Carnivals in the bay

I don’t think there is an actual name for where my hotel was located but it was a little bit of a bay away from the hustle and bustle of the city center.  I keep calling it a bay but maybe it’s more of a large alcove.  Regardless, it was nice and quiet as compared to the rest of the city and definitely a lot less people.

After getting out of the cable car, I started my walk back to my hotel going along the same general path I had walked earlier.  There wasn’t anything ridiculously too eventful about my walk back to my hotel. I contemplated stopping by a stand along the side of the road to get a snack but every time I passed on, they were either closed or had zero snacks so I was feeling a bit defeated.

I eventually found myself at my hotel and decided to check out what was happening at the water.  I could hear loud noises and decided to go investigate.  What did I find? A full on carnival.  Okay, maybe not a full on carnival, but there were rides and it looked like a mini fair for kids.  It was actually very impressive because it was not there the night before so they had managed to set it up quite quickly.  There was a merry go-round, a mini roller coaster, bumper cars and loud music playing.  There were even carnival games for the kids to be playing.  It was impressive and very festive.  Since I was getting back relatively later in the day, there were not a lot of people and I’m assuming it had been a bit more festive during the day. After checking out the fair, I decided to head back to the hotel and then I saw this path that went from my hotel and disappeared around a bend.

So I decided to follow it and eventually came around a curve and saw that this path led along the coastline of the bay and went quite far so I continued.  I followed the path along the back sides of hotels, through relatively abandoned areas, through some mild construction zones and then through the back parking lot of a hotel and eventually ended up at a private beach for another hotel.  This is where I decided to chill for a little bit and observe this other part of Dubrovnik.

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Overlooking Dubrovnik, Croatia

I walked back to the building at the top of the hill and wandered into the restaurant looking for some food to snack on.  I ended up getting seated a table away from the windows which was unfortunate but I could deal.  I was given a menu and promptly told that the kitchen was actually closed for the holiday season so I could either have something from the bar or the pastry counter. I looked at the options and decided up on a hot chocolate (yes, obsessed if you couldn’t tell) and a piece of chocolate cake.  Apparently I really like chocolate.

After my chocolate cake and hot chocolate arrived, one of the couples sitting by the window ended up leaving and the waiter offered me a chance to move over to the window.  It was very kind of him to think of that and I gladly took him up on the offer.

The way that the restaurant is laid out, all the tables face out over the Adriatic Sea so if you can get lucky and get a table by the window, it is definitely a few to remember and one to treasure. I have to admit that while the view was absolutely amazing, and even though it was only about 55 degrees outside, I was blazing hot sitting in the window and definitely needed to wear my sunglasses.  But otherwise, it was a great spot and I loved being able to eat my cake and look out over the city. I decided that I wanted to really enjoy my experience so I pulled out my Kindle and started reading like I was in a coffee shop back home.  It was a great little afternoon relaxation moment.

The waiter actually came over and chatted with me a bit.  He was super friendly and shared with me information about Dubrovnik, some of the history and some fun facts on the difference in the city between the holidays and their standard tourist season.  He did tell me that even though the kitchen was closed, it was better to check out Dubrovnik during the off season because I could actually get a feel for what the city was like without all the tourists.  I could actually get a chance to experience some of the characteristics that give it the quaint feel that gets lost during the main tourist season.  But, obviously don’t get him wrong because there is nothing like Dubrovnik in the summer when you can go diving and swimming in the Adriatic Sea all day long because of how warm the water is. Plus there are more food options open during the tourist season.

After finishing my cake, my hot chocolate and getting a decent amount of reading down, I finally packed up my belongings and made my way back to the cable car to make my way back down the mountain.  Realistically, I should have walked back down since the weather was so beautiful and I had literally just consumed a million calories in sugar and chocolate – but I paid for that roundtrip ticket on the tram so I was going to use it. I rode the tram back down the hill and decided that it was time to start making my way back to my side of Dubrovnik and started walking.

Morning Routines

Have I shared my morning routine before? I probably have but I have to admit that I’ve made some minor adjustments and it’s been great.  Recently I’ve seen an influx of articles posted about how to better de-stress your morning and start off on the right foot. So I thought that I’d share mine because mine seems to work for me.

