Croatia to Barcelona

We left the boat early in the morning, everyone feeling pretty average. Asti has booked a hotel the night before to try sleep off her illness in comfort, the rest of us were a pack of coughing, hungover humans quite happy to be getting off the rocking boat. 
We took the bus straight to the airport. Packed in like sardines, we had to stand up in the alley and the motion sickness combined with my hangover had me repeating ‘you will not spew on the bus’ over and over. I made it there, and made it through check in… But then ran to the bathroom and spewed my guts out. Felt heaps better after that! 

In Barcelona we found our AirBnB apartment with ease and Mario, was the ever enthusiastic host. He carried my bag up the ‘four’ flights (read six) of stairs to his apartment where the three of us were uber excited to have real beds and showers and space after the boat. 

By this time my cough and sweats had set in and he also translated the instructions for the medication I had picked up. 

We explored Las Ramblas where we were staying (awesome place to be based), grabbed a snack and set out across the city. We walked to the waterfront, the gothic quarter and Arc De Triomf before returning to Las Ramblas for dinner. Big mistake. Do not eat on Las Ramblas! Staff couldn’t give a flying f*ck, prices were inflated and well, the staff really made it a terrible experience. We couldn’t even leave for ages because he wouldn’t get us the bill. 

I was beginning to feel really unwell and Asti was still recovering so we had an early night in. 

Island Hopping, Part 2, Croatia

Days 4-7 were just more drunken debauchery with a side of site seeing. 
Thank goodness the day after Carpe Diem was a rest day, tanning on top of the boat. We docked at Stari Grad, wandered the small town and ended up at a dirty beach with a number of topless sunbathers. 

All the beaches are pebble beaches and as well as uncomfortable to lie on, hot as hell under your feet. 

We took a charter bus to a winery where we were treated to four wines and a 8hr slow cooked feast. Beautiful views and all organic food sourced from their own farm. The tomatoes were incredibly flavoursome. 

The next morning after a swim stop we arrived in Makarska, a beautiful city on the mainland, surrounded by huge rocky mountains.

I went for a big walk on my own, around the actual town itself (not just the touristy waterfront) and found a beautiful boutique food store where I bought some tasty jambon (smoked ham) and made puppy dog eyes at the truffle cheese. 

Bumped into Gemma at a store and we found some of the other girls and went for some drinks. We were soon joined by some of the guys and were well on our merry way before dinner. 

Dinner was at a typical Croatian restaurant in the square, half the group got parmigiana’ to my surprise. I had my fave, grilled squid. We had group races to the bottom of 1l sex on the beach cocktails, getting us prepped for the pirate party! 

Everyone was well prepared and in the mood for the pirate party. Another ‘happy hour’ on the boat followed by another bar and finally the ‘rave cave’ or Deep as it is more commonly known. Deep was just packed full of pirates and loose Australians. Didn’t stay there long! 

That night a storm came through and we had to skip our scheduled stop and instead arrived at Split a day early, which quite suited me. The rocking on the bot had been shocking the last few days and I’d started swaying even when I was off the boat. Add to that the whole boat coming down with some kind of mad cough and I was happy to be somewhere I could spend more time on land. 

The first day we did a walking tour and had our Captains dinner on the boat. The others went out, I finished my consulting work for the QOC and had an early night. Lucky I did as I would need it for the next night! 

We visited Krka during the day, beautiful scenic waterfalls about 1.5hrs away. Stunning views and a very refreshing swim. Shite food, take your own if you’re going. 

Back in town we went for dinner at a fantastic restaurant called Fife on the waterfront, I highly recommend it. Croatian food, cheap prices and great service. I had another black squid ink risotto (a national dish) as it was our last night. I also had many red wines and a few vodkas and sodas which were much more vodka than soda.

Needless to say, my quiet night turned larger quickly! We danced the night away at an open air bar and met up with a group from Contiki who we had seen a few nights back. Lots of drama ensued with various ‘couples’ and it was all very entertaining. 

Got home around 3am, fries in hand and ready to hop off the boat the next day and get to Spain. 

