I have trust issues with the weather.
I never used to be this way, but a move to the Emerald Isle has instilled a constant fear of rain in me – even if the forecast is calling for nothing but sunny rays. This fear stems from my horrible mistake once of leaving the house without a rain jacket or brolly – I had to run a few errands before a night out and there was not a cloud in the sky when I left, so an honest mistake at that. In Ireland, shops still insist on giving you paper bags for your purchases…earth-friendly, but silly. And as it usually does, the sun quickly turned to rain that day, my brown shopping bags turned into dust, and my highly anticipated night out turned into a smashed bottle of wine in the middle of Grafton Street and a drowned rat looking me. Sexy.
So when my family (+ family friend) decided to *finally* jump across the Atlantic to come visit me for the first time, I gave them advice I should’ve given myself – pack and prepare for the shittiest weather you can imagine; if we get anything else, joy to the world.
They left Canadian soil just as they were experiencing the first blinks of summer there – a mini heat wave and high UV rays. The forecast for Dublin kept changing every five minutes, so I just stopped looking at it – because you can ‘never ever ever do a thing about the weather’, so no sense in fussing about it. The plan was they would spend a week in Ireland, the weather would likely be awful but it would be great fun anyway, and then we would jet off for a six day sun holiday in Croatia.
But…as Irish luck has it, my fam brought the weather with them. Dublin was peacocking and showing off all it’s glory; you really cannot beat Dublin on a good day, or week for that matter. This city has the best people, the best pubs and the best craic (‘craic’ = Irish for fun). I remember having the same feelings for Wellington, New Zealand when I lived there. It really was the ‘coolest little capital city in the world’ to me, but has the maddest weather; gale force winds twice a week was chump change.
Anyways, Ireland turned it on for them. Big time.
And then there was Croatia…
Now, when I book holidays I do it quite impulsively, but I do base my flight purchases on a few very simple requirements, which are:
- For weekend getaways, the flights need to leave Friday pm, and come back Sunday pm. I don’t want to take a precious annual leave day, but also want to get as much time in destinations as possible.
- I want to go places I haven’t been yet. I never planned on going to Transylvania for Halloween the one year, but Romania was a country I hadn’t ticked, the flight times were good, prices better, and the allure of Dracula’s Castle got me (it ended up being ridiculously amazing).
- Living in Ireland I constantly crave sun. So I look for the cheapest flights to the hottest places. Very simple equation.
Enter Zadar, Croatia.
Using easily my most favourite tool of all time (Dublin -> Everywhere Search on Skyscanner), I hunted for a cheap and cheerful long (and hot) bank holiday weekend break. I convinced my family it would be a good idea, because random holidays are always a good idea, and after a few Ryanair flights booked and boarded, off we went.
So I want you to imagine in that little creative brain of yours what Canada looks like on Christmas morning…now imagine what Croatia looks like in May…now swap them. I shit you not when I say there was more snow on the ground our first morning in Croatia than there was in Ontario this past Christmas. The Canadians brought snow to Croatia, figures. We were set to do a 5 hour hike through the Plitvice Lakes National Park, and I stupidly only packed Cons (I was hardly going to pack my Sorel’s though). As my Mama Bear would say: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes”.
We were unprepared for this unseasonable snow nonsense. End of story. We kept on keeping on though, and it actually turned out to an amazing (but albeit cold) hike around the park.
Despite the frozen extremities, my advice would be TO visit the park this early in the season. You’ll be pretty unlucky to get the weather we did, but you will be sure to beat the crowds. The boardwalks in the park are pretty freakin narrow and were at times difficult to maneuver even during low season. I’d imagine in the summer it would be flat out gross (I don’t deal well with crowds and shoving…). Expect queues, especially for the boats across the lakes, and exert patience. Nature is pretty, and this park needs a full day dedicated to exploring the serenity. So much serenity.
From the Plitvice Lakes we drove our hire car down to Split. The motorways in Croatia were better than most I’ve ever driven on, super driver-friendly. Once we got into Split though, that was a whole other ball game. There is no method to the madness there – park wherever the fuck you can fit your car (and good luck finding a spot), and the roads really reflect the city’s age and history. Tight as a tiger is the only way I can describe them. We ended up down some side ‘road’ (I use the term ‘road’ very lightly), where I had to perform a 48 point turn. This is not an exaggeration. Locals were actually walking out of their houses to watch me try and turn this brand spanking new white Volkswagen around, without scraping it down the stone walls.
