5 tips for travelling as a couple

by Carmen Allan-Petale

Today is our first wedding anniversary.

I can’t believe it’s been a year! It’s absolutely flown by. One year ago we were saying our vows and about to leave for our sunny honeymoon in Margaret River and yet it feels like it was yesterday.

They say that the first year of marriage is the hardest but if our first 12 months are anything to go by then our marriage is going to be a breeze.

Me and Dave on our wedding day this time last year

Me and Dave on our wedding day this time last year

What do you think is the key to a successful marriage?

Some say you should live with your partner before you tie the knot to see whether you can put up with each other’s living habits.

I think this is important, but just as equally I think you need to travel with your other half to see whether you get along glued to the hip 24-7. Travelling can bring out the best and the worst in us and it’s good to check whether you both have similar travelling styles before you decide to spend the rest of your lives together. And trust me, it’ll be a true test to see just how strong your relationship is!

Dave and I travelled together a lot before we tied the knot

Dave and I travelled together a lot before we tied the knot

Dave and I have been travelling together for nearly five years now and during that time we’ve learnt a lot about how best to travel together as a couple.

So I thought I’d share my top five tips with you below.

1.      Decide on the itinerary together

It’s a good idea for both of you to get involved in planning your itinerary before your travel. Not only will this ensure you’re both happy about your plans but it’ll also get you excited about your trip.

Dave and I like to sit down and map out where we’re going and how long we’ll stay in each town before we book our accommodation.

I normally research each bed and breakfast, hotel or hostel I think would be nice to stay at but will always send Dave a link to see whether he likes it too.

2.      Compromise

Decide early on what you’re hoping to get out of the trip together. If you’re keen on laying on the beach all day but your partner would rather being hiking in the mountains make sure you’re aware about your differences so you can take it in turns to do something each of you enjoy.

Compromising is important in any marriage, travelling or not

Compromising is important in any marriage, travelling or not

Dave loves anything to do with military and war, like going to the Duxford Air Museum, but that stuff doesn’t really tickle my fancy.

If you take me to another war museum i swear I'll shoot you!

If you take me to another war museum i swear I’ll shoot you!

I prefer shopping.

So when we travel together I often agree to go to another war museum if he promises to go to the beach with me afterwards. Or he says he’ll come shopping with me if we only go into a maximum of four shops.

So compromising is important. (And not just for travelling – for any relationship to work well!)

3.      Give each other space

Spending 24 hours a day with someone can be tedious, no matter how much you love each other. Set aside some time each day to do your own thing, even if it means taking some time off to read a book or write an email.

Make sure you respect your partner’s time out as well.

You don't have to spend every waking moment together to be happy - some personal space can improve your relationship when travelling

You don’t have to spend every waking moment together to be happy – some personal space can improve your relationship when travelling

If they’re relaxing with a glass of wine and a good book, try and cease your chatter for awhile so they can take the time to truly chill out.

Sometimes this can be difficult for me, the ultimate chatterbox, but I’ve learnt to respect Dave’s space over time. Dave also likes to go for a run every now and again and while we’re on holiday and I take the time to do some writing. A good chance to have some alone time.

4.      Motivate each other

If you’re on a long trip, sometimes you can start to feel a little lazy and want to spend your whole time relaxing by the pool.

That’s fine if that’s all you want to do.

But if you went on holiday to see the sights and then can’t be bothered getting out of bed in the morning then you might regret it later.

Dave and I normally spend each night over dinner discussing what we plan to do the next day.

We also say what time we’re going to wake up in the morning and then encourage each other to get out of bed at that time. It also helps if you book an early tour or some place you need to be – that’ll help you stop being so lazy and help you to make the most of your holiday.

Motivate each other to get out of bed and go exploring

Motivate each other to get out of bed and go exploring

5.      Agree on how to handle your finances

It’s a good idea to decide who’ll be buying what before you travel. The last thing you want to have happen is for one of you to run out of money and have to ask to borrow some funds. But make sure you have more than one bank account between you and a number of bank cards. There’s been times when my bank card has been eaten by a foreign ATM and if it wasn’t for Dave’s card I would’ve been stranded.

