Friday, August 31, 2012

Escaping Civilization - Beaches Off the Beaten Path

In my opinion, a beach is all the better if you have to trek out to it.  It makes the views that much more worthwhile.  At home, before we had kids, Josh and I used to go to Black Beach in Falmouth with Jake and Sailor.  The parking was tricky, on a side street against the woods, trying not to block anyone’s driveways.  Then you made your way through the woods and thickets so tall, it was like walking through the jungle with marshes surrounding us.  Crossing over the wetlands on 2x4s (with Sailor never quite managing to get across via 2x4 and always fell into the muddy stinky water), we were just about halfway there.  Then you had to cross over a ladder that was crossing over a small brook (why they would put a ladder there rather than a solid piece of wood is beyond me).  But when we would get there, we’d be the only people on a white sand beach with rolling waves as far as the eye could see.

Cala Macarella and Cala Macarelleta

That’s what Menorcan beaches have been for us.  It’s like Black Beach, only better.  To get to our first beaches, Cala Macarella and Cala Macarelleta we first had to drive down roads that were reminiscent of our time in Ireland – narrow roads that technically were two way streets but realistically only would fit one car at a time with stone walls on either side.  And of course, 90 degree corners where you can’t see if anyone is coming towards you or not.  All a part of the adventure to get to probably what is the most beautiful beach I’ve ever been to. 

As we drove closer to the beach, Aidan pointed out that it looked like it had been snowing out.  But it’s Menorca and 90 degrees out so it can’t be snow… no, it was sand.  The trees that lined the “street” were all covered in a fine coating of white sand that made it a bit like a summer wonderland.

After parking the car in a sand lot that reminded me of going apple picking in Stow, MA, we headed towards the beach.  But my friend Nasi said the better beach was just up over the hill and so that’s where we went.  We climbed stairs that he said didn’t exist when he was a child (they climbed a rope to get up this part of the hill) and then meandered along a path for about 10 minutes before making the trek down some rocky stairs towards the smaller of the two beaches, Cala Macarelleta. 

Cala Macarella as we walk from the parking lot... but we're not going here now (we went after lunch)

We're heading up and over the hill to Cala Macarelleta

Ready to go?

And up we climb...

Aidan is psyched for an adventure!

Gorgeous views along the way

Boys with gorgeous view of Cala Macarella behind them

View of Cala Macarella as we climb higher

And higher

These stairs didn't exist when Ignasi was a kid...

There is actually a vacation home in this cave, pretty cool!

Another view of Cala Macarella before we head over the ridge

And one more

Perched above the beach as we worked our way down, the views were breathtaking.  Beautiful white sand against the turquoise waters with pine trees dotting the background and rock formations along each side.  At around 11AM, it was busy but not overcrowded.  It was also windy, something I guess is rare at this beach.

Continuing our journey, we can see Cala Macarelleta now...

Liam coming up in the rear, as always...

First views of Cala Macarelleta

Pristine is all I can say... 

Making our way down to Cala Macarelleta

The kids immediately took to the water and were in absolute heaven.  Even I was in the water quite a bit and I’m not one for ocean/sea swimming (I’m more of a pool kind of girl).  There was never a point where I couldn’t see the bottom, the water was just that clear.
Boys loving the water!

Gorgeous views

Playing games

I love sailboats...just not sailing on them...

View of the water

The pathway we came down from Cala Macarella

Woods behind us

More pretty rocks

Ignasi and Liam

Liam playing in the sand

Mommy, I love the beach!

Josh, Aidan and Nasi did a bit of snorkeling while I spent time with Liam who has been ever improving on his swimming these days.  And right when the kids started to get bored, Nasi decided this was the time that we should start jumping from rocks.

Josh and Aidan snorkeling

Aidan chillaxin' in the water

And Liam on his towel...

