Mediterranean Cruise: The Adriatic Sea
Sea Day 1
After an epic #seaday (this is how Caroline and I would say it, this is how it's going to be written), we were itching to get off the boat and onto some land. That makes it sound like I hated, #seaday; quite the contrary. Caroline and I had carefully made a list and schedule of items we needed to accomplish. On this list were various things like EXERCISE, STRETCH CLASS, PLAY CARDS, WRITE POSTCARDS, etc. All quite necessary.
We had a successful work out despite my attempt of running on the track against a head wind, caught the end of Letters from Juliet (we were trying to figure out if Amanda Seyfried is still relevant), failed hot tub event (just wind and freezing water), horrible attempt at an ice cream picture (literally the ice cream blew all over me), played cards with Zenric and co., then relaxed in our stateroom by finishing the remaining episodes of Black-ish on our queue before getting ready for formal night at dinner.
But land was definitely in sight and we circumnavigated Italy (like yeah the whole country) and entered the turquoise waters of the Adriatic, straight for Dubrovnik, Croatia and the other Balkan countries. I was absolutely stoked for this day - after seeing pictures of the place, it quickly moved up to the top of my list of places to travel. Our massive ship docked 20 minutes outside the city because we were literally too big for the port. Anyway, we made our way into town onto a shuttle and I immediately fell in love with the place.
Clear blue skies, old white stone buildings, cute little red rooftops, and sparkling waters...HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE IT.
We found our walking tour group and proceeded to navigate the major sights of the old town with our awesome tour guide Teah who was #woke. She knew all the spots in town. The whole time we walked around, Caroline and I admired the major Game of Thrones (GoT) vibes. Key scene locations like Blackwater Bay, the Red Keep, and the Great Sept stairs have all been filmed here.
Finishing up our tour, we headed over to the Sept stairs to savor a little bit of GoT, especially since it looks like it won’t be until 2019 to see new content. Also in honor of GoT, Caroline and I "recreated" the infamous scene of Cersei’s walk of shame. Caroline did her best Cersei Lannister walk while I filmed and threw a crumpled up map at her. There were people laughing at us while we shot it and we had wayyyy too much fun.
As always, we scoured the town for our perfect wifi spot. The old town had so many little alleyways and side streets which, while cute, was low-key hard to navigate. In the end we scratched the cappuccinos and ate lunch at a one of the many adorable restaurants. The summer seafood risotto and the wifi were impeccable.
Satisfying our interweb dose of the day, we headed over to the Franciscan Monastery to see the Old Pharmacy which originally opened in 1317! We wandered the monastery grounds and admired the Dorne vibes aka more GoT vibes.
We made our way into churches we had only passed by on the tour and soaked in the sun by the boats.
In an attempt to redeem myself for the awful ice cream pictures I had gotten, I scoped out a gelato stand and planned the perfect picture. It received Caroline’s approval, such high praise.
Ice cream in hand, we strolled over to the Sunday Farmer's Market and cut in and out of the alleyways popping into the cute local shops for postcards and unique souvenirs, with of course the occasional photoshoot here and there.
I loved every second. With every turn, I marveled at the green shutters and white walls. On our exploration, we followed a sign that claimed "Best view and best drinks" and we discovered a little alcove in the wall that lead to the steepest set of stairs to a restaurant perched on the edge of the Adriatic Sea glistening. It was breathtaking. The whole time I kept thinking, people actually live here?!
We eventually walked out of the old town and into the real streets which were lined with more residences and sandy beaches with dwellers enjoying the gorgeous weather. The rest of the day, Caroline and I plotted out our next family vacation, toying with the idea of Croatia; everything from where we would stay and what we would do as we took in all of the sights.
Our final feat of the day was making our way to the Red Keep which provided us with an aerial view of the quaint little city. Dubrovnik was easily my favorite stop on the trip.
Motto of the day: Couture in Kotor. Random things like this basically sum up how Caroline and I were this whole trip…coming up with silly little sayings and jokes that would make us laugh and laugh and laugh. Now it was day six and we were beginning to realize that we had really taken a backseat on the whole planning of this trip because we had NO IDEA what to expect in Montenegro. Pretty sure Caroline wasn’t able to label where Montenegro was on a map (sorry ate!) before we arrived there.
We had made a feeble attempt the previous night to look activities up in cruise library (yes, this is a thing) and came up with nothing. Luckily, with the little wifi we had in Croatia, we managed to find a few items for us to screenshot and give us ideas to go off of.
One of those "brilliant" ideas was to wake up at the crack of dawn and watch the cruise pull into the bay. Kotor is nestled in the Bay of Kotor (fitting) surrounded by towering black mountains, often mistaken for fjords and hence why the region is referred to Montenegro (the Italians were SUPER creative with the names). We wrestled with the idea of waking up at six a.m., ultimately succumbing to the "once in a lifetime mentality" and I reluctantly set the alarm.
Boy was THAT a brutal wake up call. Groggy and with low standards, we rolled out of bed in our pj's and threw on some shoes before climbing the stairs to the top deck. As we emerged, I remarked how dark it was and low the clouds were. Everything was pitch black. Then as we moved out of the stairwell, I quickly realized that that pitch blackness was a mountain. I stepped closer to the railing to find the mountain right before me and a pastel sky slowly changing with the sunrise. WHOA. I was not expecting that at all. What a crazy sight. It was magical.
