Split, Day 2

Split, Day 2

My breakfast this morning consisted of Apple Pie! Apple pie, freshly shaven prosciutto, delicious cheese, fruit filled warm croissants, almost a fried fish, and an assortment of other amazingly scrumptious things. The breakfast at the Coronaro Hotel is probably one of the best I’ve ever had, only rivaling that in the SoSofitel Hotel in Thailand.

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After totally stuffing ourselves, we grabbed our travel bag and met the rental car guy in the lobby to get our car for today’s adventure – Krka Falls. I basically signed my life and life’s savings away for the car and the deposit, so I was pretty terrified to drive it. After successfully navigating outside of the tiny car park at the hotel, we were on the road and my driving confidence slowly came back.

It was about a 50 minute, super scenic drive through the mountains, tunnels, and towns to get to Krka. The little car we had had some trouble getting up to the speed limit of 130 kilometers per hour, so it was pedal-to-the-metal to keep up with the other cars. It was only on the way back that Ryan told me to use cruise control! That made things so much easier!

We pulled up at the parking lot of the Park, bought our tickets, and searched for sun screen. Let me tell you, Ryan and I are convinced that Croatians do not believe in sun screen. I scoured all of the markets / pharmacies in the Split the day before, checked with the hotel, and even went to the shops around the falls, but all of the shop attendants looked at us funny when we asked it they sold sun screen. We brought some with us, but one of our bottles disappeared, so we were totally out of luck! I highly recommend bringing as much as you can from the US if you visit Croatia because its like a treasure hunt for the stuff when you get here. When we did find it, it was around $20 for a 3 oz. bottle!

We opted to walk off our huge breakfast by journeying the 15 minute hike down the gravel path to the falls instead of taking the bus. The walk was beautiful and you could hear the falls as we got closer and closer! They were huge and there were so many! ‘

There is a wooden bridge-way that goes through the forest on-top of the falls / waterways (see map above). You literally walk over all of the streams and can watch fish swim under you and down the falls. I’ve never experienced anything like it. The walk around to falls takes about an hour and is so worth it! There were so many views and it was so relaxing to be out in such a beautiful place.

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We were a little peckish by the time we got to the base of the falls and Ryan couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw a hot dog stand. I swear, the man loves hot dogs more than anything else in this world. His eyes light up like an anime kids eyes do in cartoons when they see candy! While he was enjoying his hot dog, this lady walked up behind him and took a photo. She then offered me money for the photo. It was a very strange encounter but I have to imagine that photo is hanging in a great place of honor in her household now?

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After making Ryan’s dreams come true by buying a hot dog and turning down the cash from the little lady, I got some pistachio gelato and we sat by the falls, people watching and taking it all in.

Unlike the Plitvice Lakes National Park outside of Zagreb, you can swim at the base of one of the waterfalls in Krka. I couldn’t resist sticking my toes in the perfect temperature water.

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After relaxing by the falls for a while, we had to hike back up. We stopped by the 2nd hydroelectric plant ever made in the world which happens to be located at he base of the falls. The first plant was made in Niagara Falls and opened only 2 days before the one at Krka.

Ryan was getting annoyed at me because I stopped at every vista point, but I just love waterfalls apparently!

We took a quick hike to the boat area that takes motors to a few other waterfalls, an island, and some caves. The boat ride was 4 hours long and we needed to get back to Split to drop the car off, so we passed on the excursion. After that, it was back to the car. We had to walk back up the massive hill that we easily hiked down. It was so steep and we couldn’t stop walking for fear that we couldn’t start back up again!

Huffing and puffing, we got back to our car and it was on the road again back to Split. We had to get some gas to fill up the rental before heading to the hotel and was shocked that the cost to half-way fill-up our little rental car was the same cost as a full tank for my Toyota Yaris! So crazy!