Now let me backtrack for a moment here.  My friend Ed was supposed to be with us as well but he had to head back to Barcelona a week early unexpectedly.  But in the last several weeks, both he and Nasi have been trying to “convince” me that I should cliff jump, something I have NEVER done in my life.  Again, let me go back to being a swimming pool kind of girl – the highest I’ve ever jumped from was my parents’ diving board which was maybe 10 inches off the water.  And that was plenty high enough for me!  So when they sent me videos of people cliff diving in Menorca as a “teaser” it only increased my anxiety ( and  I’ve been trying to live life to the fullest these days and embrace the time I have abroad and that means taking risks that I normally wouldn’t do.  Riding motos, jumping off cliffs, that kind of stuff all falls into that category. 

But it became something that I started to obsess about at night, worrying about serious injury or death to Josh or Aidan.  And Josh has jumped before, but it’s been years so has time meant that he no longer has the “skills”?  No idea.  I know it was ridiculous to even keep obsessing about it but it couldn’t be helped.  And now the time has come…. And Aidan is psyched. 

So off I go with Aidan and Nasi to climb up on the rocks.  Now looking at the rocks, they really aren’t that high.  You can’t even define it as a cliff.  It’s truly just a large rock.  But in my mind, it might as well have been the Empire State Building.  Nasi went first so as to be prepared for Aidan to jump in.  As I stood there with my heart in my throat, I debated if I could do it or not.  But then Aidan jumped… my 8 year old did it like it was a piece of cake.  Really, could I let him beat me?????  No, I couldn’t.  So while it was only one meter or so above the water, I held my breath and took a leap.  And it wasn’t so bad.  Still not my favorite thing in the world, but here I am alive and able to tell you the story.

We did it a few more times and Josh even got one jump in before we had to head to lunch.  I managed to get up to 2 meters, a huge feat for me, nothing for Aidan, Nasi or Josh who seemed to think it was no big deal.  Semantics. 

Getting our "instructions" ;)

Nasi first

Oh crap, me next!!

And now Aidan...

Round two...

Aidan can't wait to jump!

I'm less than thrilled and feeling peer pressure...

Round three

Jumping from higher this time (about 2 meters - my limit!)

Holy shit that feels high!!

Aidan and Josh

My brave kid!

I did a crappy job with this picture 
(he actually jumped from around 2 meters though you can't quite tell).
After lunch we headed to Cala Macarella, a slightly bigger beach that was just over the ridge heading back towards the parking lot.  The wind died down a bit and the sun was mighty hot!!  But after another 2 hours we were ready to head back to get ready for the evening’s festivities – but an amazing day had by all!!

View as we leave Cala Macarelleta

Back to Cala Macarella

Liam, Ignasi and Aidan

Cala Macarella

Aidan and Nasi getting ready to snorkel

Aidan telling us what he saw


Liam swimming

Aidan with the hermit crab he found (that he later placed on the back of my leg as I "tried" to nap)

Cala Galdana and Cala Mitjana

We didn’t actually go to Cala Galdana but we did take in the view from above it.  A bigger beach than Macarella and complete with beach chairs that you could rent and umbrellas, it was no less beautiful than Macarella – with turquoise waters so clear that you could see the bottom even from a distance. 

Cala Galdana

More of Cala Galdana

We were easily 50-75 feet above and yet look how clear it is!

Cala Galdana was much bigger than the beaches we've been to on Menorca but still beautiful!

From our vista of Cala Galdana we embarked on yet another nature expedition to get to Cala Mitjana.  This time it was a relatively flat path that we had to follow until we reached a small rocky hill that we had to climb down (much harder later in the day to go up when you are hot and tired!).

We had to walk along trails for about 15 minutes to get to the beach

We always love an adventure!

Beautiful old stone wall...

Getting some help going down...

First views of Cala Mitjana

Equally beautiful as Cala Macarella and Cala Macarelleta, Cala Mitjana was peaceful, busy but not overcrowded and had gorgeous vistas in every direction, including a natural cave filled with small rocks and beach sand.  I can see it being the perfect picnic area with a loved one! 

View as we walk on to Cala Mitjana

Liam playing in the surf

And loving every moment!

