I am sitting in a long garden, under two huge Mediterranean pines, watching a couple of blackbirds foraging for insects in the pink gravel. This garden is defined by three, 2m-high whitewashed walls. At one end of the garden is a glorious magenta coloured bougainvillea in full extravaganza, which I have pruned over the past five years to the shape of a giant umbrella, and at the other end a very old, whitewashed, two-storeyed worker's cottage. Built in the 1300s of mares (limestone) it was one of three conjoined dwellings, alongside the-then main road on which the nobility would travel on horseback with their retinue, from one end of the island to the other.
These little houses were the very first houses built in what was to become our village of Ferreries. I am on the wonderful island of Menorca. Five years ago my husband Ian and I spent our retirement savings to rescue a very old pile of stones from dereliction. I am in love with this astonishingly beautiful and ancient place and have been since I first came here, some 33 years ago.
I love the sight of the bougainvillea, riotous against the whitewashed stone buildings and blue blue skies. I love the fields of wild flowers in the spring and picking the succulent wild figs and blackberries to go on our yoghurt at breakfast and the huge ripe nectarines, the like of which I have tasted nowhere else. I also love that the wonderful local cheese, prawns, rosado, rioja and excellent cava are foods for the ordinary people, not just the well-heeled.
Menorca sits at the easternmost end of Las Baleares, the Balearic Islands, around 115 kilometres from its bigger, more famous and somewhat blousy sister Mallorca, and a 35-minute flight from Barcelona. About twice the size of Great Barrier Island, it is under Spanish jurisdiction, but it has its own language, Menorquin, a dialect of Catalan. In all the years I have been coming here, I have never managed to master more than the most basic greetings in this contrary language, which is a bit of a disgrace really.
Fortunately the locals all speak Spanish and I can bumble along in that.
I love the people ... honest, warm and welcoming, with a great sense of fun. I love the way the men are as much involved in the care and welfare of their children as the women. The elderly and disabled are cherished and respected.
I love the landscape with its rugged north coast, battered in winter by the fierce tramontana that blitzes down from the Pyrenees. On the southern coast, white beaches lie protected in golden limestone coves, their cliffs softened by Mediterranean pines. Winter is short and sharp and summer long, hot and dry, with gin-clear water to slip into, to mitigate the heat.
Soon we will be on our way home, to the Waitakeres. We have missed family and friends, but we have left a little of our hearts in our second home and will be saving to return next summer.