Please Do Your Homework…

Please Do Your Homework…

If there’s one thing we do in this whole process of attempting to sell our renovated home in Istria, it’s provide information – LOTS OF IT – so that anyone who is potentially interested in it, can make an informed decision about whether it’s right for them, very early on.

Initially, we didn’t really refer to a swimming pool on our website and in other places, other than to state we don’t have one. Because, you know, we don’t have one. But, it became increasingly clear we were going to have to be a whole lot more blatant, because when viewings commenced after travel restrictions were eased, we found we were often being met with puzzlement. Because, there was no pool. So, we made it clearer on our website etc that although there is the space to install a small pool or a plunge pool, there isn’t one currently. We found we were almost having to justify why we didn’t have one, and this really started to irritate as it should have been so obvious a pool wouldn’t magically appear. Thankfully, we seem to have got this particular message across – and if asked, we do now politely suggest that should the viewers proceed to buying the property, they might want to consider installing one.

But something new has reared its head – something we’d not even considered.

Our house & gardens (front & rear) would be perfect for someone looking for a holiday home, with *manageable* outdoor space. We do not own any additional land/fields – as we are sometimes asked, even though we make it VERY clear on our website what do actually own, externally. We’re really quite surprised by the number of people who enquire – and often subsequently view – our home, who have on their list of requirements either “land” or a “field”. We can only assume they pay scant regard to the images and textual information as there is NO reference to either, and this does make us wonder what goes on in some people’s heads. These people who enquire – and sometimes take it as far as viewing before revealing this nugget – haven’t come from the next village. They’ve often travelled quite a distance, and usually from another European country. I think I’d want to be pretty certain that what I was putting in an awful lot of effort to view, at least ticked my main boxes so that I didn’t waste my time, and potentially build up the hopes of the people selling.

Most viewings are for the house to be used as a holiday home/let or a second home. And, for us, this kind of begs the question – would you really want to buy a holiday home & also take on the responsibility of more land/fields?

Who’d look after it in your absence? Things grow very quickly here, so you might find you’d be starting your holiday tackling an overgrown field 😩 Or, you’d have to find someone local, who could look after the land on your behalf, especially if you were letting the house out to visitors. I can’t imagine anyone would appreciate rocking up on holiday and finding they had no view as they couldn’t see beyond the overgrown field.

What would you actually do with it? Soil here is rich, thick, red clay – without a lot of additional work, it’s difficult to imagine doing anything other than growing crops. And, as lovely as this idea is, who’d look after your field of crops in your absence? Who’d treat the crops & harvest them? Who’d actually eat all of the produce? Would they be just left to wither and rot, if you weren’t here full time?

And, finally, if your thinking is to buy a house with a field/additional land attached or nearby, to build on or install a pool, we’ll save your time right now. You’ve NO CHANCE. Land here, which is designated as arable, can’t be built on. There may be ways for locals to get around this, but as someone coming in & planning to develop their property, you really would be wasting your time.

But, if you still think you definitely want a field, I think we can say, quite categorically, our home is absolutely not for you.You’d be wasting your time coming to view it. You might be viewing a number of different properties in the area, and decide to view ours too, as it looks nice and a bit unusual, but with no intention of taking things any further. A bit of a filler for you, on a day of viewings, perhaps. Please don’t do this. It’s cruel. With every single viewing, we ensure that our home is in the best state possible and this takes up a lot of our time. We emotionally invest in every single viewing, as it could THE ONE. We care about our home and who it might be owned by next, so it’s always a bit of a blow to find out that someone really hasn’t done their homework.

We know that the next custodians of our home are out there, and they will most probably be people who we’ll really like, because if they go as far as purchasing, we’re pretty sure they’ll have left no stone un-turned. They won’t have unrealistic expectations as they will know we don’t have a pool, but won’t be fazed at the idea of actually rolling up their sleeves and having one installed. They won’t have the pipe-dream of a “field” because they recognise all of the above points if they are purchasing the house as second home or holiday let. And they will probably be super happy that our (very large) front garden is incredibly low maintenance, so they can get on pretty quickly with putting their feet up and relaxing, in their new Istrian holiday home…

 

A Vision : From Beautiful Home to Boutique Hotel

A Vision : From Beautiful Home to Boutique Hotel

Our renovated house, in beautiful northern Istria, is for sale. We have thought since Day One, that it would sell to people like us. People who wanted to either live in it it full time, or use it as a holiday home, for themselves, family and friends. We think this will most likely still happen, as the enquiries which are now translating into serious viewings, are generally from people who want to do one or the other.

However, we’ve started thinking a little bit outside of the box, and have realised that our market – because of where we are located – is actually potentially much wider than we initially thought.

