travelogue // dubrovnik.

i interrupt your stream of colors i want to paint my new house posts to bring you your travel guide for august.  or july.  did i skip a month?  let's pretend like i didn't, with the whole pregnancy thing and all.  and without further delay, your travel guide to dubrovnik, should you find yourself there.

and i hope you do.

f r i d a y  / /  t r a v e l  d a y 
since we had done the airbnb in split, we decided to splurge on our hotel in dubrovnik.  we scheduled more time there than anywhere else -- three nights and three full days and an extra evening, since we didn't have to board our ferry on monday until 9pm.  after looking at what felt like a zillion hotels, we decided on the valamar president hotel.  the hotel looked and felt in every capacity like a five star hotel should, and we were not disappointed one bit.

our hotel was on the lapad peninsula, and luckily our rental car drop off was within walking distance for us.   we knew ahead of time that lapad was not too near old town and most of the tourist attractions, but the number six bus picked up across the street from our hotel and stopped right in front of the pile gate.  for dinner we opted not to take the bus and wandered over to a local restaurant, komin, for dinner.   the fish was fresh and delicious -- since our experience in thailand two years ago, we really have a hard time trusting the food at restaurants.  after dinner we enjoyed the view from our hotel and enjoyed a cocktail outside.  bitter lemon for me, haha!

yup, that was the view from our hotel from the pool.  my heaven.

s a t u r d a y  / /  d a y  1 
right away we wanted to get out and see the sights.  we slept in a little, since it was a saturday and all, before enjoying breakfast at our hotel [outside! on the balcony! overlooking the water! did i mention this hotel was a splurge and totally worth it?] and hopping on the bus to the pile gate.

we wandered through the old city, getting lost every chance we could, twisting and turning through ancient alleyways.  each turn was more enchanting than the last.  old bricks with fresh flowers.  so picturesque.  finally it was time for me to eat again [perk of being pregnant on vacation], so we wandered into pizzera oliva.  and holy cow was i glad we did.

hands down, the best pizza we had while we were in croatia.  we didn't eat a lot of pizza there -- we mostly stuck to freshly grilled fish -- but if you find yourself in dubrovnik, stop for pizza at oliva.  tucked in the cutest alley you'll see, shaded all of the tine, with brightly colored chairs and the yummiest pizza you'll have.

after fueling up on pizza, we thought we would walk the city walls.  though it wasn't quite the hottest part of the day, it was pretty close.  there is no shade up there, so be prepared with water bottles and hats and maybe even a little personal fan if you find yourself really sweaty and pregnant like i was.  it's a little daunting to climb up all those stairs in the summer [again, remember, out of shape and pregnant], but ohhhhh my goshhhhh were the views worth it.  you don't have to walk the full walls but can get down at any of the exit points along the way.

but we just couldn't stop with those views.

after working up quite a sweat along the walls, we caught the bus back to our hotel to take a dip in the water.  in retrospect it would have been great to have our swimming clothes with us and a couple of towels -- there were swimming spots all along the city's walls to dip in.

it was dinner time after our dip in the water, so we cleaned up and asked the concierge to help us secure a dinner reservation.  we didn't feel like wandering through the city and not wanting to find a table on a saturday night.  a table was secured for us at konoba posat, right outside the city's walls.  we had quite the view of the walls and the water.  it was a pretty fancy place that served up a mean gilled fish filet.

we walked off our dinner while looking for an ice cream spot, and found just what we were looking for at dolce vita.  walking through the stradun at night, enjoying ice cream... it just didn't get much better than that.

s u n d a y  / /  d a y  2
a day of rest.  on the beach.  we needed a day to decompress after running from spending so much time traveling, walking walls and sightseeing.

it was just what we needed.  the whole day relaxing, swimming and reading.

for dinner, we caught the bus back into the old town and grabbed dinner at mea culpa since we didn't want to do anything fancy.  it wasn't bad... but oliva was much better.  i'd skip it if i were going again.  we walked around the city a little, checking out some parts we didn't see the day before, like the polce gate and the old harbour.  lovely.  we discovered if you walk past the old harbour and follow the path, even when you think it ends [climb over the little wall!] you'll find a secluded little swimming hole.  i wish we had brought our bathing suits yet again.

so the lesson is, anytime you're walking around dubrovnik, bring your bathing suit and towel.

m o n d a y  / /  d a y  3
the great thing about vacations is that you can do whatever you want and change up plans as you see fit.  on monday we had big plans to take a ferry to korcula and spend the day.  we'd be crazy not to go to croatia and not visit any of the islands, people said!  but the thing is, being pregnant makes you not want to do that much.  and sometimes, being on vacation means you don't want to do anything.

