Monday, March 23, 2015

A Tale of Two Worlds, Part 1

Our trip to Croatia and Dubai was the tale of two very different cultures, several different climates, two different economic conditions, and two very different worlds...the old world and the new world.  There are things to love about each world and maybe a few negatives about each.  Here is my attempt to entertain, educate and re-live.

A room with a view, Croatia.

 We arrived in Croatia "early".  Not early, as in 7 o'clock instead of 8 o'clock, but early as in March instead of June!  The streets were empty!  Many restaurants were closed for the season.  The wind blew and the temperatures were cool and sometimes cold.  In spite of the cool weather and empty streets Croatia was absolutely beautiful and fascinating!  One other bonus for us was that our dollar bought a lot in Croatia!  Dinner every night was cheap, the delicious wine was cheap, hotels were cheap.  Our rental car was $65....not per day, per week!
A room with a view, Dubai

We started our Croatian adventure in Zagreb, the capitol and largest city.  I had done a lot of research about Croatia and was ready to explore.  After looking at pictures on the Internet I wanted to see it all in living color.  We were blessed with beautiful weather.  Planning a trip these days is so easy and I sometimes wonder if it takes some of the surprise and excitement out of the trip because you can see all the sights from the comfort of your own kitchen table by looking at your computer.  I was almost a little afraid that all my research would backfire on me.  What if that cathedral wasn't set against the clear blue sky like it is on the pictures on the Internet?  What if the pictures of that hotel were not quite representative of the real thing?  What if those descriptions I read were mere embellishments?  What if that town is dingy and dirty and the the pictures on the Internet are featuring the only two highlights of the entire town?  Had I built it all up in my mind and set myself up for failure?  That is the question that ran through my head on our drive from the airport to our first stop in Zagreb.  Luckily, TJ did not do much research and it was all new to him, he had no expectations and for some reason trusts my planning skills.

Arriving at each new accommodation is like a box of chocolates, "you never know what you're gonna get".  We choose not to stay in high end luxurious hotels.  I like to mix it up and stay in a small boutique hotel or an apartment.  I like to "think" this gives us a more authentic experience.  Our first place was a small hotel.  Score major points for location on this one!  Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes!  Parking in any European city is a challenge.  We were told they had parking "near" the hotel.  One way to shake off jet lag is to find an obscure parking lot in an unfamiliar city and then drag your roller bag four or five blocks over cobbled sidewalks to finally arrive at your hotel.  We did this same ritual at more than one of our stops.  Gotta love the loose definition of "parking nearby".

Even better than the pictures on the Internet!

After dropping our bags and freshening up we went to explore the city.  This is where the adrenaline kicks in!  Wandering around a new city, being awed at the beauty and amazed that it is even more beautiful than I expected.  We had no agenda we were just wandering.  Walk a bit, sit and have a drink, wander a bit more, take a million pictures, check out potential dinner spots, wander more.  We took refuge in church before dinner and went to mass.  No clue what the readings were or what the homily was about but we were there.  Our only bad dining choice was made that night.  I consider the fact that our server left the restaurant midway through our dinner and failed to inform anyone else a negative.  Can't say I recommend Baltazar wholeheartedly, the food was decent but not great and the service wasn't there.  I'll just blame our decision on jet lag.

St. Mark's Square

The Cathedral of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The next day I had scheduled a walking tour, I figured we would be wiped and needed someone to just point us in a direction and tell us what to do and what we were seeing.  Plus, we only had half a day to spend and wanted to use our time efficiently.  Our guide was knowledgeable and we now know more about Croatian history than we ever expected.  She was on a mission to educate us and impart her experiences.  It is interesting to talk to someone who has experienced so many political and economic changes in their short lifetime.  Makes me really appreciate our stable life here.
Louisiana food begins with "the trinity",
Croatian food begins with "the green bundle" sold in markets all around the country.

We left Zagreb and headed for the coast with hopes of making it to the shore before sunset.

