sperlonga : latina : italy

sperlonga : latina : italy

We’d not previously heard of this place, but now we know about it, it’s very definitely somewhere we’d revisit next time we’re in the province of Latina. Halfway between Rome and Naples, the very pretty village, perched high on a hilltop overlooking the sea, is a welcome break from the monotonous road south from Rome. Apart from gems like Sperlonga, this coastal stretch, down the west coast towards Naples is not particularly one for sight-seeing, so finding this village was a real treat. Like a lot of Italian towns, the newer part sprawls out below, with the historical centre much higher up.

Sperlonga is a warren of narrow alleyways and steep steps that often open out onto small piazzas. If you’re a bit unsteady on your feet, or with small children, you need to be prepared for a bit of an uphill climb, but it’s worth it. It’s more of a very large village, than a town, but has all of the essential ingredients of an archetypal Italian town – churches, pealing bells, small but upmarket boutiques (Sperlonga is a getaway for Romans…), very chic restaurants & bars, and stunning cliff top views of the (very well regimented) beach & sea, far below. There’s a small port which we took a stroll down to – think Monaco in miniature! There were serious boats moored up, as well as the odd speedboat zipping around the coast. All very nice!

We visited in late September – it was still very warm (air con was needed), but not stifling. The beach was beautiful – long, expansive and like I said before, very well regimented. But that’s generally Italian beaches for you. I’m not sure how I’d like Sperlonga in the height of summer and I imagine it would be very hot and very packed, but it’s a definitely a place to visit if you like history, beauty & out-of-season visits.

A friend recommended a hotel – Hotel Corallo – and we were so impressed by it, that we’d definitely recommend it ourselves. For just over 80 euros, we had a very large double room, with a large en-suite bathroom and a small balcony. Our lack of sea view (obscured by beautiful medieval buildings), was made up for by a stunning view of the sunset. Breakfast was included – if you’re not a sweet-tooth you may struggle with breakfast here, as it was a bit of a saccharine overload, but the coffee was very, very good.

Cake, cake and more cake, for breakfast...

Cake, cake and more cake, for breakfast…

Our stay in Sperlonga was short – an afternoon and an overnight stay, but because we were based in the old town, it was sufficient time to get ourselves familiar with it. It really is a beautiful hilltop town, close to Rome and it definitely does break up that very monotonous SS7 road down the west coast. And, soon, we were back in the car, leaving Sperlonga and back on that road, heading south, on the next part of our Italian road trip.

zadar : croatia

zadar : croatia

Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world, more beautiful than the one in Key West in Florida, applauded at every evening.

So said, Alfred Hitchcock, on a visit to the stunning Dalmatian coastal city of Zadar. And, if he said it, it must be true…

We are now very, very lucky that we can reach Zadar quite easily. Living in Istria, it’s a beautiful drive down the Adriatic Highway – or, the Jadranska Magistrala – the 650 km long road which runs just a few meters parallel to the Adriatic sea, Running from Rijeka on the Kvarner Gulf to Karasovići on the border with Montenegro, this road is one of Europe’s most unforgettable journeys. As it it weaves its way around deeply indented turquoise bays or skirting scree-covered mountains, there’s scarcely a single boring stretch along its length. Especially when you are driving alongside the northern islands of Krk, Rab and Pag, rising like sleeping elephants out of the sparkling sea. This summer, family flew into Zadar from the UK and so we took the opportunity to spend a couple of days here, to introduce them to one of our favourite Croatian cities.

