With a Croatian Cheesemonger

With a Croatian Cheesemonger

When I travel, I love being able to chat with locals. My favorite Croatian encounter was with a cheesemonger at a rest stop on our drive back to Slovenia. She told us about the beautiful National Parks in the area and about her cheese/honey she was selling. When I asked her if she’d ever been to the states, she replied “No, but I LOVE Miami ~ CSI.”

I’ve been asked for more details about our brief visit to Split:

  • Accommodations: Hotel Slavija  €156.00 per night for a two bedroom, one bath, a balcony and breakfast for three. There’s also a €1.20 per per person per stay charge. We loved the central location of the hotel and the exceptionally friendly and helpful staff.
  • Tour of Diocletian’s Palace (highly recommended)  €20 per person. Our tour was approximately two hours and we were the only ones on the tour. There’s a max of 6 people for any of the tours unless you book as a group. Book in advance through the Hotel Slavija (don’t need to stay there). All guides are licensed and Mirjana was fabulous! To book, email info@hotelslavija.hr
  • The beaches are rocky ~ water shoes are a must. We didn’t have any and ended up walking in with our flip-flops. Comical!
  • We took an afternoon boat trip to Trogir (UNESCO protected) and to Blue Lagoon (a swim/beach area). There are lots of options and also sailboats which would make the trip less bouncy. The tour companies are lined up along the harbor so you can check out which trip will suit you best. The Hotel Slavija staff can also book trips for you.
  • Driving to Split from Slovenia was easy although we did get caught in summer traffic on the way there. And keep your passport handy for the border crossing. Tolls could be paid in euros or kunas. We saw license plates from almost every EU countries and even some Non EU countries. My advice is to travel early in the day. It made a big difference on the way back to Slovenia. Once we got to Split, we parked the car and didn’t use it until we left. The hotel is in a pedestrian only area but they provided detailed instructions on where to unload our bags and then where long-term parking was (we chose the bus terminal parking).
  • Learn a few phrases in Croatian ~ it goes a long way with the locals. My daughter was so impressed that I spoke only in Croatian on the way out of the pay parking area. It was only FOUR words: Dobar Dan (Hello), Koliko? (How much?) Hvala (Thank You) but it was fun to give the language a try, limited as it was. His response to my “how much?” was “deset” which sounded a lot like diez in Spanish so it was a lucky guess when I handed him 10kn. It was fun to give the language a try and we were all smiles as we left the parking lot (the attendant included).
  • Usually, I prefer to recommend rather than warn against but I would be remiss if I didn’t warn people about the Tavern Favola. Don’t go. It’s tempting because it has a stellar location just outside the palace gates in a lovely courtyard. Unfortunately, the service was awful and the food even worse. With so few opportunities to enjoy the local cuisine, I was kicking myself for not looking up reviews on Tripadvisor or asking the hotel staff for their recommendations. Don’t make our mistake!
  • If you have specific questions not covered in the above, please leave a comment or send me a private message through facebook.
Croatian Flag, Trogir, Croatia

Croatian Flag, Trogir, Croatia

We spent an afternoon at the Blue Lagoon and on the island of Trogir. The bouncy boat ride dropped us off at the Blue Lagoon for swim and to relax on the rocky beach. It was a nice place to spend a couple of hours but it did get very crowded quickly.

Blue Lagoon, Croatia

Blue Lagoon, Croatia

Blue Lagoon rocky shore, Croatia

Blue Lagoon rocky shore, Croatia

Blue Lagoon Day Trippers

Blue Lagoon Day Trippers

After enjoying a salty swim at the Blue Lagoon, we went to the island of Trogir. It was designated as a World Heritage UNESCO site in 1997. It has a rich history which includes Greek, Roman and Venetian influences. It was settled by the Greeks in 4th-3rd century BC and then became a Roman municipality in the first century. In the early 1800s, Trogir fell under Napoleon before being conquered by the Austrians who ruled from 1814 to 1914.

St Lawrence Cathedral Bell Tower, Island of Trogir, Croatia

St Lawrence Cathedral Bell Tower, Island of Trogir, Croatia

Clock Tower, Trogir, Croatia

Clock Tower, Trogir, Croatia

Croatia became an independent country in 1991 and can boast miles and miles of gorgeous Adriatic coastline. It is part of the EU but not on the euro. Their currency is the Croatian Kuna. Croatia is NOT a part of the Schengen area agreement so passports are required when passing any of the borders in Croatia. We had to show our passports twice (two border control officers in succession) when leaving Slovenia to Croatia but only once when returning to Slovenia.

Early Morning, Split, Croatia

Early Morning, Split, Croatia

Split Harbor, Croatia

Split Harbor, Croatia

Sunset at Split Harbor, Croatia

Sunset at Split Harbor, Croatia

Our trip to Croatia was way too short and it’s already on our list to return. There’s so much to see and do in the area.

