Europa League Final Trip Day 1-Chelmsford to Malaga

After no more than 2 hours sleep I am brought to my senses at 245 by the shrieking of my mobile phone alarm. Groggy I slunk out of bed to get ready for the weary trudge from flat to bus station to embark on a journey to Stansted to fly to Malaga for a few days either side of a trip to Seville to watch my favourite football team play a European Final. Malaga I hear some discontent at the back. Yes the cultured traveller I have become renowned for has chosen to head to the location of such gripping shows as “Boozed Up Brits Abroad” and “Bargain Loving Brits in the Sun.” There has never been a overwhelming urge to visit this Andalusian paradise which serves as one of the last bastions of British society complete with cafes selling “Full English” to soak up yesterday’s over indulgence to Spanish favourite such as Steak and Kidney Pie or Fish and Chips. Of course I will be sampling more local fare like Tapas to keep you all salivating. So come Malaga let’s be having you. No expectations other than perceived negativity so I am prepared to be wowed.

Chelmsford Bus Station at 330am

Faux snobbery from first paragraph aside this is a very different trip. Not only is it the lead up to the anniversary of Fiona’s death but it’s a football trip and I’ll be meeting some of boys from home that share the love of Rangers Football Club.

All Aboard Next Stop Stansted

The bus leaves bang on 4am and an endearing efficiency which is unusual in the UK. Maybe this coupled with the surprise showing at Eurovision is a shot in the arm for the post Brexit landscape that we now find ourselves in. Bus pulls into Stansted at 445am. Just the 3 hrs 25 minutes to keep myself entertained then. Thank goodness for music. Track of the day below.

Love this song! Only 812 listens in 6 months! Criminal! Got a weird upbeat feel.

On arriving at the terminal building at the airport it is awash with people. 100s perhaps 1000s of people heading on a well earned trip or returning home from spending time in the London/Essex area. I make it through security and now take in some caffeinated indulgence and people watching ahead of being called to board.

Lauda Air

Lauda Air is the bird of choice today bizarrely but if it gets me to Malaga then there’s no issue just perhaps the first of a few surprises over the coming days. There’s more than a few Rangers fans on the flight. Again up and away bang on the departure time. 30 minutes there’s some commotion at the back of the plane and stewardesses and steward rush back. Don’t know what transpired but lots of shouting and it’s led to the captain threatening to divert the plane. Divert the plane! What? Mr Aggressive can pipe down. Thankfully it seemed to blow over but as a result tensions are high and more than a few are now quite highly strung. I keep my head down and continue to immerse myself in music. Before I know it, aided by a quick much needed 40 winks it’s “Cabin Crew prepare for landing” over the tannoy.

Ok Malaga Let’s Be Having You

My apartment is 20 minutes from the airport so arrange an Uber for the journey and I’m on my way. The outskirts of a city are never too salubrious and Malaga is no exception. Some of the buildings wouldn’t look out of place in Baghdad but I won’t let it curb my enthusiasm. I arrive at Plaza Merced a square covered in a mysterious purply blue tree and discover a craft beer bar a stones throw from the apartment. Result!

Plaza De Merced

First stop after dumping my bag is for lunch. Tapas being the order of the day. Restaurant just along from the apartment has an offer. 4 tapas for €12 so think that’ll be the choice today and explore more tomorrow.

Tapas lunch.

Wowsers wasn’t expecting so much but I’m here to sample local delicious food so I will struggle through haha! On show here meatballs, chicken skewer up top and iberico pork toastado and chorizo salsa completing the line up

Malaga Cathedral

First impressions of Malaga are good. Bustling for a Monday probably fuelled by the copious amount of football fans milling the streets. Lots of pavement restaurants makes me feel I’m actually on holiday. My only previous experience of Spain was Seville where I am off to on Wednesday and this wasn’t too dissimilar. So pass marks so far. There’s a Castle too so bonus points there too. It’s warm very warm but plenty shady spots to enjoy a shady Sangria or Cerveza.

The Front

Being in the south of Spain you won’t ever be too far from the water and the front at Malaga offers little disappointment. Tree lined promenades are a must for this intrepid traveller to offer protection from the fierce rays of mother sun. So after long day and early start I make my way back to the apartment before heading out to dinner.

Corboda Pork with Sliced Potato

So head out and it’s close to 9pm before I find somewhere that sits between too snacky and fine dining. The big lunch made me seek something that was not too ostentatious but equally satisfying. Corboda pork won. It’s pork cooked in cider stuffed with bacon and deep fried. Could be straight out the West of Scotland cookbook. It was tasty enough with a certain acidity to the meat perhaps from the cider. So after that I head back to have a sleep as was pretty exhausted. Stay tuned for day 2.

Trip 1 Day 8 Thank You Croatia

I was going to blog today about my journey back to Chelmsford from Split but I thought I’d do something a little bit different from that. I have penned an open letter to Croatia.

“The darker the night, the brighter the stars.”

