We had to be up at 6.30 this morning in order to have our breakfast and pack up our suitcases and be ready to meet our driver in reception at eight o’clock. Today we were due to travel to Dubrovnik, and our itinerary showed us that there were lots of things to see and do on the way. 🙂
We enjoyed a good breakfast once again, washed down with orange juice and coffee. The coffee seemed to be very milky here; I would usually prefer a strong Americano, but here the typical coffee was more the type with frothy milk on it. The cups were only small so I needed two. 🙂
Lugging our bags down to reception before eight o’clock, we met up with Owen, Phoebe, Jane, Kath and Linda, handed in our keys at reception and paid the bill for the mini-bar, then walked outside where we noticed a black mini-bus pull up. We recognised the driver; it was none other than Miró, the guy who’d picked us up from the airport. He greeted us all with a smile as he loaded our suitcases into the boot and we took our places in the air-conditioned interior of the vehicle.
Miró explained that we would first of all visit the charming old town of Perast in the Bay of Kotor, which was well-known for for its proximity to two tiny islands; that of St George (a natural islet) and the other, a man-made island, which was called Our Lady of the Rocks and featured a Catholic church, museum and lighthouse.
We travelled along the rugged Dalmatian coastline along the winding, clifftop road. The views were stunning; you could see for miles across the glittering blue sea towards the mountains, and little villages set in the cliffs, easily picked out by their terracotta red roofs.
After about an hour, Miró pulled up in a layby and pointed out the islands to us and told us we would be able to get a boat across; we would only have time to visit one – Our Lady of the Rocks. We had about an hour and a half and Miró would meet us back here at 10.30am and meanwhile he went off to park the vehicle.
As we walked along, a group of guys approached us and asked if we wanted to visit the island. We agreed, and he quoted a price of five Euros per person. We boarded the motor boat and set off, bouncing on the water as the sea breeze ruffled our hair. As we disembarked at the small landing stage on the island, the boatman said he would return for us in half an hour.
What a picturesque little island it was! Miró had explained to us, en route, that legend said that the islet was created over centuries by local seamen who kept an ancient oath after finding an icon of the Madonna and Child on the rock in the sea. Upon returning after each successful voyage, they laid a rock in the bay and, over time, the island gradually emerged from the sea. The custom of throwing rocks into the sea persists to this day and every year, at sunset on 22nd July, an event called fašinada takes place, when local residents take their boats and throw rocks into the sea, allegedly widening the surface of the island. 🙂
We took lots of photos of the church, which was apparently renovated in the 18th century. We climbed up some stone steps where there were arches through which we admired the beautiful views.
We then went inside the church for a brief visit, and the decor was breathtaking; the ceiling was really something else.
Once we’d walked all around the island (it didn’t take long as it was so tiny) we spotted our boat coming back for us, so we returned to the landing stage and enjoyed the hot sun on our backs for a few minutes before embarking the boat for the ride across the bay once again.
Walking back to the layby, we spotted the mini-bus coming for us, and soon we were all in our seats and on the road again, Miró chattering incessantly and pointing out things of interest to us and we continued along the undulating high road and, at one stage, had a fantastic view of the whole of the old city of Dubrovnik from our high vantage point.
Around 12 noon we pulled up outside Pile Gate, which is the main portal into the famous walled city of Dubrovnik. It was very busy with many taxis and mini-buses and private cars, dropping people off and picking others up. Miró said that each vehicle is only allowed three minutes maximum at the kerbside, so we had to be sure to alight quickly! He said he would come back for us at 3.00pm, but in the meantime we met our local guide Vlaho, who was going to give us a 45-minute walking tour of the city. It was only a brief ‘taster’ as we would have the whole of tomorrow to explore the city at our leisure.
Trevor and I had been to Dubrovnik twice before; in 2003 on the Norwegian Crown, and more recently in 2018 on the Queen Victoria. This was the first time we’d arrived by land and not sea!
Once again the sun was very hot as we walked around, and we tried to stay in the shade where possible. As it was lunchtime the place thronged with tourists and we spotted a Silverseas cruise ship in port. We stopped at St. Blaise’s Church, one of Dubrovnik’s most well-known sites, built in 1715 by the Venetian architect and sculptor Marino Gropelli. St. Blaise is the patron saint of Dubrovnik and is also known as St. Vlaho, and our guide said that was who he had been named after. 🙂
We then entered the square with its 16th century Sponza Palace, with its richly decorative architecture. The palace was built between 1516-1522 and has served a variety of functions over the centuries, including as a customs office, a bonded warehouse, mint, armoury, treasury, bank and school. It even survived the great earthquake of 1667 without sustaining any damage. The palace’s atrium also served as a business meeting place and a trading centre for many years.
All around us was so much history and so many ornate and distinctive buildings. What I liked was the way these ancient edifices blended in perfectly well with the more modern shops, restaurants and bars; nothing jarred, nothing looked out of place. And above it all soared the imposing City Walls; we could see the heads of people who were walking the wall, something we knew we’d do when we came back tomorrow.
Just after one o’clock, Vlaho concluded our brief introductory walking tour and said our time was now our own. We were at the harbour now, and Vlaho pointed out a restaurant he recommended; it looked enticing with its open arches affording a wonderful view of the pleasure craft coming and going. We all agreed this looked an excellent place for lunch.
