Visiting Dubrovnik City Walls

Dubrovnik is famous for it’s city walls. Entering the city walls, through Ploce or Pile Gate to gain entry to old town Dubrovnik, is free. Walking the city walls is chargeable, but well worth doing. The walls were originally built as a fortification to protect the city, but are now one of Dubrovnik’s main tourist attractions, and a great way to get a different perspective of the city. They’re also home to some scenes from Game of Thrones, if that’s of interest to you.

Dubrovnik City Walls

The walls are accessed at periodic entry points around the walls. You can buy a ticket online in advance, or buy on the day, which is what we did – from memory it cost about £25 per person, but this also includes entry to Fort Lovrijenac. We started our tour at the entrance nearest to Ploce Gate, and were immediately greeted with lots of steep stone steps. There was moaning and groaning from ourselves and other visitors, especially a group of 5 women just ahead of us with epic hangovers – they got to the top and were already talking about turning round and leaving!

Top tip: try to avoid the heat of the day and take refreshments. There’s very little shelter or cover from the sun up on the walls. There are a couple of cafes which get very busy but aside from that you’re very exposed. We actually changed our plans and brought our visit forward a day to take advantage of some cloud cover, but that soon burned away and it was hot!

Here come the pictures!

Dubrovnik City Walls

There’s a one way system in operation on the walls, which helps to keep people moving and avoid awkwardness on some of the narrower steps. It makes life a lot easier! You can see the throng of people on the picture above, bottom left. It isn’t that crowded all the way around; it thins out as the paths widen and people amble at different speeds.

Because the walls circle the whole city you’ll get views of all vistas – across the red tiled roofs of Old Town, over to Ploce, up to Mt Srd and seawards to Lokrum Island and the horizon.

Dubrovnik City Walls - view from Minceta Tower
View from Dubrovnik City Walls
View of Lokrum Island from Dubrovnik City Walls
View of Lokrum Island from Dubrovnik City Walls
View of Lokrum Island from Dubrovnik City Walls

The picture below is looking back towards Minceta Tower, which was a filming scene in Game of Thrones. The base of Minceta Tower was used as the exterior of House of Undying in the town of Qarth. You can climb up the narrow stone staircase to the top for views over the city.

View of Minceta Tower, Dubrovnik City Walls

Over the water you can see Fort Lovrijenac, which was the filming location for the Red Keep in Kingslanding, for you Game of Thrones fans! Entrance to the Fort is included in the ticket for the walls, but we never got round to getting there. We’d climbed quite enough steps!

View of Fort Lovrijenac from Dubrovnik City Walls
View of Fort Lovrijenac from Dubrovnik City Walls
View of Fort Lovrijenac from Dubrovnik City Walls
View of Fort Lovrijenac from Dubrovnik City Walls

I’ll leave you with some facts and figures about Dubrovnik City Walls

The walls are 1,940 metres long; forming one continual structure. They reach a maximum height of around 25 metres in certain areas. The majority of the land facing walls measure between 4 and 6 metres in thickness. The sea-facing parts are less wide; measuring between 1.5 metres and 3 metres in width. The walls welcome over 1 million visitors each year – a number that is continuing to grow thanks to Game of Thrones, and increasing numbers of cruise ships which dock there over the summer months. Old Town Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has been since 1979.

Have you been to Dubrovnik? Let me know in the comments!

You may also enjoy:

3 days in Dubrvonik

A trip to Lokrum Island

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Blogging and me – which one has changed?

My most recent blog post was about my trip to Santorini, which happened 11 months ago. I still haven’t finished writing about Dubrovnik, which was 13 months ago. My weekend in Lincoln earlier this year, and my trip to Norway for my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday haven’t seen the light of day.

There was a time when I’d have been chomping at the bit to get these trips written up. When I’d have been vocal about the current political situation, or sharing my latest book purchases.

These days I hardly ever blog. And it got me wondering why?

My job is definitely part of it – I look after the social media accounts and some content creation at the company I work for, and in truth it can zap my creativity! I don’t really feel like getting my laptop out after work, or even at weekends. I used to do much of my blogging during my lunch hour in my previous job, whereas in this job there is a much more social aspect to lunches (and somewhere to actually sit away from our desks!) so I tend to spend my lunchtimes with colleagues rather than writing blog posts. I keep telling myself that I’ll spend maybe one lunchtime a week at my desk doing “life-admin” and catching up on blogging, but it hasn’t happened so far.

