I’m sorry to be so tardy in getting back to you. Believe it or not, this is the first opportunity I’ve had since returning home to actually sit down and compose a letter of thanks. Since we came home we have adopted a 7 year old cat who has given us a run for our money (doing fine now). We also spent four days in Vermont with friends enjoying the fall foliage.
But I have had you on my mind a lot and I just want to tell you how much we loved Trieste, Croatia and Montenegro. What a beautiful part of the world! Our itinerary couldn’t have been better. Where to begin?! All of the hotels were wonderful, each in their own way. No cookie-cutter lodging at all.
The Hotel Duchi in Trieste was a venerable old place in a perfect location. Our window looked out over the piazza and we loved watching all the goings on down below in what was obviously the center of the old city. We loved Harry’s Bar where we ate our breakfast and had dinner on our first night in town. Our room was small, typical of European city hotels, but we managed. They could upgrade the electrical outlets and add a few more; my converter didn’t work there and there were very few places to plug things in anyway.
But that was a minor inconvenience which was resolved easily when we arrived at our second hotel, the Monte Mulini in Rovinj, a splendid place with every 21st century amenity. Our devices were quickly charged and back up and running. Our room was beautiful, overlooking the pool and the bay and the sea beyond. The staff was extremely helpful and pleasant. When our sea plane ride was cancelled and we needed to quickly shift gears and depart the hotel at 4:30 the next morning, they were most accommodating, even packing us a picnic “breakfast” to take with us on our ride to the airport. And they were so nice to ship the clothes we left behind in our room while packing in the early morning, half asleep.
The Hotel Vestibul in Split – what can we say about that?! Unique in all the world! Ancient stone walls coupled with contemporary furnishings! Such fun to sleep in a bona fide castle, even if for only one night.
The next day it was on to the island of Korcula and the Hotel Korcula de la Ville. It was such fun to pull up to the dock and walk across the street to our charming old hotel. We had a lovely room with a balcony overlooking the waterfront. We were told it was only one of three such rooms in the place. We learned that Jackie Kennedy Onasis had stayed there, one of many luminaries to have done so. We liked to think that perhaps she enjoyed the same room we did. We spent a lot of time sitting out on the wonderful veranda, reading and sipping afternoon tea, watching the people going by. We did find our bathroom there to be somewhat inadequate (to say the least). We’ve been in bigger facilities on a boat. It was very difficult to manage the narrow little shower in the tiny bathroom. Wall space was wasted on a towel heater, while there was nowhere to even put a toothbrush. But we managed and it was not a big deal. We realized that there weren’t a lot of other hotel options there and we wouldn’t have missed Korcula, or the hotel, for the world!
Hotel Villa Dubrovnik was over-the-top amazing! We had a beautiful room with a balcony overlooking the sea, the island of Lohrum, and a peak at the old city to our right. Fabulous! And of course up-to-the minute in all the amenities. We didn’t know what to expect when we drove up to the entrance and all we saw was a little building housing an elevator. But we were whisked on down to the lobby where we were greeted by the delightful staff, who did everything to make our stay memorable. Breakfasts on the terrace were incredible!
And finally, Zagreb. We found the city to be so interesting after having spent our entire stay previously on the Adriatic coast. An easy, short flight away and we were in Eastern Europe – it could have been Vienna or Budapest. And the Esplanade was the perfect hotel in which to reside while visiting such an old world city. After the super contemporary feel in Dubrovnik, it was a real change of pace to stay in an opulent old world hotel. Our room was lovely and spacious and elegantly decorated. We had no view except for an interior courtyard space, but that didn’t really matter. And one of our best meals of the trip was our lunch at Le Bistro!
Speaking of restaurants and meals, you sure know how to pick ‘em! We had some of the finest cuisine and amazing culinary experiences of our lifetime while on this trip. Invariably, when we would show up somewhere we would be taken to the best seat in the house. You must have lots of clout in Croatia! And that says a lot about you and your company. We enjoyed too many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners to mention each one individually, but a few stand out as particularly memorable. My dinner in Trieste at Antica Ghiacceretta, a simple sea bass smothered in mushrooms, was melt in the mouth delicious. That fish was so fresh he must have been swimming in the sea hours before.
Restaurant Monte in Rovinj was totally amazing. It was a rainy night when we went there, one of the few less than perfect weather experiences we had on our whole trip. We had trouble finding it on those little narrow streets, but when we walked through the door it was the beginning of a sensory delight. The decor was amazing. And the food! The presentation, the combinations of textures and tastes – WOW! The chef must be a genius! We had the five course tasting menu with wine pairings and one course was more beautiful and delicious than the last. But the coup de grace was the little piece of dark chocolate sprinkled with fresh lavender at the conclusion of the meal! That did it for me. I can still remember and salivate over that little morsel! We talked about our experience all the way back to the hotel in the pouring rain as we walked along under our umbrellas.
The next night at Puntulina was also beautiful. We were escorted to a charming corner table on the porch hanging over the harbor as the full moon rose and the lights of the old town came on and sparkled in the water.
We had many beautiful lunches and dinners in Korcula, most in those cute little restaurants perched high above the sea. We can’t remember when we’ve had so much delicious fresh seafood, fresh vegetables, wonderful local cheeses, olives, truffles, and wine.
Dining in Dubrovnik was also very special. We loved our evening at Dubravka Restaurant outside the city walls, watching the sun set and the lights come on to illuminate the old walls, with the swifts flying about eating all the mosquitos and the boats coming in for the night. The next night at Restaurant 360 Degrees was another incredible experience watching, all the lights come on in the old harbor. What a romantic spot! And of course, each night we were escorted to the best seat in the house!