The name Zadar, means gift of the sea, and located where it is, on a peninsula surrounded by the Adriatic, it’s name makes perfect sense. As well as being beautiful, it is ancient and full of history, as explained by Boutique Hostel Forum :

The heart of Zadar, a location where it all began, is a street known as Kalelarga (Široka ulica). The people of Zadar will tell you it’s older than the city itself. Even though Zadar was mentioned already in the 4th century B.C.E. as the settlement of the Liburnians, it was the Romans who started forming the city two thousand years ago on the peninsula with Kalelarga as one of the main streets. The city was built like a typical Roman city with all its amenities. As the Roman Empire started falling apart, so did Zadar deteriorate in particular during the Migration Period, with low point in the 5th and 6th century. From the 6th to 11th century Zadar was a part of the Byzantine Empire. It became the administrative centre of Dalmatia and Venice’s equal on the Adriatic sea. And Venice sure didn’t like that becoming one of the most fierce opponents of Zadar and trying to overpower it for centuries to come. In the 11th century Zadar formed part of the Croatian lands for the first time, with Croatians becoming the majority population. The period between the 11th and 14th century, when the first Croatian university was founded in Zadar, is considered Zadar’s Golden Age. Despite constant threats and occasional pillages, Zadar flourished in every aspect during that period.

The Venetians finally managed to get hold of Zadar in the 15th century and it remained under their rule until the end of the 18th century. Zadar’s economic role was diminished and the city had to face two additional threats: the plague and the Ottomans (Turks). After a brief French rule beginning of the 19th century, Zadar became a part of Austrian (-Hungarian) Monarchy turning into a splendid, vibrant Dalmatian city yet again. Another round of ups and downs was in store for Zadar in the 20th century, with Austrian-Hungarian, Italian, Yugoslav and finally Croatian rule superseding one another. Heavy bombardments during the WWII destroyed more than half of the historical centre. The second half of the 20th century saw tourism-related rise which was again interrupted by a series of attacks during the Croatian War of Independence.

The historical centre of Zadar is small. Concentrated on a tiny peninsula, it can be walked around in a couple of hours. Of course, proper exploration will take a whole lot longer because of the labyrinth of marbled streets, opening out onto squares and parks and the coastal esplanade (The Riva), which is currently being redeveloped in places (summer 2022), ensuring that wide pathways make walking and cycling a much more pleasurable experience. The centre is a traffic free zone, but there are large, and accessible outdoor car parks, around the city. We spent two days there recently, and car parking was easy and inexpensive. There’s much to recommend in and around Zadar, but highlights have to be The Sea Organ and the Salutation to the Sun, both designed by renowned Croatian architect, Nikola Basic.

Both a piece of art and an experimental musical instrument, The Sea Organ creates beautiful chimes, using only the rolling power of sea waves. The installation looks like a series of broad steps leading down into the sea, hiding clever engineering beneath their surface, producing ever changing syncopated sounds. Close by, The Salutation to the Sun represents the solar system, with the sun and the planets in their proportionate sizes, featuring a series of circles made from photovoltaic glass panels set into the pavement. The panels gather energy from the sun throughout the day, and come evening, lighting elements beneath the glass create a mesmerizing display that simulates the solar system. The solar energy collected by Sun Salutation also helps power the entire waterfront.

Photo credit : bestofcroatia.eu

Photo credit : bestofcroatia.eu

Zadar is a city of significant historical influences, including reminders of Venetian rule, but perhaps more obviously, Roman rule. From The Riva, you can walk a short distance and be in the centre of The Forum – no roping off, no entrance fee, no restrictions. Just ancient reminders of a past, right in front of your eyes. We’ve visited Rome and Naples and Athens and other historical sites, but there’s something that’s very special about this part of Zadar. Maybe because when we first visited, we didn’t really know anything about Croatia, lets alone its history, but now we live in the middle of it and it feels so real. Not just a holiday experience, any more…

Zadar is located on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, north of Split and Dubrovnik, making it accessible by road (if you are on a Croatian road trip) or by air, having its own international airport. As well as the historical sites and architectural structures, the city is full of fabulous restaurants, cool bars, boutique accommodation – and of course, the turquoise Adriatic which wraps itself around the peninsula. A much recommended Croatian destination.

cagliari : sardinia : italy

cagliari : sardinia : italy

Cagliari is a city like no other Italian city we have visited. It’s a port city, and it wears its history on its sleeve. Everywhere you go you come across traces of its rich past, from ancient Roman ruins, to museums filled with prehistoric artefacts, to centuries-old churches and and elegant palazzi. It is located on the Bay of the Angels (Golfo degli Angeli) and, like Rome, it was built on seven hills, which identify the historic neighbourhoods of the city. The port area is busy, busy, busy – the main road runs along the sea front and cars and buses and vespas and motorbikes whizz past, so you need to be on your toes. Once on the city side though, it reveals itself as a beautifully elegant place, with imposing, honey coloured buildings, with elaborate balconies and shuttered windows, facing the sea. Wide tree-lined boulevards are packed with cafes and bars, and people catching up, eating, drinking and generally making life look pretty wonderful!

We stayed in an apartment, up the hill from the sea, but still “downtown”, on the beautiful Piazza Yenne. The piazza is bordered by bars and restaurants at ground level, and is lively. But, look up, and you see those beautiful buildings with balconies and railings and shutters. Our apartment was on the top floor of one of these buildings and have been exquisitely renovated – with sound-proofing, too, so we could shut out the noise when we wanted to. Piazza Yenne is the main meeting point for locals, especially during the hot summer nights. People gather here to have a chat before moving on; to sit in the terraces of the many cafes and bars, or simply, to passeggiata. Over the course of two visits to Cagliari we were there for four days in total, and so managed to get out and about and explore quite a lot of the whole city. It’s magical. It’s beautiful. It’s raw and feels real, the kind of city you could actually imagine living in.

You can either climb up to the upper town, or take a glass street elevator (at the top of Piazza Yenne) – whichever you prefer, just do it, because the upper part of town is even more beautiful and the views even more spectacular. It’s also not quite a crowded and busy, so you can feel a little more as if you have bits of the city to yourself, even in the height of summer.

 

 

boutique b&b : mali pariz : marušići : crikvenica : croatia

boutique b&b : mali pariz : marušići : crikvenica : croatia

Every now and again, you stumble upon the most perfect place to stay. It happened to us last year when we discovered The Dolphin Suites, on the beautiful island of Veli Lošinj. And it’s happened to us again this year, having discovered the most wonderful little boutique B&B, in a renovated villa, high up in the hills above Crikvenica on the Adriatic coast of Croatia.

We finally had family out to visit us for three weeks – the first time since 2019 – and when we took them back down south to Zadar to fly home, we decided to do a stop over, to break up the journey home. However, my chosen hotel – the Almayer Art & Heritage Hotel – in the historical centre of Zadar, was fully booked, so the search was on to find something as unusual and special. And this was when we stumbled upon Boutique B&B Mali Pariz (“Little Paris”).

Coming off the coast road – The Adriatic Highway – we wound our way up into quite hilly territory. Renovated villas nestled next to very contemporary new builds, all with spectacular views across the bay to the northern Croatian islands. Tiny villages emerged around hairpin bends, with the obligatory abandoned houses and churches, being reclaimed by nature. We climbed higher and higher, not sure what we were going to find at our destination – but we need not have been concerned, It was just gorgeous.

A very elegant, pale pink early nineteenth century, with shuttered windows and a huge double wooden front door revealed itself as Mali Pariz, with the the hand-painted signage on the side of the building. Through the grey iron gates, the prettiest courtyard was revealed. Pea-gravels paths, lots of plants in terracotta and zinc containers, established fruit trees and creepers, growing across the walls. Hanging baskets and pots on window sills. A raised area with different sized tables and chairs. Candle holders. Hurricane lamps. Strings of lights in the trees. And, a tantalising glimpse of a upper level, with sun umbrellas and loungers – and hidden from view, so completely private, a swimming pool.

There are only seven rooms available in this boutique hotel – two family suites on the ground floor, two doubles on the first floor and two doubles in the eaves of the house, as well as a stand alone annexe in the garden. Our room was a deluxe double in the attic, up two flights of wooden stairs and through very pretty landing areas, with lots of French style furnishings.

