I hope you have a cup of coffee (or wine, depending on when you’re reading this!) ready and you’re cosy on your couch! I’m ready to tell you all about our trip to Dubrovnik a few weeks ago and because this post is long I started it with coffee and ended it with wine. Which is surprisingly allegorical of our trip to Dubrovnik! Find coffee, explore, find wine! Pretty much the definition of a perfect vacation, in my humble opinion.
So, Dubrovnik. I mentioned in this post that Michael had won (!) short haul tickets on Aer Lingus that had to be used by May. We took advantage of Michael’s two week (!) Easter break to go to Dubrovnik for five days in April. We rented an AirBnB apartment (for €29/night!) and a little Ford Focus (for €32 for 5 days!) and spent half our time relaxing and half our time exploring.
This is the end of Michael’s busy season with coaching and work, so I wanted to make sure he got some time to chill out before coming back to Dublin and working a lot of weekends until the end of the year. We were very successful – lots of sleeping late and stopping for coffee and just sitting, chatting, gazing at the sparkling blue water. But we also explored a lot and today I’m going to give you a little city tour. We also visited the region’s wine country, which we’ll have to save for another post because this one just doesn’t have room.
The flight from Dublin to Dubrovnik was two and a half hours (three and a half on the way back which is a stinger!), and when you arrive in Dubrovnik, the airport is tiny and therefore awesome. We stopped briefly at passport control and then strolled across the deserted parking lot to the rental car huts. In Ireland I think we would call them pre-fabs. Little semi-permanent structures all lined up, waiting for their few customers. Within ten minutes (it’s shocking how simple renting a car is in Dubrovnik compared to a lot of major cities we’ve visited), we had our rental car and were headed off for much-needed lunch.
Per our apartment owner’s suggestion, we stopped in the little town of Cavtat for lunch. We could instantly see how Cavtat would be bustling in the summertime. But even though it was probably 60 degrees out, April is still the low season and nearly everything was closed for renovations and fixing up before the high season. Apparently the greater Dubrovnik area survives on tourism and tourism alone, and that tourism only comes to them from about June through August. There was a handful of other tourists around, but it was pleasantly deserted. It must be jam-packed in the summertime, which I’m not sure I would prefer.
I was surprised at how many evergreen trees there were, all dripping with pinecones. I was expecting more of a tropical terrain, but it was more mountainous than southern Italy or Spain.
After lunch and a very quiet stroll, we headed back to find our apartment. Another thing to note about Dubrovnik and the surrounding area is that the roads are wind along the mountain with very little keeping you from meeting your demise at the bottom of a cliff. You’re lucky if there’s a guard rail. I am a huge wimp, so I was terrified and hanging on with white knuckles nearly every time we got in the car. We stopped for groceries and eventually found our apartment (my only complaint about our apartment was the completely wrong directions we received repeatedly to get there and Google Maps was no help at all!), and promptly took a nap. We figured we had a few days to explore, so we’d nap while the sky was grey.
When we woke up, we could tell the skies were clearing, so Michael suggested we go for a drink at the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace, which happens to be a five star hotel overlooking the sea right in the direction of the sunset. Michael won major points for this suggestion, it couldn’t have been a more perfect first evening.
It’s hard to beat a sunset like that, but as it turns out, all the sunsets were like that! Dubrovnik is sunset heaven.
The next day we decided to explore the old city of Dubrovnik and walk the city walls. The first thing you should know is that I’m lobbying Dubrovnik to change the name to the “Dubrovnik City Stairs”. So. Many. Stairs. It didn’t help that I had done this workout that morning, not realizing quite what we were in for. You don’t have to be super-fit to walk the city walls, and I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing it because it was one of the highlights of our trip, but it does involve a lot of steps. You will definitely be earning a few glasses of wine!
Every so often, we’d stop and Michael would remark that a spot looked just like a scene from Game of Thrones. I haven’t seen the show, but there are lots of tours geared toward Game of Thrones fans that will show you where the King’s Landing scenes are filmed.
We got such a kick out of these basketball courts high up along the city walls. Can you imagine if you played basketball there?!
Caught in the act – but worth it for the shot below!
Dubrovnik’s city walls run along the perimeter of the whole old city and culminate at this tippity top tower where you can look out over the whole city. It was an incredible view, but I’m pretty afraid of heights and I was ready to get down to the bottom and stay there!
And so we did. Phew! We sat with a glass of wine and a coffee and people watched. One of the wonderful things about the old city is how well they’ve preserved the character – it’s not emblazoned with tacky signage or advertising. It seems everyone is allowed to have sandwich board chalkboards and awnings, but otherwise they can only show their restaurant or shop name on standardized maroon banners at the end of each street and on their individual lanterns hanging outside the entrance. It’s really quite pleasant and makes a rather touristy area feel less touristy.
Another thing that made Dubrovnik not feel so touristy was all the work going on and laundry being dried. It still amazes me that Croatians live in the old city – like it’s so picturesque and ancient how could real people really live there?! Amazing.
In the middle of our trip, we went north into wine country, but I’ll tell you more about that next week. The day after that road trip, we came back into the city to wander and explore a little more. On Nathalie’s suggestion, we found this secret bar on the far side of the city walls. You walk through this little doorway onto a patio overlooking the sea. I ordered iced coffee and Michael had a beer, and we sat in the sunshine. It was bliss.
Just a few meters down the city walls is a little area where you can just sit or swim or smoke weed or use your selfie sticks. We saw it all, but we opted to stick with just the first one. We came back later when it was a little calmer and Michael commenced lounging on the rocks.
When we were vertical again, we decided to check out a beach just beyond Michael in the image above. We packed a lunch and a bottle of wine at our apartment and wound our way down the small streets to the most gorgeous beach.
Because it wasn’t quite warm enough yet, we didn’t have too much company on the beach. Only a few tourists we’d seen in town earlier and a few college American college kids. We climbed the many steep stone stairs all the way down to the pebbly beach and sat in the sunshine overlooking the old city – you can see it in the photo below just beyond my right shoulder.
Of course, one of us wasn’t content with just sitting! Michael stripped and dipped! He said he would be kicking himself later if he didn’t just go for it. He said the water was a little like a plunge pool – icy! But he went in twice, so it must not have been so bad! In the high season, there would be lots of boats and kayaks and ferries cluttering up the water. But we felt like we had it all to ourselves.
The water was so clear and so turquoise. We’d love to come back when it’s a little warmer and snorkel and kayak around.
Later that evening (after another little nap, let’s be honest) we strolled the streets of the old city again. I can’t get over how the light reflects off the stone street. It practically looks wet it’s so shiny.
And we may have headed to our sunset spot for one last glimpse of the sun setting on the Dalmatian Coast.
I’ll be sharing the rest of our trip next week, I hope you’ll join me!