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tcreath's trip report to spectacular Croatia and Slovenia (plus Bosnia and Montenegro)

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Nov 15th, 2006, 05:55 AM
  #1
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tcreath's trip report to spectacular Croatia and Slovenia (plus Bosnia and Montenegro)

Well, we just got back from our trip a few days ago and are recovering from jet lag and all of the exciting things, like laundry, that we always look forward to upon our return.

I usually start out my trip reports with a little background, so here goes. My husband and I are in our mid-late 20's and are fortunate enough to travel to Europe about twice a year. We enjoy beautiful scenery, ancient history, meandering through small towns, wine and just experiencing new cultures. We are not really foodies, as we are both pretty picky eaters, but we do enjoy a good meal.

I bought the tickets to Croatia back in February as I found an excellent deal on British Airways that was about half the price of what the tickets normally go for. Still, the price was higher than we usually pay but more than worth it. Our original tickets had us flying into London Heathrow and out of Gatwick, with about 4 hours between the flights, then 7 nights in Croatia followed by a night in London and then a flight back to Chicago. However, the flights were changed and we ended up spending an extra day/night in London at the beginning of the trip, which was nice because we've been to London before but its been about 5 years and we were looking forward to experiencing it again, even if just for a day.

To add another fun element to the trip, about two weeks before our trip we moved across country, from St. Louis to Charlotte, as my husband accepted a job offer. We were originally going to move after our trip, but the company offered to pay for our tickets from Charlotte to Chicago (even though we were from St. Louis we always drove the 4 hours to Chicago because flights were so much cheaper) if he could start sooner. Since that was so generous of them, we decided to take them up on their offer. So the month or so before the trip, which is usually filled with excited anticipation for us, was instead filled with details of our move, preparing and selling our house, dealing with movers and then all of the emotions that come with moving away from friends and family. So I felt that I wasn't as prepared as I usually am the trip still went very smoothly because I tend to suffer from vacation overpreparedness, a condition many fodorites seem to share with me.

Below is our itinerary. Before anyone comments, I know that this was rushed. We tend to travel slower than this, but keep in mind that we were traveling to Croatia in November. Many hotels, restaurants and sights were closed. Because of this we didn't feel the need to travel as slowly, and this ended up working out pretty well. We didn't visit any islands because I simply couldn't find hotels that were open in places like Hvar so I finally gave up. But as much as Croatia was shut down, we rather enjoyed having towns mostly to ourselves, and we don't like crowds so this was another bonus. Okay, so here was our itinerary:

November 4 - Arrive in London in early am; one night Novmber 5 - Flight to Dubrovnik in am; 3 nights
November 8 - Pick up car and drive to Trogir; 1 night
November 9-11 - Drive to Novo Mesto, Slovenia; 2 nights
November 11 - Fly from Zagreb to Dubrovnik; 1 night
November 12 - Afternoon flight to London; 1 night
November 13 - Home

Stay tuned....

Tracy
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Nov 15th, 2006, 06:12 AM
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Day 1 - London

Our flights went without a hitch and we arrived in London promptly at 7:30 a.m. I took am Ambien, like I normally do, and slept until right before breakfast was served. We got through the lines pretty quickly and hopped on the tube and got off in the Chelsea area, where I booked the Jurys Chelsea for the night. The hotel wasn't ready for us, so we dropped our bags and hit the town.

As I mentioned above, we've been to London before so we planned on taking the day easy. We had no real plans. We hopped on the tube and headed over to the Tower Bridge. After ooing and aahing again (this was one of our favorite London sights) we spent teh day walking along the Thames river walk. We stopped at ate at the Bistro Rouge, across from St. Paul's, where I had a very good croque monsieur (ham and gouda sandwich) and hubby had some kind of chicken sandwhich. We split a place of pomme frits and each had a Newcastle and then were on our way.

