Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio Pesto

OK, if you have a nut allergy, DO NOT – and I repeat *DO NOT* – try out this recipe. If you don’t, and you are a fan of the pistachio nut, DO try it out. Because not only is it stupendously delicious, it is beyond easy to make, takes very little time, very little washing up is involved and is not expensive. It’s become a bit of a staple for us, especially when hot evenings mean we don’t want to spend too long in the kitchen.

INGREDIENTS

(I’ve not added quantities as you’ll know how much pasta you want, how many nuts and how much parmesan etc.)

Pasta – spaghetti works well, as the pesto is quite thick, so clings to the strands – but have done it with penne & tagliatelle, and both are as good
Pistachio nuts
Parmesan cheese
Basil leaves
4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
 
 
 

 

METHOD

This could not be any easier. And if you find shelling pistachios to be very therapeutic, it’s the recipe for you!
 
Shell all the pistachios, put them in a blender and add the parmesan cheese, basil and oil. Meanwhile, cook the pasta.
 
 

Blending the nuts & cheese & basil leaves & oil

 
 
Transfer the pistachios mixture to a pan, and stir over a medium heat, adding pasta water to obtain a cream. When the pasta is cooked, add it to the pistachio cream and stir, adding more cooking water until you get the consistency you prefer.
 
 

Heating through the pistachio cream, adding pasta water to get your desired consistency

 
Serve and complete with chopped pistachios, parmesan and a basil leaves,and a sprinkle of black pepper.
 
 

At Last…Online Grocery Delivery!

At Last…Online Grocery Delivery!

We’re very used to getting in the car and driving to the supermarket. We’re not lazy – it’s just we’ve had no alternative. We live in a small village and although it has four very renowned restaurants, it has no shop, Once we’d arrived here, four and a half years ago – the reality hit us pretty quickly. We’d been used to popping out of the house and crossing Burton Road, and there we were – at the West Didsbury Co-op. Larger supermarkets were a drive away, and we thought that going to Sainsbury’s in Cheadle was very convenient – but, we’ve now realised that we could be sitting in a traffic jam on the A34, putting ages onto a 5km journey, there and back. Now, we travel to Umag or Novigrad or Porec or Pula – the longest journey being an hour to Pula, but we also get to experience city life or eat in a harbourside restaurant, or outside the Roman ampitheatre. Don’t think Cheadle can top that! Going the other way, we also shop in Koper (on the Slovenian coast) or Trieste – 40 minutes to get there, and no traffic jams, just rolling hills, vineyards, the Adriatic coast…

But, I’ve been trying to find an online grocery delivery service for ages, because sometimes you just want a bit of convenience. And, a chance visit to our local council offices in Oprtalj turned up the most wonderful thing. Leaflets for an online delivery service. But no ordinary delivery service…

Primarily aimed at holiday makers, and from the company behind many of the boutique hotels, resorts and campsites in Istria – Valamar – online deliveries are now available all year round, and to residential addresses, as far as Opatija and even Krk Island on the west coast of the peninsula. We obviously had to give the service a whirl, and so last week we were back in the familiar world of online grocery shopping.

What we loved immediately about this service was the fact that they use local producers to source all of the groceries. So, all meats, cheeses, breads, wines, olive oil, fruit and veg are sourced from within Istria – and largely from family small holdings and farms. Fresh fish is caught off the coast. This definitely ticked our provenance boxes, and as we have to drive a lot by necessity, it felt like we were able to give a little bit back. The website is in English as well as Croatian, so the ordering process was very easy. The only glitch occurred at the payment stage because we needed a code from our bank and their app is not the easiest to navigate. PBZ, take note, please. A quick call to Valfresco customer services sorted it all, and I was just advised to select the cash payment option and pay the driver on acceptance of the delivery, until we’d sorted the code with the bank. The next day, the van arrived, loaded with our goodies…

Everything we ordered was delivered – no replacements. Although there was some use of plastic, most veg was wrapped in paper or in wooden crates. Everything was fresh and in excellent condition. And for just over 500kunas (roughly £55), we had a LOT of produce.

