JouJou Botanicals

JouJou Botanicals

When we first moved here, unless I could get candles at IKEA in Trieste, I used to wait until our trips back to the UK to raid the shelves of TK Maxx and HomeSense and fill up the boot of car with coloured jars of scented lusciousness. We had too many other things to work out, for me to even mention trying to find the kind of shop that would satiate my candle obsession. But, they had to be found, because once autumn sets in, our house very much lends itself to becoming a hygge haven. Once we got to know Ljubljana, I sought out shops which would enable me to satisfy my cravings…

And of course, now that I do know my way around retail therapy options now, in our Istrian home, I’m never short of a candle. Or fifty. But, when I discovered JouJou Botanicals, via an account I follow on Instagram, things changed. Not only could I buy online, but the process was easy and the delivery extremely swift. If there’s one thing that’s not quick or easy here, it’s dealing with ordering and delivery – it can be done. Of course, it can. But, it can be protracted and if the website you’re ordering from does not have an English language version, you’ll spend quite a lot of time translating various parts of the website.

However, the JouJou Botanicals website is not only beautifully designed, with branding we definitely approve of, but it’s also in English – and has the familiar look and feel of the kinds of websites we design. As soon as I placed my order, I got an immediate email confirmation, plus an invoice. And, within three days of ordering, I took delivery of a lovely package.

The website also sells a range of soaps and bath products – made in small batches, which are all vegan, palm oil and cruelty-free. And, incredibly pretty. So, although candles were my initial priority, I couldn’t resist stocking up on these gorgeously fragranced bathroom products. Which, I cannot wait for family and friends to enjoy, hopefully come the spring, when travel restrictions have gone and the weather is warming up again. Feast your eyes on these pretties…

I love the attention to detail with these products – the packaging, the fonts used, the ingredients, the subtle (definitely not over-powering) aroma. The perfect accessories for any bathroom! And, my fail on the candle front. Two was far too few – they’re long gone now – so another order has been placed. And, I’m guessing by the weekend, my living room will smell as delicious as my bathroom.

Sadly for UK friends, JouJou don’t do international delivery. But I am sure, I can work out a way to introduce these gorgeous products to you…And how lovely to once again be able to support a brilliant, independent business.

This is not a sponsored post. JouJou Botanicals have not asked that I review their products. All products I have ordered have been paid for in full.

 

 

What Kind Of Person Would Love Our House For Sale?

What Kind Of Person Would Love Our House For Sale?

Our house for sale is beautiful. It is a fully renovated three bedroom stone house over three floors, located in a stunning part of northern Istria, very close to the borders with Slovenia and Italy. It’s about 35 minutes from the Adriatic coast, an hour from Pula international airport and in the heart of wine and truffle country. But, as beautiful as we think it is, it is not suitable for everyone. It’s not the kind of holiday home, where you’d get a coach transfer from the airport, flop around the pool when you arrive, before heading out in the evening for the bright lights of town. We do not want to waste the time of any prospective purchasers or get up their hopes that they might have found the perfect party palace. So, as stunning as we think it is, if you are looking for the following features in a holiday home, ours is not going to be the one…

Hustle and Bustle

If you want a holiday home that’s right in the centre of the action, it definitely ain’t this house. We live (full-time) in a small village – and although we can boast three amazingly renowned restaurants on our doorstep – that’s it. The nearest shop is a couple of kilometres away – as is the nearest cashpoint and bar. There are no close-by night clubs to trip the light fantastic in. The nearest petrol station is about 12kms away – so you have to be pretty organised. But, as it’s in the nearest town to the closest supermarket, fabulous pizza restaurants, banks, notary and DIY place, then you do soon learn to be organised.

On the Seafront

The sea is about half an hour to the west and about an hour to the east, from the house, but we often travel further afield to find remote coves and beaches. So, if you want to be able to pack a towel and a lilo under your arm, and head across the road, with the rest of the sea-seekers, you’re not going to be able to do it from our front door.

Easy Transport Links

This one is KEY. If you don’t drive or don’t have a car, our house would be a nightmare for you. Public transport in Istria (especially in the north) is, if we’re being honest, pretty non-existent. You can book a taxi from the local town, but if you were to be totally reliant on taxis, it would drive you mad within a couple of days. The local school bus seems to be the only regular form of transport – OK if you are 12 and going to your lessons. Not so good for anything else. There are no train links. No trams. So, without a car (either your own or hired) getting around would be very difficult.