But as a whole, Dave and I share all our finances so we’ve never really had to worry about talking about money. There have been times when I’ve earned more and times (significantly more time) that Dave’s earned more. But as Dave likes to say, ‘it all comes out in the wash!’

However, we do budget and save money ahead of a trip.

We also talk about how much money we should spend during a holiday and try as best we can to stick to it. And so far we’ve never had a debt so something must be working!

When travelling to asia, some of the best places to relax are nepal and vietnam. You can design your own holiday to Nepal and Vietnam at www.tripfuser.com.

Exploring the Swiss village of Nyon

by Carmen and Dave Allan-Petale

We spent three days in Geneva, Switzerland last week and had a great time exploring the city’s charms. But we get itchy feet, even on holiday, so we headed to the little neighbouring town of Nyon. Check out our video below – Carmen’s parents make a guest appearance!

A capital time

by David Allan-Petale

This will be the last in our series on Portugal, I promise! But seeing this is the end, perhaps it’s best to go back to where we began, the capital Lisbon. I had no idea what to expect from this fabled city and as our flight from London banked in a tight turn across its rooftops my eyes drank in the view. I saw a bridge that looked just like the Golden Gate in San Fransisco, and a statue of Jesus on a hill that was just like Christ the Redeemer. How curious.

San Fran? Rio? No…Lisbon.

The similarities to anywhere else we’d been ended as we pulled up to our guest house in the old quarter. The maze of almost impossibly tight cobbled streets was so intricate I was amazed the locals could navigate it, let alone us. But to get lost in Lisbon is no hardship. Night fell, and the beauty of the place doubled as we ambled along. The emphasis on architectural style is amazing, with painted tiles called ‘Azulejos’, mosaics, bright bougainvilleas, or just a creative lick of graffiti swirling all around. Gnarled trees shot up from the cobbles, towering above the mixed altitudes of the hilly streets.

We arrived in Lisbon on the full moon when the streets seemed to glow.

The next day dawned bright and hot so we packed a light backpack and set off to the highest point in Lisbon, the Castle of São Jorge. It was tiresome work getting up the hill because the paving stones are so slippery from the millions of feet having trodden the same path over the years. But the view was well worth the skiing practice.

Carmen on the castle’s bridge…can you spot the troll underneath?!

Inside the castle walls is a museum of relics from the Moorish occupation and Portugal’s great Age of Discovery. My eye was very attracted to the Azulejos on display and the beautifully painted decorative tiles. I think the best way to remember something is to draw it, so Carmen and I whipped out our trusty sketch pads and lead pencils and spent a little time scribbling an impression.

A good waste of time…though I can’t draw people!

Feeling a bit peckish we descended as carefully as we could and searched around for cake. Lisbon is famous for its sweet things we were determined to try something truly decadent. We took a chance and went into a little cafe in the centre of the city that looked pretty dodgy on the outside. But the facade hid real treasure, and we picked a couple of delicious mid morning treats.

Delicious decisions.

Lisbon is a very relaxed city. We ticked off all the touristy things at a slow pace and really just enjoyed walking around and looking at what we fancied. We ate out every night at brilliant local restaurants, sipped port and drank in the atmosphere. All our stresses from normal life were stripped away. It’s a great place to begin a trip through Portugal. And who knows, perhaps one day return.

Sunset on our last night in Lisbon

Eating my experiences

by David Allan-Petale

I’m a firm believer that a good book finds you. By this, I mean whenever I go into a library or a book shop I don’t look too hard; I just blur my eyes a little and see what my hands find. I’ve found some of the most influential and enjoyable books of my life this way, and the cookbook, Casa Moro, by Sam and Sam Clark snuck up on me just like this. I saw it in the corner of my vision in my local supermarket and threw it in the trolley.

The couple who wrote it run a restaurant in London, Moro, where they draw upon their love for Spanish and Muslim Mediterranean cooking. I’d just returned from a trip to Portugal, and had also been to Spain, Turkey and Morocco, loving the food in all those places. I decided to tackle four dishes from the book – serving them up in pairs over two nights.

