up a bit. The kids were really missing Nana lately, and enjoyed being able to put down some flowers. They wanted to give her stone a hug and kiss and tell her they loved and missed her, and I was able to capture a beautiful picture of it. I miss her terribly, and this was the thing I was most looking forward to while over here. She and I were as close as could be, and it’s been so hard for the past two years not having her around to just call or visit anymore. I spent a nice visit this morning with Nana’s sister, Noreen, and it helps fill that void a bit. 💚

Tomorrow: visiting the Giant’s Causeway and Northern most point in Ireland on an overnight before coming back to Knockastollar.