Okay where the hell has 2015 gone?!?  I feel like I’ve blinked and missed half of it…I do have sleeping beauty tendencies so maybe that’s what has happened!  So Where Did the Wind Blow Me in 2015 and I’ve added a few other reflections from the year…let’s go for a quick ride back in time.

The Staycation

Emma and I took off to Bath for a romantic weekend…be warned she does steal the covers!  We had a great weekend discovering the delights of Bath and eating the most amazing gluten free savoury scones for breakfast at the Pump Rooms.

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This years ANZAC Day service was a rather special one, so I made the effort to attend the dawn service in London which meant we stayed over night at the Intercontinental Park Lane…a fabulous hotel in London and even better when you can use your IHG points for a free night!

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I was very lucky to get invited to Sting and Paul Simon concert at the O2 with SPG and stayed the night at the Aloft beside to the Excel centre…this is a really good base and the rooms are extremely comfy, just don’t put your neck out like I did while drying my hair…a Charlie’s Angels hair flick that went wrong, doh!!  I had a great evening especially as I got to catch up with Anna again at the concert!

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G and I spent a weekend in Oxford and I really really really tried to love Oxford however I’m a Cambridge girl at heart.  We still had a great weekend even though it was soggy and I ended up with a soggy bottom AGAIN!

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Day Tripping

Buying a car has given me a huge amount of freedom to explore England so I try and do a day trip every weekend to explore the English countryside (there’s something about going exploring to relieve the stresses of a week at work).   Cambridge is super close to me and even with my Dory tendencies I managed to remember to get tickets to the Cambridge Open Weekend…I’m still surprised that I was that organised to get tickets!  Bluebells in springtime, heading into London to go on Yannick’s gluten free walking tours (Macarons and Mews plus his new Piccadilly and Petit 4’s), visiting the cute village of Elstow in Bedfordshire, taking a million photos of the cute little beach huts at Wells Next the Sea and the super gorgeous Lavenham (I’ve yet to blog about this cutie pie town!) were some of my favourite day trips of 2015.

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Castle Hunting

I castle hunted like a ninja in 2015 and my castle hunting list continues to grow for 2016!  I’ve got a few memberships however for me the best one was definitely the Historic Houses Association membership, this has saved me more than a few pennies.  Definitely some of the highlights of 2015 were discovering Deene Park (my favourite castle!), Rockingham Castle, Dover Castle, Woburn Abbey, Kirby Hall and Burghley House plus many many more.

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Passport at the Ready

G and I popped off to Brussels for a few days in February for our birthdays…and of course we ate afternoon tea and a lot of chocolate and I mean a lot…we were definitely Master and Miss Piggy.  There are more photos of food then Brussels!

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May called for a tier point run to Marrakech for G so I tagged along as who wouldn’t…it’s not a bad place to head too for a few days…Marrakech has definitely changed a lot since my first visit way back in 2003 and I was told that I saw the real Marrakech not the touristy Marrakech that everyone sees today.  We had what you would call a mixed kind of holiday in Marrakech but we still enjoyed it thanks to staying in a hotel that Winston Churchill loved.

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Pretty much right after Marrakech, I flew to Croatia to see my family for a few days…it’s a hard life…it did take Easyjet three attempts to land at Split airport and an overnight power cut due to an electrical storm left me with 3% battery life right before I was due to leave for the airport so it did have it’s moments!

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We popped over to Hong Kong and then onto Malaysia for two weeks, flying in First Class with British Airways…it was nice to actually switch off properly and it was my first two week holiday since 2012…it was during this trip that I realised that I was really taking this blogging business way too seriously and pulled out of the game in a big way.

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I managed to tick Strasbourg off my 2015 Travel Wish List back in October and I wasn’t disappointed…what a truly fantastic part of France and I would happily return to the region again…the Alsace Wine Route made me a rather happy little bunny!

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December saw me flying home to New Zealand (you’re currently getting spammed on instagram) and as my Cathay Pacific flight left from Paris, I managed to have 24 hours in the city to explore (a post still needs to follow…I will pull my finger out on that one soon I promise!).

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Scoffing Gluten Free Afternoon Tea

I’ve eaten a number of gluten free Afternoon Tea’s this year and I’ve got the rolls to prove it.  My personal three favourites of 2015 are definitely Brown’s Hotel, The Lanesborough and of course Claridge’s…you can’t go wrong with either one!

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Lessons Learned from Blogging in 2015

I learnt a few big lessons from blogging this year…some good and some pretty shit.