First off the mark was Merzula Con Limon (Hake with Lemon and Bay) with a very simple Turkish chopped salad. With the fish I smashed up some garlic, bay leaves, salt, lemon juice and olive oil with our trusty pestle and mortar then rubbed the fragrant paste all over 4 thick hake steaks. I then fried the marinated fish in some butter and olive oil and added some flour and bay leaves to the pan along with 75ml white wine and 125ml fish stock. This made a lovely simmering sauce for the fish to absorb, sealing in lots of flavour.

The flour thickens the sauce so you get a tangy spread to have with the fish – scrumptious!

The salad was dead easy – just a finely chopped mix of cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, red and green peppers, coriander and parsley. I mixed in a dressing of crushed garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and black pepper, then topped the salad with Greek yoghurt diluted with some milk and painted with melted butter and chilli flakes. Yum!

My rebuttal to the claim that ‘you can’t make friends with salad.’

Next up was Lamb Mechoui with cumin and paprika salt with a side of slow cooked fennel with dill. The lamb chops were amazing – just bash up a mix of cumin seeds, sweet and hot paprika and sea salt to make a marinade which you then rub all over the meat. Brush the four marinated chops with melted butter then grill until crispy. The fennel is a great accompaniament. Just chop two bulbs into fifths and brown them in a saucepan on a high heat, turn it down and slow cook for a while, then add garlic, dill, then some water and cook until the fennel is soft.

Ridiculously good – the lamb chops served on a bed of lentils cooked in vegetable stock.

Every mouthful of these meals was like reaching deep into my memory and plucking out the sights, sounds and tastes of Spain, Morocco and Turkey. I often think that food is the best thing about travel; you remember the meals far more than the statues and paintings and buildings. Maybe it’s because eating is a shared experience that you can also enjoy for yourself. I’m glad I picked up Casa Moro, it makes me wonder what else I can cook and best of all, where else I can go.

Chewing the fat in Porto

by Carmen Allan-Petale

You might’ve seen Dave’s recent post on Coimbra and the delicious hog roast we ate at a local restaurant. When travelling through Portugal, it didn’t take long to realise that pork was the country’s speciality.

In Porto, we discovered a restaurant on the same street as our boutique hotel called Museu de Presunto, or ‘Museum of Ham’ in English.

Vintage memorabilia hanging from the bar’s ceiling inside the Museu de Presunto

Entering the bar’s restaurant was like stepping into an antique store. Toys from the ’70s and earlier periods hung from the ceiling and when seated the waiter gave us two tin cases that previously held film reels – our menu had been stuck to both sides of them.

The menus at the Museu de Presunto restaurant, which are made from old school film reel cases

After having a dinner drink on the house – custom for all diners – we were seated in the restaurant next door. Dried chorizo that was over 10 years old hung on the wall behind us as well as a a giant dried pig, strung up like a gastronomic taxidermy.

Dave asked, half-joking, whether it was still edible and the waiter said he could try a piece although it would most likely taste like dried leather. Dave didn’t take him up on the offer.

A dried leg of ham hanging on the wall at Museu de Presunto

I ordered octopus, an odd decision considering the location, but I had pigged out on pork (‘scuse the pun) for the whole week and was craving seafood.

When the dish arrived it was capsicum (peppers) and potatoes wrapped up with one giant tentacle. Judging its size, the octopus must’ve been as big as the table we were dining on before it met its fate.

The octopus dish I had – with its giant tentacle – at Museu de Presunto

Dave had a man’s meal of venison and chips, which was washed down with port and tonic – a new take on the gin and tonic for us, yet surprisingly less bitter.

I suppose the waiter was a little taken aback that we didn’t order any ham… When I asked him why the owner had decided on the theme he said simply that pork was the food of the country.

The placemats at Museu de Presunto are made from old records

When the waiter was a little boy, he was one of 24 grandchildren and his grandfather owned a vineyard where port was cultivated each year. To celebrate a successful harvest, his grandfather would let a pig loose on their farm and the children would chase it, competing with each other to catch dinner first.

Once caught, the pig was slaughtered and then the whole extended family would feast on the animal. All of the pig would be eaten, from nose to tail, and nothing would be wasted. This tradition has been passed down through many Portuguese families and explains why pigs’ trotters is such a popular dish!

