Archive for September, 2011

Hvar-d not to Love

It’s a bit pointless having a travel blog when you don’t travel that much, and even more pointless if, when you do travel, you forget to blog about it. In July, Madla and I went to Croatia, and it has taken me until September to write about it – Better late than never I suppose.

Hvar

We went to Hvar, an island off the Dalmatian coast. I had been there at least a couple of times before this trip. It’s a beautiful medieval Mediterranean town, with a pretty town square, a castle on the hill behind and generally attractive and unspoiled surroundings. As an added attraction there are some easily accessible islands a very short distance off the coast.

In fact, there are enough little islands that it’s literally possible to go to a different one every day of the week. This was one of the main reasons I chose Hvar as a destination for myself and a three-year-old. A different beach every day keeps boredom at bay.

But an awful lot has changed in the five years since my last visit……

I probably should have guessed that something was up when I was planning our trip. Accommodation prices on the web seemed to be much more expensive than I remembered. I know that the world has ‘discovered’ Croatia and that it had lost some of its charm as a budget destination, but some of the prices I was seeing really were eye-watering. Of course, what I didn’t realise at that point was that in the last five years, Hvar has transformed itself from a pretty seaside town into a playground for celebrities and the super rich.

Yes, it seems that Hvar is now the destination of choice for Steven Spielburg, Gwyneth Paltrow, Prince Harry, Jay-Z, Beyonce, and lots of other more anonymous, but even richer people. We were expecting Butlins, but we got Monaco instead.

Restaurant prices were prohibitive, and even buying ice creams at the beach sometimes required me to recite the famous holiday mantra under my breath: ‘we’re on holiday, so the money doesn’t matter’

Having said that, I can’t help but recommend the ‘new’ Hvar. We had an absolutely wonderful time! The town now has the sort of understated elegance that only comes from the presence of large quantities of money. Everything is spotless, everything looks beautiful, and everything works perfectly.

Our days began with a walk along the waterfront to admire the day’s offering of super-yachts, some of which were remarkable due to their massive size, others due to their frankly weird designs.

We smiled with delight at the obvious inadequacy and frustration felt by the owner of gigantic super-yacht A, when even bigger mammoth floating palace B was moored in the next berth, and to add insult to injury, blocked out all their sunshine.

After our morning inspection, we’d stop at the supermarket, buy a picnic lunch. One spin-off benefit of being surrounded by billionaires is a brilliantly stocked supermarket. In most parts of Prague it’s not easy to find Parmesan in the supermarket. In Hvar, you can choose from four different kinds.

Having stocked up the picnic basket, we would then select our destination for the day. The water taxis were the one thing that was surprisingly cheap (typically 30 – 50 kn there and back – and Madla, being a very small person, was free). There is something marvelous about motoring across crystal clear turquoise water under brilliant sunshine that’s hard to beat. For Madla, the daily boat trip was an absolute highlight too. Close up views of the hulls of the massive French Cruise ships that towered over us were an added bonus. Then,we’d get to our destination, explore, find a nice spot, swim, relax eat, swim, go for a walk, swim, and so on.

Our favourite island was Stipanska.  Some of the islands have nice sandy beaches, ideal for sand castles.  Stipanska doesn’t.  In fact it doesn’t really have a beach at all, just smooth rock shelves that angle down towards the sea.  What it does have, that made it destination number one in Madla’s book is a concrete diving platform.  She spent literally hours jumping into the water, swimming around to the stairs, climbing out, and starting the cycle again.  End result; a very happy but very tired little girl.

So in summary;  Hvar is wonderful and – provided your accommodation includes cooking facilities and a fridge – still an excellent choice for non-billionaires.

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