Fjodor Dostoyevsky

Dear Croatia,

I just want to thank you for being a part of this world, thank you for your hospitality, thank you for your culture, thank you for letting me experience white truffle and leek oil my two new favourite tastes, thank you for helping me get back on my feet and thank you most of all for making me fall in love with travel again. You are amazing you truly are. Don’t ever change not for Game of Thrones and not for anyone. You excel at being you. It’s what you do best. Before this trip, I was numb to life and the world around me. I wasn’t ok and that’s ok. I think some days it was better than others. It had been a hard few months losing Fiona, then the inevitable breakdown of the relationship and eleven-hour days sat staring at three screens filled with Bloomberg, Excel and other such delights. I needed a tonic but what’s a tonic when there’s no gin? That’s how I felt. I was going through the motions. Questioning what I’m doing and where I am heading. Every day is much the same as the one before but thank you to my parents for trying to keep my spirits up. It wasn’t easy. I was cantankerous, I was argumentative and I was sad. So this is where I turned to you Croatia. You were challenged to make me feel like me again. Did you manage? Yes, you did. By the barrel load. Being near water is calming, I hadn’t believed that til now. The good weather itself was a tonic itself and of course the change of scenery. Travelling alone at least in person was a daunting thought but it is empowering it truly is. Yes perhaps you have no one to talk about the day that’s passed over dinner but you are accountable to yourself and only you. You set the agenda, and you make sure you get to the ferry on time or not if you read about my afternoon in Supertar, you have to make sure you’ve planned properly and you are in control and most importantly well for me was to know I am ok. I can do things on my own, I can take responsibility and I can be me. So Croatia believes me when I say thank you. How do you build a memory when there is no one there to share? That was my worry as well. Yes like I said earlier maybe it would be nice to share remembrance but it’s all stored away ready to be recalled at the time. I see why Fiona loved you on her short visit and I know she was with me on this trip too. She let me do me but little reminders were never too far away. Sometimes time lets you regain lost perspective, and realise what you want but sometimes it’s more than that it’s finding out what you need. I needed to know I could do this, needed to know I was ok and needed to experience somewhere new. So Croatia from the bottom of my heart thank you.

Departures

Trip 1 Day 7 How Hvar Is Too Hvar?

It’s my last day so got the blues usually associated with such the occasion but compounded this time by the pleasure of someone shoving an oversized cotton bud up both my nostrils to ascertain as to whether I can return to the UK tomorrow. To my distain the test is negative so looks like it’s homeward bound. Shame really as could easily have spent another week here. Plan for today post covid test was to head to the islands again. This time Hvar was calling my name.

Today’s mode of transport-Catamaran

The sail from Split to Hvar lasts just over the hour departing at 11am. I take my seat and it’s pretty much at full capacity when the clock ticks to 11am. The catamaran is off and running bang on time, the Germans on board will be mightily impressed. Interesting to see they are following the timetable unlike boats on Lago Di Garda or Lago Maggiore where times listed are mere approximations of when the boat should arrive. Italians could never be rushed just do things when they feel like it but Croatians seem to be very much by the book. Slavic pride perhaps.

Hvar

I’m fast running out of superlatives to describe these quite charming spots in and around Split and the surrounding areas. First thing that sprung to mind on Hvar was wow. Hvar itself is a pretty big island but I’ll be spending most of my time in and around the town rather than laying on the beaches dotted around other parts of the Island. Again the promenade linking boat terminal and town centre is awash with eateries and bars. I decide to grab an ice coffee to make firm my plans for the close to 6 hours I have here.

Iced Coffee

I wasn’t sure to undertake some aimless wondering or wandering aimlessly first so iced coffee down it’s time to explore what looks to be delightful town. I stroll along to the quayside shops which has a few other bars interspersed between a few high end sailing boutiques. There were palm trees and everything you’d probably expect from St.Lucia or somewhere in the Caribbean.

Boats Bobbing

Croatia you have wowed me you really have. This is my kind of place. I make an about turn and head back for town to get some lunch ahead of my planned afternoon exercise.

Katedrala sv. Stjepana I.

I know what you’re thinking here we go again another day another cathedral with Andrew feeling uncomfortable by the church’s wealth and feeling guilty about a somewhat stodgy lunch. But alas, it’s Friday so I have decided to mix it up a bit.

Healthy Lunch Today.

Well you didn’t see that coming a lunch of chicken and broccoli noodles with an overly generous portion of Balkan flatbread. It hits the spot. Light yet tasty and the tasted like there was a pesto like dressing over the noodles. RESULT! Fanta to drink as none of my favoured Lemon drink here. So if no substantially stodgy to repent what next for your intrepid adventurer.

Another Day….Another Castle.

Yes followers I have taken the less frequented path today and headed to the hills for a trip to the Spanish Fortress that overlooks the bay and Hvar town. The way up is littered with photo opportunities to snap the perfect picture and there are indeed a few contenders for shot of the holiday from this walk.

Ready for action

The zigzagging path from town to fortress coupled with a little climb of stairs through yet another quaint alleyway was a relatively easy graft compared to my Belltower toils of the last couple of days.

The Path

On reaching the top there is bus load of American tourists which I have no issues with except when you made the effort to walk to the castle instead of being dropped off by bus you want to be able to take a picture of you accomplishment without a random in your composition. I don’t want you in my photo as much as you don’t want me in yours. Comprehend? Nod once for yes and twice for no. Ah for goodness sakes I was waiting for 3 women to finish their selfie posing when 200kg Pete just bounds in taking all sorts of weird and wacky angles. Taking to someone on his hands free about bloody tree soil!!! Finally the view is clear.

Nice Shot

All that walking up and back down has got me craving an ice cream and I remember seeing a little gelato shop on the promenade.

I Scream For Iced Cream

There are 32 flavours on a good day but today there’s a lot scored out. What flavour would you choose from below?

Mocha and Salted Caramel for me
Fruits of my labour with no Vitamin C in sight

By now is quietly approaching time for the Catamaran back to Split and unlike my debacle earlier in the week this is last boat back today so I need to ensure I’m there for 1800. I’m there in good time and able to watch the boat come in. I’m on and boarded and as per before the boat departs bang on 1800. Arrival back in Split sees a massive increase in people from the last few days. Whether is additional weekend footfall or the cruise ship docked in the harbour I’m not sure but either way it’s electric down on the restaurants on the promenade and there are more people lingering awkwardly. So back to the apartment to get ready for my last supper.

