Five nights in Dubrovnik

There is only one thing to do in London in summer. Leave. For as long as your holiday allowance will allow.

I went to Dubrovnik for five nights, expecting somewhere ‘edgy’, perhaps with a lot of electronic music and post-war grievance expressed through graffiti. What I found was a gentle city, which likes to linger in its sea-faring, medieval past.

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I don’t think Dubrovnik gets enough attention for being a summer European city-break destination. It offers more than the usual contenders – Barcelona, Amsterdam, Rome,  blah, blah. All great cultural cities, sure. But in high summer, pounding concrete all I can think is “where the hell is the beach?!!” 

Dubrovnik has it all –  a city vibe, heritage, sea all around to cool off and islands to explore – and only 2.5 hours flight time from the UK.

Where to Stay

We stayed in the Dubrovnik Palace Hotel – booking this hotel was by far one of the best decisions I’ve made all year. We got a good deal and it has a swim-up bar with incredible views of the Adriatic. Sold.

But its the little things that made the hotel stand-out – the peace and quiet, a fantastic omelette station at breakfast, friendly staff and CHOCOLATES ON YOUR PILLOW (a sad lost art in hotels these days). Its set slightly out of town, but a bus stops regularly right outside the hotel shuttling you into town (and I’m generally against public transport on holiday, I do love a cab).

On days when it was overcast (which did happen on a couple of mornings), there was a great gym, indoor immersion swimming pool and spa (we indulged in very vigorous all body body-scrub and massages which were reasonable at around £55).

Water so clear you could do your make up in the reflection

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When the sea is calm (which isn’t every day), you can climb down the rocks to swim

What to do

There were times when I didn’t want to leave the Dubrovnik Palace – but  of course, I really had to.

The old town is spectacular to walk around – embarrassingly we couldn’t find the entrance to the city walls, which I’m told  is a must-see.

But my favourite thing was to travel to the surrounding islands – an all day boat trip to the Elafiti Islands was inexpensive and offered stop-offs at three picturesque islands. These have some of the best paddling experiences out there in life, Croatian beer as cheap as chips and our laid back sailing crew forced grappa on us at 11am.

The lagoon at lokrum

The Salt Lake at Lokrum 

But it was the island of Lokrum I loved the most – lying ten minutes from the Old Port by ferry lies a secluded nature reserve with a secret salt lake (I’m calling it a lagoon), beautiful peacocks roaming everywhere and incredible hot, rocky scenery. I’ve never been anywhere like it.

Where to Eat

Dubrovnik’s food didn’t do it massively for me – because its famous for its seafood (which I detest)  – but if you love seafood, this is the place for YOU. We ate in the old town most nights I had some great steaks at some really lovely restaurants, including Nautica, Gill’s Bistro and 360.

So sod the standard city break. Go to Dubrovnik. Go in summer and see what I mean.

What to pack for a festival

So rather than contemplate the flash storms forecast for Latitude , or that I wasn’t organised enough to book Monday off work and now have to find a way back on Sunday and potentially miss Haim, I am instead just going to *bury my little head in packing*.

As promised in my previous post on surviving festivals (aimed at uptight individuals or those just now in their thirties) I do have a secret festival packing list to share. I can’t take credit (unlike my own holiday list).  It was given to me by a friend ahead of my first festival (V Festival) and has become, in my mind,  sacred testimony from the gods of  bloody good sense. I am solemnly passing it down so that it might help others lost, confused or facing the peril of attending a festival on the East Anglian flood-planes…this weekend.

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Camping gear:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag – ensure it is a warm one
  • Pillow – (I bought a little tartan one pictured above, purely because it was cute)
  • Foam mat for under sleeping bag/blow up bed
  • Blanket
  • Water holder
  • Camping chair
  • Bin bags/carrier bags
  • LED torch
  • Plastic bowls/forks
  • Mobile battery pack/charging device
  • Festival trolley or backpack for carrying everything

Clothing: make sure you have one whole extra outfit in case it rains and pack outfits in separate carrier bags

  • Hoody/jumper
  • Rain Mac/Jacket
  • Shorts, skirt, dresses, leggings
  • T shirts, shirts and vest tops
  • Socks – over the knee and ankle
  • Underwear!
  • Bikini – in case you need to have a shower (or are going to the Wilderness spa)
  • Towel
  • Wellies
  • Trainers/pumps
  • Flip flops
  • PJs and bed socks