We got back to the hotel in Split, showered off, and decided to walk the town. It was only 4 PM but, with such a light lunch, we decided to grab an early dinner. All I really wanted was a good charcuterie board and we heard that Bokeria was the place to go for such fare. A waiter came and gave us menus but never came back to our table. Even though the restaurant was not busy, we sat for a good 25 minutes with no attention or waters, so we decided to leave. With such rave reviews, I was OK with waiting a little longer, but Ryan’s hanger wouldn’t stand for it!

We walked through a few squares before coming across another place that had a big picture of a charcuterie board in front of it and decent prices, so we grabbed a table. We ordered the meat and cheese board and a pizza for us to share and, even though we said we weren’t going to drink, the $3 house wine ended up on our table.

The meat and cheese board arrived but it only had cheese and bread on it. I alerted the waiter, who replied “Nema problema!”, and came out with a huge second board of delicious prosciutto. We definitely did not need that much but it was so yummy. Another round of heavily poured wine later, our pizza came out and it was cheese overload, but that is never a bad thing. I swear I am going to gain 20 pounds on this trip…

After dinner, we gallivanted through the streets and “accidentally” bought some more gelato. We wondered back to the hotel and grabbed one of the bottles of wine we bought in Hvar. The plan was to drink it on the rooftop patio / bar at the hotel, but one of the bartenders in the elevator up to the top informed us we could not bring it upstairs. At this point, we were quite tipsy, and we decided to be rebels and finish ½ our wine in the lobby of the hotel and then sneak the rest up to the top patio. The sunset view of the port from the roof of the hotel was amazing and we decided to top off the night with a glass of desert wine.

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The bartender didn’t have any port upstairs but he ran down to grab some from the restaurant for us. That should have been my first indication that it was going to be a pricy glass of wine, however, it was delicious and the rooftop was so romantic I didn’t care to ask and we eventually just bought the bottle….

All of a sudden, a Rat Pack song came on and Ryan and I danced. He spun me a few times and, when we finished, a group at the end of the patio gave us a round of applause. They eventually came up to us to chat and we realized that one couple’s kids live up the street from us! Small world, huh?

Once we were done with our wine, our elevator friend / waiter told us that we could use one of the rooftop hot tubs for free. The hotel opened their spa 3 weeks before our stay at and installed 3 private hot tubs on the rooftop that overlooked the palace and the harbor. Typically, you have to reserve and pay to use the hot tubs, but I guess our waiter decided to give us a treat!  We ran to our room to change and the spa was the perfect temperature by the time we got back. Talk about a romantic night! We enjoyed every second and I honestly didn’t want the night to end.

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Split, Day 1

Split, Day 1

Our 6:30 AM wake-up was early but we were ready for the day. I was still so stuffed from the night before so we had a very light breakfast before walking down to our boat. While I had the right power converter for my phone, I did not have one for my laptop, so we tried to find a converter in one of the little markets by the boat docks and we ended up running into our dinner companions from Stori Komin at the market! It is amazing how small and charming Hvar, Croatia is.

I couldn’t find a charger and am now at 3% typing this on the boat to Split. Fingers crossed I find a charger soon or this post is going to be a shortie….

Thank my lucky stars! Our hotel in Split, Hotel Coranado, had a spare converter so I could charge my Mac! *Phew*. Our boat ride to Split was about 50 minutes and uneventful. Once we debarked, we walked up the pier and used Google Maps on Ryan’s phone to find the hotel! We had no idea that the small alleyways we were weaving in and out of were actually part of a 4th century palace that Diocletian, a Roman Emperor, used for retirement! Must have been nice…

Since we arrived at the hotel so early, we could not check-in, so we gave our bags to reception and waited for our tour guide, Nemo, to arrive. With two check-in counters, there was some confusion finding Nemo, but, like every good story we overcame adversity, found Nemo, and hopped in his Mercedes to go to the island of Trogir.

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We walked over moat to get to the island and then toured through the narrow roads. Our guide gave us some fun facts, like how the stone roads that had a line in the middle were markers to lead out of the city centers. Also, the reason that the pathways were build so narrowly was to keep them cool in the summers and warm in the winters. We saw some beautiful cathedrals, lots of churches, and were even serenaded by 5 men in an acapella group in the open court house. Apparently, the open court house was the place to be back in the early day as the whole town would watch the court cases and gossip about those involved.