A Built Up Tourist Area

Our home is in a village. A village of locals – restauranteurs, farmers, retired people – and people who have second homes here. People who are pretty self-sufficient, too. So, you won’t find fast food places, stalls selling generally cheap tat, money exchanges etc. The usual stuff you might find in & around a beach resort. If you want to be cheek by jowl with lots of other people, too, on the beach, or in restaurants, this probably isn’t the place for you either. Space is definitely not at a premium here – it’s what we have lots of!

But, if you want some, or all of the following, then our house maybe just perfect…

Peace & Quiet

Some days, we rarely see a car go past the house. But, we’re not hidden away in the hills. We are near a main road – it’s just not busy all the time. There’ll always be a few tractors, trundling up and down the road, between the fields and villages. Sometimes – especially in the summer – there will be cars and motor homes and camper vans and motorbikes and cyclists, touring the area or heading to their holiday accommodation or one of the restaurants. A few times we’ve had processions of classic cars, off to their next meet-up. But because we are set back from the road, with a wall of bamboos shielding us, it feels like we have total privacy. Especially when all we can hear is birdsong or crickets or woodpeckers or a tractor in a nearby field.

Proximity to the Sea

Although the sea is not on our doorstep, we can easily be dipping our toes in The Adriatic. Although always a drive away, every drive is through the most amazing countryside – hills, fields, vineyards, forests, magical villages, hilltop towns – and the sea, always at the end of the journey. Our nearest largest town is where we do our supermarket shopping, and it’s right on the north west coast, so we can always combine a shop with a trip to the sea. Further afield, we can be in the beautiful Venetian-esque harbour town of Rovinj, or the Roman port of Pula. The sliver of Slovenian coast, with the stunning towns of Piran, Izola and Portorož can be reached in less than forty minutes. And the cosmopolitan and beautiful Trieste, just inside the Italian border, in just about the same amount of time. For us, the positive of being a little more inland, is that we can easily get to the sea, but we can also get away, especially in the summer, when these places can become crowded, and escape to our cool rural haven.

Proximity to Medieval & Venetian Towns and Villages

The Istrian peninsula is littered with the most magical towns and villages. All full of history and charm and beauty. Some are nestled on top of hills, having once been fortifications to keep out invaders, such as Oprtalj, Motovun, Grožnjan and Piemonte – all very close to the house. Some are very Italian in style – unsurprising as Istria was ruled by Venice from the 13th century until the fall of Venice in 1797. Rovinj, on the western coast is perhaps the most beautiful example of an Italian style town, with its pastel coloured houses, with ornate balconies and shutters, fringing the harbour. To the east of the peninsula (but less than an hour from the house), is the grand Austro-Hungarian resort of Opatija, and the thriving, buzzing, arty city of Rijeka. Further south, is the medieval town of Svetvinčenat, with its magnificent restored castle, in the centre. Pula, Istria’s main city, is an hour away – and with an almost perfect amphitheatre and a Forum, blink – and you could be in Rome.

The Possibility to Travel Easily

We’ve made it very clear that having a car in these parts is pretty essential, as you can’t rely on taxis or public transport. However, once you get your head around the fact that you will do an awful lot of driving, it can be an absolute pleasure. Roads are generally quiet – even in the height of the tourist season, it’s rare to get stuck in a traffic jam. Although we can’t guarantee you won’t get stuck behind a tractor…

One of the reasons we purchased our house, is its location. Yes, it’s in a village – but it’s not isolated. Within ten minutes, we can be across the border into Slovenia (twenty minutes if you need to cross one of the larger border points) and within thirty minutes, we’re in Italy. We’ve travelled extensively since we arrived here. We’ve been to places we would never have considered if we’d had to travel to them from Manchester. It’s still such a thrill to get in the car and head south to beautiful Croatian islands, east to Zagreb, north to Ljubljana, west to Venice or Bergamo. We’ve driven to Austria for a birthday weekend. Down to Cesena in Emilia-Romagna to see a band. When we do return to the UK, we tend to drive now, as we can make a real trip out of it.