After exploring St. Paul's, which we missed on our last trip and was beautiful, we headed towards Parliament and Big Bed, where we delightfully spotted a crepe stand (which they call a pancake stand but was crepes) right at the foot of the bridge. DH and I discovered a love for nutella crepes on last years trip to Paris and had to stop. Yum! Afterwards it was on to Westminster Abbey.

Now, on our last visit was couldn't visit Westminster Abbey because the Queen Mum had just passed away and they were making funeral preparations. I was very excited to visit, as this was the only thing really planned on our London trip. So we get there at 1:45, only to find out that it closes at....1:45. So we missed it yet again. Dissapointment insued, so husband decided it was time for a Harrods stop to make me feel better.

To be honest I'm not much of a vacation shopped. Of course I purchase souvenirs (!), but I hate to "waste" a vacation sitting in shops so we usually don't shop too much. However, I knew from research that Laduree, the famous Paris cafe, had a shop in Harrods and I knew from that point on that we were going to stop and pick up some Macaroons. Harrods was beyond crowded so we hightailed it to Laduree, each picked out an assortment of macaroons, and then headed back to our hotel for a much needed nap. And for those who are interested, my favorite macaroon flavor is rose while hubby prefered vanilla.

Our hotel room was very nice; quite large and with big picture windows. However, the location was terrible. We were a good 15 minute walk from the nearest tube station and it was quite chilly in London that day. So while the hotel was a great price (60 pounds), I wouldn't stay there again because of its location.

We set our alarm for an hour and quickly fell asleep. We both woke up utterly exhausted and decided to just each in the hotel restaurant and then go back to bed. So we layed in bed a little longer and then headed down to the restaurant. Surprisingly the food was pretty good. I had chicken tikka in a delightful curry sauce with jasmine rice and a piece of flat bread. Hubby had a burger that he claimed was also pretty good. We each had another Newcastle and then went upstairs, repacked everything, and fell into a deep sleep, excited that tomorrow we would finally be in Croatia!

Next up, beautiful Dubrovnik!
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Nov 15th, 2006, 06:14 AM
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Oh goody...welcome back, tcreath.

I hope you had a marvelous trip, and I look forward to reading your report.

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Nov 15th, 2006, 06:15 AM
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Sorry for the spelling errors!
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Nov 15th, 2006, 06:15 AM
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Tracy, I'm impressed that you are posting your report so soon. I hadn't even thought of Croatia until reading about it here but now I want to learn more. You are off to a great start and I'm really looking forward to the rest of your report.
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Nov 15th, 2006, 06:35 AM
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Great start, can't wait to read the whole report. Now pardon my ignorance, but what is a Newcastle?
Thanks.
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Nov 15th, 2006, 06:36 AM
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moolyn, this is what happens when you come back from vacation and are unemployed and looking for a job...you get to start your trip reports because you have nothing better to do! And I already have all of my pictures online! For anyone interested, the website it
www.kodakgallery.com/tracybates. They are separated by country, but all at the top.

Tracy
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Nov 15th, 2006, 06:43 AM
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Very nice Tracy !
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Nov 15th, 2006, 10:52 AM
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I just glanced at your pictures, and they are beautiful! Can't wait to read the rest of your report...
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Nov 15th, 2006, 11:25 AM
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Tracy:

Thank you for the beginning of your report and the great pix...reminded me once again why I love Croatia!
Stu T.
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Nov 15th, 2006, 11:45 AM
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Thank you everyone! I will be adding to the trip report shortly, I hope!

teacher33, I hope I have the name right, but Newcastle is an English beer. I'm not too much of a beer drinker, but I happen to really like these!

tower, its unfortunate but we were unable to visit Plitvice on this trip. The only day it was overcast and rainy was the day that we were to travel from Trogir to Plitvice. We brought our hiking shoes and everything, but it was cold and damp and rainy and we decided that we would just save it for another time. I know that it comes highly recommended by you, and we were both quite disappointed that we couldn't' visit but I guess this just gives us yet another excuse to visit Croatia!

