The sea sparkled with thousands of diamonds set on cobalt fading to sapphire. Jagged dessert sand colored rocks lined the shores where we picked our way along looking for a place to soak in the Adriatic sun. While the thought of laying out on rocks all day with nothing but a sarong seemed uninviting and definitely not our idea of relaxing into the sand as your toes dig in, the rocks were actually quite wonderful. You could find a rock shaped as a seat, one on a slight incline like a lounge chair or one where the sea constantly sprayed over you to keep you fresh and cool. Where were we? The most beautiful place I had ever been and where a month later I am longing to go back-Rovinj, Croatia.
Croatia had been on the top of my list whenever anyone asked the "where do you want to visit while you are in Europe" question. Why? Well, first of all, I had heard that it had one of the most beautiful coastlines in Europe. A coast line where Roman nobility used to escape from Italy. Why wouldn't anyone want to go to a place where the Italians escaped to? Second, I hadn't heard of hardly anyone who had been there. And selfishly I wanted to discover a place. (In fact, to be honest, I am still rather selfish about Croatia and don't want to share it, maybe I should rewrite this and make it sound miserable...) My good friend Heidi was to be my fellow adventurer and we researched and researched getting to Croatia. Finally, we settled on a plan. We would head to the northern, less popular, part, Istria. Istria is just across the Adriatic sea from Venice. I created a wish list of things to see in Rovinj and Istria from rock climbing, going to art walks, wine tasting and truffle hunting. Of course, I didn't get to do all those things but what we did do did not disappoint.
The second we walked into the center of Rovinj, with bright colored housed lining the sea-literally right up against the sea and sail boats, fishing boats and yachts lining the tiny harbor. With its slippery, dangerous cobblestones winding up to St Euphemia church crowning the village I knew I had finally arrived in the Europe I had dreamed of. The pace of life, the colors, the smells, the sound of southern European and eastern European languages mingling together and very, very little English fulfilled all my heart desired in seeking a European immersion.
Heidi and I took advantage of our time in Croatia, sunbathing, swimming in the sea so filled with salt that when you laid on your back with your arms out and face full up to the sun you needed only the tiniest flick of the wrist or foot to stay afloat, and if it wasn't for the fear of drifting out to sea one could easily fall asleep. We rode bikes through Himalayan Cedars along the coast, got caught in numerous thunderstorms, made friends with the restaurant owner over grappa, missed boats and had every experience two care free, adventurous girls could have. It was a trip we both know we will be talking about in our 80s.
After a week in Croatia we sadly crossed the sea by ferry boat. After Croatia, Venice and Verona held no charms for me. I hate to say it, I know I sound spoiled and I fully admit I am-but I was not quite as impressed as before by cathedrals and I was more annoyed than ever by throngs of tourists. Fortunately, we had booked our hotel on Lido Venice an island and what may as well have been a world away. Here we did dig our toes into the sand and swam along on the other side of the magical Adriatic. The high point of Verona (the home of Romeo and Juliet) was my first opera on the sun-warmed steps of the ancient arena. Although getting lost, eating peches with espresso and then pounding on the side of a bus to get it to stop for us was up there too.
Before we knew it, we were off the Heidi's European home, Barcelona. I loved how metropolitan and forward thinking this city was. I was truly inspired by the architecture of Gaudi. Fortunately, here too, we took in some beach time and tasted the sun and salt of the Mediterranean.
Then back to Paris. Where Heidi and I explored some parts I had yet to experience and Heidi did not once see a tourist-we visiting the Parisien's Paris.
I think its clear from this entry how truly inspiring and beautiful Croatia was. I really can't wait to go back and visit this precious discovery and I am so happy it fulfilled our dreams.
I come home in two weeks and am planning two more blog entries. I look forward to seeing you all!