I wake up at 5:45AM every week day to make sure I can get a solid hour before I make my way off to work.  My morning includes drinking a glass of water, drinking a cup of coffee to get things moving, yoga and reading.  I know it sounds like a lot to do before getting to work but it really actually calms me.  I start off my day with the obvious hygiene items but it is always followed by somewhere between 5-15 minutes of yoga stretching. It helps wake up my muscles and get my blood flowing which is great.  I make sure to drink a cup of water to help combat the fact that I didn’t consume any water for 8 hours while I was asleep.  Then I make sure to do all my skincare activities and pick out my outfit.

After getting dressed and making sure I go through my entire skincare routine, I make a cup of coffee and sit down next to the window with it open to get some fresh air and read.  It’s weird that I open my window so I can read with the fresh air but it’s nice because I keep my windows closed at night so it’s nice to get some true fresh air. Plus the mornings are brisk so it helps wake me up and prevents me from getting too comfortable.

I also make sure I read every morning before I go to work. It’s nice to read something I’m super interested in that is purely for my enjoyment instead of work related.

About 10 minutes before leaving for work, I make sure to wash my dishes so that I can have a clean sink when I get home and then I pack my bag and leave for work.

I always make sure I don’t look at emails, social media or text messages until I get to work. Sometimes, I will check to see who texted me in the morning but it’s more out of curiosity and I’ll make sure I don’t respond until I get to the office.  I do this because it makes it so that the first hour and a half to two hours of my are essentially internet free (minus Spotify).  It means that the time before work is mine and no one else’s and no one gets to distract me from getting focused and ready for work. Plus, it means that I can get to work knowing I did some self-improvement and self-focus before focusing on my job.  It’s nice to know that I have time dedicated to myself regardless of how busy work is.

Do you have any standard routines that you do?

Cable car – Dubrovnik, Croatia

If you didn’t know, there are mountains that line all of Dubrovnik separating the city from the rest of the country.  I believe that all of the coastal cities of Croatia are like this.  That being said, there is a cable car that takes you to the top of the closest mountain and you can overlook the entire city.  And when I say mountain, I mean giant mound of dirt that is larger than a standard hill but definitely not as tall as other mountains you would find so to be honest, I’m not 100% sure what to call it. Just the outside of the walls of Old Town, you can buy tickets to the cable car and take the tram up to the top of the mountain where they have essentially built a visitors center. The car costs about $14 USD and you can buy the tickets right at the entrance to the tram.

There is an alternative if you don’t wanna take the cable car.  You can walk up the mountain.  There is a path that is full of switchbacks and probably not terrible because of how long the distance is between the switchbacks so it looked like a gradual incline up to the top of the mountain.  Maybe similar to the fire roads you find in Los Angeles around those hikes.

I decided I did not want to walk because I had walked the 45 minutes into the city center and would have to walk the 45 minutes back out to my little bay so I deserved to have a cable take me up the mountain. I paid my $14USD and sat down in the waiting area until it was time to load into my cable car.

I actually ended up take the car with someone from my Montenegro tour the day before which is was funny to actually recognize someone on this excursion but I guess not that rare since we were both tourists so it makes sense that I would see him doing the same tourist things as me in a small city. We loaded into the car and it took us up to the top of the mountain.

The little cable cars that you ride are glass all around and so you can watch the mountain pass you by or you can watch the city and the rooftops start to magically appear as you make your way higher and higher above the city.  I opted to watch the city appear instead of looking at the mountain, until that is, everyone decided to come to my side of the car and we had to rebalance slightly so I moved.

We unloaded at the top of the mountain and to be honest there wasn’t much to do at that point. There were a few look out points, a few areas that you could probably hike a little bit and then a restaurant.  I opted to check out the look out point first and stood out over the entire city staring at the water, the red rooftops of Old Town and looking up and down the coastline of Dubrovnik.  To be honest, standing there by myself in the perfect weather with the light breeze, it was one of the more peaceful moments. I had the lookout area to myself for a bit there and I was able to have peace and quiet as I stood there and stared out over the city.  I was able to really see just how far I walked, or at least a good portion of it because I could see almost to edge of the main portion of Dubrovnik before the coastline takes a turn into the bay I was staying at.  The sun was reflecting off of the water, against the red roof tops of Old Town and the newer architecture just a bit more inland.  It was unreal and felt like something you would only ever really see in the movies but here it was.  Real life.  It was wonderful.