Being right at the top of the house, the ceiling could be an issue as it sloped down, almost to ground level on both sides. It’s probably best to remember, at all times, that there are low beams, both above the seating area and the bed. As cute as our room was, the jewel in the crown of this little hotel, is definitely the outside space. Hidden behind the big gates, it’s completely private and as pretty as picture.

Breakfast is included in the room rate, but for an additional (very reasonable) charge, Martina, the owner, will prepare an evening meal, which we were very grateful for, not arriving until 7.30pm. The nearest large town, Crikvenica, is a drive away and we didn’t fancy heading out again, especially as the garden looked so alluring as dusk set in. I think because we hadn’t pre-ordered, we largely had to take what was on offer and we were offered pasta, which was fine with us. However, we definitely didn’t expect such a simple dish – spaghetti with tomato, garlic and basil – and a rocket salad, smothered in nutty olive oil, to be quite so delicious. This is our staple kind of week night dinner, but whatever Martina did with it, it was super gorgeous. Maybe it was a combination of the setting and her excellent white wine…

Self service breakfast was simple, but substantial – meats, cheeses, bread, juices, coffee – and eggs. We opted for an omelette, which was perfect – light and fluffy but browned, just right. And again, sitting under a fig tree, and surrounded by oleanders, as the hot sun shine down on the terrace, was lovely. However, the best thing was the relaxed approach to the morning. Although check out is stated as 11am, I got the distinct impression that if you were a little later, there would be no problem. And with breakfast being served until 11am, it all felt very laid back. We had the most amazing weather – in fact, the whole summer in Croatia, has been amazing – but this little boutique B&B is also well set up if the weather is a little more inclement, with a very pretty glass walled internal dining room.

If you are looking to stay somewhere that is right in the centre of the action, with bars and restaurants on the doorstep, we definitely wouldn’t recommend you book a night or two here. But, if like us, you’re looking for peace, quiet, relaxation and somewhere that is beautifully quirky, we definitely would recommend Mali Pariz. A little bit of French chic, up the hills, on the Adriatic coast.

 

 

 

winter : ljubljana : slovenia

winter : ljubljana : slovenia

Ljubljana definitely knows how to do winter. It knows how to do summer as well, but in the colder months – especially as you can pretty much guarantee snow – it is very, very pretty. The old part of the city runs along each side of the river, and up to the castle and is full of cobbled streets, baroque buildings, churches, candle lit restaurants and bars, twinkling lights, Christmas lights and trees and beautiful independent shops. Just outside the old city centre, parkland takes over and this is always magical in the snow, especially as there are many ornate and elaborate churches and old buildings, on the fringes.

The centre is lively and buzzing, both during the day and in the evening, because Ljubljana is set up to function all year around. Bars and restaurants still offer the al-fresco experience, because they also offer heaters – some overhead, some under the tables but usually both – and complimentary blankets and faux sheepskins. It does seem unusual to opt to sit outdoors when it is snowing, because in the UK we’d have retreated indoors well before the arrival of the snow. But not in Ljubljana. And this makes it a very magical city.

 

 

nerja : andalusia : spain

nerja : andalusia : spain

We’ve not visited Nerja for a while, but when we still lived in Didsbury, we did visit often. We were very lucky that we had a friend with a family apartment there, and so if there was availability, we could make a booking and do a quick getaway from Manchester. We tended to visit in the spring and autumn, as we found it to be much less crowded and temperatures were much better for exploring the region of Andalusia. When we go abroad, we’re not keen on two weeks on a sunbed. Although we do relax, we also like to get to know places, and Nerja is a great base for getting out and about. From here, we’ve explored Almeria, Granada, the Sierra Nevada, Malaga, Seville, Cadiz and Tarifa. All not to be missed.

