Sunday, June 25, 2006

Dubrovnik, Croatia


Sun, sand and cold beverages, here we come! We both took the day off so that we could make our 2:40pm flight and so that Luke could go to a job interview in the morning. We hopped on the plane for 3 hours and arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia at 6:40pm. The flight was fine, a little nerve wracking for Luke and I as neither of us like flying much, but that was made a little better by a yummy basil pesto chicken wrap (We eat them every time we fly with Aer Lingus. They're the best sandwiches in the world!)
We were greeted by Mate Simich, the gentleman that owns the apartment we rented, and were driven to the village of Lapad and our apartment. The drive there was incredible. Luke and I have seen many different landscapes and coastlines and this one was definitely one of the most beautiful. The country is very hilly and mountainous. The hills roll down to cliffs and rocks and to the ocean. It was stunning. The first 3 pictures is what we saw driving in from the airport. Stunning!

When we arrived at the apartment we were a little disappointed. We rented it over the internet and were not prepared to be staying in an aparment in someone's backyard. Our 'Private' terrace was right above the kids basketball hoop and right by the back door. Yes, there were kids. Three of them. Lovely at first but annoying as all heck after a short while. They were born and brought up in America so they all spoke English and were curious to talk to us.

Once we dropped off our bags and collected our key Luke and I headed down to the pedestrian walk that Mate had pointed out to us. Figured we'd find ourselves somewhere to have a drink to celebrate our arrival and then head to the grocery store to stock up the fridge for the week and find something to make for dinner. The area was great. It was a wide promenade lined with great little cafe's and restaurants, trees and parks. The walkway extends right down to the coast where there is a beach and then continues on in the form of a trail path higher up from the water. At the end of this trail there is a fantastic restaurant and then a pathway cuts up and out to another beach. (You'll hear about it later). There were many people strolling and sitting on the patios (Some of the patios had those swing-seats that people have in their backyards, you know the ones, instead of chairs at some of the tables - it was fantastic!) After a walk around and a drink we realized that my watch was not in sync with Croatia time, therefore we had waited too long to hit the store as it was closed. We decided that we would find somewhere nice to have dinner and ended up at a great Italian restaurant for real Italian pizza and beer and a shot of Slivovica (Or however you spell it - It's like the Polish and their Vodka or the Greek and their Ouzo). Upstairs there was a party happening - they had Italian singers and musicians which we could hear clearly from our table. It was a great atmosphere and a fantastic meal. After dinner we headed back to the pedestrian strip where we had another drink and then we headed back to the apartment to hit the sack and get ready for our first day at the beach!


This was our first full day in Dubrovnik - and what a day it was. We woke up early (About 8am), got dressed, brushed our teeth, etc, and headed down to the strip for a cappuccino (They were dynamite - we ended up having one every morning we were there) and a cigarette before heading to the grocery store to pick up some food and drink. The grocery store was great... we got fresh bread, meat, cheese, chicken breasts and lots of veggies to keep in the fridge. There is a major booze aisle where we picked up a few items to keep in the fridge. We walked back to the apartment with everything and made breakfast (Sandwiches of fresh bread with butter, cheese, cucumber and salami) and then packed up our stuff and headed out to the beach. We were told that there was a quiet beach down the street from our apartment so we decided to try to find it as the one at the end of the pedestrian area looked like it would be busy so we thought we would avoid it.
The walk was not very long but was without shade and was high up the hill from the water so, needless to say, it was HOT. The temperature was incredibly high. Must have been in the mid 30's or something like that (And we were afraid that it might not be warm enough to swim at this time of the year..... Duh). We walked the 20 minutes or so and when we arrived at the bay, it was beautiful. There were a few people around as it is close to a hotel, but they seemed to be locals and there weren't many of them so we found ourselves a spot on the pebble beach and lay out in the sun, jumping in and out of the water every now and then to cool off. It was fantastic. A real beach holiday. Relaxing. After a few hours of hanging out at the beach we decided to go back to the apartment for something to eat and then decided to walk to the old city of Dubrovnik. We were told it was about a 15 minute bus ride so we figured we could walk it.