Island Hopping, Croatia

I’d love to tell you the names of the places we have been visiting… But I really don’t recall! Apart from Hvar, that’s an easy one to remember. The others were smaller and not well known. 
Days 2-4, we covered The islands of Mljet, Korcula and Hvar. Each day we leave about 5am, arrive mid morning for a swim stop in the ocean for an hour on our floaties then travel in to dock around lunch. Lunch is a 3 course meal everyday and each day I try to eat everything (overeating continues in Croatia) then we explore the island, head out for dinner then party. 

Mljet is a stunning national park, with two big salt lakes. We swam around and got massive surprises when the fish are our feet. Kind of like Thailand, but much more surprising in the middle of the lake when you haven’t paid any baht for it! On the way back I grabbed a smoothie, there’s not much fruit or veg on the boat. 

Korcula was a party night, we did a quick look around town, had cocktails at a bar that pulls your drinks up to the 4th level on a pulley system and has zero OSH standards, bought souvenirs at Marco Polo and had a group dinner with our sister boat (they have 13 touring.) I ordered what I thought was gnocchi in a red sauce with beef but was just meat. Like a casserole. Me no Likey. 

Party started at Dos Loco, there were stripper poles and terrible music followed by many shots. Around midnight we all got on a bus with the other boats (usually Contiki, Top Deck & Sail Croatia will end up docked together) and headed to Boogie Jungle. 

Boogie Jungle was fun, spew everywhere in the toilets but the hamburgers on the way out (around 2am) are a must! 

I met a guy from Welly and we drank on the helm of the boat talking shite until 4am. He and another guy then pretended to be Miley Cyrus on the floats that separate our boats – it was hilarious at the time. 

The next day and we slept most of it, (no surprise) which was fine as we were on the ocean most of the time until we took the water taxi to Hvar as we couldn’t dock yet. We explored the markets and went up to the fortress to look around, stunning view. 

Hvar lived up to its name, a playground for super yachts and the biggest and most luxurious was right next to us. It was as much of as an attraction as the fortress! Although, I don’t really see what’s there for them. The restaurants (as far as I know) were no different to anywhere else and little shopping. 

We went to the bar with everyone and I wasn’t really in the mood. A few cocktails and shots later and I could bare the terrible 90s music everyone else was digging. I even had the shot where you wear an army helmet and they smack you around with a large glass of tequila and soda. 

I quickly got sick of how crowded it was and Gem, Asti and I left to find another place. We partied for a while, Asti got her crazy dance moves on and was quite the star! We had shots then on to the hotel sky bar. We made friends and had cocktails and shots on the house with them the suddenly we were on our way to Carpe Diem. 

Carpe Diem is a fancy club on another island, you pay 200 Kuna (40aud) which covers your entry and boat ride there and back. It’s opens at 12.30am. We made our way over at 1.30am with some guys from Miami that the girls had met. Problem is, boats make me sleepy. I was ready to go to bed by the time we got there. It has everything you need there and is a day club too with cabanas etc. Friday (when we went) was quiet, apparently Thursdays and Saturdays are better. We or tied for a bit, Gem went for a swim and then we got pizza and the boat back. Another 4am evening / morning. 

In between all this, we lie on the roof of the boat, nap and drink. Mainly sunbathe. I’m getting a decent tan and we have a great group. 

Sail Croatia, Day One

We checked out of our cute attic and had breakfast on the waterfront. Figs and kransky’s were my favourite so I had platefuls – it was a buffet. 

After fluffing around, trying to make SIM cards work and sort out buses, we made it to the port and found our sail boat. Much bigger than I had expected and 17 people on board plus crew!

Gem and I are rooming, it’s tiny, a bunk bed, basin and little room for anything else. My suitcase is under the bed and you get the bare necessities, in our case, a pillow, a sheet and a tiny towel. Tiny. It just wraps around my waist, with a full thigh split. 

The boat went straight out and we had honey shots to welcome everyone. We have a lovely tour guide who explained we would stop in a few hours to swim in the middle of the ocean then moor at a small island overnight. 

Lunch everyday is three course, today was broccoli soup, bread, salad, bolognais and banana with choc and cream for dessert. The beers were already flowing.

Swimming off the side of the boat is refreshing and fun, almost everyone got in on the action. It’s very buoyant – maybe because it is so salty. 

