City Guide: Split, Croatia

Sunset in Split

For our two year anniversary trip to Croatia, we only had two days in Split but given the length of our trip it felt right to “split” our time between this city and Dubrovnik, which is further down the Dalmatian coast. We are water people and loved our resort on the bay  just outside of the city. The views were beautiful, the water crystal clear and for most of our trip we were poolside with a G&T in hand. You can’t visit a new country without spending time “inside” the city walls, walking around streets that your ancestors wandered around generations past so while we did spend a half day touring around – our best memories are of walking the beach or sitting on our balcony watching the stars come out. Our all time favorite part of the trip was paddle boarding right in front of our resort at sunset on our last night. We knew a storm was coming and this was our last opportunity to enjoy the water, so we spent every last minute out there paddling around. The sunset was stunning and dare we say, romantic!  

Split

Driving around: About 3 hours give or take north of Dubrovnik (where our trip originated), the scenic drive to Split is 212 km (132 miles). We recommend stopping in Ston on the drive up to enjoy oysters and a true sense of small town Croatian feel that you’ll miss in Split or Dubrovnik.

Ston, Croatia

The coastal road D8 (follow the “yellow” signs for the coastal roads and “green” signs for the highway) is the slowest option but the more rewarding offering breathtaking views. It will take you about 4 hours, including crossing into Bosnia-Herzegovina (USA citizens must have a passport). The best option is taking both the highway E65 and D8 coastal road. The cost for highway toll is 42 Kuna driving from Dubrovnik to Split and our gas (diesel, baby!) cost only ~$30 round trip. On E65, Croatian’s version of the autobahn, drive alertly as you’ll encounter drivers picking up speeds of 200km/h and up, over 115mph (which we did not do, Mom!).

Hotel: We opted to stay at Le Meridien Lav, Split a well recognized Starwood property 15 minutes driving from the center city that several friends had stayed at before.  As Starwood Gold Members, it also was our best option to go with one of our go-to loyalty options and we generally were really happy with the choice. With beautiful views of the Adriatic and large terraces, the hotel has 5 star service and experience down and has a handful of good dining options on site meaning you don’t have to veer far off if you want to relax and enjoy the coastal zen. 

Balcony at Le Meridien Split

If you’re a Starwood loyalty member, you also receive 10% of all dining at the property on food. We particularly enjoyed Conlemani, an Italian option on the property right by the marina. The fried zucchini sticks and meatball were delicious and fresh. The eggplant parm was OK – a bit mushy, which is NOT a favorite V texture – but the star was our appetizer of ice chilled black olives. [ed. note: we will always be serving olives over ice from now on!] The wine was overpriced and worth avoiding (after a few tastes we went with glasses of Prosecco instead).

Le Meridien

We took advantage of the on property Diocletian Spa for 50 minute massages which were relaxing and fairly priced although a bit… different. Let’s just say there was one use under things involved. :O The infinity pool was also phenomenal and seemed to flow right into the sea. Great spot for sunset watching. The beach was beautiful but rocky as many Croatian beaches are. Make sure to bring sand shoes if you go here to save your feet!

Exploring Split (Old Town : Diocletian Palace): While the relaxation of the resort was near perfection, we decided to venture in for a half day in Split to see the Diocletian Palace ruins and old city. The history of the palace is fascinating: built some 1,700+ years ago in preparation for retirement by Diocletian, the palace is now a UNESCO world heritage site. While beautiful, the site is also surrounded by touristy restaurants, shops and even some “Roman” actors. We guess that’s to be expected though. You can do tours of the palace but we opted for a quick walk through and Snapchat selfies as the city was hot and really, we just wanted to be poolside.

Diocletian's Palace in Split

Split is a great ferry point to islands like Brac and Hvar. We ran out of time on this trip to get to the islands for a day but they are only 30-45 minutes away with multiple returns in high season. You always need to leave something to come back for!!

