Here is another part of the trip that went off without a hitch. I use Expedia a lot–I just graduated to an Expedia+ account. But when I booked the Enterprise rental car through Expedia for 11 days for $487.09 I was pretty sure there was going to be some problem. In March we rented a car for 10 days in Hawaii and it was a true beater and cost $751.15. So really, Europe, I thought–how are you going to give me a better car and a better deal?
We arrived at the airport and had a short wait in line, then walked out to pick up the vehicle. Oh my gosh. What an adorable, clean, brand new, 4-door Audi A1. Color me surprised. The only small problem was that the hatch was just a touch too tiny for our two 22″ rollers and small back packs. We had hoped to be able to put everything away out of sight. We threw our backpacks into the back seat instead. We got in, set the GPS to the ferry dock in Ancona, and hit the road.
The drive from Venice to Bologna looked like Ohio. Maybe I always think that. Rows of corn, farmhouses. The only thing missing, said John, were the evangelical “Jesus Saves” billboards. Perhaps in the land of the Pope there’s no need to advertise. We were making great time so we decided to stop for lunch by the sea.
Before leaving the states I pre-ordered an 800 MB data plan on AT&T for my iPhone (it was worth every penny of the $120), so I hopped onto my TripAdvisor app and found a restaurant I wanted to try, Ristorante Guido, and we headed into a town. While we navigated into a parking spot, I was salivating over the delicious looking photos of innovative dishes. But when we walked up, the restaurant was closed. We never found out why, since it said they were usually open for lunch. We wandered in through the town and found a sidewalk cafe off the grid. At first I was disappointed we weren’t getting our fancy gourmet seaside meal. However, I’m so glad we had the experience of eating at a little local joint. And when I reflect, this yummy meal was one of the most delicious of the trip. It confirmed my suspicion that it is hard to find a bad meal in Italy.
We arrived at the ferry dock and this was the part John was most nervous about. I had booked our passage on directferry.com. Would the line, SNAV, really have our reservation? Would we get a hassle over passports? Or about bringing a rental car on board? The answer was yes, no, no. It was efficient, easy, exciting, fun, and gorgeous! I really loved the ferry ride and spent much of it on deck taking pictures. We had a great night’s sleep and woke up in view of land. Finally! After so many years, I was finally in Croatia!
We first commented on how rugged the landscape was. How would we possibly get down the coast from Split to Dubrovnik? It was all steep mountains and craggy bays. We started out on the coastal road, found an ATM to get some Kuna, (the second of three currencies for the trip), and finally we stopped in the little seaside town of Omis for some breakfast. We parked along a river where about 50 cars were lined up.
What an adorable town! We wandered around, looked at the market, then had a delicious coffee and a cheese and cherry pastry. By the time we got back, only one other car was left and an officer was giving it a ticket! We started running towards our car to move it before he got to it, but he screamed at us so we got out our International Driver’s Licenses and he wrote us up for $100, which he said would be only $50 if we paid him right now in cash. This happens routinely when we travel in Mexico but we didn’t expect it to happen in Europe. I was disappointed that our first interaction was a bribe from a grumpy police officer.
We shook it off and found the freeway and headed south. This drive took about 4 hours. Finally we got straight to Hotel Bellevue, which I had chosen because it had a forward design, free parking, and gorgeous views. Our room was not ready, so we walked into the Old Town and had a fun lunch at Dalmatino Konoba. We really enjoyed all of our food. We had the octopus salad, the mussels, and the squid ink risotto. Perfect amount for two people and we enjoyed sharing the flavors. This was our first experience with a phenomenon we had been warned about–the harried Croatian waiter. Ours was flying solo but really moved fast! The slow service had nothing to do with attitude, as I had read it might. The waiter was friendly and kind, just terribly over-worked. Later we found it to be common to keep restaurants under-staffed.
After lunch we walked back to the hotel (about 1.5 K from the walled city) and got to our room, which had an amazing view and was large, perfectly appointed, and comfortable. We spent a little time at the private beach and in the hot tub. After a bit more rest it was time for dinner. John chose Otto Taverna, and I’m glad he did. It was a delicious meal, though again the staff was running around like mad. I had fun listening to the French family sitting next to us complaining about the service, the wine glasses (they brought white wine glasses to serve with red wine) and the medium-well steak (I like it bleu too!). We caught a cab back to the hotel and fell straight to sleep.
Water Taxi leaving Venice
Mussels in White Wine Sauce
On the beach at Rimini
Adriatic Sunset from the ferry
Our berth on the ferry
Adriatic sunrise from the ferry
Our first Croatian coffee
So delicious and worth the $50 parking ticket
Market in Omis
Our little Audi
A breif stop in Bosnia
The lobby, Bellvue Hotel
Streets in the walled city
Walking the wall
Views on our walk
Laundry on the line
Mussels in white wine sauce
Squid ink risotto
Time for dinner
Onion soup au gratin
garden salad with roasted beets, goat cheese and orange
Fish fillet with warm salad of beans and fennel and caramelized onions
house made tagliatelle
Risotto with prosciutto, arugula and pine nuts
Breakfast at Bellevue Hotel