We drove through the snow banked highway,
and tunneled through the mountains

until we found this on the other side!

From this point on my heart started beating very fast and I couldn't wipe the smile off my face.  The water was so blue and the towns were so picturesque.  We both needed a kick of adrenaline to get us through the next hour.  We made it to Rovinj on the Istrian peninsula just in time!  We found the "nearby" parking with only one phone call to our host and drug our bags to our apartment.  After meeting our very nice host who told us the best place to see the sunset, we headed to the top of the city.
The best view is from the church at the top of the city.....and it's a steep city!
All the way to the top!

We made it!
The sidewalk to sunset

Totally worth a 3 hour drive followed by a climb to to top of the city!
Luckily, our host gave us the name of the 3! restaurants open in the off season.  We chose one and made our way there.  We chose well!  The chef at the restaurant was none other than the Croatian Master Chef my good friend Anthony Bourdain fished, cooked and ate with on his trip to this fine city.  Needless to say, dinner was delicious!  We were two of about 10 people there that night and were treated to live music in addition to the fine meal.
We fought our way home through the crowded streets....

to our brightly lit apartment, where we slept fitfully that night.
Yes, this was the night our jet lag caught up with us.  The cute windows with the sheer curtains and bright street lights outside kept us up much of the night.  It didn't matter though because our next day was probably one of the best travel days we've ever had together.  We drove to the town of Porec, about an hour away.  I'm not sure what we were searching for we just wanted to see if we could find some good wine and some truffles.  We found both!

Rovinj in the morning!

outside an ancient church in Porec

We left Porec and headed to Motovun.  I heard it was famous for truffles and was a small town perched on top of a mountain.  There is nothing I like more than going to the top of places with great views!  TJ on the other hand is not big on heights.  Our drive was lovely and when we turned the corner at the little cafe and saw our destination in the distance we were both giddy like kids.  It lived up to the its reputation!

but first a cup of espresso at the cafe for our driver

You always get a great view from the top!  Climb those hills!
One of us is not too crazy about being at the top!

The day was a success and we were back in Rovinj in time for another chilly sunset.  We were thinking of just going back to our favorite restaurant again for dinner but found it was closed on Monday and Tuesdays.  We patted ourselves on the backs for our excellent decision to eat there last night and had pizza for dinner, we were tired and done making decisions for the day!  Sometimes you just have to eat pizza.  TJ was very proud of his solution to the brightly lit bedroom.....
We slept like babies!
More of Rovinj

I loved this place, it was stunning!
I want to come here in the warmer season
 and sit outside at this cafe and sip wine all afternoon!
Goodbye Rovinj with your friendly trees, until we meet again!

We said goodbye to Rovinj the next morning and headed south.  We first stopped in Pula.  One of the things it is famous for is its ancient coliseum.  We did not explore much of the city past the coliseum.
You've seen one Coliseum......

After Pula we had to make time!  I was on yet another sunset mission.  We were heading to Zadar, home of the famous Sea Organ and Alfred Hitchcock's favorite sunsets.  We drove through mountains and plains and a few more climates.  I am still amazed that in one day we went from the sea shore through the mountains and snow and to the sea shore again.  You really can have it all in Croatia!

That's all for now, I'm going to drag this out for at least two or three more posts.


Carol said...

I am riveted! Your photos are amazing and the dialog brings it all together. I already like Croatia better than Dubai, but just in case I am being hasty (who, me??), I eagerly await your next posts - and I do hope there are more than two to this saga!

Enie Dub said...

Oh wow Croatia looks amazing!!

I would like to visit....I might have to think about making plans. We have a trip booked to San Francisco this year but the euro to dollar is so bad we won't have much spending power!

Lisa said...

Enie, you will love San Francisco, it's one of my favorite U.S cities! We definitely benefited from the strong U.S dollar while in Croatia. You should definitely plan to visit!

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