I don’t read other blogs as much these days either, and I don’t know why. Are people less prolific in promoting their blog posts on Twitter these days? I don’t seem to see blogging mentioned nearly as much, and I guess I’ve just gotten out of the habit of checking in on my favourite sites (other people seem to be posting less too!)

To conclude…I think both blogging and me have changed. Not necessarily for the worst, but certainly not for the better. My blog was never about views or followers, so that isn’t what’s stopping me from posting. I guess, like many people, I just need to get my mojo back!

Watch this space…!

Is anyone else feeling this way? Is blogging dead? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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Santorini sunsets and a catamaran cruise

For today’s blog post we’re looking back 11 months, as I share my memories of Santorini sunsets. Santorini sunsets are renowned as being part of the experience of visiting the island. But their reputation brings with it popularity and crowds.

I don’t like crowds. But I also don’t like to miss out (FOMO). Therefore there can be a juxtaposition between wanting to experience something, and not wanting to experience it, if that makes sense. A dichotomy.

Before we flew out for our week in Santorini I’d seen people I follow on Instagram commenting about how busy the main sunset spots get in Oia, which is where we were staying. Comments from “get there a couple of hours early to bag a good spot”, through to “pre-book a restaurant overlooking sunset”, and “don’t be fooled by the photos, there are people everywhere” made me a little bit wary of what was to come. Not least because the husband is a temperamental bugger (ask him, he’ll admit it) who would rather miss out than put up with unfavourable circumstances.

After our first afternoon foray into the centre of Oia left us feeling overwhelmed, it was an unspoken agreement that we wouldn’t be joining the hordes of people all clambering for the best view and the best photos, and instead would enjoy it from afar.

The location of our hotel was right on the edge of the village; a fact we were most glad about considering how busy the centre was. The pool didn’t have a full on sunset view, but we were able to sit outside enjoying the changing colours in the sky as the sun headed to the horizon.

Caldera views

Over the road from our hotel however, we were able to sit on the caldera wall and look towards the town. Again we didn’t have an uninterrupted view of the sun meeting the horizon, but the silhouette of the church domes and village buildings against the red sky were absolutely beautiful.

An afternoon on the water

In order to get the full “sun hits the sea and descends into darkness” experience, we headed out to the water. We booked an afternoon catamaran cruise with Sunset Oia which left from Amoudi Bay at around 2pm with around 50 people and 10 crew on board. We sailed away from Oia and out for a swim in the sea near Nea Kamini – a small uninhabited island which was created by the volcanic explosion which gave the island it’s unusual shape back in 1646BC.

Following that it was out into the open water, the catamaran gliding through the waves as the sun sparkled on each and every ripple. We sailed towards the South of the island, stopping off for more swimming at Red Beach and White Beach, before heading back towards Oia in time for that all important sunset.

At almost £100 each the cruise was far from cheap, but we had an absolutely fantastic day. Unlimited drinks were included (we drank a lot of white wine!) and a freshly barbecued lunch of souvlaki, fresh salad, feta cheese and olives – all the amazing Greek essential food groups! Plus it meant we got to see an uninterrupted sunset in all it’s glory, with no pushing for a good spot and – more importantly – no moaning from the husband!

Have you been to Santorini? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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How I’m dealing with getting older

Getting older - field of flowers with mountain background

Getting older. It’s a privilege not afforded to everyone so I try really hard not to be ungrateful about it. The alternative is an early death which, unsurprisingly, I’m even less keen on. So getting older it is.

I don’t have a problem with the getting older per se. I don’t miss going out clubbing, or wearing teeny tiny clothes, or functioning on 3 hours sleep. I’m happy pottering at home in my garden and that’s fab. Going to bed after 11 is a late night. I wear comfy cotton pants instead of undercarriage flossing thongs. With age has come a calmness and happiness I didn’t have in my 20s. Passing years have enabled me to do so many things that only come with time and experience, including travelling to many different countries and cities across the world. My earnings cover the lifestyle I have and want. I have a long and happy marriage under my belt and a strong and fun relationship. I’m very content with where I am in that respect.

So what’s the problem?

Truth be told (cringing a little bit at this) part of my problem with getting older is that I’m now surrounded by younger people at work who don’t tell me I don’t look/act my age. Ha, there, I’ve said it! Up until my most recent job I’ve worked mainly with people who are a similar age or older. In my current role there are a lot of people who are younger than me, including my manager, and it seems to have had this weird effect on me where I constantly point out my age / call myself old / talk about when I was younger…AND NO-ONE TAKES THE BAIT!! What they’re supposed to say is “you don’t look any older than us” or “I can’t believe you’re 41”. Stupid work colleagues.