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After about an hour of walking around Trogir we headed back to Split. We were getting a little peckish after walking an entire town, so our guide took us to his favorite gelato spot. They had apple pie gelato, which I couldn’t resist. It was heavily!

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We took our ice cream to go as Nemo guided us through Split. We learned all about the palace of Split and how it was built. How it used to have 4 walls but, in the Medieval times, a main wall as knocked out and another section of the city was built. Some parts of the city were from the 3rd century BC! There were even Egyptian 5 sphinx statues throughout the city that were over 3.5 thousand years old. It is astonishing that some of the cities homes and apartments are older than the USA.

Our tour concluded around 2 PM and we went up a street that our guide suggested for lunch and ended up at a pizza place. I got lasagna and Ryan had spaghetti bolognese. Thank goodness we walked 6 miles already…

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After lunch, we could finally check into our hotel so we walked back and got to our room. It is a very nice hotel and Ryan decided to test out the bed with a nap while I took off to walk around the markets and shop for an hour or so. It was such a beautiful day I couldn’t just stay inside!

Around 4, I came back to the room and we got ready for the evening. We decided to walk up  the 200 steep stairs of the cathedral tower. Some of the block stairs were 2 feet tall and the iron stairs up after the bells were slightly terrifying, but we finally made it to the top and the view made all of those stairs worth it!

We went down to into the crypt under the church for a few minutes but it was underwhelming and, instead, we were lured by the songs of a band in the square. They were amazing and we listed for a while before going to find dinner.
We ended up at a restaurant called Apetit and had a delicious meal of salad, bread with oil and vinegar, grilled squid (a Split staple), and truffle macaroni with prosciutto. So much good food! We also enjoyed the $3 house wine that would rival any $20 glass in the US!

In an amazing mood, we walked around the city center, taking in the vibrance of the night life, getting another round of gelato to top off the night, and heading to the rooftop terrace at the hotel to watch fireworks in the distance.

 

Continue on our journey through Croatia…

Hvar, Day 2

Hvar, Day 2

Today was a relaxing day. After 10.5 hours of sleep and a 9 AM wake up, we got some croissants (my favorite pastries in the world) and breakfast with a view at the hotel. Who cared about some of the missing amenities at the Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort when you have a pool like the below, including a water slide!

Our view at the Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort in Croatia

 

After breakfast, we grabbed some sun chairs by the pool. The pool had an endless edge which made our view amazing. At one point, they even turned on the water slide which I couldn’t resist! It took us a few attempts to get the slide technique down right for max speed. The pool was absolutely freezing as well but there were some other people enjoying it so, if they could do it, we could suck it up too!

Ryan got quite a few glasses of wine and read while I looked at Instagram memes and tried to relax. Around 1, we decided to get lunch. Ryan ordered pizza and focaccia and I changed mind mind at the last second from a smoothie to homemade spaghetti carbonara – we were not expecting the massive food portions (made to feed a village!) or we would have shared.

My massive lunch of carbonara at the Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort in Croatia

After lunch, we soaked up the sun for another hour before getting ready for our wine tour.

We met Mario, our tour driver, in the lobby around 3. He was a boisterous Croatian with a family history on the island of Hvar dating back over 600 years! Mario was our guide to two wineries around the island and then to a scenic dinner in an abandoned village. All along the drive, he told us fun facts, let us enjoy the look-out points, and showed us how to rub the natively grown rosemary in our hands for an amazing smell.

We arrived in Jesla, a little down on the other side of the island that was home to both of the wineries we were visiting. We walked quite a ways through the town to the little converted garage that served as the wine tasting room for Teo Huljic’s wine. Teo makes about 6-7,00 bottles of Hvar grown wine per year for the local people and restaurants. He also owns one of the best eateries in down called Konoba Huljic. Our wine guide was very knowledgeable about the grapes grown on Hvar, spoke over 5 languages, and provided some delicious olive tapenade, breads, and spreads to go with the wines.

