Tuesday, 7 September 2010

And so the epic tale begins - Croatia: Part 1...

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country! Okay, no time to waste, as I know why you've all gathered in front of your PC's this evening. Consequently, let us commence with the recap of what was, without a doubt, THE BEST one week trip the Taylors have EVER taken (insert lots of snide little GOP donkeys cackling about the "one week" line. After all, Taylor normally takes 2-4 week vacations, right?). You won't get the whole story tonight, as there's simply too much. That being said, we can certainly make a crackin' start...
Friday Night (that's right - AFTER I'd finished the Friday blog): No, YOU'RE NOT LISTENING TO ME!!!!!
So seriously, I had finished the blog and JT had walked in the door with a bag full of Indian food from (where else?) the Doot. We were SO excited, as work had been crazy and this meal was to be the official kickoff for the vacation. So Puffin heads to the bedroom to change into comfy clothes and I start opening the boxes. It smells SO GUUUUUUUUUUD. It looks EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEven better. But there's one small problem - one of the entrees is missing.
Simply put, Jenny'd had a HELL of a day, and while I am no husband of the year, I knew there was NO WAY I was letting her leave the house to go collect the dish they'd forgotten to pack into the bag. So I grabbed my keys, grabbed my wallet, told her to give them a ring, and then made the walk to the curry house. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, kicked off a chain of events that only Tait and Kyle Robinson can appreciate.
So I show up at the restaurant, walk in, and the waiter nods.

Convo #1 (9:00 PM)
Hungry Sammy (HS): Hi, my wife just called. You guys left a dish out of our take away order.
Old Indian Dude (OID): Yes, sir. She called, sir. Right away, sir.
I go outside. Ten minutes pass. Food comes out, but not for me.

Convo #2 (9:10 PM)
HS (back into the restaurant): Hey, brother. Sorry, but is my food almost ready?
OID: Yes, sir. It is coming, sir. I am doing my best, sir. There are many tables.
HS: Yes, but mine should already be made.
OID: Yes, sir. You want chicken tikka massala, yes?
HS: No. Lamb Ceylon.
OID: Okay, sir. Sorry, sir. It is coming.
I go back outside. I am less than pleased. Two people come up and get their takeout orders. Two more people come and get takeout orders. It is now 9:20.

Convo #3 (9:20 PM)
HS: Excuse me. Can you just tell me how far back in the queue I am?
OID: I am sorry, sir. You want food?
HS: I am the dude who's wife JUST CALLED. You didn't give us our food and I want the dish you left out.
OID: You called for takeout order?
OID: Chicken Tikka Massala?
OID: Okay. 3 portion, right?
HS: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! NOT 3 PORTION. 1 PORTION. The portion you didn't give us.
OID: Okay, sir - sorry sir.
I wait until 9:35 and then turn to storm back in. The SAME DUDE looks at me and smiles. He opens the door.

Convo #4 (9:35 PM)

OID: Can I help you sir?

HS: (says nothing - I mean, what the @#$# would you have done in my situation?)
OID: You want to order some food?

HS: Seriously?

OID: You want to order food?

OID: Ah, you want ceylon! You miss dish. You want dish you leave.

HS: YEEEEES! That's it! You got it! (follows OID inside)

OID: Is chicken Ceylon, right?


OID: Okay, sir. Very good, sir.

Two minutes later, I have my dish.

OID: I am sorry, sir. I was confused (really? Cause I didn't notice that on my own...). I give you 2 free pompadoms (translation for those who don't eat Indian - this cat burns an hour of my time and then gives me 2 free bits of fried dough that are ALWAYS free in the restaurant - AWESOME).

So we get home and 10, and I ready to blow a fuse. However, the food was good, and we hit the sack about midnight. The bed time was normal for a Friday night. 2 pounds of Indian in your belly and the wake up time, however, were NOT.

Saturday: Move over Prague - there is nothing like Dubrovnik

So the alarm went off at THREE AM on Saturday. It was early, but there are only 3 airlines that flight into Croatia, and they DO NOT make getting there easy. We were out the door by 4, hailed a cab to Liverpool Street, and then caught the 4:40 AM train to Stansted airport, where we rolled the dice and took our chances with EasyJet. I must confess - I was NOT a believer, but Muffin Puffin has shown me the light, as they were FANTASTIC.

We cleared security, grabbed some croissants and coffee (which we scarfed down in the boarding line), and then settled in for the 2 hour flight to the Dalmatia Coast. From there, it was nothing but perfection.

