The Drive to Croatia – Family Holiday Diary
Checked out of hotel in Ljubljana and drove south.
Stopped at Predjama Castle in Slovenia – a fortress built into a rock. Parking was an adventure (car parks in Slovenia rather more casual than in Austria). We paid (I chose to not look at price because Husband had decided we were going in anyway – due to the whole male/castle/compulsory visit gene, which females don’t inherit.)
However, having moaned about the castle in Ljubljana, I have to admit, this one was really interesting. They gave us portable recorded guides, which were brilliant as you could skip ahead to the bits that were interesting (like the torture chamber, and the secret tunnels through the rocks which meant that when the castle was under siege, they could sneak out to top up their food). All the boring bits could be skipped. The castle was not a happy place, but they have turned it into an interesting museum, with several rooms furnished, and it is well worth visiting. If you happen to be in Slovenia.
We didn’t buy sandwiches at the castle (a mistake) and decided to stop for food during the journey. Big row (which only families can have) about whether to go to a MacDonald’s in Croatia, or stop for food sooner. Nearly stopped at a supermarket, but this was strongly vetoed by J who objected to eating food bought from a shop with broken windows. I just love my family sometimes. We ate at a McDonalds in Croatia.
The border crossing had queues, but we were waved through with our EU passports (not sure what will happen when Brexit has happened). As we drove away, we saw miles and miles of stationary cars waiting to cross the border OUT of Croatia. Decided we would leave very early next week.
Croatia reminds me of Turkey. Lots of dusty agriculture.
We’re staying at Lone Hotel in Rovinj. It’s a contemporary hotel, with lots of art that I don’t quite understand. Family seem happy, though somewhat perturbed by glass wall in bathrooms. Husband, who knew about these in advance, had brought rolls of brown paper and Blutac (we have a mix of family and friends in various rooms). Family strangely unimpressed by his forward planning (especially J, who had been persuaded to carry it through three countries).
Dinner was in hotel restaurant. Very trendy, and very lacking in actual food. My “steamed tuna and avocado” was seared (raw) tuna with shavings of avocado. Tasty lemon and ginger sauce, but not exactly filling. Boys have offered to find future eating places for rest of holiday.
Family went to explore hotel’s night club (am sure they were pleased Husband decided to go with them). I went to bed. There’s a thunder storm, so watched lightning across the sea for a while. Tomorrow we’ll explore Rovinj.
Croatia – Family Holiday Diary continued
Met 9am for breakfast (if you missed my last blog, we’re staying in Lone Hotel, Rovinj). A young girl waited at the entrance to take room numbers, and Husband had used Google Translate so he could say “Good morning, room 463” in Croatian. Croatian with a strong English accent. She looked very confused. I apologised for him, and ushered him to a table.
Breakfast was another buffet – a huge selection in a gigantic room. But some food seemed a little ‘old’ – perhaps because we were fairly late getting there. Lots of food to keep our vegetarians fed though (which has been quite a challenge this holiday). There was also a very low table, at child height, full of cakes and pastries. A small boy was happily stroking everything. Clearly a nice idea, planned by someone who is not a parent.
Walked into Rovinj (15 minutes along the coast). Lovely town – old buildings scattered on a hill, stretching out to sea. It felt like an Italian town, and Son-who-knows-stuff told me that it was originally built by the same people who built Venice, hence the similarity. I loved it. It was full of tourist shops and cafes, but all around were signs of real life – washing strung high above the street, craftsmen working, fishermen. It has more of a soul than Ljubljana had.
Took bread and cheese back to the hotel and ate in the lobby bar. They have shiny black tables, and provide white marker pens, so you can doodle while you sit. Young children had drawn pictures, some people had written rhymes. My family wrote mathematical formulas (how sad is that?)
Everyone did their own thing for the afternoon. I ventured down to beach, and sunbathing daughter agreed to swim with me. Very stony beach, hurt feet. There was a lifeguard’s chair, but the only person near it was in a wheelchair, so I didn’t swim out too far. All the guests have been provided with room key cards and a towel card – so you can collect swimming towels when you need them. Both cards look very similar, which is causing some people problems. D, M, H, and J played Castles of Burgundy (a board game, so worth avoiding). R told me it’s French and they had to Google-translate the instructions. But that might have been a lie.
Walked to MaliRaj restaurant in Rovinj. It was down a narrow cobbled street, and someone had put tiny candles in the wall crevasses – very romantic. The streets are cobbled, and very slippery (I assume worn smooth by thousands of feet, but it is possible a grumpy old women sneaks out every night and polishes them, hoping to make tourists fall over.) The streets are also steep and uneven, so leave your heels at home.
Mali Raj is a fish restaurant – real, fresh, head-attached, caught this morning, fish. Some of my family have only ever eaten filleted fish before, so I could be a mummy again and show them how to remove fish bones – rather nice to be a mummy again, it doesn’t happen very often these days, usually it is them explaining things to me. Fifteen minutes into the meal, M announced he’d managed his first mouthful and it was very tasty! Dessert was pancakes with ice cream and sour cherries. Delicious. I popped to use the loo and peeked into the kitchen. Grandma was sitting on a huge chair, and they were passing her things to dry up. I like this place. At the end of the meal, they gave us grappa shots. Pretty foul.
Walked back through crowded streets full of music, dancing in the square, street artists.
Hotel Lone has lots of activities you can book. Tomorrow people plan to cycle, or kayak, or go to the gym. I might just sleep and read and eat ice creams.
Croatian Holiday Diary Continued…
Family holiday in Lone Hotel, Rovinj, continues at a relaxed pace. Each morning Husband greets the girl at the desk with a new phrase he has learnt in Croatian. She has real fear in her eyes when she sees us approach, but he feels he is making progress and learning the local language – despite no one understanding him. Ever. The best word to learn is thank you – which sounds like “Farla”. Today the girl at the desk replied, and said something which sounds like “Ooga dan dan” We think it means: “Have a nice day.” Husband plans to practise on various shop assistants.
Last few nights we have eaten at Tipico Old Town, a cosy restaurant with an open kitchen, so we can watch them cook while we eat. They offer a couple of vegetarian options (and I recommend the stuffed courgettes!)
We hired bikes and cycled along the coast. There’s a gravel path, so it was hard going in places, but the views are fabulous. Lots of coves with local people swimming, and the cliff tops are a huge park, with trees and paths. There are climbers on the cliffs, boats on the sea, tiny islands, sunshine, pine trees…..lovely.
Drove to Restaurant Maslima for lunch. Sat under olive trees. Lots of mosquitoes in Croatia, so bring repellent. The pizzas were huge – I had a ‘mini’ one, which was normal sized, the others had ‘normal’ ones which were very large, and J chose a ‘jumbo’ one, which was the size of a table.
Menu also offered some nice looking drinks. Some were lavender flavoured – there are lots of lavender products here. I chose a lemon and ginger one.
The picture in the menu looked lovely, and it was described as being Dalmatian lemon juice with fresh ginger……
What actually arrived was a glass of tap water and a sachet of flavoured syrup. Disappointing…
Decided to walk to a bay to swim. We walked a long way (all the bays were quite crowded). Found a nice empty spot and settled onto the rocks, then noticed the sea was FULL of jellyfish. Tiny transparent globs of jelly. Didn’t swim, went back to hotel pool.
I later learned these jellyfish are also called “walnut sea jellies”. They are native to America, and often transported via ship ballast. They reproduce rapidly, and cause huge problems to ecosystems as they eat plankton, which upsets the food chain for bigger fish. Big problem for fishing based industries. However, they do not sting, so later we swam quite happily in water infested with them. It’s a little odd swimming with jelly, but not harmful.
Had a day in Pula. Huge Roman amphitheatre, which is very hot in the midday sun (just thought I’d mention that). There are some interesting chambers underground, where you can imagine the prisoners and animals being kept. There were also lots of pots. Not sure why lots of pots are interesting, but they seem to be a feature of Roman monuments.
Husband wears a hat we are all very rude about. Pula had a whole family, all dressed the same, all wearing same hats. Perhaps they get lost a lot and it makes it easy to identify them. We sent husband over to join them.
Pula also has Hercules Arch, which I was keen to see. Family led me to a variety of arches. The one I think actually IS Hercules Arch appears to be incorporated into a modern apartment complex.
Tried to have coffee and cocktails in a pretty square. Managed to have beers and nasty wine in a mosquito infested alley. Husband wished them “Ooga dan dan,” when we left. They looked confused.
Ate in Sareni Papar restaurant. This was great, if slow. Lovely stuffed peppers, served straight from the oven in a boiling hot baking dish. (Stuffed veg are, apparently, a feature of Croatian food.) Husband said “Ooga dan dan” to friendly waitress. She looked worried. Blokes drank 1L glasses of beer, sang all the way home (surprisingly tuneful) and then happily walked to the wrong hotel. A nice day.
Last Days in Croatia, and into Venice
We decided to hire a boat and sail around the little islands we can see from the coast and swim in places that aren’t full of other tourists. Family remembered our holiday in Malta, where they composed a song entitled “A Speedboat Driven by an Accountant”, so Husband decided to hire a boat with a skipper.
Had a brilliant day. The skipper (I never asked his name – isn’t that terrible) was a sports teacher during term time, and he kindly took us on a little tour. He told us that his grandfather has lived in the same small village his whole life, and has lived in six different countries : Austro-Hungary, Italy, Germany (under occupation), AngloAmerican, Yugoslavia and now Croatia. That is weird.
We stopped to swim a couple of times. All the water seems to be full of the ‘walnut sea jelly’ – a clear non-stinging jellyfish, but you get used to them after a while. The water is beautifully clear, and fish flash away as you swim. People who can dive (not me) dived from the side of the boat, and the skipper drove with enough speed for Husband’s hat to fly off (which was very funny. I never liked that hat.)
I felt inspired to write a short story when we got back (though not sure if this counts as ‘work’ – which I always give Husband a hard time about when we’re on holiday.)
We spent the afternoon lazing around, then walked into Rovinj for espressos and ice creams. We looked around the market, and I saw lots of wonderful things to buy that I would never be able to transport home. I bought some lavender cushions – one for me, one for Mum. Not actually sure how I’ll transport them either, as my case was full to bursting on the way here.
Dinner at Tipico, Old Town again.
The last day of a holiday is always a bit sad. Family hired kayaks.
Ate dinner at Tutto Bene (ViaE de Amicis 16). They don’t have vegetarian options on the menu, but will cook them if you ask. Lovely table outside, friendly waiter, nice food. Though I was too warm to properly enjoy it (I think my seat was next to the kitchen window.)
We packed. Early start tomorrow to try and avoid delays at the border.
Drive to Venice
We left Lone Hotel at 5am. The night manager looked nothing like Tom Hiddleston (shame) but he did give us all a packed lunch, as we would be missing breakfast. Isn’t that nice? I’ve never been offered that before when we’ve had to check-out early. It has been a really good hotel, with lots going on and good facilities.
The border crossing was fine, no queues at all (unlike the 4 hour ones we saw later in the day when arriving.)
Thank you for reading.
You can read the story I wrote after the boat trip here:
Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book: How to Have a Brain Tumour. Why not buy one today? (They’re all available from Amazon.)
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