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As I mentioned in my previous post I also managed to squeeze in a nice little trip to Croatia with my partner last year.  We both quite fancied a trip somewhere sunny and relaxing, but were aware that we both get slightly bored just lying on the beach all day, so we wanted to be able to go and soak up a little culture too. We were on a bit of a budget and in all honesty weren’t overly fussed where we ended up, just as long as it was nice. We ended up staying in Cavtat on the Dalmation Coast. Now I’d previously been to Cavtat with my family and I’m not normally one for re-visiting places I’ve been, however, in this case I knew it was exactly what we were after. We managed to get the flight and accommodation without it costing a fortune and just had to hope that the weather was on our side.

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As you’ve probably guessed from the photos, the weather played it’s part pretty well (mostly… more on that later). Cavtat is a small town about 10 miles or so away from Dubrovnik. It’s small and pretty chilled out, but with a fair few restaurants and a small old town to wander around. It’s also nice and close to Dubrovnik, so in just 40 odd minutes on a boat you can be somewhere new. It’s a pretty impressive journey too, hugging the coast as you make your way to the imposing walled city you get some lovely views and can spot small little houses perched on top of the sea cliffs.

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When you get towards Dubrovnik itself you can start to make out little people walking along the city walls and can get a sense of just how impenetrable it must have appeared back in the day. I’ve heard many people say that photos rarely do Dubrovnik justice, and I’m inclined to agree. The feeling of being there is never going to be captured in photo.

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After getting off the boat the first temptation is to just shoot off into the back streets and see what you can find, which is exactly what we did. Dubrovnik obviously suffered extensive damage during the Croatian War of Independence but they’ve done a fantastic job of restoring it. There are lots of tiny houses all squashed together within the walls, and it’s hard to believe that people are living in them, but little signs like the washing hanging out of windows proves there are.  It’s also strange to think that the majority of the buildings and roofs were damaged, but when you look closely there are differing tile types on the roofs where they had to be replaced.

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I’m a big fan of cable cars – I think it’s the mix of getting brilliant views, being pretty terrified of heights and having childhood memories of going to the Heights of Abraham at Matlock Bath. It always makes for an exciting journey! Luckily Dubrovnik has a good cable car and it allows you some might impressive views of the Old Town below.

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As well as looking spectacular from up above, it doesn’t look too shabby from on the ground level either. It really does feel like an old medieval city and if you can get away from the crowds (tricky, but occasionally possible) then it can really feel like you’re in a time warp. I particularly like the little signs of modernity you can accidentally stumble upon, such as the Jägermeister and football net.

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You can’t really visit Dubrovnik without walking along the city walls. It’s a good way to get your bearings for when you’re back down at ground level, and allows for some good views out into the Adriatic Sea.

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Despite having mainly good weather, we did encounter a pretty hefty downpour on one of the days we were in Dubrovnik. Never a pair to miss an opportunity we ran to the nearest bar that had shelter and had a sneaky drink. I really like seeing how cities react when it rains. I remember one time I was in Rome and it started to bucket it down, and it was absolute pandemonium. Everyone running for the nearest Metro stop which quickly became uncomfortably crowded, all because of a bit of rain. Dubrovnik handled it in a much cooler fashion, with people whipping out their umbrellas and carrying on about their business (admittedly in a slightly quicker way…). Whilst having our drinks I saw a lot of people holding umbrellas walk past the little alley and thought it would make for a nice photo.

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As a break from the city sight seeing we went a boat trip that took us around the three main Elafiti Islands,  Koločep, Lopud and Šipan. It was a beautiful day and made for a nice change. Lots of fresh sea air, food and wine to have on the boat and even an accidental massive walk up a hill in the sweltering midday heat to find some ruins of an old church (that one was my fault…). We didn’t get a huge amount of time on each island, such is the nature of these boat trips, but it was enough to have a look around and get a bit of a feel for each one.

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It was great going back to Croatia, and Cavtat is definitely a place I’d recommend staying if you’re wanting to visit Dubrovnik. It had become a lot more ‘touristy’ in the few years between my two visits, but it was still a beautiful place to make your base. The crowds in Dubrovnik can be quite tiring, lots of cruise ship visitors descend on mass and it can be super crowded. Cavtat is a lot quieter, and also considerably cheaper despite having some great restaurants. This place in particular was unbelievable and I would say it deserves it top spot on TripAdvisor. Finally, I’ll leave you with one final reason why Cavtat was pretty special – the evening view from our apartment.

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In terms of Holidays 2014 was a bit of a treat for me as I managed to shoot away to sunnier climes twice in one year, which is something I’ve not had the luxury of for a while. I managed to get away in the Spring with my Parents to visit my Sister who lives out in Gran Canaria, and I also went to Croatia with my girlfriend for a nice summer break. Both were great and it also gave me a chance to play around with my camera again. I’ve not been great at taking photos recently and tend to just take photos of the bread I make and not much else, so I really enjoyed taking some holiday snaps. Getting away last year has also inspired me to save up for more adventures abroad in the future. I’ve been to a fair few places around Europe but there are many more I’d like to see. Obviously getting out of Europe would be amazing too but that would take a fair bit of saving up – one for in a few years I think!

First off was Gran Canaria. I went there in March last year and, as bad as this may sound, was surprised at how nice it was. Whenever I heard of Gran Canaria I tended to think of lairy Brits Abroad. I think the South of the Island is possibly a little bit like that, but my sister lives in Las Palmas which is in the North and is very different. It’s a proper working city so it’s not just people on their holidays, and there is a great promenade called “Playa de Las Canteras”. It was a stones throw from my sisters apartment and a great place to have a wander along in the morning sun.

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We also hired a car so we could escape up into mountains where there are some spectacular views of little villages set against some pretty imposing rocks. The most famous of which is Roque Nublo, which is this little chap below.

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I didn’t know a huge amount about Gran Canaria but I did know it was meant to be dry and dusty. Surprisingly it was actually cool and rainy on a couple of days when I was out there, and had been for a few weeks prior. Not ideal for giving my pasty body a bit of colour, but it did mean that the mountains were a lot more lush than I was expecting.

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At the beginning of our mountain exploration day I was determined to get some photos, unfortunately as we rose higher and higher the fog became thicker and thicker. When we arrived into Cruz de Tejeda for a coffee we could barely see 20 meters in front of us. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, ready with for snapping away with my camera hanging round my neck and I was bloody freezing! I thought my chance to get any semi decent photos were long gone. However, as we slowly decended on our way to Roque Nublo we started to see glimpses of green grass and grey rock. Eventually we appeared to be driving through falling clouds, a surreal feeling but unfortunately one difficult to capture in a still image. I did however capture some of the impressive rock formations through the clouds which helped with the atmosphere if nothing else.

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After escaping the clouds we stopped and looked back and were treated with the view below. For the sense of scale click on the image for the full size.

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During the time we also visited the Cocodrilo Park. I’m normally quite wary of places with animals kept in captivity, for the pretty obvious ethical reasons. However this one does appear to do quite a lot of good work. A lot of animals are rescued from captivity by  SEPRONA, the Nature Protection Service in Spain. I imagine due to being held in captivity prior to being rescued they can’t be released back into the wild, so they are brought to the park to recover and live. I’m sure it’s not perfect, these things never are, but at least it does some good!

The bus stop for the park was in a pretty impressive location – I liked the contrast of the wild terrain and the mundanity of public transport.

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Despite the name Crocodrilo Park they do take in other animals too, although the primary occupants appear to the cold-blooded type. It’s hard not to take photos of interesting looking animals, so I was snapping away during our trip.

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We also visited Cenobio de Valeron – a series of caves built into the rocks which were used as grain stores. I didn’t get any particualrly original photos of the caves themselves. A quick google image search will bring up lots of photos though. As well as the impressive caves, there were also loads of Lizards – mainly Gran Canarian Giant Lizards. They were huge and because there were so many, lots of oppurtunies to try and get a photo of them. My favourite is the one below, I managed to get within a few metres of this bad boy.

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All in all it was a really enjoyable holiday and not what I expected at all. I can’t speak for the South of the Island, but in the the North if you can hire a car then you can visit some amazing place and see some spectacular views.

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