Lopud

Once you feel like you have thoroughly explored the Old Town of Dubrovnik from wall to wall (literally) it might seem like there is not much else to see. Luckily there are several islands off the coast of Dubrovnik, a short(ish) boat ride away. Or if you are interested in the Dubrovnik portion of the trip, see my first Croatia post.

 

There is Lokrum, only 10 minutes away by boat, a mostly deserted island with a long abandoned monastery that was used to portray the gardens of Qarth in Game of Thrones and a salt water lake. There are also Lopud and Koločep, part of the Elafiti Islands. We took an all day boat tour of the islands and can’t recommend it enough. Ferries go to some of them as well but with a private boat tour you can visit the Green Cave and the Blue Cave, and do it all on (mostly) your own time and unlimited beverages*. Although it was a bit pricy – $90 USD a person for 4 of us, this was one of the highlights of the trip.

*Once we opened our cooler of unlimited alcohol it was a bottle of wine and 6 Karlovacko beers but its ok, luckily none of us are big drinkers so this was ‘unlimited’ enough.

 

And this is true of traveling always, but especially somewhere like Croatia in the high season, its incredibly worth it to start the day early. Less crowds, less noise, and the prettiest light (see below).

 

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

 

Waking up early is also quite conducive to finding a spot at Banje beach (above). Banje is right outside the city walls and is also commonly referred to as East-West Club, the club that dominates most of the beach. Its quite scenic but it gets crazy crowded, to the point where its hard to find a place to lay your towel down if you get there in the middle of the day. And like most of the beaches in Croatia, its a rocky beach, which is no fun for your poor feet. I really tried to resist buying the ungainly rubber Aqua shoes favored by all the septuagenerian European tourist types but if I went again I would carefully put away my pride and proudly put on a pair of those babies. Grip and foot protection, what more could you want? (Except not wanting to look like a dork).

 

Before hitting Banje we stopped by a market to pick up some yogurt, local pastries and the juiciest peaches to take down to the beach for some breakfast. We ate and tanned and swam and swatted away bees from our peaches and swam more and walked all funny because of the poke-y rocks. It was funny to lay out between the tannest sleeping Italian grandmothers (they are always the tannest) and the fairest Korean high schoolers, complete with parasol and constant re-applications of SPF 100 in between selfie stick shots. As a group of Toronto/London/San Diego residents we were our own little gradient of least to most tan.

 

After Banje beach we went to one of the many shops just outside the city walls that advertise boat tours. Although we tried to bargain, you don’t have much bargaining power when nearly everyone wants to do the boat tours. Unfortunately it was a bit too late to go to the Green Cave but our first stop was the Blue Cave in the island of Koločep. To enter the Blue Cave you have to swim into a low low entrance that opens into an expansive tall cave. As it was a bit late (too much tanning at Banje) our skipper was afraid that the tide was too high for us to safely enter the cave without the waves smashing our heads onto the rocks (ok that sounds dramatic, maybe ‘bumping’ instead of ‘smashing’ is more appropriate). You have to duck/dive a little to avoid the rocks overhead as you swim in. Luckily we just made it, and after swimming thru the low, dark entrance we crossed into a tall cave, lit neon blue throughout from the water reflecting in. The sea beneath us and the walls of the cave were glowing. The water was so clear that it looked like the floor was just under our toes. We kept trying to dive and touch the floor until another gentleman that swam in lent us his snorkel to prove that the floor was far, kind of scarily, deeper than it appeared. No pictures- except for that one dark, slightly ominous shot of the entrance – I should have stolen the bf’s GoPro…

 

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

 

Next, we went to the island of Lopud. Lopud is a small island but it is (sparsely) inhabited. Its a lovely, quiet place as its only accessible by boat. It has one of the few sandy beaches around and the restaurants along the beach all serve fresh seafood with a fantastic view. We walked around the island for a bit, but mostly contented ourself sitting at the restaurant drinking cold beer and taking in the view. We chose Obala as our place to eat. Although it was not cheap I quite liked the food. We had Garlic Shrimp and really good Mussels. I had a Seafood Medley that was a mixture of crudo, a cured salted fish that was outstanding, marinated anchovies and butter-y mussels.

