Sometimes travel mistakes are ok…Changing plans in Croatia

This past week I was on an island called Brac in Croatia. It was an idyllic island, with wonderful beaches, great weather, and a nice relaxed lifestyle. Should I have loved it? Yes. Did I love it? No.

Why you may ask? Well the first few days were fine. I was terribly exhausted from all the late nights and partying over the past few weeks and needed a few good nights of sleep. But after a few days of wine tasting, hiking, and checking out the beaches I felt like I had done everything that needed to be done on the island. The other thing was that I was travelling there by myself, and the island was more geared towards families and retired couples. Not really my scene. So I started to get itchy feet and wanted to move to my next destination, but I had booked accommodation till the end of the week. Arghhhh – I made the mistake of thinking I wanted to stay here longer than I did…

Beautiful beach on the island of Brac – lovely but not my scene…

Small town of Bol, on island of Brac, Croatia

After much deliberation, I decided to forego my accommodation on the island of Brac (even though I had already paid for it), put it down to a travel mistake, dip into my emergency travel fund, and move back to the mainland in the search of a more ‘happening spot’. I had a gut feeling that Split (one of the main cities in Croatia) was the place I needed to be.

And I was right. When I arrived, it was buzzing with people, way more than when I was passing through there 10 days prior. I wondered why this was the case, and I soon found out there was a massive musical festival called Ultra happening in Split. Wow, it sounded like fun, and I wished I had known about it so I could have enticed one of you to come with me J

Little did I know that less than 24 hours later I would randomly met a bunch of guys who would somehow miraculously smuggled me into the festival without a ticket. Not just into the general admission area, but the VIP area. Wow, sometimes I really can’t believe my luck.

There I was lucky enough to see such big acts such as Carl Cox, David Guetta, and Armand Van Helden play to an audience of hundreds of thousands of people. Yes, that’s hundreds of thousands of people. I have never seen anything like it. Something I would have never been able to experience back home, such a thrill.

Ultra Music Festival, Split, Croatia

Ultra Music Festival - Split, Croatia

Ultra Music Festival – Split, Croatia

Unbelievably, I was able to (with the aid of a couple of red bulls & vodkas) stay out partying with my new friends till 6am in the morning, quite and achievement for me. Alas I paid a big price for such fun, as I only had 2 hours sleep before I had to make my way to the airport for my next destination. So incredibly tired, but sooo worth it.

Moral of the story is: When you make travel mistakes (or any mistake for that matter) – accept it, take action, and move on. You never know what amazing things your next destination has in store for you…

Bisous,

Ms Scandinasia xxx

 

PS: I will take some time away from blogging for the next couple of weeks while I enjoy hiking in the mountains of Norway – without wifi. Ciao for now!

Croatian Riviera vs. French Riviera? And the winner is…

I’ve heard fabulous things about Croatia for years. Many state that the Croatian Riviera is fast becoming a rival to the glitz and glam of the French Riviera. Certainly high profile visitors such as Beyonce, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Prince Harry indicate that it is a popular destination for the hip trendsetters. But is it good enough for Ms Scandinasia? That is the real question. I visited to make up my own mind. Let’s just get this straight. My standards are high. Very high in fact when it comes to rivieras. Many of you would have heard my epic stories from a few years ago, when I not only visited Cannes, St Tropez, and Monaco, but did it in style as a guest on my friend’s superyacht. Oh yes, and we had 7 staff at our beckoning call and we also partied on a certain ‘A’ list celebrity’s superyacht. Probably the best day of my life – one of those days when you pinch yourself at least a million times to make sure you aren’t dreaming. Hence my standards are ridiculously high when it comes to holidaying in glam destinations.

My mode of transport in the French Riviera

My mode of transport in the French Riviera

On board my friend's superyacht, departing from St Tropez to Nikki Beach!

On board my friend’s superyacht, departing from St Tropez to Nikki Beach!

Needless to say, Croatia is up against some tough competition when it comes to winning my affection. Let’s see how the two destinations rated: 1. Best beaches – Winner: Croatian Riviera The limestone rocks throughout the Croatian coastline have resulted in stunning emerald coloured water, unlike anything I have ever seen before. Water is slightly warmer than the French Riviera as well.