Like all cultures, food is revered in Portugal and it was great to get an insight into the history behind the ham.

A cabinet displaying ecclectic objects at Museu de Presunto

The man who showed me the world

by David Allan-Petale

My grandfather, Neville Monkhouse, didn’t teach me how to fish, kick a football or do a magic trick. Instead, he showed me how to drop everything and go. I call him Parma, a family nickname, and he travelled the length and breadth of the world until well past a sensible age.

The man himself, smirking away on one of his many passports

Parma took me and my siblings along for the ride many times and he certainly had a unique way of travelling. Here are a few pearls of his curious wisdom.

What would you steal? Every city and town on any itinerary has a clutch of museums, art galleries and cathedrals to tick off the travel bucket list. Whenever Parma took me to one of these, say the Louvre in Paris, he would ask me at the end whether I would’ve stolen anything. Not that you’d actually do that, but asking this of yourself is a brilliant way of gauging whether a place moved you and making sure you’ve really taken it in. I can remember quite a few pieces that I’d serve hard time to acquire. That’s much better than the snatched glance I had of the Mona Lisa.

Imagining how I’d get away with one of the shields used by the Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae…

Poob about and get lost. The best way to see any place is to ditch the map and get deliberately lost. Parma called this ‘poobing about’. I went to Venice for the first time with Parma in 1996 and we arrived at night  and struck out in a random direction. After an hour or so of walking the dark, narrow streets we found a tiny restaurant with an outdoor oven sliding out thin slices of goat’s cheese pizza. It remains the best thing I have ever eaten, and try as we did the place was never found again.

Hopelessly lost in Portugal’s Douro Valley, Carmen and I took a left, then a right, and somehow ended up at this amazing restaurant built into an old peasant’s barn. Magic!

Look at the ceiling. One night in Venice, Parma and I chanced upon an art gallery filled with an amazing collection of religious art. I had never seen anything like it before and I became quickly engrossed. But Parma was nonplussed. He tapped me on the shoulder and barked, ‘This stuff is derivative. Look up.’ The entire ceiling was covered in perfectly restored gilt carvings, each more intricate than the last and a class above what was on the walls. Sometimes it pays to take in your entire surroundings, not just what’s directly in front of you.

The ceiling of the Barbican in London. The brutalist-designed theatre shows art exhibitions, holds concerts and screens films in its sublime building.

Starve; then splurge. Parma’s main tactic to maximise his time away and the fun he could have was to drop down to two meals a day, using the savings he made to pay for something extravagant. I drove through Scotland for two weeks with him and my sister in 1999 and we missed lunch every day; but in doing so, it allowed us to stay in a top shelf hotel on the Isle of Skye and eat three courses in its Michelin starred restaurant for two nights.If you hoard a few shekels here and there and you soon have a big pile.

Don’t plan anything. We are constantly told travel can be easy, comfortable and smooth. Parma disagreed with this in an almost masochistic way. Every now and then on one of his grand tours we’d arrive late at night in some snow-bound European train station without a hotel reservation or any idea where we could eat. But he would strike out and hunt it down, having a jolly time asking locals for advice. Sometimes Parma made us do this work for him, folding his arms like a Grand Poobah as he sat with the suitcases on some godforsaken platform. It made for an adventure, pushing us out of our comfort zones in the most direct way.

Sunset in Porto, Portugal… Carmen and I took a walk on the beach, bought some drinks and just watched. Simple pleasures are often better than packaged ones.

Parma developed Alzheimer’s and died in 2009 just after I’d moved to the UK from Australia to begin my own travel odyssey with Carmen. It was very difficult to be away from my family then, but my mother told me not to worry too much as he would have been happy with how I was living my life. The last thing he said to me before that terrible disease pushed him under the waves was ‘give them hell’. By this he meant live your life to the fullest. Following in his footsteps, I like to think I already am.

Carmen and I at Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre

Skipping class in Coimbra

by David Allan-Petale

The taxi driver who picked us up at Lisbon airport at the start of our Portugal travels gave us some friendly advice. He said: ‘Go to Algarve for the beach, Lisbon for culture, Oporto for wine and Coimbra for learning.’ Indeed.