Not Just A Home…

As we drive around Istria, especially in the north, we’re seeing more and more stone houses being renovated. This is wonderful to see, as however beautiful we think they are in their abandoned states, they will just continue to fall into further disrepair. Some of these properties are clearly being renovated to become holiday homes, but some are a lot more interesting to us – they are being, or have been, renovated to become very small, but very beautiful, boutique hotels. Some are one-offs, and some are outposts of other hotels, already established and successful. And this has got us really thinking about the wider possibilities of our renovated house. Presumably, at some point in the past, all of these properties were homes, like ours, and now they have taken on a new character. So, maybe ours could, too…

Constructed of Istrian stone, and built over three floors, our home could potentially be converted into a small hotel. We currently have three double bedrooms, with a further living space (one of three) being perfect for a fourth room, with ample space for an en-suite facility. We have a large living room, a dining room – with a very, very unique exposed and illuminated (although very safe as covered with reinforced glass) well chamber, which guests will love – and a fully renovated kitchen. Although not huge, the kitchen is fitted with everything that a small residence might need initially, but The Well Room could definitely accommodate a larger kitchen if required.

The main bedroom (top photo) is very definitely large enough to accommodate quite a spacious en-suite. The upstairs bathroom is situated in the room behind where the wardrobe stands, so plumbing would be a fairly easy job for someone who knew what they were doing. The other two bedrooms aren’t as large – but for a person with vision, this wouldn’t be a problem. Currently, with a partition wall between them, it would be a fairly easy task to take this down to create a large room, with an en-suite. These en-suites would pinch space from the current bathroom, but as it would be no longer needed, the area left could be the perfect storage space for linens, towels etc etc.

Knocking two rooms together would obviously decrease the number of rooms available for guests, and a boutique offering, however beautiful, but with only two en-suite rooms, would be less appealing as a project than one with three rooms. So, to get that third room – and a large room it is too – we have a very unique room at the bottom of the house, accessed by stairs from the living room. Our Snug…

This room could become perfect private accommodation, with an en-suite bathroom installed under the stairs (behind the curtains), and access either down the stairs from the upper floor – or, with a bit of imagination and investment, the window could be transformed into a doorway, with steps leading up and into the rear garden.

And, talking of which – if a boutique retreat is something which get your imagination going, we also have a small stone cottage included in the sale of the property. This currently in what we like to call a “rustic condition” – it is definitely not habitable, as the roof and walls would need serious attention. But, for the right person, this could be an amazing project. It could become a self-contained annexe, therefore providing additional accommodation space. If demolished, the beautiful stones could be used to create a boundary wall around what would become a very large rear, private garden. Certainly large enough to install a small pool. We think that this additional property, is the icing on the cake of our sale and with someone in charge, who had a clear vision and the finances to allow it, it would become an absolute hidden gem.

Very close by, are a number of properties which have been converted sympathetically and restored, to create beautiful boutique accommodation. Take a look at these and if you feel inspired, why not get in touch with us for a chat? Alternatively, have a look at our website, as a starting point

Casa Ars Natura, Groznjan http://casa-ars-natura.istria-hotel.com/en

Melegran in the Hills, Biloslavi https://melegran.com/melegran-in-the-hills

Fig Tree House, Bale http://fig-tree-house.istria-hotel.com/en

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing Our Own

Growing Our Own

2022 is going to be Grow Our Own year. We’ve tinkered around the edges of growing vegetables and herbs before, but it’s always been pretty half-hearted as far too much else has been going on in and around the garden. We’ve had minor success with lettuce and tomatoes and back in Didsbury, we did successfully grow strawberries and potatoes. But this year, the house renovation has finished and we’re focusing on the garden, so being a bit more self-sufficient is the aim.

Along the side of our house and garden, is a long strip of communal land. This was originally the road into the village, but it isn’t any longer. The road is on the other side of house, so this strip of land – owned by the local council and a number of individuals – is largely unused. Somewhere, presumably on hiking maps, it may still be marked as a right of way, because on a couple of occasions, we’ve had people with hiking sticks appearing. And being as startled as us! Maybe once a year, one of our neighbours will bring his tractor along the grassed lane to get to his field, but we can probably can count on one hand, how many times it’s been used by anyone other than us. So, we’ve been working hard to make it good, and frame the house. We have a hammock, in the summer, strung up between two of the trees and patches of wildflower seeds have been sown. This year, we’ve added pots of bulbs and a cluster of potted bamboos. But, it’s the veg we’re working on, more than anything.