We do still fly – but, unlike in the UK when flying meant using big international airports, it’s much, much pleasurable these days. Pula, in the south of the peninsula, does have an international airport, and although it’s been expanded since we first flew into it, it’s still smaller than any of the terminals in Manchester airport. But, with flights to most places in Europe you’d want to go to. Other accessible airports include Zadar, Trieste, Treviso, Venice, Ljubljana and Zagreb. We also drive to Bergamo in northern Italy for flights. Everything just seems so much easier – and the real bonus is we are really discovering the countries around us. Ferries also connect us with a lot of the Adriatic and Mediterranean countries and islands. From Pula, Rovinj, Porec and Trieste we can sail to destinations further south in Croatia and across to Italy, where we can then connect with Greece and the islands. So, if you like the idea of being able to get in the car and discover new destinations, easily, you might like our house…

With a peninsula packed full of history, beauty, tiny villages, ancient towns, vineyards and wineries, the best restaurants, cycling routes, festivals and much, much more, we couldn’t recommend Istria highly enough as a place to own a holiday home. In the four years that we have lived here (even with a pandemic to contend with), we’re seeing its popularity grow. Abandoned houses are being renovated. New, modern and contemporary properties, are being built, sitting alongside their stone counterparts. New businesses are emerging. All meaning, that now might be the time to take the plunge and think about making your dream become a reality. Especially if you want the kind of things we highlight.

If you want to know more about our house for sale, do visit our website – or email helen@escapetoistria.com and I’ll provide you with all of the answers you need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restoran No 4, Šibenik

Restoran No 4, Šibenik

Šibenik is an absolutely delightful city, on the dalmatian coast of Croatia. We’re up in northern Istria, so it is quite far away from us – just over 400kms – but as the drive is largely along the E65, the Adriatic Highway, it’s a pleasure to do. The road literally hugs the sea, for miles and miles and miles and sweeps around the most dramatic bays, with plunging cliffs and turquoise waters. Think the Amalfi Coast, without the tourist buses and log-jams. For a lot of the way, it was just us and the views. The islands of Krk, Rab and Pag also run parallel to the road. With all of the towns on the western sides of these islands, the landscape of each, facing the E65, is almost lunar-like. The islands look like sleeping elephants rising out of The Adriatic – just stunning.

And so to Šibenik, more of which in a separate blog, as the city itself, and the boutique hotel we found, are deserving of their own write-up. This blog is all about an amazing restaurant we found, deep in the heart of the old city – Restoran No 4. It doesn’t appear to have a website and its Insta account hasn’t been used on a regular basis. Unsurprising, as the waiter told us that they don’t really advertise themselves, as they don’t really need to. It’s situated off one of the many higgeldy-piggedly white marble paved streets up in the old town. A carved wooden sign, stating “Restoran No 4 Fish & Steak” points up a narrow alleyway, with the menu underneath. We were sold on the menu immediately, for me especially the white fish fillet dish with leeks, courgettes and carrots, and decided that we’d book an outdoor table for the evening.

The little alleyway was set up for evening dinners – a row of tables for two, with candles in wallholders already in evidence. A result even before we sat down. What we didn’t notice however, was the internal courtyard beyond, where we were lucky enough to secure a table. When we arrived for our 8pm table, the restaurant was full – although tables still placed apart to adhere to Covid regulations – so we were delighted to have a reservation in this courtyard.

I say courtyard, but in reality this space would have been a communal area, for the people who lived in apartments up and around the square, and businesses who operated from it. On one side, an artist lived and had his studio here, right up until he died. It hasn’t been taken over and so has a feeling of faded grandeur and elegance. The old bakery, long since closed, is still in evidence, with the faded ghost sign above the door. On one side of the square, sits a beautiful church, the ancient facade being a backdrop to the restaurant. To the side of the church, an ancient Venetian style stone staircase leads up to an apartment. And, unlike the other buildings, these apartments are still lived in, evidenced by people coming and going, between the tables, returning home or leaving for an evening out. Amazing.