From where I was standing, I could see people trying to hike up the mountain and I knew that I had made the right decision paying the $14USD for the round trip tram ride.  It probably would have been fine to walk by down the mountain but I wasn’t really envious of the people walking up so I had zero regrets.  After taking in the sights up and down the coastline, I decided it was time to get some food so I wandered into the one building that housed the tram and the restaurant looking for a snack.

Old Town, Dubrovnik, Croatia

I decided that the first task I needed to do in Dubrovnik was go find a magnet for mom. I knew that if I didn’t do it now, I would forget to get it so I made it my first priority. So I went to find a trinket shop and found mom a magnet. I ended up finding one for my mom but it definitely wasn’t one I would have wanted to give her.  I have this thing about the magnets that I bring home.  I want them to be ones that I would proudly display on my own fridge and I want them to represent something I did or somewhere I went, not just a fake sunset photo over the skyline or something that’s drawn on. That being said, the options were incredibly limited so I settled on one and bought it. I don’t remember exactly what it was but I was less than impressed with the choice that I made.

After that, I spent the rest of my time walking through the streets of Old Town.  Even though there were significantly more tourists there than I had encountered almost anywhere else so far on this trip, Old Town was still incredibly quiet.  The thing that’s super interesting about this specific location is that there are actually quite a few people who live in Old Town and there are actually hostels that people can stay in there.  I didn’t see that anywhere else (the hostels) and so it was interesting to see people trying to pull their suitcases through the cobblestone streets.  It was also interesting to see so many “for rent” signs around the buildings. I later learned that there are actually quite a few vacancies in the homes around Old Town because they are usually booked up during the summer and people can make enough money during that time to cover the cost of their home throughout the year just in those few months.

As I wandered, I took my time checking things out because I really wanted to make sure I took it all in. I actually ended up finding this little door way in the wall along the water that you could go through and it led to the rocks just outside of the wall.  Probably not the safest place to go wandering too but I decided to check it out and see what it had to offer.  It would have been a cool little place to relax just on the outside of the Old Town walls and stare out into the Adriatic Sea but it looked like a place where people went to go drinking and litter.  There was trash every where and empty bottles littered along the rocks so I decided it wasn’t where I wanted to spend my day. So I climbed back through the tiny doorway and continued my way around Old Town.

To be honest, I could have easily finished walking through Old Town in about 20 minutes if I had only wanted to see the main sights but I decided to walk through every street, every nook and every alleyway I could find.  The streets along the wall that line the city are actually significantly higher than the rest of Old Town so you can get a really great view of the famous red roof tops with the backdrop of the Adriatic Sea.

If you find yourself in Old Town, Dubrovnik, I highly recommend taking some time to sit down on a patio of a restaurant and enjoy people watching after you walk through the town.  There really isn’t much to do there and after walking through it, eating is really the only other option you have.

I personally didn’t sit down for food because of all the smokers (I really cannot deal with it) and grabbed, yet another, hot dog and made my way outside of the city.  I decided it was time to try out the cable car ride that takes you up to the top of the mountain that overlooks Dubrovnik.

Game of Thrones – Old Town, Dubrovnik, Croatia

After walking back to Old Town, I crossed the bridge over the moat and walked through the entrance of Old Town, Dubrovnik. It was grand and beautiful, mainly because once you go through the entrance way, you actually have to go through yet another court yard before you enter into the actual mini city. They do have a wheelchair ramp if you’re wondering.

Once I entered the main section of the city, I saw that there was a giant Christmas tree in the middle of the entrance and Christmas decorations everywhere.  I, personally, love that Croatia takes its holidays so seriously.  It makes me so happy. I’m sure it was even more beautiful at night when everything was lit up but even during the day, you could imagine the wonder and the beauty that the city was sure to have with all the decorations.