The island had two market stalls (I bought a floaty tube for our next ocean swim and a towel), two restaurants and a little superette. We bought beer and chocolate and sat on the beach with the crew for a few hours. 

Back on the boat dinner was served, a BBQ with chicken, pork, bread, chips and a capsicum spread then the drinking kicked in. Another Busabout boat moored next to us and we all made one big happy family playing have you ever until about midnight! 

Milan to Dubrovnik – a fairly decent mess

Well it’s 10.30am and I’ve had a hell of a morning already!! 

Up early (yuck), get to train station, missed original train. This was okay, the next one got us there just in time. Couldn’t find the ticket station, finally get a ticket, race to platform, getting hangry. Get a choc croissant from the vending machine – not bad actually. Run to hop on train. 

Hop on train, poor Sheldon gets super confused and is a day ahead, convinced we are missing out flights. Finally work out we are good, ticket man comes over. Give him our tickets, apparently you must validate your ticket (which they don’t tell you) and there is a 50€ fine each, unless we buy another, more expensive ticket. Buy ticket, frustrated. So is half the train, everyone is getting done for the same thing. 

Get close to airport, realise I’m going to need to run to make bag drop. Say goodbye to Sheldon. Run the wrong way – ha! Should have taken 5 and checked the departure board. Get to terminal 1, read board, realise, run back. Get back, find out I have to take a bus. In true Italian fashion, there’s no bus times or info about how long it takes. Sheldon is in line. Run across to ask cabbie if I’m better going with him. No English. Bus arrives, run back. Bus nearly full, decide to take cab after all. Cabbie takes off and announces it is 15€ for 5mins. I have no choice. Speedy cabbie, good man. Much further than I originally thought. Thank god I took the cab!
Race into Terminal 2 (STA Travel, this should really be on my booking info FYI), lovely man puts me to front of line. Check in, bag dropped, made it, yewww!!!

But then, boarding is super soon. Commence next round of running. Run to customs, run to gates. Stop briefly for salad (haven’t eaten any freaking greens since I arrived in Italy, body is confused) then continue run to gate. Get to gate, biggest queue everrrr, stand in line for 25mins to check in… Negates all the running but thankful I hopefully burnt off some of that pasta and wine as I’m on a boat in Croatia for a week next. 
So here I am on the plane to Dubrovnik, which is only an hour flight, and I’m truely ready for a nap! In good spirits – you just have to laugh at times like these!!

Made it to Dubrovnik, easy bus ride in. Beautiful city, I’m sure all you Game of Throne fans already know what it looks like. 

We had booked a private room in a hostel, it’s very cute and a great location. It’s like a little attic. Met up with Gemma and Asti and went for lunch. Grilled squid of course, washed down with local beer. 

Gemma and I walked the city wall. Spectacular views, it really is like stepping back into another time. Pics can tell the story. It was a very sweaty expedition – the pics tell that story too – ha! 

Inside the walls it’s exceptionally touristy which I’m not a huge fan of. Didn’t last long there other than to devour a beautiful cherry and choc gelato mmmm.

Looking for a spot to watch the sunset we toured all around (walking off the pasta still from Italy) and settled on a pebble beach at a bar with swings. I promptly got motion sick (whaaaat?!) and had to move to a barstool. Pretty sure the barman was drunk. 

Most beautiful and captivating thing I have seen was on night fall, the moon licking the ripples on the ocean a stunning girl and her German Sheppard arrived to play in the water. They swam together in the moonlight for an hour, the dog following her whenever they went and getting mighty upset when she disappeared under water. Beautiful to watch the love and fun between them… And no, I haven’t even been drinking to write this!

We also went for a late night dip. It took a long time to get us in the water but it was lovely once we were. 
Dinner, we scouted for black squid ink risotto, apparently a local specialty. Found a place, my god the service is terrible here! 

They do no give a shite about you and when you want your drink or if your main comes out 1.5 hours later (that actually happened) even after you had told them to forget about it when they realised the forgot. Anyway, the risotto was good but that was about it.

Home to sleep about midnight in our little attic before boarding the boat to sail Croatia for a week! Can’t wait. Blogging may be intermittent – not sure what wifi etc we will have. 

Riomaggiore to Milan

Our last day in Cinque Terre (cue sad face), we are up and packed and down for breakfast with a cranky Italian waiter who Is super pissed at us for coming in for breakfast. I mean, how dare we visit a restaurant and expect service! 

Finally our breakfast arrives, a croissant, fruit salad and choc pastry (sticking with my over ordering theme, obvs) and no surprises he had mixed up the orders but I was already on my laptop deep in debrief world from the Celeb Sports Quiz, which is another story entirely. 
I finish work, we grab our bags, somehow get them down the three exceptionally steep staircases and drop them at our AirBnB’s husband’s hotel for safe keeping. 
We trained to Manarola and it was pretty average (still incredibly breathtaking but visually not stunning or exciting as Riomaggiore or Monterosso…. Until we rounded the corner and found the ocean. Absolutely stunning. We were captivated. We stopped and stared at the ocean for so long. We were able to do part of the walk but the rest to Vernazza was closed off. The ocean is just so clear and blue and turquoise. You can see the fish and there’s the typical fisherman boats everywhere – just like in the pictures. 
I love watching the people taking photos and bustling about. There seemed to be an influx of tourists and people were falling over each other. The Asian tourists all create hilarious pictures and funny poses while the Europeans are much more subtle with their photography. Then there’s us! 

Notably, there were very few Australians and no Kiwis around. Only a few Americans too. Mainly Europeans and then the big Asian tours. 

Having spent a large portion of the afternoon staring at the Oceanside we were ready to hop in ourselves! 

We headed to Corniglia but soon realised there were 259 (or something ridiculous) steps to the village and we were all helllll no. Bus was too hard work so we were right back over to Monterosso. 

Right by the beach was a restaurant, we waited for a table and got one with the best view. Lucky us! I had been wanting to try anchovies for the whole trip and took my chance. They had been marinated in lemon and weren’t at all what I expected, they were quite delicious! I also had the cured meats plate, two delightful glasses of proseco and a tagliatelle ragu. Gotta keep up the over eating tradition. Remembering of course, every Italian meal is served with bread. 

We snuck onto the private beach for a swim but got caught out so it was onto the rocks at the end to ditch our stuff and hop into the clear blue. 

Feeling refreshed we trained back to Riomaggoire to grab our luggage then hop back on the train to Milan. We were early and so changed our tickets to get back earlier. Wrong. Bad idea! Should have stuck to the plan. We got to Levante where we were to change… Except all the express trains had left. So our ride went from three hours to five with a change over in Genova and a half hour delay… All up we arrived in Milan two hours late.  

Thank god we had bought snacks… In the form of a giant piece of buffalo mozzarella, some strawberries and water. Gotta stay hydrated! I’m so thankful for the Italian’s love of fizzante, or rather, sparkling water. I can’t get enough of the stuff! 
So this giant, delicious ball of cheese is served to us in a bag full of fluid to keep it fresh and moist. I happily drain most of it at the station before we leave. Except, I underestimated the amount of liquid the ball held.. And I placed it in a container that had held some very oily artichokes…. So now we have a big wet ball of cheese in a bag covered in oil in a container. Fast forward and we were trying to eat the cheese on the train… Can you imagine the mess we made?! Times that by ten and you’ll have a rough idea. Tasted bloody good though. Sheldon’s brand new pants shall never be the same again. 

We took a cab to the hotel even though it was a quick walk, we heard it wasn’t very safe. The hotel itself was amazing! One of the best for communal facilities I have seen. Intimate, cozy and modern spaces (just what you’d expect in the fashion capital) with, wait for it, fashion magazines everywhere. I was most impressed with their business centre which had three plugs for each person in an octagon shape. 

It was about 10.30pm when we arrived and we discovered (what we had predicted) that there was an Italian holiday from 14-18th August and hence why everything was shut and Cinque Terre was incredibly packed. 

La Gare by Sofitel – highly recommend if you are just stopping over as it is right by Milano Centrale Station. It’s hard to miss with all the beautiful, vibrant multicoloured lit Windows. 

