Sydney, Day 3

Sydney, Day 3

Today we decided to do the Coogee to Bondi coastal / beach walk – a 2.7 mile walk along the beautiful coast of New South Wales, Australia. It was raining pretty hard when we woke up around 8 AM, so we lounged until the sun came out around 9:30 and took off to the bus station. We waited about 10 minutes for the 373 bus to drive us 25 minutes to Coogee beach. On the bus there were two barely 20-year-old looking guys trying to get this young girl in a Ponzi scheme type company that sold “lotto” tickets. It sounded super shady but listening to their “sales” pitches helped pass the time waiting to arrive at our beach destination.

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It was still a bit chilly, so my Lululemon jacket really came in handy and the sun felt great when it finally hit us. The coastal walk is a paved walk that runs for miles along the water and is full of stellar views. There is quite a bit of walking up and down hills and cliff sides and, while it wasn’t thaaat tough, we didn’t realize how sore we still were from the Tongariro Crossing a few days prior until we started going up some of the hills!

With stopping to admire some of the views and chasing our hats around as they got blown off our heads, the hike took us about two hours. We even watched a whole bunch of kids surf the turbulent waves out on the water.

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Eventually, we got to Bondi Beach, one of the most visited tourist sites in all of Australia. There were quite a few people swimming in the sea water filled baths and surfers, but the beach itself wasn’t too packed.

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We were starting to get hungry so we walked down the shops and restaurants to find a spot to eat and ended up getting some delicious Chai tea lattes while watching the waves hit the water. Ryan really wanted to try McDonald’s (or “Macca’s” in Aussie lingo) so we stopped there and he got a Big Mac and fries. It actually tasted quite different from the US version, especially since the Ketchup (or tomato sauce in Aussie) is much sweeter.

I was in the mood for a meat pie since I had yet to have one in Aussie and they are one of my favorite Aussie delicacies! I found a little place called Funky Pies on the way back to the city and got a butter chicken pie that was sooooo flaky and delicious. (As I review this blog post entry, my stomach is literally rumbling for this pie 4 months later! It was THAT yummy). Good thing we had a 1.5 hour, 3 mile walk back to our hotel to walk it off.

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After quite the walk and a bunch of hills, we finally got back to the hotel. We showered and packed up to stay at my aunt’s house for the night. We walked down to the Central Train Station, filled up our Opal cards, and hopped on the train to her stop.

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It was super easy to find the right train and the train was very clean. My aunt was waiting for us at the station and it only took a few minutes to get to her house where my cousin and uncle was waiting. We watched some football, drank wine, and snacked on some delicious cheeses and bread with olive oil, balsamic, and dukkah – my new favorite combination!

Once my sister arrived, we enjoyed some amazing conversation, roasted chicken, fresh oysters, prawns, potatoes, and a slew of other delicious things. I have to say, both my aunt and my mom are excellent cooks! The amount of fresh produce and seafood avaialbe in Sydney only makes it even better.

It seemed like we talked for hours could have gone on for a few more. It was so great to catch up, get juicy / funny stories about my mom and aunt growing up together, and reminisce about the times my sister and I visited Australia or when my family came to the US. I have to say, my Australian family is absolutely amazing and I couldn’t have been happier to see them or finally introduce them to Ryan.

Eventually, we were stuffed and tired and hit the hay to rest up for another early morning.

Continue on this adventure…

Rome, Day 2

Rome, Day 2

Another day, another train! After an early wake-up and quick breakfast, we were off to the train station under the Spanish Steps to hop the Metro over to the Vatican City for our tour. We met our guides on some stairs by the main entrance to the Vatican with about 30 other people. Thankfully, they divided all of us up into a few groups, so our group was only around 15 people. While we waited for the tour to start, all of these very insistent guys were trying to sell us scarves, selfie sticks, and other doodads – they were everywhere! You have to ignore them and avoid all eye contact so they don’t get one spark of hope that you may be willing to buy something.

Our guides handed out headsets and we were off to enter the Vatican. Because we bought the Rome Combo: Skip the Line Vatican, St. Peter’s Square, and Colosseum walking tour, we got to cut in front of the hundreds of people in line waiting to get in. Our guide said that the line was actually shorter than usual since the Pope was giving Mass and everyone was in St. Peter’s Square. That was hard to fathom given the line that went from the entrance around the entire square!

Our guide was very knowledgeable and funny. She kept making jokes about the status of guys she would have dated if she lived back when they were alive. She talked about the status of the guy she loved most and sighed at how he would never loved her back because he was in love with another. She then dramatically pointed to a statue across the room – of another man! Talk about the drama of it all!

We went into the Pine Cone Square and some people in our group were missing. There were two women in particular that kept losing each other and causing issues with the group. They were pretty clueless as to what was going on so it was comical, especially considering our guide would try and page them over all of our head sets when they went missing. It was like a game of Marco Polo.

