Tuesday, 21 September 2010

And so we FINALLY bring it home - wrapping Croatia (Part 6)...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. So first off - apologies (especially to Fizzy and the Hairless Wonder) for no blog last night. I will just say that it was a very fun night and I didn't want to miss a second of it by blogging. Fret not, however, as I will catch you up on the events of the week. For tonight, however, I will assume the task that I have put off for far too long - WRAPPING CROATIA. And so, once more to the breach, dear friends!

Saturday - VIS: THE BEST day of the trip

So Team Taylor popped up at 8 again and made our way down to the Old Town Harbor. I must confess that I was a little worried that the day trip was not going. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find our boy chillin' down by the dock beside our boat! Consequently, we hopped aboard the SS Minnow (actually, it was a decent sized boat) and headed out for our 8th destination in 8 days - VIS.

The ride out to Vis was 1 hour and 45 minutes, but we had a stopover en route - the Green Cave. Yazz had told us about this place and said that we should DEFINITELY NOT miss it, and she was NOT wrong. We had 20 minutes in the cave, but there was only one way it - OPEN WATER, BABY.

Please keep 2 things in mind. 1. The water is NOT warm. 2. My wife is from Florida. I'll let you sum up that equation, but suffice it to say that the captain's announcement that "you have 20 minutes to swim" did NOT make her jump for joy. However, knowing that this was a once in a lifetime experience and that she would regret it if she didn't jump, my Perfect Pumpkin counted down from 3, squealed, and jumped into that water like the Navy SEAL I know she was in a previous life. I mean, come on - check out perfect pumpkin in the water!

The caves were REALLY cool. The current was strong, but the water was reasonably warm. I actually dove into the water, which looks dangerous because it's crystal clear but actually is no risk because the waters about 30 feet deep (you can really see STRAIGHT DONW).

We puttered around for 20 minutes, swimming inside the cave (which did have green tints due to the way the light hit the water and the algae in the cave). And whilst this was fun, it was NOTHING compared to the Blue Cave. In a word - WOW.

After we left the green cave, we puttered along to another island off the coast of Vis - home of the Blue Cave. When we rocked up, we noticed all these TINY boats that looked as though they'd helped at Dunkirk. I remember thinking to myself, "Why on earth are those boats so battered?" I also had the thought, "Is that driver over 90? Me thinks YES." And THAT, folks, was the start of a GREAT adventure.

So here's the deal with the Blue Cave - there is a hole in the side of the island below the water (15 meters down) that lets in sunlight. Because of the water content, it only reflects blue. Since you truly are in darkness except for the underwater light, it is CRAZY awesome. But if you think THAT is cool, you should try getting INTO the cave.

The entrance to the cave is TINY - we are talking probably 3 feet high. And even better, there are waves CRASHING against the opening, and at regular intervals the cave disappears. In case you're still in suspense, I'll tell you - the only way you get in is by LAYING DOWN IN THE BOAT WHILST THE OLD MAN IN THE SEA DRIVES THE DINGHY LIKE A BATTERING RAM THROUGH THE HOLE. And the craziest part? HE MISSED THE FIRST TIME.

That's right - WHAM! Our boat gets ROCKED against the cliff. However, Old Man River does NOT slow down. Instead, he doubles the throttle and sends us rocketing through the hole with only the words "HEAD DOWN!" as a warning that we are about a millisecond from being chum. It was AWESOME. And the reward was a view that NO picture can do justice.

And dad - on the ride back to the boat I pulled off one of my best coups EVER - I think you would be so proud. As we got back onto the dock, I noticed that they had a final load of passengers (just a few). I grabbed Jenny and walked back over to the boat and asked the guy if we could go again. He looks at me, then the boat, then says something in Croatia to Moses' grandfather (aka the skipper) before waving me on. Consequently, we got to go a second time for FREE!!! WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!!!!