Tracy
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Nov 15th, 2006, 12:16 PM
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Day 2 - Dubrovnik

We wake up filled with excitement because after months of planning we were finally on our way to Croatia! We took the Gatwick Express to Gatwick, which went very smoothly. However, Gatwick was a mess. Luckily we planned enough time, because we needed it. The security lines were long, as expected, and the lines to check in were long as well. We had to go to the lines instead of using self check-in because we were issued paper tickets instead of e-tickets. After getting through security it was another long walk to the south terminal. We had about an hour before our plane was to leave, so we grabbed a light breakfast of pastries (chocolate croissants) and hot chocolate and rested until we boarded. On our flight to Dubrovnik, also a BA flight, we were given bacon and egg sandwiches and fruit cups, which were quite good.

My husband fell asleep and I sat reading my guidebook (Lonely Planet's Dubrovnik) and looking out the window, gazing at the Italian Alps and then at the coastline. As we started our approach to Dubrovnik I started getting chills of excitement and became quite giddy. The sun was out and the coastline was sparkling. By the time we landed I wanted to push everyone off the plane just to get out!

The terrain was quite fasinating. Dubrovnik's airport is tiny so we landed on the tarmac and walked into the airport. It was much more mountainy and rugged than I expected, and quite beautiful. We went through passport control and had our bags within about 10 minutes of landing. We arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport from Villa Adriatica, the hotel we were staying in while in Dubrovnik, and it was so nice to have someone waiting for us. He was a crazy driver, but I will never forget the first time I saw Dubrovnik appear way below us as we road the coastal road. Magical! Our taxi driver was great. We asked lots of questions and he gave lots of blunt answers. He was full of knowledge and had a sense of pride for his country that was immediately evident and appreciated. We learned about the war and about tension between the countries (Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia), and my husband got advice on driving in Croatia.

Another reason why I am glad we had a driver is because I don't think we would have found our hotel without him being there! Villa Adriatica is more of a bed and breakfast. Its located immediately outside of the Ploce gate, one of the two entries into the old town of Dubrovnik. The Villa was located behind a plain, nondescript brown door and there was no sign anywhere. One of the owners greeted us, along with her darling doggie, and took us into the hotel. The "hotel" is actually a small house with three rooms, a kitchen and a living room. The owners live in the house next door. We were allowed access to both main rooms along with our room. While our room was fine; quite large and with a comfy bed and antique furniture, it was the balcony that made this place truly special. The door opened up to a huge balcony that afforded fantastic views of Dubrovnik and the Adriatic and Lopud island. It was a huge balcony also shared by the room next to ours. However, for this trip we had it all to ourselves because we were the only guests during the three nights we were there. There are chairs out there and honestly I could have spent all day out there, but I was dying to explore Dubrovnik! For anyone interested, the website for Villa Adriatica is http://www.dubrovnik-online.com/villa_adriatica/. I highly recommend this hotel. It was about a 30 second walk to the walls. Next door is a bakery and a small grocer, and the taxi stand is right out front. The cost was about 69 euro per night.

By the time we got into Dubrovnik it was about 2:00 p.m. Our first goal was to walk the old walls to get ourselves oriented with the town. The walls are inexpensive and a fabulous way to spend a few hours. The views were incredible, and the old town is completely charming. We had the wall almost to ourselves, which was also great because we could take our time and stop to take pictures often, which we did! What a beautiful town. The old stone, red roofs and interesting ruins, not to mention the incredible views, made this a highlight of our trip.

We stopped in a cafe, Cafe Cele on the main street, for some delicious hot chocolate and then went back to our room to relax and unpack before dinner. Dinner that night was Baracuda, an Italian restaurant in the old town. I had a three-cheese lasagna that was just so-so. Hubby had a pizza margharita that was very good. It was definitely entree enjoy on my part as I wished I had ordered it as well! Then we just walked around the city until it was time to return to the hotel for bed. The city is just magical at night. All of the white stones on the street take on a shine as the lights from the lanterns glisten against them. Dubrovnik is definitely a romantic town!

