We woke up early in Hvar to catch our ferry to Dubrovnik. Probably earlier than we needed to, but we had to leave a little time to hit the breakfast buffet, which was quite the smorgasbord. The wonky cappuccino machine produced some seriously good coffee and I regretted having to scarf down crêpes, hard-boiled eggs, fruit, yogurt, meat, bread, yada yada yada. Too much food, so little time. Always.
We lugged our bags along the pockmarked street and got settled on the ferry for a three hour journey to Dubrovnik. Once again, the ride was stunning and the water, as blue as Tide laundry detergent.
When we spotted a fortified city with orange roofs and whitewashed buildings we knew we had arrived. A 15-minute journey on a packed bus took us to the Old City. At the entry gate, loads of people milled about, hawking Game of Thrones tours and kayak excursions. Luckily the tourism madness subsided when we entered the fortified town.
Our Airbnb was just off Stradun (or Placa) Street in the Old City. We rang the bell and a sweet grandmother of 75 led us up three flights of stairs to the apartment. She told us to sit and served us homemade limoncello, which tasted like the most delightful, freshly-squeezed lemonade. Ian and I had to remind each other that it was alcoholic and if we didn’t stop gulping it, we’d ruin our entire day. She also gave us fresh candied orange peels and a fruit bread that we ate among freshly-picked flowers and the sounds of the Old City.
After I was sure this place couldn’t get any better, she gifted me an engraved purple shell, which melted my heart and made me wonder whether I could put her in my pocket and take her home with me. Inside the ceiling was supported by brown beams and a pink round table looked out onto a teeny outdoor porch full of rosemary bushes and pink flowers.
Like a bird, I could see people walking on the cobblestone street below. We were thankful to have such a welcoming host. After she bid us adieu, we got lunch at a random spot called Preša Dubrovnik. I ordered a Greek salad and Ian ordered a turkey sandwich. The tomatoes in my salad were so lush and ripe and the feta was so creamy!
We wandered near the southern harbor where we saw diners eating under umbrellas in the sun-drenched plaza. Just outside the Old City walls was a great view of the sea. We continued to follow the border of the town, navigating around slick rocks and treacherous stone stairs. Up we continued onto some dryer ground, the slick rocks replaced by friendly cats and stray bougainvillea branches. We embraced the warm sun and wandered pleasantly as we continued our tour of the walled city, taking every few steps to peek over the top and admire the sea.
We exited the old city at the Pile Gate and followed our paper map towards the West Harbor wedged between the Old City and Fort Lovrijenac
. It was a quest to even find the stairs leading to the water, but we found the harbor and dipped our toes in at the end of the pier.
We carried on up a set of cobbled stairs that climbed up to Fort Lovrijenac. On the West Harbor side there were two green doors build into the side of the rocky mountain framed by lovely overgrown flowers, just as if the hobbit himself lived there.
The top of the fort provided a spectacular view of Dubrovnik from all angles. Old city walls to our south, the new city perched among the commanding mountainous terrain to our east flanking Bosnia-Herzegovina.
To the north we spotted a tiny pebble beach below with the most perfect turquoise water licking the shore reminiscent of les Calanques in Cassis, France.
We squinted at the sun reflecting off of the beautifully, oiled Croatian bodies sunbathing on the rocks below. As if lured by a siren herself, the tranquil inlet called our names and we managed down a set of steep stairs towards the beach. A loud splash 100 feet below shook us from our trance–school kids cliff diving and bobbing in the deep blue water.
The rocks cut into our uncallused feet but we managed to set up a perfect sunbathing seat, being sure to shade our black flip-flops lest they melt our feet when it was time to go. We lounged, sunned, waded in the refreshing water, and even bobbed over to the cliff jumpers to try our hand at jumping off a concrete slab into the sea, our only support a rusted ladder.
By the end of our afternoon our lips tasted salty, our skin tight from the sun, and our minds not busy, but focused only on appreciating that perfect, heavenly place. Back at our Airbnb we drink limoncello, and tried plum grappa and mini bottles of Croatian wine we had picked up on our way back. We cooked chicken and vegetables with limited cooking tools and seasoning and ate alfresco on the porch. We ate gelato on the marble stairs across from the Old Town clock tower, where a cellist played under the tealights on the square all night.