After our enormous lunch in Ragusa, we had to drive about two and half hours to get to Agrigento. Some of what we drove through was extremely picturesque. Think hills covered with lovely meadows. But the Sicilians have a trash problem. We aren’t talking about the occasional bit of litter, we’re talking “Honey, can you take the trash out?…Thanks babe, and while your at it, drive it out to a lovely country road, throw it out the window, hide the car and wait and see what humans or animals eventually come along, rip the bag open and randomly distribute the contents along side of the road. What’s that? Well I love you more.”
We were going to just go straight to our country inn (with pool!) to cool down and relax after a long day. The whole point in coming to the area was to see the Greek temples at Agrigento, but we thought we could see them the next morning before heading to Palermo. But as we drove to the hotel, we literally came across the Valley of the Temples site and it seemed silly to go past it only to have to back track the next day to see it. Plus it turns out that visiting in the early evening is a great time to see it, not just because of the nice light and cool breezes, but because there were hardly any people there.
[Somehow I forgot to publish this post about Siracusa which was our first stop in Sicily. This happened the day before that amazing lunch we had in Ragusa.]
Siracusa is a bustling, charming city on the southeastern coast of Sicily. I failed to take any pictures of its relationship to the ocean, but trust me it’s there. The ship stayed in port for three days, but we left it after one night and headed inland to see some Greek temples and then the day after that made our way to Palermo.
After one night on the ship in Siracusa we disembarked and barked our way to Europcar where we picked up our Alfa Romeo Giula. Our goal for the day was to make it to Agrigento about three and half hours by the scenic route. But before we went there we had lunch reservations at Ristorante Duomo. It was a place John had come across online before we left the U.S. It was too close to Siracusa to make it our stop for the night so we had to make it lunch. A tad bit tired of fancy food by this point in the trip, I gladly would have cancelled the reservation in favor of something much more rustic. Thank God we didn’t. I would have missed one of the best meals of my life. The drive to Ragusa was uneventful and finding parking there in a brand new municipal garage was pretty easy as well. But then again the garage was not exactly next to the restaurant. We had about 30 minutes to walk on, yes, another hot day. The walk to the Ibla part of Ragusa was scenic and happily we found an outdoor table at a cafe with a lovely strong breeze to cool us down before making our way to the restaurant.
I didn’t know that the restaurant was a 2-star Michelin establishment until I went to the bathroom about halfway through our extensive meal. Although we were tidy, we had on shorts and sneakers and I would have been a little self conscious about that. However, despite the formal appearance of the staff and the elegance of the dining room, we were made to feel right at home. They even brought a little stool on which I could place my messenger bag. The interior was sophisticated and chic and we decided on the tasting menu. I think they told us it would be seven to nine courses, but we literally lost track and left the place feeling stuffed and very happy.
Old town Dubrovnik was such a visually stunning town. Easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. And it got even nicer as evening fell and the tour buses began to leave. (I’ve never seen an episode of Game of Thrones in my life but the hordes of tourists in Dubrovnik certainly have and every tour guide we overheard seemed to be talking about it.)
While we were there we picked up our picnic that we had arranged ahead of time with Alexandra at Piknik Dubrovnik. It was full of delicious, carefully packed, local food and wine that provided the perfect repast when we took the ferry out to the island of Lokrum.
And more pictures of the old town. Couldn’t get enough of it.
It’s quite a surprise to wake up in the morning to find that someone has placed mountains outside your window. Makarska is a lovely little town with a spectacular setting but it wasn’t as interesting as Hvar. And like other stops on our trip, it was hot. Granted, there were amazing breezes that were refreshing if one was sitting in the shade, but overall it did put limitations on our interest in exploring. We did take one very pleasant walk through the park just opposite the harbor on a hook of land that fronts the ocean. However, after a day of sweaty sightseeing, one bad meal, and being in town as Croatia was gearing up to win their World Cup match against Nigeria, we decided to spend our second day in Makarska on the ship reading, puzzling, pooling, eating, and watching the scenery change as the anchored ship drifted into different positions throughout the day.
Hvar was a magical place. We were there for about two and half days. I did a guided walking tour on the first afternoon while John took a sunset photography tour/class. (The better pictures below of details are likely the result of his camera.) For a day and a half we had been hot as heck and surrounded by the aquamarine gorgeousness of the Adriatic, but unable to actually get in. On our final afternoon we were desperate to get into the water and we made it our mission to do so. It was amazing. Very refreshingly cool and quite salty. Turns out the Adriatic is a very floaty.
We also visited a lavender farm and Stari Grad (Old Town)
Our first port of call after Venice, and our first time in Croatia, was the city of Rijeka–Croatia’s third largest. Rijeka itself had some great old Belle Epoque-era architecture, of which we took no pictures. I think it would have been an interesting place to explore but once again the heat did us in. And let me say something about that heat. We get hotter in DC but we also don’t go traipsing around the city taking pictures. Plus the sun in Croatia felt particularly strong. Maybe all the haze we get in humid Washington dulls the fierceness of the sun. In Croatia we felt like ants under a magnifying glass.
We took an organized tour to Mošćenice and Opatija. The former was a tiny little village where we were able to take a picturesque photo or two and the latter was a rather upscale resort town but didn’t really lend itself to an organized tour. Our tour guides seem to have nothing interesting to say. I know that can’t be true but I found myself so bored. And I like boring things. I think part of the problem was that I had taken a preventative Dramamine (which I didn’t need) so I was sleepy and hot. In Opatija, John and I left the tour group and sat ourselves at a shady table on a beautiful hotel terrace and had ourselves giant ice creams.
When we got back to the ship we headed straight for the pool and a cocktail or two before cleaning up to go to dinner at Kukuriku in the charming nearby village of Kastav. When we arrived a grade school graduation was just wrapping up so the square in front of the restaurant was buzzing with local life.