Chop ‘n’ Grill

With it being my last night coupled with Payday I thought a treat was in order so I took myself down to Chop ‘n’Grill which seems to get rave reviews. Will it be worth the hype?

Pick A Steak Any Steak You Like
Menu

Lots of good stuff there. I’ve made my decision. Let’s hope it’s good.

Vichyssoise Soup

Creamy potato soup with truffles and leek oil. Leek oil!! What a great idea. I need to investigate who I can procure this heavenly condiment as would be perfect for pasta and salads alike. Will be scouring the web for this.

The Main Event

How good does that look? My food heaven right there ladies and gents. 12oz Black Angus Ribeye (Medium/Rare) side of chips and side of asparagus with a blue cheese melt. On cutting the steak it looks absolutely otherworldly.

Cooked to perfection.

The meat is unbelievably tender and cuts like a knife through better. The blue cheese gives such an extra dimension to the meat and the steak just evaporates on your tongue. Sensational! The chips are crispy and cooked perfectly. The asparagus has been grilled giving it a nice crunch yet subtle tenderness. This is divine. What a perfect ending to this perfect holiday. Stay tuned for my journey home tomorrow.

Trip 1 Day 6 Lazy Day In And Around Split

Up with the sunlight sneaking through the gap between the bedroom and a casual glance to my phone reveals the time as 647am. Ugh! I close my eyes and a whole 8 minutes I decide I’ve had enough so to the shower I go. I had prepared for breakfast today last night by purchasing a couple of rolls from the supermarket but perhaps that was a mistake as what was a crusty roll yesterday had transformed into a very tough but still reasonably tasty roll embellished with some local meats which I’m not overly sure as to what they were but had a similar taste to some Italian and German contemporaries such as Coppa and Speck.

Budola

After Breakfast this morning my plan was to have a walk around the Marjan Park which is on the doorstep of my apartment. I am lead to believe that the views are worth the trek that one must undertake to get to the point where the vista is at its most alluring.

The Road Goes Up
And Up
And up

My legs are tight from my exertions in the belltower in Trogir so each step takes considerably more effort than usual but I am ever hopeful the view will make up for the unexpected sufferance. I see the vantage point in close proximity so I get a second wind to power towards. I must be doing this walk in the wrong direction as everyone I pass seems to be going down and it’s only me that’s scaling the summit but what goes up must come down so I’m guessing as I turn for home it’ll be all downhill.

Breathtaking

I made it to the vantage point where I feel like a kingdom surveying his kingdom in all its glory. There are no words that can truly describe what you see from here especially on a cloudless day like today. Azure skies as far as the eye can see and the large ferries docked in the harbour look like children’s toys bobbing in a giant bath which is the Adriatic. It’s majestically peaceful here with the crickets and birds orchestrating a rich symphony of nature that would Dvorak or Mendelssohn would be proud of and if not BBC Sound Effects library could be an adequate consolation prize.

God Bless Croatia

The Zenith point complete with cross and flag make for a interesting juxtapose between faith and flag. Downhill the tightness of my thighs is evident on the steep uneven path that leads back to Split. It won’t spoil the day still got a few things to mention in more detail on revisits this afternoon.

Downwards

It was approaching lunch time when I reached the bottom so thought I’d try so local pastries today for my lunch.

Rolani Burek

Rolani Burek is the first delight on offer which is a pastry filled with meat. Not sure if the Croats ever made it to Cornwall so never really mastered the art of a Pastie or Sausage roll instead what is served up is like if you had asked someone to make a more greasy but somehow lighter spring roll and fill with a kofte kebab. I could see this being popular in Scotland if it was readily available.

Kalcone

On picking the above I was asked if I was wanted spicy or non. Only ever going to be one answer to that question. Spicy! I had no idea what was inside so replied purely on instinct that making it spicy would make instantly more bearable. It’s very doughy and it’s chorizo like meat inside which I guess makes it the spicy option. It’s decent but nothing really to write home about….yet here we are.

Grgur Ninski again as promised
The pronounced big toe of Grgur Ninski

Local lore suggests that if you rub this enlarged toe it will bring good luck. Maybe not the best thing to suggest tourists should do given this pandemic but needless to everyone is getting involved with some even kissing the toe!

So who was Grgur Ninski?

He was an interesting fella who was a bishop first and foremost but he was radical and reformist. Not just Bishop but the Archbishop of Split. Ninski was very critical the Catholic Church hierarchy such as the Pope and other circles. He was a strong advocate of the Croatian language being used during religious services to end up then had only been held in Latin which the vast majority of the Croatian people could barely understand. This was very important for the Croatian Language and Culture and made the Christian faith particularly the Catholicism strong in Croatia. The highly echelons of the Vatican were not happy so offered Ninski a move away from Split to which he refused but by c.929 he was given no choice and from there he disappeared from the annuls of history but the services in Split continued in Croatian and soon spread to the rest of the country.

Split Cathedral revisited

Another day another Cathedral. Split Cathedral or to the locals Sveti Dujam. Do I want to in-of course I do I haven’t had my customary ponderous rumination which these musings have been become accustom to over the last few days. So I am only too willing to examine what lies within the walls of Sveti Dujam.

