Lisbon

This is the 2nd destination of two in the Portugal itinerary. The details related to planning for this destination and the others on the Portugal circuit are described in The Portugal Travel Planning post.

Lisbon must be visited on a first trip to Portugal. As the seat of Portugal’s maritime empire spanning from the 1500s through the 1800s, Lisbon is deeply steeped in history and tradition. Nestled on seven hills on the Tagus River, the city has some of most breathtaking views from these hillsides – called Miradouros. The first time visitor will be enchanted with all that Lisbon has to offer, especially the high quality, very affordable food scene. Lisbon is a seafood lovers delight, especially for anyone on a budget.

 

Arrival

As the second stop on the Portugal itinerary, we arrived by train from Porto in just over three hours in the early afternoon on December 26. The train ride was uneventful, with the countryside whistling by as the train made steady progress towards Lisbon. We arrived at the Lisboa Rossio train station, relatively close to our apartment – just a five minute taxi ride away. In fact, it took longer to hail the taxi than it took to get to our destination.

The contrast between Porto, and Lisbon on arrival was both immediate and obvious. Porto was a fraction of the size of Lisbon, had an intimate feel to it, people seemed friendly and approachable, the pace of life was slower, and even the restaurants and cafes felt more familiar. Lisbon was a larger, more diversified city, definitely with a charm all its own, and more of everything than Porto – museums, parks, monuments, restaurants – waiting to be discovered. Lisbon felt a little more rough around the edges, perhaps a little more gritty than Porto. Different, yet charming.

 

Settling in

I booked the Lisbon apartment through Homeaway, my go-to resource for high quality apartments in some of the best locations. This particular apartment was booked nine months in advance, and was in a residential neighborhood, with easy walking access to all of the interesting parts of town. It had wonderful views over the rooftops of the city from the back of the apartment. We had our own Miradouro right inside the apartment.

The apartment was spacious with over 1,000 square feet of interior space, which is relatively large by European standards for a single bedroom dwelling. It was fully equipped with a washer/dryer, WIFI, a bed that might have been a bit more comfortable, and a shower with ample hot water. Five nights in Lisbon were comfortably spent, with all that a traveling couple would need.  And the best – there was a true Miradouro just outside the apartment overlooking the city all the way to the water: The Miradouro of Our Lady of the Mount.

The photos below are some of the views we had from our lovely apartment, and the video is from the Miradouro of Our Lady of the Mount, just outside the apartment.

 

Discovery Trek

Continuing the leisurely pace we started in Porto, upon arrival in Lisbon we set out to discover the city and its neighborhoods. The first local point of interest we sought out was the port of Lisbon and its centrally located Praca do Comercio, or Commerce Square.

 

We eventually found our way to Costelo Sao Jorge while strolling through the twists and turns of the medieval streets of the Alfama. This neighborhood has been in existence for a thousand years, and people still sell fish from their door stoops – a throwback to medieval times.  The Costelo is the very top of the climb in the Alfama, and is one of the more impressive Mirodouros in Lisbon, with spectacular views.

 

We taxied to Almada to see the impressive statue of Christ, essentially an homage to the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. Very impressive was the Ponte 25 de Abril, the enormous suspension bridge built by the same American company that built the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge, and looks remarkably similar to the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

Still a bit off the beaten path of tourism, and something mostly the locals would see, we visited Estufa Fria, the botanical garden in the center of Parque Eduardo VII which was started in 1910.

 

We took a marvelous walk starting at Campo Santa Clara, and terminating in Praca do Imperio in Belem. We visited the National Pantheon at Campo Santa Clara, which included the final resting place of historical Portuguese figures, most notable among them was Vasco da Gama. It was at least a ten mile walk round trip on a beautifully blustery, sunny day in Lisbon at the end of December.