So, the food. Wow. For a really moderately priced restaurant – given its setting and location – the food was outstanding. So good in fact, we decided to eat there again, the following evening. A very unusual thing for us to do. Not realising quite how filling the portions were, we opted for a mixed platter starter on the first visit – Dalmatian proscuitto and cheese, with walnuts, peppers, chilli jam and whipped cheese. And the most delicious sourdough bread. Mains were the fish that I spotted earlier on the menu in the afternoon – a fillet of the most succulent Dorado fish, baked in paper with leeks, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, olives and white wine, and a chicken breast, filled with cheese and olives, wrapped in proscuitto and served with polenta slabs and pesto. Although these would have been sufficient, with hindsight, we just could not resist the roasted potatoes with rosemary and bacon pieces. Potatoes will never be the same again, thanks to Restoran No 4…

On night two, I opted for the chicken dish and the other choice was Linguine with Tuna. and, those potatoes…

There were only three desserts on the menu – Panna Cotta, Almond Cake and Cheesecake – and on both nights, we were determined to at least share one, having seen all three being delivered to various diners. However, we were so satiated on both nights, that we’ll need to revisit, and maybe leave sufficient room for said desserts. We were also introduced to a new Dalmatian white wine – Debit. Although nowadays considered to be an indigenous white variety from the region of North Dalmatia, it is actually thiught that it originated in Italy, in the vicinity of Bari. In Croatia, it is mostly grown in Dalmatia, where it is one of the predominant white grape varieties, and is considered a perfect accompaniment for white fish and chicken dishes. Another spot on recommendation from our waiter…

This is not a sponsored post and we were not paid, in any way, to write about and recommend Restoran No 4, and we paid in full, both nights, for our food and drink. We just thought that the restaurant was pretty amazing, and if anyone is thinking of visiting Šibenik, you won’t go far wrong if you dine here.

A Holiday Home in Istria

A Holiday Home in Istria

Are you the kind of person who goes on holiday and imagines living there? The kind of person, who, when they return home, often to the inevitable damp and drizzly weather that we generally experienced back in Manchester, dreams of having a holiday home? Somewhere where the weather is guaranteed and where you can just kick back and relax? Whenever you want – because it’s yours. If this sounds like you, then read on – as we have an idea…

We’re selling our beautifully renovated Istrian stone house because we have found another property to renovate, a few kilometres away. We live in Istria full time – because we did what we’d always dreamed of. We bought a house in the sun and, in March 2017, left the grey skies of north west England behind. We had no intention of renovating the property and flipping it. Completely out of the blue, the new property caught our eyes and we decided that if we didn’t go for it, we’d regret it. So, our beloved stone house is up for sale.

Admittedly, circumstances haven’t been on our side. Trying to sell a house, in the middle of a global pandemic, has not been easy. But then again, nothing has been really easy and I suppose if this has been our only concern over the last year or so, we’ve fared pretty well. However, travel to Istria is now becoming much easier and interest in the house has taken off. Unfortunately, trying to sell a property abroad, is not as easy as when we sold in Didsbury. Open days, for multiple viewings are unheard of here. We rely on getting the word out via our own marketing and our own website. We’re also targeting a very specific and quite niche group of buyers and enquiries, leading to viewings, are much slower than back in the UK. However, we know that our buyer is out there – and we’re ready and waiting for them.

We also know, from the enquiries we’ve had, that lots of people are very interested in our property as a second/holiday home. We know that people in the UK are interested, as well as potential purchasers from across Europe. But in these challenging times, we are also acutely aware that cost is a massive consideration – and to buy a holiday home these days, as tempting as it may sound, may not be possible for everyone. However, if you are determined, like we were, to be abroad, there may just be a way to do it…

The word TIMESHARE is one which makes me shudder. I couldn’t think of anything worse than ploughing money into a property which wouldn’t completely be mine, and which could only be used through negotiations with everyone else who had invested in it. Paying money to have a property in the sun, and perhaps being stuck with the weeks no-one else wanted. The weeks when the weather’s not good, for example, Or, totally out of season. Paying money for a property which kind of was mine, but not really. However, we’ve recently been thinking about the concept of “timeshare” and realised it could actually have some very positive connotations, in the right context…

For anyone interested in the possibility of a holiday home, but not relishing the prospect of taking on the whole financial commitment, how about doing it with family and/or friends? A kind of timeshare – but with people you know and trust. Our home has three – but potentially four – large bedrooms. It has three large living spaces – this would be reduce to two if The Snug was converted into a self-contained en-suite, but the current living room is very spacious. We have two bathrooms – one with a bath and one with a wet-room style shower, so no arguments in the morning! The outside area is spacious and is well set up for outdoor life, with a gravel parking area for two cars. More space is available around the house for further vehicles, if necessary. And, if our potential purchasers fancy a little bit of a renovation project, we also have an additional stone cottage, to the rear of the main house. If renovated, this could become a very cute annexe, creating additional living space. Or, if a pool was on the agenda, it could be demolished to create the additional space. And, with the beautiful Istrian stones salvaged and cleaned up, all of the material would be there to build a garden wall, for privacy.

