I realise from my last post I probably gave the impression that the whole of our holiday was a total disaster. It wasn't actually. The first week, it's true I did spend a lot of time feeling intermittently anxious, and the full blown panic attack in the restaurant didn't help, but...
... Cala Blanca where we stayed was really pretty. When we arrived I had a raging temperature which I couldn't get down till the evening, when a helpful wind blew up and my last dose of paracetomol finally did the trick. So we went for a walk and discovered we were five minutes from the beach, where the sea lapped the shore gently, the reflected light from the beachside cafes and restaurants glittered in the water, and we encountered two riders, which seemed impossibly romantic. It was the first moment of the holiday when I relaxed and was glad to have made the effort to come.
It took me several days to dare to swim though, which was a shame as the water was fantastically clear, and when I did get in, I realised brilliant for snorkelling. Given that I am quite a strong swimmer, and the sea was dead calm, it was frustrating not to do it, but I was so spooked by the whole you may have a heart murmur thing, I was just a tad terrified of getting too far out and then having a problem swimming back. Luckily I realised after a bit, that even where we could swim beyond the buoys, it was a relative steal to get to the rocks, if I did have a problem, so I got over that one in the end, and thank goodness I did, as I think it was some of the best sea swimming I've ever done. The great thing is now that, finally, the years and years I've put in poolside dragging the sprogs to swimming lessons have paid off. No 1 can swim as far as Spouse and I now, and no 2 nearly as far. No 3 was a bit spooked by pre holiday reports of jellyfish, but when we did persuade her in, she rewarded both herself and us by swimming further then she imagined. No 4, though, was the relevation. This time last year she could barely swim at all. And then she was put in the next swimming class which involved going in the deep end and I had a term stressing about her possible drowning in front of me, but suddenly she was swimming like a fish. And she too swam further in the sea then she thought she could. We took a pedalo out one day and all of them being wusses apart from no 1 meant she and Spouse went on on their own, leaving the rest of us to swim for shore. I was certain no 4 would need to hold onto me most of the way, but to our mutual amazement she swam all the way back. Result. It may have cost me a fortune, but swimming lessons may well have been the best investment I've made in my children...
The other great thing about this holiday was, that this time around in Menorca, we had a car. When we went two years ago we didn't, and as a result Spouse and I ended up a bit stir crazy from spending our time between the pool and the beach. This time around we got to explore the island a bit more, and realised just what a lovely and unspoilt place it is.
Our first trip was to La Mola, a massive fort at the entrance of Mahon harbour, which we'd wanted to go to last time but couldn't manage without a car. This is the sort of trip that eventually has the kids moaning about their boring parents' obsession with castles, which is what happened this time too (my suggestion to no 2 that having visited so many castles would stand her in good stead when she met a castle loving boy was met with a withering, what if he doesn't like castles? response), but I think they enjoyed exploring the myriad of tunnels underneath.
Other then La Mola, we also visited Ciutadella which is Menorca's second town, and very pretty. The children were less then impressed to be taken to a bronze age museum though. As it happens, so were we. Despite the ridiculous security arrangements (we had to divest ourselves of all hats, bags, moneybelts, cameras etc), there was very little to see, and all of it was in glass cases anyway. I had been most excited about seeing some trepanned skulls (about a million years ago, when I was studying history O Level we did a course on the history of medicine and I've always been fascinated by trepanning since), but they turned out to be a damp squib as the holes had all healed up and could have easily just been dents and nothing to do with trepanning, I mean, how does anyone actually know, huh? Aside from the skulls, a few Roman coins, jewellery and a stone sarcophagus, there wasn't er, anything else to see, so we swiftly departed to find somewhere for four very grumpy children to eat, before heading back home to the villa and pool.
The villa this time around was fantastic. Spouse and I had a balcony off our bedroom - mind you we tried sunbathing one day and it was far too hot, so we didn'tg et as much use out of it as we might, the kitchen was actually a decent size to cook in (not that I did much of that for the first week), and the pool was lovely. The only downside was that the fabric of the buiding seemed to house the biggest ant's nest in the world. They started off in the kids' bathroom and no 4's bed. After dispatching them with the local Fuckoff Scary Creatures spray called Zum, they then pitched up marching through the big one's room. Spouse sprayed some Zum outside the room, which had the effect of thousands of the little buggers pouring through the plug sockets. Having despatched with them there, the little buggers set off on an herculean climbing exhibition and managed to make it all the way to our balcony, across it, and into our bedroom before Spouse went to war with them there too. By the end of the holiday (remarkably) they'd discovered the kitchen, where they seemed to take a peculiarly masochistic pleasure in finding refuge in the kettle.
Ants weren't our only holiday persecutors. The people in the villa next door were Menorcan and therefore kept erratic hours. Their social life seemed to consist of coming home at midnight, then starting to eat, swim and do the sorts of things we boring English people do at around 8pm, particularly when we have small babies in tow. They never seemed to move until 5pm. I swear they were vampires.
What with our noisy neighbours and my ridiculously heightened sense of anxiety, I didn't sleep terribly well, so I am immensely grateful for Boris Johnson's Have I Got Views For You and Bremner, Bird and Fortune's You Are Here for cheering me up in the middle of the night. Insomniacs worldwide, I'd recommend both books, and also Dawn French's fantastic autobiography, Dear Fatty, for much cheering of the spirits in the stilly watches of the night.
The lack of sleep and noisy neighbours didn't really cause that much problem though, as the joy of holidays of course is that you can have forty winks on the beach. And the joy of Menorca with a car, is that you can enjoy forty winks, and sunbathing and swimming on such a plethora of gorgeous beaches you start taking them all for granted after a bit. The beach all the holiday reps tell you about is Cala Galdatana which featured in the Bounty advert. And it is very pretty. But rather full of sunbeds. We preferred the beach we were able to stroll to from there (it was a hot thirsty walk mind), but our absolute favourite was one called Cala Turqueta. As it's name suggests it had the most beautiful turquoise sea, I've ever seen. But it was also really unspoilt, as you have to walk to it from a car park, and there isn't even a cafe when you get there. It did get frantically busy as we arrived, as three boatloads of tourists were despatched to have their lunch, but once they'd gone it felt quite empty again, and the swimming was absolutely fabulous.
All in all, I'd recommend Menorca, particularly for anyone with children. Had I been well, we'd have had our best holiday in thirteen years. As it was, considering everything it wasn't half bad. If I can only get my head round my stupid flying phobia, I'd even be prepared to go again. Bring on the pethadine...