|Sunday 18th July - The Dubrovnik Diaries
Another day another run along the seaside path then a swim in the cool blue sea - so that's Neil's efforts at reducing his waistline done for the day!
We lock up the caravan and talk to nice South African couple (in an old UK registered motor home) and ask them to keep an eye on the TTC (Toughs Travels Caravan - for those of you at the back you're not keeping up!).
The journey time quoted to cover the 150 miles from Split to Dubrovnik is three and a half hours so we set off at 11.00 am for a nice drive south - COMPLETELY WRONG - after one hour we have gone 27 miles - yes that's not a mistake, 27 miles.
The road is so busy with people getting to the beach (es) and trying to squeeze into parking spaces that the traffic just stops every few minutes and then crawls along until some other person tries it again. AND this is the main road - which twists and turns and there's hardly any opportunity to pass slow traffic (locals in an ancient Fiat with all the family including mother-in-law and her fat pal, Sunday drivers, French motor homes, Dutch Caravaners - who've never heard of pulling over to let traffic past).
Now, I know Jeremy Clarkson has a thing about caravaners, and tractors, but ALL slow traffic should be REQUIRED BY LAW to pull over if a line of more than 6 vehicles builds up behind it. _ I'm sure this is a law in somewhere like California, or maybe Australia.
Anyway, back to the journey. The plan of leaving at 11.00 am was to get down to the 5 star hotel in time for a wee drinkie, a swim in the sea and then a stroll around the old town of Dubrovnik, but the slowness of the journey looks like we'll only get there for closing time. But things improve, in bits and at times we even reach 50 mph, then hallelujah a stretch at 70 mph. BUT, those nasty police are out with their Radar guns trying to catch frustrated drivers entering villages at above the 60 kph speed limit. But fortunately - and thanks to at least one local who flashed his lights at me - we avoided getting caught - this time!
AND, did you know that you have to drive from Croatia through Bosnia to get to Dubrovnik in Croatia. Seems a bit strange, that there's this little section (it's only a few kilometres) of main road that, in all sense should be Croatian - though there is probably some deep religious or political significance to it.
So we eventually arrive in Dubrovnik, but it takes a little time to find the hotel - every other one is signposted, but not ours - strange as it's supposed to be really pucka. But after asking at the Dubrovnik President Hotel where the Dubrovnik Palace Hotel was, - yes confusing - we arrive at this large stainless steel and glass structure at the end of a road - but with a local public bus standing just over the road - more of that later.
Now the problems REALLY START. Carolyn and our little bits of luggage (it's only two days) are ushered into reception by the porters whilst I'm directed to park the car in a space just 25 yards from the front door - so not busy then.
By the time I'm in reception there are some puzzled looks from the girls (three) behind the counter and we're thinking - Oh, no, they've not got our booking. But fortunately the TTC, as well as having the computer has a printer, scanner and copier (who needs an office) and we've printed out the booking confirmation - so there!
Then we are told our room is not ready as we are not logged into the computer system - don't you just love computer "systems"? - but we can go to the bar and get a drink if we wish - NOTE - not please have a drink on us - So of course, have a drink? - foolish not to!
Then 15 minutes later as we are thinking - another drink required - we are told the room is ready please come this way. WELL, we get to the room AND it's only a Standard Twin Room - not the Suite we'd booked. Yes Dear Reader a Suite, in a 5 Star Hotel - so NOT CHEAP - and we about turn and march back to reception, to some very apologetic receptionists.
Well, we eventually get to a suite -nice large lounge and good sized bedroom (not as big as at home, but umpteen times bigger than the caravan!!) - BUT, the two lounge blinds are down and at strange positions. So Neil tries to pull the cords on one then the other - BOTH STUCK SOLID, so no view - AND Dear Reader the view is special - it looks directly on to the Elafiti Islands off Dubrovnik - there will be a picture in due course.
Anyway to cut a long story short - we list 21 separate faults with our arrival and the suite - and schedule a face to face meeting with the manager the next day to air our grievances.
We have to say in defence of the Hotel and staff, that they have only been open 7 weeks and there are bound to be some teething problems, BUT we are expected to pay top dollar for the suite whilst not receiving 5 star treatment.
So, Dubrovnik as you probably know is a beautiful walled city - sadly it was badly affected by the troubles in the region - but mostly there is now little evidence of this and the tourists have returned. Nonetheless it is certainly worth the visit, a walk along the walls (about £3.00 GBP pp) is an experience and there is a photo opportunity at every step. But like Prague, etc, it would be wonderful without the tourists!!
For dinner we decide to go back to the old town and try our luck - but the first restaurant we try can't take us for 30 mins so we go to another with a terrace and have a really nice meal outdoors.
Monday 19th July
So another gorgeous day dawns and we laze around in the sun and then get the public bus into the old town - the bus is a little strange, it's the main way to get from a 5 star hotel to the town and it costs 8 kuna (about 80 pence) each way, why can't the hotel have it's own shuttle service? Going into town is OK, because you get on at the terminus and get a seat - but coming back it's REALLY crowded and you have to stand part of the way - not 5 Star!!
We walk round the walled city (a must do) and have lunch in a little square - very pleasant and then back to the hotel to confront the manager with our complaints.
So, we meet with Rupert Spurgeon (yes he's British- as the Chairman of the group of hotels that the Palace belongs to started out with the Sir Christopher Wren's House Hotel in Windsor) and we have a very courteous discussion regarding our problems. We have a fairly long chat, about 30 mins, then he offers us a compensation package that we think is more than generous. Our present stay is complimentary and we are invited back when the hotel is fully functioning for a further two day stay, again complimentary.
Now, amidst all of this we'd booked fights home through a UK agency called Hidden Croatia - but they could not get us flights from Split - so we took the ones offered from Dubrovnik. So we now ask Rupert if we can stay at the hotel the night before our flight home and the two nights after we come back and he graciously agrees.
NOW, NOTE THIS DEAR READER - the Dubrovnik Palace Hotel has a 5 star situation and the facilities, restaurants and bars will be excellent in a few weeks. We feel that the management have been very reasonable in their solution to our problems and would therefore like to recommend the hotel to you should you ever wish to stay in Dubrovnik. The hotel web site is www.dubrovnikpalace.hr we would also like to publicly thank Rupert Spurgeon for the way he handled our complaints and we are more then grateful for his compensation arrangements - Thank you Rupert.
This night we dine in the Elafiti restaurant on the outdoor terrace, and it's really good, except that the self service buffet is just average.
Tuesday 20th July
Nice day again - but sadly we have to leave and get up road. And it's hot and slow - but not as bad as on the way down. We discuss what to do about lunch, stop on the main road or go off into one of the little coastal villages for a bite to eat. We decide on the village - just to add a bit of local colour to our journey - HUH - we drive into this little village called Gradac - No Parking and Tow Away signs every where - just like being in Glasgow/ Oban or Great Yarmouth/Brighton!!
Anyway, Neil abandons the car on a hill yards from the sea front clearly in sight of a No Parking sign!! His reasoning being that it was a Tuesday lunchtime and it was unlikely that the local traffic wardens/tow away vehicle staff would be terribly interested - if it were a weekend, different story.
So, we settle down to a gourmet lunch of beer, wine and a burger with salad and a plate of pom-frit (Chips to you and I). Pretty good it was too, except Carolyn had to keep jumping up and down to see if our vehicle had been taken away - but No, it's still there!!
Back at the caravan site, the nice South African couple have been defending our territorial rights to our space by hanging out their washing on our line to make it look sort of occupied - thanks again Anne and Peter.
Wednesday 21st July
Yet another very hot day - nothing for it but to laze around and decide the strategy for going home
Thursday 22nd July
Speak to the caravan site staff and organise leaving the caravan for 10 days. Ivana is very helpful and decides that we should only pay the rate for a car (about £1.80 per day) to leave the caravan here - pretty good value we think.
Friday 23rd July
Hope to be away by 10.00am but of course it's more like 11.00 before we leave and the traffic is SLOW, but not as bad as a Sunday - and this time we know the road.
Lunch is an interesting experience - we pull into this little wayside place - only three cars outside - so not too busy!
The waiter appears, major tubby in a stained tee-shirt; we order mineral water to drink - and you can see him thinking "English peasants - non drinkers - won't make any dosh out of them!'
So then we order the food - local stuff for Neil and a Tomato Salad (only) for Carolyn - well again - no pleasantries just a gruff shrug of the shoulders and off he goes (probably to spit in our food!!)
