Wonderful memories, new friends and a love of Croatia will be what I take away with me from the Sail Croatia Cruise. It exceeded my expectations in every way, so when Sunday morning dawned warm and bright, I felt sad to be leaving The Olimp. We were packed and ready to go before breakfast and at 9am we said goodbye to our shipmates, and in particular to our wonderful young cruise director Antonio. We were staying on in Split for a couple of nights in Podstrana, at Le Meridien Lav, a great resort hotel about 10-15 minutes drive from the dock, so Antonio kindly organised a taxi for us. After disembarking and more warm goodbyes, our cruise experience came to an end…
The hotel and environs were a pleasant surprise, again exceeding expectation – you can find everything you need for a luxurious stay – two beautiful bays for swimming and sunbathing, an outdoor pool, an indoor pool, a spa, excellent places to eat within the hotel, great restaurants on the Marina and a shuttle service into Split. Once settled in, we made the most of the chance to chill out on first day and it was fabulous.
Our second day dawned sunny and warm (as usual), and we decided to make our way into Split on the shuttle, (a nominal fee per person is charged). Near the area where the Olimp had docked, it is easy to find guided tours in Ape-styled vehicles (like the ones in Italy) and we found a very pleasant guide who took us on a 90 minute tour in and around the old town and beyond. We saw the National Theatre, popular Bacvice Beach, the Football stadium (the area in front of it serves as a place for learner drivers to practice!), and the panoramic view afforded by Marjan Hill where we had a coffee stop. I took the opportunity to visit the Jewish Cemetery while we were there – the inhabitants have a wonderful peaceful spot! I noted that a number of the graves were topped with pebbles rather than flowers, as per the Jewish custom.
Our guide took us next on a thrilling ride through the Marjan tunnel en route to Kašjuni Beach – with disco lights flashing, we sped through the tunnel – the boys enjoyed it!
Kašjuni Beach is on the Marjan peninsula – from our viewing place, it looked pristine and private.
Antonio had mentioned the Sustipan area on the cruise, saying it was worth a visit and luckily it was on the itinerary. It is a beautiful park, where in past times there was a Benedictine Monastery (St Stephens under the Pines). In the 19th century it became a cemetery, which was relocated after the Second World War. An 18th century church remains but sadly we couldn’t enter. Today the park is a quiet, peaceful spot, and the view is amazing.
On return to the centre of Split, Phil and I continued exploring on foot. We had seen the Franciscan Church and Monastery (St Francis) as we sped by in the Ape so we returned for a closer look. Small and simple, the church was imbued with soft light, courtesy of the beautiful stained glass windows. The stunning crucifix was painted Blaž Jurjev of Trogir, from the early 15th century.
During our walk I managed to replace my treasured French sandals which had been in the Phil’s bag when it was stolen -while the replacements are not French, I rather liked them. Take note ladies, if you are looking for shoes, you are spoiled for choice in Split – shoe shops abound and the selection is astounding! Oh yes and Massimo Dutti can be found on Marmontova too….
Our guide Ornela had pointed out the tiny church of Saint Martin when we were in the courtyard of the Golden Gate. It was built in the sentries’ walkway above the Golden Gate.
We didn’t enter the church with Ornela but we managed to find it – and it is stunning, if not for its tiny size, but also for its simplicity and the beautifully carved 11th century Chancel screen.
By the time found Saint Martins the temperature was in the mid-thirties so we figured it was time to to head back to the beach! Note the brilliant taxi Phil managed to find! – and a couple of other sights seen on our search to find a takeaway lunch….
On our return to Le Meridien Lav, we sat out on the balcony eating the lunch we had bought in the old town and then off headed a walk – it was rather hot, but the sea beckoned on our return. Beware however – the seabed can be very hard on the feet – it is pebbly rather than sandy, so reef shoes are a boon.
The rest of the day we turned over to totally hedonistic pursuits – lazing on the loungers, swimming, drinking, eating and enjoying our final and quite stunning Croatian sunset…
The following day we managed to wangle a late check-out and to wring as much pleasure as we could out of this lovely resort stay. Phil and I took an early morning walk in the opposite direction to our walk the previous day. The place was so tranquil and the walk refreshing… and we surely built up a good appetite for our breakfast …
Croatia gave us so much pleasure. The weather had been awful for the month or so before we arrived, but it cleared virtually from the day we set foot on the Olimp… The days were warm and sunny, the night were balmy, and the sunsets were magnificent. Abundant seafood supplies meant we had delicious meals both on the boat and in local restaurants (bar the one in Korcula). The Croatian people were warm and welcoming and speak excellent English so we had little difficulty in communicating. Our Croatian on the other hand was non-existent, so when we were trying to read labels and sizing after the bag was stolen, we had real trouble!
In general, we had excellent wait staff wherever we went, and I really enjoyed the way the men politely addressed women patrons as “Lady”. Our accommodation on the boat was brilliant and the hotels in Dubrovnik and Split were outstanding (though for anyone looking for a good boutique-style hotel in the old town I can suggest the Diocletian Palace Experience – it comes highly recommended by our friend who stayed there).
Sadly, all good things come to an end but what a wonderful way to celebrate retirement. We couldn’t have done it without our great friends Roger and Frances – travelling companions extraordinaire.
British Airways whisked us away to London, and after only couple of hours we were back at Heathrow … check out who is flying the plane…..
Next post – 3 days in the Isle of Wight