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Posts Tagged ‘Croatia’

Yesterday was a day of absolute wonder. Despite the heat, we took the children into the walled city of Dubrovnik and had great fun doing the simplest of things.

The Old City of Dubrovnik Coming into View

First we took a water taxi ride 10 km up the coast from our hotel to the Old Harbor of Dubrovnik. The six of us, the triplets mostly slept, watched in awe as rugged cliffs and an azure sea gave way to a stone fortress and a village teeming with people.

The Harbour and Boats

After walking through one of the ancient archways surrounding the city and rounding a corner, we immediately found ourselves on the main square of Luza. From there it was an easy walk to some of the best sites including the Rector’s Palace, the Cathedral and its Treasury, the Sponza Palace and the Dominican Monastery.

The Cathedral & Treasury

Entrance to Sponza Palace

In need of a break, we stopped for ice cream on the Stradun. With a colourful array of flavours to choose from the difficulty came in picking just one from the artfully presented mounds behind the glass case. In the end I went for my favourite, lemon sorbet, but the sour cherry was very tempting!

Cones for Ice Cream

Cooled and reenergized, we strolled further down the Stradun. The beautiful street is lined with Baroque buildings and is home to many churches, restaurants and shops. We came upon several interesting high-fashion stores including Max Mara, Marella, Dubrovačka Kuća, Maria, Michal Negrin and Ronchi to name but a few. And there were some local street entertainers who kept us enthralled as we walked.

Street Entertainer & His Birds

The afternoon heat did not let up and we were very thankful to find communal drinking fountains, like Onofrio’s Great Fountain which is next to the church of St. Salvation and Onofrio’s Small Fountain at the other end of the Stradun near the Bell Tower. With it’s large dome and sixteen taps going right-the-way-round, the Great Fountain is an ideal respite for those wishing to cool off and refill water bottles. The Small Fountain, whimsically decorated with playful dolphins, is equally lovely.

Onofrio’s Small Fountain

For an early dinner, we ate at a restaurant called Olivia Gourmet (address: Cvijete Zurzoric 2, tel: +385-(0)20-324067). It’s a very relaxed place, with a modern decor, and serves Italian-style food in both an indoor and outdoor setting. The Olivia Pizzeria is right next door and the owners graciously allowed us to order pizza for the five hungry children while we adults enjoyed fresh octopus salads and a bottle of local wine. After dinner the nine of us strolled casually back towards the Old Harbour through tiny streets where people live, work and play.

A Tiny Lane Around the Corner from Olivia Gourmet

As the day came to an end, we weary visitors climbed aboard our water taxi and headed back to the Radisson Blu Hotel. Everyone, even our youngest, had a great day in Dubrovnik.

Eight of Our Nine – All Exhausted but Happy

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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!

Related Articles:

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/

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