I booked for the rooftop which was unfortunately closed due to the holiday. Grrr. Room was stunning though, I have a membership so we were upgraded, given welcome drink tickets and well looked after. I had a beautiful house Italian merlot for my welcome drink, the barman was very generous and explained it was similar to a chianti (my fave) but better – he was right. 

We FaceTimed my parents and were in bed about 1am which wasn’t ideal as we had to be up at 6.45am – yuck. 

Riomaggoire, Day 2

We found a quaint breakfast spot and through a little language confusion ended up with some of what we ordered and some of what we didn’t! Beautiful little place off the main road. 
We took the train (hot tip, buy your tickets online, the queue in Riomaggoire was crazy with only one ticket machine) to Monterosso which is the first town of the five that make up Cinque Terre. 

We wandered around and decided to take out a kayak for an hour. Best thing we did! The township looks stunning from out on the water and with the sun shining down on us and the water (with zero waves) lapping around it was incredibly relaxing. So relaxing that we lost track of time and was out there an extra 40mins! Luckily the man at the hire place was absolutely lovely and didn’t even charge us the late fees (which run in ten min increments.) He did tell us however, there was a big party on that night in Monterosso (Maggoire is thumbs down) and we could stay at his place and we could sleep in a triangle….. 

I had a chat with the man, he has lived in Monterosso his whole life. He doesn’t seem to leave… He couldn’t even recommend a restaurant in the next township. Maybe he was just playing with a gullible tourist. 

We walked into the township from the beach and settled on a restaurant after walking by and seeing some delicious looking pasta. We over ordered, again. Sheldon chose a pizza and I ordered a pasta with calamari, a swordfish skewer (which was the stand out), an apperol spritz (definitely not to my palate) and of course fresh breads with balsamic and oil. We were incredibly full. 

We tried to walk it off and hoped on the train to Vernazza. While Vernazza is still stunning and looks incredible from the train, it wasn’t as great as the other two townships we had visited. We wandered the shops and Sheldon bought 12yr old balsamic vinegar and I bought some truffle oil. Delicious. 

There were people jumping from cliff faces so we stopped and watched them for quite some time. 

Exhausted, we trained home and I promptly fell asleep for nearly 2 hours. I guess that’s the jet lag keeping up. 

Awake again, we found a restaurant with wifi, ordered wine and I did some consulting work for Queensland Olympic Committee I had booked in. Perfect. And yes, I’m finish it hard to shut off from work. I love my job and what I do and the people I do it with, that goes for Wiley and my consulting gigs! 

Food was average (Giammi’d Caffe), we paid the bill and walked up the hill

To another pasta restaurant. We shared the calamari and ‘green salad’ (read rocket with zilch) and a trio of pastas. 

Home to bed, surprisingly it was midnight! 

Riomaggiore, Day 1

I ran from my train to the front of the station to meet Sheldon, found her, gave her a big hug and we made the mad dash to find our train. 

In the train there was a bunch of kerfuffle as apparently the seats were set and we didn’t pick that up on our Italian tickets. Furthermore, our seats weren’t together so we kept trying to find two together and then being kicked out!
Fast forward three hours and a beautiful journey through the hillsides from Milan to Levante then Levante to Riomaggoire, we finally reached our destination. Picturesque from the moment you jump off the train. 
Walking through a long tunnel, you come out on Colombo, the main plaza area of the seaside village. I’m not even going to try describing what the houses look like and the way they are built randomly on top of each other in a ravine, I’ll let the pictures do the talking below. It is breathtaking, jaw dropping… The lot. Surpassed my expectations of how I had imagined it would be. 

We met Irene our AirBnB host, who showed us up the steepest three flights of stairs (suitcase in tow) to our apartment. Two bedrooms, heaps of space, incredible location and open windows looking down into the plaza. Complete with a clothes line on the side! Love it. 

Showered (was so gross from 24 hours of travel) and we were straight outside to explore. 

There’s live music in the streets and they’re just buzzing with people. There are open bars and restaurants and little market stalls. 

We made our way to the coastline for sunset, it is spectacular. Again, just how I had imagined it but better. And when you look back towards the village, it is an impressive view, giving a true perspective of just how many levels are steeped about. 
We spent hours walking through tiny paths and steps, through tunnels. It’s a rabbit warren and you never know what you will find outside. 