so we scratched those plans and sat on the beach again, all day, again.  it was fantastic.

our ferry to bari was scheduled to depart at 10pm on monday night, and we had to be on board by 8pm.  we used the locker rooms at our hotel to rinse off after our day at the beach, grabbed our bags from the concierge and made our way over to yet another new part of dubrovnik, where the cruise ships and ferries dock -- gruz.

we grabbed a quick dinner at amfora, which was walking dinner to the harbor where we boarded our ferry.  our last taste of croatian food -- cuttlefish risotto and cheesy polenta -- did not disappoint.

and with that, we boarded our ferry to italy.

more on the ferry and that... experience.. in the italy travel guide, up next!

travelogue // split + the makarska riviera.

 i'm calling this a 'travelogue' rather than a 'city guide' because i didn't quite spend that much time in split.  this is more of a list of where we went than a guide to the city and surrounding area as a whole, where there would normally be multiple recommendations of places to stay and eat and things like that.  this is just a listing of our experiences, so do with them what you will! 

this was one of those trips that snuck up on us.  it was an unseasonably warm last day of march when philip and i sat outside and, on a whim, booked our trip to croatia.  we'd been talking about doing a trip for months [it was partly to celebrate my 30th birthday in february] but couldn't pull the trigger on where to go.

and then we kind of just forgot about the trip after those tickets were booked.  things came up, from very big to very little and this vacation seemed like the last thing on our minds. . .

t u e s d a y  / /  t r a v e l  d a y
. . .so when the few days before the trip finally arrived, it was a whirlwind of getting ready.  before we knew it, we were heading upstairs on a 747 to jet off to split via frankfurt.  upgrading to business class with our miles was completely worth it.  we hardly felt jet lagged at all when we finally landed in split on wednesday afternoon.  the split airport was teensy but we grabbed a bottle of water and headed out to start our vacation.

w e d n e s d a y  / /  d a y  1
because we rented an airbnb for the very first time in split and we did pretty much ZERO research on how to get around via public transport, we hopped in a cab and took it to our apartment in the middle of the old town.  i had looked around for hotels but hadn't really found anything worthwhile at our price point, and by doing an airbnb in split we were able to save enough to splurge a little on our hotel in dubrovnik.

we met our hosts and settled into our digs, cleaning up a little from the long flight.  the apartment, we quickly learned, was perfectly located.  we were just a short walk to the riva, diocletan's palace, and a bit of a longer walk to the beach but still a walk nonetheless.  we walked down the riva first, the waterfront promenade filled with cafes and shops, taking in the sea air and the scenery.  it's impossible not to stumble right into diocletian's palace from the riva, which we did happily.  we opted not to take the palace's cellars, but did pay to visit the cathedral of st. dominus.  the cathedral was small, as was the crpyt, and i would probably skip it next time around.  after all of the cathedrals in france, italy and the czech republic we've seen it was a little unimpressive.  our stroll continued through the old town and palace, wandering through narodni trg, before jetlag and hunger started to really catch up with us.

after consulting our map and guide book [rick steve's croatia & slovenia] we settled on trattoria bajamont for dinner.  it was just what we were looking for: authentic, home-cooked croatian food at a little table for two on a quiet side street in old town.  we shared the stuffed calamari, stuffed clams and scampi risotto with prawns.  the prawns were probably the best i've had in my life, and the risotto was the best of the trip for me without a doubt.

we had just enough room for something sweet -- and our airbnb hosts had shared their favorite place for ice cream.  we walked straight there after dinner.  luka had a short line, but it moved quickly and proved to be worth it.  the ice cream flavors were all in croatian [duh] so we kind of guessed with the help of the drawings next to each flavor label.  i ended up with lavender [grown in abundance in croatia] and philip had the 'american cookie,' which was basically cookies and cream.

after the ice cream we collapsed into our bed back at the apartment, ready to sleep in and start our vacation right.

t h u r s d a y  / /  d a y  2
after a so-so night's of sleep in our apartment [one of the drawbacks of airbnbs], we got a late start on the day.  usually i like to get up and go-go-go when i'm in a new place, but since this was our first big trip without a little one, we took advantage of the empty apartment and quiet bed to get some rest until the sun and city beckoned us.  by the time we finally headed out it was nearly time for lunch, so after wandering around the old city for a bit, we chose pizzeria portas near the golden gate for lunch.  the courtyard where we ate was lovely, quiet and perfectly shaded.  the pizza was ok -- not the best we would have on the trip but certainly not the worst pizza i've had.