And then there was our magical lunch at Stari Mlini in Montenegro. What a place! I must have shot over 100 photos there alone. A true feast for the senses with the water cascading down from the mountains behind us into the sea in front of us, while we were nestled into a little grove under the trees to enjoy our lunch.
The only dining experience we really didn’t enjoy was our final night in Zagreb. Vinodol was a bit of a disappointment – large and noisy and not terribly attractive, and the food, being more Eastern European than Mediterranean, was heavy and not very tasty. But with all the wonderful culinary experiences we did enjoy along the way, we could hardly complain about one less than stella experience. We went back to the hotel bar and had a night cap and went to bed very happy. It was hard to get up the next morning and pack to leave Croatia.
Our drivers and guides were all wonderful. Everyone was a delight to be with. We had many interesting conversations with them about their culture and ours. All spoke perfect English – made us feel embarrassed that we only speak one language. The guides were all fonts of knowledge and we learned so much about Croatian history and culture. They are all keepers in our estimation! Everyone behind the scenes did their part seamlessly as well. Our one minor glitch, when the driver failed to show up to fetch us at the Zadar Airport to take us to Split, was handled very professionally by his employer. Because we were two hours away and it would have taken him a long time to get anyone to replace the errant driver, he wisely advised us to take a taxi whose driver would be met and paid by one of his people when we arrived at the Palace. Our taxi driver spoke virtually no English, but he was able to communicate with the driving company and we got the job done. Our two hour highway ride in the pouring rain in the tiny taxi was a bit unnerving, but all’s well that ends well. Too bad we couldn’t have had our sea plane ride, but those things can’t be helped.
Our skippers on our private boat trip to Korcula were great too. We left Split in brilliant sunshine and as we motored along, to our left we could see blue skies and sun dappled islands, but to our right were ominous black clouds approaching. The skippers were following the storm on radar and keeping us apprised of it’s progress. They told us we would probably have time for a stop in Hvar if we wanted to do that, but we deferred to their better judgement to press on for Korcula to keep ahead of the storm. We arrived at our destination just in time! They were delightful…and very professional.
The itinerary you had planned for us was marvelous. We know there is SO much more of Croatia to see and experience and we may very well want to return someday to visit again. But for a first trip, it was perfect. You had us busy with drivers and guides some of the time and we learned a lot from them. But you also, wisely, allowed us a lot of free time during which we carved out some interesting experiences of our own. In Trieste, we visited the Revoltella Museum where we saw some 19th & early 20th century Italian art that we had never seen before. In Istria, we loved being turned loose in the hill town of Motovun where we hiked beyond the tourist-oriented shops and restaurants and explored the back lanes where “real” people still live. Lunch on the terrace of an outdoor cafe is where we had or first experience of truffles. Yum! On our day of leisure in Rovinj we took a walk from our hotel all around the nature trail along the water with lovely views back to the city on a hill. It was a warm sunny Saturday and couples and families were out swimming and sunbathing on the rocks. Memorable!
One of the disappointing aspects of traveling anywhere in the world today, especially near water, is the prevalence of huge cruise ships and the thousands of people they disgorge into tiny little places of historic interest and beauty. We encountered the problem last year in Venice and the Cinque Terre, and we encountered it again in Croatia. When we arrived in Split for our brief stay there, the tourists were swarming through the narrow streets in droves. After short while, we escaped and walked along the waterfront, then hiked up the Marjan Hill. We enjoyed the beautiful vistas and had lunch overlooking the city at a cute little restaurant at the summit. By the time we returned to the hotel to meet our guide and venture out into the palace streets again, the crowds had thinned somewhat and the experience was much more pleasant.
After spending time with our guide in Korcula, we took a nice long walk along the coast, again escaping the crowds who managed to descend upon even that island. Another day we took a bus ride out of town to the small town of Lumbarda. We loved that. We walked around the little harbor and up the hill where we encountered laborers harvesting grapes in one of the vineyards. We strolled through the beautiful olive groves and enjoyed magnificent vistas of the sea below.
If we thought Split was overrun with tourists, Dubrovnik was even worse, if possible. How sad that these places of fragile beauty and historical importance are being destroyed by the magnitude of tourism that they are not only allowing, but actively encouraging. But there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s a 21st century reality. So we made the most of it, with our guide and while on our own. On Sunday, we did enjoy a quiet lunch at the Banje Beach Club, watching all the sunbathers and swimmers having fun. In the afternoon, we took the boat ride out to Lokrum Island and loved walking the trails out there – a wonderful place to escape the crowds and take in the beautiful views with the magnificent walled city in the distance.
After our tour in Zagreb, we took a nice walk through the botanical gardens near our hotel. And then it was time to depart. All in all, a fabulous experience from beginning to end.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention Iva, without whom our wonderful trip would not have been possible. She was the glue who held everything together. And we know how much work she did behind the scenes to make everything run smoothly and to fix things quickly when they didn’t go as planned. She was always available when we needed to contact her for any reason. And she always had answers to any question, no matter how insignificant, and she always had solutions when big things happened, like the change in flight plans midway through our journey. Thanks for your invaluable support, Iva.
With that we must close this long missive. Again, we apologize for taking so long to get back to you both, but it was not because we weren’t thinking of you and appreciating all that you did. We have already recommended your services to people who have inquired about our Croatia trip.
Kathy and Bill
P.S. Thanks also to Leftheris for putting us in touch with you last spring.
Kathy and Bill Dixon – Duxbury, MA
October 20, 2016