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!

Less than a week (!!!) to go!

Oh my. I’m in full on vacation mode. I’ll be totally useless at work til Friday at noon (though, I did get a ton accomplished and it’s only Wednesday). I haven’t even thought about packing yet (beyond my bathing suits, that is)… 😬 I’m checking and double checking plans, reservations, and dates. It’s been a super awesome distraction, honestly, and has kept my mind off of other things.

Sometimes, you think that losing a close friend who was so damn important to you is the end of the world. You can’t breathe, your chest hurts, and you keep checking your phone waiting for a text from them that never comes. You keep thinking about what you could have done to fix it. What you could have done to make it better or done differently. You think about all of the fun times you guys spent laughing and talking…They knew you better than anyone…You didn’t have to say a word because they knew what you were thinking and feeling just by looking at you. They were your best and closest friend.

And then one morning you wake up and you’re at peace. The heartache is fading (because best friends can break your heart, too… way more so than any crush you ever had). Your chest goes from a full-on crushing feeling to a dull ache. You realize that there is nothing at all that you could have done to save the friendship, and that if they really cared about the relationship you two had, they would have tried harder. They never would have let it get to that point. There is nothing, nothing at all, that you could have done to save it. You realize they are no longer worth your energy, and thoughts, and efforts, and friendship. Because you fought hard and in the end they gave up. They stopped caring. They stopped trying.

Finding that feeling is like taking a deep breath of fresh air after years of drowning and man, has it been a long time coming.

Finding that feeling is like along a deep breath of fresh air after years of drowning and man, has it been a long time coming. Two years, to be exact. Deciding to take this trip set me on the path to feeling amazing again. Of being the best me. To living my best life.

I am totally a believer that everything happens for a reason. People are brought into our lives to teach us a lesson and then taken away when they no longer have anything of value to add to our lives. I’m not quite sure what lesson they were supposed to teach me at this particular time, but I’m sure it’ll come to me eventually.

In the meantime, I’ll try and take the advice of Dr. Seuss and forgive them for hurting me. I’m taking all sorts of chances, changing my life, and generally just done with putting up with other people’s shit. It certainly hasn’t been easy getting to this point, but the payoff in a week looks to be way worth it! 🏖✈️🗺🏛⛏🏺⚱️☀️

Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye to family is always so hard – especially when you only get to see them every few years. Today was no different. After a fun few days, it was definitely tough to say goodbye to Máire Ann, Tomas, Áine, Sean, John, Aunt Noreen, Pol, Patricia, and everyone else.

After a 4.5 hour drive, we finally made it to Bunratty. We splurged for our last night and are staying at the Bunratty Castle Hotel, which happens to be pretty close to the airport. After settling in, we walked down the street for dessert (yum!). At my parents’ recommendation, we decided to treat the kiddos to the medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle for Will’s birthday. It didn’t disappoint. Bunratty Castle was built in 1420, and we enjoyed a four-course meal and lots of mead and wine, singing and music. They even sang Will “happy birthday!” It was the perfect way to end the trip. Flying home tomorrow afternoon!

Relaxing

It was a good day to relax. Adam decided he would climb Errigal Mountain (elevation: 2,464 feet) since it was another clear day. I was pretty disappointed about not climbing up, but the kids were not in any shape to do so, so Máire Ann and I drove into Dungloe with the kids to take care of some business and show the kids the spot where my Nana’s house used to be (the original house has since been knocked down and replaced). Afterward, we took them to the Dunlewey Centre, where they were able to burn off some energy and take a little boat ride.

This evening, we headed off for a family gathering and an early birthday celebration for Will. My cousin Patricia cooked an amazing dinner for everyone, and the kids all had a blast playing around outside. Will was so happy to have everyone singing him happy birthday and have a cake. It was the perfect ending to our time in Donegal, and there’s no place we’d rather be than here with family. Ella wants to stay all summer and is already asking when we can come back again! ☺️

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.

Giant’s Causeway & a Northern Ireland Hospital

Started out innocently enough! We headed over to Derry (N. Ireland) to visit my cousin Noreen and her family. Such a fun little visit and so nice to see her and little Shannon! Then we were off to spend the afternoon at Giant’s Causeway. It was a fun visit walking on the hexagonal rocks.