I ordered a veg box, not reading the details about what was included (lesson learned for next time) and ordered more garlic, onions and potatoes. We now have a glut of these veg and are having to think creatively about how to use them! Lots of meals are now including roasted potatoes, onions and garlic, but we’ve made a huge vat of minestrone soup and frozen it, and have roasted a tonne of garlic bulbs, which are now sitting in ice cube trays in the freezer, ready to be tossed into meals…

We rarely eat meat, but sometimes a spicy chicken curry, in particular, hits the spot. The chicken fillets looked worth an investigation and we both agreed that when cooked, it was about the very best chicken we’d tasted. Very obvious that this wasn’t factory produced, pumped with water and goodness knows what else. So, there was only one thing to make – a chicken curry with jasmine basmati rice…

For friends and family who live in the UK, this probably doesn’t seem too much of a momentous occasion – but it is. It’s another step towards a life which is becoming increasingly easier, as we continue to find out more about Istria – and as our house is for sale, it’s another little tip we can pass onto the new owners. (And, as an added bonus, Valamar Direkt also deliver prepped meals from partner restaurants – all you need to do is pop them in the oven. In the interests of research, we’re going to have to do this…)

How To View Our House For Sale…

How To View Our House For Sale…

So, you want to move abroad. Istria could be the place and we’ve whetted your appetite, with our property for sale website. What now?

We could be wrong, but we’re assuming that you don’t live here already and that, like we did, you will want to view the house and the area, if you are serious about a potential purchase. We’re very aware that it’s not going to be as simple as viewing a house in the UK – or wherever you are based – but we have done it ourselves and so we hope we can help make it as simple and as stress-free as possible for you. You may be the kind of buyer who’s looked at our website and that’s it for you. In which case, we’d better start packing our bags!

However, we’re guessing that you will want to do at least one viewing and we think this can be done in a couple of ways, in normal times. See below. But these times aren’t quite normal and so we want to introduce you to our safe viewings in these days of Covid-19…

Safe Viewings

We have prepared a virtual tour of our home, where we’ll walk you through the house, room by room and the outside area. We are currently updating this virtual tour, so please email if you would like to view the original one, in the meantime. If this then whets your appetite, we can then arrange to delve deeper via phone call, Zoom or FaceTime or WhatsApp. We’ll also be able to answer any questions you have in real time.

We would still welcome serious viewings in person, but we would obviously insist on all safety measures being adhered to, including the wearing of masks and use of hand sanitiser. In a move that is just not us, because we are very much “people people”, we’d also request, sadly, no hand-shaking and no touching of anything around the house. As the visit would be relatively short, we would ask that our bathrooms not be used. We are so very sorry that we need to ask these things, but we would much prefer to be safe than sorry…

Under Your Own Steam

You might decide to incorporate a viewing of our home with a break in Istria. If so, we can advise you on flights, car hire, hotels, apartments – basically whatever you need to know. When we know that you have a definite date for coming out, we would then provide you with all the information you will need to find the house. For obvious reasons, we have not included such details on the website as we will only share this information with people who are definitely interested in taking the next step. We would give you a comprehensive tour of the house and answer all questions as honestly as we can. We would then suggest places you could visit to get a “feel” for Istria.

Under Our Steam

If we are honest, we did feel a little bit daunted when we set off from Manchester to come and view a house in a country we didn’t know. We did cope and look where we are now. But, we know that for some people it might be easier to do it with our help. Therefore, we can offer the following service:

We will have communicated with you prior to your arrival by phone and/or email and will meet you at the airport, or wherever you arrive, within reason. If your stay will be a short one, we would bring you back to the house in our car, and if previously arranged, you would be our guest in our home. If your stay was going to be longer than a couple of days, if required, we would help you to book additional accommodation by recommending places we know to be of a high standard. During your stay with us, we would provide meals and take you on a number of trips around the peninsula, so that you could get a real “feel” for Istria. Should you choose to view our home in this way, we would discuss the finer details with you prior to your trip. To cover our costs (petrol, food, drink, our time etc.), a charge of £150 (for two people) per night, would be payable, in advance. Please note we can only offer this service for a maximum of two nights. Should you subsequently purchase this house, this fee will be refunded back to you, in full.

What are you waiting for?