After ordering a steak burger with chips and salad, and a gargantuan cold beer with which to wash it all down, we sat and enjoyed our leisurely meal, our conversation and the lovely location. The time flew by, and it was soon time for us to make our way back to Pile Gate and wait for the return of our mini-bus. When we got there, we had about five minutes to spare so Linda and I went into a nearby gelateria which had a tempting selection of scrumptious looking ice-cream. There was a short queue and, as we stood there, Trevor called that Miró was coming, so no ice cream for us this time! 🙂
Back in our minibus we continued on our way en route to the next hotel. After about 25 minutes, as we wended our way along a steep cliffside road, we spotted a white-painted building with a glittering blue roof top pool. “Oh, I could just take a dip in that pool right now”, I said. I’d no sooner spoken when I noticed Miró turning down the steep road and pulling up outside the building, a sign above the glass sliding doors proclaiming it was the “Villa Paradiso”. It was our hotel for the next two nights! 🙂
Inside the airy reception we checked in and were allocated room 116. As the hotel was built on the cliff side it was what you’d call ‘split level’, what appeared to be the ground floor was actually the second floor, and we had to go down one floor to get to our room. Opening the door, we entered a spacious, bright room with large twin beds pushed together and sliding glass doors leading onto a balcony, which contained a table and two chairs. Best of all were the views over the red rooftops below us and out towards the incomparable coastline and blue, blue sea. We could see we were on one side of a sweeping bay; the small town on our side was called Štikovica, and the town we could see across the bay was Zaton.
Despite orginally wanting to take a dip in the pool, we were actually feeling a little tired now, so we settled down for a 45 minute power nap. Then we freshened ourselves up and decided to explore the hotel itself as well as the immediate surroundings, starting with the hotel bar where we thought we could use another cold beer! 🙂
To get to the hotel bar, you had to take the lift to the basement, then go along a long, windowless (but well-lit) corridor which featured a series of posters along the walls advertising Dubrovnik and other parts of Croatia. You then reached another lift which only took you to the bar; it went down another couple of floors. We emerged onto a terrace with more superb views, and tables containing parasols. Phoebe, Owen and Linda were already there, enjoying their drinks.
We ordered a bottle of beer each and enjoyed it whilst making desultory conversation with the others. We then told them we’d see them later, and went down some steps towards the road – we wanted to see what the area had to offer.
We walked down a very steep road for some way, passing residential properties and holiday lets. On the way, we paused to take some photos of a charming little tucked away beach which contained several sunbathers and swimmers and children playing in the water with inflatables.
As we headed towards the beach, we had to walk down some steps and cross under a brief tunnel before we reached the same level. There were one or two restaurants/bars but not much else. It was such a gorgeous little place that we decided to stay for a while, and we went into a restaurant called ‘Konoba Gusar’ and asked the guy for a couple of large beers. 🙂
What a great little place! We got talking to the barman who, once we realised we were British, said he used to work on the cruise ships and knew Southampton well. He worked as crew for four years before his daughter was born, but left to be with his family. It was so nice sitting there as the sun, although still very warm, relinquished the fiercest of its heat, that I said to Trevor I was like the guy from that song by The Script The Man Who Can’t Be Moved. “I’m not moving; I’m not moving”. 🙂
We decided we might as well stay here for something to eat. We didn’t want an awful lot after our large lunch, but thought we could manage a light meal. Trevor asked for a bowl of chips and I chose some fresh mussels in white wine sauce; they were shown on the menu as a starter, but I asked the waiter if he could make the portion “larger than a starter, but not as large as a main course” and he agreed he would do this. In the meantime, we ordered another beer.
The mussels were delicious; I always enjoy fresh moules marinières. We then saw that banana split featured on the dessert list, so we couldn’t resist ordering that afterwards. Then we sat and watched as the sun descended behind the mountain over at the Zaton side, and the little beach slowly emptied as people made their way back to their homes or their holiday rentals. What a lovely evening; we knew where we’d be coming for dinner tomorrow night. 🙂
Around nine o’clock we took the 10 minute walk back to the hotel. Well, it was 10 minutes when we walked down to the beach, but going back we had that very steep hill to negotiate on top of our meal and a couple of beers. So, including several pauses for breath, it probably took 15 minutes to get back.
As we climbed up the steps to the hotel bar, we looked back to take in the night-time view which was just as amazing as it was during the day.
The other five in our group were there, enjoying some drinks, and I immediately felt like a complete scruff, because everyone had clearly got washed and changed and smartened up a bit and I was still in the same clothes we’d arrived in. I explained to them that we hadn’t been back to our room since we’d seen them last and, in fact, we’d ended up staying out longer than we had planned but we could certainly recommend them somewhere to go for dinner tomorrow night. This news was received enthusiastically, as apparently the others had remained in the hotel for dinner, and were disappointed with the meal which was not cheaply priced at 30 euros a head.
We decided to have a nightcap and I ordered a glass of wine, which I sipped sitting in the balmy air on the terrace. What an interesting day we had had! Tomorrow we had the whole day at our leisure to do whatever we wanted. In the meantime, we took our drinks back to our room to enjoy on our balcony, sitting in the darkness enjoying the silence.
When we went back inside, it was tempting to leave the balcony door open, but it really was so hot and sultry we realised it would diminish the effectiveness of the air-con (and, as such, be bad for the environment), so we closed the doors before getting washed and changed into jammies and getting into bed for around 11.00pm. That’s pretty early for us, but a combination of the beer and the wine and the hot weather was very soporific, so it was no time at all before we drifted off to sleep.