Monday, July 06, 2015

Dubrovnik, Days 1-3: A Feast for the Eyes

Claire and I arrived in Dubrovnik Saturday evening and watched it appear in all its glory from the plane. The old town surrounded by blue water and blue sky. It's hard not to get excited when you see it from this view. As we passed the city to land at the airport, I couldn't help but feel like urgent: we must get there fast! Luckily our taxi was prebooked, and he was waiting for us!

On the drive he talked about the war and how it affected him and those in the city. He pointed at the mountain to our left and said, 'That's Bosnia. They got the rocks, we got the coast. But many had to die for it.' That's what Dubrovnik feels like so far: a resilient city that still shows its scars. If you were in Italy across the sea, you might assume the remnant of a stone building was an ancient ruin. Here, you aren't sure if it's a ruin of war or just decay.

He dropped us off at Pile gate, and Ana met us to take us to our apartment for the week. She gave us her insider's knowledge and left us eager to explore. We have a cute tiny loft flat for the week right in old town. We shopped for groceries, ate a nice meal out, and collapsed for the night. Or rather Claire collapsed and I was jetlag wide awake. Until 4:30 in the morning.

Day 2 (Sunday) began with a later than expected start to get to the walls. When cruise ships dump for the day, up to 9,000 people can swarm the streets of old town, so everyone recommends starting the walls early to avoid the crowds. Though we started just after 10am, we were thrilled that the crowds didn't show up. We walked up the steps and started a fabulous two hour trek around the Old Town. The view change around every corner: sea, church, overgrown ruin, laundry on the line, mountains. Also around every corner is a little cafĂ© offering shade from the scorching sun and a cool drink. I've walked castle walls before, but none compare to Dubrovnik. the walls give a birds eye view of what I love most: the perfect blend of rundown and rebuilt, blooming gardens and solid stone.

After two hours, we finished and needed a break from the sun, finding a lunch menu that suited both our tastes. We guzzled water, ate our salads, and rested in the cool shade of a quiet side lane. With no cars in Old Town, all the streets are narrow thoroughfares, like you'd find in most old European cities. We spent the afternoon resting, napping, and making a sketchy plan for the next few days. Then, it was time for dinner with a view.

Getting dolled up, we headed out the north gate (more stairs, they sighed, as they were still recovering from two hours of up-down-up-down walls) and to the cable car. If you're going to watch a sunset, first go high! Atop the mountain, we looked down on Dubrovnik and the Old Town, trying to find a way to take a photo without the cable car wires. There's a little restaurant at the top, aptly named "Panorama" to sit and watch the sunset. Alas, no view tables available, but we ate with a view of sky and the mountains into Bosnia.

After asking the waiter if the risotto had dairy, he assured me it didn't. We ordered appetizers, wine, and dinner, watching the sky melt from blue to a blush pink. We ate olives and salad, sipping our wine, and sighing into the relaxed vacation space. The risotto came with a tell-tale stringy cheese quality to it, and when my waiter assured me there was no cheese, another waiter confirmed there was. So, off went the risotto and out came the roasted rosemary potatoes instead. I really don't like to make a fuss, which is why I ask the questions, and I would have happily ordered roasted potatoes to enjoy the view. When I travel, I really don't expect to eat that interestingly, and that's fine with me. That being said, when they brought the potatoes out, they also brought out steamed spinach and garlic and said both were on the house. They both hit the spot, and I was full and content.

We paid our bill and rushed over to the other side of the cable car just in time to see a fabulous sunset over the islands north of the city. It reminded me of standing atop Table Mountain and looking down on the water and city. We shot a gazillion photos, then traveled down the car, taking in Old Town all lit up. A bief still and then back to collapse in the apartment. And gratefully, collapse I did.

Today (day 3) was beach day. Claire is a vacation beach gal through and through, just as I am a see/do gal, so beach we did. We headed off on the fairy to the island of Lapud, where the only sandy beach is in Dubrovnik (all the rest are rocky). A brief slow boat trip (no waves in the sea meant no seasickness for me!), and we docked in Lapud. A short walk through the boardwalk and up through a neighborhood, you encounter men with beach buggies and golf carts to take you to the beach a mile away. So you pay the 10k and off you go. I would have enjoyed the trip if our driver wasn't so rushed, got caught in a divest off the road, and then gunned it--the tire kicking up gravel and dirt all over me and my brand new camera. I had to shout for him to stop and notice. I was one furious woman at that moment. My. Brand new. Camera. Covered. In. Dirt. We got there, disembarked, and furiously cleaned off my camera. Photos seem okay, but focus wheel makes a dirty sound when its being used...

This is what travel is: s frustrating moment that is then followed by a great day. We sat on chairs under an umbrella all day. These kinds of beaches are new to me. I'm not used to being in shade and a comfy beach lounger. I can do this kind of beach vacation! My journal, a book, a great view. I took a few dips in the beautiful but clear water, watching the little fish swim near my toes. We watched people run from their shade to the water, kids screeching as the hot sand hit their feet. What a hot, hot day. But there was shade and blue sky and water. What can one say about a beach day, except aaaaahhhhh. Just why vacation is necessary.

At 4, we packed up and headed back to town (same golf buggy driver, if you can believe it), and we sat safely in the back. A brief stroll on the boardwalk, and we found a restaurant suitable for idyllic snack pre-ferry and read our books. Returned to Old Town on the ferry, heading straight home to wash up, doll up, and go out for vegan/veggie food.

Nishta restaurant is written up in guidebooks. Rick Steves straight out says its the most reliable food in town. When we arrived, all the outdoor tables were full, so we ate in the tiny, warm inside space. This meal was incredible. Let me just say this straight off the bat. I had a salad over a slice of flatbread that had a gorgeous dressing. Claire had their veggie samosas (fun fact: this auto correct keep wanting to say Samoans not Samosas). Then the main courses. I had a vegan pasta with tofu and veggies which was so flavorful I wanted to lick the plate. Claire had the veggie Indian dish, which she enjoyed. One has to do dessert when at a vegan restaurant, especially when traveling. we moved outside to an empty table, just in time to see that there were fireworks going off in the distance at the harbor. I had an almond panna cotta and Claire their chocolate mousse. Go to this restaurant.

 After dinner, our feet guided us right home. They should have guided me right to bed, but the blog must be done! I'm going to bed now. There is a Game of Thrones tour to be done tomorrow...

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