I don’t stress easily, but I was fucking raging/sweating/stressing. Once we found a parking spot (and had a local park it for us), we didn’t move the car for 4 days until we were headed back to the airport. Give me my little blue Tobias bike any day.
Split was pretty cool. We crashed in an Airbnb pad which had a stunning balcony that overlooked the city and sea, and it was conveniently within a five minute walk to both the Old Town and Bačvice Beach. A trade off for the small crowds during our time was the lack of atmosphere in the city though; there wasn’t much going on – no beach bars or yacht weeks – but the weather did smarten up a wee bit and we managed to find a nice spot for cocktails at Fjaka Lounge along Bačvice. I love a good day session, especially with my family, so when we started feeling floaty we made our way into the Old Town for dinner.
I honestly could not tell you the name of the place we went, or it’s location. Again, back to the whole me not be a foodie thing. Add to the fact that place is like the Labyrinth, sans David Bowie. My man friend Andy and I had to go get some cash out, and got lost on the way back to the restaurant. It’s a fucking maze. So many neat little places to munch at though, so for those foodies, just take a wander around, have no plan, and pick a spot that has good vibes. And if you like Italian food you will be in carb heaven – a lot of Italian influence in Croatia.
While in Split we did get 1.5 days of nice-ish weather that showed it’s pretty face, so we decided to hop on a speed boat tour of the islands the one day. If you’re not doing Yacht Week, but going to Split, I would definitely recommend getting your butt out on the water. Again, very bad blogger behaviour but I forget the name of the company we went with (we just stumbled across it in the Enterprise Rent-A-Car shop). The tour we did was identical to this: http://www.meridienten.com/page/blue-cave-and-hvar-speedboat-trip/47 and there are lots going that offer the same.
The ‘Caves’ episode of Planet Earth was always one of my favourites; that non-pigmented salamander really creeped me out/amazed me at the same time…and so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Blue Grotto was the highlight for me when we toured the islands. And we even saw dolphins, so that is saying a lot! The cave has a natural entrance which is below sea level, so at certain special times of the day, when the sun is hitting the water outside just right, it creates an über romantic, iridescent blue glowing effect that photos barely do justice.
Just as in Split, when we arrived in Hvar there wasn’t much going on. We were recommended by a few mates to go to Hula Hula Beach Bar, but it didn’t open until the following week unfortunately. Our solution to this disappointment was to drink wine out in the sun while watching these little shit heads throw rubber balls at pigeons. Hvar is beautiful, and can imagine it would be absolutely lit during the summer season, but we left without getting much of a feel for the town.
A place/country really needs to leave an impression on me for me to go back, and when taking all circumstances into play (weather, low season, etc), I probably wouldn’t be rushing to get back to Croatia. For a lot of people me saying that would be like me saying See You Next Tuesday a bunch of times in a row (offensive), but as long weekend getaways go, this was a bit of a mission.
But anyways…The Tips!
- What is really important to you? Sightseeing or atmosphere? If you want to visit attractions, parks, etc, I would recommend going earlier in the year like we did. Especially for the Plivtice Lakes like I mentioned before. But if you are going to Croatia to immerse yourself in the renowned party culture…hold off until July/August. Ultra Europe is on in July – plan your trip around that!
- If you want to rent a car, prepare to have at least €2,000 in your bank account for a security hold. You will get this back at the end if you manage not to scrape that white VW up the side of a stone wall, but it’s an initial blow that would be very unwelcome if not expecting it.
- Their currency is the Kuna there, not the Euro – I knew this, but some others didn’t, so just use your bank card when you arrive and take some Kunas out of an ATM.
- Gelateria Splatano is the best ice cream joint in Split. To me, ice cream is ice cream, but they were the soundest, nicest people going. Andy drunkingly insisted on eating 8 scoops of gelato, and they were fully supportive of his gluttony; they even took a photo of him and posted it on their Facebook page. That’s living.
Peace out party people!