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San Clemente Journal

Dubrovnik, Croatia - Pearl of the Adriatic

Mar 29, 2024 10:53AM ● By Nina Welch
by Nina Welch

Over the summer, I was ready for an adventurous trip, and then it happened. I got a chance to travel to Europe for three weeks with my two dear friends, sisters Laurie Wickam and Alice Howe. First stop, Dubrovnik, Croatia. 

It all began when Laurie’s daughter and family, April, Todd, Blake, and Vaughn Boerger invited Laurie to go with them on the start of their Croatian trip. This was Todd and April’s second visit to the magical city so they wanted to share it with their kids and Laurie. Since Laurie had never been to Europe, she needed a companion so she invited her sister, and they both invited me. Hence, the whirlwind travels of three women of a certain age began. 

Brunch at Panorama Restaurant with the Boergers, Alice, Nina and Laurie.


 “We chose Dubrovnik due to the immersive culture all around with adventure at the heart of the experience. We enjoyed finding all the different ways we could plunge into the warm Adriatic Sea whether it be off the cliff, the water’s edge or the nearest rope swing,” says April.

Nina with Tyrion Lannister.


Dubrovnik offers well-preserved medieval architecture and rich history. When Croatia separated from Yugoslavia in 1991, Dubrovnik became the only coastal city to be pulled into the war. The Siege was a military engagement fought between the Yugoslav People’s Army and Croatian forces defending Dubrovnik and its surroundings. The city was devastated, but repaired with amazing speed due to the resilience and liberty of the people. The only physical reminders of the war are the bright orange roof tiles. The walls were used to defend against the attack of the people who refused to flee. Known as the Defenders, they managed to hold the fort atop Mount Srd. After eight months of bombing, Dubrovnik was liberated by the Croation Army in May, 1992.
With perfect weather, 80s high, 70s low, and the central location of our VRBO’s, we were ready to explore.  Accommodations were split up for the four-day stay due to the growing size of our group. Laurie and the Boergers settled into a large house at the very top of Sunset Beach, also known as Uvala Lapad, with a bird’s-eye view of the Adriatic and the Franjo Tudman Bridge. Alice and I rented a smaller place many stairway steps from Laurie and family’s house and many more steps to the promenade. Our little place was picturesque with hibiscus flowers, roses, grapes, and a butterfly’s view of the hills and greenery below. Our delightful and accommodating host, Luca, is a civil engineer, who runs the family’s VRBO in the summer. He drove us to and from the airport and surprised us with a cherry aperitif, made by his mother, when we arrived. 
Daily Fitness Regime. 

Laurie in the Old City with grandkids Vaughan and Blake.


Anyone who has been to the historic Old City will know that every side street offers a multitude of steps. If you are looking for a free workout, then Dubrovnik is the place for you. A few years ago, a young team of international students counted the steps in the ancient walled city. The devastating count turned out to be 4,343 stone steps in the Old City and 1,080 steps on the City Walls. I didn’t count the steps on our daily trek to and from the promenade, but I assure you we got in our workout. After seeing older residents walking constantly up and down the stairs, I would like to nominate Dubrovnik as a Blue Zone, which includes Japan, Costa Rica, Greece, Italy, and Loma Linda, California. Blue Zones are regions in the world where people live longer than average.

Old Town. 
With a jumble of steep alleys, museums, cafes, and squares, Old Town is a living fairy tale jutting into the sea and surrounded by thick medieval walls, the oldest completely intact city wall in the world. Dubrovnik is known to avid Game of Thrones (GOT) television viewers as King’s Landing with its red-roofed buildings, ancient walls, and stunning view of the Adriatic Sea. We didn’t take the GOT tour because I’m the only one who was a fan. The tour includes the winding streets where Cersei’s walk-of-shame occurred. When exiting the old City Walls, I was thrilled to come upon an art gallery with a Salvador Dali exhibition featuring this Spanish surrealist’s thought-provoking works. paintings and drawings and a variety of objects.

Cable Car. 
Our group trudged up even more steps in Old Town to the Cable Car, which zipped us up to the Panorama Restaurant and Bar for brunch at Mount Srd. The first attacks of the war were focused on Mount Srd where the giant stone cross was destroyed, but it has since been rebuilt. The sensations of eating brunch high above Old Town gives the impression of floating between the blue sky and the blue sea. We were excited to view Lokrum Island from above because that was our next destination.


Lokrum Island. 
We took a day trip on the this exquisite nature reserve. The island is another Game of Thrones filming location. HBO gifted the iron throne to Dubrovnik. There was so much to enjoy on the island including wearing your water shoes on the rocky beaches, swimming in the shallow water and jumping off the rocks in the lagoon. Yours truly didn’t do the latter, but instead I enjoyed a drink or two at the outside Lake Beach Bar with friendly peacocks cruising the atmosphere.

The Tuk Tour. 
A great way to experience the best of the city through breathtaking views, its locally owned and operated, and they take you through a glimpse of history including remnants from the war. A blanket and Dalmatian wine is provided at sunset. They even pick you up and return you to your door step on this affordable and convenient excursion.

Restaurants and Bars. 
While dining at Sphere Restaurant on the water at Sunset Beach, this writer knew it was the right place when the quote on the cocktail menu read: “Every no-good story starts with a salad.” The espresso martini was a good way to start the meal, which was topped with three coffee beans, representing health, wealth, and happiness.

Food and drink choices were abundant in Old Town. Favorites were the Bota Oyster and Sushi Bar and the Divine Wine Bar. Wine in Dubrovnik is not only delicious but inexpensive, plus they don’t export.

The Cave Bar Mor, a natural cave located beneath the Hotel Mor, was one of Laurie’s favorites. “After walking through cavernous trails, it was mesmerizing and hypnotic to enjoy a drink on a glass table top hovering over a bottomless pit,” she says.

Before departing the city of stone and light, Laurie and her grandkids, Blake, age 13, and Vaughn, age 10, found a way to leave a taste of their home-town vibe to another beach on the other side of the globe. They painted messages from San Clemente on sand dollars, purchased at Russell Stationers, with the Croatian words Dobar Dan (good day) and Bok (hello). Placing the colorful shells in bushes, on stairs, and by trees gave them a sense of connection and the feeling that they will return someday.