Tag Archives: travel

Dubrovnik

Recently my Instagram page has been filled with photos of Dubrovnik, the place had been on my list for ages, so after plenty of to-ing and fro-ing about the idea, we finally visited during the school hols. We’d arrived with high hopes after positive reports from mates who’d fallen in love with the place, and for us the place didn’t disappoint – it was beautiful and relaxing, easy to get around, with lots of cultural sights, decent local wine and tasty Mediterranean food. Our apartment was literally a few metres away from the Stradun which was perfect for us, we could explore to our hearts content and pop back for a bit of a siesta if we needed to.

Here’s a run down of a few must do’s I’d recommend in anyone’s itinerary:

Stroll down the Stradun

The old town’s famous street stretching between the city’s two main gates is probably one of the world’s most photographed. Luckily it wasn’t as crowded as it can be in the most popular months of peak season, being common place for waves of coach parties bringing tourists from the multiple boats that visit the city. It’ll probably be the first thing that catches your eye as you walk through the Pile gate, believe me!

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Walk the city walls

The most touristy thing to do here, with fantastic ever-changing views, at a steady pace with time to take in your surroundings and the odd photo or two, it’ll take 2.5 hours or so. There’s lots of opportunity along the way to break the journey up, either have a cold refreshment and a sit down or come down and fit in other sights en route. Safe in the knowledge your ticket allows you to hop on and off the wall, (not literally, but you know what I mean!).

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Explore the Old Town’s nooks and crannies

Meandering in and around the narrow streets and alley ways let us gauge a sense of the areas character; where locals go about their daily business, be it hanging out their washing (often in-between houses), chatting in the streets or selling handmade souvenirs. Easy to navigate around, one way or another they seemed to work their way back to Stradun every time.

Visit some churches and monasteries 

Some of the highlights include the 14th Century Franciscan Monastery, with a beautiful and tranquil cloister and it’s pharmacy still in use today. 

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Cloisters of the Franciscan Monastery

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Another monastery of note is the Dominican Monastery, built at a similar time to the city walls. A dominant structure, it’s exterior seen to the fullest when walking the city walls, it’s cloisters are peaceful and the church possesses some artistic gems. 

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Dominican Monastery 

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In close proximity to each other on the Stradun are the Church of St. Blaise, the Sponza Palace and the Rector’s Palace. 

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Church of St. Blaise
Sponza Palace
Rector’s Palace 

Explore Dubrovnik at night 

With many of the highlights lit up and on show, a stroll through the old town is worth while a portion of your time with many restaurants, wine bars and musicians to entertain. Our apartment was just off the Stradun, so a few times I tried to capture a shot of a empty street, and was finally successful at 4am.

Treat yourself to ice-cream, sorbet or both!

Before we’d even arrived in Dubrovnik, I’d been given the heads up of how yummy the ice-cream was and it didn’t fail, completely living up to expectations!! With plenty of ice-cream parlours lining the Stradun, we found ourselves spoilt for choice, do the right thing and get a couple of scoops for yourself!

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Take the cable car up Mount Srd

In a matter of minutes, four to be exact we had panoramic views of the Old Town, it’s neighbouring islands and the Adriatic.

Watch the sunset at Buza Bar

Stepping through a hole in the city wall, some steps lead to a bar that seemed to hang off the side of the cliff. Timing it so we could get a table (it can get busy), the bar has an inviting atmosphere to enjoy the view of the Adriatic sea, Lokrum island and the glow from the sunset.

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Visit an island or two

A great way to avoid the crowds on really busy days was a boat trip to one of the neighbouring islands. With only a 10 minute boat ride from the Old Port our jaunt to Lokrum gave us a botanical garden full of cacti, succulents and lots of other species of plants, lush forests, a secluded salt water lake (The Dead Sea) perfect for a cooling swim and local inhabitants peacocks and rabbits.

Lokrum Island

Dinner at Taj Mahal

Yeah, the name may not sound very Croatian and when I first read it I stupidly had second thoughts about going there. However, after looking at the menu of traditional Bosnian food I was won over and my meat loving husband needed no convincing after that!! The service from the get go was spot on and the food awesome – I can highly recommend the Genghis Khan platter!!!

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Have you been to Dubrovnik, what did you make of it?

Was there anything we should’ve done that we didn’t?

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Little Berlin Jaunt

Turn back time to last weekend, along with thousands of others I completed the Berlin Marathon – a goal of mine for the last ten months. 

With a couple of travel guides reused from a previous visit and some research scouring local blogs I’d got together a list of food spots worth trying out. However, with all the best intentions my priority was still the marathon and with time taken to travel and the need to collect my running pack from the event’s expo, it left us with Saturday and possibly Sunday after the race, depending on the condition my body was in to explore and try things out. 

Here are some photos from the weekend, some of the food was a bit hit and miss in terms of quality and at times we experienced complete disasters with service to the point of walking out of one restaurant:

Preflight brunch at Heston Blumenthal’s The Perfectionist’s Cafe in Heathrow Airport – limited on gluten free options for the other half and whilst my eggs and bacon on a muffin had lots of good point to it, such as crisp bacon and great poached egg with a glorious intensely orange yolk, it was all a bit too precise and nice. Cocktails were good though, their Bloody Mary came with its very own tabasco filled pipette so you could alter it to your taste. 