If this sounds like something you might be interested in investigating with family or friends, take a look at our website, where you’ll find a whole lot more information. And that dream of yours might just become a reality.

 

 

Thai Chicken Soup

Thai Chicken Soup

I’m not sure why we would have this soup if it was on the menu when eating out, but we never actually made it ourselves. Until now.

I think I just assumed because of its flavoursome quality and spiciness that it would be a real faff. Plus, we don’t tend to eat a lot of meat at home, so chucking in the chicken element, just complicated things. Well, we’ve now got over ourselves and made a big batch of it last night. Utterly delicious and wildly simple to cook, in a relatively short time. Plus, the added bonus of not too much washing up.

INGREDIENTS

  • Sweet potatoes (four, peeled and chopped into cubes)
  • Large clove of garlic, sliced thinly
  • About a 2cm piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • One stem of lemongrass, peeled and bashed up to release the flavour
  • Red Thai curry paste
  • Two or three fresh chillies, de-seeded and chopped
  • Veggie (or fish) stock
  • Coconut milk (one can)
  • Very lean chicken fillets, cut up quite small
  • Brown sugar (about a teaspoon)
  • Splash of lime juice
  • Fresh coriander (leaves for garnish & stalks for flavour)
  • Coconut oil
  • Salt & pepper to season

METHOD

It really couldn’t be simpler. Heat the coconut oil gently and saute the garlic, ginger, chillies, coriander stalks and a handful of leaves and lemon grass for about 10 minutes, over a low heat. Add the cubes sweet potatoes, the stock, the Thai red curry paste, sugar, lime juice and the coconut milk. Bring to the boil, slowly, and then simmer until the potatoes have softened. Whizz the mixture with a hand blender and when smooth, add the chicken pieces and heat through for no more than 5-6 minutes. Check that the meat is white – if it is, your soup is ready. Sprinkle with fresh coriander leaves. We served ours with the most amazing toasted brown bread, with carrot, from Lidl (in Istria, so may not be available in the UK), but I suppose any kind of bread (toasted or not, depending on your taste) would work as well. Or pitta bread, or naan or flat bread. I think the next time we do this, I’ll add rice noodles, cooked separately and then when the soup is ready, poured over the top.

A perfect supper dish, for a late summer’s evening. And, I imagine, for a cold winter’s night. Perfect, therefore, at any time.

 

Red Lentil Dahl

Red Lentil Dahl

It’s not a difficult dish to make, but there are many, many recipes out there for dahl. I think however, we’ve found the perfect recipe, because of the balance of flavours and texture. I found it on this website, but the author of the recipes/blogs goes into so much detail that the recipes ad ingredients are almost lost and it involves a lot of scrolling and clicking away from adverts, so I’ve posted the essentials below, if you want to test out this dahl.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil or coconut oil
  • 2 onions diced
  • 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger peeled and grated
  • ½ finely chopped red chilli (or ½ tsp dried chilli flakes)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 cup (200g) dried red lentils, uncooked (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 can (14oz/400ml) chopped tomatoes or passata
  • 1 can (14oz/400ml) coconut milk
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 handfuls fresh spinach washed
  • Fresh coriander to garnish

METHOD

  • Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook gently for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and red chilli and cook for a few minutes.
  • Grind the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds lightly in a pestle and mortar, then add to the pan, along with the turmeric and garam masala and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the lentils, tomatoes with their juice, coconut milk and stock, then stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and cook on a medium/low heat for 15-20 minutes until reduced and thick. If you have time, you can leave it a little longer on a very low heat for even more flavor (just stir often and check it doesn’t scorch on the bottom of the pan).Taste and add more chilli if desired.
  • Stir in the lemon juice and spinach until it wilts.
  • Serve warm with rice, naan bread or poppadoms.

Maybe it’s because you don’t cook the lentils first that the texture of this dahl is just a little different. It’s kind of creamy and “nutty” at the same time, so has a bit of oomph to it. Too often, when I’ve order a dahl, I’m disappointed because it’s on the lentil soup side of things. Not this one. Strong, bold flavours and extremely filling so plenty left for your lunch the next day.

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.