2016 Croatia for Laura's 60th Birthday

Saturday 25th June

Lunch at the Royal Thai with Grahame, then home to sort out last minute bits before Peter arrived to take us to Luton airport for our flight to Dubrovnik. Lots of traffic, but Peter thankfully knows the back roads & got us there on time. Delays on flight so hung around a lot. Eventually set off over 2 hours later & arrived at ten to midnight. Cleared customs very quickly & I collected luggage whilst Andrew sorted out the hire car. Bozo was waiting when we arrived at Sipa apartments where we are staying for most of the next 2 weeks. He and his wife Maruska {he calls her Maria} could not have been more welcoming. They showed us the villa, provided us with wine, ham, cheese, salad & bread so we could just relax. Then left us to it - a lovely couple. A local teenaged kitten, sweet little black & white girl welcomed us too. Fed, thirst quenched & knackered we retired to bed around 2am having spent some time cuddling the little cat.

Sunday 26th June

I awoke about 9.30am after a great nights sleep & went out with coffee to gorgeous views of the sea, old town walls and Lokrum the island opposite. Sat our on balcony happily looking at fab scenery with my coffee and some of the amazing fresh cherry juice that Maruska had left us in the fridge, until Andrew woke & joined me. Later we walked in to the beautiful old town and stopped at the Revelin Club restaurant for lunch. Fish & chips for Andrew & calamari with potato salad for me. Wandered around the old town area afterwards and bought a fabulous oil painting of Dubrovnik at sunset and a pretty glass fridge magnet. Stopped at Klarisa cafe for some sparkling water called Jamnica, then to a shop for some supplies before finding a taxi back up the incredibly steep hill to Sipa apartments. Relaxed on the balcony & read for a while before having a lovely long bath. The little cat joined us on the balcony and we fed her some cat food. Ate dinner out on the balcony, played music & read till bedtime - a chilled relaxing day as we were worn out & will be doing A 5½ hour drive in the morning to go to Plitvik National Park where we will spend 2 nights in a cottage in the park while we explore the fantastic waterfalls there.

Monday 27th June

Came out with my coffee this morning to find little cat asleep on Andrew’s chair, we seem to have been adopted. We had cuddles, then Andrew fed her when he got up, we’ll be buying more cat food at this rate. Set off just after 9am. Drama as we got the hire car almost empty and we were driving on fumes for over 30 minutes before finding a petrol station, there seem to be very few, certainly around Dubrovnik. We’ve seen signs for Caution Wild Boars not far outside Dubrovnik, then from around 74km from Split there are Cautions Bears & Wolves – we didn’t see any however. It’s all winding mountainous roads as far as the Split turn off. We stopped at services for a lunch break, but the cafe was not open so had sandwiches in car for lunch. Just past Split we had torrential rain, which cleared for a while. Arrived at Plitvika Jezera in another torrential downpour, thunder & lightening and found the chalet. Now we have been shown a small bedroom which is where we are apparently staying when we’d booked an entire home through Airbnb - bloody furious is not strong enough! Rada’s daughter phoned her to no avail. We can’t visit the lakes in a thunderstorm & we are stuck in a tiny bedroom for the afternoon & evening!! Later when we decided to go out we discovered that the key to our bedroom didn’t work, on checking front door that was the wrong key too. Highlight is that Andrew has found a kettle on the balcony so at least we can have coffee. Went to Vila Velebita for a great pizza dinner, then back to accommodation where we found that someone else had removed the kettle. Sat out on the balcony for a while, Rada’s daughter then brought us a kettle so I went to the kitchen & procured a couple of mugs for the morning. Early night for an early start tomorrow.

Tuesday 28th June

Coffee then off to the Plitvika Lakes for the day. Parked up in car park & caught the 9.45am bus up to St 3 the highest area. The walk H took us just under 3 hours for the first half, stunningly beautiful scenery wherever we looked, couldn’t stop taking photos as we wound our way back down through all the waterfalls. We then took the ferry across the large lake to the other half of the waterfalls & lakes area. Stopped at the little cafe for cheeseburger for Andrew & a fresh chicken fillet burger for me. Continued on the H walk to see the huge waterfall & the rest of the gorgeous rings of waterfalls, in this area of the park. Then we walked up the very steep hill to the bus stop which took us back to the half mile walk to the car park. Around 9.5 miles in all, calves are not just aching, but threatening to die altogether. This is one of the most stunningly beautiful places we’ve ever visited, I would not have missed it for worlds. Returned to bedroom, where I packed while Andrew found Unique Luxury Rooms in Split for the night as we really don’t want to be at Rada’s tiny bedroom another night. 3½ hours later we met Ivan the owner of Unique Luxury Rooms who was kindness itself & so welcoming. Gorgeous suite with a balcony, beautifully decorated, within the old town walls. Went out to explore the old town and found a restaurant****had a great meal, then back & to bed as we are truly knackered - been a long but fabulous day.