But, we’ve also made sure we’ve explored Nerja and got to know it well. And, the more we’ve got to know it, the more we’ve really grown to like it. Initially, we thought it would largely be an ex-pat community, and so not somewhere we’d keep going back to. It obviously does have a large Brit community, but it’s also much loved by Scandinavians, Dutch and Germans – if licence plates are anything to go by – bringing a much more cross-cultural feel. And whilst there are bars by the beach, showing football and serving all day breakfasts and Sunday roasts, these don’t dominate. If you want this you can have it, but there’s also so, so much more. And that’s what we like about Nerja. It’s easy if you want it to be, but if you want to absorb a bit more of Spain, you can do that too.

There are lots of urbanisations, up on the surrounding hills – typical modern, white washed town houses, with balconies and roof terraces if you are high enough. And, because they are built on hills, most aren’t overlooked and all will have some kind of a view of the sea, even if you need to stand on your tip toes and squint. But, from wherever you are if you are up here, it’s only a shortish walk down to the beach and the old town. There are buses, and if you take the car, plenty of car parks. The old town, with its large plaza, winding cobbled streets, white washed buildings and the famous Balcon de Europa, is very, very beautiful.

Balcon de Europa

Balcón de Europa is a beautiful pedetrianized balcony, from where you can look over the Mediterranean sea, and is one of the most popular places in Andalucía. It has spectacular panoramic views of the Sierra Almijara mountain range and the coast with its beautiful beaches, sandy coves and rocky outcrops.

Beach Life

The main beach in Nerja seems to be Burriana. It’s extensive and is large enough to accommodate lots of people without the feeling of being hemmed in. Multiple bars, restaurants, shops (selling everything you could need for a day at the beach as well as many, many clothing stores) and estate agencies, line the road along the beach. And, on the beach, there are even more bars and restaurants. Our favourite part of Burriana is to the far right as you look in from the sea. The bars are a bit more chilled and laid back, and the restaurants not lined with staff trying to persuade you to come in. The kind of places where if you do come in, great. If not, you’ll probably come in, on your next visit. The final bar is definitely our preferred one – very Moroccan in feel, with big sofas, lanterns, throws and a feeling of space. The added advantage is that just in front, but far enough away to stop you feeling over-crowded, are super comfy sun loungers and big cabana beds, with billowing curtains. Maybe because this is right at the end of the beach, and so not in the melee of volleyball nets and water sport hire cabins, it always seems quite empty when we go. Perfect!

It’s definitely not always sunshine on Burriana Beach – we have experienced torrential rain and flooding, too…

There is another beach – Calahonda –  underneath Balcon de Europa, which is very pretty, although more of a large cove than a beach.

Nerja Old Town

Like all Andalucian towns and villages, white is the predominant colour for buildings, with the odd pop of colour here and there. And, like all Andalucian towns and villages, once off the main plaza. the streets wind up and around and down, making them a pleasure to explore, especially when it’s cooler. As Nerja is quite large, there are a lot of shops and restaurants, so if you want retail therapy followed by a slap up meal, it’s the place for you.

 

 

ca’ amadi : venice : italy

ca’ amadi : venice : italy

One of the joys of staying in Venice, is trawling the internet beforehand, to find where you are going to stay. We’ve stayed in apartments and hotels, and thankfully have never had a bad experience. I do spend a lot of time reading reviews, scrutinising websites, looking a photographs, identifying the location and what’s in the vicinity. I think a bit of homework always pays off, as I’ve seen places we’ve rejected online, in reality, and for a variety of reasons, our research has always paid off.

Ca’ Amadi is a hotel we’ve stayed in twice, and on both occasions, have loved it. It’s initially quite tricky to find, because it’s in a courtyard, off an alley, off a road, but perseverance pays off. Google Maps, in the centre of Venice is a bit hit and miss, but it’s not too far from the Rialto Bridge and so if you keep this as your main bearing point, you’ll eventually find Ca’ Amadi, On our first visit, it was clearly in the early stages of a renovation, as scaffolding was up outside and on the second visit, interior work was happening. From checking out the website recently, it’s clear the renovations have been completed because it’s now even more beautiful than when we stayed. It’s a very authentic Venetian residence, once home to the family of Marco Polo, no less. As stated on the website…

This small boutique hotel is housed in the noble floor of a palace dated 13th century and still preserves many traces of its long history. Entering the hotel, you’ll be welcomed in a large salon with ancient wooden ceilings, facing on one side a picturesque canal and a typical Venetian court on the other. In this place, full of memories and emotions, you’ll be able to relive the splendour of the Republic of Venice and, at the same time, enjoy the most modern comforts. History, culture or just a break in the frenetic daily life: at Ca’ Amadi every traveller can find what he’s looking for.