 

On our last day in Lisbon, we took tram 28, which stopped close to our apartment, to places unknown, simply following our sense of discovery. We found a wonderful 800 year old former monastery, turned into a brewery, then into a restaurant – see the food scene below.  We also found a Port wine tasting cafe with a huge variety of the good stuff. I tried a 40 year old vintage Port, which was a wonderful aperitif leading up to dinner.We spent our last full day in Lisbon simply discovering, and meandering.

 

Day Trip to Sintra and Cascais

With five nights in Lisbon, we were afforded the opportunity to get out of the city to explore interesting destinations nearby.  The Moorish designed Sintra National Palace, richly decorated in period tile is the major attraction for visitors near Sintra. The nearby Pena National Palace, perched on a hilltop, is a Mirodouro all unto itself – with sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. All of this scenery was an easy short train ride from Lisbon.

 

Cascais is a beach resort town, in the vicinity of Sintra, and we taxied over for a visit from Sintra. This town is home to the medieval Nossa Senhora da Luz Fort and the Citadel Palace, although neither of these two were accessible during our visit. It was still nice, further exploring a bit away from the big city of Lisbon, and enjoying a beer on the beach in December.

 

 

Food Scene

Matas – Lunch

This was a little mom and pop cafe, with a couple of tables indoors, and a couple of umbrella covered tables outdoors. They specialized in seafood, and everything was fresh. The prices were unbelievably affordable. We both ordered the grilled octopus with potatoes for lunch. It was very good.

 

Matas – Dinner

Lunch was so good, we simply couldn’t resist going back for dinner. We noticed how extensive the fish menu was at lunch, and decided to give it a try for dinner. We had a couple bowls of soup as appetizers, with grilled seabass, and grilled bream for the main course. It was like a home cooked meal. Very local, and very good a second time.

 

Chapito a Mesa

This little restaurant was discovered on our way back from Castelo Sao Jorge. They had an outside seating area with incredible views overlooking the city.  We ordered mountain smoked ham, and grilled shrimp with tropical fruit and vinaigrette. Snacking with a view.

 

Chimera

We found this local restaurant after we toured the botanical gardens at the suggestion of our taxi driver. Another small, family run restaurant with incredibly reasonable prices for everything on the menu. We each had soup, and fish tacos with rice and beans.

 

Via Graca

This was a very upscale restaurant situated just a hundred yards from our apartment. The menu read like a high drama novel, with specialties included for the holidays. I couldn’t make sense of the a la carte portion of the menu, so we decided on the tasting menu for two, which also came with a wine pairing. It was very good, and reasonably priced for this caliber of cuisine.

 

A Margem

We stumbled upon this riverside cafe on our long walk along the River Tagus, very near the monument to Maritime Explorers, and the Balem Lighthouse. We both ordered soup for appetizer, and a mixed protein plate. Not sure how else to describe it – beefsteak, ham, with an egg on top, fries and rice on the side. Different.

 

Satelite da Graca

This is a very local little place just a few minutes walk from the apartment. We started with some homemade soup, followed by shrimp in a garlic sauce, and squid with potatoes. We ended with a chocolate mousse for dessert. I enjoyed a local white wine with the meal.

 

Cervejaria Trindade

The building housing this restaurant was 800 years old, and started as a monastery. The building transitioned to a brewery over time, and later added the restaurant. It was cavernously large, capable of seating hundreds of people. All of the waiters were dressed as monks. We started with some soup, and we ordered a lobster casserole for two. I enjoyed several beers with this meal.

 

Estrela da Graca

Another little neighborhood place, just a few minutes walk from the apartment. We seemed to have started nearly every meal with soup. It simply was offered everywhere; we like soup, and it takes the chill of late December away. We had grilled seabass, and grilled octopus, with a salad on the side. We finished with a slice of orange cake, and creme brulee.

 

 

Epilogue

Reflections on Lisbon. In a word – hilly. Calves and hamstrings did get a workout while getting around Lisbon. There were outdoor stairs leading from an upper part of town to a lower part, occasionally hundreds of steps at a time. It was a thrill getting lost deep in some local neighborhood, and having to discover our way out. Lisbon was a beautiful, diversified city, comprised of many interesting neighborhoods. My favorite was the Alfama – the medieval part of Lisbon, spared from the destruction of the earthquake of 1755, with steep and twisty narrow lanes traversed by the famous Tram 28, and topped with the crown that is the 11th century Sao Jorge Costelo, and its wonderfully scenic Miradouros.