Wednesday 29th June

Good nights sleep, coffee then Ivan helped us carry luggage back to the car. Fond farewells as he’s been the perfect host, then on to the lovely Luxor hotel amongst the Diocesan ruins for our included breakfast. Wandered around the pretty old town & Andrew bought me gorgeous abalone & silver earrings. We also bought Andrew a great Panama hat, which really suits him. Explored this lovely old town for most of the day, the architecture is fantastic. A last espresso, then it was time to drive back to Dubrovnik, a 3 hour drive. Stopped at a Tommy supermarket en route for some necessary shopping. Unpacked & had a bit of a rest before wandering down to the old town to find some dinner. We ate at Papperazzo a steakhouse, lovely dinner & nice friendly atmosphere. Taxi back up to Sipa as we are both fading fast and have aching calf muscles from all the walking.

Thursday 30th June

Can’t believe I am 60 today – don’t feel so bloody old!!! Beautiful birthday card from Andrew - gorgeous butterflies with 16th instead of 60th written inside 😄 love my darling hunka xx We had a quiet relaxing morning, then walked down to the cable cars to ride up to the top where the huge golden stone cross that you can see from the old town is. We had a lovely Greek salad for lunch at the Panorama outdoor restaurant at the top. Stunning views of the old town, the islands beyond and the lovely deep blue sea. Wandered around the top taking photos of the fabulous scenery and found a garden area where lots of lavender had been planted, it was alive with hundreds of beautiful butterflies. We descended and after an espresso it was time to visit the Excelsior hotel spa for our wonderful hours massage each in our own little private suite. Andrew dozed for a while afterwards while I had a lovely decleor facial, most of which I dozed through too. The masseur gave me a fabulous foot massage while my face pack was on. Afterwards we relaxed in a jacuzzi bath for a while - feeling so pampered & spoilt. Later we went up to the Horizont restaurant where we had a fantastic meal, a great little amuse bushe of hoummous with polenta, followed by scallops & monkfish for Andrew & Fuze pasta with truffle oil & chicken ballotine for me. We ordered a bottle of Negromant merlot, definitely the best merlot I have ever tasted. We had a trio of puddings to share with a lovely dessert wine, then espresso to finish. We sat outside overlooking the old town & sea. The staff were friendly and attentive, particularly the lovely amusing girl who was serving us. Andrew bought me an extra bottle of merlot to drink at our apartment. A truly wonderful day and evening & we will definitely be back to Horizont.

Friday 1st July

Up & made coffee leaving Andrew to sleep on for a couple of hours. The little kitten reappeared this morning for some breakfast, but didn’t stay as Andrew wasn’t on the balcony with me. We walked in to town and caught the 15 minute ferry ride over to Lokrum island. We’ve been into the Game of Thrones area and taken photos of each other sitting on the metal throne. Went to lovely little cafe by the monastery walls for sparkling water & iced coffee, then stayed on for lunch prawn & asparagus risotto for me & chicken with mushroom sauce for Andrew, both delicious. We walked through the old monastery, then the botanic gardens & on down to the olive groves. Found a couple of sun beds free there & lay relaxing for a couple of hours, reading and watching a bunny and lots of peacocks & peahens overlooking the sea - idyllic place to relax. One peacock displayed his gorgeous tail for me, they are all so used to humans here, a couple of girls were hand feeding them bread. We saw 5 peahens with babies wandering around. Later on we walked down to the Dead Sea area & paddled our feet in the water, then walked around by the sea. Found 2 peacocks up in the trees. We had a last drink in a cafe near the sea, then caught the ferry back to Dubrovnik. We went to Bona Fides Cantina for fajitas for dinner. Pretty good & the house wine was really spicy and went really well with dinner. We were going to do the walk around the old town walls next as it’s marginally cooler in the evening, but they close them at 7.30pm. Went back to our balcony & relaxed with some wine & our books instead. Being decadent and eating white chocolate with bits of desecrated coconut in it - decidedly yummy.

