Pozdrav iz Hrvatske! (Hello from Croatia!)
Yes, Croatia…Dubrovnik to be exact. It’s been a busy month. Come to think of it, is there such a thing as a slow month? Since my last post, our little Irish family has been to Arizona, Minnesota, Ireland and now Croatia. We’ve relaxed, exercised, gone to cooking school, been attacked by mosquitoes the size of Texas, visited with family and friends, been doused by Irish rain and sizzled under the Croatian sun. It’s been a roller coaster month but it’s been great!
The four of us, along with my brother-in-law, his wife, and their 18 month-old triplets, left Dublin six days ago for a sun holiday and boy what a sun holiday we’re having! It’s hot here, really hot! I’m talking the kind of heat that makes you sweat when you’re standing still! Thankfully the hotel has four swimming pools and access to a pristine beach so, once you’ve jumped into the water and gotten a lounge under an umbrella, it’s gorgeous.
Why Croatia, you ask? Quite simply, my lovely husband has been coming here for a few years on business and has always expressed an interest in bringing us along…this year he got the chance.
Croatia is what Turkey, Spain and Portugal were like many years ago, before they became over run by tourism. The countryside and islands are not spoiled by cheap holiday-home complexes and tacky fish-and-chip shops. There are no gangs of foreign-and-drunk-young-ones running amok. And, while it lacks the sophistication of the Riviera, Italian or French, it’s still magical.
The locals are friendly, the homegrown wines are good, the seafood is “plucked from the sea fresh” and don’t get me started on the ice cream…it’s so good. I’m glad my husband was finally able to bring us.
As for our hotel, I wish I could say this is the best place for all families but it’s really not. We’re staying at the Radisson Blu Resort and Spa, a 5-star hotel located about 10km outside the walled city of Dubrovnik. On face value it is excellent. There is a small Konzum (the equivalent of an Irish Spar or an American mini-mart), several restaurants, an ice cream parlor, two children’s pools, four adult pools, a beach and marina, a spa, two gyms, a kids’ club, a market area for picking up trinkets, and apartments, which the Radisson calls “Residences”.
Sounds wonderful, I know, but if you’re a family staying in one of the residences, which typically a family with several children would do, the downsides are many. For example, the complex is laid-out horizontally, not vertically, so there is a great deal of walking involved just going from the accommodation to a pool, restaurant or other elsewhere. There are, and I kid you not, literally hundreds of steps and only one lift (elevator), which is located over at the hotel. If you have a pram (stroller) be ready for a ten-minute walk. Children under three must be supervised by a parent in the kids’ club, defeating the purpose of a kids’ club in the first place. The indoor pool is “adults” only, which seems particularly cruel when the temperatures climb over 30°C/90°F. There’s the fact you have to be 16 or older to use the gyms. There isn’t an English magazine or newspaper to be found anywhere. There is no chemist (pharmacy) on site or a shop selling pharmaceutical basics. And, lastly, the only English-language television stations are news oriented.
Don’t get me wrong, our little family are having a terrific time. We came prepared
with Calpol and bug spray, an iPad and laptop loaded with entertainment,
sun hats, and light-weight clothes. Also, our children are old enough to take
the heat and walk long distances without complaining. Unfortunately my in-laws, with their young triplets, are not having the same kind of holiday. With our help, they are lugging around two prams, a single and a double, and all the necessary baby accoutrements to the pool and back, and the restaurants and back, several times a day. They have had to hire a service to take them into Dubrovnik to get nappies (diapers) and formula. They have had to sit with the toddlers in the kids’ club (even with our children helping out) and haven’t been able to spend much time by the pool because of the heat.
In my opinion, the Radisson Blu needs to make some changes in order to truly be considered “family friendly”, especially given the prices they charge for the residences. If any of us were coming back to this area of Croatia we might stay at the Radisson again but we’d take a room in the hotel with a sitting area (living room) that comes with a pull out sofa bed. At least at the hotel there aren’t as many steps to climb and it’s not too long a walk to restaurants, the pools and the beach.
To be perfectly honest, my husband and I would really love to come back to this part of Croatia and hire a chartered gulet so we could cruise the coastline, snorkel with the kids, explore remote deserted islands, stop in bustling villages at will and truly get to know Croatia better. Maybe next year…
Tomorrow the nine of us are exploring the walled city of Dubovnik!
A blog fully dedicated to Croatia, especially the Dalmatian coast: http://secretdalmatia.wordpress.com/
A useful resource for anyone about to visit Croatia: http://essenceofdubrovnik.com/
An insider view of Croatia at: http://www.croatiaonline.blogspot.ie/
A glossary of fish names and English translations that will be helpful to anyone about to visit Croatia: http://suite101.com/article/help-with-the-names-of-fish-in-restaurants-in-croatia-a350085
A short article in Esquire about what Anthony Bourdain ate when he visited Croatia, along with a recipe for grilled sardines that looks delicious: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/food-for-men/anthony-bourdain-sardines-8334870
A website for learning more about Croatian Wines: http://winesofcroatia.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/wines-of-croatia-news-round-up-for-may-20-2012/