Vanity

Coupled with that, vanity cards on the table, another problem is how I look. I don’t think I look that different, but if no one is picking up on my (not so subtle) hints, then I must do. I’ve started becoming very aware of wrinkles, wanting botox and/or considering a fringe. I’ve even started using face cream more regularly! I’m heavier than I’d like to be which is could be because I enjoy a life of eating and drinking, but could also be down to getting older and a slower metabolism (I’ll keep telling myself that).

Writing it all down sounds, quite frankly, ridiculous, and I’m almost tempted to delete this post and never publish it but I think it’s important to be honest here on this blog, and maybe other women my age will read it and not feel such a loser if they have similar thoughts.

I wouldn’t go back to being in my 20s for anything (not that it’s a possibility anyway), so I need to just get a grip and embrace “the gift of life” (ha ha, I can’t pull that hippy BS off!) Failing that, does anyone know a good botox practitioner?!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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5 things that make me feel like a grown up

Feeling like a grown up - small girl with hands up in the air

Being a grown up is a funny thing. Most people of a certain age, at least in my social circle, say they don’t feel like a grown up, and can’t believe where the years have gone. To me, being a grown up is being a responsible adult, which I don’t always class myself as! That said, there are occasions when it hits me that “woah, I am!”

Most recently was last weekend, when I spent £48 of my hard earned cash on a green recycling bin. Aside from the fact I have to pay when there are other local borough councils who issue them for free, I got really excited about it being delivered! Then got really excited about filling it! The ivy in our back garden has taken a bit of a battering as a result, but at least I feel like I’m properly getting my monies worth.

Here are 5 more things that make me feel like a grown up

Buying myself fresh flowers for the house

Younger me would NEVER have spent money on something so frivolous, but older me feels really together and mature at buying blooms for my dining table

Life admin

Self explanatory really; pensions and life insurance and really complicated but VERY IMPORTANT stuff. I’m currently trying to change our life insurance policy and it gives me a headache.

Cooking a roast dinner

A roast dinner is a grown up meal cooked by a grown up, no? There are so many different elements, and timings. It feels like a grown up way to feed people. I love cooking a roast dinner, especially with a couple of cheeky vinos!

Ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant

There’s something so grown up about going out for dinner and ordering a bottle of wine to share with the husband. Perusing a wine menu seems very mature to someone who orders wine by the glass based on price and percentage! As does paying over the odds for something you could probably get at half the price in the supermarket.

Using a trolley at the supermarket

I use a trolley once a year – at Christmas when I’m buying ALL the food and drink. Most of the time I just get a basket and buy a few bits at a time. Trolleys are for parents with children or people with freezers who buy in bulk or batch cook. Not for people like me!

Are there things that sometimes remind you that you’re an actual real life grown up? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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My first (and last?!) experience with Airbnb

Remember earlier this year when I shared my travel plans for 2019? Including my first foray into Airbnb for a trip to New York in September?

Yeah, that’s not happening anymore.

Last Saturday, with no explanation, I received an email from Airbnb to tell me my 6 night reservation at an apartment in Greenwich Village had been cancelled, and I’d be receiving a refund for monies paid so far.

Say what?

Surely there’s been a mistake?

My first thought was that there must have been some mistake. I sent a message to the host asking him why I’d received the cancellation notice.

Nothing.

I sent a Twitter DM to Airbnb asking if they could help. They checked my personal details and the reservation and confirmed that yes, it was cancelled. Had I contacted the host? (well yeah, duh). In which case they would get a “dedicated case manager” from a “specialised team” to get in touch with me.

In the meantime I obviously started looking for alternative accommodation. We knew when we booked the ill fated apartment that it was incredibly good value for a stay in New York so, unsurprisingly, there was little out there in a similar price range. Hotels were coming up at £600 more than the Airbnb, and there were no other Airbnb apartments in the location we wanted.

Side note – New York accommodation is bonkersly expensive. £200 a night to sleep in a bunk bed with a shared bathroom? Daylight robbery!

Airbnb, while polite, were annoyingly hands off in terms of taking any responsibility. Their response when I asked for some compensation to cover the additional costs of rebooking was “Airbnb is a third party platform that bridges the gap between hosts and guests, and we do not offer compensation when a guest has to cancel a reservation.”

Screw you New York!

At this point we’d pretty much mentally checked out the trip. I’d been in touch with the airline to see if we could get any refund on the flights (we can get the tax refunded, which means losing about £300 total, which is still cheaper than paying £600+ for a hotel).

