Island hopping in Croatia is like visiting different enchantingly beautiful women. Each island is beautiful in her own unique way. Each island has a very distinct personality, as if the island’s spirit breaths from the core of her island and intoxicates its inhabitants with her ways. As we travel from island to island, Claudia and I are the same people. However, each island evokes a different mood from us and castes her own unique spell on us.
Lokrum: The Bewitchingly Beautiful Island
Lokrum, the cursed island, is only available to receive visitors during the day. A short boat ride from the old City Harbor near the Ploce Gate in Dubrovnik, we buy our tickets from a stand in front of the boat. Lorkum rises above the sea with a sheer wall of tan colored rocks topped by a layer of green trees. The island is surrounded by rocks fitted with ladders that descend to the clear, cool Adriatic sea. From the small pier on the island, paths branch out with signs pointing to a cafe, botanical garden, beaches and the ruins of the monastery.
Claudia sitting on the Lokrum pier
Continue reading Lokrum, the Bewitchingly Beautiful Island
It is already 88 degrees in Dubrovnik and it is only 10:30 in the morning. We are standing at King’s Landing in the Old City of Dubrovnik. In front of us, workers are loading a dark brown pirate ship with explosives. They will blow the ship to smitherines in a few days as part of a historic film. Behind the ship are the towers of the wall and large jagged rocks. We are about to circumnavigate the island of Lorkum in sea kayaks with Adventure Dubrovnik.
Kayaking is a lot harder than it looks. In a few strokes, Claudia and I are in last place. Claudia is sitting in the back as the “engine” and I am in front as the captain. Kayaking takes great cooperation, something that is sometimes difficult for mothers and adult daughters to do. We glide out towards the island. The breeze from the Adriatic and the cool water splashing into the kayak finally stops the stream of sweat that has been pouring off my body for the past twenty-four hours.
Lorkum rises above the sea with a sheer wall of tan colored rocks topped by a layer of green trees. Darijo, our guide, stops us when we reach the island and tells us of its curse. The Benedict Monks had a monastary on the island. One day, Archduke Maximilian Ferdinand of Habsburg came to the island and fell in love with it. The spoiled Archduke ordered the monks to leave. On the last night, the monks walked around the island three times with their candles held upside down so that the wax dropped on the ground. They cursed the island so that anyone who acquired the island for their own personal pleasure would meet personal and financial doom. After Maximilian moved his family onto the island, he was assasinated in Mexico, his wife driven insane and his son bankrupt. Now the people believe that anyone who spends more than three nights on the island will suffer a similar fate. Today, the only creatures that live on the island are the peacocks and the bunnies. The island is covered with them as well as tourists and naked sun bathers during the day who come to visit the gardens and the ruins.
Continue reading From Sea to Sdr – 360 Degrees of Beauty in Dubrovnik
It is the hottest day of the year and we decide to ascend the steep stone stairs so we can walk the walls that surround Dubrovnik’s Old Town. It is just past one o’oclock at the hottest time of the day. It is 90 degrees Fahrenheit. At the top, the narrow walkway is almost deserted. Only a few panting tourists cling to small slivers of shade in the corners of the winding way. The heat is merciless.
From the top of the wall, the view is as spectacular as the heat is ruthless. Sweat pours down my back, soaking me shirt. Claudia’s shorts have a “v” outlined in water just below her waist. We cannot rush this promenade. Every few feet, there is a photo begging to be taken. The domes, the orange tile roofs and the grey granite stone creates new intricate puzzle piece mosaics below as the Adriatic sparkles beyond the walls. Dubrovnik is magical. Walking through the gates is like walking through a time portal.
Continue reading Heat, Heights and Heaven in Dubrovnik
A British accent just makes everyone seem so polite. It softens the jagged edges of the two-hour delay. Even when the flight attendant is telling us to get back in our seats because of the turbulence, she says very politely “Do return to your seats please.” In America, the flight attendant would have said, “What’s wrong with you? Didn’t you see the sign? Get back in your seat, now!” Well maybe not that harsh, but the tone would have been seeping with annoyance, not dripping with honey.
