We’ve battled the M25, we’ve battled the M23, we’ve located our off-site airport parking, and finally we’re at London Gatwick enjoying a (very) late lunch before our flight.
It’s a short two and a half hour flight to Dubrovnik, and we’re pleased that the thunderstorms and torrential rain that have blighted the city for the previous two days have ceased. Marko is at the airport with my name on a piece of cardboard and we’re ensconced in the comfort of his car on the way to our apartment. There is a moment of confusion when Mr Fletche tries to get in the driver seat and not the passenger seat; hopefully this is the last time this will occur, particularly when we’ve picked up our own car on Tuesday. Marko keeps up a spiel of useful information, whilst I enjoy the half hour drive, gazing out the windows at the Croatian darkness. I get my first glimpse of the famous city walls and for the very first time of many, the Game of Thrones theme tune runs through my head. This will be a recurring earworm for the next three days.
Marko dumps the car, double parked, and helps us with our suitcases. I am embarrassed once more by the amount of luggage two people need for a two week holiday, particularly when we encounter our first set of steps of many. We pass Pizzeria Tabasco, which turns out to be practically in our garden. I have already earmarked this as our Arrival Night eating establishment. Marko continues his spiel as he lets us in to our apartment (“…and this is your refrigerator…you can put food in here!”, “…and this is your TV, here’s a remote control which you can use to change channels!” etc. etc.), we do the necessary business transaction, fishing our “hotel 1” money out of a brown envelope, and finally we are free to make ourselves at home.
There’s a quick unpack (or in my case, throwing my packing cubes into a wardrobe and declaring myself unpacked) and then we’re off to our local Konzum to pick up supplies. Supplies consist mainly of beer, bananas, ham and cheese. Its then off to Pizzeria Tabasco. At home, in the UK, suggest pizza to me and I run for the hills screaming about the evils of a melted cheese and tomato combination. On holiday it becomes a staple part of my diet, and I peruse the menu for the cheesiest, most tomatoey pizza I can find. We share a pizza with undefined spicy meats on top, a Greek salad and two large beers for around £20. It’s almost midnight when we’re done eating so we take the 20 or so steps back up to our apartment and settle down for the night.
Morning Dubrovnik! It’s a bit misty over the mountains, and there’s been a little bit of rain overnight but at least the temperatures are in double figures, which is an improvement on the grey, wet, drizzly and cold England June we’ve left behind. We break out the ham and cheese for an al fresco breakfast on our (slightly soggy) balcony. We leave the beer and bananas for later. We head towards the old town, that theme tune bouncing around my head once more. Mr Fletche is going to get very annoyed with my tuneless humming very quickly.
I heed all of the advice given and suggest we head for the city walls. It’s nice and early – not yet 9am – and indeed we get half way around from the Ploče Gate entrance only passing a handful of other people. We gaze down on terracotta rooftops, with the sapphire blue Adriatic waters in the distance. The sun peeps through every so often, and the colour of the rooftops and the sea become more and more vibrant. Once we pass the Pile Gate entrance it does get a lot busier, and we join a trail of slow-moving tour groups. There seems to be a trend of people taking photos of other people coming up the steps, which causes something of a bottleneck. I also appear in a number of “selfies” as groups gather around me, brandishing their mobile phones on the end of extendable sticks. I hope they catch my good side… There’s a handy bar halfway around; we consider a beer but opt for coffee instead (another thing you wouldn’t catch me drinking at home) as the sun is not yet over the yardarm. And we still have lots of walking to do. And lots of steps to conquer. It takes us a good couple of hours to walk the walls, with the coffee stop, photo stops and shuffling along as part of an unofficial tour group. I can imagine it would be pretty unbearable later on in the day, particularly when the sun is beating down so I’m glad we heeded the advice to walk the walls either early or late in the day.
We exit the walls at our entrance spot and continue into the old town itself. The sun is most definitely over the yardarm now and we stop at Café Mirage for a beer. There is a buzz around town as Croatia prepare for their first match of the Euros, and every barman, waiter and shop assistant are sporting the red and white checkerboard football shirt. There is also a shouty but rather catchy tune coming from inside the bar which turns out to be the official anthem of their campaign (lots of “Oi, oi, oi”). This is played on loop and soon usurps the Game of Thrones theme as my earworm. Turns out we’re round the corner from St Ignatius, its stone staircase and therefore a quick re-enactment of Cersei’s walk of atonement. Except I keep my clothes on, no-one slings excrement at me and there is no Septa ringing a bell or reciting “shame” with every step.
We continue our stroll around town, up steps and down steps. We make the mistake of perusing a lunchtime menu outside a restaurant; we are ushered onto a table in a restaurant which does not appear to be offering this menu. We wait until our hostess has disappeared and make a run for it. We cautiously approach Stara Loza, who are indeed offering the lunchtime specials, and we enjoy a prawn salad, plate of cold cuts and a nice chilled glass of white wine. Croatian wine is indeed good, even the “house” stuff. The sun continues to peek through, so we head towards the harbour where we can sit, relax and people-watch for a while. It’s a hectic schedule ahead of us, but we know the importance of just doing nothing for a while. The people getting soaked by the big waves are also amusing us.
Where next? We haven’t done quite enough steps today, and we still have our city walls tickets burning a hole in our pockets, so we head for Fortress Lovrijenac. We stop for our first ice cream of the holiday just outside Pile Gate to give us energy. It’s a bit of a steep climb but the views from the fortress overlooking the city are worth the effort. The man at the ticket desk barely glances at our tickets… he is enthralled by the football on telly.
We break open those beers back in our apartment before heading out into the town for dinner. We fancy seafood tonight, but nothing too pricey. We head for the harbour, where Lokanda Peskarja had caught my eye earlier. The menu is simple, requiring no elaborate decision making tonight. Its seafood risotto for me and Mr Fletche’s first octopus salad of many. Food portions are generous –as with many of our meals in Croatia – and reasonably priced. We stroll around town, peering into alleyways and tiny little side streets before calling it a night – its an early start tomorrow for our trip to Montenegro!