As we drove into Split, I could immediately see why Emperor Diocletian chose the Illyrian province of Rome for his retirement town when he voluntarily relinquished his reign of the Roman Empire in 305. It’s a beautiful city located on the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea.

Split Croatia Hotel Slavija
We stayed at Hotel Slavija which is located within the walls of Diocletian’s Palace. This was the view from our balcony. We loved being centrally located and walking out of our room to wander through all the alleyways.

The UNESCO designated complex is not a museum but full of shops, restaurants, bars, and apartments. There are about 3,000 people living within the palace. We took a tour with Mirijana and wandered through many of the passageways hearing about not only ancient Roman history but an update on current Croatian events, too.  It was obvious our tour guide, Mirijana has a passion for her city and history.

Diocletian Palace Alleyway

Diocletian Palace Alleyway

Jupiter's Temple, Diocletian's Palace

Jupiter’s Temple, Diocletian’s Palace

Diocletian's Palace Wall

Part of the wall in Diocletian’s Palace

Cathedral in the Diocletian's Palace

In the middle ages, the Cathedral was built around Diocletian’s mausoleum which is an interesting twist of fate since he persecuted Christians at an alarming rate.

Klapa Cambi Singers

Klapa Cambi singers ~ we came across this group of a cappella singers while on our tour. The sound and setting was spectacular!

An Archway in Diocletian's Palace

An Archway in Diocletian’s Palace

Looking out to the Adriatic sea from within the palace.

Looking out to the Adriatic sea and harbor area from the palace.

Along the promenade at sunset ~ located just outside of the Palace walls.

Along the promenade at sunset ~ located just outside of the Palace walls.

Colorado: Favorite Moment

It was three in the morning, completely dark, except for the starlight and the occasional headlamp from a Leadville 100 runner. The only sound was lake water lapping against the shore. We could see the Milky Way and my daughter saw her first shooting star. That became my favorite moment of the summer.

The Boat Ramp at Turquoise is not an official aid station but, at mile 93, it’s the last best area to offer a runner support and we were waiting to see if Jean needed anything or John wanted to bail before completing the last 7 miles.

Our early morning stay at the boat ramp lasted about 45 minutes but my daughter and I only had 10 minutes or so entirely to ourselves. Other support teams came and went. We watched as the runners came by ~ some still running very strong, while others were struggling a bit. I shined my flashlight on the trail letting them see where to continue running as Logan shouted out “Doing great, only 7 miles to go. Two hours and you’ll be under 25!”

Jean and John waved to us as they went by ~ both just wanting to complete the last 7 miles and be done. Thankfully, they didn’t stop since those few minutes would have put Jean over the 25 hours.

Oddly, I did witness cranky supporters who felt since they waited for their runner, the runner was somehow obligated to stop. To me, the best thing was when Jean DIDN’T need anything and felt well enough to continue on. I could certainly entertain myself well enough at all the aid stations ~ the beautiful scenery, people and dog watching and, most importantly, spending time with my family. And then seeing Jean strong enough to continue on at such a great pace made it all the more enjoyable.

I went back the next day to see the boat ramp and it’s a beautiful spot but at night, it’s incredible:

Boat Ramp at Turquoise Lake, Colorado

Boat Ramp at Turquoise Lake, Colorado

It’s been an amazing summer but this is the moment I cherish the most. As I see the leaves turn colors, it’s time to chase a favorite fall moment. Do you have a favorite?

On September 19 and 20, the annual feast for the eyes King Street Art Festival will be set up from Washington Street to the waterfront in Alexandria, VA. I’ve attended the outdoor art gallery four times and have enjoyed it immensely every time. The variety of artwork and the chance to speak to the creative artist makes for a very pleasant way to spend a fall day.

The festival will feature an impressive amount of paintings, large life-size sculptures, jewelry, photographs, ceramics and more. There’s something for everyone, although my taste tends to run a little higher than my bank account can afford. According to the website, this year’s event will have more $15 million in art on display. Even if you don’t purchase a one-of-a-kind art piece, I guarantee you will have fun perusing the booths.

Throughout the weekend, there will be local activities and live-music performances. Last year, I purchased a bowl at the Art League’s popular Ice Cream Bowl Fundraiser. They have about 1,000 hand-made ceramic bowls and local artisanal ice cream for sale which costs about $15 per bowl. My bowl from last year:Ice Cream Fundraiser Bowl

Alexandria’s Mobile Art Lab is celebrating its first birthday by participating at the Art Festival in a couple of ways: a disco dance party at Market Square on 19 September at 7 pm. At 9 pm, it’ll change to a “silent” disco and headphones will be available for your listening and dancing pleasure. The Mobile Art Lab will be on Royal Street near Market Square both days of the festival.