And, if you are ever in this area of Venice, forget eating out anywhere near the Rialto Bridge – and take our advice and visit Il Milion, reputedly the oldest osteria still opertaing in Venice. With a tradition extending back more than 300 years and a location near the rear of San Giovanni Crisostomo, this restaurant is named after the book written by Marco Polo, Il Milion, describing his travels. In fact, it occupies a town house once owned by members of the explorer’s family, just like Ca’ Amadi, which is literally about thirty metres away.

At Osteria Il Milion, a simple, nine-table restaurant set in a tiny courtyard across from the home of Marco Polo near the Rialto Bridge, you will find some of the finest local seafood. One of the city’s oldest dining establishments, its name is derived from a story about Marco Polo, who was said to exaggerate the millions of things he had seen and the millions of miles he traveled, earning the ironic nickname, “Il Milion.” The food here, most notably the tagliolini with spider crab, risotto with scampi and zucchini, and John Dory and grilled polenta, has clean flavors that are not masked by sauces, butter, or cream. The ingredients are so fresh and intense that there is no reason to hide them. “I eat here every day,” says owner Roberto Bocus, “so it has to be good.”

And, if you take our advice and eat there, do make sure that you order the Spaghetti con le Cipolle – I promise you will never have tasted onions as sweet. We’ve eaten there a few times, and again every meal has been memorable – perhaps none more so than the Aqua Alta of 2018…

 

 

vander urbani resort : ljubljana : slovenia

vander urbani resort : ljubljana : slovenia

Image credit : https://www.designhotels.com/hotels/slovenia/ljubljana/vander-urbani-resort

Image credit : https://www.designhotels.com/hotels/slovenia/ljubljana/vander-urbani-resort

On the banks of the Ljubljanica River stands a very elegant townhouse, which has been renovated and is now the the Vander Urbani Resort. Part of the Design Hotels Group, it is described as having :

Plush amenities and interesting design quirks create sophisticated, airy spaces in subtle yet sensuous colors. The interior design follows a steady line, which runs almost imperceptibly from building to building. All spaces are light and airy with a careful selection of colors and materials. The rooms and suites, as well as the restaurant, wine cellar, and lounge, feature high-end materials, exquisite design pieces, and plush amenities that culminate in highly sophisticated yet homey comfort.

A beautiful traditional Baroque townhouse externally, internally it is super modern, sleek and effortlessly cool. Its location is pretty hard to beat – overlooking the willow tree fringed river to the front and just below the castle on the hill. Cobbled streets wind along and around the hotel. Set up to function in all weathers and seasons, outdoor seating and tables provide the perfect setting for alfresco dining. It’s absolutely beautiful in the winter especially, as all tables have heaters and complimentary blankets and faux sheepskins are provided. I’m not sure if it’s a permanent winter fixture, but we even managed to bag the ski lift for outdoor drinks on one visit. Quirky and beautiful, especially as it was snowing.

However, warmer months are as special too, in this hotel, as it has has the advantage of having a rooftop infinity pool. This really is the star of the show, offering sweeping views out over the city and up to the castle. No one from the street below can see you, and it’s only for guests, so it really feels like a relaxed, private oasis.

The room we were allocated was funky in design and style – with the thing that I hold above everything else in a hotel room. A super comfy bed, with exquisite bed linen.

Breakfast is a bit special, too. As well as an extensive continental fare, cooked options are also available, enabling you to have e leisurely start to your day in Ljubljana.