I started making my way through the Old Town avoiding everything because I was on a mission to hit up all the spots on the Game of Thrones tour within the Old Town walls. So I found myself running to:

  • Pile Gate
  • Ethnographic Museum
  • The Jesuit Staircase
  • The Rector’s Palace
  • The Stradun
  • St. Dominic Street
  • Dominican Monastery
  • Ploce Gate

To be honest, I didn’t necessarily prepare myself very well to be doing the Game of Thrones tour on my own because it’s been awhile since I watched the show so while things looks familiar, I couldn’t quite place everything I was stopping by and checking out.  But I still felt pretty cool.  At the same time, I felt a little like an imposter but that’s okay. I can live with it because I got to go to Kings Landing.

I will admit that I did stand at the top of the Jesuit Staircase and walk down saying to myself “I get to keep my clothes on!” And being very pleased that no one was yelling “shame” at me as I walked down. But let’s be honest, no one was really going to do that but I still wanted to pretend that I had come out on top.

I think that if you take the actual Game of Thrones tour, people will provide more filming tidbits and I think there may be snacks and stuff involved.  All the tours I looked at were about 3-4 hours long. My personal tour took a whomping 30 minutes and it was because I was bad at finding some of the locations. In addition, I didn’t make it to all the locations that were outside of the city walls and I didn’t want to pay the entrance fee to get into the wall and climb them so that made my life a little easier.

When I was finally done with the Game of Thrones personal tour, I decided that it was time to start my own personal tour of the city itself.

One week check in

I have been at the step goal test for about a week now, or just over a week and I thought it’d be good to do a quick check in.

First off, man it is hard to make sure you hit your step goal every day unless you make it something super manageable. Don’t get me wrong 11,000 steps a day is actually super manageable for someone who is super active but as a person who has a love-love relationship with their couch and an impressive ability to fall asleep on the couch at any hour of the day – 11,000 steps a day is difficult for me. I’ve been at it for 6 days and here are my observations so far:

  • I don’t feel any different.
  • That’s a lie. I feel more pressure to hit my goal because I don’t want to fail at a goal I set for myself so I actually feel incredibly more stressed as compared to normal.
  • I am consistently checking my fitbit on a regular basis, almost compulsively to make sure I hit my goal.  It’s become a bad habit almost.
  • Physically I don’t feel any different.
  • I am drinking more water so I do feel more hydrated (does this mean that my previous bullet is a lie too? I should stop lying). But let’s be honest, I’m drinking more water so that I can be convinced to walk to the bathroom more often during the work day so I can get another 100 steps in between my desk and the bathroom.
  • I’ve found strangely creative ways to make sure I hit my step goal.  This has been a test in my creativity and my ability to justify doing strange things. I purposely put my food in the kitchen instead of the fridge my desk area so that I can walk an extra 75 steps there in the morning and at lunch.  I am actually washing my tupperware at work which, actually means I’m saving money because it’s less water for me at home. Who knew that trying to actually maintain my step goal would be saving me money?
  • Working from home stresses me out now. The first day I worked from home after setting this goal, I ended up walking laps around my tiny apartment while carrying my laptop so that I could hit my step goal. It’s a good thing my apartment is tiny and my wifi is stable. Granted, I do wish I had  bigger apartment so my laps weren’t as repetitive but this is what I did. Let’s just say it took a solid 4 hours of walking around with my laptop to hit my step goal. This is the ultimate lazy way of hitting my step goal cause I could have easily left my apartment to go for a run but I didn’t.
  • I calculate everything I’m doing in a matter of steps and will purposely go out of my way to do things so I can get my steps in.  I’ve been trying to bring my lunch to work (see bullet about the kitchen) but I will still walk with my coworkers to get their food so I can get my steps in. I will follow them around Whole Foods like a lost puppy while they get their food, provide them input on what they should eat, and then leave Whole Foods empty handed as I then go back to the office to warm up my lunch from the kitchen.
  • I am taking the stairs more often than the elevator because it means that I can get more steps in.
  • I purposely schedule my meetings on different floors so that I can justify walking further to them during the work day.
  • I am less efficient in my morning routine so that I have to do more walking before I leave for work. Yes, it’s weird but it adds an extra 10 or 15 steps which can make a difference.
  • I actually get motion sick trying to read and walk (see bullet on the laptop and walking). I don’t recommend this.

But, with all these strange habits, I am still pretty pleased with the fact that I have kept up with my step goal so far.  6 days down, let’s see how I do for the remainder of the 24.