We’re ready to pack our bags. Are you ready to pack yours? Contact us here.

(PS – in the image above, we’d just completed strimming the grass, leaving the patches of wildflowers. It grows quickly over the summer, and needs to be taken right back, so for the first couple of days after cutting, can look a bit scorched. But the green soon returns!)

Information for Potential Travel & Viewings

TRAVEL INFORMATION FROM CROATIAN VILLA HOLIDAYS WEBSITE – UPDATED ON 4/6/21. PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU CHECK FOR TRAVEL UPDATES, FROM YOUR COUNTRY OF DEPARTURE, PRIOR TO MAKING A DEFINITE VIEWING APPOINTMENT.

Restrictions applying to tourists arriving in Croatia

Croatia accepts all foreign travellers. Croatia is open to all foreign tourists provided one of the following certificates can be shown on entry:

  • A negative PCR or rapid antigen test dated no more than 48 hours prior to arriving in Croatia.
  •  A certificate showing that you have had your second vaccine at least 14 days prior to arriving in Croatia (with Johnson and Johnson vaccine a single jab is enough).
  •  A certificate issued by a doctor confirming you have recovered from COVID not more than 180 days and not less than 11 days prior to arrival in Croatia.

Children under 7 don’t need a negative test if their parents have one of the above certificates. Quarantine or self-isolation is not required on arrival with only very limited exceptions. Currently travellers arriving from South Africa, Brazil, India and Zanzibar must comply with a 14 day period of self-isolation in the place where they are staying.
If you arrive in Croatia without one of the certificates listed above you can take a test on arrival and must then self-isolate until you get the results.

Other conditions for entry to Croatia

If you are travelling from outside the EU you must have an economic interest for wishing to come to Croatia. This includes having pre-booked holiday accommodation. Holiday accommodation includes hotels, villas and holiday homes, apartments, camp site pitches and charter yachts. You will need to be prepared to show documentation at the border that you have pre-booked accommodation. If you are travelling from within the EU you do not need to have pre-booked your accommodation. Only the COVID certificates listed above are required.

Enter Croatia Form

The Croatian authorities introduced (29/05/2020) an online form which can be completed with all your travel and accommodation details. You can complete this form in advance and submit it online. The data will be stored and matched with your passport details when you enter Croatia. This will speed your entry at the border.  The form can be found on this link: Enter Croatia form.  This takes you to a page where you can select the language in which you want to complete the form. You can select one of ten languages. These include English, German, French, Italian, Polish and Croatian.  After submitting the form you will receive an email acknowledgement. All travellers should complete this form.

Spicy Spanish Sausage Stew

Spicy Spanish Sausage Stew

I like nothing better than a one pot dish, into which I can just chuck everything and leave it to get on with cooking itself. Recipes like this one, also have the advantage of being easy on the washing up, as the stew is just turned out into big bowls. Perfect!

What You’ll Need :

  • Three or four large potatoes, cubed
  • Two quartered onions – for added sweetness, red are best
  • Sausages – for this particular stew, we used chorizo sausages, chopped into chunks. In the past I’ve used veggie sausages and these work as well, as the spices and seasonings do give the stew a kick
  • Mixed peppers – red, green & yellow for colour – cut up into large chunks
  • One can of butter beans
  • White wine
  • Vegetable stock (a mug full is enough)
  • Olive oil
  • Spicy paprika
  • Chilli flakes
  • Salt & pepper

What You’ll Need To Do :

  • Peel and cut the potatoes into cubes and put into an ovenproof dish with two onions, roughly quartered.
  • Cover with olive oil, chilli flakes, paprika and salt & pepper and mix together. Cook for about 30 mins, until the onions begin to char
  • Add the peppers and push the sausage chunks down into the mix. Add the veggie stock and enough white wine to cover everything
  • Cook for about an hour and then add the butter beans – these help to thicken the white wine juice – cooking for a further 10-15 minutes. by which time the top of the dish should be beginning to blacken & char

Served up on its own, it’s a pretty substantial meal, but crusty bread, rice and pasta are great accompaniments too. Get your bowl, a glass of wine and curl up in front of the TV – or, when the weather improves, get outside and do it al-fresco.