 

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Porto

This is the first destination of two in the Portugal itinerary. The details related to planning for this destination and the others on the Portugal circuit are described in The Portugal Travel Planning post.

The city of Porto, nestled on the Douro River, with its medieval architecture, friendly locals, the source of Port wine, and a food scene that simply must be experienced was our first stop in Portugal. With a history dating back to the 3rd century BC, and having passed through the hands of the Celts, Romans, and Moors, with all having added something to the history of this lovely city. With a four night stay in Porto, it afforded me plenty of opportunity to explore the medieval center of town, the Douro river front, tour some of the Port wine cellars, and simply be a local for the Christmas holiday.

 

Arrival

It was quite the voyage leading to our arrival in Porto, with a Transatlantic flight from my home base in Atlanta to Madrid, a layover in Madrid with a connecting flight to Lisbon, then a train from Lisbon to Porto, ending with a taxi to the apartment from the airport. The flight to Lisbon was delayed, causing us to miss our scheduled train to Porto, and required new tickets with all of the associated hassle. It was a great joy on arrival, if for no other reason – no more planes, trains, or taxis for a four nights.

 

Settling in

I booked the Porto apartment through Homeaway, my go-to resource for high quality apartments in some of the best locations. This particular apartment was booked nine months in advance, and was in an ideal location. It had wonderful views of the Douro River from its back windows, and more nice views of the square of the Palacio da Bolsa, and the Jardim do Enfante Dom Henrique from the front windows. It was cozy, with all of the accommodations needed for a four night stay, including a washing machine which is very important for us, as we travel light with only carry-on luggage. The Douro River walk, the historic and medieval parts of town, as well as dozens of restaurants and cafes were easily accessible within a few minutes walk from this wonderful location.

Below are some of the wonderful views we enjoyed from the apartment.

 

Discovery Trek

We took Porto at a very leisurely pace. It’s what it demanded. There was so much to see, and there was no hurry to get it done. There were several points of interest on our first day of exploration, starting with Vila Nova de Gaia, right along the Douro River. The Rabelo boats, used to transport the Port wine to the city were along the river, still used today as a continuation of the centuries long tradition. We enjoyed the views from the Telerifico de Gaia, the cable car leading to some wonderful vistas of the city. Yes, touristy, and still a wonderful experience. And we enjoyed a wonderful walk to the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar.

 

On day two we visited the Palacio do Bolsa. Literally right across the street from our apartment. Then we toured the Taylor’s Port House where we had a wonderfully memorable meal, included in the food scene section, and new insights into the history of Port wine. My wife is not a wine fan, but she loved the Port, especially the ruby – the younger, the sweeter, which was right up her alley. Young, sweet, and fortified to 40 proof. It sneaks up on a person. We ended the day with a stroll through the center of town, enjoying the Christmas decor in the main square.

 

On our final full day in Porto, Christmas Day, we meandered through town finding those places we had not previously visited, including the Torre dos Clerigos. We had a wonderful long walk along the Douro River, and took in some picturesque scenery as the sunset – including the photo that is the feature for the home page on this site – the bridge at sunset, with the lights reflecting on the water. We had in fact walked for so long, that we couldn’t walk back to the apartment. We hailed an Uber on Christmas Day late, and amazingly the driver actually showed up. I had an interesting conversation with the driver, a young man who was supplementing his income, working towards a university degree. The entire fare was so inexpensive that I left the driver a significant tip in gratitude, and recognition that it was Christmas. He reluctantly accepted. The Portuguese are are wonderful, warm people.