The good – I made some great friends through blogging and found them extremely supportive in times of need or when I needed a bit of blog advice.  I really love the interaction with the community that follows along in my journey, especially the non-bloggers that take the time to email me, thank you!  The opportunities that have come my way thanks to this blog have always being appreciated but once again a big thank you to the brands that I’ve worked with in the past.  I had a blog refresh this month and it feels great to have a new look…a bit like finding a new pair of really comfortable knickers that actually look a tad sexy, that’s how I’d sum up my blog make over.

The shit – I will be brutally honest and say that I fell out of love with the blogging community this year (not all but a lot); there are some unkind people in the blogging community, the blagging seriously needs to stop (and one of the reasons why I almost quit twitter – if you want something, pay for the bloody stuff yourself!) and the reviews that aren’t honest.  I value my community so if I find out that a blogger has lied then I never share their posts with my community EVER AGAIN…I’ve worked hard to gain peoples trust and don’t fancy throwing it away with one tweet.  And don’t get me started on the whole follow and unfollow crap way of building social media stats – seriously getting followed and followed by the same blogger three times in a week was beyond annoying…more annoying than the DM on twitter asking to follow them on Facebook…if you want me to follow you then please show me some personality and give me a reason to follow with some interaction rather then spamming me with links to your blog (and I’ve being guilty of this also so I know it’s not easy!).

Going forward, I am no longer accepting anything complimentary on my blog as I want to receive the same experience that my readers will be getting rather than a “blogger experience” and I don’t fancy getting involved in the competitive nature of blogging; I find it fascinating to watch but don’t fancy participating…I think they should do a “I’m a blogger…get me out of here” youtube show, it would be so bloody hilarious.   What you see is really what you get…a blog all paid for by me and all about me me me me me!

My weight

Well I got fatter…what else can I say but since I’ve come home to NZ for Christmas my body confidence has improved hence why you’re seeing photos of me on instagram now.  Weirdly I feel people are more judgemental in the UK especially when it comes to looks while in NZ, the casual laid approach to fashion and life is a lot less judgemental…I’m sure people will disagree with me here but that’s just my opinion on things and you know what they say about opinions…they’re like arseholes, everyones got one.

So that’s my 2015 in review…I do feel like I’ve blinked and missed things but hey ho that’s life and you don’t have to be out exploring every second of every day…there’s nothing better than having a day of rest to recharge those old batteries and never feel guilty for doing so…it’s your life!

xx

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Something has being bugging me lately and it’s all do with Dubrovnik in Croatia.  I just want to put it all out there folks and say there is more to Croatia than just Dubrovnik!   Whenever I visit Croatia, everyone assumes I’m going to Dubrovnik and every blog that I seem to read at the moment talks about Dubrovnik and only Dubrovnik.

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Don’t get me wrong, Dubrovnik is beautiful and WAS truly amazing way back in 2001 when my sister and I first visited Croatia to meet our family however roll forward a number of years and the city just feels like one giant Disneyland with no soul now, full of day trippers from the very large cruise ships that visit each day.

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I remember our first two visits to Dubrovnik when locals were still living in the old town and there were little shops selling every day items like fresh fruit and vegetables to the locals; that’s now all changed as the shops just sell tourist tat and very expensive tat at that!

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I wrote a post a very long time ago comparing Split vs Dubrovnik and if I had to choose between the two, Split would be the winner by a country mile.  For some reason tourists just don’t like Split and use the city for a meeting point only for their tours – Split is amazing and I love it; please please please spend some time discovering this great city!  Tourists and locals mingle together and the Riva is like a catwalk (you will understand if you ever stop for a drink in one of the cafes on the Riva).

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^^The Riva in Split!

The tiny villages along the Makarska Riviera are spectucular and unspoilt – something that most tourists never discover as they are too busy spending all their time discovering Disneyland…sorry I meant Dubrovnik!

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^^ The cute little port in the tiny village of Zivogosce on the Dalmatian coastline.

I visted Dubrovnik a few years ago with a friend and we made the error of staying in Dubrovnik for two nights rather than just taking a day trip from my family village….we realised our mistake when we were greeted by all the crowds and how expensive the city was.  You will want to pack every credit card you own when you visit Dubrovnik as you will pay over the odds for everything….a Pivo (Beer) on the Makarska Riviera will set you back just over a £1 a bottle…but think London prices in Dubrovnik.

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I’m not saying don’t visit Dubrovnik however what I want everyone to understand is that there is more to Croatia than just Dubrovnik.  In my personal opinion you won’t get the authentic Croatian experience unless you visit smaller villages and towns in the country.

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Have you visited Dubrovnik before?  What are your thoughts on the city?

xx

P.S. Apologies for the slightly blurry photos of Dubrovnik; they’re oldies!

