Monday, December 3, 2012

Wind Storms and Work Days

Things have quieted down for us. The weather changed to fall-like, at least for Menorca, and we haven't been snorkeling since Oct 23rd. Yeah, I know. This place is great. We've had a couple of really big storms, where it gets crazy windy and we close all the shudders to keep out the sideways rain. The tortoises are all mostly hibernating, although we had a hot sunny day about a week ago and the little guys were all out getting some sun and eating the fresh grass that's grown up quickly. The big tortoises are still wandering around on warm, sunny days.

We're both back in work mode, so not a lot of exploring. We had thought to go kayaking and horseback riding and even sailing, but when the weather got a bit cooler, we stopped trying. Plus, now is the time for saving, not spending. We go for walks with Trixie, the 15 year old Terrier type who lives here and presides over the doorways. She is fantastic, and almost completely deaf. At first we would talk to her and she'd just ignore us. ("Hey Trixie! Hey girl!" and she just walks by - us, feeling ignored.) So we've gotten used to that. Chocolate, the 15 year old cat, started off as suspicious and flighty as a cat can be, but now he comes meowing around, asking to be allowed to sit on my lap while I work at the computer. We make fires in the wood stove. It is quite cozy.

I'm also knitting again, so don't be shy about checking out the shop. It's always nice to make a bit of extra spending money with a hobby. Joshua is jealous. His hobbies tend to cost more than they make, so he can't justify them like I can justify knitting. So thanks for that, team!

Right now the wind is absolutely howling. I'm expecting the power to go out at any moment, which it has done a number of times over the past few weeks. I've got a row of candles nearby, just in case.

Here are more sunset and pool images for you, but remember the pool is freezing now. We went in after a run not too long ago and it was stunningly cold. Stunned, I was. Last time for the season.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Snorkeling Trip #2

Okay, so we headed back to Alcalfar, the tight little cove, this time armed with snorkel gear and the camera. We were rewarded with a gorgeous day, great light, and even an octopus that changed color. A huge thunder cloud loomed and threatened, but we were spared until after we got home. Phew!

looked stormy, heard thunder

but the beach was looking ready for us

just wanna reach out and grab one - mmm, tasty

couple raindrops, but still no cloudiness

I swear the octopus in the next two pictures is the same guy, moments apart. He slowly crept toward the rocks and ducked underneath, eye-balling us the whole time.

Riding home through town... just a bit of a climb, nothing to fret over.

Menorca pretty much looks like this:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Snorkeling Trip #1

There are two beaches which are within a few kilometers, as far as we know. The first is a tiny, narrow cove which will be snorkeling trip #2. The other is at Punta Prima - a beautiful, beautiful beach. The road down the hill to the coast looks like this:

Ugh. Yeah, it sucks here. See the rock walls? Every rock wall is like that. I feel like they deserve a post of their own.

Anyway, the beach.

 Not a lot to see in the water. It's kelp die-off time, so it looked like this close to shore:
 Oh well.
 A fish!

The first time we went out we kinda tested the waters and went back to the beach. Then we were like, yeah, let's go back in and try to go farther out. And we found some rocks and stuff. And a few fishes.

It was great. Punta Prima? Thumbs up all the way.

The ride home? A few kilometers. This was a triathlon day - and by that I mean we did some running in the morning, then rode our bikes to the beach and snorkeled around, then rode our bikes home. Pretty sure we didn't make the distances a triathlete makes, but whatever.

In the picture below you can just see the little white-washed town of Sant Lluis. Looks like the Mediterranean.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tiny Menorcan Tortoise Eating Poop

Yeah, I couldn't resist. He was going after it like it was his lunch - and it was! Ugh, gross.

To clear your mind, here's a baby tortoise trucking across the back yard.

And another one, doing the same. Of course, this one barely looks like a rock making it's way across the distance, but never mind.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Menorca Arrival

This post is going to be about tortoises and sunsets, because that's all I took pictures of the first few weeks we were here. Okay, that's not entirely true. But to introduce you to this magical little island, these are my topics.

First, the capital, Mahon (or Mao in Menorcan - Catalan but with the Menorca accent/dialect, depending on who you talk to).