Overall, we were underwhelmed by the city itself outside of the lovely architecture and ruins as it felt small compared to Dubrovnik. If in Split, we recommend a half day of meandering, sightseeing and gelato followed by returning to your seaside hotel for relaxation with a view. But that’s just us! We can’t resist the charm of lounging in the sun by the beach or pool.

Ice Cream in Split

Food & Wine: When in the Old City, venture to Luka to grab some of the best homemade ice cream we’ve ever had and definitely the best we sampled in Croatia. They’re liberal with trying flavors which you know we took full advantage of. We loved the Poppy Seed cake combined with classic chocolate as well as Hazelnut. If you’re vegan, their Peach sorbet was super refreshing. From Luka, we went to Bokeria for a small but well priced glass of Croatian rosè (it’s such a V move… ice cream + wine)  to relax and people watch. Bokeria had a few tables outside and a good selection of wine and tapas. We noticed that dining out in Split versus Dubrovnik you’ll get way more bang for you buck, err Kuna. Comparable wine and meals were 30-40% cheaper based on our assessment of top restaurants we went or considered going to.

Sunset in CroatiaAdriatic Coast SunsetSplit Sunset

As mentioned, this part of our trip we were pretty lazy and ate all our meals at the resort, but the below restaurants were recommended to us by the concierge and they do look pretty tempting:

  • Dovr – beautiful views just outside of the city. A huge patio for sunset dining, food and wine seem well recommended but not the best.
  • Olive Tree – a new restaurant in shaded tents between the palace and the docks. We walked past and it looked nice, more comfortable and well decorated than other restaurants on the water.

Hope this helps and be sure to reach out to us if you have any questions! If you’re also headed to Dubrovnik be sure to check out our city guide.

V + M

All photos were taken on our amazing Samsung NX 500 camera or Samsung mobile.

City Guide: Dubrovnik, Croatia

Old Town Dubrovnik

3 nights and 3 days in Dubrovnik on the Adriatic Sea… Dobra Dan!

For our two year anniversary we flew from London nonstop into the Dubrovnik Airport which is about a 25-30 minute drive from the Old City and only a 2.5 hour flight. We wanted some sun and sailing with old European charm… and found it! The water off of Croatia is a lovely clear blue and warm enough to spend an afternoon swimming around the coast’s rocky shores, full of caves and little fish to spy on when snorkeling. Croatia is really interesting. It’s come a long way in the years since the Croatian War of Independence, especially in attracting more tourists, but the evidence of the conflict remains. It’s odd seeing the sparkling water and peaceful hills spotted with ruined hotels on the coast. These have become tourist destinations in themselves, but we chose a more romantic trip full of late mornings and late nights, sun and swimming. 

Dubrovnik RovieraSailing in DubrovnikDubrovnik Riviera

If you like being on the water, make sure to sail Dubrovnik. We did a half day on the water with the aptly named, Dubrovnik Sailing.  Our skipper, Lovre, a 26 y/o Croatian who spent a year studying in West Virginia as a teenager, took us to around the Elaphiti (Greek for “Deer”) Islands. We jumped in for a swim by one of the islands where the water was crystal clear and a swimming cave allowed for us to snorkel into a nice wide open area where your feet could touch the ground. [Ed note: V did not go in the cave but still enjoyed swimming in the open water near it.] Highly recommend Lovre and his crew. There is nothing better than relaxing on a private sail boat with an expert guide with the sun shining and wind in your face.

Sailing in DubrovnikSailing in DubrovnikAdriatic Coast

There is a lovely beach near the sailing pickup that was calling our names, but since we only had a few days to explore we decided to grab a quick treat (Lemon sorbet on the promenade) and continue on to the Old City. If you do a half day sailing tour, we recommend sauntering off the boat and claiming a spot on the beach for the rest of the day.

In Dubrovnik, make sure to visit the Old City. You may recognize the wall and many of the sites as the set of King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. Enjoy walking along the maze of old streets, the restaurants all spilling onto the small passageways and their shaded seats offering a very nice reprieve from the heat. We visited in early September and the little clothing we had on still felt like too much.