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I don’t think I’m the most spontaneous traveller in the world however after a few messages from my folks in New Zealand on the Monday morning, I was booking a flight to Split in Croatia for that Saturday so I could visit my family in Zivogosce, Croatia for a long weekend.

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Mum and Dad almost make an annual trip to Croatia from New Zealand to see our family in Zivogosce. Mum’s father was born in the family house in the mountains just above Zivogosce before he left as a very young man to live in New Zealand as a gum digger (everyone used to live in the mountains many many years ago due to the threat of pirates but they were moved closer to the sea after a horrible earthquake).  Mum’s grandfather was bringing out each child from Croatia to New Zealand starting with mum’s dad but unfortunately when mum’s father arrived his own father had passed away; a sad and stark reminder of what many folks endured when they moved to other side of the world for a better life.  Mum’s father was the only child that made it to New Zealand which means we have a rather large family still remaining in Croatia.  (Phew, hope you are still with me after a lesson in my family history).

As I arrived quite late into Croatia thanks to the easyjet pilot taking three attempts at landing into Split airport; even I could tell on the first two occasions that he cocked it up but we won’t judge as he eventually got the plane down safely.  You could have heard a pin drop on the third landing….

Anyway I had a lovely dinner and my favourite…prsut and cheese!  And hey hey it’s gluten free…it was a good start…

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…but the following morning I had gluten in the shape of a chocolate donut…if you want to know how good these babies are you need to read Lisa’s post on them! (I did have a belly ache and a food baby after eating the said donut).  And as the mean older sister I did send Lisa a photo of the donut prior to scoffing it just to make her jealous.

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You can’t beat this view on a Sunday morning overlooking the island of Hvar in the distance.

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Sunday was spent with family doing what Croatians do best…eating! and then me having an afternoon nap (the hot weather and a hearty Croatian lunch did me in) before we hit the beach (and yes all croatian beaches are pebbly bar one on the island of Brac)…

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…where we waited as the golden hour approached…

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…then waited a bit more for that giant sun to set…

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…until we received the sunset that I was waiting for all witnessed from my Auntys balcony.

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We consumed some more food on the balcony which honestly would win the award for the best placed washing line in the world!

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The next morning my family went to work while I skyped my folks back home before heading out for a walk down to the port and along the Riva (the waterfront and normally treated like a catwalk by the leggy and very beautiful croatian women).

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The old port is one of my favourite places in the village as it’s normally a hive of activity of men playing with their boats…

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…it just always looks so picturesque!

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I love all the old buildings down at the port…I sat on my hands not to instagram the crap out of the village, trust me!

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Truthfully I hadn’t worked up much of an appetite from my short walk but I hadn’t had breakfast and doctors tell you all too often that we aren’t eating our five a day so of course I did what any 35 year old would do….I ordered a banana split with lots of cream for calcium (the wafer was promptly removed on arrival as it’s not gluten free).

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My view with my banana split, just in case you wanted to know – Monday’s can be the pits right!

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After consuming fanta and a banana split for breakfast and lunch, I felt a tad guilty and decided to walk a bit further around the Riva and check out the changes to the village (as this was my first visit in over two years)…

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…and I took the opportunity to paddle my feet in the cool water of the Adriatic sea, my feet had puffed up like a blow fish!

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It’s all about the afternoon nap in Croatia…so after a cheeky little nap while I waited for my Aunty to finish work so I could take her out for dinner (I didn’t want to poison her with my bad cooking).  We headed over to Blato which was just a bit further down the coast from Zivogosce and this was a first time visit for me and I wasn’t disappointed as it was just so stunning and peaceful…

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…and just in case you wanted to see our dinner which costed a huge £20 for the following; a four cheese pizza, a seafood platter, a feta salad and four glasses of wine plus a free panna cotta…I had to ask the waiter to check the bill as I thought he under charged me…things are rather cheap in Croatia but not if you are visiting Dubrovnik.

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I think it was pretty safe to say that we were both pretty relaxed…I think the vina might have helped us slightly….

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…then came the hardest decision that I faced while I was in Croatia….what flavour!

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but shock horror I declined and let my aunty and cousin to enjoy the creamy ice cream that was screaming at me…EAT ME!

As we made it back to Zivogosce, a storm started passing overhead breaking the humidity that had covered the Dalmatian coastline like a blanket over the weekend.  Croatian storms are the best; the thunder and lightning is just incredible.  Until the power cuts out and you only have 10% charge left on your phone and you’re getting picked up at 7am in the morning for your rather long commute to work and just how would I cope with 10% battery life.