Saturday 2nd July

Went for a drive around Lozica, Mokosica, Rosat, following the scenic lakes roads. Went over a huge bridge and down to Zaton. The scenery here is really beautiful. Stopped at the Ankora restaurant in Zaton for a delicious fresh fish lunch by the sea. We watched a couple of seagulls and just enjoyed the lovely views. Returned to Dubrovnik later on and did a bit of shopping for dinner before returning to the apartment. We’d decided to spend this evening just relaxing on our balcony and enjoying the lovely view of the old town. 36C today and as it’s Saturday the place is heaving with people. Spent the rest of the day just catching up on this diary, reading & listening to music while watching the boats go by.

Sunday 3rd July

Really noisy people above us today at 5.20am & again at 6.45am so gave up on trying to sleep & got up to make coffee. I was out on our balcony reading till Andrew got up at about 9am. We decided that today was the day to walk the Old Town Walls - 2+ miles. Fabulous views over Dubrovnik from that height and hundreds of steps that are very steep in places, made famous by Game of Thrones of course. We stopped part way around for a juice carrot, beetroot, grapefruit, orange & apple which was really delicious. Can’t believe that they have a little cafe within the walls. Afterwards we wandered around the old town & lunched at Jelovrik, calamari & salad. Climbed up the steep stairs to the church of St Ignatius of Loyola, very pretty old Catholic Church. Found a t shirt shop nearby & bought a cool cat t shirt for Andrew. Then a bit further on we bought a Dubrovnik old town t shirt to share. Made our way then to the Franciscan Monastery where we spent some time walking around, it’s simply beautiful, well worth a visit. We returned to the apartment after that, exhausted by walking so far in the heat. A cold bath & having anointed all my bites we relaxed on the balcony a while. Later we walked back into town to have dinner at Horizont again. Andrew had Fuze pasta truffle, mushrooms & cream & I tried the prosciutto ravioli, both delicious. Steak to follow with Negromant wine, then lemon almond cake for Andrew and carob orange cake for me. Returned to our balcony stuffed to the hilt to relax before bed.

Monday 4th July

After coffee we packed and set off to Kotor Montenegro, about a 2 hour drive away. Stopped off en route at a biker cafe for an espresso & water & saw teeny kitten whilst there. Parked up outside the town walls, then walked to the Kotor Astoria hotel where we are staying for the next 2 nights. We are in Vita suite, very pretty overlooking one of the town square. Unpacked then off out for dreadful pizza lunch at the Pub on the Square, nice wine & beer though. Took a photo of the lovely ancient church in the square. Wandered around the old town, and spent some time in the weird little Cat Museum, then out to the harbour where we found the Galion restaurant, Kotors number one restaurant so booked a table for this evening. Across the road we stopped for a freshly squeezed orange juice at Gelerija restaurant,then back into town where we bought a Kotor cat t shirt for me matching Andrew’s Dubrovnik one & a fridge magnet. Now sitting outside the Evergreen Jazz club with some wine & beer. Relaxed back at hotel, then showered & changed & off out for dinner. Galion was a huge disappointment, truly dreadful loud music, a pretty crap menu & pompous staff – an awful place, cannot believe it’s high rating! We left & returned to Gelerija restaurant where we were welcomed & had fantastic fish pate, salmon & Greek salad for dinner. Now sitting outside the Old Mariner pub in the old town listening to chilled music & relaxing with beer & wine - happy bunnies 😄 Later on we returned to the hotel to find drum & bass playing very loudly. Shut the shutters to no avail, it was deafening in our suite, Andrew phoned reception to see when it stopped and was told about 1am!!! Cannot believe this hotels rating either as people have to put up with that racket on a nightly basis.

Tuesday 5th July

Needless to say not much sleep, both tired & fuming. We complained again in the morning, manager couldn’t or wouldn’t move us, refund us etc. Will be giving them a dreadful review. After breakfast we booked a boat trip around the bay, then went for a walk around town again, and bought a picture of Kotor bay. Enjoyed the boat trip which went to Our Lady of the Rocks, a tiny island and Perast where we had an espresso at a little cafe overlooking the sea, before returning us to Kotor - a 2½ hour trip. We checked out a day early then & drove to the biker cafe for a mixed grill & Greek salad to share, all very good. Back then to Dubrovnik via the Tommy supermarket & spent the rest of the evening at Sipa on our balcony. Tired after our sleepless night of yesterday.

