A Travellerspoint blog

DUBROVNIK

You couldn't find a better place to rest!!

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Dubrovnik's proud and turbulent history goes back to the 6th century. The city is known as the pearl of the Adriatic. The city was bombed by the Serbian and Montnegorian armies in 1991-92 during the break up of the old Yugoslavia. The city has since been restored. Dubrovnik once rivalled Venice as a maritime and trading centre on the 14th/15th centuries. It was also badly damaged in the earthquake of 1649. The city has fortified walls that have repulsed many enemies and invasions. It is now UNESCO protected.

Having said goodbyes to the group at breakfast, with the hope that some of our paths may meet again, we caught a taxi (80 HK) to the Pile gate, the entrance of the old town. You are caught by surprise at the size of this ancient city and the number of people visiting. We made our way down the Palaca (the main street) laid with large marble stones, around the Cathedral and up the cobbled laneway to our home for 5 days, Apartment D12 of the Irundo apartments. It is always a good feeling when the door opens following the self check in instructions. It seems easy to find these apartments, but it is not in these ancient towns with very little or obscure signage.

We were more tired than we thought and for the first two days we did very little with only limited excursions and dinner out.

Over the successive days we have walked around all the nooks and crannies, visited museums, had drinks, coffee and dinner in the various squares and generally 'chilled out'.

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The cats of Dunrovnik - quite a feature here

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The Maritime museum was Phil's favourite and it was interesting and informative to know what an important place Dubrovnik had been for centuries in their strategic trading location and the quality and respect for their boat building skills edpevially in their Carrack design from other maritime cities.

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There is a photo opportunity at every corner from the hundreds of street cafes, the colourful market, churches, old building, lace makers, street drummers - this town caters amply to the thousands of tourists who visit especially off the large cruise ships.

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The Rector's Palace museum was grand. The former head of the city lived here with his family, prayed in his own chapel and ran the administrative side of the city.

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So we say goodbye to Dubrovnik before we start the next part of our holiday tomorrow.

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Posted by Biencourt 13:07 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

CYCLING CROATIA - Phil & Jill - 2019

Back on the mainland

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Our luggage all stowed on the tiny boat, we took the short 15 minute ferry ride from Korcula to the mainland. We boarded the mini van again to drive to our commencing point. This will be our last day of riding.

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The bikes were waiting as usual and the troops were ready to mount up.

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Barbara and Peter
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The 2 Natalies
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Celeste
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Wendi and Jimmy
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Alex

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Karen and Rob
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Cheryl and Tim

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Chuck and Jane
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Carol and David
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Us - Phil and Jill
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Our guides - Daylbor, Erwin and Pero

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Our first ride took us on the main Pelješac road through Plavac Mali and Dingač vineyards. It was a pretty ride with the low lying grapes everywhere. The route continued on from Kuna to Oskorušno still on the main road. We had a few turns at Oskorušno to Orebič. These were more tiny villages with the characteristic white houses. Sometimes groups of 4 to 5 men were gathered to have a chat and coffee. Daylbor said that every Croatian has time for a coffee with a friend. The relaxed way of life was an important part of their culture which could account for the extreme friendliness we have encountered.

After a very leisurely and pleasant ride we turned down a small village road to Matuško winery.

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We were treated to a wine tasting with bread, proscuito and cheese to accompany the award winning Dingač wines. The tasting started with the lightest wine they produce to grappa. Martina, the grand-daughter of the original owner explained that as all the grape picking was still done by hand due to the rocky nature of the soil . It was a very much co-operative operation by neighbouring families helping each other. We then had a tour of the winery.

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I was unsure if we should of been hopping a bike after the wine but there you are not only going on the bike but through a tunnel which can always be disorientating.

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The tour had saved the best to last of 9kms of downhill along the Dalmatia coast to last. It probably was one of the best experiences I have ever had on a bike. The expansive views of the ocean, the downhill I was braking at 35 kmph. It was the most wonderful liberating feeling.

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Then of course the inevitable climb and as we swooped around the corner and came across a team of grape pickers, Celeste, who had been doing a sterling job on her road bike thought it wss the end. When told there was still 7kms to go she dropped down on her handlebars but in her inimitable style, she put her head up and said, I can do another 7 kms and thus talked herself into it. She was truly amazing individual at 77 to be riding as she was on a road bike with drop down handles.

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Finally and sadly it was time to say farewell to the bikes and although it would have been nice to have a swim we jumped in the minivan to go to a little fishing village for a four course seafood meal to celebrate our fantastic ride

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Phillip got to his feet and gave a congratulory speech to our guides Dalybor, Erwin and Pero who were to leave us after our lunch. His initial words summed it up for everyone.....'What a ride!!' Much praise to all and hugs all round. We had had the best time

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After another hour in the mini van we arrived in Dubrovnik to our Hotel Aria high up on the hill overlooking the Gruz port. Exhausted, hot but very happy we dropped on the bed.

Posted by Biencourt 11:49 Archived in Croatia Comments (2)

CYCLING CROATIA 2019 - Phil & Jill

Phil's big challenge on Korcula

Everyone was in fine spirit this morning bedecked in team colours.

There was Team Lavendar girls - Barbara, Wendi and Karen - all from Colorado (they had brought their jerseys yesterday from a lady on the top of the hill on the optional extension. They also had matching hats. So cute and wonderful memento from Croatia.

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Team Russia - Natasha (originally from Siberia and now living in Anchorage, Alaska) and Natalie - her friend still living in Siberia

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and Team Cycling Croatia - David, Dalybor,Rob (a Brit living in Boulder, Colorado,
Our Croatian guide originally from Zagreb but now living in Hvar) and Rob from Colorado

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We all started the morning's ride together uphill with Dalybor taking us through the town and out on the main road.
There were two options Pero was leading a group along the coastal road to Račišće which was a Croatian flat ride of around 15kms or an optional ride of around 20 kms to Pupnat - all 'up' and a descent of 10-14% (which looks almost vertical and scary on a profile map).

Naturally I took the coastal route but Phil wanted to challenge himself with the 6 other strong riders in the group who did the hilly ride. He took his tablets, rubbed in the cream, wore extra support pants and put his courage on show. He wasn't in a race and took his time going up even stopping for photos. Dalybor was with him the whole time. Phil said he absolutely adored the fast, steep downhill, swinging around the curves using his knees and riding well. Mind you he paid for it the rest of the night, but you know it is sometimes hard to keep a good man down and for his own personal satisfaction it is a feeling of sheer joy he hasn't felt for some time.

Meanwhile I was happily cycling along the coast enjoying the spectacular views in the brillant sunshine. I seem to be saying the same thing all the time but coastal roads and spectacular views are synonimous in Croatia.

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This was a more built up coast line with many holiday houses and villages. The water was an azure blue with turquouse coloured water on the edge. Every small piece of sand, every rocky outcrop and any concrete platform had a beach chair for laying out in the sun.

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All too soon we came to Kneže with its expansive view and then to Račišće which was on a half circle bay.

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A lovely cold drink was enjoyed whilst we waited for the others on the hill ride to meet up with us

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Tim came back first and assured me Phil was ok and riding strongly but it was really tough amd marred by gravel in parts. I have to say I was greatly relieved to see Phil's white and yellow jersey come around the bay.

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Dalybor congratulated Phil at the end, saying....He is THE MAN! I was thrilled and absolutely delighted for Phil as I knew how much it meant to him physically and physcologically.

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To give all the riders a chance to catch their breath Pero swept the village bocce rectangle and we all had a friendly competition. I say friendly but Dalybor hates to lose!! It was a lot of fun and banter.

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Time to go back and Phil and I had a gentle ride back to our lunch spot of the Fortuna cafe in Korcula. Lunch for me was a pizza and for Phil an octupus salad.

Back in our bikes for the steep pinch hill back to the Marko Polo hotel and a small rest before meeting Dalybor to ride to the beach about 7 kms away. This was a tricky ride on a busy road with lots of cars and motorbikes. This time we were wearing our bathers underneath. Although many of the others went for a real swim, I decided to go in just up to my knees as I didn't like the thought of riding back with wet bathers. The beach was crowded with locals and tourists alike. The water was warm and inviting. Much better temperature than Hvar. After my dip I joined Phil in the ubiqitious cafe for a coke. He took the opportunity for a cup of tea and a rest.

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The day was not yet done. At 7.00pm we went in the van for about 15 minutes away from the town to a hillside restaurant where they cook lamb and vegetables in the coals under what they call a drum ( like a Moroccan tangine). Once again the alfresco setting was divine especially with what they called a harvest moon and the high hillside location. The evening comnenced with Dalybor and the host explaining the differences and medicinal qualities of 3 types of grappa. I can tell you just the smell of the pure alcohol was enough to knock me out I am afraid that I lifted the glass in the toast and then fed the olive trees nearby. The Russian girls lovedit!! We started with a salad entree, then generous portions of meat, carrots, potatoes. It was very tasty and delicious. Dessert was a sticky, chocolate cake that we had had before. This time I resisted as it had been too rich the last time. We sat in the company of Carol and David from Boulder. They were similar in age to us and although they didn't usually do bike trips they had done many of the major hikes in the world. After this trip they were extending their stay by hiking in Slovenia.

