Dubrovnik was a place of a horrifying personal conflict for me. I hate touristy places but somehow, despite the appalling number of Brits abroad, I did enjoy the city. However, there was only so much of it I could take in a week. Getting out of town was a must.
Sun Gardens and Hotel Cavtat
What family traditions do you have? I’m sure it’s something cute. Something seasonal possibly. Ours isn’t any of those things. We are swindlers and cheats. We stay somewhere cheap for our holiday then go to the best 5-star hotel around and the parents would give us the briefing: ‘Walk in like you own the place, grab a towel and a deck chair by the pool, no one will question you, just be confident’. It has worked every time.
In Croatia, we spied Sun Gardens from the road north of Dubrovnik and my mum’s eyes lit up. After the excitement of the jet skiing the day before, she required a day by the pool and so without hesitation turned in to find a discrete parking space where we could easily go into the hotel. It was too easy. We exploited the system. The pool was ours and so was the luxury of the hotel as long as we could keep up the ruse. My mum, being a fearless risk taker and an unrestrainable socialite, couldn’t stop herself from interacting with actual guests. They were lovely people but they did ask a few questions about the where we were living in the hotel and our opinions of the food etc. trying to weasel out the lies and show us for the peasants we really are. Despite their Stasi-like questioning my mum remained unbreakable and made up some convincing lies. After having our fill of the relative luxury, we walked out the way we had come, got back in our car and headed back to our small Airbnb.
The second of the hotels was in Cavtat which is the closest seaside town to the airport, which isn’t usually an incentive for me to go somewhere, but it was convenient. Once we arrived it was a bit touristy but my mum quickly spotted the best 5-star hotel in the town. I think it might be her greatest talent, not an honourable talent sure, but like Robin Hood we were taking sunloungers from the rich and giving to the, well, ourselves.
Hotel Cavtat had a whole peninsula to itself and we were so convincing as guests that we were offered a ride in one of the buggies taking people from the car park to the sea. My mum and brother went and grabbed a sunbed, enjoyed the private swimming area and bar service. I was not feeling the sunbed life and so went and found a rock further along the peninsula where I lay out my stuff and went for a snorkel. There were plenty of fish and no people. The perfect combination. I whiled away the hours chilling on my rock and snorkelling, occasionally joined by my family until it was time to eat and leave. Eating is the only thing that would’ve dragged me away from that rock and that sea. It was heaven.
The Great Wall of Ston
An hour from Dubrovnik is Ston which is a village notable for its salt flat and fortifications going up the mountain to Mali Ston (Little Ston). As fascinating as salt is, an ancient 14th century wall going up a mountain is a little bit more interesting so we bought tickets and went up.
‘Up’ was the crucial part of that sentence. The stairs were unforgivingly steep and the midday sun was not kind on our climbing efforts. By the top we were panting and our bottled water was akin to bath water. Despite this, the climb did give some lovely views over the village and the surrounding area. One of the climbing party did fall behind however, and all those that fall behind are left behind in the cruel world of short walking trips. In a way, I think our endeavours can be likened to those of the climbers of the north face of the Eiger in 1936, forever immortalised in the film Nordwand. The only differences are that all of us did not die in horrible ways, my mum (the quitter) was absolutely fine and secondly, the north face of the Eiger is a little bit colder than Croatia but I can assure you that’s where the differences end.
My brother and I arrived in Mali Ston triumphant and were swiftly picked up by mum. We headed back to the Airbnb, but this was not our last encounter with Mali Ston. We’d heard rumours, words exchanged in haste down the back alleys of Croatian towns, devious glances and snide mutterings about a place unlike all others, where seafood was fresh and succulent. Mali Ston was this place. Restorant Bota was our eatery of choice and we settled down by the sea with a glass of wine each for some beautiful seafood. We had possibly one of the best waiters ever who knew exactly when to come over, wasn’t constantly pestering us and was extremely polite and helpful. We ordered assorted seafood for starter which came in a large pot and was devoid of meat within mere minutes, then I had amberjack fillet for main. Our meals may have been at the bottom of the price range of the menu but they were amazing. I couldn’t have been more content eating incredibly tasty seafood by the sea with a glass of wine, and all with my family showing no signs of animosity towards each other for a whole meal. A beautiful thing indeed.
Where can this hotel facility abuse end? Can you cross a line with it? These are things I must know. Can you go and use the facilities at the Burj al Arab without question? There’s only one way to find out, and I can guarantee my mum won’t be missing that trip.