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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Island Of Korčula On The Croatian Riviera

I just finished doing labs for my studies and decided to surf the interwebs of the internets on my computer-machine for for a bit. (Did you know that with virtual machines you can ...nevermind). I wasn't even looking for this and am not trying to get anyone to drop their things and fly off to Croatia this summer to go to a spa. (I've never been to a spa or stayed at a spa during my Croatia travels, never even been to a spa...period, ever). This is just information that's good to know. (There are a lot worse  things/places to experience when traveling these days, trust me. I read the news a lot and know what I'm talking about). For those unfamiliar with Croatia and it's 1,246 islands. (Even if only 66 of them are inhabited throughout the year)...I present the island of Korčula.

I'm telling you, this is going on my list. (Korčula I mean, the spa is not in my budget. I have a list of things to do and places that I haven't been to yet on my travels, and it's getting longer all the time) Looking at the images and video footage like below, I guess it's easy to forget (and for some to believe) that in Croatia we also play hockey, skiskate, (even in Dubrovnik) snowboard and toboggan as well. I guess it's because of images like below. (Croatian coast and it's beaches are a summer tourist season mainstay). I've looked into it and the Croatian coast is actually very comparable to the French, Italian and Spanish Rivieras, but less expensive. How long that will continue we'll have to see as more people become familiar with and know where Croatia is on a map). Now like I said, nobody is putting a gun to your back telling you that you have go to Korčula or the Croatian coast. (I know that feeling believe me, I got mugged many years ago, he got a whole 10 bucks. I saw him a week later downtown eating fries with a local crack fiend hooker, reach for the stars I guess). Heck,  if you want to go check out neighbouring Slovenia or Montenegro's beaches, then by all means, whatever rocks your socks. Either way, I'm sure spa and non-spa visitors would enjoy their time in Korčula......


Fit for a king: Croatia's palace hotel that is a medieval masterpiece of the Mediterranean


By Asher Mcshane

As I deliberated about where to stay in Croatia, a colleague described her holiday at the Lesic Dimitri Palace as "amazing", with that faraway look in her eyes that made me immediately reach for the computer keyboard to book a room.

A few weeks later, as my travel partner and I stepped off the ferry from Hvar to the island of Korcula, a smiling gentleman introduced himself. "I'm from the Palace," he said. And with those words I knew I had made the right choice.

Historical haven: The Dimitri Palace is house in 15th and 16th century buildings.

We had been island-hopping up the Dalmatian Coast and enjoying its many charming towns, but were seriously tempted to stay put when we walked through the small citadel of Korcula town to discover the series of 15th and 16th century buildings that make up this spa hotel.

There are five 'residences' (suites to you and me) which have up to three bedrooms each, meaning the utmost privacy for groups and families staying there.

All are achingly trendy and comfortable with flat screen TVs, DVD players, fully fitted kitchens with plates and cutlery, areas for entertaining guests, and spectacular bathrooms stocked with proper-sized toiletries (not those fiddly little single portion packets).

They even have iPads, DVDs, printers and a multitude of other electricals available to be borrowed at reception.

Small town charm: The Citadel of Korcula - named for the island - is perched right on the coast.

Our residence, Venezia, had a splendid free-standing bath and Oriental style open-air conservatory and is the largest suite in the hotel, with three double bedrooms – all en suite.

The hotel itself is yards from the sea on the east-facing edge of the Old Town - lauded as "one of the best preserved medieval towns in the Mediterranean.”

Locals claim it is the birth place of seafarer and adventurer Marco Polo. They say it was here that his passion for the sea was first ignited and while the rows of shipwrights on the mainland have long since departed, there are still echoes of his footsteps to be found among the citadel's narrow streets.

Yards from the hotel is a building which is little more than a ruin, which local authorities are in the process of restoring - Polo's original home.

But while history and the local music and dance festivals are interesting, we were excited to sink into our luxurious experience and sample the hotel's spa treatments - cheaper than London's iconic Sanctuary Spa, or so I'm told.

I enjoyed a 60 minute Swedish massage costing about £55 (500KN) while my companion had a Thai massage and body scrub for about £80 (700KN).

The town and island of Korčula. (I'm really liking the spread at the "Fishermen's evenings" footage)

Sleep tight: The rooms combine sleek modern design with the ancient shell of the building.

The hotel also offers food which is among the best in town. You can take breakfast (included in the room price) and dinner both by the sea and in its new indoor dining room.

Food is prepared using local ingredients and on the night that we opted for room service the platter including squid served in a Martini glass followed by home-made kebabs was delicious.

Outside of Korcula Old Town, the restaurant Konoba Mate, in the nearby town Pupnat, we devoured a dish of fresh, hand-rolled pasta and the local goats cheese was a particular favourite.

Of course, there are plenty of places to eat among the polished stone streets of Korcula's Old Town itself and there is even al fresco entertainment as locals put on twice-weekly shows of their traditional Moreska dance during high season.

Street life: The Old Town is full of al fresco eateries.

Without any hyperbole, the hotel itself, and service, were both faultless. The staff were kind, down-to-earth, and considerate - with none of the stuffiness that can sometimes be experienced in top accommodation.

