Category Archives: Croatia

Let’s Hit the Beach!

The only thing we knew we had to do on Saturday was to be at Gruž port for 4pm ready to board the fast ferry to Korčula. Somehow we had to get our bags there first; our host had suggested that he’d leave a note for his sister to ask if she could give us lift down when we left our apartment, but nothing was mentioned when we said goodbye to his mother on Saturday morning… anyway, it was all downhill, and two of the three bags had wheels, so Shanks’s pony it was. A route was carefully chosen to minimise the number of steps, and overall it wasn’t too painful to get to where we could leave our bags for the day.

Whilst recuperating over refreshments, we came up with a vague plan which involved making use of our 24-hour bus pass to check a couple of potential beaches, one of which (Bellevue) was conveniently close to where we would have to change buses to get to the second one (Lapad Bay).

After some confusion over the bus map (conveniently colour-coded… using different colours on each slightly different version), we figured out how to get to Bellevue, and a bit of navigating by instinct soon found us overlooking the beach, which was a long way down. We could see a set of steps on the far side, but weren’t sure how to get to them, so checked at the hotel that used part of the beach; they pointed us round the ‘public’ way, rather than letting us use their lift; no surprise. From where we were, we couldn’t see what facilities would be at the bottom, so we stocked up with lunch at a convenient pekarnica (bakery), then followed the directions round to what seemed like a back entrance to a different hotel, then suddenly found ourselves at the top of the steps we’d seen earlier, with a nice clear view of the beach.

Bellevue Beach

Bellevue Beach (and hotel above)

Not too crowded, very sheltered, even a little cave if you were feeling brave and wanted to do a bit of exploring while swimming. It looks like it sometimes has (or had) more facilities, apart from the hotel bar and restaurant, but those didn’t seem to be in operation when we were there. We did what you’d expect on a beach: cooled off (much needed!) in the sea, dried out in the sun, ate lunch, and repeat until it was time to head off and make sure we caught the ferry.

Our 24-hour bus pass had expired, but we knew it was only a 15 minute walk to the port, mostly downhill, and that made it easy to stop for some supplies for on the ferry. We got to the port in plenty of time, collected our bags, and found that the nearest cafe was full of people with luggage, looking like they were all waiting for the same ferry. Fortunately, we had some good timing and managed to grab a free table. and eventually managed to get the one member of staff on duty to serve us some beer while we figured out how to rearrange our shopping into our luggage. Just before the scheduled boarding time, we noticed a flurry of activity so decided we should go and join the queue; none too soon!

Waiting for the Ferry

You wouldn’t know, but this is near the front of the queue…

Once we got on board and stashed our larger items of luggage, we found some seats right at the front so we could see where we were going, and settled in for the two hour journey to Korčula.

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Posted by on Wednesday 19 August 2015 in Croatia, Travel


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Just like “Game of Thrones” …

Just like “Game of Thrones” …

… but nobody died.

Once we’d got ourselves sorted on Friday morning, we figured out the bus system and got ourselves to the nearest Libertas office to buy some 24-hour passes, then got the bus along to Dubrovnik Old Town; so much easier than walking!

We’d already explored a lot of the Old Town on the previous night, so we decided to head off the main street and explore some of the back alleys. The real “tourist tat” was seemingly kept to a minimum, but there were a lot of jewellery shops (featuring the local red coral), art galleries, plus the usual selection of bars and cafes. We found one that we’d read about that did fancy wine and local craft beer; as we ‘accidentally’ found ourselves wandering past it, we had to go in…

San Servolo craft beer (his 'n' hers)

San Servolo craft beer (his ‘n’ hers)

Our host had recommended a restaurant away from the main street (Stradun), telling us that the fish was very good, and the prices were much more reasonable; he wasn’t wrong. Plus, the view was pretty good too…

While eating lunch we’d noticed a lot of people appearing from round the back of Tvrđava sv. Ivana, looking like they’d just been swimming, so after we’d finished stuffing ourselves we waddled round the old harbour to have a look at where they’d been. A groyne and the path round the back of the tower formed a swimming area, complete with water polo ‘pitch’, covered in people both in and out of the water, and great views of the coast south-east of Dubrovnik, the nature reserve of Lokrum island, and the huge variety of passing large and small boats. We naively didn’t have our swimming costumes, but managed to find ourselves a spot on the edge that was close enough to the water that we could sit and splash our feet whilst soaking up the sun and doing some digesting.