The flight attendants glow with pleasant expressions, their hair and make-up done up to look like 1950’s pin-up models. Their voices sooth as they drop hot towels into our outstretched hands or pull complimentary bottles of wine from their carts.
Continue reading And We Are Off – Virgin Flight on Virgin Atlantic
Finding a Croatian tutor was a challenge. Unlike more popular languages like Spanish, French or Mandarin, there are no language schools for Croatian in San Francisco. There is no Alliance Française de San Francisco or Casa Hispana were lessons and tutors abound. Rosetta Stone and Duolingo do not have a Croatian course. I look through all of the Meet Ups and cannot find one for Croatian Language Lovers. Finally, I stumble on a website, UniversityTutor.com. I fill out a questionnaire, enter my contact information and wait. In less than two days, I am contacted by Branka.
Branka and I speak on the phone and she agrees to tutor me once a week. She also graciously agrees to come to my office. At the first meeting, she arrives early. Branka is smartly dressed in a rose colored twin set and pearls, her dark hair cut short and stylish. I soon realize that Branka is brilliant. Each lesson is a mini cultural lesson filled with wonderful advice and tips for my upcoming trip to Croatia. Her zest for life and her fiery spirit make me feel like I have found a kindred spirit. Each lesson, I make notes for my upcoming trip. I have put together a list of her advice. Here are Branka’s top nine travel tips for a visit to Croatia.
Continue reading Branka the Brilliant Croatian Tutor’s Travel Advice
The Storm Clouds Gather
The storm clouds in the evening light remind me of Hawaii. As I look out the airport window, the hill to my left is lush and green from this Spring’s rain. Unusual for San Francisco where the hills are usually the color of yellow straw.
Terminal 100 is quiet. Everyone seems remarkably calm for people waiting to fly to Europe. I am so excited I want to jump up and do the happy dance in the middle of the terminal while chanting “I am going to Venice!”
It is funny how the more I travel, the more I crave it. Today, I re-did my list of places to visit. I am now up to 21. If I travel to a different destination every year, I will not finish my list until I am 65!
Claudia, my seventeen year old daughter, finally got excited today. What started as another mother-daughter trip has become darker and more urgent. “Clinical depression.” I look at the young, pretty counselor in her office at Kaiser. “Are you sure?” “Hide all your knives and your pills,” she tells me matter-of-factly as she goes through her check list on what to tell parents when their child is diagnosed with depression. “Are you serious? Even the vitamins?” My father’s ghost has come back to haunt me. It is funny. I thought my son Max was the one who brought his spirit back into the world with the same big blue eyes. But it is in Claudia where my father ‘s tragic sadness lurks.
Continue reading Lost and Found in Venice
Mangoes are falling. Branches shake in the trees high above me, moved by invisible hands. The monkeys are coming. I can hear chirps that sound like high-pitch dolphin calls. Soon a parade of monkeys jumps from tree to tree above our porch at Villa Titi. I sit frozen, afraid to even sip my coffee. I do not want to scare them away. It is early in the morning on our first day in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. I am enjoying the fresh air of the soon to be humid and hot day on the porch of our rented villa.
As if by magic, I am suddenly surrounded by monkeys. There must be at least twenty of them in the large mango tree that grows above our villa. These are the squirrel monkeys; tiny, delicate, light tan monkeys with soft white faces. My eight year old son Max has come to the door. I slowly gesture him to stop. Max stares at our tiny guests who beam at us with small intense eyes. They are so close I tingle with excitement. I have never been this close to monkeys without a fence separating us. A baby clings to its mother’s back staring back at us in wide-eyed wonder.
After a pause, the monkeys begin the business that brought them to our tree. It is breakfast time. They begin their morning routine. They seem to have forgotten us completely. They throw the mangoes down from the tree. They run down to the ground to retrieve their fallen treasures. On the ground, they take a few thoughtful test bites before they carry the mango back up into the tree. Max and I watch with silly grins on our faces. As suddenly as they arrive, as if by mutual agreement, they all leave. The shaking branches and fading chirps mark their retreat.
Continue reading The Monkeys are Coming – Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica