Toward the last half of our trip, we spent four lovely, relaxing days in Opatija, a seaside town along the Adriatic coast in the northwest of Croatia. Getting there was a bit of a challenge, as there are no direct flights or short bus rides within the country, but it wasn't nearly as bad as we'd expected. From Venice, we journeyed to Trieste, which is just about the furthest east you can go in northern Italy. Off the train, and straight onto a bus that crossed through Slovenia and into Croatia (Opatija is only a short 76 miles from Trieste, but the border-crossing lengthens the trip). The bus wound its way through mountains and lush forests, ascending so high up that the temperature dropped several degrees. It was really quite an amazing sight.
As we pulled into Opatija, we oohed and ahhed at the charming hotels and boutiques, and the gorgeous view. Speaking absolutely no Croatian (despite our efforts to listen and practice with our language tape at the bus station), we looked around hopefully and found that English was spoken widely. Lucky us. Exhausted, we grabbed a taxi to our hotel. "I hope we're staying at one of those cute ones we saw!" I said. As we pulled up to Hotel Ambasador, we groaned. It didn't look as nice as the photos - kind of older, ugly, and straight out of the 70s. Just about the ugliest hotel on the entire strip. Oh well, hopefully it's nice inside, we thought.
Sunrise on the balcony, writing in our trip diary.
Oh my, it was so much nicer than we imagined. Very lucky us. Our room was located in the adjacent Villa Ambasador, a much more attractive building with wonderful rooms (if you ever stay here, I'd highly recommend this place).
From our balcony: lazy, relaxed-looking sunbathers
Hotel pool: image borrowed from www.opatija.net
Just off the boardwalk, you could climb right into the sea for a swim. Or, if you wanted to do it more resort-style, you could hang out by the pool. We swam, lounged, and people-watched, and I did this some more while D was at his conference. The first time I took a dip, it was shockingly salty (I suppose it makes sense to flush it with seawater, being next to the Adriatic and all). It was so salty that little crystals of salt were forming on my skin and brows.
I don't know what D is waiting for, but I'd better get ready to eat
When we weren't being absolutely lazy, we walked around the downtown strip and sampled the local dishes - fish soups, fresh seafood risotto, grilled fish, and more. The local currency is Kuna, and we truly had no sense of its value because nowhere in our guide book did it say what it was equivalent to. We finally spotted a sign on a fishing expedition signboard that said 75 Kuna or 10 Euro, so we worked off that number the rest of the trip. The weather was hot and sunny, probably the nicest we'd had all trip, and also seemed to be a perfect growing climate for a strange combination of trees we'd never seen together: palms, pines, and deciduous ones. Another Opatija (and maybe Croatian) obsession seemed to be chocolate. There was chocolate EVERYWHERE, on every menu you could order from 37 flavours of hot chocolate. Crazy.
D's lily white toes seeing sunlight for the first time in months
On another day, we walked by the local yacht club to see what all the sailing folks were up to. When we got bored, we ate more delicious seafood at the club, this time an unknown white fish in wine sauce, calamari fritto, and more fish soup. Mmm, fish soup.
D looks longingly at the boats...
While we were there, the Euro games were on and Croatia had won against Austria on this particular night - sports fans are the same everywhere. The whooping, honking and other festivities carried on a while, and was a lot of fun. Oh! I almost forgot to tell you that we were interviewed poolside by the local TV station (I guess we were pretty obviously tourists) who asked us which team we were rooting for. Croatia, of course, we said. I wonder if we ever made the news?
It was hard to leave the relaxing pace in Opatija, but we had to make our way back to Paris, so it was time to say byebye to our little resort getaway.