Once we felt capable of walking properly, we heading out around the outside of the old town, and up to the cable car that leads up Srđ and provides easy access to Utvrda Imperial (Fort Imperial), built during the Napoleonic Wars. The mountain was the main site of fighting in the Siege of Dubrovnik during the 1991-1995 Croatian War of Independence; the fort itself now houses an exhibition detailing its events. Possibly slightly one-sided, but still very thought-provoking.

After exploring the fort (including access to the roof, which would contravene all sorts of H&S regulations in the UK), and having an unexpected encounter in the car park, we decided to treat ourselves to a drink at the imaginatively-named Restaurant Panorama, which has absolutely amazing views over Dubrovnik Old Town and the Adriatic Sea. This left us perfectly-timed for catching the sunset from the viewpoint near the cable car station, watching it sink into the sea over Dubrovnik, Koločep and Lopud.

We had a cunning plan for getting back to our apartment after this: the number 8 bus runs in a big loop, from the Old Town Gate, though ‘lower’ Dubrovnik to the port, then turning and heading back along the higher road (at the bottom of the steps to our apartment), past the cable car station, out east to Viktorija, then back to the Old Town Gate. Just get on at the cable car station and ride round the loop, we thought… well, almost. What we didn’t realise was the bus got to Viktorija and stopped for 20 minutes! We had to get off and stand around; couldn’t even admire the view, since it was dark by this point. Eventually we were allowed back on, and things proceeded as planned, including being smug at having seats when the crowds got on at the Old Town Gate. Little things…

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Posted by on Wednesday 19 August 2015 in Croatia, Travel


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The Old Town by Night

After spending our first morning local to the apartment, and having a nice siesta to recover from the heat and a morning of walking down then up countless steps (a theme which is to be repeated), it was time to get down to the business of why we have made this trip: to tick Dubrovnik Old Town off our (OK, MY) seemingly endless must-see list.  Our host had already given us some tips on what to see, where to avoid (overpriced bars in particular) and how to get there and back (downhill, so walk there; uphill, so get the No. 8 bus back). After about 15 minutes walking, we finally started descending steps which seemed never ending. “Thanks goodness we’ll be getting the bus back!” I remarked.

We finally emerged from the steps just outside the Pile Gate, on the eastern edge of the walled city. Despite the time of day it was still heaving, though apparently less so than during the day as all the cruise ship day trippers had now left and would be back on board their ships. We walked past the various stands touting their ‘Game of Thrones’ walking tours (Paul had already been warned this was NOT an option), contemplated then decided against buying a tourist card, and set about battling with and against the crowds to get into the old town.

Perhaps it was because it was somewhere I’ve wanted to go for so long, or perhaps it was real, but I noticed a change in the atmosphere almost immediately. I felt I was somewhere very special. The walls and buildings were so well lit they seemed to shine against the dark sky. It was a strange feeling, almost like I had entered film set, or some other make-believe location. Or maybe I was just dehydrated and had come over all weird. Anyway, it felt good to be there. We walked down the wide main street, Stradun, which was teaming with people ranging from those who looked like they had just come from the beach to those all dressed up in designer gear ready to hit the bars. The pavement is made of limestone and is famed for its high shine finish which has been polished by hundreds of years of use. For some reason I couldn’t help but think it must be very slippy in the rain!

Stradun by night

After the tourist shops at the start of the street, the restaurants and bars take over and the pavement becomes a mass of tables and chairs. It certainly was a great place to people watch, but at the same time it seemed lots of the people there wanted to be watched! In between were lots of side streets which were themselves lined with more restaurants and diners eating outside. We resisted the temptation to join them as we were more interested in exploring.