Dubovica beach, Hvar, Croatia

Dubovica beach, Hvar, Croatia

2. Best place to people watch – Winner: French Riviera I love people watching in France – the locals, the tourists, everyone. Especially when there are some super wealthy heavy hitters involved. Designer duds, massive egos, and the odd tantrum. It’s a fascinating sociological experience. The people I met in the French Riviera were from all over the world: Europe, US, Middle East, South America. When I said I was from ‘down under’ the response was “oh yes, we have a good friend from there – do you know our friend James (Packer)?” In Croatia, the mix of visitors is different. I would estimate 80% of the tourists are Norwegian. Everywhere you go, Norwegian is being spoken. Which brings me to the following observation: Ms Scandinasia does not need to go to Scandinavia. Scandinavia comes to Ms Scandinasia! 3. Best lounge bars – Winner: Croatian Riviera Ummm, so Croatia wins really by default. Lounging around drinking Veuve on a certain celebrity’s yacht in St Tropez was about as close as I got to a lounge bar in France. But Croatia really does have some seriously cool lounge bars. My favourites in Hvar were Laganini’s at Palmižana, Falko, and Hula Hula.

Laganini’s at Palmižana

Laganini’s at Palmižana

Laganini’s at Palmižana

Laganini’s at Palmižana

Craziness of Hula Hula Lounge Bar, Hvar

Craziness of Hula Hula Lounge Bar, Hvar

4. Best food – Winner: French Riviera As you know, I am obsessed with French food, and when you have your own personal chef aboard a superyacht preparing all your favourites, it is hard to beat. Having said that, I have tasted some incredible food in Croatia, especially the seafood. I was lucky enough to be taken to Restaurant 360 in Dubrovnik and Di Vino in Hvar. Both have stunning views with exquisite food and impeccable service. These restaurants certainly do showcase a high level of quality – however, it wasn’t quite the same as having your own personal chef…

Divine food at Restaurant 360, Dubrovnik.

Divine food at Restaurant 360, Dubrovnik.

5. Best small bars – Winner: Croatian Riviera If there is one thing I know, it’s a good bar. Having worked in the alcohol industry for many years and frequented many many bars around the world, everywhere from New York, Guatemala, Tokyo, Bogota, Bali – I’ve seen it all. I believe I know a good one when I see one. So when my Airbnb host recommended a wine bar owned by his friend, I was intrigued. I love a good wine bar. This wine bar was aptly named ‘Red Red Wine’ which I assume is after that great 80’s UB40 hit. What I loved about this place, was that the minute I walked in, I was greeted like an old friend. For small bars that kind of rapport is essential and these guys were masters at it, as we chatted most of the night. I was lucky enough to try various Croatian reds and whites and let me tell you – Croatian wine is a.m.a.z.i.n.g. – not to be missed. I tried many a bar in Croatia, and this was by far my favourite. If you head to Hvar, check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

My fav - Red Red Wine bar - Hvar Island

My fav – Red Red Wine bar – Hvar Island

Closing up the bar at Red Red Wine Bar - Hvar.

Closing up the bar at Red Red Wine Bar – Hvar.

Fabulous Croatian hospitality at Red Red Wine Bar, Hvar

Fabulous Croatian hospitality at Red Red Wine Bar, Hvar

6. Best service – Winner: Croatian Riviera Yes, I can see some of you rolling eyes as I write this, saying ‘French service? What service?’ I actually find French service quite endearing and humorous. In fact, I have placed and won many bets around the length of time it would take a French waitress to serve us. French service = extra pocket money for me. Anyway, I digress. Yes, Croatia is without doubt the winner. Everyone from the old pensioner who came up to me to ask me if I was lost and kindly gave me directions when I was in Split, to the waiter in Hvar who didn’t want me to eat a meal by myself, so ‘stole’ the next door restaurant’s wifi password and we went through a long list of destinations he recommended in Hvar. Wow, everyone is so friendly and really do want you to have a great time here. They are proud of their country and it shows. On top of that, I have not had to carry my heavy luggage at all since I arrived in Croatia. All the men, whether young or old are very chivalrous and believe me it is much appreciated. You hear that boys at home – chivalry is not dead in Europe – take note!

Beautiful view of Hvar Town

Beautiful view of Hvar Town

Whilst overall, my holiday in the French Riviera will always be the ultimate experience, when breaking everything down you can see Croatia has placed very well. Well done Croatia ☺ A big thanks to Makiko, my partner in crime in Dubrovnik this past week. Loved the adventures, especially watching the football alongside the world cup players – always in great company with you ;)

Partner in crime for cocktails in Dubrovnik this past week - Makiko!

Partner in crime in Dubrovnik this past week – Makiko!

Any regrets or negatives about Croatia you may ask? My first negative – nudist beaches. Why are the most unattractive people the ones that are taking their kit off at these nudist beaches? There were a multitude of nudist beaches along the coastline that we had to pass by. OMG, my eyes have been traumatised forever by the amount of beer guts, saggy man boobs, and saggy arses. To the nudist people on beaches around the world – please work out before taking it all off, it gives me nightmares. On a more serious note, my other biggest regret is that I didn’t visit Croatia five years ago, before the hordes of mass markets tourists arrived. Not to worry, I briefly passed through Bosnia en route to Dubrovnik and have earmarked the Bosnian and Montenegro coastlines as a future trip. Watch out Bosnia & Montenegro, I’ll be there as soon as I can! Bisous, Ms Scandinasia xxx

Cuisine, Couture, and the Cup – my highlights of France

Many years ago, I used to sit next to a colleague at work who used to bounce into work every morning and ask me “what has been the highlight of your day so far today?”. He used to ask this question at 8.30am in the morning. I had barely even woken up, so it was always a struggle to answer this question so early in the morning. However, having this question asked to me every day really did chip away and change my mindset to appreciate all the great things that I took for granted.

