Dubrovnik 2

We’ve finally made it to the end of my tour of Croatia, only five months after I arrived home! This third post is about the last stop we made at Dubrovnik – the ancient walled city filled with beaches, history and amazing sunsets. It definitely is the perfect place to end up and 100% worth seeing at some point, mainly because it’s just completely unique.

Where we stayed…

We stayed in Villa Glavic Dubrovnik and I have to admit it was my least favourite of the places we stayed in Croatia. It’s a cheaper add-on to Grand Villa Argentina, but you can still use all the communal areas of that hotel. And the communal areas are the biggest perk – the pool in particular which has the most extraordinary views. It was freezing but laying there with the sea spread out in front of you and the old city of Dubrovnik to the right was just perfect. The rooms, however, not so much. We ended up asking to move because we were given the worst dank and dark corner room with no natural light and plenty of mould. They were nice about it though, they moved us to the room opposite which was much brighter and bigger – so the staff were definitely a positive of the place.

What we ate…

Choc cake

The food was very up and down in Dubrovnik. Some places were brilliant for veggies and we ended up visiting a few times, and some places not so good. Considering there were so many restaurants in the city, I guess I was a little disappointed.

A few highlights were Mex Cantina Bona Fide (which served Mexican and Italian – I tried both and they were great), Nishta (amazing for veggies and you get a Smiley Bean to keep with your bill – so cute), and Pizza Olivia (great pizza). Anywhere that provided blankets for the chilly autumnal evenings got a tick in my book – and all of these places did.

What we did…

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We’d packed the holiday full so far so when we got to Dubrovnik we gave ourselves a bit of down time. Leaving beautiful Hvar early in the morning, once we finally disembarked in Dubrovnik all we wanted to do was head straight to the pool and make the most of the sun. That’s exactly what we did. Continuing our chilled out vibe, the next day we headed to Sveti Jakov beach and spent the whole day there. It was probably one of my favourite days, the beach was just gorgeous with white sand and turquoise blue waters and so quiet. With the view of the city on the horizon, it was probably one of the best beaches I’ve ever visited and we spent the day dipping in and out of the water.

The next day was cloudy as we expected so it was time to explore the city. First up we walked the city walls – the views were amazing and I really felt like a Game of Thrones extra. Definitely something I would recommend, you see the whole city and the sea laying out before you and it’s something to do come rain or shine. The rain came down heavily towards the end of the walk so we found a cafe that served a cheese platter to cuddle up in. We spent the evening exploring the many nooks and crannies of the Old Town – the thing with Dubrovnik is it’s just worth walking around and taking it all in, it’s nothing like anywhere else I’ve ever been.

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The final day we took a boat over to the island of Lokrum. I swam in a lake, admired a peacock eating a bread roll, hiked up to the castle and visited the cactus garden. When we got back to the mainland, we ran through the streets to make the sunset view at the Buza Bar. After clambering across some rocks, we finished the holiday clinking drinks and watching the sun sink beneath the ocean. Perfection!

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Did you catch my Weekend in Split post a couple of weeks ago? In it I introduced you to the first stop on my little Croatian tour last October and mentioned that the next visit was to Hvar, my favourite of our three destinations. Hvar is a tiny little Croatian island and we got so lucky with the weather that we just had the best time ever. Thinking about it makes me want to go back right now, in fact my boyfriend declared he wanted to move there and run a boat for hire place. Looking out at the snow from my window, I’m actually quite tempted…

Where we stayed…

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We definitely nailed the hotel pick in Hvar. There are two main sister hotels, Hotel Amfora Grand Beach Resort and Hotel Adriana. The first is big, loud and ready for a party. So we went for the second and didn’t regret it for a minute. It is a tiny bit more expensive but much smaller and more boutique. There isn’t an outdoor pool and to be honest the indoor one was way too cold for us, but that didn’t seem to matter one bit. It sits right on the harbour and the views are just beautiful. There’s also an amazing rooftop bar that we spent a lot of time in – especially as they kept bringing us free crisps! We read up there whilst sunbathing but also had a few amazing cocktails looking out at the twinkly lights of the rest of the harbour. I can’t forget the breakfast too – it was the best hotel breakfast ever with everything you can possibly imagine laid out on the buffet and the best view in town to sit and eat it at. The other hotel is great if you want to party but be warned it is big and loud and a bit of a walk away from all the main attractions.

What we ate…

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We ate SO well in Hvar, I absolutely loved all the food. But that is mainly down to discovering Fig Cafe bar. It isn’t all veggie so my meat addicted other half loved it, but there are so many brilliant veggie options. We went there a couple of times and I had the vegetarian curry with cucumber raita with grilled flatbread which was hands down the best meal of the whole holiday and also honey roasted root vegetables with hummus which was delicious. They’re famous for their pulled pork too and the boyfriend highly recommended it. It is tucked down a little alley and takes some finding but don’t give up, the staff are wonderful.

We also ate at Black Pepper which was yummy and in a lovely setting but you did need to book in advance. And Dalmatino too, which I’d also recommend. Just plan where you’re going to eat a little in advance as it’s a small island and places get booked up.

What we did…

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We swam in the sea at the beach in front of the Hotel Amfora, we learnt to paddle board, we island hopped and found ourselves on an exclusive resort, we climbed the hill and explored the castle, we drank a million cocktails. We honestly had the best time.

First up we hired our own self-drive boat and hopped from island to island. All of Hvar’s neighbours are so different but so magical in their own way. This was my favourite day, it was so chilled and sunny, and I was even brave enough to drive the boat myself! We ended up spending a lot of the day sunbathing on Milna as it was the quietest and most beautiful of the islands. The next day the weather wasn’t so good so we grabbed our umbrellas and set off to climb the hill to Hvar Fortress. I’m not the biggest history buff but it was fascinating – you could climb inside the old prison cells and even if that bored you the view from the top is stunning. On our third day we caved in for a beach day in the sunshine. We hired paddle boards from a lovely man who gave us one for free! I was worried my balance wouldn’t be good enough but after a slow start we made it all the way round the coast to the harbour and back again. I really want to go paddle boarding again, it’s much easier than it looks!

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Overall we just had the best time in Hvar, I would recommend a trip to anyone!

Split

This post is a long time in the making, I actually went to Split last October but was on a bit of a blogging break back then and never got round to writing this up. My trip to Split was part of a 10 day adventure across Croatia – taking in Hvar and Dubrovnik too. I have posts about both of those to come! But the whole trip completely left me falling in love with Croatia and although I usually tell myself I should always try somewhere new for my next holiday – I really want to go back. We spent only two nights in Split but I would say it’s the perfect place to begin your Croatian tour – its more of a city than a beachy place so you can tire yourself out squeezing in lots and lots knowing you’ve got the relaxing bit to come. 

Where we stayed…

I know I always rave about Airbnb (believe it or not I only stayed in my first one last year), but honestly this place is worth shouting about. We decided to start off our holiday in a little apartment knowing it would be more of a base in Split and then splashed out on hotels for the remainder of the trip where we thought we might want pools and spas and breakfast! But we struck gold with this particular Airbnb. It was only small, just a bedroom and a little kitchen but it was a short walk from both the port (meaning we didn’t have to lug cases far or fork out on a taxi) and from the town. The owners were so lovely and gave us tons of recommendations and they made checking in and out super easy too. I would say this was my best airbnb experience yet.

What we ate…

Ice cream

Cheese and wine

I think we ate better here than we did on the rest of the trip (definitely better than in Dubrovnik but that’s for another post…) We stumbled across Bepa! for the first night and huddled under blankets in a beautiful square. I had a great veggie burger. Other food highlights have to include the most amazing mojito ice cream I’ve ever tasted from Luka (I would say even better than Italian ice cream!) It’s a little tricky to find but persist because you will be rewarded. I also can’t recommend enough getting cheese and wine from Paradox. The waiters seriously know their stuff and Croatian cheese with jams and bread was the stuff of dreams. 

What we did…

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We really crammed it in from the moment we arrived. On the first evening we climbed the Cathedral and Bell Tower of St. Domnius – we did get scared about half way up but the views were just beautiful especially during the sunset. After dinner we sat on the steps in the square below with a drink listening to the live music. The atmosphere was amazing and we ended up doing this the next night too because we loved it so much. Kids danced to classics like John Lennon’s Imagine, the crowd joined in with every chorus. It was honestly magical and one of my fondest memories of the trip – and you didn’t even have to buy a drink to sit on some of the steps so it’s free too. 

The next morning we woke up bright and early – attempted to make breakfast ourselves and burnt it! But after that slight disaster, we explored the Diocletian’s Palace in the sunshine. It was great for my history buff boyfriend but I have to admit that I did get a little bored by the 15th Roman stone room! In the afternoon we hired bikes and rode round the whole of the Park Šuma Marjan. At first we had planned to cycle to the top of the hill (the views are supposedly beautiful) but after seeing how steep they are we decided to go round instead. Nowhere really makes it clear how long it will take so at times we thought it might never end but the cycle is definitely manageable and takes about an hour and a half. We stopped a few times on the way to lie on beaches (though they weren’t brilliant) and explore the forests. 

Then the evening was spent drinking wine and cheese, eating pizza and returning to the square. We had a bright and early start the next morning to head to Hvar so that ended the trip to Split. But I really loved starting the holiday here, it was jam packed but peaceful at the same time and we really felt we got a proper feel of the city in only two days. Definitely visit if you get the chance.

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It might still be a week until Christmas but already my thoughts are turning to the New Year. As a classic lover of lists, I absolutely love a New Year’s resolution. And okay I might be that stereotype who’s on it for week one and by week two failing on nearly every front, but it just makes that cold, dark January more bearable when you have a list of aims and feel optimistic. It’s a bit early so rather than write a normal resolutions list just yet, I’m going for a travel bucket list today. Next year I turn 25 and I feel like hitting that milestone has turned my thoughts to visiting a bit more of the world. This year I’ve been to Switzerland, Denmark, Croatia, Germany and Italy, and also seen much more of the UK. Next year I want to go a little further, I love Europe but I haven’t seen much more of the world. This is an ambitious list though, and to be honest it’s almost definitely going to take me more than a year! Hey ho, there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious…

1.Japan

I’ve wanted to go to Japan ever since I saw the amazing BBC documentary Japan: Earth’s Enchanted Island. There’s something so magical about its many islands and unique culture. I’ve never been to Asia and Japan is the first place on that continent that I’d like to tick off.

2.  South Africa

My Dad grew up in South Africa and I’ve always wanted to see what he saw as a little boy – although in 40 years I know it’s changed dramatically. I’m also desperate to go on safari and see animals in their real life habitats.

3. Budapest

A little closer to home, I’m desperate to go to Budapest. My brother and a few friends went this year and loved it and I’ve heard such good things from others too. I’d never been to Germany before this year so slowly ticking European destinations off my list (especially before we leave the EU) really appeals to me.

4. New York

This has been on my list forever. I am desperate to go to New York and I’d love to go at Christmas time. If only it wasn’t going to break the bank – I have a feeling this might be staying on my list for a while!

5. More of Scandinavia

Copenhagen was probably the best city I’ve visited this year and with the rise of Hygge and more and more people living life the Danish way, I want to experience more of this little slice of Northern Europe. Just what is it that makes them the happiest people in the world? I’d desperately love to bring a little bit more of that home to my own life.

6. Scotland

Can you believe I’ve never been to Scotland? Everyone’s been telling me I must get to Edinburgh and whilst I’m there I’d also really like to try the Highlands, they just look so beautiful.

7. To travel solo

In my job I’m lucky enough to be offered amazing opportunities to join press trips abroad, and I haven’t taken it up yet. Wherever it may be to, I’d love to try travelling without the home comforts of the people I know and putting myself to the test a little.

What’s on your travel bucket list for next year?

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I’ve never visited Germany before and what better time to tick Deutschland off my list than at Christmas. Did you know it was the Germans who invented the Christmas tree and Prince Albert was the one to bring it over to England? They also invented those wonderful Christmas markets that have now flooded English cities, so I couldn’t wait to get into the festive spirit in the home of the festivities. 

Where we stayed…

It was my third experience with Air BnB this year and once again I wasn’t disappointed. We got to the main street in Baden Baden and found we were at the flat! It was right above one of the shops so we were truly in the heart of the action. And the flat was beautiful too, the bathroom in particular!  I would so recommend Air BnB, it’s so much cheaper than a hotel and it’s true that you do feel more like a local in the city you’re visiting.

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What we ate…

We ate at possibly the most Christmassy restaurant I have ever seen in my life, it looked like Christmas had thrown up all over it and I loved it. There was more lights than your eyes could absorb and even fake snow! The food wasn’t brilliant to be honest, but then I didn’t massively expect Germany to be great for Vegetarians. I did however drink the best Gluhwein (mulled wine) ever and I drank way too much of it too!

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What we did…

When we arrived on Saturday, we headed straight down to the Christmas markets. It was the best Christmas market I’ve been to, full of stalls with souvenirs, Christmas decorations (of which I took a few too many home), and amazing food. We ate a giant doughnut type thing filled with nutella, it was delicious.

Sunday was our main day in Baden Baden, so we started early and packed it full. After a wander around the cute town – and after discovering most things are closed on a Sunday – we had breakfast and headed into the Black Forest. Hearing it was voted one of the most beautiful forests in the world, we boarded the Merkur Funicular Railway into the trees. It was rather foggy so we missed out on the spectacular views but it did feel quite mystical and magical not being able to see the hand in front of your face. We even climbed the lonely viewing tower at the top to see very little and freaked ourselves out hearing noises as we climbed back down. After a walk back to the town through the trees, it was time for another trip to the market to buy some more souvenirs and then onto the spa. The spa was a definite highlight. There are two – Caracalla Therme and Friedrichsbad. They’re both rated amazingly but the second is nudist! So we went for the first and for €14 we got two hours there. There were two warm outdoor pools, jacuzzis, whirlpools, steam rooms, everything you could wish for and I felt truly relaxed when I came out. I’ll definitely remember sitting in that outdoor jacuzzi looking over the town filled with Christmas trees.

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We headed home on Sunday but I wish we’d had a little longer. Baden Baden is the perfect place for a wintery Christmas break and really got me in the festive spirit.