I think the hotel is well worth a visit in the summer, but if I’m to be honest, I think it’s in the winter, in the snow, when it shines brightest. It’s not a budget hotel, by any means, but if you can plan ahead, there are deals to be had, and in any event, it’s the kind of place where you might visit if you wanted to treat yourself, or if it was a special occasion. Go for it, if you visit Ljubljana – you won’t regret it.

 

 

 

the dolphin suites : veli lošinj : croatia

the dolphin suites : veli lošinj : croatia

After a long hiatus from travel, and after getting our second vaccinations, we decided to do a bit of exploring this summer. Croatia has managed the pandemic well, so far and so we felt comfortable about beginning to explore where we live. Travel in the past has usually involved flights, ferries and/or long car journeys. This one, in August, involved a car journey and a ferry – although to be fair, we’re now located right next to the northern Croatian islands, so a ferry to Cres island, lasting only 20 minutes, was more than bearable.

The kind of accommodation was really difficult to secure in August. I have a rule of thumb – if where we are intending to stay, doesn’t look at least as nice as where we live, we look elsewhere. And, with travel having recently opened again up to Croatia, a lot of European travellers clearly had the same idea. Lošinj was our island of choice as we’d heard great things about, but were beginning to think we’d need to change our plans and look elsewhere as good availability was a real scarcity. Then I found The Dolphin Suites, in the very picturesque harbour town of Veli Lošinj and made a booking immediately, for The Garden Suite, a self contained apartment with outdoor space and access to the main pool and gardens. It’s definitely been one of our better finds!

The old schoolhouse has been beautifully, and very sensitively, renovated. Now an elegant villa style building, it is enclosed by a a high wall and therefore is very private – despite being in the centre of the small harbour town. The outdoor areas are immaculate. Scrupulously clean red sun loungers, and umbrellas, fringe the pool. Which is one of the prettiest pools I’ve seen. It’s an original tiled pool – very retro – and so lovely because it doesn’t have that false bright blue hue to it. There’s an Indonesian vibe going on, with Buddha statues half hidden behind huge potted plants. At night, this area is particularly pretty, as it’s lit up.

Technically bed and breakfast, this boutique accommodation also offers evening food – more of which later, as it deserves a paragraph of its own. Breakfast is buffet style, but because of ongoing Covid restrictions, it actually became a very leisurely affair. A daily menu (which doesn’t change but doesn’t need to as it is very extensive) of what is available is delivered to your breakfast table – on the terrace, above the pool – and you just tick whatever you want. However much you want. And, as often as you want. The breakfasts we had here were up there amongst the very best we’ve had. Options included smoothies, fresh juices, teas, coffees, granola, cold meats, cheese selection and fresh fruit. The hot selection is quite simply, outstanding – particular favourites of ours were the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and the avocado. Both are served on homemade granary/nutty toast and garnished with thin slivers of tomato and spring onion. And, the portions are large. Very large.

So, to that evening food. Because we found The Dolphin Suites to be so utterly relaxing, on a couple of occasions we left the pool area quite late and didn’t fancy moving too far from our little Garden Suite. I was told that they offered a “bar snack” selection in the evening and so on the first night we chose to opt for this, we thought we’d get not much more than crisps, nuts etc.

Oh, my word. How wrong were we?

Forget bar snacks, and think more exceptionally well cooked, innovative and beautifully presented street food. Over the course of our stay, we actually ate here three nights – obviously meaning that we do need to return to Veli Lošinj, to closer explore the restaurants. The manager – a lovely, lovely Dutch guy called Marnix – has completely nailed it, we think, on the food front. We tried a variety of dishes. On the first night, we went a bit tapas style with mixed cheeses, olives, veggie nachos, potatoes and dips, and it was more than enough. But our interest had been piqued by the mention on the menu of Flammkuchen, described to us as kind of German pizza. A bit more delving and we discovered that flammekueche, or tarte flambée, is a speciality of the region of Alsace in France, on the German border. It is composed of bread dough rolled out very thinly in the shape of a rectangle or oval, which is covered with fromage blanc or crème fraîche, and then toppings added. Similar to a white pizza, but also very different. The toppings we chose were rocket, rocquefort & pear and proscuitto, feta & rocket. Astoundingly delicious. And, absolutely nothing what we imagined a “German pizza” was going to be…

