Bon Voyage: Croatia & Montenegro

It’s hard to believe that it has been two months since we were lounging on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, enjoying the last days of my twenties in Dubrovnik.  My how time flies!  Between finishing work in London, shipping a dog, coordinating an international move, and now getting settled back in the USA, I am just now getting the chance to upload photos from my 30th birthday trip to Croatia and Montenegro.  While I had the best intentions to get this done before leaving London, it’s been great to re-live it a little later….

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Croatia was an amazing place to visit, steeped in so much history, with great food and fantastic views.  We also managed to convince my sister and her boyfriend to join us in Dubrovnik, which made the trip even more memorable and fun.

We stayed in a rented apartment just outside of the old town walls, and with views of the sea and town from our patio, we never wanted to leave.

20150524-IMG_3101View of Old Town from our apartment

20150522-IMG_3042View from our apartment

We spent our first two days meandering through the Old Town (a.k.a. King’s Landing for any Game of Thrones fans), walking along the walls that encircle the city, eating freshly caught seafood by the seashore, and relaxing on the beaches right outside the city walls. Dubrovnik is a very clean city/town, and it is small enough to easily explore in a few days (the old town can be covered in a day).

20150522-IMG_3055Old Town Dubrovnik

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20150522-IMG_3052Getting some needed vitamin D for baby (@ 23 weeks )

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At the recommendation of a friend, we wound our way up hundreds of stairs to Lady PiPi for dinner our first night.  The views over the town and water, as well as the open grilled meats and seafood risotto, made our dinner well worth the effort to get there.

20150523-IMG_3079Lady PiPi 

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20150523-IMG_3074View over Old Town while walking the city walls

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Building up an appetite on our city wall walk, and a need for rest, we hopped in a cab to a nearby bay for lunch at the tiny Geveric Orsan.  A leisurely meal and near perfect setting–it’s hard to imagine being much more relaxed.
20150523-IMG_3090Lunch al fresco at Geveric Orsan

20150523-IMG_3091Taking a dip between courses in the bay at Geveric Orsan

Plans to spend my birthday ‘sailing into my 30’s’ were nearly thwarted by heavy morning storms.  Fortunately, the skies cleared (enough) to let us set sail for an afternoon at sea that was a highlight of the trip.  We set out from the new harbor and wound our way around some nearby islands and swimming holes and back along the shores of the Old Town.  Despite a few bouts of seasickness, we all had a blast and built up an appetite for continued celebrations that evening.

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IMG_0039Birthday dinner at Proto

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What a great birthday!!

After three days together, we parted ways with our companions.  Us, heading south to Montenegro, and them, going north to other parts of Croatia.

The Bay of Kotor is an easy, and breathtaking, 1.5 hour coastal drive from Dubrovnik, and while possible to visit in a day-trip, is best enjoyed when you can go at your own pace and not be rushed.  Also, border control (about 45 minutes from Dubrovnik) has been known to extend the journey.  We had no issues getting through quickly but have heard tales of people waiting in line for hours.

We arrived at the lovely Palazzo Radomiri in time for lunch on their terrace and a late-afternoon kayaking excursion out in the bay.

20150525-IMG_3143Bay of Kotor, from Palazzo Radomiri

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Taking advantage of the long day-light hours, we ventured into the town of Kotor (10 minutes away) for a hike up the old fortress walls and a pizza dinner in town.  Kotor is a smaller, less polished version of Dubrovnik.  Though still touristy, it’s hasn’t been restored nearly as much as Dubrovnik, which adds to its appeal.

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After a quick visit to Montenegro, the trip finally came to a close, and we went back to London relaxed, refreshed, and a little bit older.  What a way to herald the start of a new decade!

Stay:

Dubrovnik–You can stay inside the city walls at a few historic hotels or in many rooms/apartments to rent. Lodging in the Old Town is generally louder (right in the action) and older.  We opted to rent this apartment outside the city walls, just north of Banje Beach.  It was spacious and had two large patios overlooking the ocean and the old town as well as a private garden.  With a 5-minute walk to Old Town, it was perfect.  There are also several large, new resorts that are outside the Old Town and seemed really nice.  That might be a great option for honeymooners, or those who want a few more amenities (concierge, pool, etc).

Kotor–We stayed just outside of Kotor at the lovely Palazzo Radomiri, a converted 18th century villa.  We were there only one night, but found it to be a great little hotel, right on the bay, with very friendly staff.

Eat (all Dubrovnik):

Lokanda peskarija, in the old port serving mainly seafood.  Touristy.
Lady Pipi–highly recommend, sit up top on the high terrace for incredible views.  Worth the hike up the steps for very good grilled meats and seafood.  No bookings, so go on the early side for dinner or prepare to queue.
Geveric Orsan–About a 10-15 minute drive north from the old town.  Very good food (med/Italian) in a perfect setting right along the water.  You can jump in the water and sunbathe during or after your meal. Well worth the drive.
Taj Mahal–Bosnian cuisine in a side street in the old town. Must get the pita bread and homemade cream cheese. The cevapi was a hit. Refreshing change from the seafood/Italian everywhere else.  We went for lunch but would be great for dinner too.
Proto–highly recommend for a nicer meal.  Request a table on the upstairs terrace. Very good seafood.

Do:
-walk the walls of the old town for great views and some exercise.  The whole loop is only 1.25 miles.  Costs 100kuna. Warning, there isn’t much shade so go early or late in the day and bring water!
-take a boat out to explore nearby islands and swimming holes.  There are plenty of opportunities to get on a big boat with many tourists that can be booked the day of, but if you want a private option, it’s best to book ahead.  If you have a group, the cost for a priviate boat isn’t much more than the big boats and you can tailor it however you want.  I highly recommend Dubrovik-Sailing.  They were very flexible when the weather was bad the morning of our trip, and despite a tiny bit of rain, this was a highlight of the trip.
-Spend an afternoon at Banje Beach.  There are loungers that you can rent, though we were fine with just towels on the sand.
-Walk through the old town, down the main street but also wind through the side streets
-Have drinks at Buza Bar I (preferable to Buza Bar II).  Literally through a hole in the wall and on the edge of the cliffs. Great for an afternoon or casual pre-dinner drink.  If it’s hot, there will be people jumping off the rocks into the sea.  A bit hard to find but well-known, so can ask around for directions.

-In Montenegro, kayak on the Bay of Kotor for an incredible perspective and then hike up the city walls to St. John’s Castle for even stunning views of the bay/fjord.  Warning–while not really a hike, it’s definitely an uphill ascent that had us huffing and puffing.  Bring water, go late in the day, and plan on it taking an hour or so.

TTN:
-the airport is about 20km south of town.  There is an airport bus that drops you near the Pile Gate (west side of old town) or you can arrange a taxi which is about €30 and drops you at your hotel/apartment
-local food is heavy on the seafood and pastas, as well as local meat dishes like Cevapi (mixed meat grilled sausages)
-most places take payment in Kuna or Euros, and cards are readily accepted.  There are plenty of ATMs in the old town

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