Propovjedaonica
Gold Gold and more Gold

Ostentatious and Orthodox is the order of the day with even more lavish displays than previous offerings. It’s impressive yet the same sense of bewilderment remains as to why the church needed and indeed still needs these sumptuous artefacts.

Another Day Another Belltower

With my thighs and calves screaming at me from yesterday in Trogir I begin my ascent on the Belltower which is even higher than Trogir but I’m sure the panoramic views will be worth the agony. Yet again head beats heart (starting to see a theme here) despite the hoots of derision. It’s busy up here with so many people feeling they are entitled so once they’ve seen their view and taken their selfie for Instagram they charge down the steps with little or no consideration for those making the upward journey with even the cheek to check your audacity of being in their way. People are strange animals on the whole quite selfish but too blind to see on the most part. I reach the top with no major issues and the confidence from yesterday still pushing me forward.

Top of The World
Rooftops of Split
The Harbour

I felt I was on the lookout for the Venetians or The Ottomans from times of yore. It was truly spectacular the view.

Going down the stairs was tricky and my overly cautious approach didn’t do much for my legs which were close to wobble but powering through I made it to the bottom.

Cheers!

Where next? Beer next. I decide after that endeavour to treat myself to a well earned beer. I haven’t really found craft beer overly accessible here in bars and my love for that Lemon radlers has probably made for a refreshing change. However I found a Craft Bar called “The Daltonist” as emblazoned on the glass. It was a quirky little place but specialised more in extravagant cocktails but there were a couple of local beers on tap so picked one and hoped for the best.

For the beer geeks

If like me you are a bit of a beer geek. Follow my beery musings on Untappd link in the social media section in the About Me section. For those interested this is a New England style IPA and on inspection is pretty on point for the style. Aroma is fruity and non of the usual linoleum you get with a lot of the NEIPA clones. Taste is a nice creamy mouthfeel with a gentle caressing bitterness. At 6.1% it’s not really sessionable but enjoyable in smaller measures or a one off beer.

So one beer and an ice cream later I head back to my apartment to get some rest ahead tonight’s dinner. Which I won’t blog about as was very poor and quite obviously frozen food and the restaurant tried to add an Aperol Spritz to my bill. Was like really? You think I would be drinking that and remarkably he redid the bill and it somehow came to the same amount. Ach forget it take it but no tip.

Blandness On A Plate

Day 7 my last full day coming up soon

Trip 1 Day 5 Trogir

After yet another restless night fuelled by eating too late or maybe too much fresh air I decide I will take myself to Trogir for the day. I take a different route to the town today through a less salubrious part of town. Before getting to the seafront I am confronted by concrete monolithic structures perfectly positioned and equidistant apartments. Very communist circa 1970s I would say. I eventually reach the promenade and make my way to the bus station which like most continental cities it is next to the train station.

Split Railway Station

These are usually in the particularly rough end of town. The place full of characters and dark foreboding doorways where if at night the only light emitting would be from the ends of burning cigarettes painting the way like sort of hazy yellow brick road. Unsure of where to purchase my ticket I see a stand which has the translation listed as Domestic Travel. So with my somewhat broken English so even the Slavic mother tongue can loosely understand I utter Trogir and with a venomous retort I am told “Bus Station this is Train Station” with my head in my hands I trudge wearily past the abundance of eateries that lines the route between train and bus station with only the bakery offering food that that looks partially edible. On reaching the bus station I discover that the next bus to Trogir is just over an hour away. So I buy my ticket and head towards somewhere that can offer me an ice coffee and ringside seats to the comings and goings of both stations

Iced Coffee

My bus finally arrives and it’s an intecity express from Split to Zagreb so I’m bit apprehensive as to whether this is the correct bus. However 37 minutes later the bus arrives in Trogir. Phew! First impressions of Trogir are good. Looks like it could the featured resort in summer sun holiday brochure. I think I’ll like it here I say to myself.

First Impression of Trogir.

There is an archway leading to another intricacy of narrow side streets with uneven cobbles ready to snare an unsuspecting tourist who is too busy on their phone rather than paying attention to the centuries of history engulfing their every step on the way from town to promenade.

Cobbled Streets Of Trogir

Before reaching the promenade there is a clearing that is a square with you’ve guessed it a church! Another day another church/cathedral. I spy a large group making a beeline for the church so I decide I will make somewhat inevitable visit after lunch.

Katedrala sv. Lovro complete with climbable bell tower.

I eventually make my way to the promenade and it’s truly beautiful. Pavement cafes/restaurants, palm trees and an assortment of little market stalls with your usual range of lavender by products, Croatian souvenirs and such like. It was time for lunch and it’s busy down here. Clearly this is the place to be if you want to eat in Trogir. I finally find somewhere that is more snacky by nature and order my lunch Zagrebački Odrezak. Which is a chicken breast stuffed with ham and cheese served with a potato salad.

Trogir Promenade

Over lunch my brain has started to entertain the idea of climbing the bell tower as means of attempting to burn some of the excessive calorie consumption at lunch. Not sure where this confidence has come from given that I’m weirdly tentative with stairs especially uneven spiral staircases usually found in these such towers. Not sure where my naivety around stairs has come from and strangely enough I’m worse going down. This coupled with a somewhat irrational fear of heights makes the bell tower idea even more ludicrous. Scared to thwart this burst of confidence head defeats heart as I make my way to the Cathedral.

Katedrala sv. Lovro

The entrance to Katedrala sv. Lovro looks straight off the set of an Indiana Jones movies and not your usual homage to all things Christian. Inside again is very lavish with impressive artwork adorning the walls and again there is no expense spared as the Catholic Church shows it’s wealth of yesteryear. Gaudy and godly yet again but I think that’s the plan really. You want your flock to really feel they are in the presence of their Lord.

