Well everyone has heard me sing the praises of our experiences with Airbnb, a few times we used VRBO and Booking.com with no problems, then we tried Hotels.com and had a terrible, stressful, twilight zone (when you can’t believe this could be real) experience. I will never, ever use Hotels.com again and want to pass on the warning if you feel like reading my rant about our experience.
On our second day based out of Dubrovnik we headed out for another day trip to visit the newest country in Europe, an exotic side trip to the lovely Kotor, Montenegro. The drive should have only been an hour and a half but our GPS took us on a wild trip high up into the mountains that had us arriving after a nerve racking four hours into Kotor. When we hit a rural Bosnian border crossing we knew something was up, we should have only had one crossing into Montenegro but instead we were on a GPS gone amuck adventure. Here is a video of some of the amazing scenery we got to see by mistake as I previously posted on FB.
The day after we arrived in Dubrovnik we headed out on a road trip to Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina following the coast until we hit the first Bosnian border crossing. Little did we know that we had to go through three borders (into Bosnia, back into Croatia, then into Bosnia again) to get to Mostar. It was a bit tedious with two windows and two checks at each crossing and we weren’t even there in high season, I can’t imagine what the traffic would be like mid summer. Be forewarned but I wouldn’t let it deter you from going just thought I’d mention the three crossings as we weren’t expecting it and concerned we might be going the wrong way. The crossings were standard checks, nothing out of the ordinary, just time consuming that had us arriving in Mostar 3 ½ hours later.
Next on our Croatian, Island hoping adventure was the nature island of Korcula, Croatia which took a bit of traveling to get there. After leaving Hvar Town we drove about an hour and ½ to the end of the island and at the port town of Sucaraj we boarded a Jadrolinja ferry to Drevnik, then a ½ hour drive to Ploce for another ferry to Trpanj, then another ½ hour drive across the Peninsula to Orebic for one last ferry, finally arriving in Korcula at the town of Domince.
Early on in our vacation planning we had pondered the idea of Croatia as part of our Schengen exile (if you don’t know what I mean, read our article on the Schengen visa rules) until we could return to Italy. We tossed the idea around but were worried it might be too foreign, that language might be an issue, would it be safe to travel, was it too far…all the hymning and hawing you do when pushing beyond your comfort zones. We were already in Wales, had a month planned in England and it would be easy to just stay another month. But the universe spoke to us once again and now we can’t believe we are in the middle of our Croatian dream.
Second on the list of Croatian Islands we planned on visiting over our tour of Southern Croatia was the island of Brac. From Murter we drove down the coast to Split where we took our car onto a Jadrolinija Ferry (here is a link for planning all your ferry hops) for the 50 minute cruise to the third largest island on the Croatian Coast in the center of Dalmatia. Brac has the highest peak, Vidova Gora at 778m in the Adriatic and has some specular, albeit a bit nerve racking views as you climb its twisty, turny roads along the coastline.
After our day in Plitvice Lakes National Park we left Zadar and drove about an hour down the coast where we stayed for three nights on the Island of Murter,Croatia. You can drive to Murter as there is a small bridge at Tisno that connects the island to the mainland making it easily accessed. We booked an apartment in the village of Betina but you can look for accommodations in Tisno, Jezera and the town of Murter which combined only have a little over 5000 residents. Many of them rent out Apartments to tourists (they call them Apartmans) and you can see signs everywhere which makes for competition and low prices. It is a beautiful island on the Adriatic with a Mediterranean climate, sleepy this time of the year (late April) but starting to gear up for the busy summer season. Many of the shops and restaurants were still closed but there were a few catering to locals and the occasional tourist. We had the choice between plenty of grocery stores, a bakery and a few cafes that could provide everything we needed for a few days of relaxing.
If you saw my post on Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia you know that I exclaimed it as one of the most beautiful places we had been on our travels, well, then I must give Krka National Parks a tied rating. Krka is much larger than Plitvice, doesn’t have the UNESCO rating and is maybe a little more laid back with more open spaces. It also has the bonus of being able to swim below the largest falls in the summertime when its warmer and the water levels are lower. The drawback is it gets inundated with people in the months of July and August, we visited late April and although you couldn’t swim it was a leisurely time to visit with only the occasional tour group to dodge (the German’s were invading).
From our home base in Zadar we made a day trip into the mountains to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park and it turned out to be one of the most beautiful places in the world we have ever been. My photos won’t do it justice, it can’t be properly described, you can’t imagine it, you just have to see it for yourself and have the OMG moments we did! If you’ve seen the Lord of Rings trilogy and thought Rivendale would be an incredible place if only it existed for real, well it does! In Plitvice (pronounced PLEET-veet-seh) Lakes National Park. There is no place like this lush valley of 16 terraced lakes, woven together by intricate waterfalls and miles of planked walkways, you’ll be certain you’ve arrived in Rivendale! At the bottom of this post is a video of these incredible falls come to life!
After leaving London, we arrived in Zadar,Croatia late in the evening and settled into our Airbnb for the night until we could venture out and explore the next morning. We had two days to see what Zadar has to offer and it exceeded expectations, the only issue was the temperature that had dropped from the mid 20’s the week before we arrived down to the blustery teens and single digits. We have high hopes though for the rest of Croatia as the locals tell us it isn’t normal for this time of year and should be in the mid 20’s.
As Joey from friends said, ‘its London Baby’ and here we are! We’ve now settled into our new home in East Barnett, which is about 20 minutes by train into Kings Cross and is the second largest suburb of London. We are playing Doctor DoLittle with a menagerie of animals to care for; two dogs, three cats, a turtle and a corn snake named Siegfried in a really nice character home conveniently located for visiting the metropolitan city of London. It was an interesting ride getting here but we made it and quickly settled into our home for the next few weeks before we fly off to Croatia.
We just spent a month in Wales and it turned out to be a big surprise. It really was not on our radar, destiny brought us here. We needed some help with our travel budget and were able to secure some house sits in Wales so off we went. Two came up back to back within 10 kms of each other in neighboring villages, then we procured one in Liverpool and then one in London so we were able to plan a route through Wales and England. From London, Gatwick we traveled by train to Reading and spent the night, then the next day continued on to Cardiff (the capital of Wales) where we rented a car and drove two hours north to our first sit.
Wales quickly won us over with its lush green countryside, fairy-tale villages, historic castles, medieval churches and coastal scenery. It was hauntingly beautiful in the misty fog and gray skies but when the sun broke and illuminated the shades of green it was strikingly vibrant.
One of the things we get asked about most is our accommodations, everyone wants to know about our homes away from home and how we can afford these long stays. One of the things that’s made it possible for us is House sitting, I almost want to keep it a secret as its almost too good to be true but it is! We apply (through Trusted House-sitters) to move into peoples homes to look after their pets and home while they are away on vacation. We stay for free in exchange that they know their furry children will be loved and cared for and their home well looked after. We’ve done a few in Scotland and a few in England now and we are hooked. I’ll explain house sitting in another post but for now here is a glimpse into how great it can be.
On the canal in Venice, Italy
And so, our three-month sojourn in Italy came to its climactic ending in Venice during Carnivale, the famous festival that attracts masked revellers from all over the world in a baroque dressed extravaganza. It was a top item on our bucket list and we managed to check it off at the end of our Italian tour.