Newest Review: ... when we arrived in our huge adjoining rooms, we were greeted by a beautiful, shining view of the sea from the sunny expanse of balcony. M&... more
***** The Family Friendly Pearl Of The Adriatic *****
Member Name: malibu_jenny
Date: 11/09/12, updated on 11/09/12 (48 review reads)
Advantages: Clean, friendly, beautiful, warm and all round amazing.
Disadvantages: We only had three days.
We arrived at the airport in an intense electrical storm, descending in a wobbly and turbulent Easyjet, through black cloud and flashing lightning. As the cabin collectively breathed a sigh of relief and began to unclench from the armrests, the doors to the plane opened, letting in a fug of warm air. The smartly dressed ground staff were on hand in a light smatter of rain and we disembarked quickly, to a cool clean interior and an efficient luggage carousel.
If you stand outside the airport, a bus for the equivalent of 5 euros each can take you into Dubrovnik and from there you can catch another bus to your accommodation. With a car seat, pushchair and monster suitcase in tow, it seemed both inconvenient and uneconomic to travel this way and Dad, Little Brother, M&M and I piled into a taxi. We'd left Gatwick on the 06.55 as the sun rose and we were all a little sleepy and disorientated. M&M babbled away to the driver, who asked if she was speaking Russian. We were headed along a beautiful winding cliff road to Babin Kuk, the wooded hilltop where our hotel complex was.
I'd booked the trip online the previous week, fishing around in the reviews to glean some expectations and borrowing Best Friend's guidebook. Our hotel was the Valamar President, on the edge of the complex and pulling up outside, the smooth marble façade gave it a look of luxury. M&M was anxious to get out and stretch her legs. She toddled around enthusiastically, bouncing a ball given to her by our friendly driver. Of all of us, she was the one who should have most needed sleep, but she seemed the least tired.
Our welcome at reception was warm and friendly and contained the information we were all most interested in - the wifi password - as well as the times of breakfast and our room numbers. The lift was a cable car down the slope of the building and when we arrived in our huge adjoining rooms, we were greeted by a beautiful, shining view of the sea from the sunny expanse of balcony. M&M announced it to be 'amazing' and we stood in the warmth of the morning, enjoying the heat and the start of our break.
We lazed about in the rooms for a while, M&M napping in the crisp white sheets and a gentle breeze blowing through the patio doors. We explored the hotel, the spa on the 5th floor, the man made beaches, the restaurant and went for a walk around the wooded gardens of the complex, where mini golf, table tennis and little shops selling knick-knacks and flip flops were de rigueur. Dubrovnik has plenty of high end hotels, competing at reasonable prices with entertainment, Jacuzzi and a buffet breakfast. It's possible to stay in the Hilton or the Excelsior, right next to the old, walled part of the city, but for bigger swimming pools and a calm centre for your holiday, the bus ride out to the peninsula or the short boat journey to the islands seem worthwhile.
On that first afternoon, we took the bus from the stop outside our hotel, along the winding road into the town, disembarking where the walls drop down the rocky coast to the sea. Dubrovnik's walls are breathtaking, complete and glorious, surrounding the old part of the town and letting you enter through an archway and drawbridge at the Pile Gate to smooth marble streets and swirling steps. Leafy fountains and shaded corners, pavement cafés and small ice cream shops line the main street, Stradum, which literally shines in the sunshine. There are beautiful churches and overgrown balconies and best of all, plenty of tourist information and public toilets.
We wandered around, getting our bearings and eventually eating dinner on the corner of the Fruit and Veg market square, by the flight of steep stone steps up to the Jesuit Church, in a restaurant called Arka. This boasted a 'Vitamin Bar', though we were too interested in real food to find out what that involved.
They had plenty of average tasting veggie options for me and I picked a cheesy Moussaka with chunks of aubergine and courgette. Little Brother chose chicken and fried potatoes, while Dad had fish and M&M ploughed her way through a monstrous plate of chips supplemented with white bread - exactly the kind of food she would never be allowed at home. We finished up with an ice cream in the harbour and an early night which fitted well with the relaxed and sleepy pace of Dubrovnik in September.
That night, a storm hit; the windows of our rooms shaking with the thunder and the flashes of lightning over the sea illuminating the bay. Somehow Dad and Little Brother slept through this, while M&M and I watched it with amazement. The following morning, the torrential rain drove everyone indoors for breakfast, with seals approaching the beach and fish jumping in and out of the sea. We ate our fill of fried eggs, fruit and pastries and settled in the room for a morning of cartoons and the Russian shopping channel. The staff seemed as surprised by the storms as we were and water came through into the long corridors of our hotel, though not the rooms.
We swam in the unheated indoor pool, but with M&M and I finding it a little on the cold side, we'd removed to the Jacuzzi in the courtyard when the sun came out for the afternoon. With a good coating of suncream and trainers instead of flip-flops, we caught the bus in again and spent a relaxed afternoon walking the walls (see separate review) and dinner at Mea Culpa (another separate review).
The last full day in Dubrovnik dawned bright and seasonably sunny. By now, everyone was relaxed and fully in holiday mood. At 29 degrees, the weather beckoned us first down to the pebbly little cove by our hotel for a paddle in the clear water and then to the big outdoor pools on our complex. After a lazy morning, we made a late trip to town to go up and down the mountain in the cable car. There wasn't a great deal to do on top of the mountain, just more unbelievable aerial views and a chance for M&M to destroy the gift shop. But as usual, everything was clean and shiny, there were plentiful public toilets and polite and helpful staff. Normally Little Brother or I would have insisted that we charged round town n a final rush of sightseeing, but with a toddler in tow and a general air of calm that permeated every street, we wandered along the lamp lit terraces with M&M on Dad's shoulders.
We enjoyed a delicious dinner at Ragusa 2, with silver service, complimentary Croatian dessert wine and fantastic food coming in at under £50 for all of us, even when M&M polished off a huge helping of Spaghetti Bolognese and Little Brother and I found room for monstrous slabs of chocolate cake. The staff spoilt M&M, fussing over her and letting her peer into the 'scary' lobster tank. Then a final warm stroll around town with ice cream, a little bop to Agadoo and Kylie for M&M at the toddler friendly disco and we even squeezed in a moonlit trip to the beach before bed.
The next morning, as we sat out on the patio, enjoying breakfast in the sunshine, we were agreed that Dubrovnik had a lot to offer. It's sweet and compact enough to be easily navigable and if you're so minded, you could cover most of it within a few days. If I went back I would see a few more churches, the monastery and the Sponza Palace. I'd take a boat trip to the islands or Montenegro and a Jetski round the peninsula. Our lazy three days only scratched the surface, but we had all needed a relaxing holiday and we were looking for a beach / pool / family friendly break as well as history and culture. I loved this undemanding holiday; I would unhesitatingly recommend it as having something for everyone.
Summary: A top toddler destination. Especially as they fly for free under 2.