 

 

Food Scene

The food was to die for good. While bacalhao, the salted cod dishes served in a variety of manner – with grilled being my favorite, and especially popular at Christmas, was the national dish – I believe octopus was also a Portuguese national dish. I have had octopus all over the Mediterranean, and Adriatic, but nothing of this caliber. It was so tender, melt in your mouth tender – while still maintaining the proper flavor and texture. Clearly one needs to be a fan of octopus, and I am. I was so curious as to how this miracle happened that I had to ask. It was explained to me in one of the restaurants we visited that the Portuguese cook octopus twice. Typically the first cooking is done through poaching, then the final step is grilling. They also use octopus in rice casseroles, which I’ve documented in the food scene. Portugal is an octopus lover’s heaven.

 

Adega Sao Nicolau

Dinner is served later in Portugal, typically 8:00PM. We had been on the road for twenty-six hours with planes, trains, and taxis. So we were hungry on arrival just after 5:00PM, and could not wait until regular local dinner hours. We wandered from the apartment and found this little place open – by little I mean a grand total of 4 tables indoors. We ordered grilled octopus, with boiled potatoes and an egg, and fried sardines with rice and beans on the side. We shared a slice of torte, and a glass of Aguardente – the grape brandy used to fortify Port wine. The Aguardente was ladled from a jar filled with drunken cherries. It was a wonderful first meal, and the Aguardente was a digestif reminiscent of Bulgarian Rakia, or Peruvian Pisco. The octopus was like nothing I’ve had anywhere else, very tender.

 

Casa Adao

We arrived right at noon when they opened for lunch. This mom and pop restaurant is a local favorite for working guys, and it filled to capacity immediately after they opened. The working guys were fed immediately upon arrival – they were expected as part of daily ritual, and they were gone thirty minutes later. Workmen’s lunch. We ordered a rice casserole with octopus and shrimp for two, and fried octopus on the side. It was like a homemade meal. The octopus was melt in your mouth tender, like nothing I’ve had before. There was too much food for two hungry people. I don’t know that there’s a more local, immersive lunch experience.

 

A Grade

We shared octopus in olive oil as our appetizer, followed by a cream of spinach soup. I tried the grilled bacalhao (salt cod) – one of the national dishes of Portugal, and very popular around Christmas. My wife ordered the fried hake with a cabbage side. We shared a rice casserole with our meal, and had a baked apple for dessert with a glass of Tawny Port. Incredible meal.

 

Barao Fladgate

This was the restaurant we visited at the end of the Taylor’s Wine House tour and Port tasting. This lunch was included as part of the tour as a package. We had the cream of asparagus soup, and marinated sardines on toast for appetizers, we both had grilled sea bass on a bed of gnocchi for our main course, and orange spongecake for dessert with our last glass of Port.

 

Carris Hotel

This was the only place open on Christmas Eve for dinner, a cafe attached to the hotel. Most people seated were having drinks and snacks. We each ordered grilled sausage with egg, and frites, with melon and pineapple for dessert.

 

RIB Beef and Wine

This was a fancy Christmas luncheon menu. We had beef carpaccio, and parmentier soup with mushrooms for appetizers, two beef courses – veal, and entrecote, then carrot pudding with green apple sorbet for dessert. Upscale and tasty, but twice the price of the next most expensive meal we’d had in Porto.

 

Forno Velho

This was Christmas dinner at a hotel restaurant. Hotels were the only places open on Christmas Day. We had a tomato salad and seafood soup for appetizers, grouper with mussels and clams, and suckling pig with homemade potato chips for our main courses. We shared a chocolate shell filled with mangoes all dipped in chocolate sauce. Very nice meal.

 

Epilogue

Reflections on Porto. Among the most immersive travel experiences I’ve ever had. The apartment location was ideal, if not perfect. The weather was very accommodating over Christmas. The food was both delightful and memorable – and remarkably affordable. The locals were both warm and friendly – although English was not pervasive everywhere a visitor might have gone. With very fond memories of lovely Porto, I find myself longing for an extended visit sometime in the future. I could live in Porto. Easily.