When: Saturday, 19 Sept 10am–7pm & Sunday, 20 Sept from 10am-5pm
Where: Old Town, Alexandria, VA (Start at Washington and King streets)
GPS: 480 King Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Admission: FREE
Helpful Hints:

  • Park in one of the all-day garages since you’ll probably exceed the two or three-hour street parking limit
  • Plan ahead with lunch reservations ~ it’ll be difficult to get a table between 11am and 2pm
  • If you come across artwork you like, be sure get the artist’s business card. I neglected to do that last year & have been thinking about a photograph I’ve wanted to purchase all year. Hoping the artist returns to this year’s festival.
  • Bring your patience, it’s going to be crowded ~ but worth it.

Only an hour and fifteen minute drive from Washington DC, Harpers Ferry National Park is a delightful getaway for the day, an overnighter or perhaps even a weekend. There’s lots to do and something for everyone: hiking, civil war history, river sports, fishing, shopping in the quaint town and much more.

Harpers Ferry Lower Trail We parked at the Visitors Center parking lot because the town has narrow streets and the parking is extremely limited. There’s a shuttle every 15 minutes but we walked 1.7 miles along the Lower Town trail into Harpers Ferry. There’s a sign at the start of the trail designating it as strenuous but it’s moderate to easy. The hardest part are all the steps.

Harpers Ferry Steps along the Lower Town Trail
Steps on the Lower Town Trail

Harpers Ferry Lower Town Trail on the rail
Attempting to make it more strenuous

We got to see beautiful wildlife along the way:

Butterfly at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Butterfly at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Along the Lower Town Trail, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Along the Lower Town Trail, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Harpers Ferry Black Butterfly
lack Butterfly

The Shenandoah River

Harpers Ferry Virginius Island Bent Log
Bent log on Virginius Island

Harpers Ferry Church and bookshop
Bookstore and Church on the hill as you enter Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry Ruins of Pulp factory
Pulp Factory Ruins

The town is named after Robert Harper who operated a ferry across the Potomac River beginning in 1747. By the early 1800s, the river powered the US Armory complex and the various commercial mills including two pulp mills, a flour mill, a saw mill and a cotton mill. There was also the Halls Island Rifle Factory which revolutionized manufacturing rifles by perfecting interchangeable parts.

Harpers Ferry National Park Guide
For a detailed historic talk about the famous John Brown Raid, be sure to go on one of the walking tours with a Park Service Ranger. We thoroughly enjoyed the stories he told us and certainly learned a lot about the history of Harpers Ferry. Although Brown’s raid failed, it became a symbol of Freedom and focused attention on the issue of slavery leading to the Civil War.

Colorado: On the Continental Divide

Now on the day that John Wayne died
I found myself on the continental divide
Tell me where do we go from here?
Think I’ll ride into Leadville and have a few beers
Think of “Red River”, “Liberty Valence” can’t believe
the old man’s gone”      Incommunicado  (Jimmy Buffett)

Leadville Silver Dollar Saloon 1879
As Jimmy Buffett fans, we couldn’t resist having “a few beers” in Leadville even if it wasn’t on 11 June, the day John Wayne died.

After being away from Colorado for many years, I was happy my memory of the clean, crisp air and wide open spaces didn’t fail me. We got out of Denver (altitude:5,430 ft) right after landing and made our way to Silverthorn (altitude: 8,730) for an overnighter. Coming from sea level didn’t cause any of us too much trouble although we all felt our hearts beating a little faster and any exertion (running up stairs) caused a bit of heavy breathing.

Colorado driving to Leadville
The next day we headed up to Leadville (altitude: 10,152). Our vacation rental house wouldn’t be ready until 4 pm so we stopped often and enjoyed the beautiful views as much as possible.

Colorado Continental Divide Jean Logan and Patti
Continental Divide ~ Tennessee Pass.

Every continent, except for Antarctica, has a continental divide. The North American Continental Divide divides the flow of water between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Rain or snow that drains on the east side of the Continental Divide flows toward the Atlantic Ocean and drainage to the west side flows toward the Pacific Ocean.

Colorado cabin 2
A Colorado Cabin

Colorado biker outside of leadville
Biking at 10,000 feet

Colorado Leadville Fly shop guide sign
Fly Fishing Anyone? Think “A River Runs Through It” setting

Leadville Turquoise lake Logan walking along the shoreline II
At Turquoise Lake just outside of Leadville

Leadville Sunset from rental house II
Sunset in Leadville

Leadville High Mountain Pies

If you find yourself in Leadville (or nearby), be sure to eat at High Mountain  Pies. After all my travels and more than a few pizza pies (Italy included), I can honestly say it’s the best pizza I’ve ever tasted. YUM! Now I’m on a quest to find a similar pizza in the Washington DC area. Where’s your favorite Pizza place?


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