Coimbra, in the central region known as the Beiras, hosts Portugal’s oldest university that gleams in the bright sun like a lighthouse. But it wasn’t the university’s ancient law, medicine or literature faculties that drew us to Coimbra… it’s also famous for its food.

The tranquil Mondego River flows through Coimbra, giving the locals somewhere cool to escape the burning sun

To work up an appetite, so our tasting palates were in fine order, we explored the city starting with the university at the summit of the very steep Alcavova hill.

Inside a lecture hall on the campus. The university was founded in the 1100s but the latest class of students had gone home for the holidays. They must be glad to get away from those seats, ouch!

The sun was beating down on our pasty London complexions so we decided to use the hill’s gravity on the way down to our advantage and slipped into the Jardim Botanico, an oasis of plants, trees and flowers from across the world. The largest garden of its kind in Portugal, it seemed neglected and overgrown in parts although that’s its charm.

A posy in the garden

Night fell and our tummies were rumbling. We pulled out our map and got hopelessly lost in the tight alleys and streets looking for that special place to eat. We asked a few locals for directions and finally found ourselves at be taska, a small Portuguese restaurant with a blackboard for a menu and 10 seats. Carmen and I are always searching for places where we can eat genuine local food and try something unusual. As we discovered, a ‘taska’ is a small lounge bar that serves tapas style dishes with ingredients sourced from the region’s farms.

Not nervous at all!

The time was 8pm – early for dinner by local standards – but the owners sat us down and explained the menu. We ordered a roasted chorizo, blood sausage with caramelised onions, pigs’ trotters in coriander sauce, fava beans in lard, roasted pimentos and a jug of sangria to wash it all down. Dessert was a flourless chocolate cake – very heaven!

Pigs trotters – tastes much better than it sounds.

Needless to say, the suspension on our hire car was groaning as we drove back to our guest house! We had seen so many amazing things that day and eaten such a delicious feast we were weary and didn’t see the exit on the highway was shut. Carmen is a fearless navigator though, and using a fair bit of dead reckoning she directed us back to Casa Morias in the village of Fornos, usually just ten minutes drive from the city…which this time round took one hour.

Inside Casa Morais – our extra large bed which we fell into after getting lost on the road

I needed a drink after all that stressful driving. Thankfully Casa Morais is owned by a family who make their own spirits and have a big selection of their hooch laid out for guests to sample. I tried a few and must say they were delicious, just the thing to take the edge off.

Home made spirits… a great bed and breakfast perk!

Our room was a delight with lots of storage space and a well appointed, modern bathroom. The house itself has two TV rooms and several reading rooms where guests can relax. There is also a garden and a breakfast nook where the owners serve a very generous morning meal. There’s no wi-fi in the rooms but there are lots of pamphlets and guidebooks showing what you can do in the area.

A room with a view overlooking the garden. At night we could heard church bells tolling from the village.

On our last night in Coimbra we went across the road to local restaurant Santos, which serves the region’s speciality – suckling pig (leitao). We ordered a plate to share with chips, a salad and a bottle of lip-smacking red wine. Dissecting this delicacy was the perfect way to graduate from Coimbra – Portugal’s city of learning.

Definitely a contender for my final meal on death row!

Special thanks to Casa Morais for hosting us for two nights at a discounted rate.

Ogling Obidos

by David Allan-Petale

Hit the twisting highway north from Lisbon and you’ll find yourself in a landscape a little like the mid-west region of Western Australia. The bleached yellow sunlight beats down on undulating land pocked with little settlements and green bursts of forest and scrub. There are rows and rows of towering eucalyptus trees lining the road giving off that unforgettable scent. So you could be forgiven for thinking you were Down Under. But every so often you’ll see a stark reminder that you are in Portugal; the unmistakeable silhouette of a Moorish castle perched atop a hill.