We were not prepared..... It was stinking hot and we didn't bring any water with us. We were walking out in the sun on the pavement, surrounded by a traffic jam due to an accident. It was so hot that people were stepping out of their cars to stand outside because it was just sweltering in their vehicles. It was truly too hot. We eventually got to the old city and it was sweltering there as well. We took a walk around but then had to find some shade to sit down in. We found a great little cafe at the harbour where we had.... you guessed it... mussels and a beer. At this point my skin was as red as a lobster because we had been outside all day. My shoulders and arms were glowing. The city is lovely. It has a similar feeling to Venice because it has many tiny, winding alleyways and hills and little specialty shops, etc. There is some major damage to some of the buildings and streets due to the war that occurred there just recently. It was quite beautiful. We continued to poke around the city, taking the sights in but then decided that it was time to head back to the apartment to get out of the sun.

On our way back from the old city we stopped at, yes, an Irish Pub. Not BECAUSE it was an Irish Pub, just because we walked by it as Luke was busting to go pee. We popped in, ordered a pint and sat down. As we sat down an Aussie girl, Carrie, (See photo) stopped to ask us a question and we invited her to join us. She was doing Busabout (You remember Busabout, right?!) on her own and was happy to have someone to talk to. We had a couple more drinks and chatted for a couple of hours. She was very interesting to talk to as she's been halfway around the world and is heading to Africa for a 77 day safari when she's finished touring Europe in August. She's been teaching in England for the last 3 years and takes off every school break on these adventures. Amazing.

When we arrived back at the apartment we changed and headed down to have a drink. We planned to come back to the apartment to make dinner on the barbecue a little later on. When we got back to the apartment the landlord, Mate, had made a big spread for us... pickled herring, salad, white wine, red wine, cheese, etc. It was delicious. We sat with him and the crazy kids for a few hours until all the wine was drunk and so were we.


We woke up early, again, this time due to the yelling match that was going on in the landlord's house. They're a crazy bunch. I won't get into details....

We walked down to the strip for cappuccinos and then went back up to the apartment, had brekkie and wandered to the ocean for a swim. We decided that we would try swimming somewhere else this time so we wandered along the coastline until we found a flat rock where we could spread out. There was a ladder going into the water from the rocks so we climbed in and took a dip. We played a little frizbee (I stood on a rock cause the water was cold and Luke swam around) until I slipped on the rock and cut (Or so I thought) my toe. It was fine, cause I'm tough (LOL) so we continued to play around. When we were getting out, Luke slipped and grabbed onto a rock which had this black prickly thing on it which pricked him and left little splinter-like spikes in his f-finger. That made me remember my toe and when Luke looked at it, I had little spiky splinters in it too. We decided that we were a little freaked out by this so we packed up and went back to the apartment to have a good look at ourselves and attempt to remove the prickles with my tweezers. We were going to ask the landlord about this creepy thing but no one was home so we sat in the yard, sipped some white wine and cut away at my toe and Luke's finger. I managed to get the big splinter out of my toe but Luke wasn't able to get much out of his finger. We were pretty freaked out as we had no idea what the black spiky thing in the water was but there was no one around to ask so we finally gave up and figured that if the thing was poisonous we'd already be dead..... LOL.

We hung out the rest of the day, taking it easy and then showered and got dressed to go out for a few drinks in the evening. We walked down to the strip and had a few drinks, got pumped up for a good night and then realized that everything closes by midnight. Major bummer since we were raring to go. Luke had some Pina Colada's and I had a mojito until we spent a ton of Kuna's on the cocktails and then we ended up getting some bottles of beer and taking them down to the beach where we drank and chatted until the wee hours. It was great.


Sunday.... we decided to hit the beach (Duh!) but decided that we would try to find a sandy beach we had heard about from the landlord. It was hot as heck out but we were determined to find somewhere to swim that wouldn't have those black spiky things and rocks. We walked and walked in the hot sun until we finally arrived at Copacabana Beach. It WAS sandy but it was quite touristy. We plunked down anyway and had a swim and a tan. After about an hour we decided to move along and see what else was on this coastline. We walked down through the surrounding neighborhoods where we happened upon a local bar with a covered terrace. The shade and a pint was calling us so we stopped. It just so happened that we were there about 20 minutes before the Croatia match (World Cup Football) was about to start so we decided to stay and watch the game with the locals. We were glad we did. They were all dressed up. Every single one of them. There was a big screen outside on the terrace so we could all sit outside to watch. Every now and then someone would whiz by on a scooter and honk and everyone would shout. Even the bus drivers were dolled up in team colours. Everytime they drove by they paused to check out the score on the screen. While we sat there Luke noticed a Polish couple sitting behind us so he asked them to join us for the game. They were lovely people, didn't speak much English so Luke had to translate, but it was nice to have some company. The crowd was pumped for the game but about halfway through the game it wasn't looking so good for Croatia so they turned down the TV sound and started pumping dance/football music to get everyone rowdy and excited. If that wasn't funny enough, at halftime two guys came running out of the bar with flares and started waving them around. The enthusiasm was back! Croatia tied the game and Luke and I headed off. We went out for a few drinks after dinner but decided to hit the sack fairly early as we were planning to go to Montenegro in the morning.