the thing about split is that it's very small.  we quickly learned that we had pretty much seen all the major sights the day before when we wandered through the palace.  we kicked around the idea of taking the ferry out to hvar at the last minute, but all the ferries were booked for the day.  if that's your plan, definitely book ahead of time!  the one thing we hadn't seen yet that we wanted to was the beach -- which was a perfect way to kill the afternoon.  after gathering up our beach things and purchasing a lovely towel with a map of croatia on it from a street vendor, we headed to bacvice, the closest beach to the city center.  the water was beautifully clear, crisp, and cool.  it wasn't a terribly hot day, but we walked in as far as we could anyway and enjoyed the scenery from the water.  the cool thing about bacvice was that you could rent chairs if you wanted, or you could just drop your stuff and head on in on the beach, or you could sit on the concrete ledge and take a ladder down into the deeper part of the beach.  ahhmazing.  i've never seen swim ladders that go own into the water right off the city.

once the sun started to dip and the guy manning the beach chairs was packing up for the day, we got out of the water and wandered over to a little strip of cafes that overlooked the beach.  we settled on pizzeria karaka, where we sipped some cold drinks until we were ready for dinner.  it was about a 20 minute walk back to the apartment, where we cleaned ourselves up and headed back out for some fresh seafood.  there were a couple of local places, called konobas, that philip had read about.  but unfortunately for us, reservations were strongly recommended and they were all booked up for the night.  i was ready to eat immediately, so we wandered around until we found a recommended restaurant that had tables.

luckily for us, bajamonti [not the same as the restaurant where we had eaten the night before] had empty tables.  it ended up being the best meal i had in croatia by a long shot -- and one of the best views around, too.  i started with homemade pasta with scallops and prawns, then had a main course of crispy grilled sea bass.  without a doubt the best fish i've had in my life.  after dinner we walked back to luka -- because why the hell not? -- and tried new flavors that were just as delicious as the night before.

f r i d a y  / /  m a k a r s k a  r i v i e r a
after looking into the various ways to get into dubrovnik or split [very long boat ride or a very shady plane ride] i suggested we rent a car and drive.  we rented our car through hertz, which was located within walking distance of our apartment, and they were very accommodating for a one-way rental to dubrovnik.  it turns out that it was the best decision that we made in croatia.  we were out of things to do in split and ready to head south, so we arranged to pick up our rental car early, checked out of our airbnb and hit the road by 10am.

we wisely chose to take the 8 south, which winds right along the adriatic.  the route was between 3 1/2 - 4 hours, much longer than the inland route on the highway, but we didn't care.  we had the whole day to make it to dubrovnik.  the car provided us with stunning views, the opportunity to go as slowly as we wanted to take enjoy the water or go off track, and the chance to stop as many times as we want.  there were plenty of pull off spots for photos or just to stop and pick your jaw up off the floor of the car.

our first stop was baska voda, which we picked for no particular reason.  there were load of little towns that were situated right on the water and looked perfectly picturesque, but we were hungry and ready to stretch as we headed into baska voda.  we parked the car in the city 'center,' which was really just a small marina and a grouping of restaurants.  again, for no particular reason, we wandered into bracera one for lunch.  the beach was right across the street from us, where we could see small groups of tourists sunning themselves and splashing in the water.   lunch was lovely -- more fresh prawns and risotto -- but the scenery alone was reason enough to stop in baska voda.

after filling our bellies with fresh seafood once again, we hit the road for a few more hours.  the longer, scenic route takes you through bosnia and herzegovinia -- just through the resort town of neum -- very briefly.  make sure to have your passports with you.  by the time we got back into croatia, there was only about an hour left until we reached dubrovnik.  philip had heard of somewhere just outside dubrovink that was known for their mussels and oysters, so after some quick flipping through our guide book we pulled off towards mali ston.  mali ston is right next to ston, which is known for it's 'great walls of croatia.'  you can see the walls and walk some of them from mali ston as well.  ston is larger, but it's mali ston that's known for it's food -- which is what we were interested in.
our guide book raved about a little restaurant called kapetanova kuca, which apparently boasted a local 'celebrity' chef.  that was all the convincing we needed to check it out and snagged ourselves a seat on the patio.  since it was really our second lunch [or first dinnder?] we went a little light.  we sampled some oysters, both fresh and fried, and mussels, both steamed and in a soup.  while both were fantastic, we agreed we'd had better both out in boston and in seattle.  i guess we've visited some places with great shellfish.  we walked off our mid-day meal by climbing the stairs up to see the wall and the view they provided.

after our brief stop in mali ston, we got back in the car once more for the last short leg of our trip to dubrovnik . . .

. . . to be continued with my travelogue for dubrovnik!