Friday 28 August 2015

Today started early.

At 5.15am. I left at 5.20am and was on the train at 5.40am.

It was surprisingly busy. It took an hour to reach Gatwick, where it may as well have been the middle of the day. It was packed full of people!

I had already checked in online and the queue for bag drop/check in was long. So I tried out the print-your-own-baggage-tag machine. I eventually got a bag tag. But then where to take my bag. No idea. So I asked the guy who was standing around, you have to join the same queue as if you had no baggage tag printed….!! I asked him what the point of that was, his response “precisely”. Well that’s helpful.

After a bit of negotiating, he let me take my bag to over sized luggage. I had a bit of time to kill.

Pret was surprisingly vegan friendly, they had some dairy-free porridge (in a really small portion), but not the almond milk I had wanted. So I had to settle for cacao almond milk (for second breakfast later…!!). We left on time at 9am, for the 2 hour flight over to Croatia. I had brought a Tupperware box of oats with me, so enjoyed breakfast number 2 enroute! I couldn’t eat the cheese croissant and yoghurt offered as the vegetarian breakfast….

We landed at 12.45pm local time, by 1pm I had already collected my bag and was on the bus ready to get to the town! Efficiency! But then the bus didn’t leave until 1.40pm….!

The bus took around half an hour, weaving along the steep coastal road. Bright blue ocean, dark green trees, orange roof tops and light grey stone. The whole journey. It’s quite pretty. But very developed.

The bus dropped me off at Pile gate. The main entrance to the walled old city of Dubrovnik.

Handily, I’m staying about a 2 minute walk away, which didn’t take long to find! I have a really nice room, looking over the city walls and the ocean (and a mini kitchen!). After changing into hot-weather-appropriate clothes, I went off to explore.

The old town of Dubrovnik is entirely surrounded by 2km long, 25m high stone walls. The walls were built between the 13th and 16th centuries to protect the old city. They were destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout various wars.

I entered the main town across the drawbridge and through the Pile gate. This gate was built in 1537 and leads through the walls, to the Main Street – the Stradun. The Main Street is wide, was completely full of people and you could barely move!!

Coffee shops spilled out onto the street. Surprisingly no one was on the street selling things (aside from the people in the shops), which was a pleasant change, but the street was so busy anyway! It was now 3pm and I was hungry.

There is one vegan restaurant in the town and they were busy, but luckily they had a table free (I hadn’t booked for today!). I had a banana curry, it was amazing!

Then continued on my walk. Despite looking like a bit of a maze, the streets were quite easy to follow. The narrow pathways all lead off the main wider street.

To the north, the streets headed steeply up the hill, with steps all the way. And to the left, the streets formed a grid around various small squares and churches.

On the eastern side of the city was the harbour, full of small leisure boats and (a lot of) touristy tour boats. After a while of wandering around, I headed out of the city and up towards the cable car. It was expensive – £10 return! This cable car leads up 405m to the top of the surrounding hills. They run every 10 minutes and the wait wasn’t long before I was floating up to the top.

The views were good – greens, blue and orange. But that was it really. I went for a walk down the road and ended up on the side of the rocky hill, no other people in sight. Really, it wasn’t too exciting. I didn’t stay long before heading back down.

Next up – the walk along the city walls. Even more expensive. £15! You can only walk one way – anticlockwise.

Which is actually good, as it means you aren’t pushing past people the entire way. At various intervals along the wall, there were small forts to enter and climb, viewing platforms and areas for cannons.

The whole city was used to film the Game of Thrones. I’ve not watched it, so wasn’t able to recognise places, but all along the way, people were talking about it and what scene happened where. The sun was beginning to set, lighting up the city in an orange glow. It was pretty.

It took me about an hour to wander all the way around. I really wanted icecream, the gelato looked amazing, but everywhere I asked was all dairy. So disappointing. I popped into a supermarket and stocked up on salad, so I can make lunch for the next few days (going to struggle in the country of meat and fish!). It was expensive. £2.60 for a pepper!!!

And time for an early bedtime!

Saturday 29 August 2015

Today I’m off diving! I was picked up at 9am, and it was a short 15 minute drive along the coast to the hotel where the dive centre is based. I don’t normally dive with dive centres located in hotels, in fact I have never done so. But that’s the only option here! There was quite a lot of faf involved.

Despite arriving before 9.30am, we didn’t end up heading out on the boat until gone 11am. They organised people onto various tables, depending upon experience, moved people around a bit, then fafed with gear, then gave mammoth briefings. There must have been less than 20 divers. (In contrast, in Mabul we used to have over 100 per day – and would have finished the first dive by now…).

Before arriving, I googled (and checked the dive centre’s website) and found the water was apparently 28 degrees. Perfect temperature for board shorts and wetsuit top. So that’s what I brought. Only to be laughed at by the staff and handed a 5mm wetsuit… I hate wetsuits.

I wasn’t expecting much. The photos gave it away before I arrived. But I wanted to try it out anyway. I was in a group of four, in a small RIB and we headed to the other side of the bay. The water was a rather pleasant 28 degrees on the surface. At 15m and below, a chilly 21 degrees. Why don’t websites tell you that?!

We saw 5 lobsters (apparently that’s exciting). I found a small scorpion fish, just the one. Then we went inside some caves. One of them, we crawled through a small underwater gap, to find ourselves in a complete enclosed air pocket. That was too claustrophobic for me!!!!

Lunch time was a dragged out process of boredom and faf. We went diving again at 4pm. Yes. Seriously. (4pm is usually when you’ve finished 3 dives for the day!!!) This time, to a small wreck and a much more pleasant cavern system, at least where you could see daylight the entire time. The guide had his hands full with one guest, who needed handholding (literally) the entire time.

So guess what, he told every one to follow me. Great…. Overall, it was fine. But doesn’t rate particularly high on my list!! I got back to the town just after 6pm. After a quick shower, out for dinner at the vegan restaurant. Luckily I had made a reservation (about 2 weeks ago) as they were completely full for the entire evening and turning so many people away. I had a falafel wrap, which was so good!! And then some chocolate mousse, made from tofu. Again, really delicious!


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