Next, the Atlas mess that ended up working out for the best
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Nov 15th, 2006, 12:19 PM
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Sorry....Villa Adriatica was 60 euro per night, not 69 euros. My apologies!

Tracy
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Nov 15th, 2006, 01:52 PM
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tcreath,

So glad you had a great time, anxious to hear more!
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Nov 15th, 2006, 04:00 PM
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Tracy,

First, St. Louis' loss is now Charolotte's gain... We miss ya. Good luck finding a job. That usually ranks up there with root canals....

Second, the pics are great. You and/or Matt have a wonderful eye. Really helps someone like me get a feel for the area. We have friends in Bratislava and are tempted to take them up their offer to come for a visit, but that part of the world is on the B list due largely to our ignorance. Maybe it's time we move it up!!

Third, looking forward to the rest of the story!

Dave
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Nov 15th, 2006, 04:27 PM
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Thanks so much. I love your report.
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Nov 15th, 2006, 10:53 PM
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Tracy - Enjoying your report... TG2
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Nov 16th, 2006, 03:30 AM
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Superb report. I really need to visit this region.
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Nov 16th, 2006, 04:31 AM
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Day 2 - The Atlas screw-up and more Dubrovnik

DH and I knew that we wanted to take an Atlas tour to Montenegro while in Dubrovnik, so back in August we made the arrangments. Because of the time of year we were in Dubrovnik, there was only one Atlas tour to Montenegro and that was on this Monday. We basically rearranged our itinerary so that we would be in Dubrovnik on this day so we could do the tour (the original plan was to immediately head up the coast, leaving Dubrovnik for the end of the trip). I purchased the tickets and printed off my voucher and receipt.

We were to be picked up at Ploce Gate at 7:20. DH and I grabbed pastries from the bakery next door to Villa Adriatica and were sitting at Ploce Gate promptly at 7:05. We waited and waited and waited. Finally at 7:45 we knew that the bus wasn't coming. We walked to the Atlas office, outside of Pile Gate, to complain. When we got there the woman told me that there was some mistake because the tour was leaving on Wednesday. I told her that I booked online and had my voucher and it specifically said Monday, November 6. She took my voucher and realized that they made the mistake, not us. I told her that we wouldn't be there on Wednesday and that something needed to be done. While she was on the phone with her supervisor, another couple came in complaining of the same problem. We both realized that we wouldn't be going to Montenegro with Atlas that day so we got refunds (and many appologies) from Atlas and then went outside to vent our frustrations. Basically Atlas changed our dates because they need a minimum of 6 people for the tour and since they didn't have that for Monday they switched the dates, but without telling any of us.

Anyways, Shaun and Mike, our new Canadian friends now living in London, and DH and I decided to try to arrange a private tour to Montenegro. They were staying at the Imperial Hilton and discussed the situation with the front desk. We were able to get a driver and car for about 200 euros per day, which was approximately what we would have spent on the Atlast tour. This sounded like a great option so we booked it for the next day. We said our goodbyes, promising to meet them at the Hilton's lobby at 9:00 the next morning.

DH and I went about exploring Dubrovnik. Our first stop was the Franciscan Monastery and old pharmacy museum. The Monastery cloisters was very interesting, with beautiful faded frescoes and a delightful courtyard filled with palm trees and flooded with light. THe pharmacy itself is also interesting, and believed to be the oldest pharmacy open to the general public in Europe.

From here we went into several of the churches, including the Church of St. Savior, St. Blaise Church and St. Sebastian Church. We have a rule of going into churches that we see when we are walking around towns in Europe. They are usually delightful, filled with beautiful paintings and stained glass, and a great place to relax and unwind while taking in the beauty.