 

April in Istria

April in Istria

We’ve realised that there is little point in trying to predict the weather in April in Istria. This our fourth April here and previously, we’ve had fierce Bura winds coming down from Slovenia. Torrential rain. Soaring temperatures. And this year, just to be different, snow blizzards. Only one day of snow, but enough to put out the electricity on multiple occasions throughout the day and cover everything in a thick blanket of white. Including our beautiful hyacinths, which had been standing tall and proud.

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

The tallest of the hyacinths suffered the most, as the snow came so fast and thick we didn’t have time to do much apart from cover the bed with plastic sheeting – the weight of the snow crushed them and there wasn’t much chance of them recovering, so they were cut and the house now smells gorgeous. The other bulbs seem to be rallying, so we’re talking nicely to them every morning.

We knew the snow was forecast, as it has been a few times since the new year, but we thought it would be like it always – a few flurries and then nothing more. How wrong we were! Our day in photos…

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

The snow fell consistently for about seven hours, with strong winds whipping the snow flurries up against the house. Thankfully, after doing a bit of deforestation earlier in the year, we still had a lot of wood for burning and so the woodburner was cranked up. Candles also had to be lit as it was dark, and we didn’t know how long it would take until the electricity was back to normal. This was the kind of day we were wishing for in the depths of January, but not in April!

Then, as quickly as the snowy weather had arrived, it changed. The light changed and things suddenly seemed brighter in the garden.

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

The snow has all but gone now and we think that’s the excitement over for this year. However, April being April, we know there will still be some weather surprises. Rain is due over the weekend, and one thing we think we do know now, is that when rain is forecast in this spring month, it’s generally not just a shower. We will have torrential downpours over the course of a few days – it’s what we now know nature does to kick start the explosion of green that happens at this time of year. So, it might be a week or so yet before we’re sunbathing on the renovated loungers or eating al fresco, but this crazy weather is a sign that winter is over and summer is around the corner. Not long until this will be the view from the house…

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

Our (full time) home is for sale, as we have found another property, very nearby, to renovate. If you would like to find out more, we have a very comprehensive website, as well as a dedicated Twitter account and Facebook page. The renovation part of this blog also details our journey from the day we moved into the house. No white-washing, no little white lies and cover-ups – it’s all there as we believe that if you making a big purchase like a house, especially if abroad, you need ALL of the facts, not just the gloss. If you have any questions, or want any further information, I’d be happy to answer anything via email – helen@escapetoistria.com

 

 

Brondo Architect Hotel, Palma

Brondo Architect Hotel, Palma

Over the last few years, we’ve been very lucky to be able to pack in a huge amount of travel – as well as actually move abroad, relocating from Manchester to Istria, in northern Croatia. We’ve spent the last couple of years renovating a stone house and exploring our new environment. But, one place has so far eluded us – Mallorca. Even though it’s always been on our radar, we’ve always found ourselves plumping for somewhere else. Until now. A combination of being very busy with our design business, cracking on with the house renovation and some pretty unseasonal weather – rain, rain and more rain – made up our minds and we booked flights to Mallorca. First port of call was Palma, and a night in the absolutely beautiful Brondo Architect Hotel.

There’s so much choice, accommodation-wise in Palma, but we have a very clear idea about the kinds of places we want to stay. Wherever we stay must be at least as nice as our home. It must be unusual. It must give us interiors inspiration. It must also be mid-range, budget wise. Too cheap, you get what you pay for. Too expensive – just silly. We’ve not got a bottomless money pit. So, Brondo Architect Hotel seemed to tick all of our boxes when we spotted it on Booking.Com.

Tucked away down a cobbled side street, but less than a 10 minute walk away from Palma’s iconic cathedral, the hotel is set in a 17th century Mallorcan building. From the moment you step into the reception area, you know that this is going to be a special experience. A huge eye-catching mural, featuring Rubenesque women dominates the entrance – it is bold and brassy and totally in keeping with the style of this unusual hotel. Public areas feature quirky artwork, astonishingly beautiful Spanish floor tile, exposed brickwork and copper piping with striking lighting features.

