A WORD of warning for visiting Dubrovnik — prepare to hear yourself say stunning, again and again and again.
I felt like my needle was stuck as I continuously spluttered the same thing at the gorgeous views around this incredible city by the sea.
Every corner you take, every bend on the road, every glimpse down an alley or side street will leave you gasping at the beauty before you.
The Old City is deservedly a UNESCO world heritage site and is undoubtedly the No1 gem in Croatia’s many-jewelled crown.
Playwright George Bernard Shaw once said “those who seek paradise on earth should come to Dubrovnik” and he wasn’t far wrong.
Miraculously, it shows no signs of the immense damage done to it after it was bombed relentlessly during the war back in the early 1990s. In fact if our tour guide hadn’t pointed out the repairs, we’d never have known.
It is surrounded by high ramparts which you can walk if you’re fit enough and the weather isn’t blisteringly hot at it was when my hubby Alan and I were there.
It is this fortress-style landmark which drew Game Of Thrones producers and made the city one of the most recognisable in the world, attracting tens of thousands of fans every year, delighted to walk on the same hallowed ground as their GOT heroes.
Inside the city gates you’ll find cobbled streets — both narrow and wide — alleyways stuffed full of souvenir shops, little ice-cream (yum yum) and coffee shops, cafes and restaurants.
For such a small city it offers a surprisingly large amount of world-class places to eat and we were lucky enough to bag ourselves a table at one of them, the much- in-demand Restaurant Proto, a city favourite since the 1800s.
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The rich and the famous have all eaten here — Wimbledon champ Novak Djokovic, Bono, Richard Gere, Eva Longoria, Pep Guardiola, Owen Wilson, Rod Stewart. . . I could go on.
And it’s easy to see what has attracted them — the food is incredible. The rooftop terrace is the place to be in the summer, with cool breezes and views of the surrounding buildings near the Rector’s Palace.
Alan started with beef carpaccio, served with shavings of truffle and parmesan cheese, while I opted for carpaccio of scallop and avocado. Fabulous.
Hubby ordered for a burger in this speciality fish restaurant — can’t take him anywhere, really — while I had shrimps Dalmatian style.
The HUGE burger drew gasps of envy from a table of American tourists and my shrimp was demolished before you could say Jon Snow.
We were staying at the Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik, a four-star gem in the Babin Kuk peninsula of Dubrovnik, only 15 minutes in the VERY regular bus to the old city.
A short walk through its sister hotel, the Valamar President, to the sea, it is a large, comfortable hotel, with bars, restaurants and a cracking pool, surrounded by comfy loungers and a great little cafe/bar.
We had a duplex-style junior suite, with more than enough room for a family, a lovely downstairs lounge, balcony with amazing sea views and upstairs a glass-fronted bathroom for fabulous soaking views, as well as separate shower and huge bedroom. The aircon was bliss in the 33°C June sunshine.
A concierge was on hand to book any tours you fancied, spa treatments, car hire. Anything. Nothing is too much trouble for the staff at Valamar.
Despite Dubrovnik’s beauty I wanted to see a bit more of the area and headed to the little town of Ston on the nearby peninsula of Peljesac.
The drive was a treat in itself, with views that took my breath away . . . queue those repeated ‘stunning’ exclamations!
I was amazed to learn this little-known place has the world’s SECOND longest defensive walls, only beaten by the Great Wall of China! And I saw the extent of them as I toured the top of the fort, marvelling at the centuries old canons.
Ston also has another claim to fame — it houses Europe’s oldest salt pans, dating back before the 9th century and still in use today.
It was thirsty and hungry work digesting all that history, so next stop was Bakus restaurant for lunch — and it was fantastic.
Tuna salad, fresh breads, prawn risotto, the local cake delicacy — a bit like a cream caramel, only wobblier — coffee, wine. This was the life.
GETTING THERE: easyJet fly to Dubrovnik up to three times a week from Edinburgh in summer, with fares from £50.99pp one way, including taxes. See easyJet.com
STAYING THERE: Rooms at the 4* Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik start from £155 a night, including breakfast. See valamar.com
MORE INFO: For more on visiting Dubrovnik and Croatia see croatia.hr/en-gb
What could possibly follow that — a wine tour of course. First stop was the Wine Museum at Ptnikovic — the area’s first museum dedicated to all things vino — where they have fascinating displays of how locals lived in the years gone by.
At the end you can sample some of the wines produced by the many wineries in the local co-operative. Delicious.
At Marlais winery we met the owner of this family-run business, which also does a roaring trade in the most delicious olive oil.
They have been tilling the land here for seven generations and still do things the traditional way and it shows in the quality of the products.
Back in Dubrovnik that evening we ate in a lovely little restaurant just a few minutes walk from our hotel.
Set in a wooded area on the way to the sea, Restaurant Komin was a hidden gem. Despite its out of the way location it was mobbed and before we’d even eaten it was easy to see why — the staff were welcoming, friendly, helpful and smiley.
The food more than matched the wonderful atmosphere as table candles glittered and flickered as the light faded, the music played and laughter filled the air. A real holiday memory.
On our last day we hit the Old City again. Taking a tour with a guide is the BEST way to see it all and understand all the history and traditions.
There are little bars in cave-like locations to escape the midday heat nearby but we stayed inside the city walls and dined at Restaurant Kopun in Boskovic Square, which like Proto, is recommended by the Michelin guide.
We ate enjoying the view of the beautiful St Ignatius church. Squid ink risotto, vegetarian polenta and cous cous salad and a cool glass of the local white were just what we need as we absorbed the beauty and grandeur of the Old City.
Refuelled, we set off on a trip up to the cable car to get the best view over the city and the sea and marvelled at the perfection that was the Island of Lokrum, just a 15 minute ferry ride from Dubrovnik and a local favourite.
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to discover the place Richard the Lionheart used as a hideaway or visit the church he built there to thank locals for their shelter.
But that just gives us a perfect excuse for a ‘stunning’ repeat visit!
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