Fort Lovrijenac, Dubrovnik

The first place that I decided that I stop by when I got to Dubrovnik was Fort Lovrijenac. It is on the outside of the Old Town walls and I thought that I might as well go there before spending the bulk of my time in Old Town. I wanted to get all of the Game of Thrones locations out of the way before I did anything else because I assumed that as more people started showing up, those specific locations would be bombarded with people because it’s Game of Thrones.

Fort Lovrijenac is a popular location for filming from my understanding.  I believe it is the location for one of the tournaments in Kings Landing and then has been the location for the Red Keep.  You actually have to pay to go into Fort Lovrijenac which is something I did not know when I showed up.

My journey to find this place was quite easy and I think I took the back way up to the fortress.  I found a sign just outside of the Old Town walls and started following them and it ended up in a tiny little bay at the base of the fort with a bunch of stairs that eventually led up to the entrance of the fort in a round about way.  The bay was absolutely adorable because it was super tiny but the water was the clearest turquoise water I’ve ever seen.  There were small rowboats there and I can definitely see it as a location for where people would be swimming and enjoying the water during the summer months. I climbed the stairs and eventually ended up at the entrance to the fortress where I paid a decent chunk of change to get in.

I know that Croatia as a whole is decently priced but man, Dubrovnik was expensive. But what I did learn is that the entrance fee for the fort gets you a discount if you wanted to climb the walls of Old Town and vice versa.  If I had a ticket for the walls, then I would have gotten a discount on the entrance fee for the fort but I had no plans to climb the walls so I let it go.

To be honest, there isn’t much to see in the fortress.  It has some good views but it took me about 10 minutes to walk through it at a snails pace and check out the views.  There aren’t a lot of things to see and it’s pretty barren.

The views of Old Town are great from the top of the fort but you can only take in so much of those views before you decide that you need to be inside of those walls and see Old Town up close and personal. After walking through the fort, covering the entire thing, I found myself at the entrance and started back down the stairs to go back to the city center.

Walking to Old Town, Dubrovnik

The next morning I woke up early, grabbed breakfast at the restaurant in my hotel. It was quite the spread of food and if you find yourself at this hotel – you will not be disappointed in the food options. They had one of the largest breakfast spreads I’ve seen in awhile, so  much so that I wasn’t entirely sure what to eat so I stuck with my standard European breakfast of meat, tomatoes and cheese.  Yes.  This is my standard breakfast when I am in Europe. Don’t judge.

After I was done with my food, I decided it was time to actually go out and see Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik was a funny location for me because for whatever reason I had no information on this city when I decided to book my trip.  All I knew was that Old Town was where Kings Landing from Game of Thrones is located. Otherwise, I had no true idea of what was there and for some reason I decided to book the most amount of days there out of my entire trip.  To be honest, I think that the flights probably dictated the reason for my “extended” stay there and looking back, I realize now that the flights coming in and out of Dubrovnik are incredibly limited during the winter. But, when I had landed in Zagreb, my Uber driver told me that I could probably see everything in Dubrovnik in about 3 hours and after that, it would be limited on things I could do.  If I had shown up during the summer, then it would have been a different story because then I could go swimming, diving, etc but winter time was not really that interesting. So I’m glad that I was able to use up one of my days going to Montenegro but it meant that I needed to find a way to fill up the last full day that I had.

As you might remember, I had actually decided not to stay in the center of the city and was relatively far away in a different bay. Luckily, it was walkable and so I started my trek to Old Town. There are small signs all along the way that tell you which direction you need to be headed and since the overall city is pretty decently laid out, it was easy to just start walking in the direction of Old Town knowing that I would hit it eventually.

Prior to leaving my hotel, I had actually marked all of the Game of Thrones locations on my Google Maps. I didn’t want to pay for a tour because I had heard that the tours are less than impressive so I decided I would make my own tour so that meant that I just need to find the locations on my own.

As I started my journey, I made my way through the neighborhoods of Dubrovnik and eventually found myself walking along the coastline of the city and it was the most beautiful thing I had seen in awhile.  The sun was shining on the Adriatic Sea and showing off just how beautiful the coast was.  As you walk along this path, it is some of the most beautiful sites I’ve seen and they’ve set up benches all along the walk so that you can stop and just stare out into the water and soak up the beauty.