Well, we woke up early, walked down to the Port and the Bus Station and attempted to get tickets to Montenegro. We changed our minds when we saw the price and decided that we would go island hopping instead. We bought full day tickets for €20 each which would take us between the 4 closest islands. Before hopping onto the boat we grabbed a kg of cherries for the ride. They were warm from the sun as there was a big fruit and veg market across the street from the port. We got on the boat at 11am and headed off to the first island - Kolocep. We jumped off the boat upon arrival and stopped at a shady terrace for a glass of beer. Very refreshing. From there we walked along the water until we came to the beach - another sandy beach. We got our kit off (Not all the way off... just to our trunks) and swam, swam, swam. It was fantastic. Finally no prickly things or rocks or ANYTHING to worry about. After an hour we continued walking around the island, taking in the beautiful views. About an hour after that we went to the mini market and got a coke and some peanuts to tide us over until lunch while we waited for the boat to arrive to take us to the next island.

The next island was Lopud. Fantastic. Gorgeous. We pulled up on the boat and were immediately impressed. The first thing you notice is this big, old church at the edget of the ocean. Lovely. There were cafe's and restaurants lining the beach, a beautiful tiny little old church and other lovely little things to look at. We were famished so the first thing we did was find a restaurant that tickled our fancy. We ended up walking up a tiny street to the top of a hill where there was a family-run seafood restaurant on a terrace with an outdoor fireplace where they cooked everything. The view from up there was incredible. It blew Luke and I away. We ordered a fish platter (A big, grilled fish with it's head still on - creepy but yummy), a meat platter (A steak with potatoes and salad) and mussels (Absolutely delicious and MASSIVE). We sat there and enjoyed our meal for a while and then headed back down to the water. The beach was busy so we opted to follow some signs we saw that seemed to point to another beach on the island. A thirty minute walk later and we were on the other side of the island at this beautiful sandy beach with a beach bar and a nudist beach down the way. We stripped down (Again, just to our bathing suits!) and went right in the water. It was boiling outside and after that walk we were dying to be in the water. The water here was much warmer than other parts we'd been in, and the bottom was completely sand. Nothing to hurt your feet on! We played around in the water for a long while (And peeked at the nudists - they were far enough away that we couldn't really see them but they were fascinating - mainly older - and they were doing things like kayaking naked, etc. It was hilarious to watch) and then decided to get out and enjoy a refreshment at the beach bar. I had a really great homemade lemonade and Luke had a beer. We sat at the bar for a little while and then made our way back to the other side of the island where we had a cappuccino and did some poking around at the souvenier places. The boat came back to pick us up at 7:30pm and we headed back home.


We decided to try out the beach closer to our apartment, at the end of the strip this time. We found a spot that wasn't too crowded where we could lay out a bit in a shadier area. Luke went right into the water (He braves the cold water really well) and then coaxed me in as well. We goofed off a little, picked up beach glass and chased fish (THAT I wasn't fond of!) until we tired of it and moved to a patio for a cold drink. We sat by the water sipping cocktails and watching everyone for a while and then went back to the beach for some sun time. This time we rented beach loungers (20Kuna) so that we could be totally comfortable (In truth, we didn't realize we had to pay and then were embarrassed so we did pay. We're geeks). We laid out pretty much the rest of the afternoon and did little else other than completely relaxing. It was great.


Last full day in Dubrovnik. We hung out during the day, did some tanning to make sure we'd be golden brown for our arrival back in Dublin the next day and then went back to the old city. We waited until early in the evening this time as the sun isn't as strong therefore we were less likely to be burned. We also managed to find the shorter way to walk. The first time we went it took forever and this second time it only took about 25 mintues. The city was lovely. We climbed up the stairs to the wall but were quickly kicked off as the walls were closing for the night. We didn't get to walk the whole way around but we did manage to take in some beautiful views.