Holiday

Sep. 1st, 2012 02:00 pm
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
[personal profile] liv
[personal profile] jack's friend JB gave us a really cool wedding present: a note promising that if we booked flights and turned up at the airport in Croatia where he lives with his wife, he'd organize a holiday for us without us having to do any planning or make any decisions. In the end the wedding used up all our logistical energy for several months, so even that very minimal level of planning almost didn't happen until the last minute. But we made it in the end, and had the most gloriously relaxing holiday imaginable!

As usual, I got to the last month of my leave year and had barely used half my holiday allowance, so I was able to take a few days off work either side of travelling and have a relaxed time. Thursday we visited Brighton to see my sibs. I walked across the town centre in the glorious sunshine, letting myself be tempted by the random tat they hawk to tourists, and showed up at P'tite Soeur's workplace, where she was making fiddly complicated decorations out of sugar rather than serving customers, so we could chat for a bit while she worked. Then back across town to Screwy's place, which was as usual jam-packed with waifs and strays, interesting friends and five (!) couch-surfers. We spent a very pleasant afternoon and evening drinking tea, arguing about philosophy, cooking dinner for all these assorted people and generally having a great time.

That put us in a good starting place to get to Gatwick on Friday morning, via one of the station cafés which served us a most excellent veggie breakfast so we wouldn't have to buy aeroplane food later on. Flying Easyjet and dealing with the airport and associated security theatre were only mildly unpleasant and stressful, and flying over the Alps (which are tall enough that you can see mountaintops above the clouds) was a lovely treat.

We arrived in Zagreb at about tea-time and there was JB to welcome us and drive us back to his place in his tremendously cute open-top sports car, and explain the absolute basics of Croatian history on the drive back. Mrs JB fed us the first of several fantastically good meals, and there was chatting and chilling and we ended the evening sitting in a bar watching the sun set over the artificial lake Jarun.

Saturday JB drove us up a vertiginous road to the summit of Sljeme, the highest peak of the Medvednica mountain which overlooks the city. Where we visited a bar to drink white wine diluted with sparkling water and eat vaguely Austrian-style cakes, and then bought ice-creams to eat while looking out over stunning views. That kept us out of the city for most of the hottest part of the day, and left us with enough energy for a bit of sight-seeing in the evening, rounded off with seriously excellent pizza and icecream.

Sunday JB did more chauffeuring, allowing us to see the wine-growing area and some gorgeous little villages around Samobor, at a radius from the city that would be completely suburban in most of England. We ate the local speciality, kremšnita, which is basically two layers of puff pastry filled with sweet custard, and wandered about a bit, and returned for a late lunch. Several members of JB's wife's family visited in the afternoon and evening and we played Xbox Kinect and ate raclette and drank red wine with coke.

On Monday JB had to work so [personal profile] jack and I had a relaxed day at Jarun, lying on the beach and swimming and eventually repairing to the nearby shopping centre to enjoy the air-conditioning. We managed sort of ok on our own, finding at least one vendor who had enough English to understand the concept of vegetarian and sold us a very tasty Turkish-style mezze.

Tuesday JB surpassed himself after all the generosity he'd already offered, by driving us to a holiday apartment that they let on the Adriatic coast towards the Austrian border. We stopped off at a fancy spa hotel on the way so JB could grab some internet for work, and we could pretend to live the high life, drinking fruit juice whose ridiculous price was almost justified by the beautiful view from the hotel terrace. The drive itself was really lovely, winding up through the mountains with the leaves on the trees just starting to turn, vivid golds and oranges against the green of still fresh vegetation and the bright blue sky.

We had two full days and three nights to enjoy living in this little apartment directly above the beach. Between the very hot temperatures and the incredibly gorgeous location, we abandoned any plans for actually doing any tourism, and just spent our time alternating sitting on the balcony looking at the view, chatting and reading, with swimming in the sparkly turquoise sea. We bought a bunch of bread, cheese and fruit from the supermarket, and generally lived like children with no parents to tell them to do anything sensible. Returning to Croatia via taxi and bus was a bit complicated, mainly because of the language barrier, but we eventually met up with JB again and returned to the airport.



I didn't take many photos, partly because I didn't want to disrupt social time by fiddling with my camera, and partly because a lot of the beautiful landscapes we saw were beautiful precisely because they are incredible vistas stretching on forever, which I find hard to photograph meaningfully.

Back in England, we did my usual intense social thing of trying to see as many London and Cambridge friends as possible in a whirlwind few days. We headed to [livejournal.com profile] doseybat and [livejournal.com profile] pplfichi's place from the airport, and they fed us a tasty Thai dinner and we stayed up way too late chatting. We continued the conversation over breakfast, then on to [personal profile] kerrypolka's for lunch washed down with rather posh Buck's fizz. And finally back to Cambridge, where my parents fed us supper and we then went straight out again to play Magic with [livejournal.com profile] alextfish and [livejournal.com profile] woodpijn. My first actual draft, which I lost but not by a big margin, and had a great time losing to the more experienced players (even if we ended up staying out rather later than planned to try to finish the games). Sunday lunch at parents', followed by a jaunt to London to see my great-uncle get married to his partner, then back up the M11 for Sunday dinner with [personal profile] ceb and IJ who fed us incredibly tasty food and showed off their incredibly cute 3D printer. And we took advantage of the bank holiday Monday for a relaxing day at my parents' place and a reasonably leisurely trip back to Stoke for me.

It's a weird experience for me to have a holiday where I don't do any planning or even any reading up beforehand, and where most of what I do with my time is sitting around chatting, migrating between where I'm staying, cafés and the beach. It was exactly what I needed this summer, sandwiched between the wedding and the very intense term that's about to start. And it was really, really wonderful to spend some time with a close friend of [personal profile] jack's, watching them interact and basking in the affection between them. There was also some time for some really good, productive conversations with my husband, just a bit of tweaking the way we relate to eachother to be even more supportive and communicative.

I would definitely like to go back to Croatia and do something more like the kind of holiday that I usually do, with more sightseeing and culture and a whole lot more preparation. Apart from anything else, I felt really embarrassed at being such a typical monoglot English tourist who couldn't even manage basic sales transactions and small talk in the local language. The landscape, the architecture, and to a great extent the cuisine (though we didn't really get the best impression of it as most of what's on offer is heavily based on meat and fish) reflect Croatia's geographic location: it's somewhat like northern Italy and somewhat like Austria, with distinct influences from Eastern Europe. Zagreb itself is a really amazing place to live, I very much admire JB for exchanging the rat race of a highly-paid job in the City of London for a much lower salary and a vastly better quality of life. But it's not a particularly impressive place to visit as a tourist; I think since it wasn't a major administrative capital until after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, it doesn't have any real must-see destinations, it's more of a generic, medium-sized European city. So if I go back, I'll probably put a higher priority on seeing more historic locations like Dubrovnik and Split, and with a bit of luck over the border to Sarajevo. And have a lot more clue of the history of this stunningly beautiful place.
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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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