Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Beautiful Dubrovnik

So another half a year has gone by without a blog entry.  I really have to force myself to sit down and write something worth reading.  It isn't easy at times, but I left off my last entry with a promise to say something about my visit to Dubrovnik, so here goes...

I was delighted to have the opportunity to join friends for a four-night stay in this beautiful city on the Adriatic, close to the southernmost tip of Croatia.  It was August 2013, and the weather was HOT and sunny.  I suppose there are really two Dubrovniks; the proper city that I saw nothing of, and the UNESCO World Heritage branded Old Town that is surrounded by walls that date back well over five hundred years. 

The word on Dubrovnik was that it was crowded, the locals didn't like the tourists, and I would surely depart the place in misery.  Well, you can expect any seaside spot in Europe to be crowded in August, and as for the people of Dubrovnik I was happy to arrive to a very welcoming atmosphere.  Everywhere I went, from pubs to restaurants to my hotel, the people were great.  I stayed at the Villa Sigurata on Cubranoviceva, and if I ever visit Dubrovnik again, I would absolutely return here.

My advice to any first-time visitor to the city is to visit the Dubrovnik cable car, located just outside the walled portion of the Old Town.  It takes the visitor up to a mountain range where one is greeted with a superb view of the historic center, the coastline, and the neighbouring Lokrum Island (more on that later).  Try to do it before mid-morning to beat the lineups.  Here's my ride to the top!
The Dubrovnik Cable Car, going up!

And, with a slightly different view, the ride back to the city!
The Dubrovnik Cable Car, going down!

The main street within the walled Old Town (happily, all pretty much pedestrian and car-free) is the Stradun.  Two of the main gates to town are at either end, and a host of narrow alleyway-like streets head off in either direction.  They'll lead you to restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops, and at least two highly desirable ice cream stands!

Rare view of Mooncattie at Buza II
There are two can't-miss cafes in town - Buza I and Buza II.  The word "Buza" means "hole", and indeed in both cases you enter a hole through the wall on the seaside to access each spot.  The reward is a fantastic view of the Adriatic and piped in music to go with your bottle of Croatian beer.  Don't forget the sunglasses, and if you feel like a swim, feel free to follow the locals and dive in.

I saved my swimming experience for the visit to Lokrum Island, just a short ferry ride from the harbour.  There are several spots (including a clothing-optional beach) to choose from for your dip in the sea, and you are pretty much guaranteed a soundtrack of cicadas for your walk in the woods.  The greenery and shade is a complete change from the stones and steps of the Old Town.

All in all, it was an amazing visit.  I hope to go back someday.  Dubrovnik is beautiful!

NEXT:  Stunning Stockholm!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Fish and Chips and Fish and Chips

So another year has passed! No entries, no exciting stories - what a change from normal! So after years of promises, I'll at least post some pleasant memories about my favourite experiences with one of my favourite meals - good ol' Fish and Chips. This tale goes back to 2011, and a lovely spring visit to England. The weather was better than usual, warm and sunny and perfect for walks and simply relaxing outdoors. I'm fortunate to have friends and family in England, so I was able to use a railpass and enjoy some pleasant jaunts here and there while catching up with visits. The best fish and chips I've ever had? Well, right here in Broughton, just outside Milton Keynes. They were winners in an annual chippy competition a few years back, and the food was just brilliant.
Yay, I got to pose for a pic with the staff! But the star of the show was definitely the order I got to takeaway. As great as they were, however, I found myself a few days later facing an order of chips that were simply the best I had ever tasted. A long way from anywhere, the Black Eagle Pub on Factory Road in Birmingham offered a specialty to patrons dropping in for a pint of Timothy Taylor Landlord or Bathams Bitter: a superb Hot Pork Sandwich. But the Chips....Yikes! Every bite an explosion of potatoey perfection!
So that brings us to the Fish.  The single best, tastiest fish I've ever encountered!  It came from the Black Country Museum near Birmingham, a brilliant recreation of an old-style chip shop.  There it is below!  I hope this link to YouTube brings up a proper video clip! 

NEXT:  The Delights of Dubrovnik!