2018 - Dalmatian Isles, Croatia & Slovenia
This was a big trip with a lot of neat things to see, but I know you are probably wondering when this website tour will ever end.   Not until we've
wrapped  things up with our time in Venice! The canals, the shops! the St. Mark's Cathedral square! All magnificentand so much fun.  The ITALY tour's
webpage will have more on Venice, but here's a taste.  We spent our final 2 days here before catching a train to Rome to begin our other tour.
Next, we continued north by bus to the seaside city of Opatija, up near the north end of the Adriatic.  It was highly prized as a summer getaway for the
House of Habsburg, of Austria.  Anyway what a wonderful city, known as the "Riviera of the Adriatic".  The streets and parks plus the water views are
stunning. I stayed in town and strolled, browsed, relaxed and ate while Ed headed out on an optional tour with the group to visit Pula, the largest city in
Istria County and home to an ancient Roman amphitheater and other notable remains.  Pics below of the seaide area of Opatija.
As mentioned above the Plitvice Lakes National Park was high on our list of places to tour in Croatia.  It involved a fair amount of walking but was
totally worth it.  It was a Sunday when we toured, and they don't restrict entry to a certain number of people, so it was very crowded with ppl from all
over the world.  

The trails and boardwalks were mobbed but the lakes and waterfalls were just wonderful, a real stunner.  FYI, I purchased a small folding tripod stool
for use on this trip and it came in really handy this day as well as our touring in Italy. Not very expensive, lightweight and packable.
September 1 - 14, 2018
From the left, the view looking seaward out over the salt water pool at our hotel, the Grand Villa Argentina, a beautiful and luxurious resort hotel.  The
cruise ship/mega-yacht was one of several that anchored out during our 3 night stay.  Far right, the view looking back towards "Old Town"Dubrovnik
from our hotel across the public beach area.
Dubrovnik is known for its distinctive Old Town, which
is encircled by massive limestone walls, completed in
the 16th century. We toured it one morning and
enjoyed the beautiful Franciscan Monastery as well as  
walking inside the old town with it's pedestrian area
filled with shops and restaurants.  You can tell it's a
pretty popular tourist destination. A lot of sights to see,
a beautiful Franciscan Monastery, the fort, lots of
alleyways with LOTS of steps!

While I had a great massage at the Grand Villa
Argentina  Ed went to hike up the Old Town walls and
take the cable car up to the top.  Later that evening we
went to the hotel restaurant for a fabulous dinner

One of the things that was nice about this tour was that
there was plenty of
."on your own" time to use
however you saw fit.
Hello Croatia!  And now for something completely different, a trip to the Dalmatian Isles, resting
in the beautiful Adriatic Sea off the coast of Croatia.   In addition, a trip up mainland Croatia plus
Slovenia and ending in Venice.  We had such a great experience last year with our Gate1 river
cruise that we decided to book them again for this tour. We couldn't speak more highly of this
trip.  So much to see and do and with a tour manager like Peter everything rolled along smoothly
from start to finish.  What a pleasure!

We flew into Dubrovnik, Croatia which is located in the southern part of the country.  A very old
city with an interesting past.  Too lengthy to get into right now but check it out on wiki
sometime.  We were met by the very personable Tour Manager
PETER who was absolutely
fantastic from start to finish.  A Serbian, he was funny, knowledgeable, organized, well-spoken
and well-travelled, in other words a real gem.
We had another stunning beach front hotel in Korcula just strides away from the outdoor promenade cliff side by the sea. Relaxed at a
table and had a delicious salad, local olives, garlic bread and wonderful wine for a light bite of dinner while people watching.
The next morning we headed by bus north up the coast to catch a ferry to the island of Korcula, a beautiful and
laid-back island.  These top shots below are from the drive up which made for some good touring.
Next up, after a deluxe champagne breakfast, we headed back over to the mainland to meet back up with our driver Ivan and our bus so we might travel
farther northward to catch another ferry to the island Hvar.  From the ferry terminal, at the eastern tip of the island, we traversed the entire island
westward to get to the harbor town of Hvar.  The roads were very narrow, some without any shoulders, and our driver Ivan was masterful in his driving.