 

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Split

This is the 3rd destination of three in the Croatia itinerary. The details related to planning for this destination and the others on the Croatia circuit are described in The Croatia Travel Planning post.

Founded by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC, and made famous by the Roman emperor Diocletian, the city of Split is the second largest in Croatia. It has a long history, having passed through the hands of Romans, Venetians, and Byzantines over the centuries. At its core are the remains of the massive palace and grounds erected by Diocletian at the beginning of the 4th century. The palace was comprised of 200 buildings within its white stone walls, with a cathedral at its center, now housing cafes, restaurants, shops, and people’s homes. It is the historic as well as current center of the city, with both locals and visitors alike gravitating to it.

 

Arrival

It was a pleasant three hour drive along the Adriatic from Dubrovnik to Split on a day that started overcast, with a drizzle in the air, but which turned out to be perfect for a leisurely drive. The serpentine two lane road clung to the Adriatic coast as picturesque scenery drifted by, passing the few little towns which peppered the coast. The drive was among the most pleasurable I’ve had in Europe, with wispy clouds hanging on a blue sky as a backdrop, and the Adriatic in the foreground. The road was sparsely traveled on that Sunday morning, all of which made it so pleasurable – the joys of driving a German car on a twisty two lane road along the water with so few fellow motorists.

 

Settling in

The apartment was centrally located, and only a five minute walk to the palace complex, and the heart of the old city. Convenient, secure parking was available close to the apartment, so I didn’t have to worry about the Audi while not in use. Our lovely Croatian hostess Marina met us at the apartment, and showed us to our home for four nights in Split. The two-level, 2 bedroom apartment had all of the comforts and necessities a couple would need, including a washer – a real bonus for those traveling light, with only carry-on luggage.

We wasted little time lingering at the apartment, as we were both eager to stretch our legs, and do some initial exploration of the old town. A nice meal was on my short list of immediate things to do, and armed with recommendations from Marina, we set off for the center of the old town.

The photo gallery below shows the views from the apartment, as well as the unusual light treatment for the stairs leading to the second floor.

 

Discovery Trek

The real heart of Split lies within what remains of Diocletian’s palace. Originally built as a rectangular fortress, it has an impressive gate at each of its four walls – named after metals: Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron. The area around the palace is a labyrinth of passages and alleyways, that open up into courtyards and broader roads. Some 3,000 people call the palace complex home. Visitors are charmed by the great variety of restaurants and cafes within the palace complex. The heart of Split is very compact, and easily walkable end to end, and criss-crossing all of it in a single leisurely afternoon. We took a guided tour of the palace grounds from a seasoned tour guide, which I would highly recommend. There’s just too much history to absorb without the help of a knowledgeable person.

For Game of Thrones fans, Split is a filming location for the famous HBO Series. You might recognize some of your favorite series locations in the photos below.

 

Ferry to Hvar

It was just over a two hour ferry ride from Split harbor to the long island of Hvar. Croatia is all about islands – with more than 2,000 islands dotting its coast. It’s hard to resist visiting one of the more beautiful.

On a single day trip, I decided I wanted to see the main city on the island, also called Hvar. More cosmopolitan, and even a bit upper-crusty, Hvar had elegant restaurants and shops to accommodate its higher end, yacht owner visitors. We had a wonderful lunch overlooking Hvar’s harbor at one of those elegant restaurants.

The more laid back city is Stari Grad on the island’s north coast, and draws a different kind of tourist and visitor. Personally, I enjoyed Hvar, but Stari Grad was more of my kind of place, with more character and charm.

We could have spent a couple of days, or more exploring the rest of the island and its older, out of the way little towns, vineyards, lavender fields, and rolling hillsides – all bathed in the bright sunshine of the Adriatic.

 

Zadar Road Trip

Driving in Croatia had grown on me. What a joy it was to drive the sparsely trafficked two lane roads and highways. Zadar is known for its Roman and Venetian ruins, medieval churches, with a lovely walled old town set on a peninsula on the Adriatic. But my main reason for visiting was to see and hear the Sea Organ and the Sun Salutation.