We woke up after our all-night ferry to a peaceful sea and an island coming into view. It took about an hour to get all the way into the port, a place that was thought to be of great value in the days of battle by ships. We learned that this island is actually fed with fresh water coming from the Pyrenees - the mountains that divide France and Spain. We've got a direct feed that goes way under the Mediterranean and they have no fresh water problems on Menorca. Mallorca cannot claim the same. 

Anyway, Mahon is very pretty by sunrise from a ship arriving in port. We were stunned, a little bit. 

We were met by our new friend and owner of the home we'd be house sitting, Sandy. She grew up in Spain, but her parents were from San Francisco, so she sounds like a Californian. But really, she's Spanish. She took all our bags so we were free to fly up the hill and towards Sant Lluis on our bikes. We told her that if we didn't show up in an hour she should consider looking to see if we got lost - but it only took us about 20 minutes. There's a bike path almost all the way from Mahon to Sant Lluis, and then past it to the house we're staying in now.  Bike paths. All over this island. Many of them are really only comfortable or reasonable if you've got a mountain bike, but plenty are these wide sidewalks along the main roads.

Not that riding on the roads is a big deal. This is a small island with a small population. We hear that in summer it gets crowded with tourists, but it's been absolutely dreamy since we've arrived. Speaking of dreamy...

So that's the house and above it the view from the sunny days work desk. We are not suffering. Our experience as house sitters is paying off - Sandy explicitly selected us because we have experience. And we are really hoping to live up to her expectations. So far, so good.

The grounds are beautiful. The pool is not heated, which is a dream on hot hot days. We did some swimming in the pool and it was a bit cold. This is back in mid-October, and the top temps were probably in the very low 80s or high 70s. Not suffering.

The tortoises. So the Menorcan tortoise was almost extinct and has now been brought back to thriving. Sandy herself estimates that over the years she's been here (17) she has saved about 1000 young tortoises and helped them reach maturity. This big guy is probably one of them.

Two things about tortoises: 1.) They are not that slow, and 2.) They're not fast enough to get away either.

The little guys hatch in September. There were a ton out and about in early October. All we had to do was walk outside and stand still for few minutes and they'd start moving again. You look out over the back yard and it seems nothing is there. But a tortoise has two defense mechanisms: 1.) freeze, and 2.) get in shell.

So they freeze before you see them, because they saw you coming. And then if you stand still they go about their business. Then you can pick them up and pretend to cuddle them.

Yup. They are so cute. The vast landscape of my palm. Actually the guy in the upper picture is a big baby. Look what happens when I put them down next to a slice of apple.

Walnut sized I tell you! Oh man. I just wanted to stand out in the yard all afternoon and scare away birds of prey. They're pretty incognito when they hold still or dig under a clump of grass. But you know they don't all make it to adulthood. We talked about saving one and keeping it while we are here, but it seems like they might actually be better off hibernating in the fallen foliage. 

So, I said something about sunsets.

Yeah, sunsets reflected in pools and stuff. Also, walnut sized tortoise babies.

and caterpillars! anyone recognize these?

how many tortoises do you see? at least 4...

the backyard, kinda

We are back to cooking in a kitchen, and the local supermarket has all kinds of exotic ingredients. Which means we're eating well.

salad, bread, pickles, padron peppers

Vietnamese fresh spring rolls, and padron peppers

sushi and TV on the computer

There are also geckos, and so there are gecko babies. This little gecko was in the kitchen. It's a miracle I didn't step on it, blending right into the floor.

That's two different occasions - not sure if it's two different geckos or just the same one twice. 

Of course it's not all tortoises, geckos, pools, and sunsets. We're back to running. Woo hoo!

There's a path a few minutes walk from the house that goes out to the ocean. We went for a walk out there and made it down to the coast, which is steeply down. Probably not more than 70 meters in altitude - I mean that's probably an over-estimate - but it really goes down quickly. Now we run out that path, where it's not paved. It's part of the bike route system, and when the hill goes down sharply, it is paved. That's where we turn and run back, usually. We've also run through some of the smaller roads between rock-wall lined properties. Menorcans have their own style of rock wall that is incredible. They also have their own style of gate. I'll take some pictures of those, promise. 

But for now... 

 We can't really believe it either.