As were eating our Flammkuchen, a couple at a nearby table were served something with such a delicious aroma that we had to ask about it. “Stew”. Now, I love a stew, so I was sold on this and decided on our last night, we’d eat here again and try this. Also on the menu was Indonesian Chicken Soup, so we thought in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound. We do largely stick to a vegetarian diet but can sometimes be swayed by a good meat dish – and these were very, very good. The soup was wonderfully spicy, with lean, lean chicken fillet pieces – replicated a few times since we’ve returned. And the stew – oh, wow. The tenderest, tenderest cubes of beef, in a rich wine sauce, with potatoes and carrots – and served in a hollowed out bun. A great touch, as it soaked up the juices. No photos of these dishes however, as they were wolfed down so quickly. Testimony to how good they were. So, there you go – “bar food”…

The privacy afforded by the Garden Suite was perfect for us. All other rooms are accessed via the main reception, but we were able to just head around the corner and into our own space. No meeting other people, unless we wanted to. And with a little outside area, with very comfy furniture, which was perfect for an early evening vino and a listen to our own music. The room was spacious and like the rest of the accommodation, sparklingly clean. The shower was powerful and very spacious and the toilet was separate to the washing area. We have absolutely no complaints about the level of accommodation – and we (“I”) am very fussy – and would more than happily return to this suite.

Photos : www.booking.com

Photos : www.booking.com

Parking is free of charge, in a public (but very safe) car park nearby, and the harbour is a ten minute walk away from The Dolphin Suites. Veli Lošinj is tiny – the port, which is where you’d want to be, can be explored in under an hour. But you would then want to re-explore and re-visit as it’s just so very beautiful. We’re now looking forward to returning to the island in the autumn, to discover what life is like, when it’s not quite as hot…

frigiliana : pueblo blanco : andalusia

frigiliana : pueblo blanco : andalusia

The small white village of Frigiliana – one of the famous pueblo blancos – is in the Axarquia region of the Costa del Sol, and regularly features in lists of Spain’s most beautiful villages.

This pueblo blanco is distinctively Moorish in appearance, with the old quarter made up of narrow, winding, cobblestone streets full of small shops, tapas bars and restaurants well worth exploring. The village is actually divided into two neighbourhoods, with the upper quarter – the Barrio Alto – being where you will find the winding maze of cobbled streets filled with Mudéjar and Moorish architecture. Mudéjar is an architectural style produced by Christians but with heavy Islamic influence, and it is evident around every corner.

This upper part of town is really only accessible on foot, so trainers – or very comfy footwear – is much recommended. Your feet won’t thank your strappy holiday sandals if your wear them to explore. Allow for at least several hours to visit, because although it is small, there is endless history, a labyrinth of white washed streets and unique places to discover throughout the town. And you will keep stopping to photograph the beautiful Andalusian house and shop facades, decorated with ceramic pots and tumbling flowers in bright colours which pop against the white-wash. Arriving by car is easy, because Frigiliana is well sign-posted and the roads to the village are very accessible. There is a large underground car park at the foot of the village, so you will need to do a climb to get to the top.

We have visited Frigiliana out of season – either April or October/November and these are perfect times of year. Temperatures are warm, but bearable and the village is so much less crowded that it would be in the height of summer. Meaning that at certain times, you can find yourself complete alone and able to drink everything in, with out anyone else around you. Perfect.

Of course, Frigiliana isn’t the only pueblo blanco in Andalusia, and this article gives some good guidance to others. We haven’t even scratched the surface of these beautiful white villages, but have every intention of getting to know them a whole lot better.