Me at the entrance of the Obidos fort

Obidos is a tiny town dominated by the fortifications built by its Islamic African rulers a frightfully long time ago. The Moors were kicked out in 1148 by a fellow named Afonso Henriques; Portugal’s first king and a living legend to this day. He restored the castle and Obidos prospered, becoming a very rich port until its river silted up and became what it is now; a well preserved town revered for its beauty.

Obidos from the town’s walls

The streets are quite tight so Carmen and I ditched our hire car near the entrance gates and set off on foot. The long stone walls stretch around the town and there is only one entrance, the Porta da Vila. We padded our way up carefully (the cobbled stones are very smooth and slippery) and made our way to the main street.

The mural at the archway you pass under to enter Obidos

Obidos is very narrow and very long with the main drag, Rua Diretia, stretching arrow-straight through the entire town. Carmen and I ran the gauntlet of shops on either side of the street which sell everything from cheap knick-knacks for unimaginative tourists to really, really expensive fine art for tourists with fat wallets.

The main street in Obidos has tourist shops lining its path

We’re neither, but quickly browsing through a few shops we found some very interesting things; my favourite was a place that sold bags, shoes and clothing made from cork (yes, the stuff that normally keeps your wine safe). We also tried a nip of cherry liqueur served in a tiny chocolate cup, something of a local delicacy.

Not a bad drop! Carmen drinking Obidos’ specialty

By this time the blazing sun was over the yard arm and we’d worked up a thirst so a cool drink at a little outdoor cafe was required. Sitting under a beautiful canopy made by a troop of ancient trees I sampled a cool Super Bock beer while Carmen sipped a fruity white wine. We pulled out our sketch books and spent half an hour or so drawing an ornate door that caught our eyes. Rested and relaxed we decided to make one last push and get up to the castle.

Sketching the side entrance to Obidos’ church

The view from the top was well worth the climb. The main building is inaccessible but we managed to find a little side street that led to a path where you can get onto the walls. The view of the town below is breathtaking, with a panorama of whitewashed houses smeared with the vivid purple flowers of bougainvillea trees. We had a marvellous time bounding along the ancient defences, imagining what it must have been like to be a poor soldier endlessly walking across the treacherous heights. There’s no safety barrier so you must keep your wits about, and when the exit came we were glad to be back on ground level.

High up on Obidos’ battlements

Obidos is a brilliant little town, with the best bits of Portugal wrapped up in a neat package. Perhaps it is a little touristy, but it retains enough character and nonchalance about its popularity to make a visit worthwhile.

Carmen admiring the view from Obidos’ walls

Regions for wine tourism

Guest post

Tasting and travelling are two enjoyable past times to have on your hobby list. Of course, many people particularly enjoy one or the other. But combining the two interests can result in some of the most fascinating and gratifying experiences of your life – and this is where wine tourism steps in.

Wine is big business. In South Africa alone, more than 250,000 people are employed either directly or indirectly in the wine industry, with wine tourism making up nearly 60,000 of these workers. In 2003, more than R16 billion was generated in the regional South African economy, thanks to wine tourism, and these stats have only grown in the past decade.

And it’s not just South Africa, wine tourism is booming from South America to South Australia. There is certainly a lot of food and drink to enjoy around the world, but specifically wine tourism is becoming a very popular type of travel, leading to tourists enjoying both beautiful locations and delicious wine.

The window to wine – mixing travelling and wine tasting is a great holiday itinerary

Sure, you can enjoy plenty of wine from all over the world just by picking it up from the nearest Marks and Spencer or local wine shop. But there’s nothing quite like enjoying a fine wine within miles of where it was created.

Here are a few specific wine tourism destinations to consider this year:

  • Tuscany, Italy – Recognised all over the world as a renowned location for vineyards and one of the most picturesque places on the planet, Tuscany is home to a number of outstanding wineries. There are so many great wines in this Italian region that it’s difficult to recommend a single one, but the Sangioveses in Tuscany are tough to beat around the world.
  • South Africa – Something of an emerging region for fine wine, South Africa can offer a refreshing variation from typical European wine locations. The country is unique and wonderful to visit for countless reasons, with much of the wine world class. In particular some of the white wines, such as Chenin Blanc, from this region are particularly renowned.
  • Rioja, Spain – This region, or really set of regions, in Spain offers a great variety of different settings and climates which makes for interesting vacations and wine tastings alike, also everyone has del rey hotel reviews on their check list before going on vacation. From dry Mediterranean areas to high altitude vineyards, Rioja will offer you a unique experience, as well as some tasty wines.
  • Napa Valley, US – The famous Californian wine region is one of the best in the world for a number of different reasons. Not only can California offer you a dynamic holiday full of any combination of beaches and cities you enjoy, there are also a number of sprawling, world-class vineyards. California has a large variety of different wines, but is perhaps most known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. You will be almost certain to find some new favourites in some of the many vineyards in this region.