All of our glasses were solid 5 oz pour, making for an excellent tasting! The owner, Teo, even joined us towards the end and showed me how to cork the bottles we bought.

We eventually walked back through the town to our next winery, Dubokovic. Since it was the end of tourist season, the town was totally empty, making it very romantic.

 

We finally arrived at our second winery and were led down to the basement barrel room. Again, talk about romantic! Our table was among the barrels of wine and it had red candles, wine, cheese, and an assortment of olive oil all made in Hvar for us to taste.

We were in for yet another treat when the winery owner himself lead our tasting, walking us through the various grapes and their personalities over the years. He even went above and beyond and let us try 9 different wines! All of them were very tasty, though Ryan and I had very different opinions on our favorite wine and olive oil – so we had to buy a bunch of them different ones to take home.

Eventually, we smelled, swirled, and sipped through all of our wines and were on toward our final stop, Stori Komin in Malo Grablje. To pass the time, our guide Mario challenged me to a singing competition. Little did we know, Mario was the Croatian equivalent to Josh Groban and sang in an acapella group. He sang traditional Croatia songs to us for about twenty minutes until we pulled up to the ruins of Malo Grablje!

Malo Grablje was abandoned many years ago and only one family remains. That family has a small, 8 table restaurant, Stori Komin, that looks over the valley. If you go to Hvar, you HAVE to visit Stori Komin. We walked through the abandoned homes on a dusk hike up to the restaurant, and Mario pointed out his great, great grandfather’s house among the dilapidated buildings.

Again, we had yet another stunning view from our table at the restaurant. We could also see our food cooking on the fire pit – talk about rustic!

We sat down at one of the tables and quickly started chatting with the only other couple at the restaurant, some very nice South Africans. We ended up talking to them our entire dinner, only pausing to thank our waitress for each dish she brought out. We started with some scrumptious anchovies in olive oil with capers from the area, fresh cheese, tomatoes, and prosciutto.

I ordered one glass of wine and they brought out a large pitcher instead! About halfway through, a bug flew into my pitcher and they brought out another brand new and full one! Talk about A) good service and B) a very lively wine induced dinner! Our main course was this insanely good lamb chop bake with potatoes and carrots. The smell of the lamb cooking on the stove throughout our dinner was so good and the finished product did not disappoint! All of that food was followed with desert of candied almonds, dried dates, and a yummy desert wine. We were stuffed!

The restaurant also had a dog named Cesar running around. He was so cute and reminded us of our puppy back home. Apparently, the family found him almost starved to death, stuck in a ditch in a grave yard, and they brought him back, fed him some food, and he never left. He was so cute and really enjoyed some of our left overs!

After about two hours of delicious food, wine, and great conversation, it was time to hop back in the car with Mario and drive to the hotel. On route, Mario stopped under the castle at the top of the mountain overlooking the harbor and told us how it used to be a disco. Him and his friends would climb into the tower window of the castle (below) to enter the night club and that was how he met his second wife. Mario was full of personality and some great stories!

We got back to our hotel around 10 PM and I fell into bed. We had an early morning for our boat ride to Split and Ryan told me I needed to pack before bed. I responded, with full conviction, that I was already packed and that I was going to sleep in as late as possible. Of course, in the morning, I awoke to the real situation – a suitcase that look like it exploded in the middle of the night with clothes strewn everywhere.. Note to self, wine-brain lies to you about your packing status!

Continue on our journey through Croatia…

Hvar, Croatia

Hvar, Croatia

We slept in a little bit this morning – I mean who doesn’t need 11 hours of sleep per night on their honeymoon?! Today was a day at leisure, so we were able to explore. We grabbed complementary breakfast at the hotel and then packed our back to set off on the beautiful walk from our hotel to the water taxi area to catch a ride to the island of Palmizanga.