We made our way through the Vatican museum, past hundreds of sculptures, each more grand than the other. I was just astonished at the size and scale of these statues. Some of the big toes on the statues were the size of my fist – can you imagine just how big they where?

Everywhere you looked there was another amazement. The Gallery Of Maps  was probably my favorite room with giant maps of each part of the country all down the walls and the most decadent ceiling.

We then went into four rooms painted by Raphel and our guide pointed out fun facts about various features in the most important of the paintings. Eventually, we got to the modern art museum in the Vatican that also houses thousands of pieces of donated work. It was pretty amazing.

At that point, we gave our headsets to the guide and she pointed us to the Sistine Chapel. Since the Pope was speaking, St. Peter’s Basilica was closed until he was finished, so we decided to get some sandwiches for lunch in the café before entering the Chapel and onto the Basilica.

Since it is such a holy place, you are not supposed to take photos or talk in the Chapel. Ryan read one of the signs wrong and was convinced we could’nt even hold hands, but after seeing the same sign, we discovered it was really talking about clothing restrictions, not hand holding! Anyways, we were in awe of the Chapel once we entered. Just the scale of the paintings and how significant they were was inspiring. We spent a good 20 minutes just admiring the various frescos and pointing out the areas our guide mentioned within each painting.

Eventually, we moved down to the Basilica and entered it’s doors. That place is just so shockingly massive that you feel like the size of an ant, it is detailed down to the last paint stroke, stunningly opulent and inspiring how much care was involved over its 120 years of construction. You need all of the adjectives in the book to describe it. We saw quite a few bride and groom couples walking through the Basilica as well. Apparently, over the summer the Pope will bless marriages within 2 months of getting married, so couples come in their wedding attire to Mass to be blessed, and then take pictures all over the city. Considering we were on our honeymoon, I loved seeing all of the happy couples and checking out all of the wedding dresses.

We had about 1.5 hours to make our way over to the Colosseum for our next tour at 3 PM. Being the public transport pros we’ve become this trip, it was back on the Metro to meet our next guide. Quite a few people from our Vatican tour were also on our Colosseum tour as well – it was a long day for all of us.

We got another headset for this tour to listen to our guide. I really liked the headsets because the guide doesn’t have to yell to the group, it makes hearing the guide super easy, and you can go look at something without losing the group and missing out on information.

The Colosseum wasn’t too crowded and we were in under 5 minutes. While this was my second time at the Colosseum, I was still in awe. I am fascinated by the gladiators and have watched all of the shows and movies that come out around the subject. I find ancient Rome, its politics, mythology, and history so interesting.

One of the main themes of both of our tours was the Pope’s influence on things. Over the years,  the Popes destroyed much of the Colosseum to reuse the marble and statues for other buildings like the Vatican. Since they took a lot of the metal frame work within the walls of the Colosseum, there was not enough to support the walls during a large earth quake and much of the northern wall fell as a result. The Colosseum was basically used as a mine to get materials until 1749 when Pope Benedict XIV decided to preserve it. It would have been such a spectacle to see back in 87 AD in its glory days.

Much of the other sites we saw that day had the same story as the Colosseum. They were huge, intricate buildings that were made with opulence and then destroyed for material use. Those buildings that did remain intact were only so because the Church deemed them important and kept them up to date. Thankfully now, all of those ruins are preserved.

We walked up the Palatine Hill and learned about a massive palace that was once there. We walked through it’s gardens and grounds and again, were astonished by the sheer size of it.

There were also some amazing vista points looking over the Forum from the Hill.

We then went down into the Forum and walked the ancient roads of Rome. It was interesting how Rome was built on different levels as people would just build on top of older buildings. Because of the various levels, city planning for Rome is difficult because builder’s never know what they will find once they break ground.

We were pretty exhausted after our tour, but Ryan was still willing to walk over to the Trastevere area where our Biking guide from the day prior said the best restaurants were. We walked for about 20 minutes before happening upon a row of really cute places with great menus. We looked at all of their menus and saw some of the food people were eating, and opted to eat at Ditta Trinchetti. What a great idea that was! The kitchen was right behind us and we could see the chefs making our food. We had some delicious olive bread to start, and then I had the most amazing carbonara of my life. Ryan had a lasagna that was mouth-watering as well and I would have eaten there the rest of the trip if I could.

Right before we tabbed out, the power went out for the entire restaurant! It took them a few minutes to get back up and running, but then the credit card machines didn’t want to connect! Our waitress gave us some delicious lemon cookies to munch on while we waited and, after about 7 attempts to process our card, we finally paid for our meal. We had about a 30 minute walk back to the hotel, so we grabbed some gelato for the way back, and admired the Castel Sant’Angelo and other sites we came across along our moon lit stroll back to the hotel.

