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.

Day 1 of the Dig

Day 1 started bright and early at 0600h. We were on the road to the dig by 0630h, and on site by 0715h. After a quick orientation of the site, we were discussing potential finds and asked to take a walk and see what we could find. After a few feet, I happened to look down and find a bronze coin. I couldn’t freaking believe it. Literally the thing I had been hoping to find ever since I signed up nine months ago, and I found it within 30 minutes of being on site!

The site is really cool. As I mentioned, it’s an old Roman settlement – first as a fort and then the city. We moved on to take a look at the necropolis number 4, which contains Christian burials. We know this because they face East, towards the rising sun – a trait that signifies Christianity.

I was digging in the city today, and will be all for the entire dig. We started the excavation of Street Number 2 today, and after a few hours of finding pottery sherds, glass pieces, and animal bones, I came upon a piece of smooth oval-shaped quartz. The consensus is that it was/is an insert for a piece of jewelry – likely a necklace or ring. Another way cool find! Another few hours of digging saw some bronze slag (scraps from forging).

As we finished up and headed back to the residence, I couldn’t help but think how incredibly lucky I am to be able to participate in this. This is my dream. And finding something so amazing on my first day was literally one of the coolest and best things that has ever happened to me. I’m so excited to see what tomorrow brings!

Travel and Reading

When I travel, or am planning a trip, I like to read.  A lot.  I like to read in general, but when I plan a trip, I like to read about where I’m going.  Non-fiction, fiction, historical novels, biographies, and the general history of the place I’ll be visiting.  It gives me a sense of knowing where I’m going, and a familiarity once I’m there.  Knowing the history of a place is amazing – how and when it was founded, and by whom, the general politics and every day life, and interesting little quirks and tidbits.

For example, when I traveled to Italy for the first time in 2016, I read a bunch of books on Ancient Rome – Cicero, in particular.  It gave me a good feel of that Late Republican era, right before Caesar was murdered and Augustus became the first emperor.  I read Robert Harris’ books: Imperium, Conspirata, and Dictator.  They’re fabulously written, by the way, and give a good insight from a historical novel perspective of the great Roman orator himself, and the conspiracy behind Caesar’s murder in 44 BCE.  I also read his Pompeii (twice), which was a really interesting read on the events leading up to the famed eruption of 79 CE from the perspective of the overseer of the aqueduct.  It’s another historical novel, and in it the overseer of the aqueduct is the one who discovers that something big is about to happen thanks to a disruption in the flow of water in the aqueducts.  Once I got to Pompeii last year, I really was able to have a better picture of how water was actually brought to the city, and was able to re-create a lot of the story of Pompeii in my mind while there.

I also read Rome and Jerusalem by Martin Goodman, and SPQR, the quintessential read by Mary Beard for any ancient Roman history enthusiast, which gave some good historical perspective.  I moved on to some historical fiction on the Etruscan civilization thanks to some free Amazon Prime reads by Elisabeth Storrs – The Wedding Shroud, Call to Juno, and The Golden Dice.  These books led me to do a little digging on the Etruscan civilization, which in turn was really cool when I happened to chance upon an Etruscan tomb in the Val d’Orica and was able to grasp a lot of the significance behind it.

After returning, I went on to read a ton more on Italy (and decided to go back to school for a second master’s in Classical Mediterranean History, but that’s another story for another day).  Some of my favorites include: Dark Athena, which is primarily set in the US, but has origins in southern Italy; Beneath a Scarlet Sky, which is a novel based on true events during World War II; The Monster of Florence, which tells of the serial killings that took place in and around Florence during the 1980’s and was absolutely fascinating; The Mistress of the Vatican, which tells the story of Olimpia Miadalchini, the secret female pope; and most recently, Gomorrah, which is a personal look by author Roberto Saviano into the secret organized crime world of Naples and Campania — it was one I read in two days.

Preparing for my upcoming trip to Barcelona and the Baleric Islands in Spain this summer, I’ve been doing a little research on some books set in or about Barcelona and Catalonia.  I know some of the basics – they’re currently going through a fight for independence from Spain and recently had a vote, which resulted in the Catalonian leader being removed from government.  I want to know more.  I want to know the history behind this movement.  And so, I’ll read.  On my list, I’ve got The Man of my Life, which was reviewed to give a good insight into current Catalan politics and the independence movement.  I’ve also got The Color of a Dog Running Away, which is reviewed as being an “unforgettable historical thriller” set in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona.  Of course, I’ve got my Rick Steves’ Pocket Guide to Barcelona to page through, and I’ll see which of the other books on this list by The Culture Trip pique my interest.

Reading in itself is a passport to the world.  It’s something I’ve always loved, and I’ve found a new appreciation for it as a travel aide.  Have you read to prep for a trip, or because of a trip?  If so, what?  I’d love to hear in the comments.