Collecting moments on the island of Menorca, Spain
The thought first came on the Tube.
The 18:09 Jubilee line from London Bridge to Stratford, to be exact.
It began as a niggling feeling. The type you can’t quite identify yet but you know is there; like a crick in the neck after sleeping funny. I think it was somewhere between curtailing the need for air and stepping into the claustrophobia; yoga’ing into the last available pocket of air, between the balding businessman and the snarling teenager blasting death metal. Sometime before the daily prayer that the masses rocking side to side around me would buoy me, or after the ever-polite British voice reminded us all, again, to ‘mind the gap, please’.
Hurtling beneath the streets of London in a grey tin can, it materialised between yet another long day at work and yet another long night of freelance work to come that evening.
We were desperately in need of a holiday.
It’s probably a strange thing to comprehend. Two people who make their living by living the non-stop travel dream, in need of a getaway.
Yet there we were, having arrived in London 8 months before, straight from a hectic year of full-time travel and blogging, and launching straight into full-time work, full-time freelance, and full-time just trying to work out where the heck we were going in this chaotic new city of unfamiliarity. Combine this with constant travel for work, and you end up with us: two utterly exhausted, drained of enthusiasm, and generally flat humans.
It’s probably why, when the opportunity to visit Menorca – Spain’s lesser-known, slower Balearic Island – presented itself, we didn’t even pause for thought. Google told us it was the ‘true home of slow’, full of idyllic Mediterranean beaches and long lunches, and two weeks later, we were hurtling out of London in another tin can. This time, watching the sun rise from pink skies en route to Mahon, ready to shift down a gear, recalibrate, and collect those small holiday moments that would help us find ourselves again.
COLLECTING MOMENTS ON THE ISLAND OF MENORCA, SPAIN
the salt water cure.
3... 2... 1... Deep breath.
The sudden cool of the water sends tiny shocks along my skin, warm from a morning spent kayaking Menorca’s coastline under the sun’s gaze.
Everyone always comes back from holiday exclaiming they ‘saw the bluest water, like, everrrrr’, but really, truly, they can't have seen Menorca’s. It’s a blue that names like turquoise, azure, cerulean, can’t do justice. Gliding along the surface had been a test in patience, fighting the urge to ditch off the side into its inviting waters.
So when we pull up inside the cave for a swimming stop, it takes all of two milliseconds to set aside the oars and dive straight in. It’s been a long time since we last felt the refreshing touch of salt water.
For a second I seriously consider becoming a mermaid so I can live under here forever. After a youth spent swimming competitively, there’s always a sense of comfort in returning home to the water; surrendering to the ocean and just letting go. Under the rolling blue there’s nothing to focus on but your breath and thoughts; a natural meditation of sorts.
Breaking through the surface to the sound of our friends whooping and splashing about, the happiness bubbles over. In this place of white cliffs and clear waves, there’s nothing to do but lie back and laugh to the bright blue skies as the stress dissolves away.
roll on under the sun.
Windows down, the wheels roll on.
There are five* of us today, piled into a rental car, on one of life’s great simple pleasures: a road trip with dear friends.
We do have destinations in mind, Menorca’s medina-like port town of Ciutadella and the beach cove of Mitjana, but today the freedom of the open road is just as much a part of the plan. I’ve always been fond of long car drives, and that delicious feeling of really going somewhere, both literally and metaphorically, that they invoke.
Under a brilliant summer sky, we sing at the top of our lungs and wind along quiet country lanes fringed by long grasses and wildflowers. Menorca’s gentle landscape is peppered with ancient dry stone walls that criss cross fields of green, whitewashed stones farmhouses of times past, and wooded valleys that run towards white bays and sparkling seas.
This is an island totally at ease with itself. Leisurely, beautifully natural, and content with having avoided the grasp of the modernising world. We’re a long way from the queues, skyscrapers, and blustery chaos of London.
We make it to Ciutadella and wander the cobblestones, twisting and weaving down narrow lanes and getting distracted by market stalls. We stumble into a quaint café only to discover we’re actually in one of Menorca’s finest boutique hotels, and scramble up a flight of iron stairs to the best 360* view of Ciutadella we could imagine. We continue to Mitjana and flop on our beach towels in the sun, feeling both totally relaxed and a little awkward due to a sudden encounter with the more relaxed European attitudes towards beach nudity.
By the time we swing back into the carpark of our hotel as the stars have begun to twinkle overhead, we’re people refreshed, our troubles left behind in the lines of the road.
Legend has it that centuries ago, an unknown man came from the sea. A shipwreck survivor, an escapee - no one knows.
He took refuge in a cave, lifting supplies from nearby houses. From one house, a young woman already betrothed disappeared. Years passed with no sign of her return, until footprints left in an unexpected snow led armed men into the cave, to the couple and their three sons. Cornered, the man, Xoroi, leapt from the cave, returning to the sea, leaving the imposing cliffs to guard their love story forever.
Today, Cova D’En Xoroi is one of Menorca’s glittering bars. I say glittering, because as the sun goes down over the cliffs to our right, the walls glow and champagne glasses flash with golden light as they clink. It’s from this magical viewpoint that we watch that vivid sunset in the company of our best friends, and contemplate the beauty and simplicity of nature.
Meals of the freshest seafood and salty olives become some of our favourite moments on this island. Lunches are long, dinners a multi-course tapas-style affair. We have no choice but to slow down and savour life. To make each bite deliberate and intentional; to be fully present, instead of scarfing pizza down wordlessly in front of Netflix.
More than that, each meal becomes a reminder to smile between mouthfuls, to belly laugh with friends over a heady mix of new tastes and local wine. To nourish our souls as we nourish our stomach.
After all, nourishing souls is what Menorca does best.
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