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.

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

November 9 – Bonjour Lyon!

Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière

The moment Madison got a text from his Euro cell carrier, Orange, to say we had crossed the border into France there was a very big smile on my face.  I have been waiting this whole trip to make it to France! We had lunch in Chambéry at a crêperie  just over the mountains on the Italian – French border.  It was great whipping out my French, I am happy to report I remember how to order food, the most important thing to know when visiting! The train from Milan to Lyon did not disappoint, the mountains were snow-capped and the colors were great.  I tried napping as we woke up at 5:30 am, but it was too hard to look away from the scenery.

I visited Lyon with the traveling grandparents for two days when I was studying abroad in Paris back in 2009, and we loved it.  Lyon is the gastronomy capital of France, with excellent onion soup and desserts.  I had to come back! While showing Madison around, we stopped in a patisserie and after several minutes of intense deliberation, settled on a praline tart (right now my mouth is watering just thinking about it).  Amazing.  As we walked around some more, licking caramel off our fingers, we realized pralines are a specialty of the region, and also that they are all colored (including the tart we ate) pink.  I asked a patisserie owner why this is and he had no idea, just offering a shrug and the typical French exhalation to convey bewilderment. If anyone knows why Lyon pastries are pink, please let me know as I am very curious!

Another reason why I was excited to return to Lyon is to see the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, my favorite church I have ever toured in Europe and the United States.  It is set up on a hill with a great view of Lyon and the two rivers, Rhône and Saône, running through it. Inside the church, you will find beautiful pastel mosaics, and today when walking around inside the sun was shining through the stained glass windows, illuminating the gold colors in the mosaics.  If you are ever in Lyon, make sure you take the trip up the funicular to see the basilica! The photo of the day is of the basilica, but please note that photos were not allowed and since I took this rather quickly, I am sharing it not for its photo excellence, but because I wanted to share the colors with you all!

Tomorrow morning I will most certainly be enjoying a pain au raisin and latte for breakfast before indulging in a little shopping.  After that… Paris!!

Bisous,

V

November 8 – Pack your bags, we’re going to Milan!

City Center of Milan

One of the great things about traveling with a Eurail pass is that you can make up your mind as you go.  We changed the final destinations of our trip about three times and ended up in Milan.  Tomorrow we take a 6 am (oy) train to Lyon for a day or so and then end our trip in my favorite city of them all, Paris!  I don’t have any plans for Paris except to walk around and eat!

I didn’t really want to go to Milan because I had heard it was a very industrial city.  I wish I could remember who told me this because after exploring today, I saw only beautiful buildings and parks!  We made sure to see da Vinci’s Last Supper which I can’t make up my mind about.  Yes, it was beautiful, and something cool to say I’ve seen, but 7€? Nahh. I think that money would have been better spent on more of the delicious truffles we sampled at a patisserie.  This café, called Sugar, makes all their own chocolates and cakes with no preservatives.  The owner was very chatty and gave us a free milk chocolate truffle to try which just made my day.

The buildings here are colorful and elaborately decorated, but the real beauty of the city is behind these facades, in the courtyards with beautiful gardens. Since this city is also known for its fashion, we spent as much time people watching as exploring.  Dark colors are still in, but I was surprised to see a lot of sweat pants and track suits which seem to be on the decline in the states (or maybe I’m now just too far removed from high school trends).  Of course, there are scarves and boots everywhere.  Marleen commented to us (very accurately from my own observations) that Italians dress for the seasons and not for the weather.  Although it is a very mild fall, you won’t see any Italian woman without a scarf, and most everyone is also bundled up in puffy winter coats to protect them from the 60 degree weather.

One last dinner in Italy before soup à l’oignon tomorrow!

Ciao,

V

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOCfbYDvezU