20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 10: Dubrovnik, Croatia

October 20, 2017
20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 10: Dubrovnik, Croatia

A city a day keeps the wanderlust at bay...
20 DAYS. 20 CITIES. 6 COUNTRIES.
AUSTRIA • SLOVENIA • BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA • CROATIA • MONTENEGRO • ITALY

PART 10, DAYS 13, 15, & 16: MODERN AND MEDIEVAL MAGIC IN DUBROVNIK, CROATIA

It had been a very sombre couple of days chasing the ghosts of war in Mostar and Sarajevo. So it was with some relief that I left Bosnia-Herzegovina and drove down toward the Adriatic Coast to Croatia. At that point in my whistle-stop tour of the Balkans I had already visited the Croatian cities of Zagreb, Plitvice, Trogir, and Split; and my final stop before moving on to Italy was Dubrovnik. Unlike my previous destinations on this 20 Days in 20 Cities and 6 Countries road trip, I enjoyed the luxury of having more time in Dubrovnik. With 4 days and 4 nights to indulge (excluding a day trip to Kotor, Montenegro) in the offerings of this ancient walled city, my time Dubrovnik was a welcome change of pace: languid yet vibrant, laid back yet luxurious - in other words, my fantasy of what life in Dalmatia should be.


EXTRA SAUCE: 2-6, 8, 31


The schlepp from Sarajevo to Dubrovnik was less 'walk in the park', more crossing the desert...


...which made arriving to this vision - after a thirsty 6-hour drive - like a tall drink of water from an oasis. 😍

I DIDN'T GET TO SPEND MUCH TIME BY THE POOL (OR EVEN IN MY ROOM!)...
...BUT I DID SQUEEZE IN A DINNER WITH A VIEW ON MY LAST NIGHT THERE.
EMBRACED BY NATURE - NESTLED BETWEEN PETKA HILL AND THE ADRIATIC SEA.
WITH THE POOL LOOKING OUT TO THE SEA, EVERYDAY HERE IS A SLIM AARONS SCENE.


HOTEL DUBROVNIK PALACE


THE GOOD: I had the privilege of staying in not one, but two Adriatic Luxury Hotels in Dubrovnik - Hotel Dubrovnik Palace (from the Escape Collection) and Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik (Dream Collection). THE BAD: I spent so much time out 'n' about that I didn't get to enjoy both hotels as much as I would like (which seems to be a recurring theme when you have only 3 weeks to visit twenty-something cities across 6 different countries). THE UGLY: Absolutely nothing: Croatia's Finest Hotel Collection - Adriatic Luxury Hotels - sets the bar high across all their 5 star hotels, with stunning seaside views and tasteful minimalist decor as the standard (oh, and add a few private beaches for good measure).

I stayed 2 nights (but sadly zero days, as I arrived in the evening, then spent the following day in Kotor, Montenegro) at Hotel Dubrovnik Palace - a 5-star, award-winning seaside resort from the Escape Collection. As the name suggests, it's the perfect place to escape from the chaos of daily life: nestled within nature with its own peaceful private beach, outdoor pools that seem to float above the Adriatic Sea, as well as running and walking trails leading from the hotel to the picturesque woods of Petka Hill. That said, the serenity comes with a caveat: Hotel Dubrovnik Palace is quite far from the city centre (an hour walk to Old Town), making it a better choice for a relaxing holiday or getaway.



20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 10: Dubrovnik, Croatia



HOTEL BELLEVUE DUBROVNIK


On the morning of my 3rd day in Dubrovnik, I moved to Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik, another Adriatic Luxury Hotel but from the 'Dream' Collection. Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik is a bijou gem of a boutique hotel: a tiny 5-star establishment embedded into a cliffside with floor-to-ceiling windows reflecting the sea, making this small and stylish hotel glow a distinctive aquamarine blue. Despite its glamorous location on a 30 metre high cliff on Miramare Bay, Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik is surprisingly accessible: a mere 15 minute walk downhill to the Old Town. With its own beach at the bottom of the cliff and proximity to the city, Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik is the best of both worlds.

Many of you on Instagram Stories couldn't get enough of the stunning sea view from my Executive Suite. While the Executive Suites have the largest balconies, every room and suite in Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik have sea views (except for the Romantic Rooms which are hosted in the original white stone part of the hotel). The Executive Suite is more than ample for a couple: in addition to the large balcony, the suite has a marble master bathroom generously stocked with L'occitane toiletries, a separate powder room, and a living area. The decor is modern and minimal with a sailing theme. Abstract paintings by Croatian artists add splashes of colour throughout the restrained, tasteful space.




VAPOR FINE DINING RESTAURANT


Call it serendipity or call it a given - either way, on an especially rainy day when I couldn't be bothered to make the walk down to Old Town for dinner, I discovered that  Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik has its own Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant. Vapor is a chic, "jet-set casual" space with floor-to-ceiling windows offer a stunning seaside view, adding to the airy and bright yet cozy atmosphere of the restaurant. 

Luckily I was hungry during off-peak hours so I got to enjoy Vapor before the dinner crowd arrived. The Executive chef Saša Računica is one of Croatia's best, known for traditional Croatian cooking with his own fresh new twist. All the ingredients are regional and seasonal, depending on the availability of fresh produce. I enjoyed a Dalmatian classic - black noodles with lobster. Perfection.


CAPTION
CAPTION

Having spent the first 3 out of my 4 days in Dubrovnik either on the road, elsewhere (in Montenegro), or hiding from the rain, it was a relief when the sun came out to play on my last day...



OLD TOWN


Dubrovnik is definitely one of Europe's 'worst kept secrets' thanks to Croatia being the new, relatively inexpensive, and terror attack-safe alternative to other sunny European cities. With the city's nickname as "The Pearl of The Adriatic" there's no doubting that Dubrovnik's Old Town is a sight to behold: a maze-like city of white limestone streets and baroque buildings topped with distinctive terracotta-orange roof tiles, encapsulated by centuries-old fortified walls. The city survived devastating damage in 1991 during the break up of Yugoslavia, but after over a decade of restoration work, Dubrovnik returned with a vengeance as one of the top tourist destinations in the Mediterranean.

WALLS OF DUBROVNIK


I started my first real morning of sightseeing (and last day in Croatia) with a walk along Dubrovnik's famous 14th-century city walls. This UNESCO Heritage Site was one of the great fortification systems of the Middle Ages, having never been breached by a hostile army during that time period. Of course, these days the Walls of Dubrovnik are famous as the fortified port city of King’s Landing in Game of Thrones (no special effects needed) but the hordes of GoT enthusiasts livin' la vida Lannister didn't put me off - with an uninterrupted course of nearly 2,000 metres and a height of up to 25 metres, there was enough wiggle room for everyone to enjoy the best views of the city and the sea.



20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 10: Dubrovnik, Croatia



20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 10: Dubrovnik, Croatia




20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 10: Dubrovnik, Croatia

NOOKS & CRANNIES

With time to kill between my morning walk along the city walls and lunch, I couldn't ask for a better city to meander in. Dubrovnik is my idea of the perfect city break destination: a completely pedestrianised, compact and walkable packed to within an inch of itself with places of historical interest. Every nook and cranny reveals a curious sight. For starters, the Franciscan Monastery and Museum with Korean ladies queueing to enter its famous Old Pharmacy to buy skincare products, the 15th century Gothic-Renaissance Dominican Monastery & Museum heaving with an impressive art collection, Rector's Palace (site of Dubrovnik Museums), the Dubrovnik Cathedral, or the graceful Corinthian columns of Sponza Palace...all within a 7 minute walking distance. 

Even the window shopping here takes the 'nook and cranny' phrase literally - be it ladies in Croatian national dress selling traditional woven fabrics from her 'hole-in-the-wall' stall, or upscale designer boutiques nestling within spaces carved into the city's stone walls.

All the attractions, restaurants, and shops in the Old Town are so seamlessly integrated with the layout and structural integrity of the historical city. It's easy to spend a day, or several, playing 'treasure hunt' - bonus points if you spot a Croatian 'catloaf' (for some reason there are no stray dogs but plenty of cats) getting cozy among the ruins. 