After that, it was back on the boat for an AMAZING lunch of all the Tuna you could eat. And let me tell you - A THIRD OF THE OCEAN DIED TO FEED ME THAT DAY. It was SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies). And best of all, we had a GREAT lunch crew to sit with (well, except for this Canadian dude who announced to us that British Beer sucks and is like water compared to Canadian brew. Really? REALLY? Muise - you simply HAVE to learn to better control your people). We met Lloyd and Karina, two Kiwis living at Oxford, where she was getting her Ph.D. and he was a FELLOW. His best line of the day, "Well, I figured that, if I was working at Oxford, I might as well get a Master's whilst there." Oh YEAH!!! Cause who doesn't do that? Hell, I picked up 16 or 17 of 'em the last time I passed through...

Also, we met Mark and Jess from TAMPA, FLORIDA. That's right - HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY REPRESENT! We had a GREAT time hanging with them, so much so that we exchanged numbers and also shared the table on the long cruise back to Hvar.

The last stop of the day was the island of Vis itself, which was off limits to foreigners until 1970. The beach there was BEAUTIFUL, and so we did some swimming, got some sun, had a brew, and then had some GREAT gelatto before departure. It was GREAT.

Dinner that night was at a place called Bonaca, where JT and I tried the specialty dish - SHARK GRILLED AND MARINATED IN VEGETABLES AND SPICES. SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD!!!!!!!! Seriously - one would have been enough, but OH, NO - not for Team Taylor. We rolled BIG TIME and each got one, which we DECIMATED. But MAN, were we stuffed when we finished. All the same, we had a rooftop view on a lovely night, so we had NO complaints.

Sunday - FINALLY: staying in once place

Sunday was GREAT. Simply put, we wanted to do NOTHING except enjoy the beaches and bars of Hvar. We started the day with coffee at the Red Baron Cafe, where we picked the ONE SEAT that was REIGNING DOWN seeds from the coconut trees. It was hilarious, and luckily the one time it reigned down a carpet bombing of seeds was the one time JT got up for the loo, so we're lucky we didn't end up in the ER. After that it was wandering around, getting some food, doing some shopping, exploring the old town, and just relaxing until about 3 or so, when we rolled into one of the "must see" desintations: The Hula Hula Beach Bar.

This place was AWESOME. Seated right on the water, you had an AMAZING view of the bay and the islands. There was a DJ mixing techno, and so we just sat down, ordered a few brewskis, sat in the shade (check out muffin puffin in her stylish new Croatian hat), and watched the world go by. The place was trendy and funky, so we had a blast (cause, well, we're SO trendy and funky - especially with our ripped bodies clad in only bathing suits).

After that, we got a farewell swim in (and made a sandwich) on the water before heading over to Falko, the last bar at the edge of town and the water. This place was GREAT - hammocks to lie in, an unobstructed view of the sunset (I mean check out that shot), and free shots from the guy who ran the place (granted, he ROOKED US later, but hey - it's the cost of doin' business, right?).

Best of all, our new found Floridian friends Mark and Jess came out to meet us, so we spent a solid 2-3 hours just chillin' at Falko before a) getting ripped off and then b) wandering back into Hvar town for dinner. The winner for the final meal was the same as the opening meal - Alga. This time we got the PRIME SEAT overlooking the harbor, where we stared at all the REDONKULOUS yachts moored in the harbor. Seriously, T-bone - remember when we saw Greg Norman's yacht in Auckland? Yeah, picture a sea of those puppies lined up. All I can say is that I'm in the WRONG business, cause some of those fools are makin' BANK.

We had a great final meal, said goodbye to our compatriots, and then hit the head, another PERFECT day in the books.

Monday: Diocletian liked it, I know - but I was NOT impressed...

On Monday we got up around 9 and went to check out of the hotel. This was classic for a few reasons:

1. I'd left the print out of what we owed so we had NO IDEA what the room rate was.

2. When we tried to check out, she quoted us in kuna (local currency) even though we brought euros to pay (as instructed).

3. We then had to find a currency calculator to work out what we owed in euros and then make the exchange using a) her ten words in English and b) our 1 word in Croatian (hvala - "Thank you").

4. (The not funny part) I found the print out as soon as we got home and discovered that we'd overpaid by 20 euros (~$28). Oh well, the view was AMAZING, the location was perfect, and I have no complaints. It was worth that and then some.

We then rolled down to the harbor, where we sat down at the Hvar Yacht Club and camped out for the next THREE AND A HALF HOURS. You see, I will confess that I have a weakness - I am IN LOVE with outdoor furniture (OSC - if Lisa wants to sell some of your "outside" chairs, just give me a holler), and so I LOVED all the funky bars in Croatia with their neat and stylish outdoor seats and cushions. As I had been eyeing this joint since our arrival in Hvar, I decided that, for at least a brief moment, I wanted to sit there and look cool (at least in my own mind). Consequently, we rocked that seat for 3.5 hours, drinking coffee first and then moving onto lunch.
I mean, how cute is muffin puffin?

After that, we caught the 1:45 PM ferry to Split, where we arrived to a port that was LASHING IT DOWN with rain. I mean, this was MONSOON STYLE. Consequently, we didn't see much of Split. That being said, we weren't very impressed with it, so I'm really glad we didn't spend much time there. We could tell it was a great jumping off point, and it's even on the UNESCO World Heritage List (Diocletian's summer palace was there), but it just felt like such a one-day tourist port for folks on cruises. Granted, that didn't stop me from trying on some cheap jeans (because ALL of my jeans have holes in them now). However, I regret to report that, in Europe at least, THE BUTTON FLY IS ALIVE AND WELL. SERIOUSLY? Didn't that @#$# vanish in like, the 3rd grade? SERENITY NOW!!!!!

We caught the shuttle to the airport and arrived at Split "international" at 6:05 PM, 3 hours before our planned flight home. Why, you ask? Because the shuttle to the airport STOPS RUNNING AT 6, even though there are flights until 10. Grrrrrrrrrrreat...

Anyhoo, we rock up and realize that this airport is, without a doubt, THE SMALLEST ON EARTH. Seriously - this place makes Tri-Cities Regional (YES, MATT - that serves Tazewell) look like Dubai International. Why? Because it had EIGHT GATES. That's right - EIGHT. The only restaurant was in front of security, and the sandwich I got was 2 slices of 14 year old bread and a thin slice of salted ham (Puma - can you say salt sandwich on steroids? Yeah, it was kinda like that). Consequently, I was quite happy when the flight took off, ESPECIALLY considering that it was AN HOUR DELAYED.

We knew that vacation was over when the captain said, "From the flight deck, good evening. It's a lovely day here in Croatia, and I sure wish that I could tell you the same about London. However, it's absolutely CHUCKING it down right now. Visibility is nil, it's super windy, and we'll be further delayed because of a massive head wind. Thanks for choosing Easyjet." AWESOME.

Sure enough, we landed 90 minutes late. Sure enough, it was POURING. And sure enough, we were at the ONE GATE where they can't dock you directly to the jetway, meaning that you have to RUN LIKE HELL WITH ALL OF YOUR LUGGAGE across the tarmac. Customs was easy, but we were SCRAMBLING to catch the last train home at 12:30. Had we missed it, we would have had (at least) a 100 quid cab ride home (LESS than a stellar way to end a vacation).

Luckily, we did catch the last train, and we finally made it home at 2 AM. It set us up to be EXHAUSTED all week (which I know sounds like it defeats the whole purpose of vacation), but our batteries were ABSOLUTELY recharged mentally, and that was the most important thing.

And so, there you have it - THE BEST one week trip the Taylors have ever taken. If any of you out there are thinking about Croatia, MOVE IT UP YOUR LIST. It WILL NOT disappoint.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

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