This post is a long one… you might want to grab a cuppa and a slice of cake…
As a Mum I obviously spend a lot of time with my son, it’s one of my favourite things to do. Sometimes it’s just necessary to have that special time together and I think it’s really important to make the effort to do something unique on your own. We all know that the most memorable moments are the extra-special ones, the ones where you head off on a spontaneous adventure purposely to spend some quality time together. An experience that stays in both of your memories for years afterwards – a memory that your child will still remember as an adult and look back on fondly.
I love thinking back to things my Mum used to do with me and my siblings, and I want Coby to have treasured memories like that too. Plus as he is getting older and growing up he is no longer my baby and is starting to become more interested in spending time with his friends, so I don’t imagine I have much time left and I want to take advantage of this now, whilst I can.
A well thought out, ‘one-on-one time’ trip with our children is so much harder to come by as everyday life and responsibilities take over, so this trip was going to mean a lot to us. Coby is always up for something new and it doesn’t take much convincing to get him of the house and into an adventure.
Sharing something special that is just between you and your child, will make your child feel extra special in itself.
With this in mind last year I sat Coby down and asked him what he would like for us to do. Without hesitation, knowing I love to travel he instantly said “let’s go on holiday together”. We looked at maps and both agreed we wanted a mixture of adventure and the ability to just ‘chill’. We landed on Croatia and honed in on picturesque Dubrovnik – how exciting!
I let him suggest things and wanted him to plan what we did together. For some reason he desperately wanted to cook for me which helped me to decide on our accommodation – a private apartment rather than a hotel. Somewhere with a kitchen which we could take over and make our own food. I had my doubts… I’ve witnessed his cooking abilities many of times! Food splattered walls and endless food covered pans springs to mind.
Overall we concluded that Dubrovnik would be very cool to visit, the weather would be lovely, we could take trips and even more so, it would be educational! Bonus.
Eventually the beginning of the Easter holidays arrived, we packed and made our way to the airport and the flight took 2hrs 30 minutes from Gatwick. Once landing at 3pm our accommodation owners had arranged a car to collect us and take us straight there. The short drive to Dubrovnik itself was exciting enough – the views were amazing, the colours bright and the weather was sunny. We planned to dump our bags and head straight out for a few hours but what we actually ended up doing was sitting on our balcony for ages admiring this amazing view and pointing out random things we could see.
Our apartment was perfect. Just perfect. Situated on the cliff-side with this immense view. We just sat and gazed. A huge living room and open plan kitchen/dining area, two bathrooms (with a Jacuzzi I have to add), a huge walk-in wardrobe, and a balcony meant for at least six. We certainly weren’t going to be short on space!
Our first day consisted of exploring the Old Town. You may or may not be aware of the heavy damage it suffered during the Croatian War of Independence between 1991-1995, and whilst the majority of Dubrovnik has been beautifully restored there are still signs and evidence of the chaos. If you look closely you can see bullet holes in walls, derelict buildings and strangely, the people don’t really talk about it that much either. I guess I wouldn’t want to either, I’d probably prefer to move on. Coby found it mesmerising though, a typical boy wanting to know more and he liked to announce every time he saw something war related. He asked questions, he read signs and it was lovely to see him so engrossed in the history.
Anyway, back to the Old Town. If you ever visit Dubrovnik you simply cannot miss a trip to the Old Town. It’s purely magical and you almost feel like you’ve been transported back in time, or maybe that’s because I’m a Game of Thrones fan and many of the scenes were filmed here – Kings Landing is based here. The colours are so vibrant, it’s super-clean and immaculately kept, the people very welcoming and the 2km walk around the city walls is something you probably cannot ever experience anywhere else. You don’t need to be super fit, I’m not and I got around fine despite so many steps! I couldn’t imagine what it would be like in peak summer temperatures and visiting out of season certainly has its advantages.
Tip: You can enter the city walls in three locations; on the Stradun by Pile gate, by Fort Saint John’s and by the Custom’s House gate.
Every part of the wall has a different sun-drenched view and at some points towers 25 metres above the terracotta roofed buildings within. The wall surrounds the whole town, and from the ramparts you can take in the spectacular views of the contrasting colours of orange terracotta roofs with the crystallising blue Adriatic Sea in the background, which is absolutely breath-taking.
Each view is unique and you’ll just want to drink it all up. Most of the steps and slopes are near the beginning and once you get half way around (you can only walk clockwise) it starts to get much easier. It’s worth it though.
I think within a few hours I’d already decided that Dubrovnik was one of my most favourite places to go and its unique charm had reeled me in.
Eating is cheaper than lots of other European cities, the food is delicious and the Croatian pastries are to die for. We took quite a few pit stops, drank fresh iced tea, ate yummy snacks and spent quite a while sitting on the rocks gazing out to sea. One of our favourite stops was at the famous Buza Bar, which is totally random… I could see it from looking over the edge of the walls but couldn’t quite work out how to get to it. Eventually Coby spotted a small winding street and we walked through a wall and it was there! Empty, peaceful and just waiting for us to sit and relax. It was lovely and just what we needed.
We then walked around the Old Town itself. The winding cobbled streets and magnificent stone buildings ooze life in the hustle and bustle of the local restaurants, cafes and bars that spill gloriously out all around you. You can people watch, take a million and one photos, but nothing quite prepares you for the beauty, the style, the scenery, the smell, the ‘feel’ – just drink it all in and lap it up.
After a very long day we were predictably tired. Our feet were aching and I’m pretty sure Coby was thinking about that Jacuzzi bath as much as I was, but we had one more thing to do on our list and as it was so close to our apartment it was an obvious choice to head there next. With the sun about to set we headed up the cliff-side to the top of Mount Srd in a cable car.
Now, Coby and I aren’t the best with heights and things that move slowly up hills kind of freak us both out, but I had to put my big girl’s shoes on, persuaded him there was absolutely nothing to worry about, bought our tickets and up we went. My legs were shaking, my palms were sweaty but we made it! Coby was doing his nervous talking thing but it was fine. It moves up so quickly (2 minutes to the top) so I really don’t know what our issue was – big babies we are!
There’s a cute (expensive) cafe and restaurant at the top and an amazing viewing platform. We ate cheesecake and drank hot chocolate as we soaked up the spectacular view and beauty of the landscape stretching out below, which is also a great way get a handle on the layout of the city.
We stayed until the sun set and then walked back down to our apartment.
Coby stuck to his promise and cooked! A simple dinner of fresh local breads, cheeses, olives, pizza and fresh apple juice. To be fair I would have eaten anything – I was ravenous! We chatted about our day and reminisced about what we’d seen and learnt and we had an early start the next day so were both eager to relax and get a good night’s sleep – and that we did! We both slept soundly, me dreaming about the beautiful old town and Coby probably dreaming about the war and imagining what it was like… boys!
Our first full day was amazing, everything I’d hoped for plus more. We’d explored at our own pace, learnt lots, met new people and discovered an amazing new country. What could possibly beat that? Part two coming soon…