Inside Katedrala sv. Lovro

My almost daily pilgrimage to these would be sanctuaries seem to almost coincide with my regret of a feast at lunchtime so maybe their is a hint of repentance in my reveries of introspection. To the belltower a voice from within says and before I know I’m at the door to the climb

What lay ahead

Looking up here made me feel nauseous. There is no chance I would’ve done a couple of years ago but now what I’ve lost in weight I seemed to have gained in confidence. So I clamber up the narrow spiral staircases yes the very ones that actually terrify me stopping every so often to catch my breath and take in the views. I was going to count the steps but the adrenaline put pay to that idea. I finally made it with legs shaking, nerves jangling and an unassailable worry my cap would blow off.

Do Not Ring The Bell
The view from the top looking left
Looking Right.

The view was worth the tiptoe up the 9 levels to get there. Then I remembered I’m worse going down. I think it’s a confidence thing and I was proud of myself for managing to get to the top so I will use that confidence to show I can manage. With one last look at the panorama enfolded I make for the stairs and start to gingerly descend but the initial collywobbles is replaced with a certain composure. I’m hardly bounding down the stairs but by the grimace is replaced by grace and I was down on terra firma before I knew it. I dust myself down and felt good if not slightly exhausted. I wanted more so went back to the promenade and crossed the bridge to the other side to get a view looking back across to the town.

Hello from the other side

It’s more relaxed from the busy promenade but I don’t stay too long as I have a bus to catch and don’t want a repeat of yesterday’s ferry faux pas. So I take my last bimble along the promenade where I caught a glimpse of the T-shirt I wanted to buy as a souvenir of this trip. I always tend to buy a T-shirt as momento of a trip. Some have not stood the test of time but I still have a few in my collection. So I part with my 100kn (approx 11.50 GBP) and make for the bus station and alight the waiting bus back to Split. Will head back to the apartment rest for a short while then get myself ready to out for dinner. Fabrique Fun&BBQ was the choice for tonight.

Fabrique Fun&BBQ

I survey the menu to discover the interesting Balkan Grill section which is where I make my choice Devojački San which is a rolled kebab stuffed with bacon and cheese served with Balkan flatbread, fries and onion rings and 2 dipping sauces which I picked salty mayo and chilli chorizo mayo. Which from the pic below came more like sorbets than sauces. This was a hearty meal and I thoroughly enjoyed. The kebab was cooked to perfection with just the right amount of char and melted in your mouth. The cheese and bacon were there but didn’t overpower instead giving an extra layer to the meat. Stuffed I return to the apartment and ready for a good sleep to see what Thursday brings.

Devojački San

Trip 1 Day 4 Lazy Morning Then Ferry To Supertar

Shortly after posting yesterday’s update I wiped out. All the nature and fresh air taking its toll. I awoke a bit later than I planned so a quick breakfast of toast with some cheese and ham I was on my way to Split for a lazy morning just moseying.

Walk from my Apartment to the Promenade

It was much quieter today perhaps all the Americans had left and the next plane load hadn’t arrived yet. Was still enough hustle and bustle to create an ambiance. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do today but I know I wanted it be more relaxing than yesterday’s excursion. So I just wandered and let my feet decide the itinerary. Without even trying the fish market and street stalls were first sights for today. The other stalls sold every from t-shirts to olive oil and most things in between in a Petticoat Land meets Billingate type area where one nostril smelt lavender from the soap stall and the other was fixated by Catch of The Day which seemed to be Sea Bream today.

Desperate Fishwives

After the cascade of smells to give the master perfumer at Old Spice a run for his money I make my way to get myself an iced coffee to indulge in some people watching whilst deciding on my plan of action for the afternoon. Twas a lovely day with the skies mirroring the Adriatic in rich blue. So I decided I would take the ferry to Supertar on the Island of Brač.

Ferry to Brač

Not quite sure what it is about me and boat trips but I always get somewhat sentimental about leaving a place despite knowing I am due to return by early evening. Maybe I was a sailor in a past life. I scramble aboard the ferry and make my way to the top deck so I can hopefully get some nice photographs of Split as the ferry leaves port.

Split from the Ferry

The ferry is busy and it must have about 50-60 cars on board too. Feels like it’s an invasion of Brač from the mainland. The sail is just under the hour so enough time to relax a bit before embarking on the island adventure. I can see Brač on the horizon edging ever closer with every thrust of the engine. It looks like a picture postcard,

First Impressions of Supertar

My first thought on disembarking is that this is reminiscent of a town you would sail to on Lago Di Garda or Lago Maggiore in Italy but this was Croatia and this place has its own unique charm. By now i was quite hungry so had to pick which of the assortment of quayside cafes took my fancy. I finally found one that seemed up satisfy and kudos for the canopy to keep the sun off of my already tingling head. I ordered ground beef served on local bread with cheese and rocket salad. I expected a burger like concoction but what came was closer to a pizza with Bolognese sauce and mozzarella with some rocket. Looked amazing. Bonus point for the rocket as it’s first green to adorn my plate this holiday thus far.

Bolognese Pizza with Rocket (better description)

Wow this blew me away. The bread was light yet doughy with a great crunch upon biting, the minced meat was great too and a pleasant spice heat but nothing too drastic and cheese was soft and a rich tang. Top drawer. After that memorable feast it was time to explore the town of Supertar. I decided to explore the town instead of going to the famous beach on the opposite side of the island. I think I chose the better of the two as the town was quite quiet. Can you guess my first stop?