 

Palmizana island was recommended to us by our travel agent, Andrea, and is supposedly home to the best beach around Hvar. We walked to the water taxi area and Ryan was in a bit of a hurry to get on a boat so he hustled us onto the first taxi we saw. I kept thinking that I should ask the driver if he was, in fact, driving the island we wanted to visit, but Ryan kept reassuring me he was and I couldn’t remember the island’s name in time before we motored out to sea.

P.S. For some reason, and despite by best persuasion techniques, my new husband would not buy me the multi-million dollar yatch in the background of this photo as a wedding gift. I mean, I wasn’t even asking for THAT much. It’s not like that was the biggest one we saw (it was just the second biggest). Hehe!

Anyway, we eventually stopped at an island where the driver gave us our tickets. The tickets showed two islands on his route, neither of which were Palmizana. I kept kicking myself – I knew I should have asked! If you ever get the “I need to ask directions” instinct, always follow it!

We got off at Carpe Diem island. It had some fun tree sculptures of pirates and lots of cabanas looking over a very rocky beach. The island club was pretty empty, I really wanted to go to Palmizana, and the staff wanted $15 per lounge chair (which was basically all seating), so there was no use getting a drink and investing in chairs if we were going to just transfer to another island. Ryan wasn’t too happy that I was making us move but I was determined to check out the “perfect island”, so we hopped back in the taxi and said good-bye to Carpe Diem. I mean, who wants to seize the day when you can seize an island that’s name sounds like parmesan cheese?

We journeyed back to the water taxi station and decided to hit the ATM before getting on the boat – rookie mistake. The woman at the ATM in front of us tried 4 different cards, all of which got declined, and we ended up missing the boat to Palmizana by 1 minute! We had to wait another 30 minutes for the next boat to take off, so we filled that time with some scrumptious ice cream.

Finally, it was our time to jet off to Palmizana. It took about 20 minutes in the water taxi to get there and we had a marvelous view of all of the sail boats around! We had to walk from the boat dock across the island to get to the beach area, but there was a beach! Most of the water fronts so far had been super rocky with very choppy waters, but this was an actual beach with sand and calm, clear waters for us to hang out by. We laid our towels down and Ryan napped for about 1.5 hours while I “people watched”, soaked up the sun, and took in the view.

Eventually, we wanted to grab a drink, so we walked across the rocks to this awesome bar called Laganini where all of the furnishings were made out of cool, white tree branches. It even had a tree house lounge! I was in heaven. The prices on the island were a bit much, we so opted for the house wine at $5 a glass. It was surprisingly really tasty! We were only going to have one glass each but then we got to talking with our NYC neighbors and, three drinks later, it was time to brave the rocks back to the water taxi.

We left around 4 PM and sat in the middle of the boat to avoid getting soaked on the way back. Ryan was really hungry so, instead of doing dinner at a restaurant, we grabbed two slices of pizza in the harbor and ate while we watched people in the square. I tried to Snap my pizza with a clever “Dinner of Champs” title but my wine-influenced spelling led to a pretty funny typo that I thought was too hilarious not to reference the entire rest of the night…

As we sat, a random dog came over  and hung out with us for a while we ate. Somehow, he got quite a bit of my pizza. I guess missed our puppy too much not to indulge in some puppy love.

After our early dinner, we walked back to the Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort  to rest for a few minutes, eat the rest of our candy form Dubrovnik, and figure out the plans for the rest of the night. I took a power nap and awoke to a knock on our door with fresh towels. We popped open the prosecco bottle that the hotel gave us and we decided to check out the spa.

In my robe and hotel provided, cardboard hotel slippers, we walked to the top floor where I thought the spa was. Instead of a spa, we found huge, drab, dirty room divided into two segments. One had a lack-luster gym with maybe 4 pieces of weight training equipment (and that is being generous), and the other had a ping-pong table without any ping-pong balls.

Disappointed that we couldn’t play ping-pong, we followed the “spa” signs down to the pool level and, after talking to a pool worker, learned that the spa was at a “sister hotel” in downtown. Like, what?! We couldn’t walk there with our champagne or in my hotel slippers that were falling apart, so we went back to the room to finish our drinks and watch movies instead. The Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort was beautiful and in a great location, but was definitely skimpy on some key amenities.

