Let’s head back to Croatia, thanks to our friend B and her family! After they visited Cavtat they headed on to Dubrovnik!
Part II: Settling into Dubrovnik
The drive from Cavtat to Dubrovnik is simply gorgeous. The two-lane highway hugs the mountains right along the edge of the Adriatic Sea and winds north to Dubrovnik. As you get closer the walled Stari Grad (a.k.a. ‘Old City’) peeks out at you from between the twists and turns. It’s very reminiscent of the Pacific Coast Highway and the drive from Big Sur, CA to San Francisco. You catch glimpses of the striking turquoise water and the rusty orange terra cotta roofs and you sense how special this place is.
The city is smaller than you think but can be tricky to maneuver through, especially if you are unaccustomed to city driving. We rented a car for our stay and we have lived in cities with crazy traffic and both know how to drive a manual transmission so we felt okay… after a day or two. Seriously though, if you are uncomfortable in any way with narrow windy streets, fast cars, or aggressive drivers at every turn then driving may not be the thing for you. There are plenty of taxis everywhere you go and many people opt for a driver for the duration of their stay. We stayed in a condo at the top of a crazy steep and narrow two-way street (think Lombard Street but it’s a two-way street and chock full of blind spots). Oh, and we had off street parking but it was off of a very narrow street and into an even smaller and narrower garage.
So that brings me to the accommodations for our stay. They were perfect in every way! We found our villas through internet research and used www.croatianvillaholidays.com. A husband and wife team run Croatian Villa Holidays and they were professional, helpful and answered any and all of our questions. And they exist!!! Which unfortunately is not always the case. Do your due diligence and make sure you are working with a reputable company. Another great resource on accommodations in Croatia, as well all things Croatian, is a website called www.croatiatraveller.com. A woman named Jeanne Oliver writes it. She has been traveling to Croatia since the war ended 18 years ago and has a wealth of information on her blog/website. Great resource!
Our place in Dubrovnik was a two-bedroom, 1 ½ bath two-story condo with two patios and a private pool. It was located in the hills above the city in a residential neighborhood and only a short drive to the ‘Stari Grad’. And the views, because it was tucked into a hill, were gorgeous. We had views of the city and port to the North and West and could see some of Croatia’s many islands in the distance.
After settling in we drove about a half mile from the Old City, parked and walked through a park and hidden city streets to the Old City Gate. The roads and walkways are not the easiest to maneuver through with a stroller so after learning this lesson the hard way, we opted for the Ergo carrier for our 18 month old for the remainder of our trip. Once inside the Stari Grad, the smooth polished city streets are stroller friendly. But, if you go off the beaten path the stroller can become a hassle.
Parts of the city wall go back as far as the 8th century, however most of it was built and completed in the 15th and 16th centuries. Now, these old city walls are teeming with tourists, residents, stores, boutiques and cafes. Even though the city is a huge stop on the Cruise Ship circuit we still found it easy enough to get around. But we were there mid-May when it’s not quite as busy. The high season runs June through September.
Some of the highlights are walking the wall around the Old City, the Church of St. Blaise, the Rector’s Palace, Fort Lovrijenac, Dubrovnik’s Cathedral and walking the Stradun, which is the main thoroughfare that extends just inside the city wall at the Old City Gate to the Clock Tower at the far end. Many also recommend visiting the Franciscan and Dominican Monasteries, something we just didn’t have the time to do.
We also found the people of Dubrovnik to be extremely friendly and accommodating and English speaking. When dining out, all the menus were in English and most of the restaurants we encountered had high chairs (called ‘baby seats’ in and around Croatia). The sight of our children didn’t make anyone recoil in disgust, which is a far cry from some of my experiences here in the states! The food was great and perfect for kids. They are heavily influenced by the Mediterranean and offered wonderful pizzas and pastas. We also had some amazing seafood dishes of fish, shrimp and mussels. Even my 5 year old started to become a mussels connoisseur and he won’t even eat a tomato!
We didn’t have the best weather in the world for our stay; it was the rainiest May anyone could remember. They kept calling it ‘English weather’, ha! So we had to find some indoor fun as well. We did visit the Maritime Museum and the Aquarium, both located inside the Old City. We also visited the Rector’s Palace and the Church of St. Blaise. We spent plenty of time in our raincoats too and just made due. If you have children you know you can’t stay stuck inside all day! One such rainy day we rode the Dubrovnik Cable Car to the top of Srd Hill. Spectacular views of the whole city and the nearby island of Lokrum make this a must do. It is also home to a memorial to those who lost their lives in the siege of the city in 1991. See www.dubrovnikcablecar.com for more details.
Dubrovnik was beautiful, friendly and exceeded all of our expectations. We will definitely go back because we just didn’t get to do and see everything we wanted to. The weather kept us from sailing and from taking an old fishing boat around to some of the nearby islands. They were cancelled due to inclement weather. And with one napping child we just couldn’t take in everything the city had to offer. But that is fine by us, it gives us another chance to plan and start a new list for when we get to return to this enchanting city on the Adriatic.
Next stop, the Island of Brac…