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Monday, September 24, 2012

The Final Stop - Club Paradise in Novalja/Zcre Beach, Croatia

I hate to write part four because in finishing my story it's as if the adventure itself is finally finished.  At least writing it will memorialize it forever.  With that I give you the final chapter... Pag Island, Novalja, and Zrce Beach.

Thursday, August 16, 2012
Somewhat tired of Split, we checked out extra early so that we could see some of the sights on our drive from Split to Novalja on Pag Island.  We'd heard about some spectacular waterfalls, Krka Falls, that were conveniently on the way.  After a breakfast of famous chocolate gelato, we jumped in the car, and after some intense navigating, made it onto the A1 freeway.  Time for some REAL driving.  Music blasting, I can say I definitely enjoyed the higher speed limits and wide open pavement.

The best way to see Krka Falls is to drive to the town of Skradin where you can park your car for about 40 kuna and then take the free boat to the park entrance.  The town of Skradin is quaint and pretty adorable.


We had a car so we obviously drove there but you could just as easily book a tour from Split. You do need a couple of hours to really bother going through between driving there (about an hour), parking, taking the boat there, looking around/swimming, taking the boat back, etc.

The entry fee was about 85 kuna per person and the park was OVERRUN with people.  You had about two seconds to stand on the bridge and look at the waterfall before being pushed forward by the sheer crush of people trying to get their token tourist photo.  It would've been really enjoyable to sit in the water and swim but we'd brought our purses filled with money and passports so we weren't comfortable leaving them on the shore to take a dive.  Honestly there were so many people that it gave me anxiety and so we left.  Kind of a waste of money for a waterfall that is definitely beautiful but not THAT exciting.

The rest of the day was spent driving onto Pag Island (this island's got a bridge woohoo!) which took at three hours.  The drive there was absolutely breathtaking like the below picture of Pag Town.

After some more creative navigating we found the Big Yellow Hostel and managed to steal the last parking spot.  The hostel was run by a man with an unwashed ponytail and a lazy eye whose sense of humor was fairly strange.  The hostel itself was dirty, creaky and filled with an assortment of very strange hippy people that reminded me of some parallel, Mad Men episode.


Lil Sass was NOT having it and insisted that we wander through town to see if we could land an apartment rental in someone's house (don't worry this is super common in Croatia).  After about 30 minutes we finally found a home owned by an old woman and her husband.  For 900 kuna for three nights it was CHEAPER than the hostel and it was super clean with a really comfy bed, a private shower and a parking spot!  This discovery put both of us in a far better mood.  My recommendation for those traveling to Croatia, and especially Novalja, would be to still book a hostel, even if it isn't the nicest, as a back-up and then upon arrival try and find better accommodation.

For dinner we wandered the main street along the water until we came across a restaurant called Moby Dick which seemed pretty popular and had a great American playlist.  I ordered the green pasta with steamed salmon and shared a 70 kuna liter of wine with Lil Sass.  Talk about a good deal!!  The food was delicious even if our waiter was a little hair-brained and somewhat slow.

From dinner, we walked a block down to Cocomo, which is a sort of clubby bar scene with questionable drinks and more great music.  The back area becomes a sweaty dancefloor with very little ventilation so we stuck more towards the front which is open air and really nice.  After an hour or so we made friends with two Italians and two Africans (living in Italy) who were all traveling together.  They had a car and one of the guys didn't drink so we got a free ride to Zrce Beach.

Zrce Beach has been heralded as the "Ibiza" of eastern Europe with multiple open air clubs and famous DJs spinning there during July and August each summer.  We ended up at Papaya, one such club, dancing until 4 am at which point the guys kindly drove us home.  The scene is awesome although the music that particular night was a little too trance for me. 

Friday, August 17, 2012
Today began our trend of waking up and catching up on our emails while drinking espresso at Art Caffe in the main square.  They have free wifi if you order a drink.  The espresso was really tasty too!

We spent the rest of the morning wandering through town along the coast stopping at intervals at each of the little pebble beaches.  The water closer to town is a little murky and trashy but if you walk far enough along the coast towards deeper water that are some really nice secluded little areas among the rocks to stop and nap for awhile.


I had this insane craving for tuna fish so we stopped at one of the local markets where I bought tuna, crackers, mayo and some other random Croatian snacks.  Turns out the tuna had a bunch of season and vegetables in it (ick! I hate veggies) so I spent quite awhile trying to dissect the tuna away from the rest of the ingredients.  The end result wasn't super satisfying...

After spending a million hours sitting in the refreshing ocean water, we went back to the apartment to nap, shower and head out for dinner.  I have to admit that most of the places to eat looked pretty lame both in terms of menu options as well as atmosphere so we ended up doing the EXACT same thing we did last night - Moby Dick, Cocomo, and Papaya.  This time at Cocomo we made friends with three Spaniards from Barcelona - Albert, Jordi and Oriole - and Rok from Slovenia. 

Papaya this time was absolute epic!  Alesso from Swedish House Mafia spun all night long and we definitely came home at 7am with the sun.  It was well worth the 150 kuna entrance fee.  This time we took the bus both ways which was super easy and I think about 20 kuna per person.  I was particularly vocal about getting pizza so we bought some and sat eating it in front of our apartment until the boys were shooed away by the neighbors like stray dogs.  So entertaining.

Saturday, August 18, 2012
Today we decided to head the opposite direction down the coast after our traditional morning espresso run. This direction afforded little stone docks to lie on as opposed to the rocky coastline from yesterday.  The water also seemed clearer.  We lazied around all day and then went back to take another nap before dinner.

On our way to dinner we ended up randomly running into the Spaniards again and so we invited them to dinner at, you guessed it, MOBY DICK!  I'd also like to point out that we had the same ridiculous waiter all three nights so this time we felt we had to get a picture of him! 


However, I couldn't do the green salmon pasta for a third night so I ordered the kebab platter.  It was REALLY good.

Also as we sat down, I look straight in front of me only to see The Rok and his Slovenian friends sitting at the table across from us ("Marco Polo!").  Small. Town.  Jordi kept us giggling through the majority of dinner thanks to crude, ridiculous conversation topics.  In keeping with more tradition we ended up back at Cocomo to dance the night out, however I drew the line at going to Zrce for a third night because we needed to be up early the next day for the harrowing drive all the way back to Dubrovnik.

Sunday, August 19, 2012
We were up early to drive back to Dubrovnik which I was anticipating would take like 10 hours.  Turns out it was closer to seven which was really nice and gave us time to stop to take pictures of the incredible views along the road home.


We checked back into Fresh Sheets again and this time they tried to put us in the two person room within the hostel.  It didn't have AC, was really small, and had a tiny window (like an attic) which we kind of argued back about considering we were paying for the "same room" and/or an equivalent room.  They were very understanding and set it up so we could have a room in another apartment nearby.  I feel like in Croatia they just have tons of family and friends with rooms that can be rented out at a moment's notice.

We decided to return to Taj Mahal for our final dinner where we shared a table with two Canadians who had also just come from Yacht Week and had nothing but good things to say.

Once dinner was over we headed back to shower and pack and reflect on what I must say was one of the best vacations of my life.  I hope that some of the people I've met on this trip become lifelong friends and that Croatia is still just as amazing when I return in a year to try out Yacht Week for myself.  Until then...


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