As I depart France, I think about all the wonderful experiences I have had. Here are a selection of my highlights:

1. French cuisine – They say a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Despite being a female, the same can most definitely be said of me. Virtually all the food I have tried while in France, whether in restaurants or home-cooked meals have been incredible. Granted, some of the food is probably not the healthiest, but running through the French countryside or through the beautiful city parks to work it off has been a pleasure in itself. The great thing about staying in France for almost a month has been that I have had time to explore and discover my favourite food establishments. My favourite local boulangerie, my favourite bistrot for escargot, my favourite wine bar for an amazing glass of viognier, my favourite creperie. Ahhh, it’s all so good.

Mouthwatering French cuisine

Mouthwatering French cuisine


2. Couture – As luck may have it, I have been in France during the major summer sales. I love window shopping, looking at all the gorgeous things on sale. I have to admit, I did buy a few things, but true to my word, it’s a ‘one in, one out’ policy so I have thrown a few things away to keep my luggage manageable.
Gorgeous shop fronts in Montpellier

Gorgeous shop fronts in Montpellier


One thing I was prompted to do while I was in Montpellier, was visit the pharmacy. I am a big fan of Lisa Eldridge, a world renowned makeup artist, and I love perusing her website and video blogs. French pharmacies are treasure troves for all skincare and cosmetics, with brands that you just can’t buy elsewhere. She has an excellent video on the cosmetic treasures you can find in French pharmacies. I went to ask for recommendations from the pharmacists and I was surprised how knowledgeable they were and have been impressed by their recommendations. It’s so nice having the chance to do small yet enjoyable tasks such as this.
Shopping in French pharmacies - love it

Shopping in French pharmacies – love it


3. Meeting up with great friends both old and new. I really love the fact that you cannot see your friends for many years but pick up just where you left off when meeting them again. My highlight was hearing my European friends starting to say words and phrases in New Zealand English by the end of the weekend – so adorable for me to hear. It definitely makes me smile when I think about it.

4. World Cup – yes I know it is being held in Brazil, but since France has been doing so well, there has been a great atmosphere in the city. I’ve gone to watch many of the games (sometimes even by myself), so I’m now a regular at my local pub. It has been a great way to meet the locals, and a fabulous way to try out my pigeon French language skills. Since many of the locals I meet don’t know English, I’ve had to study hard to understand enough vocabulary to have a half decent conversation. But often this means I say some major faux pas in French. These faux pas are waayyy too embarrassing to write in this blog (I blush whenever I think about it), but remind me to tell you when I see you next…

5. Montpellier was an ideal city to study French. I enjoyed it because it was far away enough, that it was not on the main tourist route, so you felt like you could live there like a local instead of being pigeon holed as a tourist. It has enough to keep me occupied during the week, but is close enough to travel to other fabulous destinations in the weekend. Thanks Dianne for a great recommendation!

Street art - bicycles on walls - love the quirkiness of Montpellier

Street art – bicycles on walls – love the quirkiness of Montpellier

I will definitely be back in France again soon – next time for a much longer period of time, so I can enjoy even more of the great things that it has to offer. Au Revoir France – I miss you already!

Bisous,
Ms Scandinasia xxx

Doppelgänging in the South of France with my ‘twin’

They say every person is supposed to have their own doppelgänger (twin) somewhere in the world. I have been lucky enough to find mine. And no she isn’t even related to me. Several years ago I randomly met a woman, who was also part Asian, part European. When I first saw her, I thought I was looking in the mirror, it was a very strange experience. Anyway, despite her living in Europe, we periodically meet up to travel, shop, and gossip with one another. My visit to France presented the perfect opportunity for us to catch up once again.

What we realised in Montpellier was that we were not the only ones that thought we looked alike. Once amusing doppelgänger story occurred when we visited Musée Fabre in Montpellier. We were looking at the beautiful paintings in the museum and I decided to go ahead while my ‘twin’ stayed behind to look at some of the paintings in more detail. When the security guard saw her coming through the rooms a few minutes later, he became perplexed. He went up to my ‘twin’ and asked if she was the person that just came through the room, but in different attire? She laughed and explained to the security guard that we were in fact two different people and we were not even related. He was dumbfounded – how could two people look so alike but not be related?