Eventually the power turned back on about ten minutes before I left the following morning so that I could charge my phone…seriously how did we ever survive without mobile phones?!

It was sad leaving behind my family but I have vowed to return before the year is out for more Croatian cuddles.  And I think it’s safe to say…we wish New Zealand and Croatia were just a tad closer to each other!

Do you visit your family in far flung places around the world?  Have you ever traced your family roots?

xx

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After doing an afternoon tea staycation post earlier this week, I thought I needed to do a post on some destinations a little bit further afield so let me introduce you to some alternative city breaks in Europe to take in the coming months.

Marseille, France

France’s second largest city; once deemed a city to avoid,  it’s now one of France’s best kept secrets.  It’s such a delightful city to visit and the pastel colour streets and beautiful architecture will make you fall in love with Marseille.  You can read my City Break to Marseille post by clicking right here and my second visit to Marseille right here.

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Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

A great little destination for a quickie break if you are struggling with time and a great place to take the kids if you are travelling with them the first time. Luxembourg City is compact, doesn’t have all the hordes of tourists seen in the more popular city break destinations, green and ever so child friendly.  You can read my City Break to Luxembourg post by clicking right here.

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Porto, Portugal

The city of Porto has been on my wish list for a number of years and after reading Elle’s posts on the destination last year here and here I was desperate to visit.  You can read my city guide to Porto here.

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Krakow, Poland

This Polish city has so much to offer that I would suggest extending it from a quick weekend break to spending at least 4 nights in the city to visit all the incredible sights the city has to offer. A day trip to the Salt Mines and Auschwitz is a must.  You can read my City Break to Krakow post by clicking right here.

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Athens, Greece

I’m not sure why Athens isn’t a more popular city break destination; it has so much to offer. From incredible historic sights, amazing museums, fabulous shoe shopping and don’t even get me started on the food. The flying time is just under four hours however don’t let this put you off as the extra time spent on the plane is so worth it!  You can read my City Break to Athens post by clicking right here.

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Verona, Italy

The city of love; is this Europe’s most romantic city? Shakespeare set Romeo and Juliet in fair Verona and the city makes a perfect city break destination as it’s small and compact. If you’re visiting during summer than try and get tickets to the Opera that is played in the Arena (Roman Amphitheatre).  You can read my City Break to Verona post by clicking right here.

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Amsterdam, The Netherlands

I’m adding Amsterdam to my alternative city break list as the city is shedding it’s dirty drug / sex image and becoming a luxury city break hot spot. If you’re an art lover, this city is the perfect destination for a quickie city break (excuse the pun).  You can read my City Break to Amsterdam post by clicking right here.

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Dusseldorf, Germany

Most city breakers head to Berlin and Munich if wishing to visit Germany however I’m going to suggest Dusseldorf. The city offers incredible shopping however if you are keen on heading to the Christmas Markets, fly into Dusseldorf, visit the markets there and then jump on the train for the short journey to visit the bigger Christmas Market in Cologne.  You can read my City Break to Dusseldorf post by clicking right here.

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Vienna, Austria

If you eat a lot of cake and base your holidays around this requirement then let me recommend a visit to Vienna; the home to so much cake that you will possibly need to buy two seats on the return flight back home! The city is just stunning and I would return in an instant as I found three nights wasn’t enough to enjoy this delightful city break destination.  You can read my City Break to Vienna post by clicking right here or my Gluttons Guide to Eating Cake in Vienna post.

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Split, Croatia

Don’t overlook this beautiful Adriatic city; the city has so much to offer and there is nothing more beautiful than sitting in Diocletians Palace on a balmy summers evening having dinner. The city is so much cheaper to travel to than Dubrovnik and I would high recommend trying to rent an apartment in the Old Town to really enjoy your stay.  You can read my Split vs Dubrovnik post by clicking right here.

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What was your favourite City Break destination? Where would you recommend visiting for an alternative city break in Europe?

xx

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A lot of travellers enter Croatia through Split airport and basically jump on a boat / ferry / bus and leave to head down the coast while never spending any time in Split itself.  Most traveller’s are in such a race to get down to Dubrovnik that they forget to explore other areas of Croatia.  I decided to put two of Croatia’s cities head to head – Split vs Dubrovnik.

Croatia Travel Inspiration - Can't decide on where to visit in Croatia then why not check out this post on Split vs Dubrovnik...an honest account on the difference between these two hot Croatian destinations. Make sure you add one of these cities onto your Croatia Bucket List as you won't be disappointed.

Whenever I tell anyone that I’m off to Croatia for a holiday, people naturally assume that I’m heading off to Dubrovnik and how lucky I am as it looks so beautiful.  I should probably clear this up now; most of my holidays I head down the Dalmatian coastline and stay with my family in a little village called Zivogosce where I enjoy my time with my family, soak up some sunshine, gain a few kilos and do a day trip or two around Croatia.