Toiletries:

  • Make up – proper slap you can rely on like waterproof mascara and Estee Lauder double wear foundation
  • Sun cream
  • Baby wipes
  • Moisturizer
  • Perfume, deodorant
  • Antibacterial gel
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash
  • Toilet roll
  • Dry shampoo, hairspray, brush
  • Plasters, ibuprofen
  • Ear plugs
  • Alka-Seltzer, Berocca
  • Accessories:
  • Small bag/cross over bag
  • Mirror
  • Hair grips/bands/clips
  • Head-dresses, headbands, face-paint
  • Hat
  • Hipflask
  • Jewelry
  • Sun glasses
  • Tissues
  • Watch
  • Entertainment:
  • Music/speakers
  • Digital camera
  • Driving licence
  • Food: (nothing which will melt/easily attract ants)
  • e.g. crisps, cereal bars, individually packed foods e.g. cakes, brioche, chewing gum
  • Booze: (cans, wine boxes or decanted into plastic bottles) 
  • Water

And last but not least, don’t forget your tickets…

An uptight person’s guide to attending festivals

Last year I lost my Festival V at V Festival. It was my first festival ever – on my ’30 before 30′ list –  which probably sums up my attitude to cutting loose.

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The Daily Mash’s recent article, ‘Nice girls pretending to look forward to Glastonbury’ resonated with me. Basically I am the “conventional, upbeat women” they describe “focusing on the practicalities of the weekend, like whether to bring an inflatable pillow, to avoid considering the hellish reality of survival in a massive ditch full of caners.”

Despite dry gagging at the stench of  the campsite; collapsing in the mud carrying four bags twice my body weight; trying to exist without sleep after our friends were robbed as they slept; and falling upon the kindness of strangers at 10pm to assemble our tent, V Festival was a great experience.

I watched Beyonce, along with (among others) Paloma Faith, The Vaccines  Ellie Goulding, JessieJ and Tom Odell and drank so much cider I decided I was ‘high on life’. Jesus.

Once I realised I could cope with the chemical toilets far better once pissed I totally let go…of reality, personal hygiene and my city- living-self. These are the ten things I learned to get you through:

  1. Carry hand-gel, toilet role and orange lipstick with you at all times – this will minimse self-loathing
  2. You will spend double your budget on booze and slices of pizza – this will all be worth it
  3. Allow (hell, encourage) people to plait your hair, adorn you with flowers and paint your face – this will make you feel younger, and given your biggest concern may become feeling like an octogenarian compared to the teenagers wearing neon crop-tops, this will help your self-esteem
  4. Don’t give anyone attitude, anything goes and this could  make the difference between them helping you carry your bags across a massive distance  or throwing their own shit at your tent
  5. If you decide against my advice and are going to give someone attitude (say for pushing in front of you to watch Beyonce when you queued to watch her for 5 hours)…at least recruit everyone else in the crowd to support the cause
  6. Invest in one of those custom-festival wheelie devices – you will come to hate everyone who was clever enough to buy one
  7. Drink through any moments of self-doubt when you question why you are there
  8. Sleep with your money in your sleeping bag
  9. Turn off your phone and only use it for emergencies – like taking photos at crucial points
  10. Don’t agree to go to the toilet with a girl you have only met once and let her guard you as you crouch. This will become awkward as you both sober up.

This summer, I’m learning from the above and tweaking the formula. I’m trying two different festivals Latitude and Wilderness, which to my naive mind will attract a slightly older, calmer crowd ( hoping to escape the 16 year-olds doing drugs off spoons at V).

I’m looking forward to the line-up and the broader arts/comedy offering at Latitude – Damon Albarn and Haim are on my list.

Whereas Wilderness sounds like a bloody mini break – set in the Cotswolds, I’m booked up for the The Lakeside Spa  and a five course lunch banquet by Angela Hartnett.

Who knows what the reality will be like, but I will report back. And in case anyone else is concerned about whether to bring an inflatable pillow (the answers is always yes by the way ) I will be sharing my ‘packing list’ in the coming days, so we can all bury our heads in pointless organisation to block out the reality of the chaos to come….