Old Town Dubrovnik

You can’t miss the cable car with a view of the city from the top of Srd Hill. For ~$13 round trip you can get some okay photos (the cables were in the way for most of our shots) but it’s worth it for the IRL memories of seeing just how majestic this city sits on the azure waters of the Adriatic. We loved the contrast of the blue water and terra cotta rooftops from up above.

Cable Car in Dubrovnik

For great drinks and atmosphere, find your way to the Mala Buža Bar – our absolute most favorite thing to do in the Old City – a super cool bar on a small cliff overlooking sunbathers and cliff-divers on the outside of the wall. Bring your swimsuit and jump right in for great views of the islands and the Old City wall (aka the best way to get a sense of the walls without paying to walk around them). The European saxophone-house music was on point and the sunset from the bar was one of the best we saw. Friendly staff, ability to jump into the sea and reasonably priced drinks = a huge win/win for us. Gin & tonics were standard and cooling and their local beer, Karlovačkowas light and refreshingly bitter. Plus be entertained by Europeans not shy about changing into their birthday suits in front of you and little cats lounging in the sun.

Mala Buža Bar

Food & WineWe ate only once in the Old City at Posat, where the prices were like Disneyland and the quality nothing worth writing home about. We’d been warned about this by a few friends who had visited about poor price to value in Dubrovnik.The service was a bit over the top but good for special occasions. They greeted us “Welcome, good evening” and every time the waiter spoke to V, they addressed her as “Lady.” While it was cool when they came out with a platter showcasing their fresh seafood, you should avoid the “Whole Fish” fresh catch option if you find yourself dining at any of Dubrovnik’s hot spots… unless you want to overpay for simple (albeit delicious) Grilled Fish. We paid 550 Kuna at Posat per KG, or roughly $80, for a fish for two. The portions definitely didn’t seem to match the price we paid either. It was our first night in town so we opted for the glass of Prosecco to start (you can never go wrong with starting off with bubbly) and then ordered a bottle of French Pouilly Fume – you will pay for imported wine but after trying the local white wine earlier in the day we felt that at these prices we might as well suck it up. And oui, it was delicious.

In Mlini across from the Sheraton, we also dined at the new Ruz Marin one evening across from the property where our waiter was quite friendly but service slow (the place was understaffed). We ordered a whole fresh fish here, prepared table-side, which at 400 Kruna/KG was 20%+ less than Dubrovnik and of comparable quality though still quite expensive.  You see the theme here. We did go with some Croatian wine – and you know… it’s not bad. It’s just very distinct. The white wine here tastes chalky since everything is limestone. We enjoyed the bottle, we just wouldn’t want a lot. Which is tough, when that’s all that is on the menus everywhere!🙂

Ston

What we would do differently: In Dubrovnik, we really liked staying on the Riviera and would probably try the Radisson next time to get the beach view but add in more dining options on site. You honestly only need a half day to tour the old city and we’d recommend spending more time in cute towns like Ston (30 minutes up the road) and also enjoy sunning views of the surrounding area as you drive around. In Ston you can grab fresh out of the water oysters (see above)and walk on an Ancient Wall known as the “European Wall of China” spanning some 7 miles (see view below). Ston has lovely old homes and a Salt Works facility dating back to the Ottoman Empire and still used today to produce Artisan Sea Salt. We did not do the tour, but we did get a photo.🙂 And for anyone crazy enough to attempt this, there is a marathon along the wall in Stone which looks like a death trap to us but to each his own!

Ston, Croatia

Hotel: We opted to stay at The Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera, a 1 year old architecturally beautiful hotel on the Dubrovnik Riviera in Mlini. As Starwood Gold Members, it also  was our best option to go with one of our go-to loyalty options. With beautiful views of the mountains and Adriatic from Sea facing windows, the hotel offers a lot of promise but still has a few growing pains. There’s also not much to see in Mlini immediately around the hotel and Dubrovnik is a 15 minute cab or Uber ride, costing 150 Kruna (Roughly 100 Kuna to $15 at the time of writing) from the hotel or around 80 Kruna from Uber, so factor that into your decision to go Riviera vs Old Town. The food was fairly limited at the hotel and there was only one decent restaurant within walking distance but the rooms were very comfortable and modern and the house keeping excellent. Make sure to request a King Size Bed in advance or you might end up with two European doubles if traveling as a couple.

