Friday, September 14, 2012

Croatian Coast Weekend

For Labor Day weekend, we took the seasonal Jat flight into Dubrovnik to meet up with 2 other couple-friends for a fabulous little break on the coast.  Our flight was at 7 in the morning and we were super tired and groggy when we got to the airport.  In a real turn of rotten luck, our flight kept getting delayed in half hour increments and we didn't end up leaving till 12:30 PM. We were pissed.  I had heard really great things about Dubrovnik (DV) and was anxious to start exploring.  Not to mention, that in our typical go-go-don't-stop-fashion, we only had Friday and Saturday in DV to then take the bus up to Split and fly out of Split on Monday.  Unfortunately, the flight was at 2 PM.  Leaving us with very little time to actually see/do a lot.  I figured it was still better to take at least a glimpse, and if we loved it, we could always try to go back.

Like the grilled octopus in Greece, DV was all about mussels.  I don't really ever eat seafood in Serbia, one because we don't have a coast and two because the meat is really good.  We had a big mussels lunch for about 12 Euro (double the Montenegrin prices!) and went on our way to the main attractions.  It really is an awesomely pretty place.  I have always liked the walled city idea and architecture.  Cities like Venice, and Toledo (Spain, not Ohio), where it's just narrow alleyways going in all different directions, no cars, just people on foot and the odd bike.  The city is all built in this white marble, even the floor, which makes it really slippery, because it has been worn down with the thousands of cruise and bus tours arriving daily.
Actually, that was my only turn-off, the amount of tourists around.  As much as we have traveled since moving here, we have been really great about missing the peak seasons, so having to wait in crazy lines or not being able to take pictures because there are other 50 people looking at the same panorama is not something I have been dealing with much.  But the views WERE worth the wait, and we got some good pics going around the wall.  Then we went to a bar that advertised the "best views in town" and they really did.  This little place was right along the rocks and had a ladder down to the coast.  DV doesn't have a beach per se.  It's on the ocean, but on the really deep part, so it's more like a big pier/marina.  Our friends C and J, who are much more adventurous than us wanted to dive off one of the cliffs.  The prime spot was roped off with a sign that said "VIP Area" and there were some random dudes in there, so there was not a lot of space for us to hang out.  But Phil, K, R and I got some beers while our Hawaiian diver extraordinaire buddies dived about 10 meters into the bluest waters I have seen.   Everyone at the bar cheered them on, I actually had sweaty palms just thinking about it, but it was definitely safe, and both of them are pretty much pros.  I would be super that girl who doesn't jump far enough and hits her head on a protruding rock 1 meter below and falls lying down flat and unconscious, while probably losing her bathing suit in the process.  So no diving for me.  Additionally, I have also been suffering from a bad shoulder for about ...a year now, so no thanks.

Post dive pic

The best thing of this trip was C's crazy tripod contraption for her camera.  She bought this little 3 flexible tube mount that can be attached to anything.  Just bend the legs to the shape of the post, chair, tree, or
railing and voila! an instant group picture can be taken.  Actually, it was the same one that our friend B. had brought to Amsterdam.  Same, same but different.  Anyway, the theme of the trip was to take as many group pics as possible.  It was really funny though, when people unsuspectingly passed in front of the camera and we all went "ahhhhh" or "no!, no!, no!, STOP! Most of them just kept going and stared at us while we stood there, completely still, with cheesy smiles on our faces, staring at the camera that should not be there.

After the diving, the VIP area was completely empty, but still roped off.  C. and I were like, "were taking over this joint!" so we walked past the sign and pulled out the chairs that had been all stacked neatly on top of the table and became the new VIP-ers.  It's so weird how you can just do that.  No bar employee came down to complain or say anything, and at the same time no other patrons dared to cross it. We were like super fake celebrities.


After the diving, we went to our house, that C had booked online, which was cool cause it was a REAL house for the 6 of us. We had a full kitchen,3 bedrooms, and 2 baths;  but like everything that sounds like a too awesome deal, it had it's downfall.  For this house it was that it was literally over 300 steep steps up a hill; going into the walled city from the house was a good 20 minute-sweating-profusely-while-panting hike.  No joke; the kind of hike that if you forgot your camera and you were already down the hill, you would rather make Dubrovnik a mere memory rather than climb that evil thing again.

Nevertheless, we climbed, and that night, we had Chef J prepare us a super yummy home cooked meal.  Earlier that day, while we had been waiting tirelessly at the airport for our flight, they had gone to the market and picked up some fish and vegetables.  We prepped some rice, salad, and other good stuff and ate in the balcony, overlooking the ocean.  Really nice stuff.

The next day, we had booked a sort of tour around three local islands.  The tour promised an hour on the first two and three hours on the last one, along with lunch and unlimited soft drinks and wine.  Well, there was a reason while that 'awesome deal' was only 30 Euros.  The wine was terrible, the soft drinks were like Rock Creek Soda (you need to be a DC person to know what that is) and the fish at lunch was terribly overcooked.  We only spent half an hour on the first two islands, and that was half an hour too long.  There was nothing to see or do on them.  Get off, look at 2-3 restaurants and some crazy hills for 'views' and wait in the shade to get back on the boat.  At least the boat was pretty nice and not too crowded.

The last island was much better though and we had time to swim and get some drinks on the shore. Even though we were there for a very short time, I have to say it might be one of the best beaches I have ever been to.  Caribbean beaches might be the most beautiful, but I like it better when the water is a little bit cold and the ocean is a bit rough.  This had the perfect amount of waves for playing around and it was the perfect temperature.  Plus, like in Belgrade, we paid some money to sit on some chairs, under an umbrella and got some drinks brought to us.  So easy, so great.

That night, after getting all primped up, we went out to dinner and then to get drinks.  I had a large plate of mussels all to my self!   We were going around trying to find a nice mojito place, like the one we loved in Sarajevo (a post I might write 3 months too late) but instead ended up to the closest thing I have seen to a frat party in this part of the world:  the bar with the bucket drinks.  Now, who deep down inside doesn't wish they were 19 and still could party like that?  But the truth is we're old now, one round of buckets later we were done.  But we found the 'grown-up' alternative to the slushee buckets: the mojito karafes.  I forgot to mention that in between dinner and drinks, Phil got a present from the group...

That guy

The mojito karafes, too sweet, but fun

I just really wanted to post a pic of our official photographer, C.
The next day, we all went our separate ways, C. and J. wanted to see more views through the funicular.  K. and R. went to a monastery, and of course, Phil and I, being super Puerto Rican, went shopping.  Not that there were a ton of good places, but enough.  We got two really cool wood pictures from a local artist and I got a necklace.  At like 2 PM, our friends dropped us off at the bus stop, where we took the never-ending torturous bus to Split.  After 5 long hours, we made it right at sunset, so at least we got to see some nice views.  Split wasn't all that great, but I had more mussels, and some grilled calamari, and just a nice, relaxing night.  According to our friends, the place to go is Hvar island, which if we'd had more time, I would have totally tried to go to.  But next year, when some friends visit, definitely.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Going bananas in Belgrade

Literally.  I have always loved bananas, and even more banana flavored things.  In DC, it mostly meant strawberry-banana yogurt or the Tropicana juice or my beloved Chunky Monkey Ben and Jerry's ice cream. This summer has brought me three new banana flavored items that have become regulars in my weekly shopping.

Notice the name in English, "Milkshake"

Chocolate-Banana Milk?  SIGN ME Up!  This will be my breakfast staple for awhile.  If there is one thing I love more than banana flavor, it is chocolate!  Maybe I will add some peanut butter to it and make a REAL milkshake.  Yum.

Too good to be true?  Nope. 100% real

I first noticed these pops at the typical ice-cream freezers all over town and then realized they sell it in "bulk" at the Maxi.  It's basically a gummy banana flavored "peel" that you literally peel off and then you are left with a banana creamsicle.

Someone PLEASE start exporting these