Brunch at The Perfectionist's Cafe, Heathrow Airport
Brunch at The Perfectionist’s Cafe, Heathrow Airport

   

Tired and needing food quickly after hot-footing it to the Berlin Marathon’s running expo to pick up my race pack, instead of finding one of the places on my list, we succumbed to getting food from one of the events traders with typical Berlin fare – Bratwurst, currywurst and fries, it did the job satisfying any hunger pangs.

Berlin Marathon Expo, curry wurst, brat wurst and fries
Berlin Marathon Expo, curry wurst, brat wurst and fries

Saturday morning started off well with brunch at Parker Bowles, in fashionable district Kreuzberg. Open all day, their menus go from breakfast through to dinner, including a range of omelettes which we both went for. Great that they all start off being veggie, but can be pimped up with extra bacon or chorizo if you fancy it, our omelettes with a couple of fresh juices went down a treat!

Saturday brunch at Parker Bowles
Saturday brunch at Parker Bowles
Parker Bowles brunch omelettes
Parker Bowles brunch omelettes

After wandering around the city for a few hours, my legs started getting tired and I didn’t want to ruin myself before the race the following morning. Realising it was also way passed lunchtime, readers my know that lunchtime in our house is 12pm – it was nearly 3pm, we found ourselves at Gendarmenmarkt and stepped into the nearest Italian we could get a table at, everywhere was either predictably heaving or wasn’t really suitable.  Good old marathon special of linguine al bolognese was perfect and a bit of a bargain too!

Marathon pasta - at Amici in Gendermenmart
Carb loading Marathon Special – Linguine al Bolognese!!

One disadvantage of eating lunch late was knowing we’d probably be eating dinner fairly late too, in hindsight we should’ve booked somewhere, but we didn’t and we’ve learned from our mistakes! The first restaurant we tried – Ristorante Malatesta, we’d been given a table about to be cleared in their outside dining area, and were asked to stand and wait for it to be done. Ok, no problem this would’ve been fine, but it took so long we ended up looking like complete lemons stood next to the front door. Eventually it was cleared and we plonked ourselves down with a couple of menus I picked up from the side, we then watched as waiting staff basically whizzed around completely ignoring us, when we did manage to get eye contact they joked if we were ready to pay the bill!!!! We hadn’t even ordered,  let alone eaten anything!!! Not at any one time did a member of staff give us the time of day –  it was truly horrendous!! I know it was very busy, but there’s one thing being busy and making an effort to keep customers happy, it’s completely different when the staff are completely oblivious! We ended up walking out completely frustrated!!

So still on the look out for a feed, we ended up in another Italian a few blocks down the road, its name I’ve forgotten though. We were slightly more lucky this time, this time our order was taken but took an hour to get to us, we even worked our way through a bottle of wine which seemed to trigger some action from staff…I wonder why?! Apologies for the sarcasm, this is completely for want of a better phrase a first world problem and life could be a million times worse, however, it’s not the best when you know you need to eat, get a good nights sleep if possible, get up early to run in a race you worked towards for ten months. At least this place, did try to make amends for their confusion and delays, but I think I was so peeved I couldn’t be bothered with the whole thing – I just wanted to eat and go to bed! Like I said earlier, in hindsight we should’ve booked and have definitely learned the hard way!!

Saturday night - trying my best to carb load for the race!!
The night before the race, trying my best to carb load.

The race itself was amazing and tough in equal measure, the crowds were fantastic and it was wonderful to run with so many thousands of people from first-timers to the world’s elite at the same time; approximately 40,000 had entered the race and 36,000 finished it! Having the chance to see parts of the city I’d never seen before was a treat too and getting a new PB was the icing on the cake!

I distinctly remember nearly two years earlier after running my first marathon, I hardly ate anything, a few crisps was as much as I could handle. This time I was on much better form and actually managed a tasty plate of Augustiner sausages on mash and white cabbage at Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt. Such a different experience from our attempts at dinner the night before – it was just as busy but service was jovial, friendly and efficient, our server also gave great recommendations in particular the sweet mustard condiment that was offered.

Post race refuel - curry wurst, sausages and mash
Celebratory post race refuel at Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt – curry wurst, sausages and mash

The next few hours were spent resting up and having my legs rollered to stretch out the muscles – trust me they needed it, followed by dinner at well known North African restaurant Baraka. Reminding me very much of Leeds’ Caravanserai or one of my current local favourites Jeitta in Woking, the lady who served us was friendly and efficient, from a menu that’s not massive by any means there’s still enough choice to suit. I found the food tasty, in particular the tagine with meatballs and cous cous which was delicious. 

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Baraka - hummus with fried lamb, tagging Marrakesh and shish kebab with bulgar wheat and rice
Baraka – hummus with fried lamb, tagging Marrakesh and shish kebab with bulgar wheat and rice

I’m sure I’ll be back in Berlin again as it’s got so much to offer with its cultural heritage and the fantastic food and drink scene, next time I’ll be a spectator if the race is on so I can make the most of it.