Arrived in Herceg Novi yesterday after a delayed flight from London Gatwick to Dubrovnik. The taxi driver, arranged by my Airbnb host, didn’t speak English but still managed to make it clear to me that he’d been waiting for three hours. His sign had my name spelled Lynekke, the Ts no doubt lost in translation from Latin characters to Cyrillic and back into Latin.
I’m in a different apartment this year, one that’s freshly renovated and has a small balcony with a ridiculous view of the entrance into the Bay of Kotor, which I affectionately call The Narrows, on account of St. John’s. I can sit at my kitchen table and look out at this:
In case you’ve never seen the actual Narrows in St. John’s, Newfoundland, this is what I’m talking about:
But I digress.
Meanwhile, back in Herceg Novi…
…I don’t know what kind of colour science is at work here, but those red clay tiles against that teal blue water nearly bends me double. If this were Hydra, and if I were Leonard Cohen, I might call these feelings pangs of beauty.
I had prepared myself for an anti-climax. Last year, my first visit here was fraught with drama, and I’ve come to characterize it as a phoenix-from-the ashes experience. (Long story with many facets.) In deciding to come back, I coached myself that I should be careful not to expect such magic to recur. Okay, this time around I’m in a much stronger place emotionally, I’m more familiar with my surroundings, and I have the necessary visitor paperwork in order. Basically, all the stuff that went wrong last year is under control this year, I told myself, so prepare for a more mundane experience this time.
I mean, thank God for the lack of drama at the moment. But let me tell you this. First morning at my old swimming spot, sitting by the water and feeling my body’s pace fall in line with the rhythm set by the waves, I found my last year’s serenity. The Americano from the beach bar really is the nicest coffee drink I’ve ever tasted, I hadn’t romanticized that piece at all. And I realized I had forgotten the sweet scent of the sea, a smell particular to this place. What makes one beach smell differently from another, and why didn’t I notice it last year while this year it gives me that memory feeling usually associated with music? My first walk through the old town this morning, I was sweating obscenely and not feeling particularly fabulous. And yet my surroundings–the marble stairway thoroughfares, the ivory stone buildings with their forest green shutters, the smell of jasmine–all of it moved me into a state of something deep and resonant, something like wonder, something like awe, something like ahh, I’m here.