No pressure now Summer 2011,
you’ve got some lofty heights to live up to…
Wasn’t that into today’s Reverb 10 prompt, so I decided to pick another one that I missed out on!
This comes from author Ali Edwards:
Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).
I thought it would be hard to single out one particular moment in the last year, but it wasn’t. In fact, one popped to mind straight away. It took place last summer on my holiday to Croatia. I think that’s the summer baby in me – I always feel a little more alive when the sun is shining and the evenings are brighter.
Our holiday of choice was to the land of Croatia. It was an excellent decision and the entire trip was magical (see post here) but there was one moment in particular that stood out.
Conor is a very adventurous kind of guy – the type of man that has eaten guinea pig, walked the Inca Trail and ran the New York marathon and although I’m up for trying lots of new things – I take a bit of cajoling! But, when he said he wanted to try sea kayaking, you didn’t need to ask me twice! Neither of us had really kayaked before (unless you count my sixth year experience on a Galway lake in the freezing cold?) so we were both excited to get out onto the clear blue waters. We were placed two to a kayak, myself in the front and Conor behind me. Accompanying us was our guide Pavi and two other girls, one from the US and another from New Zealand.
Just as we had tightened our life jackets, the skies darkened. I’m not taking about one little rain cloud eclipsing the sun, I’m talking about big bad scary storm clouds covering the entire sky! The water became choppy and dark and the wind started to blow.
Now, anyone who knows anything about Croatian weather, can attest that this is an unusual occurrence in late June. The look on our guide’s face said it all. It was a mix between confusion and anger….and it scared the crap out of me! “I’m not sure we can sail today,” she said, “the weather is really unpredictable”. The scardey cat in me thought, Ok cool…back to the apartment we go. No scary kayaking for me, thank you very much. But the girls wouldn’t take no for an answer, “Couldn’t we just go out into the Bay for a bit, and not go all the way out to sea?” the American girl suggested. “Yea, surely it’ll clear up in awhile” the other pushed.
And so we went. My arms paddling as hard as they could through the choppy waves and Conor trying his best to coordinate his paddle strokes behind me. At first it was just the wind to contend with, but soon enough the rain started pelting down on us. It got to the point that I couldn’t see a foot in front of me with such heavy raindrops! I was saturated with water and my face hurt from the stinging drops. However, we continued on and we were going at quite a steady pace at this point. The guide shouted to us, “Are you ok? Do you want to go back?” and in unison we all shouted, “No no no!”. We pressed on probably for just over half an hour.
Suddenly, the rain stopped. Within seconds, the big bad scary clouds drifted away to reveal a big, happy, gorgeous sun. I looked down and saw crystal blue waters and instantly my paddle became less heavy and glided through the current. We brought our kayaks up onto a stunning little pebble beach and lay there, looking at one of the most amazing scenes. We had kayaked right across the bay, and now that the rain had cleared, we could see the tree covered mountains, the little pebble beaches, and the bay front homes. We each got an ice cold glass bottle of Coke and took it all in. The sense of accomplishment, coupled with great company and an amazing view made that moment completely perfect.
Relaxation, History, Culture and Action. Those are things that make up my perfect holiday. Those are the things that made up my recent trip to Croatia.
My first impressions of Dubrovnik were formed on the taxi journey from Dubrovnik airport to our little holiday apartment in Zaton Mali. As we drove along the small, winding, cliffside roads I couldn’t help but be in awe of the jagged coastlines, deep blue water and the vast expanse of terracotta roofs that stretched on for miles. The sun was setting as we arrived at our accommodation and I can’t think of a more perfect way to see Croatia for the first time – bathed in a warm orange glow.
Our apartment was perfect for two people – small and clean with a kitchen/living room, bedroom and bathroom. The best part was the little balcony with the stunning view of Zaton Mali (a bay just a few km outside the city of Dubrovnik). Using the shower was a humorous exercise to say the least. Croats like their shower heads mounted on the wall at your waist and expect you to use them handheld. Our bathroom was constantly covered in water as a result! The people who own the apartment were adorable, and had a big beautiful golden retriever dog called Otto who welcomed us home every evening.