We kept wandering, having little to no idea where we were, but figuring we couldn’t get that lost. Despite it still being stiflingly hot, it was so lovely checking out little alleyways and sweeping staircases leading to small chapels and beautiful old doorways. We found ourselves in more of a residential part of town and seemed to have left all the bars, restaurants and most of the tourists behind. We noticed ahead of us that a group has turned into a hole in the outside city wall, followed by others coming out. On investigation it was a bar on several levels, carved out of the rock face outside the city walls. It was about time for a sit-down, so we followed. Due, I assume to the difficulties they must have getting drinks to the bar and that there appears not to be running water, it is a bottles-only bar with everything served out of plastic glasses. Fair enough.

We ordered a beer and mini bottle of sparkling wine. It turns out the bar, Buža is rather famous for its stunning views of the Elafitia Islands and was recommended in our guide book. I’m quite sure the view was indeed stunning, so we sat back drinking the most expensive round of the holiday so far, and stared out into the blackness, trying to imagine what it would have been like had we sensibly visited in day time instead.

Old Town Port

After more wandering around, we thought it was time to head off for the bus. After all, we were coming back the next day and could see more then. Although we knew what bus to get from where, we hadn’t figured on the huge queues and chaos of the bus stops back outside the Pile Gate. We realised buses were leaving, full, still with long queues left, the one we needed being only half-hourly at that time of night, and the next one being the last of the night at 12.30am. Hmm, what to do? Then the inevitable happened. The words I have been dreading. “Why don’t we just walk back? We’ll be there before the next bus gets here.” Of course I knew he was right (annoyingly), so off I trudged up the steps, loosing count somewhere in the early 200’s.

Tomorrow we would return. By bus.

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Posted by on Tuesday 18 August 2015 in Croatia, Travel


“It’s hot. Damn hot! Real hot!”

“It’s hot. Damn hot! Real hot!”

We made it safely to Dubrovnik on Wednesday evening, and noticed that standing outside the airport was a little warm… but that was nothing compared to today. Today (Thursday), it was 34°C; it’s now gone 6:30pm, 31°C, and I can barely stop drinking water for long enough to have a beer. That’s how serious it is.

Anyway, back to our arrival. Arriving slightly early at Dubrovnik airport, we were met by our host who drove us back to Dubrovnik itself, enjoying the stunning red sunset over the old town on our way. Arrival at our guesthouse was via a maze of windy steep little streets, which we were warned we should not try to walk down; use the steps! After a quick tour of our mini-apartment, our host sat with us on our private balcony to give us some orientation on a map of Dubrovnik, including the nearest supermarket and pizza place, both of which would still be open.

The nearest supermarket wasn’t so “super”, as is usually the way, but it was big enough to buy essentials (beer, wine, nibbles). The pizza place was just down the street, where we were probably overcharged for beer (25kn for a pint, about £2.50), but certainly weren’t overcharged for the pizza: 50kn each, for their “medium” that turned out to be more “large”…

We treated ourselves to a lie-in on Thursday morning. Having not thought to check what equipment was in the kitchen, we hadn’t even bought coffee in the supermarket, deciding that it would be good motivation to get out and find breakfast. Not so easy, as it seemed like we were too late for breakfast, too early for lunch, so we settled for coffee and Diet Coke near the main port in Gruž, before buying our ferry tickets for our journey to Korčula on Saturday.

At lunch, we discovered that eating out generally is quite cheap (as long as you stay away from the prime tourist areas), and we definitely overpaid for our beer the previous night. A huge plate of squid for Clare, with homemade gnocchi, and a big tuna steak with croquettes for me, and a couple of beers, for only 20 quid.

We found a slightly-bigger supermarket after lunch; they called it a hypermarket, but it was smaller than Prudhoe Co-op. We had to be very restrained with what we bought, because we knew there were a lot of steps to get back up, and it was getting hotter by this stage. That done, we tried however we could to stay cool (lying in the bedroom with the AC running), until it was time for some dinner and watching the sunset over the port. We were hoping to walk down to the old town this evening, but it’s started raining…

Wine by sunset

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Posted by on Thursday 13 August 2015 in Croatia, Travel