I've become somewhat addicted to Korean variety shows, particularly ones that involve food and travel. It was through one of the programs, Noonas Over Flowers (older sister over flowers) that I fell in love with Dubrovnik and vowed to visit one day. The only problem was flights are scarce from November till late April. A tour guide divulged that it was because of the strong winds that pound the coastal town during the colder months making it difficult for planes to land.
Airfares tend to soar during the warmer months and tourists would be packed like sardines within the walled city in 35˚C heat. Another local told me that UNESCO will be placing a restriction soon, allowing only 8000 people in the Old Town at any one time in order to protect the oldest buildings.
Many residents were quick to tell me that while their sole income lies in tourism, the summer months mean overcrowding where even the locals struggle to get to work due to the sheer number of people in the Old Town.
I was lucky to nab fairly cheap flights from London Heathrow to Dubrovnik with British Airways considering it was the school term break. I booked an apartment via AirBnB smack in the Old Town where everywhere was a mere 2 to 3 minute walk for a measly sum of £35 per night. Catching the airport shuttle to the Pile (pronounced pee-lay) Gate was a breeze after figuring where to buy the ticket from the counter (turn right as you come out of the departure hall).
Just be aware that outside of the peak season, getting the airport bus from Cable Car stop in the Old Town to the airport (30 mins away) may be tricky. Our bus never arrived despite having paid for the return journey, double checked at the information desk and made numerous calls to the customer service. We ended up having to sprint to catch a cab (thankfully, one pulled in as we dashed to the empty taxi stand) to the airport while nervously biting our nails hoping we made it there on time to catch our flight home. One the plus side, since it was February and rather quiet, checking in was quick and easy - all done in 10 minutes because there's only a few flights a day to Dubrovnik.
The wonderful thing about visiting Dubrovnik during the off peak season is that the entire Old Town is a little like a ghost town albeit every now and then, there will be a throng of extremely stylish Korean tour group that surge through Stradun (main street) before all is quiet again.
The one thing I really wanted to do in Dubrovnik was walk along the city walls. The interesting thing was I ran around trying to buy the tickets as the office was shut and even inquired at the information desk only to find out that yes, you just buy the darned thing at the entrance of the city walk trail on your left just as you walk through the Pile Gates into Stradun.
It's a pleasant 2 km walk along the city wall that circles around the Old Town with a 360 degree panoramic view. You can catch a glimpse of the islands and the sparkling Adriatic sea beyond.
The surface of the limestone paving on the pedestrian promenade had become so smooth and slippery from centuries of feet that had pounded these streets.We were in Dubrovnik during the filming of yet another Hollywood big budget movie - Robin Hood. Stradun and the gates were transformed into Nottingham and extras in costume were dashing about. Thick cables snaked around the city walls, huge spotlights hung from above while stressed out painters, carpenters and tradespeople were frantically building the movie set.
Our host at the Airbnb apartment suggested Kamenice which is literally around the corner from the restaurant. A 2 minute stroll if we took it reeeeeal slow. It's a popular local haunt where we were very quickly treated like a friend after paying a few visits there. The restaurant is just a skip and a hop from the stairs that supplied the backdrop to King's Landing on Game of Thrones. Just so you know, I know zilch about Game of Thrones or the new Star Wars movies...... One of the locals corrected me - Game of Thrones is a series, not movie. Yeah....I know..... *facepalm*
While out at lunch at Kamenice, I was discreetly eavesdropping the next table of movie people having a serious discussion about the script. Apparently, Jamie Foxx was in town but all the locals appeared rather nonchalant about Hollywood, having seen Games of Thrones and a couple of Star Wars movies being filmed right in front of their doorstep.
By the way, the scampi stew at Kaminece is unbelievably scrumptious. Make sure you order it if you ever made it there. Also, be aware that their pasta dishes, particularly risotto is humongous!
Another place we went back twice because we loved it so much - Taj Mahal. Despite their Indian namesake, it's a traditional Bosnian restaurant. Maybe it's because it was freezing at night but their veal stew topped with soured cream cheese was so satisfying and hit all the right spots that I came back to England and tried to recreate the dish.
One of the must see places in the Old Town is Buza bar. I went to the original Buza bar. There are actually two now. It is literally a hole in the wall. Go through the hole, down the steps and voila, a bar perched on the rocks with a view to die for. It was particularly quiet when we went to check out the spectacular violet sunset.
I've been on a lookout for a durable AND stylish carry-on that won't require me to empty out my savings account. I was given an Away Bigger Carry-On to try out and I'm absolutely thrilled by its performance. I travel quite a bit and I pack light - very light as friends can attest to this. I wanted a suitcase with 4 wheels that can rotate 360 degrees with ease and navigate the bumpy paved streets of Europe easily. It's got to be strong enough to take a pounding but light enough for me to lift it up and not use up my hand luggage weight allowance.
The Bigger Away Carry-On fits into British Airways and most major airlines' hand-carry luggage measurement. I didn't want to bring along two hand carry luggages for Lil L and I since I had to take the train to the airport. It's unpleasant having to lug suitcases up and down the stairs particularly if you have kids traveling with you. The larger of the two Away carry-on is big enough for me to pack both of our clothes with room to spare (by the way, just so you know, I managed to squeeze in packets of crisps too!).
The people over at Away are obviously seasoned travelers because they've thought of everything. There's a compression pad which you buckle up at both ends that presses down the clothes and gives you more much needed space. It also has a zipped mesh pocket large enough for me to store my MacBook Air and external hard drive. I keep all electrical devices and toiletry clear pouches in my handbag until they've been x-rayed and then I re-pack them into the mesh pocket inside my carry-on. It has saved me a lot of shoulder pains. The other thing about the compression pad (genius idea!) is that your things don't topple down when you open up your suitcase. It keeps everything neat, tidy and exactly as I packed it.
There's also this nifty washable laundry bag that's rolled up and stored inside a zipped side pocket. I often forget to bring a spare plastic bag for dirty clothes so to have one ready at all times is brilliant!
May I just say that I adore having a phone/tablet charger on my suitcase? Brilliant idea! It gives approximately 4 full charges on my iPhone 6S plus. It's also removable if security at the airport requires you to. All you have to do is get to your destination and recharge it overnight. You can find out more about Away suitcases here.
Disclosure: I was given a set of 2 Away Suitcases to review but all opinions are my own.