Meanwhile, the host had responded to advise that his property needs to undergo renovations and repairs (they mus be pretty major, because it’s still 3 months until our trip, sounds a bit fishy to me), and his reply included lots of exclamation marks and a seemingly non genuine apology, so that pissed me off even more!

Airbnb then offered me a £50 coupon (generous…not) and sent through some suggestions of alternative properties, conceding that the coupon wouldn’t cover the difference in cost but it would help. This was then upped to a groundbreaking £75. The apartments were an extra £300. You do the maths.

To cut a long story short…

We decided that one of the suggested apartments might be ok. Wouldn’t have been our first choice, but was better than nothing. And then we went to look into booking it and THE LISTING HAD DISAPPEARED!!!!

What fresh absolute fuckery! Airbnb’s response this time around “if you cannot access the listing then I would assume that it has been removed by the host. We do not have the option to check any further.”

Any last shred of wanting to use them evaporated there and then. Absolutely no faith whatsoever that we wouldn’t end up in the same situation all over again closer to our departure date.

Although I don’t want to use them again, I do now have £75 credit to use within a year! Which means that I inevitably will use them again. Next time will be for a UK stay only where there are no massive repercussions if it does get cancelled, and no flights or travel plans to pay for.

I’ve since heard cancellation stories from 4 different people, which I wish I’d known in advance of the original booking. I had no idea that Airbnb take no responsibility for cancelled bookings. When a host cancels they get charged a 50 dollar “fine” and can’t relist on the Airbnb site during that time period. But if you’ve managed to let your space for more money elsewhere then 50 bucks isn’t going to cause you any heartache.

I’m sure there are way more success stories than negatives out there, but that’s it for me!

Have you ever used Airbnb? Let me know your experiences.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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A life update, and why it’s good to talk

It's good to talk : Wooden scrabble tiles spelling life with text "a life update"

If you’re in the UK and *ahem* of a certain age you might remember the BT adverts with Bob Hoskins declaring “it’s good to talk”. Bob was advertising telephone services. I’m not. But his sentiment is absolutely bang on!

I’ve had quite a lot going on in recent weeks. A weekend away at a festival, a weekend away in Norway, work stuff, family stuff and just stuff. It’s fair to say that my mental health hasn’t been at it’s best. Not in an “I’m going to hide away and not face the world” way. Just feeling a bit jangled and not quite right. It’s hard to explain unless you know, but I’ve been living with my own head for long enough to be able to pinpoint when it’s off kilter. There’s often nothing you can do…just ride it out.

Father’s Day

A contributing factor to the way I’ve been feeling is very likely to be Father’s Day. It’s my third Father’s Day without my Dad this year. It’s a difficult time anyway, but when I’m feeling a bit jangled, I miss him even more. He was a very calming influence in my life and really helped me at times when I was frayed, stressed or angry. He had a way of making me see things more logically instead of my self internalised, often overreacting, often self pitying way. He was a very sensible man, and he was very good at helping me to rationalise.

Now, it’s not that without my Dad I don’t have anyone to speak to. But, for some reason, I have built it up in my head recently that I don’t want to speak about the stuff that’s being going on in my life. So I’ve kept it all in my head, building it up to oversized proportions, feeling like crap, convincing myself that no-one can help me like my Dad could, and basically being a bit of a drama queen! Unfortunately for the husband, he’s been on the receiving end, which is pretty mean of me and for which I have since apologised.

Good news – after reaching boiling point earlier this week, I talked! Well, not so much talked as spewed forth a whole heap of anger, vitriol, stress, upset and frustration. I cried. And I shouted. I said “and another thing” quite a lot.

It’s good to talk

I feel heaps better.

As well as reminding myself that it’s good to talk, I have reminded myself (or been reminded) not to take things personally, not to feel attacked, and that it’s ok that I’m not 100% perfect or successful in everything I do.

Will I remember these lessons? Probably not. But it certainly makes for a happier me in the short term, which makes for a happier husband too!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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A day trip to Lokrum Island, Dubrovnik

We could see Lokrum island from the terrace of our apartment when we went to Dubrovnik last year (read more about it here). We watched boats sailing across the short stretch of sea from the harbour, we saw people sea kayaking towards it and we did a loop of the island in our speed boat trip on the first afternoon.

The next step was to actually get on to the island and explore it for ourselves!