Wednesday 6th July

Slept in a bit, then coffee & juice on the balcony. We then drove up to the More hotel and had espresso & fresh lemon juice in the lovely Cave bar a brilliant little place under the hotel. Later on we went to the pretty terrace restaurant for fabulous lunch of trio of scallops & Capri salad for Andrew and a fantastic risotto & Greek salad for me. The terrace overlooks the sea with gorgeous views, we watched people in strange little boards for two with ladders & slides playing in the sea, looked like fun. Later on we went to the Trsteno Arboretum for a wander in the lovely gardens. Fabulous views over the sea, a beautiful fountain with water lilies, a pavilion & aqueduct. Apparently there is a tree there that is over 400 years old, we didn’t find it unfortunately. A lovely place but we both got badly bitten there so didn’t stay as long as we otherwise would have. Back in the old town Andrew dropped me off & parked the car back at Sipa, then met me at the Revelin club for a fresh lemon juice. We wandered around town & bought some truffle oil to take home as they use it in all the risottos here, before finding D’vino a brilliant wine bar that does wine flights & loads of wines to try by the glass. Andrew tried the Dingauc & I tried the big red monster a Plavac Mali, both really lovely Croatian wines. We chatted to a couple of lovely teenage boys for a while discussing the wines we’d tried. Moved on then to Mea Culpa restaurant for bruschetta & pizza. Back to Sipa afterwards as we have an early start tomorrow to discover that Bozo had left us 4 huge tomatoes which he grows in his garden – yummy.

Thursday 7th July

Left the apartment just after 8am as we are going on the Elaphiti 3 islands boat trip for the day on the Katarina. Our first island was Lopud where we spent about 2½ hours. Stopped first at Dubrovnik Onaba cafe for an espresso. Walked all the way along the front to the lovely old church, and back again, then went for a bob about in the sea, very cold at first, but warmed up quite quickly. The sea everywhere we’ve been in Croatia is surrounded by rocks, but incredibly clean and clear so you can just stay still and watch all the fish. Afterwards we had a drink at La Villa as they had Erdinger beer and I took a photo of a pretty butterfly that was wandering amongst the flowers near me. On to the 2nd island Sipan where we were taken up to the Captains house for lunch prepared by his wife Maria, this was one of the reasons why we chose this boat trip above the others, and it’s a small group of people. Maria had prepared Croatian prosciutto, local cheese and home made bread. This was followed by a lovely chicken pasta soup, then mussels in a tomato sauce, then fish & oil mashed potatoes. Mini churro doughnut type things for pudding & espresso - all very good. There was no time to explore the island here though. On then to the blue cave but only anchored near the cave for ½ hour, it’s a beautiful area with stunning scenery. Kolocep our 3rd island next where we only stopped for an hour. Pretty island again but no shade apart from a cafe & too hot to walk by now, it’s been in the high 30’sC all day, so we just lazed in armchairs and watched the sea drinking sparkling water & lemon juice. Back in the old town we were dropped off near the cable cars so went up to watch the sunset, which was the best one we’ve seen. Andrew managed to get a table at Panorama to eat a lovely seafood dinner while we watched the sun setting over the sea & reflected in the mountains turning them pink and gold – beautiful. Back at Sipa we relaxed on the balcony as usual before bed.

Friday 8th July

Very lazy day, read on balcony, had pizza there for lunch with Bozo’s tomatoes and some of the wonderful cherry juice they have here, which I’ve become quite addicted to. Went for a sleep afterwards & didn’t wake up till 4pm knackered by too many nights of hardly sleeping, felt really bad though as it’s our last entire day here. We went down the 171 steps to the Argentina hotel & down to their beach terrace for some Jamnica sparkling water which has become our favourite here. No beach unfortunately, just leaping off of rocks into the sea - so no swimming for me. Down to the old town we had sashimi for starters at Bota. A glass of wine at Castro’s then on to Pizzeria Dardin for more pizza for dinner as we’d both had enough fish by then. Back to our balcony then to find that Bozo had left us a bottle of Plavac Mali wine. We relaxed with our beer, wine & books till bedtime.

Saturday 9th July

Slept till 9am, coffee, then Andrew up at 10am. Later we were down to Sveti Jakov beach for a dip in the very cold sea, then relaxed on the pebble beach for a while, again the views here are stunning as it’s very similar to the views of the old town and Lokrum island that we have from our balcony. This is the beach that the locals use and it is very difficult to find the road down to it. It’s much quieter and more relaxed than the beaches the tourists all use. Off back to Sipa for a shower and change, then back to the fantastic More hotel for a wonderful relaxed 2½ hour lunch – absolute perfection! At Sipa we packed & Maria visited us for ½ hour for a last chat and to give us a leaving pressie - a little ornament of Dubrovnik old town to remind us of our stay with them, so sweet, she & Bozo are so lovely. Off then to the airport for our flight home. This has been a very expensive but really wonderful holiday. Flight delays again so we got to bed at 4am instead of about 1am as we’d expected.