Yeah you got it the church. Yet again I’m drawn the beautiful Crkva sv. Petra with adjoining bell tower. It always amazes the amount of stairs leading to a church. It’s almost like a penance for the Sunday hordes for their previous weeks sins. After my lunchtime feast the stairs presented me with a challenge I hadn’t really prepared for. So my penance for my exquisite yet calorific lunch was some heavy breathing and some groans from my stomach obviously not happy with the exercise so soon after lunch.

Inside Crkva sv. Petra

After my almost obligatory moment of contemplation I return to the promenade to savour this little slice of paradise and attempt to burn off some of that wonderful lunch and return to get my ferry back to Split at 4pm at least that was the idea.

Tell me that this doesn’t look wonderful
Go on tell me?

I leave the town and decide to walk to the top of island which passes on the way a little beach area complete with loungers parasols and massage rooms. Massage rooms on a beach is not something I’d ever seen before but offering to ease my tired legs for 130kn (approximately 15GBP) is a somewhat tempting offer but I decided against and I make for the point I planned so I can have a view of Supertar.

The view I was craving

Made it! Now soak it up. Relax before heading back. I check the time and it’s 1510 so time to head back for the ferry you can see arriving from Split in the photo. It’s not that far will take 40 minutes or maybe less as I won’t be stopping to massage the offers from the massage rooms or take as many photos. I arrive back on the promenade to hear the ferry blast it’s horn. Perhaps it’s heralding my arrival but it’s actually leaving!!! Wait it’s only 1547 so I make for terminal and discover that it’s 1545 the ferry leaves. I had read the times as the timing of the ferry leaving Split for the next scheduled departure at 1800! 1800 another 2 hours to kill. I decide to treat myself to an ice cream to make peace with myself I misread the timetable.

Move along nothing to see here.

This was truly divine food and brain and body had agreed a truce on the timetable fiasco. Rich chocolate ice cream with a more generous helping of whipped cream, pieces of chocolate bar and smattering of chocolate sauce. Delicious. I decide to indulge myself yet in some people watching and watch the arrival and departure of small sail boats and yachts. Out of the corner of my eye I notice the is a yacht called “Fee” which brought a smile to my face was like Fiona waving reminding me she was here in spirit no doubt laughing at my mishap on the timetable.

There she is

I see the ferry in the distance so make my way to the terminal as I won’t be missing this one. Come hell or high water I will be on that ferry. So I take a last look at my surroundings on this beautiful little island and to capture its beauty in my minds eye.

Until We Meet Again Brač

Arrive back in Split just before 1900 so back to the apartment for quick shower and spruce before out for dinner to find something interesting for eating. I decide to head for Republic Square which I noticed had some eateries when I stumbled upon it the other day. I ended up going to Big Macho which offered a few interesting menu items. I decided on Rolani Pileći Ražnjići. Which was chicken wrapped in Dalmatian ham (not the dog) with tomato sauce served with Ridgeback potatoes. Which I guess was what came back as I have noticed before Croatian cuisine doesn’t always come as one would expect but needless to say it was still tasty. What came was skewers (on later research that is the Ražnjići part) with chicken breast an almost bacon like meat with a side of Napoli sauce with potato wedges of sorts.

Rolani Pileći Ražnjići

Stay Tuned for Day 5

No Ginge Tinge in beard thanks to the shadows

Trip 1 Day 3 Šibenik-Krka-Skradin

After a restless night fuelled by the fear of oversleeping and missing the bus for my planned excursion today my alarm goes off at 615am. Quick shower and an application of sun screen later I’m off to find a street that I remember seeing yesterday without really remembering where it was and to make things worse Vodafone cannot seem to get my roaming data to work so no google maps to help my quest. I had some apprehension about going on my own with potentially a group that could be all groups of lovers, friends and co-workers on an extra curricular business trip whilst partners at home are none the wiser. I got to the meeting point with 7 minutes to spare to be greeted by Donko the tour guide who speaks English with a slightly American accent. I’ll blame TV for that. Others arrive shortly after and we are ready to go. First stop Šibenik.

Šibenik

On first impressions Šibenik looks a quaint little town. However on listening to Donko it’s clear that this little place is big on history. Šibenik has a medieval heart which radiates white against the placid waters of the bay where the river Krka meets the Adriatic. The labyrinth of steep stoney backstreets and winding alleys are a joy to explore. Šibenik is in fact a city and a very important one historically. Turns out Šibenik was a very strategic place for the Croatians as they traded with the Venetians and other empires and there was even documentation showing trade with India. The Venetians acquired Šibenik in 1409 and stayed for 300 or so years.

Backstreet of Šibenik

The main sight to see in Šibenik is the cathedral. Here we go again me looking around churches yet again. As like yesterday still no further forward as to why I find myself like a moth to flame around these pillars of Christianity. Uniquely the structure made entirely of stone, took 104 years to build and its marries various different styles of architecture. When construction commenced in the Gothic style and was completed in the Renaissance style, including the famous stone dome. The structure is listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage register. Inside was as garish as it was godly but these cathedrals certainly show the wealth of the church from days long gone by.

Me outside Katedrala sv. Jakova
Inside Katedrala sv. Jakova

Afterwards I grab a quick coffee before heading back to the meet-up point before getting back on the bus. Krka up next!

Viewing point on way to Krka

After about 30 minutes of navigating some steep inclines and sharp turns the minibus arrives in Krka National Park and it’s looks an amazing place. Donko takes the group to a point where he explains the rules and timings for the time here and it was important to listen as he explained where the boat left from and time of the sail and the meeting point on arrival at Skradin. He will be taking the minibus the road way so he will not be in the park.