Continue reading this adventure..

 

Dubrovnik to Hvar

Dubrovnik to Hvar

Today was so relaxing – even with the trip from Dubrovnik to Hvar, Croatia! It started with 11 hours of much-needed sleep, a few snooze buttons, and a 9:30 wake-up. We grabbed a delicious breakfast at the hotel, and then changed into our swim suits for some spa time. It was supposed it rain all day so we decided to stay in at the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace spa and relax – boy was that needed! The hot tub was the perfect temp, and we experimented with the wet and dry saunas before hopping into the heated pool. Fortunately for us, the spa had an amazing outdoor view so we were able to relax while looking out over the ocean.

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We enjoyed the spa until 11:30 and then it was time to pack and freshen up before our 12 check out. Since the spa at the hotel was fully booked for the day, we took a cab to Touch of Thai day spa for massages. Since it was a Thai spa and we’ve been to Thailand, we got to use some of our Thai language skills on the staff and they seemed to be delighted when we said hello and thank you in Thai! How cool was that! I had a very relaxing aromatherapy massage while Ryan got a deep tissue massage. He, unfortunately, refused to wear the super sexy, shower cap looking undies that the massage place provided (haha!). The massage was excellent and lasted the entirety of the rain storm that rolled though!

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Once we were finished, we ran through the remainder of the storm to a shopping area to wait on a Uber.  Ubers are 1/3 of the price of cabs in Dubrovnik so I highly recommend them over taxis.

We arrived back to the hotel and were welcomed by the warmth inside as the rain brought the chill. We decided to go to the “Thin” restaurant for lunch, thinking it would be lighter and cheaper, though it was not cheaper. Who charges $20 for spring rolls?! Ryan and I split a delicious French onion soup and Thai noodles but they were not worth what we paid for them…

After lunch we grabbed our bags from reception and hopped in another Uber to the port to catch our boat to Hvar. The boat was huge and had an excellent view off of the bow.

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The ride to Hvar was about 3 hours and 30 minutes. We mainly napped and read some books that we brought along with us. Before we knew it, the sun was setting and it was 7:30 PM as we sailed up to the Hvar dock. There was a bell boy from our hotel waiting to take our luggage from us so we could walk the ten minutes to the hotel. The half-mile walk along the shoreline was beautiful. We passed multi-million dollar yachts and catamarans filled with people enjoying wine, the view, and each other’s company, a huge castle atop the mountain overlooking the harbor, and beautiful gardens. There was even an awesome bar overlooking the water that was hosting a wedding! We were already in love with the city of Hvar!

We walked up to the Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort and couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. It had an amazing view of the coast (even in the dark of night), a luxurious pool with day beds, and was right on the water. I was relaxed just walking up the steps to check in. We even had champagne delivered to the room in congratulations for our recent wedding!


After a quick refresher, we decided to head back to the harbor for dinner and some shopping. We walked the shoreline until we found a string of cute little pizza / pasta restaurants and came upon Posteni. It was the right price and Ryan was tired of looking at menus so we decided to try it – and were we glad we did! The menus were covered by cute little framed paintings of the coast and, per our waiter’s suggestion, we opted for the truffle linguine and shrimp and the Bravos pasta with muscles. The house wine was the best we had in Croatia so far and Ryan swore his pasta rivaled our meals at Gagan and Nobu. My muscles were scrumptious, we were in food heaven.. and it was at that time that I realized any of my pre-wedding fitness achievements were going far out the window on this trip!

The restaurant’s owner, his wife, and daughter were all sitting across from us and we cheers’ed them for such a great meal. Our waiter even brought a complementary shot for Ryan and a honey infused desert wine for me! Yum!

In fantastic spirits, we walked the coast line home and listened (/danced) to the near by wedding’s music until it was time for bed. In my wine enhanced enthusiasm, I accidentally brought down one of the window curtains while dramatically closing them, so Ryan and his height helped me Velcro the curtain backup. It was quite the silly way to end a perfect evening.

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