Thursday, 13 July 2017

'This Is Going To Sound Crazy But...' | A Day Trip To Rovinj

Hello everyone!

I hope you are all enjoying what's turning into a slightly elusive summer.

I'm a little ashamed that I haven't blogged in a while, especially after my last post was supposed to be a kick up the arse to sit down and write, but sometimes life throws opportunities in your direction that you were in no way expecting, but are so grateful for nonetheless. Speaking of which...

If any of you follow me on Instagram then you may have seen the shameful amount of holiday spam that I uploaded in June when I went away on a little tour of the Adriatic with my gorgeous cousin, Victoria. It was the most incredible trip, and yet a bizarre experience for us both!

Victoria is not technically my cousin but we have always regarded each other as family. Our mothers are life long best friends, just as their mothers were before them, and as I have no doubt we will be. We only see each other a few times a year at special events or our annual 'Gathering Of The Clans' weekend around Christmas so to have two whole weeks together felt like such a treat, an opportunity I hope we get again.

To say our going away together was unexpected would be a colossal understatement. Victoria had been planning and anticipating this trip for months, whereas I had two weeks from accepting the invitation to setting foot on the aeroplane! It was a bit of a spontaneous resolution, and at times an unlikely one, but as crazy as the idea was, (note the title of this post), we made it happen. I won't explain fully the reasons for the change of plans because it is not my business to discuss, I'll only say that some things we put our faith in cannot always be counted upon.

I am happy to report however, that despite the odd circumstances and perplexed emotions, we had an unforgettable trip. There were new places to discover that neither of us had previously traveled to, and old ones we had longed to revisit. Sometimes when you travel to somewhere, you return having enjoyed yourself but not really been captivated by it or really gained anything other than a sun tan. That's not what happened on this trip; everywhere we went enthralled us and left us in awe, we found ourselves falling in love with places we couldn't pronounce and being uplifted by the simple beauty of others. I'm sure that Victoria feels the same way I do, in that I came home feeling very blessed and thankful for having seen and learnt about places that have inspired and restored me. We both needed an adventure; something to reignite us by doing the things we love doing and being who we are. The world is as wide as it is beautiful, I think we both needed reminding of that.

As I said, Victoria had been planning this holiday for months and my God had she done a fantastic job! The route was wonderful, with four beautiful locations, three countries and us two running around like wide-eyed lunatics! We started in Croatia, flying to the Istrian capital Pula, where we had four days, then on to Ljubljana, Slovenia's capital city, and two days later north to Lake Bled for another two, then after a long day of travel we finished with four days in Venice. Pretty dreamy trip right?

I thought I'd come to each of these lovely places one at a time as they were all so different in character, each new place felt like a trip of its own. Croatia was our first stop so this post is dedicated to that leg of our holiday, specifically to a beautiful coastal town called Rovinj. Victoria had seen a picture of the spice-coloured waterfront on Instagram about a year before we visited and it did not disappoint, we fell in love...

Admiring the view.

My darling, Victoria.

As you can see, it is undeniably charming. We wandered through the town following alleyways that lead to the water, frequenting shops that sold countless handmade artefacts and pointing out balconies covered in flower boxes that we would want on our dream houses. The town had such an easy feeling to it, obviously it was a good spot for tourists given all the shops, bars and restaurants however as we went in June it wasn't heaving with them and we could imagine we had discovered an authentic little Mediterranean haven.

After a little exploring we sat down for lunch as it was now mid-afternoon. We chose a restaurant near the harbour called Ancora for its waterfront terrace and reasonable prices. I don't think we could have chosen a better spot, the view was humbly beautiful and had such a calming effect on the two of us as we enjoyed some divine food. We were seated to our table and sat for a good few minutes marvelling at how clear the water was just beside us and how stunning our view out into the Med looked on that gorgeously clear day. We also had a little party of jelly fish floating just next to us for company.

I had researched the local cuisine before we came away and found that Istria is, unsurprisingly, famous for its seafood. I sampled some freshly caught sea bass on our final night in Pula and it was unbelievably good. Due to Istria's proximity to Italy there are many similarities in their dishes; Istrian's enjoy pastas and risottos but the region is also well known for its olives, truffles and wine. 