Sheraton Dubrovnik

As mentioned, the Sheraton was “meh” when it came to dining options. The buffet breakfast was extensive and pretty good but at $20+ per person, avoidable. With only one forgettable restaurant on property serving the same menu for lunch and dinner, we wouldn’t recommend this for foodies at all.

Car Rental: We flew in and out of Dubrovnik, and rented a car to drive the 3.5 hour coastal and mountain route to Split. Prepare to wait a bit for your vehicle as the queues get hectic and the stalls for servicing customers are small. We went with Sixt as they had Audi’s for the prices of economy cars at Enterprise and ended up with a great A4 to tour Croatia. The main roads were very safe and well maintained although anyone with a a fear of heights should be cautioned: the roads are VERY high.

IN CONCLUSION

You can’t go to Croatia without seeing Dubrovnik and traveling around the country by car is easy. DO it. Explore. Sail. Get some freckles. Invite us.🙂

And now, off to Split!

Along the Croatian Coast

 

All photos were taken on our amazing Samsung NX 500 camera or Samsung mobile.

Sun & Sailing in Croatia

Croatia Vacation

When you’ve lived in London for 6+ months, you begin to crave the sun. You start checking the weather forecast obsessively, scanning for a day with a chance of sunshine. And when the sun does come out, you put everything down and get outside immediately for a walk. And you still bring your brollie. Looking at the calendar for August & September, we noticed two things: a bank holiday and Labor day within a week of each other and booked on the spot. 5 days in Croatia is just what we self-diagnosed via Web MD.

Our excuse: celebrating our two year wedding anniversary. Did we need an excuse? Nah. But that’s what we told the hotels we stayed at to get a free dessert at check in.🙂

Sailing in DubrovnikDubrovnik RovieraSplit

Croatia has also been on our list for a while. Madison’s grandma Olga has very strong roots in Croatia (or Yugoslavia as she still calls it). Also, ever since a friend went sailing around Croatia’s coast for a week it’s been a romantic idea to “sail the Adriatic.”

We flew into Dubrovnik on September 1 and two days later rented a car to drive up the coast to Split where we stayed for 2 nights before driving back to the Old City and flying to London on September 6. The views? Amazing. And my fear of heights was mitigated by Croatia’s surprisingly very safe and well planned roads. While it did seem at first like a typical “Victoria & Madison try to fit too much into one vacation” scenario, I’m happy to report we were able to find enough time to relax and take our mind off work for a bit.

Snorkeling in the Elaphiti Islands

We’re in agreement – the best part of the trip was sailing. All I really wanted to do was be “on a boat” and sailing on a private boat around the Elaphiti Islands absolutely checked that box. We spent half the day on the water, feet dangling in the waves, stopping for a bit to watch a pack of dolphins swim by and snorkel in front of a cave that I wanted no part of going into. (I’ve seen Rescuers Down Under and know that you should generally avoid holes that fill with water.)

Sailing in CroatiaSailing in DubrovnikSailing in Croatia

A few other highlights in no particular order:

