Thursday, September 18, 2014

croatia III: hvar

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For me, hands down the best part about Hvar: the gorgeous, gorgeous islands off the coast. The second-best part of Hvar: the insanely gorgeous church directly on the waterfront path past the main part of town. The third-best part of Hvar: the salt-water pool and tasty breakfast with a view of the harbor. Korčula was a lot more our speed in terms of the overall town vibe/party atmosphere (as in, we were in Croatia for the gorgeous landscape and not so much for the party) but there's no mistaking that it's a beautiful part of the coast.

Monday, July 28, 2014

croatia II: korčula

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Definitely my favorite of the three places we stayed in Croatia: Korčula town, on the island of Korčula. We booked a rental apartment for four nights (Apartments Karisima -- definitely recommended!) and enjoyed wandering around the old town, biking out to the two sandy beaches about 45 minutes away, and kayaking out to the island Badija with its fourteenth-century monastery. The area had this wonderful relaxed summer camp kind of vibe which I really enjoyed. Not sure how crowded it gets in the high season, but it was lovely while we were there. Plus we got to go to mass in the cathedral in the center of the old town -- going to church in foreign countries is always something I like (bongos and a guitar at a Catholic church in Rome! Easter at the American Episcopal Cathedral in Paris!) and this one did not disappoint. Oh, and the Marco Polo bakery by the harbor! We went there every morning we were in town and ordered variations on the same three pastries (one savory spinach and cheese, two sweet apple or cherry) and bought tiny americano coffees at the cafe next door and enjoyed the view of the Adriatic Sea. Even on the one morning it poured rain, we enjoyed hanging out under one of the umbrellas and watching the goings on in the town. Korčula is a winner.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

croatia I: split

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In late April, right around Easter, I got a job offer in Nuremberg! Right in the city, even -- not even in the surrounding area or requiring a not-quite-two-hour commute each way to Munich! And so at the end of April I put in my resignation with the law firm I'd been working for since August 2008, in Frankfurt since November 2009, and set about relocating to Nuremberg for a June 1st start date at a totally new job (Management Assistant) in a totally new industry (IT service provision). And in the middle of terminating my lease and turning over my apartment and moving my things and everything else, I realized that I had a week and a half of vacation to burn before I left my old company. Normal people might figure that a week and a half of vacation between jobs would be perfect to use to stay at home, relax, take care of German bureaucratic moving tasks, maybe get to know Nuremberg a little better. And then I thought, why hang out in Nuremberg by myself while Stephen is working when maybe my mom would like to come visit? And then I thought, to heck with this, I am going to be in Nuremberg all the time starting very soon and I cannot imagine what my mom and I would spend an entire week and a half doing in and around Nuremberg and all of the German bureaucratic needs will get taken care of somehow. Why don't we go to Croatia instead?

So my last day at my old job was May 22nd, and at noon on May 23rd I was on a flight to Split. Generally I'm something of a planner -- I feel better when I can go into a trip knowing where I'm going to sleep each night and more or less how to get between destinations and maybe have even glanced at a guidebook -- but for this trip that just wasn't happening, so I booked our flights and two nights at the top-rated hotel in Split according to Trip Advisor (Palace Judita Hotel, definitely deserving of its ranking) and trusted that we would work the rest out upon arrival. This turned out to mean that we threw ourselves upon the mercy of the hotel staff, who planned the rest of our trip for us, even buying our ferry tickets to Korčula for us and delivering us to the harbor in the golf cart they dubbed The Popemobile.

We were in Split at the beginning and the end of the trip, and rented bicycles on both ends to explore our towards the beaches. (Getting to the beaches from the old town is certainly doable but I've got a semi-busted foot so biking was better for me.) We'd been told at the beginning of the trip that Bačvice beach was super touristy and should be avoided, so at the start of the trip we went out the other direction, toward the vast greenness of Marjan hill and its less-touristed beaches. Keeping in mind that we were in Split in mid-to-late May, before the tourist season really gets into full swing, we actually ended up liking Bačvice and the other beaches out that direction the best -- but we could see that once there were serious crowds it might be better to avoid that area.

Probably the best fish I ate the whole trip was on our first night in Split, at Chops Grill: grilled monkfish in a truffle sauce. The best take-this-and-make-it-at-home dish of the trip, at the restaurant on the base of the steps leading up to Hotel Slavija, where we stayed at the end of our trip: thinly sliced red cabbage with matchsticked apples and prunes dressed in olive oil and sea salt. I've been eating that, with added smoked tofu, for a lot of recent lunches. Best hot chocolate of the trip: at a cafe at Bačvice where we ran to take cover just after swimming and as a massive downpour began (one of exactly two rainstorms during our ten-day trip).

At the very end of our trip, we began to have some idea of what Split would be like during high season, which is to say, incredibly massively overcrowded. We were glad to have visited when we did. Toward the end of May is pretty much perfect in that area, or it was for us: warm during the day, water temperature a little bit brisk but definitely swimmable, cool enough to want a light jacket at night, not too many people. We were fans.

Monday, April 21, 2014

paris in spring

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Stephen and I went to Paris together for the second time at the beginning of April, after having had such an excellent time on crêpe weekend last June. Our plan was pretty much to do the exact same thing as last year, i.e., eat every single crêpe and galette we could get our hands on. To that end we stayed at Timhotel Tour Montparnasse on Rue de la Gaité, approximately 200 meters from the closest crêperie (and because we are ridiculous, complained about just how very far away that was). We actually only went for crêpe three times over five days (compare to last year's five times in barely two full days!) but a good bit of that can be blamed on our discovery of the magnificence that was Barthélémy cheese shop at 51 Rue de Grenelle and its excellent salted butter and stinky Roquefort cheese and our multiple subsequent picnics involving said magnificence at the Eiffel Tower and Sacré-Coeur (as well as in our hotel room when the weather was less stunning). We also rented Vélib' bicycles, which are a great deal at EUR 1,70 for the day + the first half hour of each ride thereafter is free, otherwise EUR 1,- for up to an hour -- and with stations all over the place to switch them in and out, it's relatively easy to keep your rides under half an hour. I dragged Stephen to my beloved Les Cocottes for a vegetable cocotte, chocolate tarte, and fresh cheese (like yogurt but less tangy, served with wonderful clear honey) and we checked out the impressionists at Musée d'Orsay and other than that we pretty much just wandered around and slept a whole lot and soaked in the city. Oh, we also ate at least one pain au chocolat each day, because why would you let a day go by in Paris without a chocolate croissant? Exactly.
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