This trend continued through to the building's immaculate restoration - a mix of chic modern design woven into the centuries-old buildings.

The final product at the Lesic Dimitri Palace is the result of years of painstaking survey work, archival research, architectural innovation and high quality craftsmanship.

But of course the telling of a good hotel is in the personal recommendations that bring back guests every year.

"How was your holiday?" asked my colleague when I got back to the office.

"Amazing," I answered - with a faraway look on my face.
Travel Facts

Rooms at the Lesic Dimitri Palace ( start from 450 euros per night including all taxes and breakfast.

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Croatian coast offers its own Riviera

Succulent seafood, splendid scenery and beaches make this place to visit

Hvar Town in the island of Hvar


By Rick Steves, For the Vancouver Sun

I love the knack Croatians have for taking a humble stretch of rocky shoreline and turning it into a wildly romantic bar or café. At Valentino Bar in the coastal town of Rovinj, the woman who runs the place hands out pillows as you arrive - an invitation to find your own nook in the rocks overlooking the bay. As the sunset fades and the flames on the old-time candelabra seem to brighten, you realize that you don't need to be rich to enjoy a luxurious moment on the Adriatic coast.

Boasting thousands of kilometres of seafront and more than a thousand islands, Croatia's coastline, with its pebbly beaches, predictably balmy summer weather, and melt-in-your-mouth seafood, is Eastern Europe's Riviera. In fact, it's sometimes difficult to distinguish this lively, chaotic place from Italy.

Town of  Opatija.

The most Italianesque stretch is in the northern peninsula of Istria. Instead of the sheer limestone cliffs found along the rest of the Croatian shoreline, the Istrian coast has gentle green slopes, giving it a more serene feel. Though Istria has its share of tacky touristy beach towns, it also hosts my favourite Adriatic town, Rovinj.

Surrounded by the sea on three sides, Rovinj is like a little hunk of Venice draped over a hill. It's simply romantic. Boats laden with kitschy shells for sale rock giddily in the harbour. The fountain on the main square celebrates the arrival of the water system - in 1959. A bell tower with a rickety staircase requires an enduring faith in the strength of wood. From the top a patron-saint weather vane boldly faces each menacing cloud front that blows in from sea.

The historic medival city of Šibenik.

Walking through the market, I feel like Marilyn Monroe singing to a bunch of sex-starved GIs. Women push grappa and homemade fruit brandies on me. Their sample walnuts are curiously flavourful. Ducking away from the affluent Croatian chic on the main drag, I walk up a back street and step into a smoky bar filled with town fishermen and alcoholics (generally, it seems, one and the same).

Though Istria is quickly gaining a reputation as a hot spot, it's still not as famous as its southern rival, the Dalmatian coast, home to Croatia's top tourist town, Dubrovnik. Jutting confidently into the sea, Dubrovnik is ringed by thick medieval walls containing a traffic-free Old Town and a jumble of quiet, cobbled back lanes.

Though sun worshippers can easily find a pebbly patch along one of Dubrovnik's beaches, to truly appreciate the coast, it's best to head out to one of the islands. My two favourites are Korcula, with its mini-Dubrovnik vibe, and Hvar, a once-tidy fishing village with a hip, upscale-ritzy Croatian Riviera buzz.

City of Rovinj in the Istrian Peninsula.

The island of Hvar is known for its gentle climate, fragrant fields of lavender, and excellent wines. It's also a big draw for celebrities and yachters, making it one of the most expensive places to stay in Croatia.

Activities in the main town, also named Hvar, are low-energy. The main square is a relaxing people zone surrounded by inviting cafés filled with deliriously sun-baked tourists. The formidable fortress hovering above town rewards hikers with stunning views. At the Benedictine Convent, 13 sisters (who never go outside) make lace using fibres from the cactus-like agave plant. Some yellowed samples of their work date from the late 19th century.

For a humbler and less-expensive experience, Korcula, while certainly not tourist-free, offers an often appealing, occasionally frustrating backwater charm.

Like other Croatian coastal towns, Korcula has two parts: The functional side - where most people park, eat, and sleep - and the time-warp old town. Four centuries of Venetian rule left Korcula with a quirky Gothic-Renaissance mix and a strong siesta tradition. The historic gate is a reminder that Korcula was once a mighty little place. Facades recall its 14th-century trading heyday, each one contributing to the evocative medieval townscape and dripping with drying laundry and local character.

Island of Krk.

Every Thursday in summer (and some Mondays), lazy Korcula snaps to life when locals perform a medieval folk dance called the Moreska. Staged at an outdoor theatre, the Moreska helps Korculans remember their hard-fought past: A bad king takes the good king's bride, the dancing forces of good and evil battle, and a happy ending follows.

When visiting the Dalmatian coast, seafood is a must, as hardworking restaurants seem to abide by the local creed: Eating meat is food; eating fish, that's pleasure. One waiter reminds me that a fish should swim three times: first in the sea, then in olive oil, and finally in wine. Red wines, which Croatians call "black wine" (crno vino), are a specialty along the southern coast.

With succulent seafood, sunny beaches, and a carefree attitude, Croatia's coast offers Eastern Europe's own twist on la dolce vita.

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