We ended up back outside our apartment for dinner at Cucina Centrale. Ordered the caprese (a fave) to start, with some mussels in a white wine and garlic butter sauce followed by traditional carbonara and washed down with some sweet (very easy to drink) house red wine. 

We bought gelato and then it was off for more exploring. In true European fashion, everyone was still out at 11pm and the live street music was pumping until well after midnight. 

The only thing that isn’t particularly appealing for me is all the smokers. I can smell it on myself this morning. 
It’s nearly 9am and the street below me has barely stirred. I’m starving and ready for breakfast! Can’t wait to see what today’s adventures (and meals) hold!

En Route to Europe! 

What a day! My final day at work for three weeks, the Celeb Sports Quiz then straight out on my flight! It was hectic to say the least. 

Woke up early, couldn’t go back to sleep. Washed my sheets and clothes, finished packing & got to work on time. 

Smashed through my work, right down to the very last minute when the cab arrived at 11.15! Just got everything done. 

Then we were off to the Celeb Sports Quiz to raise funds and awareness for JDRF. Tom and I were part of the organising committee and the event was a culmination of weekly meetings since Feb to pull together a room of 400, with 30 celebs and alluring auction items. Early indicators show around 40k was raised from the auction items and raffle!
The event was a huge success, we managed to get the wooden spoon in the sports quiz and there was even a doughnut delivery to our table! Had a blast and saw lots of old friends. I feel proud and fortunate to have had the chance to help and contribute. 

The quiz wasn’t over until about 4, and our table headed to Super Whatnot in the city to kick on. I gave away my beautiful flowers (no point in me having them, I was bound for a flight to Europe!) to a man at the bar. 

Next uber and we are at Eleven – more cocktails and then my colleagues (who freaking rock by the way!!) kicked me out to get home, changed and to the airport. 

Thankfully I realised I had Brandon’s keys and Dave and I swung back round by Eleven to drop them off on our way to the airport. That could have been disastrous! I could have done a cool photo montage of his keys all of Europe though, make it an Instagram account and all! Kidding. 

I said bye to Dave (my awesome housemate – how lucky I he to live with me?! Ha), checked in and went down the elevator to customs. The young man in front of me was crying after having said farewell to his parents. We got chatting and I found out the reason for his tears were that he was moving to Dubai. I invited him to join me in the lounge and have some champagne and dinner to distract him.

Such a lovely guy, we sipped out bubbles until it was time for him to leave. 

The flight itself was uneventful. Keeping in mind I’d been drinking since 12 so everything was amusing. I even managed to spill food on my jeans and top in the lounge. 

The flight was full, I had two lovely passengers next to me and I did my very best to keep my eyes open to watch two movies. They were rolling back in my head. I think I drank 10 million gallons of water, must have been super dehydrated! 

Etihad were a pleasure to fly with. Unlike majority of planes it wasn’t freezing cold and I was grateful. The food was alright, service good and lots of charging options for tech. 

In Abu Dhabi we realised we both held Virgin Gold membership so went in search of a lounge to accommodate us for a few hours. We are beautiful dates and hummus. Lovely lady, on her way to meet her boyfriend in Paris. I hope to catch up with her when I’m back. 

The Air Italy flight was average. Cramped, a bloody big metal box in my foot space, shitty seats, crappy food… It felt longer than the first even though it was 8hours less. In my typical fashion, I slept most of the way, only to try keep awake for a movie at the end and stay on Milan time. 

Arrived in Milan and now I’m on the train to central station to meet Sheldon (an old friend who lives in the UK) and run to our next train to get us to Cinque Terre! I’m so exited to see her, it’s been about 5 years. 

Fingers crossed we make our train… Again I’ll be that person running through the station… 

Pompidou, Hawthorne

Brunch special for the win!

French toast with lemon curd, candied walnuts and fresh strawberries… It’s like dessert for breakfast.

Shame about the wait staff, although under pressure, they weren’t particularly pleasant or attentive.

Celia had a roasted mushroom dish with brie, aioli and a poached egg which she devoured.

Pompidou Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato