My least favourite job in the house used to be cleaning the oven. But about ten years ago, while arranged in a strange position scrubbing burnt bits of something, I suddenly had a thought: Did Elizabeth Taylor ever clean an oven? If so, I’ll bet it was in Dubrovnik – she loved the Adriatic – with its spectacular coastline of malachite coloured mountains running almost into the sea, red roofed towns and cities and glamorous marinas. She probably gave it the once over while wearing something entirely inappropriate adorned with some serious jewellery and heels. When she was finished, she probably strolled out onto the terrace of her villa and looked across an intensely bright blue sea dotted with elegant ships, lined with rocky coves and sandy bays. And I’ll bet she threw her Marigolds into the turquoise promise of her pool.
I don’t know if it was the toxic fumes of the oven cleaner, but this hallucination has stuck in my mind ever since and now I can’t clean the oven without dreaming of the Adriatic. Sometimes I’m Elizabeth Taylor planning what to take onto my yacht for a private beach picnic, and sometimes I’m just myself. But a glorious view of the Adriatic is always waiting just outside for me, as soon as I’ve cleaned that last corner…
Make the Dream a Reality!
The Hotel Azimut has views that match many of my Adriatic daydreams. Overlooking the bay of Sveti Stefan, this collection of 17 rooms, suites and apartments is on a quiet street around five minutes stroll from the beach and its handful of decent restaurants. This is the place I dream of coming to escape reality. Everything is neutral, peaceful and spotless and the service is warm and unobtrusive. There’s a beautiful pool and a new spa, bright foliage and views from unexpected places. Here I can really relax. And at around £100 per night it’s an easy enough dream to make a reality of.
When I’m dreaming of emulating Elizabeth Taylor, the Villa Orsula instantly comes to mind. This traditional Adriatic villa has lush gardens leading down to a private beach, and a renowned chef who serves beautiful food on terraces with views of the bay and the islands. With just eleven rooms you’re hardly sharing with anyone and it’s easy to imagine this whole villa is yours. Maybe on loan for a wealthy local admirer who knows you love Dubrovnik. This is one of my most expensive daydreams with rooms starting from around £540 per night, but sometimes you just have to daydream big.
The Hotel Per Astra is romantic and opulent, and has spectacular views over the Bay of Kotor. There are just eleven rooms and suites plus an excellent restaurant and a top of the range spa. You could definitely play the pampered glamour puss here with the bonus that rooms start from around £140 per night.
If your dreams have a rustic edge the Hotel Balatura in Tribalj will be an amazing find. While it looks entirely traditional and authentic inside and out, this renovated farmhouse has actually been carefully restored, with the addition of modern comforts – but in a way that you don’t notice – hint: the TVs are hidden behind paintings. A peaceful rural idyll, this ten room hotel is the kind of place where you’re made to feel like a family guest – maybe one who’s writing a novel, or escaping their life of fame, or whatever your daydream might be. Rooms start from around £70 per night.
There’s one daydream I’ve very firmly added to my bucket list, and that’s to become a reasonably accomplished sailor. When I am I shall return to Palmizana , a colourful retreat on the island of Sveti Klement – which is a water taxi from Hvar ‘The Jewel of the Dalmatian Coast’. The accommodation is in a magical collection of stone mini-villas with water views and private terraces. There are two very good Mediterranean restaurants and everything here just feels that bit more colourful and vibrant. And around £100 per night isn’t much to pay for that.
Most of the hotels on my daydream list are fairly close to Dubrovnik, which you can fly to from Gatwick. In summer, flights run from a number of other British airports as well. Or you could arrive by cruise ship, or sail here yourself. From Dubrovnik the best way to get into Montenegro is by hire car or boat. The route is easy, but in summer the border crossing might require a bit of a wait. Buses are available too.
Tribalj, my choice for a farmhouse daydream, is best reached by car from Zagreb. BA and Croatian Airlines fly to Zagreb from Heathrow and Monarch flies from Gatwick and Manchester airports.
This part of the Adriatic gets plenty of sunshine, but it’s not too hot. Even in the middle of summer maximum average temperatures are under 30°C. In August the water temperature is about 25°C too. In May and June average maximum temperatures are between 21°C and 25°C, and September and October are similar. There are plenty of reasons to travel to the Adriatic in spring, or over Christmas, but November is probably best avoided unless you like rain.
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