I honestly expected an injury there, not in the visitor’s center on the way out. Turns out Ella couldn’t resist trying to swing under the handrail for the handicapped ramp. She overshot her landing and her face made contact with the edge of the (stone) ramp. Ramp- 1, Ella -0. It was pretty terrible looking, split wide open and deep, and the two medics at the visitor’s center were awesome with her. I knew instantly it was going to need stitches (I’m pretty proud of myself – I didn’t even freak out in the slightest at the gaping hole and exposed muscle & even calmly held her chin together til we got it bandaged!), and off to the hospital we went. After a little wait, the doctor came out and stitched her up. So, she comes home from Ireland with six stitches and a story to tell. Plus, we are very thankful to the amazing doctor and staff at Causeway Hospital in Colerain.

Off for a car ferry ride across Lough Foyle and a late dinner before arriving at Trean House B&B up in Malin Head for the evening.

Tomorrow: hopefully a bit less exciting than today. 🙃

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.

Driving the Wild Atlantic Way and Family

After a late breakfast, we took the kids out on the rowboat for a tour around the lake. It was fun (mainly because Adam did the rowing and I just got to sit back and enjoy the picturesque view). After that, we headed off on the Wild Atlantic Way route North to Donegal. The WAW route is a stretch of gorgeous road that begins in Southern Ireland and goes all the way over to Giant’s Causeway, along the rugged and, well, wild coast. So much gorgeous countryside! Oh, and lots of sheep ☺️🐑

Once in Donegal Town, we made the split-second decision to tour Donegal Castle, which was a fun segue for all. The castle was built in 1474 by the O’Donnell clan. It was so neat to see the relatively in-tact remains of a castle that old and see how people used to live (especially people with a family last name!). O’Donnell is the last name of my Nana’s sister, who married into the O’Donnell family.

After that, we were on our way up “home.” My lovely cousin, Máire Ann, had a delicious dinner waiting for us, and it was a fun evening catching up with family. We headed right up to visit Nana’s sister, Noreen, who lives right next door. To say that I was happy to see her is an understatement.

Tomorrow: family, the beach, and who knows

The Motherland, Castles, and Sheep

We landed at 0740 in Shannon and immediately searched out breakfast for the kids (and me… who am I kidding? I was way hangry). It’s been a very, very long 24+ hours with minimal sleep. After a bit of a mini-debacle with the rental car, we were on our way! Adam only almost killed us once while adjusting to driving on the left side of the road.

We decided to head to Galway for a little stretch of the legs (and of course Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl” was stuck in my head the entire time). We came upon a really neat 13th century church – and one that Christopher Columbus actually prayed at. We then decided on an impromptu visit to the Knock Shrine in… Knock. It was my Nana’s favorite shrine, and I always remember her Knock Holy Water Font in her house by the front door (made of Connemara marble, of course). It was something else for sure.

We finally arrived at our hotel for the evening in Ballymote, Sligo. What a fun, neat find. It’s a 16th century property, a 19th century re-designed Georgian Manor House on a lake, and features not one but TWO castle ruins – one of which happens to be a Knights Templar Castle. The kids enjoyed exploring and going on a walk, we saw some sheep (out of the 1500+ that call this 1,000 acre property home), and decided we are going to attempt to go for a row on the lake in the morning before we leave.

We finished up with an amazing four course dinner with some other couples while our kids fell asleep in the parlour on the couch after their (considerate) dinner of pasta and ice cream (every kid’s dream). As I am not a fan of seafood, the chef was kind enough to make me a starter of roasted duck leg confit, a pickled watermelon and mint salad, short ribs done two ways (braised and croquette with fried potatoes, and a delicious dessert of raspberry sorbet with dark chocolate. 🤤🤤🤤 Adam said the seafood was pretty good. We highly recommend this place and can’t wait to come back!

My family has a long history in Ireland. That’s why I refer to it as the Motherland. Both of my grandparents on my mom’s side were born in Ireland – Nana in Co. Donegal (Craugheyboyle) and PopPop in Co. Tyrone (Strabane). Most of their family still lives there and this visit is mostly going to be time spent in Gaoth Dobhair (Geeedore) and Knockastollar in Donegal with my amazing family.

Tomorrow: family!