Spring has arrived and that means – hurrah! – our first visitors have arrived. We welcomed two very old (as in long-standing!) friends last week. We’ve had many experiences with them – they were our neighbours in West Didsbury, we went to their wedding in Greece and have shared many parties and late, late nights and laughs with them. They both run their own educational companies and are super busy and in demand, and we never thought we’d be able to co-ordinate a time when we’d all be able to get together. But we did – and they have been introduced to Istria, and we *think*, from their reactions, they LOVED it!
It was touch and go whether the house would resemble a house when they arrived, because, as you may know if you read these blogs, we’re in the midst of quite a big renovation project. With a determined effort from us and our builders, the kitchen was finally fitted after five long months and although there are still little things to address, it looked pretty smart for their arrival. The downstairs bathroom was nowhere ready – as in, the floor was still to be levelled – so the door was just put back on and closed. We spent the day of their arrival cleaning, scrubbing, painting, gardening, hoovering, changing bedding etc etc – luckily, their Manchester flight did not land in Pula until 8.30pm so we had a whole day to prepare. Nothing is fully finished – it’ll be a Work in Progress for some time – but we think we did the best we could for our first visitors of 2018.
The winter weather here has been hard – freezing temperatures and heavy snows (apparently very unusual) and lots of rain (apparently not so unusual). But the onset of Spring seemed to coincide with our first guests’ arrival and we could show them Istria coming into its blooming best.
We love Rovinj. It is only about 45 minutes away, on the Adriatic coast and we visit a lot. It’s a beautiful harbour town, Venetian in style and feel, with little fishing boats and small cruisers bobbing about on the azure blue water. (Larger boats – ferries from Venice etc) – dock further out of town. The crescent shaped harbour is fringed with very cool bars and restaurants and pastel coloured houses, and up into the cobbled streets of the old town are more beautiful places to eat, drink and indulge in a bit of retail therapy. We stayed at Hotel Adriatic, as this has the real wow factor and we knew our friends would appreciate it as much as we did. This time, we had a room right up in the eaves of the hotel – a Gallery Room – with skylights and sloping ceilings. All rooms in The Adriatic, regardless of size, are designed and furnished in a similar style. Black and white tones predominate, with big bathrooms and walk-in showers. Just stunning. The hotel also supports local artists and so each room has its own artwork – in our particular Gallery Room, one of the pieces of art was a concrete lilo. Yes, I know – I’ve already broached it with our builder 😉
Rovinj is the kind of place where leisurely walks, punctuated by cooling drinks, are the order of the day, especially as the sun starts to sink into The Adriatic…
Followed by delicious food on the harbour front. The lighting in the restaurant was quite atmospheric, so my food dishes didn’t photograph too well, but I can promise you that a starter of chickpea cream and spicy prawns followed by white fish fillet and truffle sauce was utterly delicious.
We ate in a favourite – the curiously named Snack Bar Rio – but if ever there was anything that’s NOT a snack bar, it’s this restaurant. The decor is very stylish, the menu amazing, the service fantastic and the location just stunning. And, very, very reasonably priced. If you’re ever in Rovinj, don’t let the name fool you – this restaurant comes highly recommended. Although they do need a website and good old re-brand 😉
Being so close to the Slovenian border, we felt that a day and night in Ljubljana would be a treat for our visitors. This is another city we are still discovering, but have fallen in love with. Our house is in a small village in the Istrian hills and although we love the peace ad quiet it affords us, we do need the city. And Ljubljana is the perfect distance for us to get all of our city needs. We’ve stayed in a few places here, but our favourite – Vander Urban Resort – was fully booked on the night we wanted, so I took a chance with an apartment I found on Booking.com. Again, very curiously named – The Princess Castle – but the photos and description and price of this triplex apartment won me over. Located in a very old building on the main thoroughfare, just behind the buildings on the river front, the apartment is located on the top floor. No lifts in these buildings – just ancient stone stairways! But, once inside the apartment, it was cool, bright, airy and very modern – and a bonus was a view of Ljubljana Castle.
The apartment had three double bedrooms, each with an en-suite bathroom, and an additional bathroom next to the well fitted out kitchen. The living room/dining area was huge and you certainly fit eight people around the dining table. Although we only stayed one night, this apartment would be perfect for a group of friends/family who wanted a longer stay. The location was perfect too – right above the main cobbled street, full of shops, bars and restaurants and a minute’s walk away from the weeping willow fringed riverbank, again full of amazing bars and restaurants. We arrived on Friday afternoon, when the Odprta Kuhna (Open Kitchen) was in full swing. This is definitely one of the best street food markets we’ve ever been to – and even better because it supports the local food businesses in Ljubljana.
We were very lucky with the weather – hot and sunny in mid April – but we hope that this will be the norm for all of our 2018 visitors. We need to get out of that Manchester state of mind, where we expect the good weather to break at any time and the rain to set in 😉 In fact, it was so warm, that we were able to eat outside, on the banks of the river, at our favourite Indian restaurant – another bonus. Saturday was even warmer, so we took the opportunity to take the furnicular up to the castle and show our friends the sweeping views of Ljubljana and beyond to the still snowy peaks of the Julien Alps. Just stunning.
We think our friends were pretty bowled over by Ljubljana – and with sights in the city like these (from previous visits), what’s not to love about the Slovenian capital?
The next day – their last as this was a flying visit although we managed to pack in an awful lot – saw us heading back to Istria and taking in the gorgeous medieval hilltop town of Grožnjan, which is located not too far from our house. This is another renownedd Istrian destination with the wow factor…
We rounded off the visit, with a trip to our favourite local restaurant, Konoba Oprtalj. This has become a real home from home as we are now treated like locals – Sandro, the owner always greets us with a hearty, “Hello, Neighbours!” – and we can generally guarantee that we will see someone we have got to know. A bit like our very own Folk, West Didsbury…
Practicalities for Visiting
Our friends flew from Stanstead (they are currently living down south) to Pula, a flight of under two & half hours. We’ll always pick up visitors – unless you intend to come over and do lots of travelling, there’s no point in hiring a car, as we can always visit places with you. Or, we do have a Fiat Punto, a very sturdy & reliable car, which is insured for visitors to use. The only thing we’d advise you of, is that the house will seem, when you first visit, to be quite remote. However, as we – and everyone who has visited – quickly realise, Istria is a VERY small peninsula, and you very quickly get used to where we are in relation to other places, and pretty soon a 30 minute to the supermarket doesn’t seem that long at all. Especially when the road takes you through rolling hills and vineyards. Idyllic 🙂
Dates Booked So Far…Give us a shout if you’d like to come & visit!
12th – 14th May
12th – 19th June
22nd – 24th June
28th June – 4th July
25th – 30th August
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