I emerge from the Adriatic, happy screams escaping me, echoed by the shrieks from Maggie, a smile so big across her face that I am certain she had the same invigorating experience. I tread water and allow my breath to come back, for my racing heart to slowly fall into rhythm. I am surrounded by the dark, rich and crystal clear water of the Adriatic, stretching as far as the eye can see to one side and lapping gently into centuries-old rocks on the other.
To my right the Old Town of Rovinj appears, boats pulling into port slowly while an assortment of people sip wine and enjoy an al fresco lunch on the rocks. To call the scene idyllic would be an understatement. Above The Old Town of Rovinj, Croatia.
I had been struggling to find the words to best describe this incredible place ever since we had arrived, just 24 hours earlier. A scenic two hour drive from Ljubljana, the capitol city of Slovenia (more on that amazing locale in a future post), had brought us to Rovinj. It stormed the entire way, sheets of rain blurring the lush green landscapes that spread out before us. Our directions took us over the border into Croatia and deposited us at the entrance of Rovinj’s Old Town.
Formerly part of the Venetian Empire, this walled peninsula is a pedestrian wonderland and I was ecstatic to call it home for the next week. When we told everyone where we were traveling, their first response was always the same: “Croatia? Why Croatia?”
As I looked out at the cobbled streets of the Old Town toward the harbor, the seagulls gliding above, the small black sparrows darting over the fishing boats making their way home for the day, I knew I had my answer. Why Croatia? I couldn’t think of a better reason than what laid before me.
|The entrance to our apartment on the sea – ‘Arnolongo’|
Once we had selected Rovinj as our 2013 destination, the hunt for the ideal home-away-from-home was on. After weeks of google searching and number crunching, I had found an apartment that promised to be directly on the sea, built in the 1700’s and fully refurbished, all while remaining within our budget.
The days leading up to our departure, Z had taken on the mantra “low expectations, low expectations” and I found myself repeating these words in my head as we met Karmen, our Landlord. I held my breath as Karmen turned the key in the lock.
The door swung open and we entered a cozy living space, a large dining table and kitchen making up the perfectly adorable room. Karmen unlatched the heavy wooden shutters covering three large windows and they swung open, the sun pouring in. And there it was – the Adriatic Sea. Just as promised. I felt myself finally, finally relax. It was perfect.
|Our street – a straight shot from our front door to the daily market|
I was joined by a lively cast of characters for this Balkan adventure. Our foodie-friends Benton and Maggie made the trek with us, having found that we were kindred spirits in travel during our time in Barcelona the year prior.
My sister met us in Rovinj as well, declaring Croatia a much more appealing locale for her triathlon training than cool and rainy Edinburgh, Scotland, where she currently makes her home. Dusk was just beginning to take hold of the city when we settled into our apartment that first night and we all made a quick show of showering and moving on to dinner, afraid of resting too much and allowing jet lag to rear it’s ugly head.
We had reservations at La Puntulina, a restaurant suspended over the water and known for it’s fresh-off-the-boat seafood. We were all a bit travel-weary and La Puntulina was only a few blissful steps from our apartment. We feasted that night, nourishing ourselves with shrimp, marinated anchovies, smoked salmon and the most succulent and tender stewed octopus you could ever imagine.
I had been most looking forward to trying the traditional pasta of Istria, fresh dough that has been rolled into small logs, slightly thick and undeniably handmade. Tossed with a scampi and fresh tomato sauce, I felt content. We took the short walk home slowly and bid goodnight, the windows open and the light lapping of the Adriatic against the stone wall rocking us to sleep.
Morning came and it was time to see Rovinj and gain our lay of the land. The daily market was a must see for me, for obvious reasons, and we started there, Z armed with a walking guide to the Old Town.
|The daily market in Rovinj|
|The shops of Rovinj|
|The beach, Rovinj-style|
|Our porch-paradise (and a furry new friend who joined us for the sunset)|
|Yoga & TRX on the porch|
|Our omelet with truffles, garlic scapes, squash blossoms and rocket|
|Dinner in Rovinj a la The Farmer and The Foodie|
|The first amuse-bouche at Monte|
|Semicrudo of tuna, scampi & grilled pilgrim scallop with pancetta, apple and rosemary|
|Chocolate sponge cake with fennel ice cream and white chocolate|
|One last sunset in Rovinj|
We did venture outside of Rovinj on two separate occasions, going on a truffle hunt one day and sampling the delicate and delicious wines of Istria the next.