For lunch we stopped at Bistro Dubrava on the main street. Yes, these restaurants and cafes are touristy and the food is probably mediocre but sitting outside and watching Dubrovnik and the scene unfold as you eat is worth its weight in gold. I had a white Croatian wine, a cheese omelet made with local Pag cheese. DH had a Leffe Blonde beer and some kind of sandwich. We split a plate of pomme frittes. Overall the meal wasn't bad. I quite enjoyed my omelet and fries!

We spent a better part of the day just walking around the city. With its narrow streets and lots of stairs, it reminded me in many ways of the beautiful hilltowns that we saw in Umbria, although Dubrovnik is distinct in a style of its own. We headed for the back of the town near the walls looking for Buza bar because we knew we wanted to have drinks there that night. Wow...I can't even begin to explain the awesome location of this bar. The tables are perched on narrow pieces of rock jutting out from the walls and into the Adriatic. Just magnificant and quite a sight. As we walked into the little doorway (look for a sign that says "cold drinks" and go through the hole in the wall) I gasped at the views and clapped my hands with delight.

For those of you who read my Italy trip report (Rome and Umbria), I am a cat lover and a cat magnet. DH thinks I can spot a cat from a mile away! Well, Dubrovnik is filled with cats and I stopped to pet as many as I could. We found a few that decided they wanted to follow us for awhile, and so of course I had to stop and buy them some tuna from a nearby cafe!

Basically this was just a relaxing day to take in Dubrovnik. While there are definitely some things to see in town, the best part of Dubrovnik is simply being there. We headed outside the city walls, towards the small harbor near Ploce gate, and walked past the lace ladies (yes, I bought some!) to the narrow cement penninsula that juts out from being the old city walls. There are benches out there and today was a beautiful day. We spent about an hour just sitting and enjoying the views and the wind blowing through our hair. The water is so crystal-clear that you could see schools of fish swimming around.

We headed back to our hotel for a leisurely nap with the goal to make it to the Buza bar before sunset. We thought that the place would be hopping, but we were the only ones there. We bought a few Bacardi breezes from the bar and sat and enjoyed the scene. Shades of auburn and crimson flooded the sky, with the sun slowly dipping into the Adriatic, is truly a sight to behold.

Earlier in the day we "menu shopped" and found a Bosnian restaurant that we wanted to visit. St. Louis has quite a large Bosnian population and we always enjoyed eating at the restaurants when we lived there, so we decided to give this place a try. The restaurant is called Taj Mahal. I'm not sure why they named a Bosnian restaurant Taj Mahal, but regardless of the name the food was just superb. I had a cepavi mali, which is a kind of sandwhich made with delicious flat bread and stuffed with small sausage-type meet rolls. It came with a side of wonderful soft cheese that almost looked like butter and a pile of red onions. It was absolutely delicious. Matt had a wonderful plate of mixed meats. We each had a baked potato that also had hunk of the soft buttery cheese on it and a bottle of Lasko, one of the local beers. We capped the dinner off with a baklava that was superb and quite different to the "baklava" that I can get at home. All in all the meal was delicious and I wouldn't hesitate to go there again. We later recommended it to Shaun and Mike, our new friends, and they ate there and really liked their meal as well.

After a leisurely stroll through town and a couple of chocolate Nescafes at a small cafe on stradum, the main street, we went back to our hotel and quickly fell asleep.

Next: A delightful tour of Montenegro
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Nov 16th, 2006, 07:18 AM
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Tracy, I for one am glad that you are temporarily unemployed but still impressed with your speed in posting. I'm just getting to the end of reporting our June trip to the Dordogne.

You pictures are inspiring! Thanks for posting them too. I'm glad you were still able to tour Atlas in spite of the snafu.

How did you manage language wise?

Could a celiac like me find gluten free food easily in Croatia?


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