Krka National Park

It feels a somewhat enchanting and magical place of waterfalls and gorges, and the heavy rain overnight causes the river to be gushing. The area has desolate remoteness which is shown by the fact it has attracted monks who constructed their monasteries in and around this area. Here you feel almost insignificant to the vastness of nature and you feel humbled in it’s presence.

The boat to Skradin in distance
The rugged remoteness
One of many waterfalls

Walking round the path you feel transported to a fantasy novel. I half expected to see elves and trolls on the paths and dragons in the sky but unfortunately just other tourists. Skradinski Buk is the main waterfall that I came to see and that’s what I will do. I don’t think you would get the scale of the in the photograph especially from the point on high where you first observe this.

The first glimpse of Skradinski Buk

That video is why I’m here. It’s idyllic and peaceful despite being a tourist hotspot. Breath in the clean air fill your lungs with all the good stuff before you leave Croatia and head back to your city life. Quite spectacular. Going down the gorge to bottom to see Skradinski Buk from the bridge at the bottom was scattered with rock pools and charming flora and fauna. It’s believed that bears roam the forests but thankfully no such surprises.

Bottom of Skradinski Buk

Made it! The view from here is still spectacular as shown above but it doesn’t quite capture the enormity of the surroundings. This is why I travel, why I want to travel more and how I wish I had chosen travel journalism as a career instead of the office work I have succumbed to being chained to a desk for 10-11 hours a day. Never too late I guess but this could be best I’ll get writing my blog.

The boat awaits

The sail to Skradin was lovely. Steep rock faces adorn the route with great vast forests blanketing the the landscape. Can see why the monks love it here. Nothing to see but the beauty of nature and inner peace would soon follow. Half an hour arrival in Skradin. The harbour is littered with rich people’s playthings. Not quite super yachts but not far from it.

Skradin

Here the group are reunited with the affable Donko. Who will be taking the group to a winery for some tastings. I’m not really a wine drinker but I am keen to see how my palate has changed since my adventures in beer especially having acquired a taste for sour beer. There are 13 in the group and as I fear I was the only one travelling alone at least in person anyways. I was sat at table with 3 German women (my lucky day) and a couple of software engineers from San Francisco. Always liked German women they have a certain natural quirkiness and not afraid to be different. They are from Stuttgart it turns out. I think one of them took pity on me as I was on my own as we started to talk about everything and anything and she told me her parents were Croatian and moved to Germany for a better life but they both passed away recently so she is getting their old house just outside Split renovated so it can be used for a holiday home to supplement the income she has as a midwife.

Entrance to the Winery

The wine on offer I wasn’t overly sure if it was good bad or indifferent really but I could drink it even the rose but I would be lying if I said I enjoyed it. The cheese however was great and did seem to pair well with the wines as did an extra dimension.

Wine and Cheese In the Afternoon

The group are now offered the chance to purchase some of the produce they sampled and some of the other products made on site such as liqueurs and olive oil. I didn’t per take but the Americans seemed to go in for it. Journey back to Split was nice as I had someone to talk to now on the bus and we chatted about my visits to Germany and she asked me for some advice about things to do in London and Scotland. We say our goodbyes on the promenade. Thank you for taking the time to talk today Tourina.

Me at Krka

Day 4 coming soon

Trip 1 Day 2 Getting My Bearings

Split Starts here.

After 5 and a bit hours sleep I got myself showered and dressed for my first forage on Croat soil to that of the supermarket to acquire some bread, butter and some local processed meats for breakfast. 114 Kuna I returned with my plethora of products.

Breakfast Is Served

Before any concerns I only had 2 of the rolls and some ham and cheese accompanied by a glass of Orange Juice. Very good start to the day so felt ready to take on the world. I venture down the path that leads to the promenade that is called “Riva”

Riva

Riva is very reminiscent of Promenade Anglais in Nice. Cafes and bars scattered across the pavement and little stalls selling local artisanal products or artists selling the masterpiece of their Mind’s eye. I stop for a Iced Coffee to indulge in a favourite past time of my mine on holiday….people watching.

Iced Coffee with a view

I didn’t really have anything planned for today other than to get my bearings and a feel for what Split has to offer. The city itself is pretty small but with lots of back streets and squares to easily lose yourself or lose someone else if they were being irritating. I will post in detail some of the sights later in the week when I actually take them with more detail.

Split Cathedral

The cathedral was one of the highlights of my fact finding mission around the city and I will look forward to being reacquainted later in the week. I am always drawn to churches particularly on foreign shores. Strange given that I’m not particularly papistical.

Grgur Ninski statue

More striking religious sights are just around the corner including this gargantuan tribute to Grgur Ninski by local sculptor Ivan Meštrović. More on the man depicted in the statue later in the week but it’s sheer size indicates that this man has an interesting story and one I’m intrigued to discover more about. By now I’m getting a bit hungry so I find a spot for lunch. Bistro Aquarelle lured me with some interesting local delicacies to send my tastebuds tingling.

Croatian Dumplings with Blue Cheese and White Truffle Sauce served with Homemade Bread

Lunch arrives and it’s quite the feast. The dumplings are similar to Gnocchi but don’t have the starchy taste you sometimes get with Gnocchi. The sauce was lovely and complimented the dumplings wonderfully. I recall watching my travel hero the late great Anthony Bourdain talking about the truffles in Croatia and finding it quite difficult to actually describe how they taste. He’s right you know I can taste the cheese but there’s another familiar yet unknown taste which must be the truffle. The old adage of things tasting like chicken springs to mind and without word of a lie there was something chicken like in the taste. I expected mushroom but it was more meaty mouthfeel. The bread was light and very crispy. 8 slices was too much so made do with 4. Drink with lunch was a radler which a very refreshing drink. Like if a brewery made a soft drink this is the likely result.