If there’s one thing we have an excess of around the house, it’s Istrian stones, so these are being to use and we’ve made a vegetable patch, which sits in front of a small wall, and is in full sunlight. As we also have an excess of logs, we’ve divided the patch up with these and labelled each section. So far, we have sown peas, courgettes, cucumbers, rocket, lambs’ lettuce, carrots and onions – and already, just a week after sowing, the green rocket is pushing up through the soil. The bed was dug down and raked over, before the stone frame was built around it. To save on good soil, we back-filled the whole thing with twigs and branches, then mulch, then our own rich, red soil before adding a layer of top soil. A water butt, which was useless for collecting rainwater as the tap had snapped off, and couldn’t be replaced, was cut in half, and this has made an excellent planter for potatoes.

We have two apples trees and a cherry tree which were planted early last year, but didn’t produce anything very much last year – we did celebrate the one apple! – but already this year, they are heavily budding so we have high hopes for them. Once the much needed rain passes, we’re going to be planting up tomatoes and strawberries, too. It’s fair to say, we are crossing our fingers for a bumper harvest across the board this year.

The Easiest Irish Soda-bread

The Easiest Irish Soda-bread

Like everyone else in lock-down, we tried our hands at bread-making. Not the arduous kind of bread where you have to proove it for days. More the kind that you knock up in a bread maker. We did have success although we did still find even using the machine to be a faff, and so never really got away from the supermarket purchases. Until now…

I think it might have been on an Instagram feed that a recipe came up from Siggi’s, using their Icelandic inspired yogurt which does not contain artificial preservatives, thickeners, sweeteners, flavours or colours. I love this yoghurt and so was immediately interested. And, with so few ingredients, decided to give it a whirl.

The recipe uses cups as a measurement, as it’s an American website, so a bit of conversion had to be done first. For the record, this accurate:

  • 1 cup = 136 grammes
  • 1 cup = 237 millilitres

RECIPE

  • 4 cups (544g) of all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 cups (473ml) of 0% plain drinkable yoghurt

METHOD

Honestly, this could not be easier. If you have the four ingredients pre-weighed, it’ll take no longer than 5 minutes before it’s in the oven. Especially if you’re an expert kneader!

reheat the oven to 190°C (or 375°F).

Add flour, salt, and baking soda to a mixing bowl and mix together with a fork. Pour in the yoghurt and stir briskly with the fork until the ingredients are combined and it holds together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and kneed for 30 seconds. Pat into an 8-inch and 1 1/2 inch thick round on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a knife to cut an “x” in the top of the bread.

The recipe says to bake for 45 minutes, but we found the bread to be very pale, so did it for 55 minutes and it was perfect for our taste. Let it cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Wrap in a lightly damp towel and let cool completely. And, that is it!

 

Filo Tart

Filo Tart

Winter is the season of comfort food. When the nights draw in very early and it’s dark and cold, we tend to cook comfort food. Hearty stews, thick soups, pasta dishes often loaded with a sauce, Sunday roasts. The kind of food that is often followed by a snooze on the sofa, under a furry blanket, in front of the wood burner. But, you can only eat this kind of food for so long, and as we have noticed spring bulbs beginning to emerge and days seeming to last a little longer before it gets dark, our evening meals are starting to change, too. Marinaded tuna, salmon, chicken fillets, lighter pasta dishes. And this weekend, a very spring-like filo tart, filled with punchy colours and flavours. It was the simplest and quickest tart to make, made up as we went along. The filo pastry was shop-bought – there is no way I’m standing in a kitchen making it, when it can just be unrolled from a packet. Sorry to pastry purists and serious cooks, but I’m not messing around with filo. And, within 10 minutes, everything had been chopped and prepared and it was in the oven.

The pastry was rolled out into rectangular baking tray and smothered in green pesto. Lightly roasted peppers and chopped cherry tomatoes were added, with back olives squished down into the veggie mix. Feta cheese was crumbled across the tart and chilli flakes sprinkled on top, then baked for about 25 minutes. It was served with a fresh spring salad and potato rosti. The pesto made a real difference as it during the cooking, it soaked into the base, giving it a creamy texture. A lovely, light and fresh dinner dish – which reminded us that spring is not too far off…

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’ve not made Thai Chicken Soup before. 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.

I chose this when we were staying in Veli Losinj, and chose to eat in one night at the hotel. The menu was very eclectic – definitely much more global than is usual in Croatian restaurants, and I couldn’t resist the spice factor. The soup was so gorgeous that we needed to recreate it at home – and the recipe below is one we cobbled together from what thought might go into it, the fusion of ingredients from recipes found online and what we had in the cupboard/fridge. If you make it, hope you enjoy it as much as we do…

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.