Hvar had a real Monte Carlo feel, lots of mega-yachts anchored well out of the harbor, but also plenty of mid-range yachts moored quayside right in the
harbor. Tons of tourists travel back and forth by ferry to the surrounding islands for a day at the beach, returning at night for dinner and much revelry
until the wee hours.  Made for great people watching and the yachts, eye candy while strolling about.
Swanky suite harborside in Hvar!
Ed and I toured a Franciscan Monastery museum, seen below left as we approach, which housed a large painting circa mid-1500's. In addition, there are
many ceramic pieces salvaged from the Adriatic by fishermen and other contributors, plus various coinage from the region.  In the courtyard is a 500 yr
old Cypress tree, reportedly one of the oldest in Croatia.  
Stopped in a courtyard restaurant for a shared bite of pesto linguini, broiled scallops and a salad.  Far right was our evening venue for dinner
with the tour group, quite a treat!  Featured live music and a gorgeous sunset.  Our group (21 ppl) was very congenial and we enjoyed good
conversation with everyone.
Before heading up to the Plitvice Lakes Natl Park area in Croatia, one of the BIG draws for us, we made a short stop at the central market in Split.  It
was early yet, so many stalls were just opening up, but I got to enjoy the lovely flower stalls! Beautiful and reasonable prices too!  I skipped the
walking tour of Split the day before in favor of saving my feet for the Plitvice Lakes trek but the group enjoyed the tour.
 
My pictures really don't do it justice but it was really beautiful and we enjoyed trekking around very much.
We continued north by bus to the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, after an uneventful border crossing - YAY, another stamp in the old passport, haha.  
Ljubljana is an impressive city, we would definitely go back for another visit. Like many countries in Europe, it was quite clean with little to no litter or
graffiti. One thing that I loved about the area were the apple and pear trees just growing everywhere, particularly up in the region of the Julian Alps,
where the landscape was gorgeous.  In town, we stayed at the Grand Union Hotel which was exquisite and offered a fabulous buffet breakfast (my most
important meal BTW). Pics below again.
After a fun and informative walking tour with Peter, our fantastic tour manager, we had lunch in the town square then sampled and bought some of the
local honey, fig and blueberry liquor.  Lots of beautiful buildings and sights to see.   Some samples above, the usual hilltop watch tower, my
fascination with flowers and (I've never seen one before) a fresh milk vending machine!  Very cool!  That evening we had a superb filet mignon dinner
with all the trimmings, in an intimate restaurant just a few minutes walk from our hotel. Wonderful evening, great food and fun fellowship!
A drive up the road (west) from Ljubljana took us to the Julian Alps region, elevations around 9000 ft, where we toured Lake Bled and the castle. A
gondola-like boat and "poler" took us to the castle where we climbed 99 steps to get up to the main building where the museum was housed.  
Stunning views, of course.  Pictures from the lakeside near the bottom.
After all the steps at the castle we stopped off in Bohinj for a small foot-cooling in the pretty river.  A few kayakers and paddle boarders were around
too.  On our way back to the hotel in Ljubljana we had a very nice lunch at a rural, family-owned restaurant (sorry no pics), then stopped off for a tour of a
cheese factory in a small, agricultural town.  They grazed the sheep in stages up the mountainside as the summer progressed, making cheese along the
way to preserve the milk.  Eventually they setup a milk/cheese co-op with a bonified cheesemaker to handle the processing and ensure good quality
cheese as a result.  Cheese tasting follwed the tour where we sampled cheese reminiscent of gruyere and pecorino. Very inventive and interesting.
St. Mark's Cathedral Square was amazing - just look at the scale!  No pictures allowed inside the
cathedral but the mosaics were extraordinary and beautiful.  Marble of all kinds/colors on the floors in
intricate patterns and gold-infused glass mosaics on the walls and ceilings.  They say it took 30 years
just to do the ceilings.  Below Murano glass and a dress shop window. Crowded but fabulous.
A shot of our group and Peter photo-bombing it - Everyone
was really great, we made a lot of friends on this trip.  Thank
you Peter and take care everybody!!
Not my picture but a good shot of the river that runs through Ljubljana, with
one of it's several bridges. This is the Triple Bridge near Congress Square.
The Roman Emperor Diocletian build his retirement palace
and garrison
in Split, (rather than Italy) taking up about 1/2 of
the old town.
Croatia is gorgeous.

Not my picture.
A shot of Peter, our tour director and Ivan, our intrepid
driver the evening we had our sunset dinner in Hvar.