Coming into this trip, I will confess that I didn't know the first thing about Croatia aside from the recent war and its former association with Yugoslavia. I had always heard that the scenery was gorgeous, the swimming was great, and the weather was perfect, but that was it. I am happy to report that, in addition to all of the above being correct, the food is AMAZING, the spirits are good, the people are very friendly, and there is SO MUCH to see and do.

We landed 35 minutes ahead of schedule, landing on a mountain plateau with gorgeous cliffs on one side plummeting into a cobalt blue sea. Stepping out onto the tarmac and observing the mountains around us, we knew that we were in for a treat. This was further confirmed when the airport shuttle (which has no set schedule, for the record - flights are so few that it just waits until one arrives, then everyone piles on, and goes to the city center) drove us over the mountain pass and we got our first city of the walled city of Dubrovnik. To use a word that no one can say quite like the Bristol Pistol - STUNNING.

Despite some rather heavy bombing by the Serbian and Montenegrin armies (note - I do not intend to comment on who was right or wrong in all this, I am simply providing the history of events), the city looks AMAZING thanks to some SERIOUS reconstruction efforts. And while I can't believe it, I do think Dubrovnik has replaced Prague as the most beautiful city in the world. Picture narrow streets, stone walls, lanterns hanging in the dark alleys, entry ways to the harbors dotting the walls, allowing the sound of the surf to reach you as it crashes upon the shore. In fact, it was all PERFECT except for one thing - STAIRS.

There is San Francisco. Then there is Dunedin. And THEN there is the walk to the Villa Vesna apartment we stayed at. HOLY MOLY! I swear we climbed 57,000 steps in a go. Actually, that's wrong. It was more like 58.

That being said, when we got there, we were HAPPY AS CLAMS. The room was SO CUTE! So we dropped our stuff and rolled 50 meters down the wall for stop #1 - the Buza bar. This place was AWESOME - carved into the side of a cliff with views of people swimming in the ocean and the island of Lokrum in the distance. But it was at this point that we learned a very valuable lesson re: swimming in Croatia. Namely - YOU BETTER KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING.

We had one beer and then wandered down to hop in the water. However, in place of a beach, there was just a ladder which, every 10 seconds or so, would get POUNDED by a wave. In fact, you soon realize something about this country - people are swimming everywhere, but they are JUMPING OFF CLIFFS ON THE SIDE OF A MOUNTAIN INTO OPEN WATER. I stared at those waves for about 5 minutes before a guy beside me said: "Yeah, this is a tricky spot. They took 2 girls to the hospital from here last week." AWESOME...so instead of swimming, I opt for the next logical course of action - Pizza and beer.

We hit up Mea Culpa Pizzeria, where JT and I KILL 2 awesome pizzas the size of a volvo before wandering down to the old harbor. There we see tons more people swimming, including 400 year old dudes in Speedos and 5 year olds who can't weigh more than 40 pounds. More to the point, check out the photo below. That is a WATER POLO NET in the middle of the harbor. That's right - because it's not enough to survive in the midst of a tropical storm - you should also be able to play a sport in it. Consequently, I decide this is where I will take my stand. In a word - ouch.

Getting in is NO problem. You count to 3. You jump. Getting out is, well, a bit trickier. For starters, the ladder you are aiming for is tiny and was installed before World War 1. Secondly, it's not as it you can just walk up to the ladder. Instead, you must dodge all the 400 ton boulders in the water (filled with sea urchins...forgot that part) as a tidal wave hurtles you toward the ladder. I didn't know this the first time. That's probably why I slammed into a rock and cut my knee. However, I did get back up. And since I knew these weren't big shark waters, I jumped back in. After that, swimming in Croatia was FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANTASTIC.
The water COULD NOT be clearer. I mean, we are talking straight down blue to a depth of 20-30 feet. It was SO MUCH FUN! JT said it best - it was just like having your own wave pool, and we played around for over an hour before getting out and walking around the city some more. We were thrilled - we'd found a vacation spot where we could have fun and burn off all the beer calories in our future!

Still full from the late lunch, we bought a few bottles of beer, some pringles, and a twix (talk about a ROMANTIC dinner) and wandered back to our apartment, where we rolled out the table and chairs before settling down to watch the night sky come to life. All in all, it was a PERFECT first day, and we knew that Croatia was going to be EXTRA AWESOME.

By the time the day was over, I'd finished "A Land of Two Halves," which is the travel book in New Zealand. T-bone and Wild Wallaby - you simply HAVE to read this book. The guy is a little too grim for me, but I must confess that I laughed out loud at least 75 times. In a 330 page book, that's quite impressive.

So I realize that I just got you through the arrival, but hey - it was an epic trip - I can't rush it! Consequently, it's NOT all the news that's fit to print, but given that it's late and I need to make food, I'm going to sign off. Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

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