 

There is also a 15th century Franciscan monastery at the island, but unlike the one in Lokrum, this one is active. Although it seems like people can visit from Trip Advisor someone informed us we were not allowed to go in. It looked quite shady and peaceful inside, with courtyard gardens and a church. Maybe it was the fact that we were dressed a bit too beach friendly to be allowed into a spiritual place?

 

Lopud

.

Lopud

.

Lopud

.

Lopud

.

Lopud

.

Lopud

.

Lopud

.

Lopud

.

Lopud

.

Lopud

.

Lopud

.

Lopud

.

Lopud

.

Lopud

.

 

We got back to Dubrovnik just in time to see the sunset. I don’t know why swimming and being in the sun makes you quite so sleepy-eyed and tired but at the same time absurdly content. Salty skinned and slightly sunburned, at this point all I wanted was cold water and pistachio gelato. And that’s exactly what we did, two large scoops of gelato and some large bottles of ice cold water to ease the walk back to our airBnB. We ended the day with some more of that less than stellar cheapo wine while enjoying our more than stellar view of the Adriatic, followed by impromptu naps. Ready for our last day in Dubrovnik and the last day for me to mentally harness the courage to cliff dive off Buza Bar (spoiler alert I don’t :P ).

 

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Spring Crostini

My sister (the middle one) as a kid was the number one vegetable hater in the world. It’s true. The nanny would set apart her vegetables because no one could make her eat them except for my dad when he came home from work late, and even then every night there was lots of cajoling, extortion, tense deals and tears. Kind of like House of Cards but with more spinach and airplane shaped spoons. Fun fact: she also hated brushing her teeth (she loves when I share this one sarcasm) and so after force-feeding her broccoli my dad was also the one who had to take her to the bathroom and hold her mouth open with one hand and brush her teeth with the other as she continually tried to bite down on the brush/his hand. She once took 40 minutes to eat a plate of rice because there was chopped parsley in it and she insisted on removing each fleck of green from each grain of rice with her chubby little kid-fingers. At a restaurant. If reading that isn’t the most effective literary birth control, I don’t know what is.

 

Spring Crostini

.

 

Now this former denouncer of all things green, loooves roasted brussel sprouts and broccoli. She orders them at restaurants and actually goes to Bo-Beau just for their roasted brussel sprouts. And how did this change come about? Maturity yes and an implied understanding that one cannot thrive on dino-shaped nuggets and grilled cheese alone of course. But also people are just better at preparing vegetables now a days. They are given their proper due. How can anyone, especially a kid, be excited about bland overcooked broccoli, the yellow pallor and slightly sulfurous smell of steamed brussel sprouts or my personal foe, the mushy pea? You wouldn’t taste any good either if someone you steamed you into oblivion and didn’t even have the dignity to salt you properly…

 

But the charred florets of roasted broccoli with parmesan and lemon, or the golden brown crispy outer shell of fried brussel sprouts dressed with sticky balsamic glaze? Who wouldn’t love that? And for peas, FRESH peas. Omg. It’s a whole new world if you are a pea hater like me. And you don’t even have to traipse to a farmer’s market for them anymore, good ol’ Trader Joe’s has them! And with some crispy baguette, creamy sheep’s milk feta, some grilled spears of asparagus, a touch of truffle olive oil and a sprinkle of peppery savoury? Amazing. Spring in a bite. Or three. Believe it or not the peas are the star here. You leave them whole and cook them for just literally 30 seconds and they are like little exploding pearls of sweetness. Fresh peas are picked young and still have a higher sugar content which hasn’t yet converted to starch, making them noticeably sweeter than the frozen kind found in pre-made vegetables medleys with corn and carrots a.k.a. the saddest vegetable medley in all the land. Fresh peas belong with bread and cheese instead. And everyone is mushing them up onto crostini but by doing that you completely lose the satisfying pop of fresh peas. Keep them whole. Save the mushing for their frozen brethren.