Our room was more of a junior suite, with a large bedroom and seating area, and a big separate bathroom, with an adjoining corridor. The decor and furnishings were really lovely – a super comfy four poster bed, two squishy armchairs, great artwork, map wallpaper. A stylish mix of retro and modern.

Our stay was short, unfortunately – but, we will return as we genuinely loved this hotel – so we didn’t get to experience the roof terrace. There’s also a gym, and massages can be arranged. However, we did enjoy a welcome drink (a nice touch) on the terrace outside the restaurant. We stayed early season, so there didn’t seem to be too many guests, which was lovely as we largely had this decked courtyard area to ourselves. Eclectically furnished with low sofas, brightly coloured parasols, big cushions, olive trees and bouganvillea and mis-matched tables and chairs, this is the perfect spot for an early evening drink, before heading out into the bright lights of Palma.

Morning coffee, in the warm May sunshine, was an absolute treat on the terrace. Those colours. And that sky…

The restaurant is quite simply, stunning. Packed full with interesting and unusual objects and pieces of furniture – and a very pretty cherry blossom tree – it’s the perfect place to enjoy breakfast. And, what a breakfast! There’s a huge choice – pastries (sweet and savoury), pies (yes, pies for breakfast!), cold meats, cheeses, fruit, youghurts, juices, breads and a really good hot selection. I always tend to avoid the hot options, which have usually sweated all morning in silver catering trays. But this one was exceptional – the food is obviously refreshed regularly, rather than allowed to sit and become rubbery, and we enjoyed a Spanish style full English. Very, very tasty.

Communal areas are filled with quirky artefacts and artwork.

The hotel is located on a pedestrianised side street, but we found a car park, just a 5 minute walk away which meant that we could dump the car and not worry about parking restrictions etc. Brondo is also really centrally situated, so wandering the labyrinth of Mallorcan streets is a joy.

I’m delighted that we opted for this hotel for our first night – and by sheer coincidence, as we had absolutely no idea when we booked that they were connected, our next stop was the exquisite Lluna Aqua Hotel in Sóller. The sister hotel of Brondo, and the second in the tiny chain of Unusual Hotels…

This is NOT a sponsored post. We paid the full price as quoted when we booked & have received no payment for this blog. We just wanted to share this lovely find of a hotel in Palma.

Ca’n Llimona, Soller, Mallorca

Ca’n Llimona, Soller, Mallorca

This restaurant is probably known, and frequented by, all of our friends who’ve ever been to Sóller, but just in case you, like us, didn’t know about it, here’s the low-down on Ca’n Llimona.

Tucked away down a side street called Carrer de la Victoria, just off the main drag, Carrer de sa Lluna, it could be easy to miss. The frontage is pretty but it it’s quite a small frontage and so doesn’t really stand out, especially if you pass by when it’s closed. However, we were recommended that we eat here, by the hotel we were staying in – more about them in next blog – and so we decided to have dinner here. We stayed in Soller in mid-May so still quite early in the season, and the restaurant wasn’t busy but this gave us a much better chance to have a mooch and actually speak to Claudia, the owner and head chef. Her passion for what she does is palpable, as she explains the menu, the methods and the inspiration and design for the restaurant. Which, interiors-wise, is beautiful, with a real fusion feel of being in both Spain and Morocco.

Everything is mix & match, which when done well, is just lovely. Painted wooden chairs and tables, display crates, fresh lemons on tables, an apothecary cabinet to display the wines, Spanish tiles, candles, glass lanterns. Everything that I just love in one place.

When life gives you lemons, the place to go to is Ca’n Limona…

The menu is very small – home made pasta dishes and sauces only, and a small range of home made desserts. Do not let this put you off, as you will be missing out on an amazing gastronomic experience. The pasta is freshly made every day by Claudia, and she then cooks it and serves it. What a woman! When you make your choice, the uncooked pasta is presented to you on wooden trays, prior to cooking. A really nice touch, I think. We chose the spinach and ricotta ravioli with a rich tomato based sauce and the lemon tagliatelle with pesto and parmesan, both served with the juiciest, freshest tomato salad. Incredibly simple, but so well executed and the taste was out of this world…