  1. Luka’s ice cream in Split. So many flavors! So little time. We settled on hazelnut, gingerbread, poppyseed cake & chocolate but you really can’t go wrong.
  2. Paddle boarding in Split at sunset. It’s as romantic as you’re imagining — we had the sea to ourselves, just paddling into the sunset — until the soft purples in the sky became darker and you couldn’t see what was below us and we laughed nervously until we were safe on the dock with some prosecco in hand.
  3. Fresh figs at breakfast
  4. Stumbling upon a secret passage in Dubrovnik that took us outside the city walls to aa bar with a house party vibe complete with swimming off the rocks in the Adriatic Sea. It felt almost hedonistic finding such a cool place to unwind and literally cool off just outside of the walled city.
  5. The water is so blue! While the beaches were rocky, once you were in the water it was so lovely swimming around in the clearest water, and looking back at the shore – rocky with massive hills rising up all around the bay.
  6. Coastal views while driving along the Adriatic – we were up SO high! There weren’t many places to stop and take a photo but the drive was truly spectacular, even when we turned onto the highway and drove through the mountains a bit more inland.
  7. Learning a touch of Croatian! Dobra Dan!
  8. Eating outside. The temperature was lovely in the evenings and spending so much time outdoors made us realize how we really hope to always have outdoor space wherever we’re living and preferably on / near the water. #LifeGoals
  9. All the cats! A theme of all of our European travels, Croatia didn’t let us down with the felines roaming the cities. We even considered taking home a Dumbledore lookalike near Luka’s!
  10. A new title for V: “Lady”. Hey Lady. For the lady. Lady, what would you like? Welcome lady. Good evening lady….

Beach in SplitSailing in DubrovnikImpromptu Hike

We had amazing weather the whole trip until our very last day. Thankfully it didn’t rain too hard on our drive back to Dubrovnik, because oh my goodness did it storm. The wind. Thunder! Lightning! And so much rain. Alllll night. It was a fun storm to watch but kept us pretty cooped up and forced to eat hotel food, which at the Sheraton was the worst! We were very sad to leave a sunny and warm Croatia the next morning but thrilled to be heading back to London where we have more dining options & a kitchen.

Ston

Croatian food is mostly seafood (we had a lot of Sea Bass) with some of the Eastern European influences you’d expect like sausage and beer and quite a few Italian inspired dishes as well. My favorite item on the menu wherever we went was the olives and I ate them at every meal (we didn’t order any dessert since we were treating ourselves to ice cream and sorbet during the day). So many olives. We also enjoyed wine from all different regions of Croatia and can report back that it all tastes the same! Chalky, as a result of the limestone that’s everywhere. Not terrible, but I don’t think we’ll be seeking out Croatian whites anytime soon.

Adriatic Coast SunsetIce Cream in SplitSunset in Croatia

Coming off this trip which so closely followed our tour of Wales and England we are feeling very lucky and ready to get back to the grind.

Diving into the AdriaticDiving into the AdriaticSwimming of the Coast of Dubrovnik

#workhardplayhard

V + M

If you’re thinking a trip to Croatia is just what you need, check out the city guides we made for Split and Dubrovnik.

Along the Infinite SeaPS – I was able to finish “Along the Infinite Sea” on this trip which was not what I was expecting but ended up loving the plot. I can’t seem to get away from the WWII historical fiction genre — this one was an accident, I swear — but I highly recommend it. Can’t go wrong a love story set in France…

 

 

 

 

The perfect day

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Where we’ve been…

It’s been a crazy year. And I don’t mean that in the sense of ooo yea “crazy.” I mean it’s been nonstop, full British assimilation.

Anyways… I’m in Dubrovnik and it’s thundering and pouring and there is not much else to do on a beach vaca when you can’t be on the beach. So. I’m blogging. We’re blogging – I put Madison to work.🙂

We’re using this time to catch you up, because it’s been AMAZING having visitors taking us on their adventures around London and enjoying weekend trips on our own time. Since we’ve been able to see so much in such a short time, we obviously have a lot of advice and a lot of opinions, so we’re creating a city guide for each place we’ve traveled. You know – so when someone asks, we can pretentiously send them a link to my blog. We hope it’s helpful, but at this point tbh it’s so we don’t forget everything we’ve done. We’re getting older! And the memory is not as good as it used to be.

Right. So – to catch you up — been in London since February. Traveled. Now writing about our adventures. Come visit before you miss the opportunity to stay on a (very comfy) air mattress in Notting Hill with bottomless full english breakfasts and rosè! Cheers, mate.

xx

Victoria & Madison