With that in mind, I chose the truffle tagliatelle as I was curious to try some local truffles, and Victoria opted for an Istrian style risotto which I will admit did give me a little food envy. This was undoubtedly one of the best meals of the holiday in my opinion, and I am still dreaming about that pasta and that view.

Now fuelled by carbohydrates, we tackled our way up to the top of the hill to visit the town's church and clock tower which were again, charming as charming can be.

The inside of the church was beautiful but sometimes I do not like to take pictures in churches out of respect for those worshipping. In fact you may not have been allowed to take pictures in this one, I will own that I cannot quite remember as we visited so many. Which ever the case I do not have any pictures of inside the church, but believe me it was beautiful. 

We then paid the admission to the clock tower and ascended what can only be described as a death-defying, seemingly never-ending flight of very old, wooden stairs. You could see straight through the gap between each stair to the stone floor at the bottom of the tower and it probably took us about twenty minutes to carefully climb each perilous step. You may think I'm exaggerating but the adrenaline running through our veins whilst trying to get up these highly-questionable stairs was a fantastic source of amusement for the two of us! Much to our surprise considering the number of visitors in the church, we were the only ones at that time who ventured to the top of the clock tower which was wonderful as we had the view to ourselves. It also meant that because we were both wearing dresses we avoided flashing anyone on our ascent to the top, including the final little climb which was simply a ladder leading to a hole in the floor of the viewing platform. 

The peril was real.

As you can see, the view from the top of the tower is gorgeous. The colours looked so rich; terracotta houses, the velvet blue sea and bottle green trees matched with that limitless sky. The breeze at the top of the tower was a dream against the heavy heat of the day, we could have stayed up there for hours.

After the inevitable descent of those awful stairs, we left the church and headed back down the hill into the town, wandering this time down a street which gallery upon gallery opened up onto before us. We stopped in one at the top, just beside the church, where I purchased a postcard and Victoria a print to frame for her new house. 

The streets of Rovinj are all paved in stone that must have been there since the towns very conception, which over the years have been subject to countless feet stepping over them. The result of this is that the stones are very, very smooth, which when you're wearing sandals than are flatter than a pancake, you have to walk rather slowly and with your arms out for balance unless you should like to slide down the street on your arse instead. The two of us must have given the locals, who stood outside their shop doors to enjoy the breeze, such a good laugh as it took it us an embarrassingly long time to walk down to the flat of the harbour front again. We would have made them laugh more however should we have actually fallen over which I'm glad to say we didn't! 

When we were once again at the waterfront, we decided it about time for something cold and so we went to a restaurant called Copacabana where they have a gelato bar that looks onto the street. After a few minutes of drooling and indecision, we bought two scoops each and took a seat on a bench right on the harbour front to soak up the sun and devour our insanely good gelato. 

This tasted even better than it looks.

By this point it was about half past four, which meant we were faced with the choice of getting the 40 minute bus drive bus back to Pula at half past five, or getting the later bus at half past seven. We decided to make the most of the opportunity and catch the later bus which meant we had three more hours to casually spend around the town. We walked along the harbour back to the other side of town where we were spoilt for choice of lovely big sofas at the bars that line the waterfront. We ordered cocktails, Instagrammed the days adventures and called home. 

We spent our final few hours wiggling our way through side streets to the sound of a choir singing at mass before stepping back on the bus and heading home to Pula. We loved our day in Rovinj and I hope it lived up to Victoria's expectations, it certainly defied mine. Before this trip I didn't know very much about Croatia, other than it was becoming a popular and cheap Mediterranean getaway. I'm so grateful that I was able to visit somewhere that usually wouldn't have crossed my mind to visit as everything was such a pleasant surprise to me. I was charmed by the gentleness of the landscape, the care the people devote to their food and its flavour, as well as the modesty of the architecture. I love the sense of simplicity there is to life like this on the Mediterranean and I would love to go back to Croatia one day. I'm so grateful to Victoria for bringing me to these places, for without her I wouldn't love them as I do now. 

As I said, this was only the first of four stops on our trip so stay tuned for the next instalment and more pictures of some of the most incredible places I've ever been. It's Ljubljana's turn next and be warned, Ljubljana was my favourite leg of the trip so prepare for even more pictures and lots of superlatives! I hope you've all enjoyed this post and I'll see you all in the not so distant future!


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