What we ALSO weren't expecting was the fact we weren't moving. The ship had already docked in the bay and we were floating in the middle. So much for the majestic arrival in Kotor.
The rest of the morning cruised along with us eating an early breakfast, napping, then meeting the group down on the main floor of the ship to catch a tender that would bring us to shore. Kotor had the perfect mix of old town vibes surrounded by natural beauty. At the gates to old town, we found our tour guide and strolled the old cobblestone streets seeing the major sites like seven of the eighteen churches within the walled city and family houses.
Once the walking tour ended, Caroline and I split off and scoped out a little cafe tucked away in one of the main squares. The quaint cafe served us our cappuccino and espresso as we plotted the rest of our afternoon. First up was popping next door to check out the Cat Museum. Cats hold a special place in Kotor, they're a sign of good luck and there's so many kittens running around the city. A few years ago, someone made a museum dedicated to these furry friends. We paid our one Euro which went to cat conservation and entered the museum which consisted walls and walls of cat memorabilia from drawings, portraits, and comics and so much more.
Like Dubrovnik, Kotor had tons of cute little alleyways cutting through the old town. We would set our sights on a landmark on the map and head in the general direction finding what we may along the way.
The pièce de résistance, the must of Kotor, was hiking up the old trail to a church.
We paid our three euros to hike and set out on the dirt trial. Initially, we were doing fine, gorgeous sunny day and crystal blue waters below. As we ascended, we realized how poor our timing was and were hiking at the warmest part of the day, I decked out in all black and Caroline in a wool sweater because we had so carefully picked out our couture in kotor outfits. Go us.
We were absolutely sweating and regretting everything. Our overheating was somewhat assuaged when we reached the church, the mid point. We took refuge from the sweltering heat and said a quick prayer before continuing on.
There wasn't a clear path and at a few bends we made executive decisions to take those steep staris over that steep staircase. The old ruins while grand, were sketcy AF. Other than the historical factor, I was loving them because they provided shade.
With the top landing in sight, Caroline fell off the trail and tumbled down the stairs. Just kidding. Although it would have provided us with a much more interesting story. Instead, we were drenched in sweat and relieved to spot the red and yellow of the Montenegro flag flappping in the breeze signalihg the top.
It was all worth it. We looked out over the Bay of Kotor to see the beautiful mountains in the daylight, the turqouise waters of the bay, the red roof tops of the old town, and our massive cruise ship taking up the bay. One of the most stunning views I've ever seen.
Catching our breath, we moved around the ruins which mostly consisted of steep drop offs. Classic. After soaking in the incredible view, we trounced down the mountainside, navigating the cobblestone stairs and headed straight for the boat.
I didn't know how to feel about this day. I had never heard of Corfu, Greece, and every conception I had of Greece consisted of white walls with blue roofs, you know the Santorini-Sisterhood-of-the-Traveling-Pants-2 sort of thing.
We docked at the cruise terminal with the four other ships there for the day. Again, we towered over the other boats and couldn't get over how big it was. Today, we were mixing it up with a van tour of the region as opposed to our typical walking tour. I think we all were stoked to be sitting down as we toured, as well as have air conditioning.
Our joy quickly subsided as we loaded into the van and the tour coordinator popped her head in and said "So you don't have a tour guide, but we'll pay for your entrance to the Achilleion Palace" and we were all like "WHAT?!" Something had come up with our scheduled tour guide and they tour company didn't have any backups so they threw the driver of the van under the bus and told him, yeah, you're going to point out places to these people.
Off we went with our van driver who did his best at haphazardly pointing out landmarks. We weaved our way around the coast and through cutesy pastel homes, but to be quite honest, nothing we hadn't already seen...the only difference were the greek letters plastered on the signs.
Oddly, our first stop was at a kumquat producer. Random. Apparently it's one of Corfu's main commodities and the start of the tour. This particular shop we went to had GREAT merchandizing and a bunch of samples. The kumquat liqueurs were not my thing, but the nougat we found there was delectable!
On the road, we went more into the countryside, passing droves of cypress and olive trees.
It eventually brought us to a small mansion called the Achilleion Palace which was one of the highlights of Corfu. Opulent and grand, we wandered the many rooms among droves of other tourists. I fangirled at the busts and statues of greek gods and goddesses (I have a soft spot for greek mythology). The crème de la crème of the palace was the statue of Achilles, the great warrior, as he is struck with an arrow.
Mansions aside, our driver continued to point out overlooks and the bluest of blue waters.
The final stop on the all day excursion, which was mostly spent in the car, was one hour exploring the old town. Eager to get some walking in, Caroline and I were pedal to the metal. There were super cute local shops with lots of great finds. Since we were on such a time crunch, and had absolutely no idea what there was to see or do in town, we weaved our way through the streets towards things that looked interesting. This would eventually lead us to the New Fortress where we couldn't figure out if you were supposed to pay or not, so we just walked right in and found this incredible view of the city.
Views on views on views. The only issue was that we had about 15 minutes to get back to the opposite side of town and literally no idea how to accomplish that. Our little excursion had gotten us lost and we hustled to the meeting point just in time for our driver to pick us up and go back to the boat.
Walking back to the ship we reflected on our meh day. Overall it was fine, but we would have ultimately liked things to go a little differently. We still had fun! As we boarded the boat, these ladies interjected themselves into our conversation (over friendly cruise goers ugh) but were kind enough to take our picture. At the very least, we had another #seaday to look forward to and a lot of great memories from the Adriatic Sea.