Today it’s back to Dubrovnik airport…booo! Except we’re not going home; we’re going to pick up the Fletchemobile Mark 3 to continue our Croatian adventure. Hooray! We use the airport shuttle bus to return us and our luggage, for the princely sum of £4.50 ish each. Beats £30 in a taxi. We’re finally learning the benefits of public transport. We’re spat out of the bus at Departures, ignored by the waiter in the coffee shop in Arrivals, and then we’re off to meet the luxurious and modern vehicle that will be our four-wheeled friend over the next 11 days. We get…a Skoda Fabia. Imagine the most basic model of car you can get. And then strip it of any luxuries. And that’s our Skoda Fabia. Mr Fletche looks around for a USB socket. We’re lucky we have a stereo at all. Importantly though, it does have air conditioning. We’re charged an additional €65 by Avis for the paperwork to cross the Bosnia & Herzegovina border – still not sure if this is legitimate or not?
Mr Fletche’s first task in an unfamiliar car – his first manual left-hand drive car – is to negotiate his way out of the car park. We are blocked in on all sides by cars, and once we have slalomed our way around as many obstacles that Avis can throw at us, Mr Fletche registers that the fuel gauge is showing that we are being powered by nothing but Croatian air and good will. Despite the hire car agent telling us that there was a fuel station “just outside the airport, just turn right” – this does not materialise. I however have a much better knowledge of fuel stations in Croatia than the locals as I remember clocking one just outside of the airport if we had turned left. So now Mr Fletche has to contend with a three point turn, and his first left-turn, crossing the oncoming traffic, in an attempt to finally find somewhere to fuel up. We’ve been in the car for 20 minutes and haven’t got anywhere yet.
We finally have a full tank of fuel, we’re pointed in the right direction and with a crunch of gears we’re off. We’re sticking with the D8 coastal road today, past Dubrovnik – we wave goodbye to that iconic view, knowing the next time we revisit we’ll be on the final stretch of our journey – and onwards to the Makarska Riviera, and indeed to Makarska itself. To do this, we have to cross that Bosnian border…technically we can “cross Bosnia off our list”, but we haven’t exactly seen much of the country during our 9 km drive before we’re crossing back into Croatia.
The drive is full of breathtaking views and sweeping curves, with the limestone mountains on our right hand side, and the endless sapphire blue Adriatic on our left. We’ve left the city behind, and now we’re definitely at the seaside. The area becomes a little more built up as we enter Makarska, and our ever-reliable GPS is telling us that our hotel is on the right. There are two driveways, and a sign indicating “Hotel Rosina” in between the two. We take a gamble on the first driveway, the one before the sign. We ascend a 45 degree ramp and drive practically into someone’s garage before we realise that we have taken the wrong turn. This tests Mr Fletche’s new relationship with the Fletchemobile #3 further as he completes a three-hundred point turn, gingerly descends the 45 degree ramp and then attempts the sharpest right turn ever into next door’s car park. This is definitely Hotel Rosina. The sign tells us so. We leave the car parked at a seemlngly perilous angle on a similar 45 degree ramp – I have to fight gravity to open the passenger side door whereas Mr Fletche rolls out the driver’s side.
We’re soon booked in; this is a 4* hotel but is quite basic and the rooms could do with updating, although the public areas are nice and bright. Our third-floor room is quite dark with no view to speak of, other than of the hotels behind us. Although when we go out on our balcony we are rewarded with the promised mountain view over the hotel rooftops. We’re only here for one night (despite what our amount of luggage may suggest) so it’s minimal unpacking and straight out to see what Makarska can offer us. It’s warmed up considerably since yesterday, and it seems like quite a trek from our hotel down to the waterfront. But that’s what gives this town its spectacular backdrop – buildings nestling into the foot of the Biokovo mountains behind a seafront promenade, pine trees, long pebbly beach and crystal clear waters.
We haven’t eaten since our ham, cheese, bread and banana combo in Dubrovnik, so we settle down at one of the beachfront restaurants for lunch. Two large salads, beer and wine – just over £20. We stroll along the promenade; this is a proper seaside town and would definitely be a great place to spend more time. It’s also very family-oriented, with children’s playgrounds, a small fun fair and lots of inflatables in the sea. There’s also a bigger variety of restaurants and café bars, catering for diverse tastes – if you want traditional Dalmatian food, it’s served here. If you want kebab and chips, it’s served here. There are also bars serving lurid coloured cocktails which may tempt me in later…
Mr Fletche scopes out his perfect sunset spot, and we trek back up to our room – via Bounty Bar for an ice cream, and the market for two 50HRK beach towels – for a bit of a rest. Mr Fletche gets absorbed in some sort of Croatian made-for-TV film, and it’s a toss-up between going back out into town, or finding out if our hero’s estranged wife forgives him on his deathbed. It’s a tough call, but we leave none the wiser. We stroll along the waterfront and head for the rocks at the far end of the town. It’s a great spot although we are a little late to catch the changing colours on the mountains – I blame Mr Fletche and his fixation with Croatian afternoon telly. We sit and relax for a while, watching the sun sink into the sea. The sun has gone down, so it must be margarita time. We stop off at Ivana for a cocktail or two. This whole little area, with its souvenir stalls and bars with neon lights and goldfish bowl offerings, reminds me of Malia or Magaluf – but without the drunk Brits with underpants on their heads. I hope Makarska never becomes “that” type of town.
Dinner is at “Dinners Delight”. The restaurant name alone could have put me off but we are swayed by the waterfront setting, charming waiter and our rumbling tummies. We opt for traditional Croatian fare. I have the ćevapčići – little grilled minced meat sausages; Mr Fletche has the ražnjići – indeterminate meat on a skewer, much like the Greek souvlaki. There is lots of meat, and our dishes unnecessarily come with chips, rice and salad. Plus a bread basket. We wash our carb-laden dinner down with a bottle of white wine and contemplate our final trek up the hill to our hotel. Tomorrow we’re off on the next leg of our journey to Zadar. It’s a toss-up between taking the E65 highway or the longer D8 coast road. We’re meeting our host at 3pm tomorrow so we have plenty of time. Turns out we’re going to need it…