Monday, September 28, 2009

Heavenly Hvar Town

We literally left Korcula under the cover of darkness, as the one and only ferry between Korcula and Hvar departed at 6am. When I was planning this trip, my number one goal was to take advantage of all of the ferries that criss-cross the Croatian waterways. Unfortunately, the timetables are built around residents who are commuting from island to island for work, so often we had early morning departures that the Irishman felt were not conducive to his relaxation. Or whatever.

Our early start meant we were in Hvar by 7:30am, just as all of the cafes and bars were opening. We dropped off our bags at our hotel and had coffee at one, overlooking the harbor and all of the boats just coming to life. Hvar is a gorgeous little port, likened to St Tropez, with gleaming marble and sunbleached buildings. It's tiny; after our coffee we explored the hills around the main square and sussed out the swimming spots, and found that there wasn't much beyond the quayside where we were dropped off.

We then stopped back at our hotel, The Palace, to see if our room was possibly ready, and that's when we found out that our room didn't exist. Apparently, the room I selected from their online room reservation site is an oddity - only one exists - and it was already booked for the rest of the week. As nearly all of the hotels in the town are owned by one company, the hotel manager sent us around to view adequate alternative rooms (sea view with a balcony and king size bed) in their sister hotels. After about an hour and some seriously rude attitude at Riva and Amphora, we were installed in Adriana, with an amazingly soft bed and fantastic rooftop pool and sundeck. Hello, upgrade!

After that ordeal, lunch was in order and we sat quayside with a pizza while the biggest and most ridiculously opulent yacht I'd ever seen pulled in. Named "Casino Royale", I was hoping for Daniel Craig in his shorts or at least someone famous to be on board, but instead it looked like a bunch of rich Americans lacking taste.

After ogling that boat for a good half hour, we ventured up the hill to the fortress. The walk up isn't too strenuous, and it's on paved roads for the most part, so it's worth the climb. The views that reward you on top are to die for; you see out over the port, past the Pakleni islands, and over the Adriatic. The water is so blue, and the rooves lovely burnt orange... such a beautiful landscape. Once you're at the top, it was only 10kn per person for a ticket into the fortress, and there are some great exhibits of archaelogical finds brought up from the Adriatic dating back to the Roman settlements.

After the hike we had to have our requisite nap, and then a sunset swim off the boulders at the mouth of the port. We were still on high urchin alert, so we had to be super careful about entering and exiting the water, but it was absolutely amazing to be in that clear blue water every day of our holiday.

We spent the next day on one of the Pakleni island beaches. For those of you going to Hvar and planning to spend a day on one of the smaller rustic islands, definitely do it but be choosy about where you go. We asked in the tourist office for information, and they made it sound like wherever you go is great so we got on the first taxi boat we saw and headed out to sea. Unfortunately, the taxi boats take you where they want to go - you don't get an option as to which beach or which type of beach you end up at. We ended up at a pebble beach with a walk through a pine forest to another pebbly beach. The land under the water was quite hard, like it was groomed, so that wasn't so bad, but we were really looking forward to white sand. We still had a nice time (a good tip - head to the large supermarket back behind the cathedral and pack yourself a picnic lunch); it was a great day away from the crowds, with a gorgeous sea breeze and hot bright sun.

Hvar was definitely a party town though; each night we went out for dinner and as we were finishing up the kids came out to play. We didn't mind that, but we were on holiday and wanted to really relax. The pumping nightclubs weren't our scene, and we actually really liked the bar at Riva hotel - they had nice plush sofas outside and gave you blankets to cozy up with if the breeze turned chilly. It was a really nice way to end the night, and for the short time we spent in Hvar I could pretend I was completely minted and almost famous.

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