The wine we chose was La Sastreria, a very Spanish palatable dry white – perfect with the pasta and with prettiest label I’ve seen…

All in all, an exceptional dining experience, which just goes to show you don’t need to be all fancy-pants. Sometimes, simple is best. Or, as we always say over at We Are Life Design, less is more

Mallorca : One To Avoid…

Mallorca : One To Avoid…

It’s hard to imagine that there could really be anywhere to avoid on Mallorca. We’d discounted Magaluf, as unfortunately we’re no longer in our early twenties, and so, when booking places to stay, we were pretty confident that every place we chose, would be a winner. When we travel we do our homework. We read reviews, check out websites, look at the area etc. My rule of thumb is, if it’s not at least as good as our own home, we’re not staying there. So, Brondo Architect Hotel in Palma, Lluna Aqua Hotel in Sóller and Petit Sant Miquel Hotel in Calonge were all amazing, and we’d highly recommend.

We decided that we wanted to have a few days doing absolutely nothing, apart from lazing around a pool. We quite fancied a hotel on the western side of the island, so we could catch the sunsets. We definitely wanted a pool. Somewhere that played quiet, chilled out music. Somewhere a bit funky. And we definitely thought we’d found all of this when we discovered La Concha Soul Boutique Hotel, in Paguera.

Now, we’d not been to Mallorca before and so had no idea what Paguera was like. Not that it really mattered when we were looking for accomm0dation, as the plan was to pool lounge for a few days. For those of you who know Mallorca well, you’ll probably know what’s coming, as we checked out of the beautiful Lluna Aqua in Sóller after two amazing days, and set off for Paguera. Looks pretty snazzy, doesn’t it?

The website certainly suggested it was a cool, laid back, chilled out kind of place and the photography certainly reinforced this. Reviews were promising. Just what we’d been looking for.

The first sign that things weren’t going to be as expected, was as we entered Paguera. Gone were the beautiful Mallorcan townhouses, and individuality and beauty, of Sóller and Palma. Instead, a long beach front strip of fairly down-at-heel hotels, souvenir shops, bars, fast food joints and hoardes of tourists. Now, nothing wrong with any of this, IF this is what you’ve come for. But we hadn’t. And I was already beginning to wish I was somewhere else.

However, we’d already decided that we wouldn’t really be investigating Paguera, as we were going to be relaxing around the pool, so all would be OK. Only, it wasn’t. The hotel, on arrival, definitely did not look as pristine as the one we’d been seeing online. A hunch told me that this wasn’t going to be a long stay, so the suitcases remained in the boot of the car as we went to reception. The main entrance – at least we think it was the main entrance, as we couldn’t find another – was around the back of the hotel, where the car park was located. Plus point – free parking. You’ve got to find these plus points somewhere. The entrance was in need of some TLC – peeling paint, scuffed door, neglected plants. However, we decided to give it a chance – even though the reception area had the feel of a youth hostel…

See, I wasn’t exaggerating. This is the main entrance. OK, that tree to the right looks OK, but I mean, look at the plants on the balconies…

We were advised we’d been allocated a superior room on the top floor, with a view of the pool area. Unfortunately, this was where it all started to go really wrong. There’s no lift in the hotel – not a problem at all, as we’d left our luggage in the car – but it did mean that we got to see the communal hallways in all their glory. Filthy. Scuffed walls and ripped wallpaper. Cleaning was still going on – a plus point, because at least we witnessed that cleaning of sorts happened – but on one of the landings, dirty towels were all over the floor. So many of them, that we couldn’t step over them. There was no way I was moving them, so we had to walk over them. The cleaner wasn’t arsed in the slightest. Unreal. And then, the room. The superior room…

Yep, this is what we walked into.