Spain’s rugged landscapes are often ideal settings to grow wine

Delightful Dubrovnik

by Carmen Allan-Petale

Dubrovnik captivates you as soon as you walk over the drawbridge and through an archway within the fortress of the city walls.

Passing under the city walls into Dubrovnik is like stepping into another world

It feels as though you are stepping back in time to the Middle Ages, with its cobbled streets, absence of cars and houses built out of crumbling brick, you wish there was used cars in Lakeland near by sometimes. However, it’s much cleaner than it would’ve been back then, and this was one of the reasons why we loved it. It has just as much, if not more, charm than the picturesque cities of Paris or Venice, and is also without the dirt or the beggars.

The people are very friendly too and, unlike places like Italy or Spain where they charge you to sit down or for bread you never ordered, hospitable and willing you to have a good time.

Dubrovnik is a city unlike any other

We ate at some superb restaurants that served up non-fuss homely grub that we tucked into with delight in order to fuel us for further site-seeing. Two of our favourites were Moskar and Taj Mahal.

At Moskar we feasted on a seafood platter which cost about £30 for the two of us and consisted of mussels, prawns, linguini, white fish, sardines and more. Dave enjoyed it washed down with some local Croatian beer and I sipped on white wine.

The delicious fish platter at Moskar

Although its name suggests otherwise, Taj Mahal is actually a Bosnian restaurant and for the first time in our lives we ate Bosnian food. It was delightful, as the Bosnians seem to be big on their meats and so we had chevapis, which are like little sausages, as well as the meat stew, stuffed aubergines and a Greek salad that had its own twist – it was served with egg.

Aside from fattening yourself up at one of the many Dubrovnik restaurants, there are a lot of things to see and do in the quaint town that has a population of just 1,000 locals.

Inside the cathedral, which unlike many churches in Italy, is free to enter

We started by visiting the city walls, which are the longest city walls in Europe that are still intact. Once you are on the walls you can look down at a sea of terracotta roofs and peek into some of the gardens that run alongside the skirtings of the fortress. Although parts of the walls were destroyed when Yugoslavia seized the city in the early ‘90s, they have been rebuilt to blend seamlessly into the original fortress which was constructed between the 12th and 17th centuries.

The two of us posing on the city walls

You can walk the entire walls, which are around 2km long and as high as 25m in some parts, in about two hours although it took us longer because we stopped off for a drink at a juice bar and visited the maritime museum along the way.

The view of houses, looking out to the sea, from the city walls

The maritime museum details the city’s rich shipping history, with its golden years being during the 16th century when it rivalled Venice, and before the city’s earthquake in 1667 in which almost the entire city was destroyed and 5,000 people killed. The exhibit covers two floors and is worthwhile visiting if you purchase the Dubrovnik 24 hour card which includes entrance to most of the town’s museums for about £14.

Walking along the city walls can work up a sweat and one of the best ways to cool down is to find the hole in the walls behind the cathedral which leads to cliffs of which to jump off into the bright blue sea. We weren’t so daring and only jumped off the lowest of the rocks, while some of the local kids were climbing up the cliffs which had to have been about 15m high and catapulting themselves from there. Crazy.

The entrance to the cliffs from the city, via a hole in the city walls

Dubrovnik is both a romantic town and one that is busy in both the day and in the evenings, when clubs and jazz bars come to life with outdoor music booming across the square next to the cathedral.

Dubrovnik is just as charming at night as it during the day time

It’s a city that has something for everyone and will no doubt entrap you in its charm when you visit too.