Swim Liam!! 

Here you can see the natural cave in the rocks

Liam and Aidan swimming together... Aidan loves "teaching" Liam...

Once again surrounded by trees at the beach - love it!

And beautiful rocks!

Cave up close (didn't mean to get the kid peeing)

Once again, Josh and Aidan went snorkeling – but this time aside from some cool fish and eels, they also saw lots of jellyfish.  Not a great thing when you are snorkeling.  They came back slightly defeated. 

But the highlight of the day was watching the cliff jumpers.  This time, they actually were jumping off a cliff.  It was about 6 or 7 meters high (I actually think it was higher than that).  Of course they were jumping off a side that couldn’t be seen from the beach.  When Aidan and Nasi went up to watch, I was most definitely ambivalent about the idea of Aidan jumping but this is a moment where I have to trust in him.  It’s a fine line though – you want your child to be safe, but you also want them to not be afraid of taking risks, even if those risks could mean injury.  How do you make that decision and feel good about it?  I guess you just have to go with the moment and hope that you’ve raised them to know their limits and to not do something they aren’t comfortable with.

Walking along the ridge to the cliff

Hey mom!!

They are pretty high up there and uncomfortably (for me) close to the edge!

Watching others dive - you couldn't actually see it unless you were up there as they were jumping away from the beach area.

So when I thought Aidan might jump, I made the decision to go up on the cliff.  In bare feet.  Not the smartest even though that’s how most jumpers go up…but then, I had no intention of jumping (and not to spoil it for you, but NO I did not jump from this one). 

My view of the beach from the cliff... yes it's up high!

Can you spot Josh in the crowd?

We were up there for quite some time watching people both brave and not so brave (and even the not so brave eventually jumped even though they waited a LONG time before doing so) jumping off the cliff.  They jumped from the low point of 6/7 meters to upwards of 10-15 meters.  There was one guy who was doing backflips off the higher points – beyond amazing to watch.  (  Aidan was excited about the idea of jumping – and was actually pressuring Nasi to do the jump.

Aidan and Ignasi ready to jump????

Crazy guy jumping from the top of the highest point...

Eventually Nasi conceded and they were ready to go (  He went first and when it was Aidan’s turn my heart was in my throat.  He had a smile on his face and was ready to go.  At one point he lost his balance on the edge and almost fell off (everyone gasped when I watched the video, it was that close) which just about killed me – because if he had fallen, it was likely he would not have fallen well and could have seriously injured himself in the fall.  It was then that he decided that he wasn’t ready to do it.  Looking back at the video in which I have edited out the part with him almost falling, I also noticed that I was pressuring him a bit without meaning to - I just didn't want him to think I was scared of the idea of him doing the jump and wanted him to know I had confidence in him.  But looking at the video, it doesn't come off that way and I feel badly if he thought I'd ever pressure him into doing something he's not ready for.  And I have to applaud him for recognizing that he didn’t feel comfortable and that he didn’t give in to the pressure of the people around him who were telling this 8 year old to jump (who pressures and 8 year old anyways???).  He was frustrated and angry, but I’m proud of him for making a decision on hiw own rather than having one made for him. 

Shortly after we headed out to get lunch and then a surprise for the boys for the afternoon (a water park!)!!

Cala Blanca

The last beach that we spent time at was actually located right down the road from the villa we rented.  And sadly, it was the worst of the beaches.  Even by Barcelona standards it was eh... The beach felt a bit trashy and the water wasn't quite as clear (though it was clearer than Barcelona) and it smelled a bit funny.  The kids weren't super excited about it so we didn't stay too long.  I'm glad that Ignasi had taken us to some prime beaches because if not for him, we might have ended up at this one all week without realizing what we were missing and that would have been a major disappointment.  Whew!!

A much smaller beach than the other ones we were on this week, Cala Blanca just didn't have the same curb appeal as the others...

But Liam was pretty happy as long as he had water and sand

Holding his breath!

Cool rocks by the water

Aidan and Liam playing in the water


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