There are a number of must-see things in Dubrovnik – the first and most important is a walk around the huge walls. The walk takes roughly 90 minutes, but it’s the best way to see the city and get your bearings. Another experience we couldn’t have done without was a walking tour of the Old City. Our tour guide was brilliant, taking us on an intriguing, funny and sometimes quite dramatic journey through the tiny streets. We enjoyed the tour so much that we returned to the same tour guide for a tour specifically on the recent conflicts in the area. To hear about the war from a native Croat who was resident in the city was an unforgettable and enlightening experience. I could never just stop in a country and sun myself for a week – I’m definitely an advocate of learning a bit about the place you’re visiting!
If it’s activity you’re looking for the Dubrovnik area has it all: Sea Kayaking, Hiking, Sailing, Mountain Biking, Jet Skiing etc. The first action we embarked on was a half day sea kayaking trip around Zaton Mali. It was amazing fun – especially because neither of us had really done it before! We were given life jackets and put in a two person sea kayak – Conor in the back and myself in the front! We were accompanied by our guide and two girls Haley and Nicole, from the US and New Zealand! When we first set out, the weather looked really changeable and sure enough we encountered some rough water and a bit of rain…but thank god we pushed through because once that cleared, the skies were blue and the sun made the water sparkle. First we stopped at a little private beach and had a swim in the clear blue water. We had time to sun bathe there and grab a quick coke before heading back out on the water! Then we hiked up through some woods and ended up on top of a ridge with the most unbelievable view of the sea, the coast line and some enormous cruise ships. It was magical.
Another action filled day was spent on the island of Mijet – home to one of Croatia’s national parks. After a hilarious search for breakfast among the dockside cafes (which only serve coffee and alcohol at 7:30am) we got on our ferry to the island. The place was like paradise. We rented some mountain bikes and set off to explore. Now, I’m not the most experienced biker – so it’s a good thing Conor has a lot of patience – but soon enough I was getting the hang of it and really really enjoyed whizzing around the place! We had lunch over looking one of the two warm water lakes and then went for a dip!
Lokrum is another must-visit island off the coast of Dubrovnik. It is by far the closest one only taking fifteen minutes from the Old Town to the shores. If fairytales really happened, Lokrum was the setting! The place is car free and inhabited by a large troop of peacocks that strut around the place calling to each other and showing off their magnificent feathers. Lokrum is also home to a really excellent botanic garden and a huge fort on the top of a high hill. We loved the island so much that we went there twice – spending our last morning at a spot called “The Dead Sea” – a little lake surrounded by trees and cliffs and the perfect spot to quietly get some sun. We were the only people there for ages that morning…just us and the peacocks. Ah, heaven.
One thing we really enjoyed about Dubrovnik was the cuisine! Famous for their seafood, between us we sampled a variety of dishes. Conor tried Oysters, Mussles, Squid, Trout and Black Risotto (Risotto with black squid ink!) and I, the less adventurous one, had fresh Scampi, Crap soup and Sea Bass. We also had some Bosnian food (Conor really had to push me for this…ha) which was actually delicious! The two fancy places we went to were Proto (located in the Old City) where Bono once ate, and a local place in Zaton Mali called Orsan. Both were absolutely fabulous!
Speaking of Bosnia, we couldn’t go to Croatia and not visit one of it’s neighbours, so we booked a tour of Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina. We got a coach from our apartment and a guide explained the area and its history to us. We took a guided tour of the visually and culturally interesting city and even had lunch with the local guide who was a really unusual sort of fellow! After an action packed week, it was nice to sit back and let the guide do the work!
It wasn’t really a boozy kind of holiday – but when we did pop out for a few drinks, we had a ball. One place that no visitor should miss is Buza Bar. There are two of these cliffside bars, both set up on the outside of the Old City Walls with not much indication of how to find them! Once you do locate that little hole in the wall (we heard the rat pack booming from beyond!) it is pure paradise. We sat at a table on a cliff overlooking the bluest, cleanest water I have ever seen. The sun beamed down as we sipped our local beers. Once we had finished our beers, we ventured down the rocks, closer to the water. After plucking up the courage – we both dove into the Adriatic sea! The rest of the day was spent lying on the rocks, drinking beer and relaxing! Perfect, perfect thing to do – day or night!
The week will finish spectacularly in London with this: