Long time no speak! I apologise profusely for the lack of content, but now that I am an **eDuCaTiOnAl PrAcTiTiOnEr** I seemingly have almost zero time to do my laundry, let alone a whole blog post (and what does my life actually consist of now, actually? Marking books, wiping snot off my sleeve and sleeping, that's what.) Anyway, it had been almost two years since I'd hopped on a flight abroad, unless you count Ireland, which I...do not. BUT THEN Half term rolled around, and now that it's become much easier to travel from country to country, I decided that I simply HAD to get a change of scenery and some more content for laviederhi.com. Dubrovnik is somewhere I have been wanting to go to for a while, and October is the perfect time for it - it's off season and the weather is still very pleasant. I was lucky enough to have blue skies and constant sunshine for the duration of the 4 days I was there, and it was a lovely 20 degrees, meaning a dip in the sea was still acceptable and I didn't need to take a heavy jacket with me. Perhaps the biggest selling point of Dubrovnik, however, is the beautiful old town which is conveniently located of the coast of the Adriatic Sea, meaning you have ample opportunities to sail to nearby islands and get both a seaside break and city break rolled into one. For Game of Thrones fans it is a must, as lots of the scenes from the hit TV show were filmed in Dubrovnik, notably shots of King's Landing. My friend Alex and I stayed just outside the old town, however the surrounding area is very hilly and it meant we had to climb for about 15 minutes each day (which doesn't sound too bad except we were eating approximately 3 times our body weight - and that was just the ice cream...) Ana's place on Airbnb was exceptionally clean and the views were amazing - we could see the whole of the old town, the sea and the island of Lokrum. It made breakfast time very much anticipated.
Day 1 We had a very early flight and got to our accommodation at about 11am, which left us plenty of time to explore. After unpacking and freshening up, we headed down to the old town. The old town is small so you can walk around it in about an hour or two. It's a maze of cobbled streets, eateries and churches - it gave me Venice vibes, minus the canals. One thing I noticed about Dubrovnik was that everywhere is super clean, and people are very much used to tourists, so everyone speaks English. The main street in the old town is called Stradun, so if you can find this street then it's easy to find the main points of interest. We quickly realised (after a particularly overpriced coffee) that the shops, cafes and restaurants on and connecting to Stradun are unnecessarily expensive, and you don't need to go far to find reasonably priced places with good things on the menu. Our first stop was Barba, an unfussy café with simple yet delicious seafood. I was angling (no pun intended) for the tuna burger but it was already sold out, so Alex and I both went for the shrimp burger instead. These burgers are huge and loaded, so you don't really need any sides, and I quickly discovered my love for the mysterious black bread that was served in a lot of places we went to - if I'm correct, the bread is made of cuttlefish which gives it the dark, inky appearance.
We didn't really have a plan, so spent the afternoon wandering around, purposefully getting lost. We discovered an amazing ice cream parlour called Peppino's, which we went back to ever single day from then on. We also paid to go up onto the infamous walls, as you can walk around the whole of the old town and get some incredible views of the sea. We stopped off at one of the small vendors along the way for some refreshing pomegranate juice before making our way down to the harbour.
Day 2 We decided to take a trip to the island of Lokrum on our second day, as we found out it is a UNESCO protected nature reserve, boasting a number of interesting plant species. It is also home to an old monastery and botanical garden, perfect for an escape from the hustle and bustle of the old town. We took a boat from the port and got there in maybe twenty minutes or so, then spent the majority of the day exploring the uninhabited island.
That evening, we decided to get dressed up and go to an authentic Croatian restaurant for dinner, which sounds easier than it actually is! Heritage of Dubrovnik had a simple menu, which to us made it all the more enticing - do you guys ever feel like sometimes a restaurant has TOO many choices, and that must mean it can't be great? The food screamed home cooking and was fresh and delicious; I had the grilled sea bream which came with roasted vegetables and potatoes, whilst Alex had the fish stew (I was a little bit jealous of her as I was battling hundreds of tiny bones while she was lapping up hot, soupy goodness.) The atmosphere of the place was also beautiful - I think Dubrovnik has to be one of the most romantic places to go for a candlelit dinner.
The night would not be complete without a trip to a bar, and we chose...The Bar (I still can't decide whether the naming of this place is effective or arrogant, but either way, their drinks did hit the spot.) Definitely give this place a try if you are a cocktail fan.
Day 3 The next day we got even more adventurous and decided to sail to not one, not two, but three different islands. If you've got the travel bug like me, you might find it hard to just go to one place and stay there, particularly when you're somewhere like Croatia, a country that has 193930 islands to see. This particular archipelago is called Elaphiti, and to organise our trip we spoke to one of the tour guides standing at the port (there are all sorts of tours you can go on, but Elaphiti is perhaps the most popular.) I'm pretty sure all in all we paid around £60 each, which gave us around 6 hours of sailing, a delicious fish lunch, free wine, and a pretty hilarious captain. The boat also offered really cheap cocktails, and in the end Alex and I made friends with one of the members of staff and somehow ended up pouring ourselves free drinks and being shown how to drive the boat!
The three islands we visited were Koločep, Lopud and Šipan. Šipan is the largest, but we didn't have enough time to explore the whole island, only the port area, which is quiet and beautiful (Šipan is a fishing island with only two main villages so it's very chilled.) Most of the island is made up of vineyards and olive trees (note to self: next time, bring back wine and olive oil in abundance.) Similarly, the island of Koločep has two main villages, Upper and Lower Celo, which translates to Upper and Lower Forehead, bizarrely. With a population of only 300 it's an incredible place for some escapism. I think Lopud, however, was my favourite - it's hilly, meaning you can get some fantastic views of the island and the surrounding sea, it has a really lovely harbour and a fantastic, sandy beach on the opposite side called Šunj that honestly could have given Bali a run for its money.
Day 4 On our last day we decided against going on yet another boat ride and thought it would be good to chill. Once we got to the old town, we headed east towards the West Harbour, an area we hadn't yet explored. The tickets we bought for the wall also allowed us entry into Fort Lovrjenac, a fort and theatre standing thirty-seven metres above sea level.
We meandered down to the harbour, snapping pics along the way, and then discovered the Love Stories Museum. Now, in 2015 I went to Zagreb whilst I was interrailing with my cousin, and at that time we stumbled upon the Museum of Broken Hearts. I'm not sure if Croatia has a slight obsession with romantic love, but either way, I knew I had to check this museum out. Needless to say, it was much more uplifting and wholesome than the Museum of Broken Hearts was - at the beginning of the tour, we learnt about love in various global myths and legends, got a glimpse into the lives of celebrities, and finally got to hear the stories of everyday folk. My favourite aspect of the museum was the two rooms dedicated to declarations of love - it was like the padlocks on the bridge in Paris, but a lot more detailed (honestly, some people were pouring out their life stories; it was emotional.)
After yet another ice cream, we decided to go back to the apartment to get ready for the evening. The old town of Dubrovnik is just one small part of the wider Dubrovnik region - the residential suburb of Lapad is also a popular area for hotels and restaurants, which we wanted to check out. We first took a trip to Hotel More, a boutique hotel overlooking the sea boasting a cave bar and beautiful views of the sunset.
For dinner, we had hoped to go to one particular restaurant, however it was fully booked so we quickly made a detour to Fish Bar El Pulpo, which definitely exceeded our expectations. I had been dreaming of a fresh tuna steak since arriving in Croatia, and finally got my wish, whilst Alex opted for a huge, baked, black tagliatelle, which had just about every fish under the sea inside it!
So there you have it! First proper trip in two years = completed it, mate. I'm definitely hoping to make use of all the holidays I get as a teacher - we'll just have to see what happens with this whole Covid situation, eh?