Our European Escapes team have been busy scouring this rich continent for brand new destinations for 2012.
Anne and Vicky recently traveled to Dubrovnik to check out whether this iconic city really lives up to its title “Pearl of the Mediterranean” before journeying further south into Montenegro to see Aman’s new island icon.
Leaving a very autumnal England in late September we were greeted by bright sunshine and 30 degree heat. It became instantly obvious that this is the perfect destination for some late summer sun and only within a two and a half hour hop!
After being picked up from the airport and whisked along the mountain road we caught our first glimpse of Dubrovnik old town surrounded by sparkling sea, it truly was a beautiful sight.
Our first stay was at Villa Dubrovnik, a cool, stylish and hip hotel which opened very recently. I instantly fell in love with the understated, minimal design in cool, neutral colors which accentuates the azure seas and deep blue skies you are greeted with from every window.
The hotel has a laid back, relaxed vibe – so perfect for just relaxing in the sunshine and ideally located if you fancy sampling the cultural delights Dubrovnik has to offer.
The tourists and cruise ship passengers vacate the old town in the mid afternoon, so this is an ideal time to visit. We made our voyage by Villa Dubrovnik’s complimentary boat which is a fantastic way to travel. Our private guide met us at the port and we commenced our tour of this fascinating town rich with history and many cultural influences.
Our guide was in her twenties so had lived through the recent war and recalled the inhabitants horror when the Old Town was struck. Walking along the marble streets you notice the scars made by the schrapnel and she pointed out the buildings that had to be repaired and re-built.
The town now has a vibrant, cosmopolitan feel. I was charmed by the small cobbled streets overflowing with restaurants and little shops selling local lace and artifacts.
We delighted in an impromptu musical performance by a local youth orchestra, also enjoyed by locals in the pavement cafes. The many festivals throughout the year here mean that the town is always buzzing with music, theatre and joie de vivre.
Our day was not complete without soaking up the sunset with a cocktail back at Villa Dubrovnik’s Sky bar – very cool and the evening breeze was a welcome respite from the day’s heat.
Having slept extremely well, we commenced the second part of our trip. We couldn’t come to Croatia without venturing over to it’s neighboring country – Montenegro. Our journey took just two and a half hours following the coastal road, which was very straightforward. Montenegro is beautiful and home to so much natural beauty from sapphire waters, clear lakes to fast rivers and rugged peak mountains. This makes it a great year round destination with walking and watersports in the summer and alpine skiing and activities in the winter.
Our home for the next night was on the island of Sveti Stefan one of the most iconic islands in Montenegro. Aman Resorts have recently taken ownership of the island and have sympathetically restored the 15th century fisherman’s cottages to make the ultimate in luxury accomodation. Not only on the island itself, the resort spreads over a vast area which includes 3 beaches a stand alone villa and two restaurants. Next year this will include a state of the art spa, indoor pool and gym – this will promise an amazing destination in itself.
Our cottages were very different in style. Vicky’s had a more rustic, cosy feel with exposed brick and beams, whereas mine was lighter with a lovely terrace shaded by an olive tree. These two different styles highlight how the resort can work in both summer and winter. After exploring the island through the narrow cobbled streets and pretty courtyards, we accompanied the General Manager, Henry Gray to dinner at the Queen’s Seat restaurant. Situated high on a hilltop on the mainland, you get the most stunning views of the bay, and once again we were treated to a postcard sunset. We enjoyed a delicious supper of freshly caught fish simply barbequed and a mouthwatering dessert of a deconstructed brownie with a creamy foam.
Admirably, Vicky rose the next morning to a private dawn yoga session by the pool where she enjoyed watching the sun rise. We met at breakfast where our every need was attended to by the friendly, efficient staff. Feeling relaxed and smitten with this laid back island living, we reluctantly said goodbye and made our way back to the airport.