Above, was the window ledge. Below, the shower cubicle…

We weren’t sure if the bed had actually been properly made, or if this was how a previous guest had left it…

Word to the wise, guys. If you include the word “Boutique” in the name of your hotel, understand that there will be expectations from guests. Shoddy, shoddy paintwork…

Our superior room, with a view of the bins. Sorry, pool…

Safe to say, the receptionist seemed not in the least bit surprised when we headed back down and told her we wouldn’t be staying, and exactly why we wouldn’t be staying. Because we’d booked through Booking.Com, the payment for four nights had already been taken – at this point, we didn’t care. We just wanted out and away. She was very understanding regarding what we were saying about the filthiness of the room, and the hotel in general – she couldn’t really argue once we showed her the evidence. However, she did want us to give the hotel a chance and offered us another room. We politely declined. The manager was called. He too seemed completely unsurprised by what we were saying. Although he also wanted us to look at another room. There would also be a free BBQ that evening and if we left, we’d miss that. He (and the receptionist), to their credit, took everything we were saying on the chin, and finally accepted that we would absolutely not be staying. We were most surprised that the manager agreed to refund three nights – we definitely did not expect this, and certainly didn’t expect that he would do it as quickly as he did. So, another plus point for La Concha Soul Boutique Hotel – but unfortunately, a hotel which was not boutique, and with no soul. We’ve since looked back at the hotel website – and yes, it does make the hotel look better than it is, but look closely and the tell-tale signs are there. We just didn’t spot them, which is unusual – so maybe, good on whoever designed the website or took the photos. They’ve certainly done a good job of glossing over the fact that this is a pretty dire hotel. Although, we seem to be in the minority having this view – as rave reviews are still coming in for it. Maybe we’re over-fussy. Or prefer to stay somewhere that is clean and isn’t the standard of a hostel, but the price of a hotel. Or maybe, we just arrived on the wrong day, at the wrong time. But, we don’t think so. That grime on the window, and around the door and in the shower, had been sitting there, for quite some time.

But, all’s well that ends well – and very fortunately, the Lluna Aqua Hotel, back in Sóller, had one room left. Which unsurprisingly, we booked. And got out of La Concha and Paguera as fast as our car could take us! An hour after taking the above photographs, we were delighted to be back *home*…

The difference between that awful, slapdash paintwork and these beautiful Mallorcan tiles. Attention to detail = a boutique hotel.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the Lluna Aqua Hotel would be a much more expensive a hotel to stay in. It was more pricey, but definitely not at the kind of prices you’d blanche at. And, it was very, very clear what you were paying for.

A real boutique hotel. Full of soul. The real deal.

Vrbnik, Krk Island, Croatia

Vrbnik, Krk Island, Croatia

This was originally posted in August 2019, so all pre-Covid, when we could all travel much more freely…

As well as family and friends coming out to visit us in Istria, we now have the opportunity to meet up with people who come to Croatia on holiday. We still find this very exciting as we get the best of both worlds – entertaining and travelling. Good friends from Didsbury were returning to Croatia, this summer, for the second year running and their final destination on their island hopping trip, was Krk. As we can reach Krk in about 90 minutes, we arranged to drive over and spend an evening with them, in the beautiful little town on Vrbnik, on the eastern side of the island.

Krk is a very accessible island. It can be reached by one of the many ferries which cross between the northern islands, or from Istria, there is a roadbridge from Rijeka. You pay to cross to Krk but not when you leave. Once on the island, roads are very good and because the island is small, you can tour it quite easily in a day. On this visit, our destination was Vrbnik and the road took us through vineyards and crop fields and around the bay of Soline, famous for its salt pans which date back to the pre Roman period, and healing black mud. It’s quite a sight to drive around the bay and see people wading ankle-deep in the shallow waters, plastering themselves in the mineral-laden black mud…

Vrbnik was first mentioned in 1100, and is thought to be one of the oldest towns on the island. Its inhabitants were mainly farmers, then navigators and fishermen, but today the most important product is its golden yellow wine – the Žlahtina. Originally a walled town, it is situated 50 metres above the Adriatic Sea on a dramatic limestone outcrop – and now is a labyrinth of winding cobbled streets. Including, allegedly, the narrowest street in the world – Klančića passage – only 17 inches wide…

Vrbnik, Krk, Croatia

There are approximately 1000 full time inhabitants in Vrbnik, as well as numerous holiday apartments in the middle of the old town – but we have absolutely no idea how anyone manages to get any furnishings into these properties. I imagine even getting back from the car with a load of shopping would prove to be a challenge! However, the narrow streets and tiny doorways and windows and quirky architectural features, make this town an unmissable delight.

Many of the beautiful old dwellings have been refurbished and are now boutique style accommodation or very pretty shops, many selling traditional arts and crafts, olive oils and the famous Žlahtina wine. We bought a couple of litres of this from a very tiny winery, straight out of a cooling stainless steel wine tank. Can’t say it lasted too long, but it was very nice!

Vrbnik, Krk, Croatia

Vrbnik, Krk, Croatia

Because Vrbnik is perched on the top of a cliff, the drops down to the sea are stunning. As with most of Croatia, there are very, very few sandy beaches. Most coves and beaches are either rocky or pebbly and many are only accessible by boat. Even if you don’t get down to any of these beaches, we’d recommend just soaking up the azure blue waters below. As clean as a whistle and supposedly populated with dolphins. Although sadly, they didn’t make an appearance when we were there.

Vrbnik, Krk, Croatia

Every corner you turn around, reveals another sight to behold. I loved this door, with the utterly gorgeous metal frame, affording both beauty and privacy. I think it’s an idea I might like to incorporate somewhere along the line…

Vrbnik. Krk, Croatia

Vrbnik, Krk, Croatia

Vrbnik, Krk, Croatia

Vrbnik, Krk, Croatia

Vrbnik, Krk, Croatia

The city walls are still remarkably intact in places, with fully formed turrets, reminding you that this was obviously once a town which was in danger of attack. Also within the city walls, you can still walk through the doorways – which are so small. Hundreds of years ago, people must have been very short of stature.

Whenever we used to go on holiday, usually to Greek islands and so islands quite like Krk, we always used to wish we could stay and not have to return to the rainy north west. Now, that has become a reality. It is now very surreal leaving such an idyllic location and knowing that we are now returning to the house we’ve been renovating. Sometimes dreams do come true…

property for sale in istria, house for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale, istria

And, if you have dreams of moving somewhere idyllic – or owning a holiday home – you may be in luck, as we have now found another property, very close by to renovate. Meaning that our current home (above), located in northern Istria near the borders with Slovenia and Italy, is for sale…

 

 

 

The First Sign Of Spring

The First Sign Of Spring

Without realising, until very recently that it’s actually become an annual tradition, there’s a default meal we always make when the first warm days and lighter evenings arrive. It goes back to when we lived in West Didsbury, in Manchester and those first few days of warm sunshine, after a long winter, usually meant we’d fling open the French doors, get out the garden furniture and eat outside, no matter how chilly it got later. And after a winter of carb loaded stews, soups, curries and although usually delicious, always quite heavy food, we always craved a salad. Not a summer one with delicate leaves and light dressing, as it generally wasn’t quite warm enough for that kind of salad. No, what we wanted was the kind that still was substantial enough to withstand a chill in the air, but be a cold dish, with salad ingredients. I think this started out as being made from what we had in the cupboards/fridge at the time, but it definitely wasn’t from a recipe I followed, so the ingredients do change.

Easter Monday 2021 was a lovely warm spring day and we had everything necessary to knock up our first Spring Salad of the year – with enough left over for a working lunch the next day. If you fancy giving it a try, here’s what was included :

  • New potatoes – cubed and boiled, then left to cool
  • Hard boiled eggs, quartered
  • Ripe, ready to eat avocado, chopped roughly
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Thinly sliced red onion (or sliced spring onions if you want a less intense flavour)
  • Pitted black olives
  • Tuna (I used a tin of smoked tuna, from the Greek range in Lidl) and/or chopped anchovies
  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Olive oil and salt and pepper

There’s no fanciness to the way we do this salad – everything is piled into a big bowl, mixed and drizzled with olive oil. It’s very tasty on it’s own, and because it is actually quite a substantial salad, you don’t really need anything else to accompany it. It’s great as a very quick meal to make for friends and if bulked up with crusty bread or pittas and hummus, it’s a winner as it’s quick, easy and good on the washing up. It also looks very pretty as a centre piece because of the colours.

spring salad, istria

Oh, and the working lunch the next day? Yes, we did have plenty left over which had chilled over night in the fridge. Perfect to eat as an unexpected April snow blizzard raged outside…