The Sea Organ, a series of stairs along the water with embedded piping that captures the wind and air forced into them from the waves. It makes eerie, not exactly melodic sounds that are difficult to describe. It was interesting – if for no other reason that someone had the imagination to conjure up such a thing.

Physically near the Sea Organ lies the other interesting creation of architect Nikola Bašić. The Sun Salutation is a huge circle of blue glass with embedded photovoltaic cells, converting enough solar energy to light the harbor area surrounding it. The whole thing is a sort of homage to the solar system, with representations of the planets as more plates embedded into the pavement at various distances from the enormous blue glass photo cell. An interesting imagination.

 

 

Food Scene

Nostromo

This place was recommended by our hostess for great seafood, and looked to be on the small side upon entering the restaurant. We were ushered upstairs where we had much more room. English wasn’t spoken as fluently here as other places, but the service was very good. We split a grilled seabass, which the waiter prepared for us tableside. The sides included chicken soup served family style, along with salad and grilled vegetables. Very local, and a great meal.

 

Konoba Korta

This meal is an example of the meat dishes typical to Croatia. We split a meat sampler plate for two, with grilled veggies, frites, and a red bell pepper puree – which was a little unusual. Rounded out with a cucumber and tomato salad. The meat selection included bacon wrapped chicken, grilled beefsteak and a variety of sausage.

 

Villa Spiza

This place was tiny, seating less than 20 people, but very popular, with a line at the door. The entire staff was the cook, a kitchen hand, and one waiter. The seating was tight and cozy, and the entire kitchen operation was in full view of the customers. We ordered grilled amberjack steak, and mussels from a hand written menu. The food was very fresh, and the atmosphere uniquely local.

 

Park – Hvar

This was an upscale restaurant with a large outdoor patio seating area overlooking the marina in the city of Hvar. We ordered anchovies in olive oil as an appetizer, Gilthead fillet over potato Dalmation style, and grilled squids over Swiss chard and potatoes.

 

Bistro Spalotin

We found this bistro walking along the harbor area in Stari Grad, Hvar. We originally sat down for a drink, and eventually ordered the mountain of food they called the meat sampler plate for two. This was a common offering in Croatia, and was pretty good if in the mood for hearty fare. The plate included grilled beefsteak, sausages and chicken, along with grilled veggies, frites, with a tomato/cucumber salad, and a huge dollop of brown mustard. Lumberjack food – and it went well with beer.

 

Konoba Bonaca – Zadar

We found this lovely restaurant with outdoor seating walking around the town of Zadar. We were early to lunch, and so the owner waited on us personally, recommending the fresh catches of the day, along with a proper wine pairing. We had mussels as an appetizer, grilled Orada and seabass with Swiss chard and potatoes. This was a great meal with attentive, personal service.

 

Tinel Tratoria

We looked this restaurant up on TripAdvisor because our first choice was booked up for dinner, and it turned out to be an excellent place for seafood. As our last meal in Split, we ordered a seafood platter for two, which included grilled sea bream, tuna steak, squids and shrimp. Rounded out with spinach Dalmation style, which means the spinach had pieces of potato throughout.

 

Epilogue

Reflections on Split. Pleasantly different than Dubrovnik, both in pace and the density of tourism. Deeply steeped in history, and a treasure to be discovered. The region is rich in immersive travel experiences as possible. We only day tripped to Hvar and Zadar, but there were weeks of exploration possible near and around Split. The fresh seafood was wonderful, and relatively inexpensive – another significant departure from Dubrovnik. I had a wonderful time in Split, and would highly recommended this destination for an immersive travel experience.

 

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Dubrovnik

This is the 2nd destination of three in the Croatia itinerary. The details related to planning for this destination and the others on the Croatia circuit are described in The Croatia Travel Planning post.