Rome, Day 1

Rome, Day 1

Today was “explore Rome via bike” day! After such an amazing breakfast spread in Split, the breakfast was pretty underwhelming the Spagna Royal Suites, though it was good to eat lightly after such a big meal in the night prior. We had some coffee to pick us up and were off to the bus stop to ride our way over to the Coliseum. Taxis are very expensive in Rome and the public transit in is amazing so we decided to give the bus a go. Our hotel actually gave us a phone with free calling, wi-fi, and location services to help us get around without using our data and that basically saved our lives. We were easily able to find our way to the bus, the right station, and then over to the TopBike Rental & Tours shop.

Check-in for the bike tour was quick and they had a wide variety of bikes. We had electric assist motors on ours just in case the 4-hour trek got difficult, but I ended up turning that off for the majority of the ride (maybe all of those cycle classes were paying off?). Our guide, Muana, was from the Netherlands, and we had a New Zealander, two Australians, and an American guy in TopBike training also accompanying us.

Muana guided us out of the shop and to the Coliseum first for a quick recap of its history. We had a detailed tour of the Coliseum scheduled for the next day, so her quick overview was perfect and a nice rest before biking over to the “Wedding Cake” building, aka the Altare della Patria, nicknamed after its opulence and resemblance to a massive, tiered cake.

We then rode over to one of the most famous fountains in the world, the Trevi Fountain, for another pit stop. The fountain is massive and the sculptures are breathtaking. So much talent and effort went into its creation.

We then biked down to the Pantheon and got to go inside. If you have never been, it has a huge dome with an open center. I can’t even begin to describe how large it is and how astonishing the architecture to stabilize such a dome is.

We then rode across the Tiber river to Piazza Navona, which used to be a horse racing stadium. It is now a massive square surrounded with shops and restaurants and has another gorgeous fountain of Four Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi).

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After some gelato in the square, we ride around the Roman Forum and to the Coliseum. Overall, we had 4 hours of scenic views, interesting factoids, and perfect biking weather. If you are heading to Rome for the first time, TopBike is a great way to see the city and get the lay of the land before doing other sections in-depth.

Our tour was over around 1 PM and we were famished! The area around the Coliseum has pretty expensive restaurants, so we took Muana’s suggestions and walked deeper into the city. Ryan was in the mood for pizza and we were starving, so we stopped at the first place with pizza we came across – Urban 47. It was cute outside and ended up being quite large and cool inside with a very modern kitchen and appetizer room. I had some delicious ravioli with shrimp scampi and Ryan had another perfectly delicious pizza.

After lunch, we wandered through the streets back to the hotel, took a quick nap, and reemerged to find a place for Ryan to do laundry. After 1.5 weeks in a suit case, it was time for some freshening up! The nearest laundry mat was right by the Spanish Steps in the most expensive shopping area of Rome with stores like Gucci, Channel, Louis Vuitton, and tons of other glorious designers that make closet sing and my wallet weep.

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We strolled down the shopping mecca until finally coming to the laundry place where a really nice Canadian couple taught us how to use the machines. Ryan decided to risk his laundry so we could take a walk to the North entrance of Rome. We walked to and around the square, and up to a look out point with an amazing view and some live music courtesy to the street musicians. The path at the top lead back to the top of the Spanish Steps, so we walked to that and back down – boy was it packed! When doing tours, I always recommend going to sites early in the morning because the crowds just keep growing as the day goes on.

Thankfully, Ryan’s laundry was still there 30 minutes later and we swapped it over to the drier, took another walk around the town, visited some shops, and returned to great smelling, clean clothes! We dropped those off at the hotel and set out to find a spot for dinner.

After walking 10 miles already today, Ryan was not wanting to go on a journey to find the perfect restaurant, so we walked up to the first one we saw. The restaurant’s “hype-man” out front was in top-convincing-mode. He walked us through the menu, showed us where they were making the fresh pasta, and offered us free champagne, so we were fully enticed into dining there.

We were the only patrons so far, so the host sat us right in the window so other passers-by could see the restaurant had people in it – talk about strategy! Within a span of 5 minutes, the entire restaurant was full. Ryan ordered fettuccine alfredo and I got a mushroom sausage dish with thick pasta noodles.

The dishes were as they looked… OK. They did not have a ton of flavor but they weren’t bad. I probably should have stuck with my traditional favorites and not branched out to try something new but. .. when in Rome right?

We got our fill pretty quickly, especially after I accidentally poured out ½ of the bottle of balsamic vinegar on my bread plate and tried to cover it up by eating a ton of balsamic soaked bread.

After dinner, it was a quick walk back to the hotel and early night for our big walking day tomorrow.

Continue reading this adventure…

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.

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.

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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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