Passenger ferries run from the mainland harbour on a regular basis, and the cost is very reasonable (I’m being vague here because I can’t remember, it’s been almost a year since we were there and I’ve been a lax blogger in posting about it!). The journey takes 10-15 minutes and is very popular, so if you have a specific timescale in mind, make sure you get there early (similarly for the return journey, people queue in advance).

Lokrum is a National Park

Similarly to old town Dubrovvnik, Lokrum was used as a filming location for Game of Thrones – many of the scenes in the city of Qarth were filmed there (then heavily CGI’d, so it’s not obviously recognisable).

There’s a small GoT exhibition, which is mainly in Croatian, but you do get to sit on a replica of the Iron Throne, which is kinda fun!

Outside of that there are some attractive benedictine monastery ruins, a botanical garden (which was past its best, tbh), free roaming peacocks and rabbits and an inland Dead Sea which many people swim in (which was VERY cold and VERY awkward to get into because of the rocks underfoot).

Sea swimming is also very popular, and there are nudist areas around the coastline, if that tickles your fancy!

Lokrum island is a national park, and no-one is allowed to stay overnight – the island is vacated by 7.30 every evening. It’s very green and relaxing, but there isn’t an awful lot to do there. It’s definitely worth a visit, as long as you have the right expectations (or just want to chill out and do nothing!)

As I said in my previous post, Dubrovnik is a very beautiful city and one that I would recommend to anyone. It would be daft not to visit Lokrum unless you were desperately short of time, and the ferry journey also gives you a different view of the city looking back into the old harbour.

Have you been to Dubrovnik?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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A t-shirt with a story

Row of tshirts hanging on washing line

I still have the t-shirt I was wearing on the day my Dad died. I remember dressing in a mad panic after receiving the early morning unexpected phonecall that I needed to get to the hospital. Most probably I grabbed it from the floor (I’m an untidy person); fumbling as I got dressed, pulling on my jeans and trying to fasten my shoes. Every second was precious, I needed to jump in my car and get to my Dad before it was too late.

As it happened my Dad’s last day was a long one. I wore that t-shirt right through into the early hours of the morning, after he’d died and we’d left the hospital. In the rush I hadn’t showered or brought a change of clothes with me, but none of it seemed to matter.

That t-shirt sits in my wardrobe, and I see it every so often when I flick through my clothes. It’s survived a house move and multiple wardrobe culls but I haven’t worn it since that day. I guess I can’t bring myself to, but I also don’t want to part with it.

Last night

Last night, getting changed to potter in the garden and have barbecue food for dinner, my fingers skimmed over the t-shirt. On a whim I pulled it on with a pair of jeans. I’m not sure what I expected to feel, but I decided not to think it through too much. Instead I went out into the evening sun, tidied up some of the garden beds, drank wine and laughed with my husband.

close up of t-shirt with feathers

Now that t-shirt is more than just a distressing memory to me. It’s also a nice memory, of a Spring evening doing what I love. My Dad would have liked that.

Clothes, for me, are more than just clothes. They’re memories, thoughts, happiness, sadness, upset, drama. I closely associate clothes with emotions. If I”m wearing an outfit I don’t like it can ruin my whole day,.

But clothes, like feelings, can change. And last night I changed that t-shirt to a nicer thing. I think I’ll wear it more often.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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Well done Meghan!

How wonderful to see Meghan Markle in her first public appearance since the birth of little Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. She looked beautiful – radiant, natural and just post-baby. Her still existent bump was refreshingly honest in a world of “perfect” celebs and their perfect figures.

Her tousled hair and fresh faced glow was very real. Her choice of outfit – belted and fitted and not designed to hide any post birth lumps and swellings – was lovely. The way she beamed at Harry as he cradled their newborn son was full of love and adoration.

I applaud her and Harry for taking the decision to appear publicly in their own time, when it suits them, rather than bowing to public pressure to do the traditional hospital steps photo call. Regardless of their status as royals and, as some would say, public property, they’re a young couple in love who’ve just welcomed their first child. It’s a special and precious time for them, and they shouldn’t have to stick to any timetable apart from one they’re comfortable with.

I also love the move away from tradition when it comes to baby Archie’s name. I don’t think anyone saw anything so “un-Royal” on the cards – especially the bookmakers who had the favourites down as Arthur or James. Not even a nod to royal tradition with the baby’s middle name either. I wonder if we’ll ever find out the reasoning behind Harrison? (I like to think Harry’s a secret Indiana Jones fan and has honoured Harrison Ford!)

Hopefully the press will leave them alone now to just be a family and enjoy these precious times.

What do you think of it all? Do you like the baby’s name Let me know in the comments.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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