 

Spring Crostini

.

Spring Crostini

.

Spring Crostini

.

Spring Crostini

.

 

Oh and I’m not giving you defined amounts because this should be to taste. Cut your baguette thin or cut it thicker, use lots of cheese or just a little, sub in ricotta (but then add more salt), cook your peas for 30 seconds or for a minute (but not longer), use basil or mint or savoury (the savoury really works doh). The world is your oyster. BUT NO YOU CANNOT USE FROZEN PEAS. Sry.

 

RECIPE:

 

Spring Crostini with Fresh Peas, Feta, and Asparagus

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • baguette, sliced
  • sheep’s milk feta (use the real stuff, not the fat free crumbles plz)
  • asparagus, woody crappy part snapped off
  • fresh peas
  • good olive oil
  • truffle oil or truffle salt
  • savoury (can also use tarragon, basil, or mint)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Set a pot of salted water to boil over medium high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a pan (or grill, or panini press if you are being lazy/industrious like me), brush with olive oil and grill/cook the asparagus until crisp but tender, about 7-10 minutes.
  3. Set asparagus aside and brush the baguette slices with olive oil, then grill/toast until grilled/toasty.
  4. Meanwhile, fill a bowl with ice and water for the peas, you want them to be served cold. Throw the peas into the boiling salted water for 30 seconds, then transfer them into the ice cold water bowl.
  5. Once cooled, drain the peas into a plate set with paper towels, and dry them off.
  6. Mix olive oil with the truffle oil in a ratio of 1/4 cup olive oil to 1 teaspoon truffle oil, you don’t want it to be too overpowering. If using truffle salt, you can just sprinkle on at the end.
  7. Now you are ready to assemble the crostini. Generously crumble feta onto the toasted baguettes, top with lots of peas and an asparagus spear. Drizzle with the olive-truffle oil, and finish with pepper and chopped savoury (or whatever herb you are using). The feta is salty enough that I did not think it required more salt but few free to sprinkle with some Maldon sea salt (or the truffle salt) as well.

 

Spring Crostini

.

Spring Crostini

.

Spring Crostini

.

Spring Crostini

.

Spring Crostini

.

Spring Crostini

.

 

If you are going the meat eater route, some ribbons of pink prosciutto would do nicely here, as is or fried until crispy and shattered over for a bit of a different flavour take. And if you have never tried savoury before – ok at this point if its not clear I’m just going to say it: savoury is a type of herb – this would be a great dish to try it in. It has a bit of a peppery flavor that is reminiscent of rosemary or thyme but less intense and less woodsy. I might have winter savoury though which is more rosemary-like than summer savoury. The closest herb I can think of to savoury is fresh oregano. Which if you also have not had, you mustttt. Completely different than the dried stuff they sprinkle on pizza. Sadly neither savoury or fresh oregano are commonly available at supermarkets so you might have to go to Whole Foods or scour your local farmer’s market. I ended up buying a savoury plant at our local plant nursery. Over/under on how long it takes me to kill it? UPDATE: Walked over to the balcony and realized I forgot to water said savoury plant and it is in critical condition but should pull through. Phew. I need to add watering plant alerts to my Google calendar…

 

Oh and I was inspired by Todd from HonestlyYum’s beautiful post on English Pea Pesto to suggest topping this with a pan-fried sardine or an egg! Yum.

 

Spring Crostini

.

 

Ok you can tell me you want me to cool it with the gifs, I think they are mostly for my own amusement. But tell me you don’t look at that gif and think ‘wheeeee’ ?!

 

Dubrovnik

I spent some time in Croatia in August and have been meaning to post these ever since. Better late than never no? After spending some time in Paris we headed to Dubrovnik, our first stop in Croatia. Dubrovnik is probably the most popular destination in Croatia. Oh and this post is probably pretty picture heavy. And if you are here for the food, scroll all the way down.

 

The main attraction in Dubrovnik is the Old Town, the walled portion of the city dates back from the 13th century and juts out of the coast onto the cerulean blue Adriatic sea. It is all high stone walls, white marble roads polished smooth by decades (centuries) of humans walking back and forth, narrow stairs, green shutters and the occasional white sheet and pastel underthings hanging from clotheslines manned by old ladies with headscarves. It is entirely stunning. We wanted to stay in the Old Town but the AirBnB we were eyeing was snapped up so instead we got a modern apartment a 20 minute walk from Old Town in an area called Victoria. It includedd airport drop off and pick up too which was quite handy.

 

Although the walk could be a bit draining under the noonday sun, we had air conditioning, a clean apartment, a spacious bathroom, wifi, and most importantly a balcony with a lovely view of the coast and the island of Lokrum across the way. Although the complimentary bottle of wine was pre-tty terrible, squeezing onto that tiny balcony and eating a breakfast of fresh nectarines and local pastries or watching the sunset drinking aforementioned terrible wine and nibbling on the Le Petit Ecolier cookies we picked up in Paris (so addictive) was worth all the walks. Not to mention Dubrovnik in August is crazy crowded and gets rowdy at night, so staying on Stradun (the main street in the Old Town) would have been a bit trying sleep-wise.

 

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

 

The crowds in fact are probably the biggest downside of visiting in August, the middle of the high season. One of the locals was telling us that the population of Old Town is around 1,000 people but during certain days of the high season with the cruises and tourists that number can swell to 10,000. In fact when we first walked in it was hard to really appreciate how fantastic the architecture is with all the hordes of college kids, Asian group tours and families bumping into you with selfie sticks in the air and melted gelato running down their hands. But then you start meandering into the little alley walls and the ruckus on Stradun fades away and you are left truly in awe. Oh but before you run away from Stradun definitely stop by the fountain on Stradun to refill your water bottle. The water is clean, fresh and perfectly cold. Right across from the fountain there is also a spot you will see guys standing on a ledge in front of a church and stripping their shirts off. Apparently its a local custom to prove your masculinity. Although the only thing I can imagine it proves is how impressive your tippy toe strength is.

 

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

 

One of the must do things in Dubrovnik is to walk the city walls. Yes its not free and if its a crowded day things might progress a bit slowly but the views you get of the city and of the sea are incredible. The burnt orange roofs of the buildings set off by the blinding white of stone in the sun and the sparkling deep blue sea make for stunning contrast and scenic views every way you look. If you are a Game of Thrones/ASoiAF fan like me you will recognize some of the sites that they portray as King’s Landing on the show. There’s even a Game of Thrones tour you can do, but I didn’t really want to shell out 30 euro…

 

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

 

One of the major people-jam spots on the wall is above Buza Bar, which sits outside the walls, resting atop multiple jagged cliffs. One of these cliffs is the Lion’s Head, a popular cliff diving spot from where you can plummet 70 feet down into the ocean. I was working up the courage to do this jump the whole time in Dubrovnik but ended up chickening out. Which I am actually super glad for because the cliff I did jump off in Hvar was 40-50 feet and I landed completely incorrectly and developed a huge bruise on my butt. God knows what the extra 30 feet would have done to the nice little watercolor of purple, green and yellow I was sporting the rest of the trip. At the end of the wall we spotted a huge crowd down by the main docks, people were yelling and screaming and whatever was happening apparently was being filmed. Turns out it was a water polo match. I think it was affiliated with Yacht Week. We were always arriving places a day before Yacht Week left, so our first days in Dubrovnik and Hvar were always a bit crazy. And then the Yacht Week people would leave and we would realize ok, people aren’t always pouring champagne on each other on boats and passing out drunk on the street, its just the crazy Yacht Week people. I mean I’m sure its super fun and I remember considering going in college but not so much my scene these days.

 

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

 

LADY PI PI

 

And of course the food. Most the restaurants in the Old Town are going to be tourist traps. Hard to get around it. Some are better reviewed on Trip Advisor but in general they all serve the same stuff. To get anything more authentic you would have to take the bus to the Gruz neighborhood nearby where locals actually live. Having said that we wanted to stay in Old Town and had heard great things about Lady Pi Pi. Its way up there – pretty much on both sides of the main street as you go sideways you will inevitably go up stairs and you get a nice view of the city and a mini workout. The focus on most of the restaurants is the fantastic local seafood – octopus, shrimp, squid, etc. – and here everything was prepared simply but very well. They had a charcoal grill going and the restaurant was mostly open air with grape vines shielding you from the sun and flowering basil brushing your elbows. Can’t complain there.

 

Lady Pi Pi

.

Lady Pi Pi

.

Lady Pi Pi

.

Lady Pi Pi

.

Lady Pi Pi

.

Lady Pi Pi

.

Lady Pi Pi

.

Lady Pi Pi

.

Lady Pi Pi

.

Lady Pi Pi

.

 

The only thing I didn’t really like throughout was the bread. Similar to Greece, the bread looks like baguette bread but the crust is soft. Its usually served with olive oil and balsamic and I usually ate it anyways but ehh. The seafood on the other hand….amazing. I started nearly every meal with Octopus Salad. Although each restaurant did it their own way they usually were dressed with a simple lemon vinaigrette and accompanied by potatoes, tomatoes and capers. The silvery skinny little Anchovies we had here were also perfect with a squeeze of lemon on bread. Although crusty bread would have been >>>. For my entree I got the Shrimp Buzara , big shell on langoustine looking things in a tomato and white wine sauce. Really good although a bit hard to eat. Then again I suck at extracting crab and lobster from their respective shells. Its a personal shortcoming of mine…I’m working on it.

 

My friends got the Grilled Squid -which was actually my favorite – and my non-seafood-loving friend got a dish with grilled Croatian sausages (cevapcici) which was actually really, really good. The squid was perfectly cooked with nice bits of char and served with wilted greens and rice. And cevapcici, if you eat meat, you must try at least once. I like it in sandwich form best. As for the prices, sorry to burst your bubble but Croatia is not that cheap. Especially in the high season. Although now a days with the euro at 1.09 (this very second that I googled it anyway…) that definitely helps. Seafood dishes were $15-25 dollars, our airBnB in Dubrovnik was about $70 dollars per person per day…we spent less for our apartment in Paris believe it or not. To avoid the high costs supposedly everything is 30-50% cheaper in the low season. Although my friend who is not a seafood person and was mostly ordering pasta everywhere was spending only about $5 dollars per meal so there’s that too.

 

After our meal we walked around the town and two of my friends got tired and walked back to the apartment. Me and my other friend decided to hang back in the city. We got street mojitos – literally exactly what it sounds like, these little stands that make you mojitos on the street and ask you if you are “going to sleep or going to paaaartyyy” (why do I read that in a Arnold Schwarzenegger accent in my head) to determine the amount of rum they slosh in there. And then tried to go to a nice bar only to realize there is no such thing around Stradun. The first one we went to was crappy European techno and drinks in plastic buckets (what is this Thailand). And the second one was more of a club and only opened at midnight. Ok. So we just bought a bottle of sort of terrible wine and sat at the docks and watched people and boats come in and out the city. On our walk back to our airBnB we were briefly suckered into going to a beach club (East West Club, its hard to miss), watched everyone spontaneously break into synchronized dancing into what I can only think is some kind of Croatian cupid shuffle equivalent and then got back to the apartment and finished alllll the Le Petit Ecolier cookies. It was a good day.

 

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

Dubrovnik

.

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
UA-51064595-1