It was easy to choose my retirement age as 62 and once the date arrived, I signed up immediately to start receiving my social security retirement benefits. I had worked numerous years in often interesting and exciting industries, and now it was my time for major R&R. However, it did not take long before boredom set in. That’s when a new idea appeared above my head like an enormous light bulb. Run a travel business from home, for myself and have fun!
Within a few months I had acquired all necessary documentation to open a small home business. After a couple of years doing well, I had the ultimate epiphany, a true vision! I would organize a select group of friends and design a tour to visit Croatia, my parents’ birth country. This would not be difficult for me since I knew most of the Dalmatian coast fairly well, having visited every summer since 1971.
My quest to design my tour began with one simple thought: we must travel by water. Thus, my vision had begun with my dreams of the blue-green, cleanest body of water in the Mediterranean, the Adriatic Sea. In Croatian it is called Nase More, literally translated as “Our Sea”. These are the only words locals use when speaking of the Adriatic. And on the Nase More is Orebic, my mother’s birth village. The island of Korcula is across the channel would also be on the itinerary, the great city of Split, and finally, my beloved Dubrovnik.
My desk was filled with scribbled notes from thoughts that awakened me during the night. I decided to throw most travel brochures in the recycling and kept the ones which had Croatia on their itineraries. Back at that time, only a few vendors with creative visions had added Croatia to a Mediterranean land or cruise tour. What did they offer, how much did knew and actually seen in person was my criteria for ideas to use on my own personal trip? It was extremely disappointing; only a very few had any firsthand knowledge of the Dalmatian coast. So, I tossed all the rest into the trash and began my own research.
I began with opening the Croatian travel bureau site and began to devour data, moved to more local sites detailing Dubrovnik and Split. I had begun to visualize a unique program, limited to only 14 participants, encompassing my own personal loves of our spectacular Dalmatian coast. We’d fly into Split, with the first night in Trogir, a historic small town on the coast. There we would board the ‘Gardelin’ a 28 meter (motored sailboat), with 8 cabins and a full crew, including breakfast and lunch on board. We planned to sail around beautiful small islands during daylight, dock or anchor early each evening to enjoy a small local konoba, the local mom and pop cafes that offer many unique settings and delicious home cooked meals.
My choice in Orebic was a former water mill situated a few meters from the sea. Aperitifs arrived and we sipped homemade cherry and walnut liqueurs sitting at massive wooden tables alongside the open air fireplace. Croatian music drifted through the warm summer night. With the soft sounds of water lapping up on the shore, the ambiance of the small lanterns hung on the grape arbor, we relaxed and enjoyed the evening together. No menu choices tonight; I had ordered a Dalmatian specialty which required a 24 hour advance notice. ‘Janjetina ispod peke’ (lamb roasted under the bell). A peke is a large metal baking dish with a domed lid, used to cook food in an open fireplace, with hot coals and embers placed on top of the dome for even, slow cooking for many hours. In anticipation of a few who may claim not to like lamb, mom and pop threw in some chicken along with potatoes, carrots and onions. Yes, there is always just one!
Several of my cousins had been invited to join the group. All spoke English and were able to chat with my guests, adding local color. The meal was an extravaganza. Evidence of our enjoyment, many bottles of wine sat on the table, now empty, as we all loosened our belts with great sighs. However, our Orebic hosts then graciously treated us to their personal homemade after-dinner rose brandy. They sat with us and we toasted to the meal, health, happiness, and so much more. The hosts had also arranged for a small van to take us back to our ship, hugged and thanked us for being part of their life. Tears flowed abundantly and my heart soared with glee as my American guests had a special memory which I hope they think of fondly now.
Our last day we anchored on a small inlet on the island of Mljet, only an hour from Dubrovnik. We spent the entire day recovering from our last meal, swimming in the sea, and relaxing in the warm golden sun on the top deck. A few of our younger guests took the zodiac to the shore to a tiny village and rented bikes around enjoying the quiet and magnificence of Mljet island. Late afternoon we began the last leg to Dubrovnik, arriving in Gruz harbor early evening.
The last three nights were spent at an elegant former villa of days gone by, 5 stories high located on Sveti Jacov overlooking the sea with a view of Lokrum island, quiet and secluded. Finally, this was my home turf and we explored my special hidden gems and had our first walk on top of the city wall. Up 87 stone steps, then we spent 3 hours strolling, taking multitudes of photos, describing the magnificence of our Dubrovnik historical sites. The wall is 1,940 meters long and has a grand total of 1,080 steps spread throughout with 6 fortresses and homes with the red clay roof top tiles, all locally handmade. Coming down at Sveti Spas church, I knew it was time to let them run loose and explore on their own. Again, hugs and kisses and waving as my American guests wandered up the Stradun happily. I slowly strolled to my nearest cousin’s home to relax. As I relaxed on the sofa with my glass of red wine, I pondered would I ever do it again?
Come to Dubrovnik and Cavtat, visit me and find out for yourself, I am here in total peace and tranquility, come join me…