If Croatia is the gem of the Balkans, then surely Dubrovnik is the gem of the Adriatic. Deeply steeped in history, Dubrovnik was once a city state – from the 14th through the early 19th centuries, vying with the likes of Venice for control of commerce in the Adriatic. The city is surrounded by medieval walls built over hundreds of years, which have never been successfully breached, although many sieges have been attempted over time. The recent city’s history witnessed the siege of the Serb and Montenegrin armies after the declaration of Croatian independence in 1991. A small number of buildings within the ancient city walls were destroyed, but many more were damaged. Restoration has since been completed, but they did leave one building with war damage to bear witness to the deeds of that era.

 

Arrival

It is under one hour flying time from Zagreb, Croatia’s capital city, to Dubrovnik – a scenic flight as well with a window seat, with views of the blue Adriatic, and its island dotted coast for most of the trip. Transiting through Dubrovnik’s regional airport on an early Tuesday afternoon could not have been easier, especially with only carry-on luggage in tow. A picturesque 30 minute taxi ride following the Adriatic coast, and we arrived at the outskirts of Dubrovnik, above the city by several hundred feet where most of the residential parts of this area were found. It was early June, the skies were a deep, cloudless blue. The view of the old town and the Adriatic were beautiful from street level. The excitement was building just stepping out of the taxi.

 

Settling in

It took the taxi driver a turn or two to find the location with the address I had given him. We were on a street north of the walled city, and significantly uphill from the walled city. The farther north, the further uphill went the terrain. So what we had were homes and apartments accessed by stairwells at street level, which stretched to hundreds of steps going up to various homes in the hills. Navigating which stairwells lead to which address was difficult even for the taxi driver, a native of the area.

Ascending the 100+ stairs to get to the apartment from street level with luggage in tow was an appetite building, aerobic workout. And I kept in mind that we’d have to do this every time we returned to the apartment, which we had for 5 nights. The good news was that I had to haul the luggage up the stairs just once.

The lovely apartment was booked through Homeaway. It was spacious, with all of the amenities needed for an extended stay – including a washing machine, and good working Wifi. But the true highlight of the apartment was the spectacular views of the city and the Adriatic from its balcony. It made climbing up all those stairs so worthwhile.

 

Discovery Trek

The ancient city inside the walls was just stunning, with architecture dating back to the 17th century with the Dubrovnik Cathedral, and further back to the 16th century with the Saint Savior Church. Wandering around inside the walls was like meandering through history. The streets were clean, and lined by medieval architecture under a turquoise blue Adriatic sky – with a steady tourist throng ebbing into and out of the city.

Dubrovnik is a very popular tourist stop, and moreover a port of call for some of the largest cruise operators in the Mediterranean. It takes a little strategy to get an immersive travel experience within its ancient city walls. The best thing to do is simply avoid visiting during cruise ships’ ports of call. There are searchable published schedules with details on dates, times, and even the typical passenger manifest. Otherwise visiting either early in the morning, or later in the evening also tends to avoid the cruising throng.

Medieval Walls

A morning walk on the medieval city walls was the first truly immersive travel experience for me in Dubrovnik. Under perfect weather, with blue Adriatic skies, and the kind of sunshine that requires good polarized sunglasses, we slowly meandered the wall circuit. It was a beautifully memorable experience.

 

Game of Thrones Tour

My wife and I are big fans of the HBO series Game of Thrones, and we knew that Dubrovnik was a filming site for the series. Dubrovnik is King’s Landing in the series. Some of the most interesting scenes filmed in Dubrovnik include the “Walk of Shame” at the Jesuit Staircase, St. Dominic Street was where many market scenes were filmed, The Museum Rupe as the exterior of Little Finger’s brothel, The Ploče Gate was used as the entrance to the Red Keep, and The Rector’s Palace used in a Qarth episode. So with all of that personal interest, we took a multi-hour Game of Thrones tour with a local guide. I both enjoyed and would highly recommend such a tour for any fan of the series.

 

Lokrum Island

This island was visible from the balcony on at our apartment. It was an easy day trip from Dubrovnik with ferries departing frequently. It was difficult to resist an afternoon island excursion with the wonderful weather we were enjoying during the trip.