This week has been jam packed full of fun with my twin. Firstly, we travelled to the beautiful town of Avignon to check out the Palais des Papes (Pope’s Palace). It was a shock to see so many tourists, as I have been used to living under the radar as a faux local in Montpellier (where tourists are few and far between).


Speaking of tourists, there were certainly a horde of them in Marseille, where we also visited this weekend. As you know, I’m not one for super touristy spots, I’m more of an off the beaten track kind of girl. But I have to admit, seeing the view from Notre Dame Cathedral in Marseille, and taking a boat out to see the Parc National des Calanques was magnificent. I was amazed to see the very steep inlets made of limestone. It was great to see the locals and tourists alike enjoying the area, swimming, sailing and enjoying the sea in the scorching weather. I knew nothing of the Calanque landscape prior to my visit, so it was a beautiful surprise. Many thanks to my twin for her recommendation ☺

Checking out the beautiful Parc National des Calanques

Checking out the beautiful Parc National des Calanques


Checking out the beautiful Parc National des Calanques

Checking out the beautiful Parc National des Calanques



Back home in Montpellier, the city pulled out all the stops for us this past weekend. In our honour (well we liked to think it was in our honour anyway), there was a huge music festival in the city. The festival was unlike any music festival I have been to before, due to the sheer variety of music on offer. Montpellier is a city where the streets are like a maze, you have to get lost to enjoy it. During this festival we enjoyed getting lost in the streets and every turn we took, there was music playing in different squares, parks, bars, and restaurants. And all kinds of music – from pop, rock, jazz, electronica, classical, reggae, and the list goes on. It was great to see the city come alive, with people of all ages enjoying the music, food, and ambience. We felt very lucky to be part of special day for the city.
Montpellier at night

Montpellier at night



Montpellier Music Festival

Montpellier Music Festival


As for my French language skills – it will always be a work in progress, but I can now order food in French, which is a breakthrough. Today, we also learnt how to write an internet dating profile in French, something somewhat alarming for my Saudi Arabian ‘princes’, but something that may one day be of use to me ;) Will keep that in my back pocket, perhaps for a later date – lol.
Bisous,
Ms Scandinasia xxx

From the land of spray cheese to the land of Camembert

My travels this week have taken me from Miami to Montpellier, France. OMG, I have been waiting to arrive in France for so long. Ever since I was struck down by terrible food poisoning in Guatemala, I have been dreaming of the day when I would arrive in France. I had been dreaming of fresh pain au chocolat, blue cheese, and great wine. I cannot believe I am finally here. France, I have missed you so much.

So why am I here in Montpellier, France? I’m here to learn French. Yes, my years of bastardising the French language are over, it’s time for me to learn finally learn some of the language. I’ve been wanting to do this for years, and going to my first lesson felt like the first step towards ‘mission accomplished’ (or should I say mission impossible?!). Before I go on any further, I must give a big shout out to my French friends back home. I had to do an entrance test upon arrival, and you guys were fabulous teachers prepping me for this. You will be happy to know that I did not make a complete fool of myself (during the test anyway). Merci beaucoup guys – you are the best :)

On my first day of class, I was quite surprised to find out that my class was full of Saudi Arabian men. In fact, I was the only female amongst them. So what does that mean for me? Well, it means that I am ‘big sister’ to these young men, translating some of the double entendre jokes that some of the other students had been laughing about the night before. OMG, these boys are so young and innocent. I’m in fits of laughter during break times translating rude jokes for them while they blush once they understand the true meaning.

The French phrases I have learnt have also been skewed towards my Saudi ‘princes’. I am fluent in asking for food without pork or no alcohol – which are phrases I can guarantee I will never use.

The great thing about being based in the South of France, is that there are a multitude of places to visit in the weekend. This past weekend, I was lucky enough to catch up with an old friend for dinner in Marseille and then for digestifs in Aix en Provence. I love that I can say that. It sounds way sexier than having dinner in Auckland and dessert in Huntly.

Hanging out with my French friend, I was able to try the most exquisite home-cooked French food. We explored and shopped the local produce markets in Aix en Provence, and I was then given a lesson in French cooking. Wow, it all looked so easy. No doubt when I try it myself later there will be tears.


How do you top off mouthwatering French cuisine in Provence? Checking out art exhibitions, modern dance, classical music concerts, and running through the French countryside of course. Seriously boys and girls, this is such a far cry from beers and reggae music on the beach in the Caribbean. I am loving the contrast of France – just what the doctor ordered at this stage of my trip.

A big thanks to Jean, for providing the ultimate French experience this past weekend. Already missing the wonderful home cooked meals and spectacular views :)

Bisous,

Ms Scandinasia xxx