Anyway, it tastes OK, and does not cost the earth - but gosh what a way to run a business and a restaurant!!
Then we arrive at the hotel and what a difference - we are whisked away to a larger 4 person suite with an even bigger terrace and in the room there are complimentary fruit, cookies and wine!! Just the Business!
So we have a very pleasant night and then book the alarm call.
Saturday 24th July
Alarm call at 5.30 am is a little early, but well that's what's needed for an 8.00 am flight, and our limo driver is waiting for us at reception, but he is a little perplexed when we go to our car with the luggage rather than his limo. However, once he understands things are good and we speed off to the airport.
Now, you'd expect an airport to be busy for a flight going back to the UK on a Saturday morning - but when we arrive there is hardly any activity in the car park - no cars, no buses offloading package holidaymakers.
So, panic sets in - is this the right airport, the right flight, the right day!!
But, once we are inside, there's a check in desk with the correct flight showing, and only one person in the queue in front of us. The check in person (female and of the traffic warden disposition) waves us forward and we give our passports and our print out of the e-ticket for the flights. She asks about luggage, but all we have is carry on bags, but she does not bother with the usual security questions (did you pack the bags yourself, anybody given you anything, etc). No, No and NO!
So we get out tickets but she wants to keep OUR print out of the flights and confirmation. This is an e-ticket remember, but SHE is adamant that she needs the papers. Well Neil is even more adamant that WE NEED the print out to prove we have tickets for our return to Dubrovnik - so a stand off develops - but it is resolved when it is suggested that she gets it copied and returned to us. Which she does in the departure lounge.
But as we sit there, looking out over the tarmac to the hills in the soft morning light - we realise that there is no Air Adriatic aircraft on the ground. So no plane means no flight - and it's now 30 mins before the take off time. But, as we just discuss this point an aircraft lands - nobody gets off - and we are shown on board - now this flight is not busy - about 40 souls on an aircraft that could carry 120 or so!!. We don't understand how it can be so - a Saturday in July and our flight was not expensive £99.00 GBP return per person!
But we have a nice flight and then hang around the lounge in Stansted till the flight to Edinburgh is called. But the board keeps saying "12.40 Edinburgh Wait in Lounge" - so we do - but Carolyn notices that the flight just before ours had said Wait in Lounge, then suddenly DEPARTED. So it's now 12.25, and we think Oh, S***, better go to the gate and find out. So we do, and thankfully the passengers are waiting to board - the incoming flight was a little late.
So once on board we hang around whilst the crew try and match up the passenger numbers, but they are 6 short (probably still in the Lounge looking at the Board saying "Wait in Lounge"). Then the ground staff report that a nail has been discovered in one of the tyres, and that it will have to be changed. Now, when I've got a problem with a tyre - it's off to Quick Fit, but with an aircraft - it's a little more crucial!!.
Anyway, part of the way through this process - and fortunately we had chosen to sit in row 1, just by the aircraft forward door - the cabin crew get into a bit of a stooshie about this girl who's thrown up all over the aft toilet - and then decide that she's too unwell to travel and will have to be taken off the aircraft - YES, you are ahead of the text Dear Reader - she's got a bag in the hold - and if she's coming off the aircraft - so is the bag. SO, whilst the tyre gets changed this girl is brought forward to where we are sitting and she explains to the cabin crew that she has to get to Edinburgh to then get to the Isle of Coll to do a course - NOW, those familiar with the West Coast of Scotland will realise two things (1) that getting to Coll is not just like turning up at Stansted and waiting for the next ride and (2) who would want to go to Coll to do a course and WHY???
Anyway, this poor girl is in tears and does not have any credit on her phone to call her mum in London - so Sir Galahad (aka Neil "I've got a mobile" Tough) lends his to her to make the call to mum.
During all this the 6 "lost" passengers turn up, the tyre is changed and we take off for Edinburgh 1.5 hours late!!
Well Dear Readers, the diary will now cease for a week or so, as we do not expect you will want to hear about us clearing the house and other such mundane matters, but do tune in after the end of the month when the diary will resume. And Remember;-
But pleasures are like poppies spread-
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river-
A moment white, then melts forever.
The lines are not original, but a special prize to the first person who emails us the source!!
Neil & Carolyn Tough