Me out and about in Split.

Back to my 1st day of exploring. Next interesting site was that of the Diocletian’s Palace. This has a very interesting back story and I will share this when I take in this in all its glory later in the week. But it’s a spectacular sight and dates back a very long time. There is even a market underneath this palace with lots of interesting local products such as olive oil and hand made jewellery.

Market under Diocletian’s Palace

It was very warm so I decided to take to a local craft beer establishment to partake in a sampling of some local Croatian Craft Beers and to my surprise this bar was showing UK football and to my amazement the Rangers game was being shown. I parked myself in easy distance of the one telly showing the match and asked the waiter to surprise me with a local beer.

2 local beers to try.

Both very good beers and I look forward to sampling some more over the next few days. Less said about the Rangers result the better but back to the apartment for bit of rest ahead going out for dinner. During my meandering around Split today I had seen a number of interesting eateries but that was in daylight and it’s now pitch black outside so not sure if I will be able to find again given the chance nature of today’s saunter. Quick shower and spruce up I’m heading out for dinner.

Split by night

I am just minding my own business when I decide to take a video of the square and there is a busker who started to play Dust In The Wind by Kansas. This was one of songs played at the Fiona’s funeral. Of all the songs and I’m not too manly to admit that I did feel some moisture in my eye. But just as I started to feel sad I felt such a warm feeling almost like how I remember Fiona’s hugs to be. So I smile rather than let the sadness take over. Miss you Fiona. You loved Croatia and I think I’m starting to see why. Dinner I had steak and chips. Steak was slightly overdone for my taste but was still quite enjoyable.

Steak and Chips

Tomorrow I venture outside Split to Sibernik and Krka so stay tuned for highlights of Day 3.

Trip 1 Day 1 Chelmsford To Croatia

Travelling during this surreal time we are living in is not for the faint of heart. Covid tests, vaccinations and such and that’s only to get to work let alone do any meaningful travel. Travel is something I love, something I’ve missed and something I have amassed so many memories from and will hopefully create so many more. Today was the day I had been waiting for what seems like an eternity from when I first booked back in August. With the ever charging rules and regulations around overseas travel I was hoping and praying that this would be able to go ahead. Luckily for with the aid of a 48 hour covid test I was deemed safe to travel. The journey from Chelmsford to Heathrow I was slightly more apprehensive about and bizarrely that journey itself was a similar time to that of my flight from Heathrow to Split.

Arrival at Chelmsford Station

It was 11am I embarked of the first leg of the first part of this journey across from Chelmsford to Stratford then on the Central Line to Holborn then switching onto the Piccadilly Line for a journey across London passing places I’ve never heard such as Osterley and Boston Manor finally arriving at Heathrow Terminals 1-3. I’m flying from Terminal 2 today.

Heathrow Terminal 2

The enormity of Heathrow Airport would bring anxiety to the most seasoned of Travellers so I just thought about the destination rather than the obstacles laying in wait. On arrival in the terminal there are airline desks from all the airlines you have never heard of and some of the ones you have only read about in travel articles. Croatian Airlines is my bird of choice today so interesting to see what they are like. Firstly I pat myself down checking that everything is where it should be and proceed to security expecting a barrage of questions around vaccinations, tests and the like but to my surprise there was not one mention of this virus that has changed the world in which we live and I’m through security in double quick time. I have nearly 2 hours to kill so I first make my way to the magazine section of WHSmith where I would normally acquire a magazine for reading on the plane but nothing really grabbed my attention. That killed 10 minutes. What could I do now? I decided to go to the Big Smoke BrewCo who have a taproom in the terminal which is great idea if not a bit dangerous. I order the FruJu which is New England style Pale coming in at 4.9%. Was lovely drop and was nice refreshing beer to help me get some holiday spirit.

FruJu by Big Smoke BrewCo

I sat nursing this beer for an hour watching some footy scores come through on Soccer Saturday then I remembered I should probably go to the Pharmacy and pick up some bits for my trip. Then the announcement I had been waiting for. Passengers for Croatia Airlines to Split please go to gate A17. At that point I started to get some anxiety in case I hadn’t brought the incorrect covid info or left my passport on the table in the hall but thankfully all was well and no issues so I was on board and ready for take off. Bonus points for not requiring the extension for my seatbelt like what I had to do last time I travelled overseas. Thankfully that chapter is confined to the history books.

Me waiting to board my flight.

The plane was about three quarters full. I had an aisle seat which was good as I could stretch out a bit. I was a bit tired after my cross London journey so shortly after take off I must have drifted off only to be woken by a baby crying a few seats further back. I do wonder the logic of taking such young children overseas. What do they remember from these trips when they are older? I was 5 when Mum and Dad took me abroad for the first time to Mayrhofen in Austria. Then a short time afterwards it was announced the flight would be landing soon so I was about to touch down in Croatia.

Croatian Airlines
Welcome To Croatia

Welcome to Croatia the sign says. I was here. After a painless passport check I make my way through to meet my taxi driver who was waiting with a sign welcoming me to Split. Nice touch. 30 or so minutes later I’m at my apartment with some football chat along the way. Apartment is lovely. Pics to follow when it’s daylight. So far so good Croatia. Keep it up!