The overall walk to get to Old Town is about 45 minutes from the hotel I was staying at and, it was one of the best decisions I could have made.  I was glad that I got the chance to actually see another side of Dubrovnik.  A side that is significantly quieter and full of cool architecture.  There were hardly any cars driving by when I walked by various buildings and I hardly passed anyone of my walk.  It was just me, my headphones and the structure of the city.

I eventually found myself outside of the city wall of Old Town and it was time to start my personalized Game of Thrones tour.

Montenegro bus tour, overall thoughts

After boarding the bus, we started our drive back from Budva to Dubrovnik. What’s great is that while it took us awhile to get across the Bay of Kotor because we took the road, they decided to put us on the ferry to get back which cuts down the journey to about 30 minutes. It’s not a typical ferry. It’s literally just a flat barge that opens up on both sides and cars drive on and off and it takes you across the bay.  I think they charge like 15 EURO or something like that.  I’ve been on a train on a ferry before but it still never ceases to amaze me to see something so big sitting on top of a boat just gliding through water.  I know it’s ridiculous and we know that boats can handle it but when you’re sitting that high up there in a bus staring over the edge of the boat as the bay disappears behind you, it’s fascinating.  Especially when it’s in the dark because in the middle of the bay it’s basically pure darkness except for the small lights on the barge you’re traveling on and it feels like you’re in the middle nowhere. When you get to the other side, all the cars drive off and you’re on your merry way.

After the drive back from Montenegro, we got back to Dubrovnik and I ended up boarding a smaller bus to get dropped at my hotel. It’s always awkward as a single traveler, both domestically and internationally, when you get in a vehicle and since you’re the loner you have to sit in the front seat. I get this all the time in my Lyft Line and Uber Pools, mainly because I have the worst luck and am usually the last one to get picked up for whatever reason. But I got the honor of being the last person to be dropped off after Montenegro so they put me in the front seat of the van which was awkward but whatever. It was late in the day at that point, I didn’t really care anymore. I was tired and I was more than ready to go back to my hotel and just recuperate.

One thing to remember is that I get pretty motion sick so I take the 24 hour dramamine when I travel which is the less drowsy formula.  It actually works really well for me but no matter what, there is always a period of time that I need a minimum of 15 minutes to nap. It does not matter whether I’m in the car, an airplane, a bus, or a boat and it definitely doesn’t matter that it is a less drowsy formula. I have to nap for 15 minutes and then I’m good.  Since I was traveling by myself, I didn’t necessarily feel comfortable napping on the bus so I felt weird by the time we got back to Dubrovnik.

But, back to the main point of this specific post. I want to provide some thoughts on the tour that I did.

Overall, I would highly recommend it. I found my tour through Trip Advisor which led me to Viator and they actually have quite a few different options with the partner website.  It was super easy to book, relatively cheap and an overall great deal. It was nice to be on an English speaking tour because then I could learn all the fun facts about where we were going and the fact that they pick up from your hotel is a major plus. I’m glad I didn’t need to find myself at another location to get picked up and dropped off.  The tour guide was super nice and had a lot of great recommendations for us for food and things to see.  He was super knowledgeable and the driver was great too.  It was nice to know that there was someone else who could take care of all customs stuff for us.  Obviously you need to make sure your passport allows you to get into Montenegro but it was nice to have them worry about the actual conversations with the border patrol.

Also, one thing to keep in mind – when you look at the entry requirements of Montenegro, they state that you need to register with the local police within 24 hours of arriving in Montenegro.  From my understanding, if you are staying at a hotel or an actual establishment – they will take care of that for you.  If you aren’t, make sure you do this because if you do get stopped it can cause problems. That being said, if you go via the day tour that I did where you are there for less than 24 hours – you don’t need to worry about it.  At no point in time did I need to worry about it and I believe it was because we weren’t there for more than 24 hour hours.

Overall, if you’re looking for a quick day trip to Montenegro and you find yourself in Dubrovnik, I highly recommend this tour. Just be prepared to walk up at 730AM, have some good walking shoes and maybe some snacks.