20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 10: Dubrovnik, Croatia

20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 10: Dubrovnik, Croatia


PROTO

"This long-standing, family-owned fish and seafood restaurant in the heart of the Old City has a loyal local following and attracts many foreign visitors too. Those in the know head to the lovely hidden roof terrace to enjoy the carefully prepared seasonal Mediterranean dishes; go for the catch of the day." - MICHELIN GUIDE

If Proto is good enough for discerning locals and Japanese tourists who know good seafood; then it's good enough for me. I was sure to sit outside for the true Dubrovnik dining style - one half of the street for outdoor dining, the other half is for pedestrians. Not one to stray from a winning formula, I had yet another lobster noodle dish for lunch. Absolutely scrumptious






WAR PHOTO LIMITED

A visit to War Photo Limited is essential, even if the exhibits make for uncomfortable viewing. You know it's going to be a salt mine when you're greeted by a sign with the disclaimer that these photographs are not meant to apportion blame on any one side; but rather to strip away the euphemism of war and document the humanity, brutality, and realities of conflict. The permanent exhibition The End Of Yugoslavia documents the break-up of the former socialist state with a showcase of iconic images covering the wars in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo by some of the most renowned photojournalists of the time. At once lurid yet stark, absurd yet grim, War Photo Limited is an educational experience curated by renowned war photographer Wade Goddard. Even the 'museum shop' holds a certain gravitas, selling only photography books and Leica cameras.





OLD TOWN MARKET


After the gloom and doom of a couple of hours of conflict photography, it was a relief to step back out into the sunshine. The Old Town Market in Dubrovnik's Gundulić Square was a breath of fresh air: an open-air market brimming with numerous stalls selling seasonal fruit 'n' veg, as well as other local products like Grappa, brandy, and of course lavender products. I caught the tail end of the market as it started to close for the afternoon, and even so it was packed with locals and tourists alike.The quintessential Croatian souvenir to bring home is naturally, anything lavender: sachets and embroidered pouches of dried lavender, lavender soaps, lavender oils...I picked up a huge bottle of lavender essential oil for my aromatherapy diffuser, suffice to say that the fragrance was so intoxicating that I finished it in a month.



20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 10: Dubrovnik, Croatia




BUZA BAR


Talk about a cliff hanger: Buza Bar is a literal hole in the wall (with the word buža meaning "hole" in the old Dubrovnik dialect) carved into a cliff dangling precariously over the open Adriatic sea, accessible only by a climb up narrow alleys then down steep stairs. Buza Bar has been dubbed "the essence of Dubrovnik, where foreigners become domestics".  It's a hidden gem where locals sip coffee while watching divers leap off the cliffs and swim in the sea (no 'elf 'n' safety' here - parents trust the city's saints to protect their children from the treacherous rocks and crashing waves). Buza Bar remains true to tradition - here, 'hotspot' means 'local watering hole', not 'bring your laptops and work using free wifi'.



The Last Supper (and First Supper, too)


ABOVE 5


For my last supper in Dubrovnik I had dinner at Above 5 - a cozy little restaurant situated on the only rooftop terrace in the heart of the city. Climbing six flights of very steep, very narrow stairs through the boutique hotel to get to the restaurant was no mean feat, but it certainly worked up my appetite. The Mediterranean menu (lobster noodles for me, again) was exceptional, and the view from the Above 5's intimate and romantic roof terrace (there were maybe just 5 tables) was the cherry on top.

DINING ON A BOAT

My first supper in Dubrovnik was very different to my last. A boat was chartered so that my family and I could enjoy a Dalmatian dinner while sailing gently along the coast. Of course, it was more about the ride rather than the food, but even so the offerings - platters of meat, cheese, salad - hardly left me wanting. It was a fantastic introduction to Dubrovnik (it being my first time in this city) and the hypnotic undulating rhythm of the Adriatic Sea soothed my aching muscles after the long drive from Sarajevo.


CAPTION
CAPTION


I couldn't have asked for a more perfect 'first impression' of Dubrovnik nor better ending to this Croatian trip. 
Wouldn't you agree?

CROATIA FULL OF LIFE  VISIT DUBROVNIK


NEXT STOP: TUSCANY

No comments:

Post a Comment