Gems of The Adriatic

29 Jan

It’s been a years since my return from the Dalmatian Coast–and still, even now, I continually reminisce about our time there. And who can blame me–if you’ve been, I’m sure you can certainly relate. And if you haven’t, you needn’t waste any more time –plot out your itinerary—and head out to the Adriatic coast.

Sure, throngs of vacationers who’ve ventured out to the Italy, France or Spain’s Mediterranean coasts boast about such popular beauties as the Amalfi Coast and, the Greek and Balearic Islands, for instance-all stunners in their own right—but I would certainly argue that the Dalmatian Coast has certainly earned its place in the realm of the aforementioned destinations as well.

Croatia is no doubt the most popular–and has actually become a pretty trendy spot for those seeking an alternative to Italy, for instance. Dubrovnik, a major hub along the coastline-in southern Dalmatia, is impressive and boasts an expansive wall – which is in fact reminiscent of the Great Wall – and has a circumference of  1+ miles.

To get the best views of the city and the rich, deep aqua of the Adriatic, right after your meal of the day’s catch (as you can imagine, seafood is big in these parts—and, oh is it delicious)–or after indulging in one or several of the irresistible gelato flavors at the ubiquitous stands that you cannot miss, ascend to the top of the walls and take a leisurely stroll around it–walking off your newly deposited calories. Take your camera along for the trek as it’s indeed quite picturesque–priceless. And then, right before sunset, grab a sit and a beverage at Cafe Buza, a couple cafés alongside Dubrovnik’s old town walls, right on the sea’s edge, and watch the sun go down – you’ll be taken by the immaculate view—and perhaps Frank Sinatra serenading in the background.

For me though, the region’s true gem is further down south—the town of Budva, in the neighboring country of Montenegro. It’s not terribly straightforward to get to–you typically have to drive and meander through two-lane streets, connect to car ferry (Budva has no major airport that I know of), and deal with a motorway that can sometimes come to a snail’s crawl due to heavy traffic.

But as you approach Budva, whatever you had to endure in your travels to get there—you would agree that it’d been well worth it. As you enter the city, Budva’s rolling expansive hills (truly some of the most impressive I’ve seen) greet you—and it’ll be all you can do to focus on the wheel.  Though the city’s been through challenges due to its turbulent history, today, it’s a vibrant town of just over a mere 15K residents, so you truly feel secluded in your own little oasis when you’re there. Plus, it’s said to have one of the best climates of the Mediterranean (over 2.7K sun hours a year), so visiting off-peak is still quite pleasurable and the many beaches still warm enough to swim in.

When you aren’t about, strolling through the old town and taking in the sights there, venture out to nearby Sveti Stefan (or St. Stephen)– a former  island now connected to the mainland and transformed into a luxurious resort. Hey, you might even glimpse a celebrity or two. Many have been said to vacation there—including sexy siren of the silver screen, Sophia Lauren.  Neighboring Kotor is also worth a visit, for variety. But trust me, you’d be yearning (as we were) to get back to the serenity of Budva.

Seafood, not surprisingly, is a big staple in the cuisine of the region. You can often get this with scrumptious sides likerisotto (get the one with the squid’s ink), boiled and delicately seasoned potatoes, and seasonal greens. If seafood isn’t your thing, fear not, due to its rich and diverse heritage—and having once been under Italy’s rule, you can find some tasty pizza and pasta choices—as an alternative.

Hotel Astoria is brilliant choice for where you spend your time while in Budva. First of all, it’s conveniently located within the walls of the old town (at time of our visit the only one to boast this location), it has a roof deck with stunning views of the city, and the staff could not be any friendly. If you’re fortunate enough to be attended to by the cheery young lady (her name now escapes me) at the front desk, you’re in for a treat. She’s very helpful and jovial and will keep you laughing your entire stay—plus she’s pretty fluent in English—as is the case for most of the staff.

So, if you’re looking for something different, exciting and relaxing, consider Montenegro on your next trip across the Atlantic. You’d be happy you did

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