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What a day!! We all happily got in the van to return to bed for the night.

Posted by Biencourt 14:13 Comments (1)

CYCLING CROATIA - Phil & Jill - 2019

Pelešac - Donja Banda - 17 miles

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Today we were to cycle along the spine of the island to the other end of the Hvar island. This ride continued south and explored the quieter side of the island. To get to the starting point of the ride we went by mini bus over the very steep ridge with dramatic views. This is becoming characteristic of travelling through Croatia. The views are beautiful no matter what part of the island you are travelling in.

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Cycling Croatia guide team are very efficient with the numerous logistics they need to provide. The bikes are well maintained, snacks, fruit and water are always on hand. Dali and Erwin are so hospitable and friendly. It makes such a pleasant start to the day.

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Phil and I, together with several others, took option of the van nearly to the top of the road where the cycle for today started thus avoiding a 5 mile horrendous ride up. Good decision!!

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We started riding on the main Pelješac road still climbing for a way through Plavac mali and Dingač wineyards. It soon became a much mote pleasant, underlating ride with grapes on the vines on very low lying, clumped vines. The direction was entering Oskorušno at 180 degree curve. Then on through Kuna and Potomje. These were tiny villages consisting of only about five or six houses. The villagers eeked out their livelihood with the sale of lavendar products and olive oil.

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We came across this war memorial dedicated to Croatian freedom militia who had been fighting the German army and the Croatian Ustasa militia which was a local Fascist regime allied to the Germans.

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Along the roads in these tiny villages sometimes only comprising 5 or 6 houses some small stalls selling lavendar products and olive oil.

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Erwin waving us off after a top up water stop.

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Phil took a wander around to see what was about -

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After lunch we continued on the main road to the beach and boarded the ferry to Korcula.

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Some went by rubber duckie over to the island.

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We said goodbye to the bikes as the guys had to drive right around.

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We travelled to the Marco Polo hotel. Another huge hotel about 10 minutes walkimg from the town.

We wandered into town via many little laneways until we came to another gorgeous stone restaurant. Phillip thought it was aptly named for him. Korcula is a very different place to Hvar. It is elegant snd conservstive. The restaurant where we had dinner had been nominated for a Michelin star.

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The end of another wonderful day.

Posted by Biencourt 06:18 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

CYCLING CROATIA - Phil & Jill

Off to Hvar

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Early morning start to ensure bags out at 7.05am before breakfast so the guys could get all the luggage and bikes on the first ferry to Hvar. We were to follow on the 8.30am ferry so we needed to leave at 8.10am.

It was a pleasant two hour ferry ride to Stargrad. We all assembled in one of the lounges for our formal briefing for the cycle for the day. The good news was it was not as hard as yesterday. It was a 30 mile loop around the northern part of the island of Hvar.

We commenced the ride through a delightful seafront promenade. These coastal villages in Croatia are all consistently beautiful with their white limestone buildings and red roofs. The promenades although full of tourists are also working fishing ports.

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It didn't take long and we were out on the main road. Fortunately not too many cars.

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We continued until the village of Vrbanj where we hit our first hill of the day but not as steep as yesterday. The way around here was rocky soil, low scrub and no urbanisation. After a glorious downhill run we came to another substantial seaside town of Jelsa. Our lunch stop was right in the sea front at an authentically stone furnished restaurants on the terrace area.

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Another delicious meal.

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Another easy afternoon of coastal views ride saw us back in Stari Grad and book into the sumptious Riva Yacht Harbour Hotel. This was resort living. A huge hotel with its Cascades swimming pool and access to a private beach. I met up with Jane and Chuck on their way to the beach. As the beach was full of peebles and the water was very cold, I opted for the pool with its swim up bar, waterslide, spa jets and deck lounges. My taste of how the other half live.

The beach area -
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The hotel's pool area -
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The swim was very refreshing and the spa jets envigorating as the day was hot and sunny. It was a great feeling to have survived the second day of riding with the experience not being so taxing as the day before.

It was a balmy evening with a nearly full moon lighting the sky. A 20 minute walk around the concrete promenade found you in the heart of the 'car free' old town.

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There were hundreds of boats in the marina and as there was a slight wind, the water was sloppy making it difficult to get out of the rubber duckies and come ashore. These young ladies were so lucky not to go in the water.

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Hvar city (the main town on the island of the same name as the island Hvar) is full of history with its large bell tower and cathedral. The main square is full of activity. It is quite clearly the 'party' city on the 'party' island. We wandered through the narrow lanes until we came to our tavern for dinner.

The lights of the city and the number of larger boats moored in the harbour was beautiful.

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Another full and wonderful day.

Posted by Biencourt 01:59 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

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