So let’s get this Split vs Dubrovnik fight started!

Split

For me Split is my favourite city in Croatia.  There is something breath taking about arriving into Split airport as you normally get an aerial view of Split and the surrounding coast line which is just breathtaking and you haven’t even landed into the city yet.

Croatia Travel Inspiration - Can't decide on where to visit in Croatia then why not check out this post on Split vs Dubrovnik...an honest account on the difference between these two hot Croatian destinations. Make sure you add one of these cities onto your Croatia Bucket List as you won't be disappointed.

Diocletian’s Palace is the centre of the old town; where you can wander around the underground complex, shop in the market stalls within the Palace or have a coffee in the evening while enjoying the palatial views.

On our first visit in 2001, I remember there were musicians playing in the evening and you could sit down at tables and enjoy a drink in the Palace area.  This is still the case and there is a summer festival which is held each year with ballet and opera performances which uses the Palace as it’s back drop.

What I find really charming about Split is that it still has it’s various markets dotted around the town where you can buy local lavender from Hvar, lace and olive oil just to name a few things.  There are local artists selling their paintings in the little passages dotted around the town.

The Riva has changed since my first visit in 2001 and I know that the locals didn’t like the changes that were made as it was to generally to please the cruise ship passengers as they didn’t like seeing the old fishing boats moored on the Riva.

 If you love people watching, sitting at a cafe under an umbrella to shelter from the hot sun is an enjoyable experience.  At times, it can be like watching a fashion show with all the gorgeous Croatian women strutting their stuff down the riva.

Dubrovnik

The Pearl of the Adriatic is how Dubrovnik is often described in most tourist brochures these days; however on my last visit I have to admit that the Pearl has become a fake Pearl and very much like Disneyland for the cruise ship passengers that crowd the city every day.

Croatia Travel Inspiration - Can't decide on where to visit in Croatia then why not check out this post on Split vs Dubrovnik...an honest account on the difference between these two hot Croatian destinations. Make sure you add one of these cities onto your Croatia Bucket List as you won't be disappointed.

Visiting Dubrovnik in 2001, it was stunning, the old town was still recovering from the Balkan war, there were missing tiles on the buildings and only a small number of tourists.  There were shops in the old town selling all the items you would need to live in the Old Town and you could feel the spirit of the old town.  In 2003, a lot had changed for the better to protect the Old Town.

I went back with a friend in 2009 and I was disappointed with Dubrovnik, it had become a mass tourist black hole where you were served bad food at horrendous prices, the shops in the old town were full of tourist tat that nobody wanted and it felt like that the heart and soul of Dubrovnik had been lost and replaced with what tourists wanted rather than being a functioning old town where the locals still lived and breathed.

Croatia Travel Inspiration - Can't decide on where to visit in Croatia then why not check out this post on Split vs Dubrovnik...an honest account on the difference between these two hot Croatian destinations. Make sure you add one of these cities onto your Croatia Bucket List as you won't be disappointed.

If you are visiting Dubrovnik, make sure you take your credit cards as you will need them.  This area of Croatia is truly expensive.

Don’t get me wrong, Dubrovnik is stunning and if you’re going to walk around the city walls try and do this as late in the afternoon as possible as there will be less tourists and also the light is so much better plus I don’t think there is a better spot in Croatia to watch the sun set.  Just don’t forget to take your camera.

I do love Dubrovnik however I don’t love what has become of Dubrovnik.  I have read that they’re trying to limit the amount of cruise ships entering Dubrovnik each day which is going to be a start however they still have a lot more work to do to get Dubrovnik’s soul back.

Split vs Dubrovnik

Don’t dismiss Split as an entry and exit point; spend a night in Split at least and wander around the Palace area and check out the local markets which are delightful.  You won’t be disappointed.  It’s an area where the locals and the tourists mingle happily together.  I have my 24 Hour Guide to Split to help you get the best out of the city.

Do visit Dubrovnik however my advice would be to do a day trip to the old town as this is a more enjoyable way of seeing the city and will save you many pennies!

Croatia Travel Inspiration - Can't decide on where to visit in Croatia then why not check out this post on Split vs Dubrovnik...an honest account on the difference between these two hot Croatian destinations. Make sure you add one of these cities onto your Croatia Bucket List as you won't be disappointed.

xx

If you enjoyed my post on Split vs Dubrovnik why don’t you come and join me on TwitterGoogle+Instagram and Bloglovin’ – I won’t bite!