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An American in Paris: Spring Break in Croatia!

Since arriving in Paris, I’ve had to constantly remind myself that my five-month study abroad is not a vacation… I’m supposed to be here to go to school and learn, right?  Well, this past week was an exception to the rule.  It’s finally spring break for us Parisian students!  Classes ended last Thursday and so early Friday my friend Carolyn, who’s also from BC, and I were on a plane to Croatia.  Not your typical “Girls Gone Wild” spring break location, but that’s what made the trip even more exciting.  We had no idea what to expect or what we would be doing during our five-day vacation on the Dalmatian Coast.  As soon as we arrived in Cavtat (pronounced sahv—tot), we were blown away by its natural beauty.  Standing on the balcony of our hotel room, we were surrounded by the brilliantly blue Adriatic Sea and the enormous mountain ranges.

Our first day in Cavtat was surreal.  After an unheard 12 hours of sleep (something that I only seem to be able to do on vacation) Carolyn and I went for a run along the coast of the Adriatic and through the local town.  When we got back to the hotel, we grabbed breakfast and then set up camp at the pool, which looked as if it flowed right into the sea behind it.  We relaxed in our beach chairs, put on our sunscreen, plugged in our iPods, and opened our trashy chick-lit novels.  We were definitely on vacation.  Our entire first day was dedicated to basking in the sun (in an attempt to get rid of our pasty white complexions) and soaking up our unbelievable surroundings.  Later that night, our four other friends from BC (who are also studying abroad in Paris) arrived at the hotel to join us on our Croatian vacation.

Cavtat is a pretty small town, so on our third day we decided to venture outside and explore Dubrovnik, a more well-known area of Croatia known as the “pearl of the Adriatic.”  We woke up early and hopped on a bus that took us from Cavtat into the Old Town in Dubrovnik.  Old Town is a walled-in city, and we discovered that you can actually climb to the top of the walls and walk around the perimeter of the city.  The view from the top was spectacular.  We were completely surrounded by the Adriatic, had an unbelievable view of the surrounding islands near the Dalmatian Coast, and were also able to look down into Old Town.  One of our favorite parts was checking out the different stands where Dubrovnik locals sell handmade goods.  Everything was so unique, beautifully crafted, and cheap!  We all managed to find some great Croatian souvenirs.

Walking the city walls took us about two hours, and once we descended we were famished.  After eating lunch at a pizzeria, we stopped for ice cream.  The ice cream in Croatia is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.  It’s similar to Italian gelato because it’s really smooth and creamy, but it’s much lighter.  When you’re in the store looking into the glass case to check out the different flavors, your mouth instantly waters.  As you stare at the mountains of different colored ice creams that are packed into tiny little tin containers, you wonder if you can eat a cone with one flavor and then go back and try another.

After refueling it was time to move on to our next adventure.  Another extremely popular attraction in Dubrovnik is the cable car ride.  The ride in the cable car goes straight from Old Town to the top of Mount Srd (pronounced surge) in a mere three minutes.  Carolyn had done some research ahead of time and found out that you can take the cable car up to the top and then hike back down the mountain.  We decided to challenge ourselves and save our money by hiking both up and down the mountain.  At first we couldn’t find where the trail began, and within the first three minutes of our hike, we encountered a snake.  However after a rocky start, we found the switchback trail that would take us to the top.  Our ascent took about one hour and once we arrived at the top we were greeted with another spectacular view.  We had a panoramic view of the entire Dalmatian Coast that was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  It’s safe to say that some of the most beautiful pictures I’ve ever taken were on this trip.

We ended our day at what we later discovered is Bill Gates’ favorite bar in Croatia.  While the bar’s official name is Buza, everyone calls it the Cliff Jumping Bar.  The bar was nearly impossible to find.  The only directions we had were to walk inside the city walls in the direction of the Adriatic Sea facing Italy, and then look for the signs pointing the way to “Cold Drinks.”  It took us a while to find our way, but it was well worth the search.  The bar is outside the walls of Old Town and literally hangs over the Adriatic Sea (hence it’s nickname).  Sitting around a table that hung over the Adriatic while enjoying cold drinks and taking in another spectacular view as the sun set was the perfect end to our day.

We spent our final day of the Croatian spring break touring three of the surrounding islands.  The day before we had found a company that did all-day boat cruises.  The boat would pick us up at our hotel in the morning and then would take us to three different islands during the day, each of which we were able to tour for an allotted period of time.  To make the deal even sweeter, lunch and drinks were all included.  There was no question – we were in!  The company delivered on all of its promises and we had an amazing last day.  

We got to see three islands (the names of which none of us could pronounce let alone remember) and chatted with tons of interesting people on our boat.  Unlike most of the beaches on the Adriatic, which are primarily rocks, these island beaches had sand, and we leapt at the opportunity to lay out our towels and bury our feet in the sand. The lunch they provided for us was delicious.  They served us whole, grilled fish (which we had to debone ourselves… something not so easy to do on a moving boat) alongside fresh vegetables.  We chased it down with a glass (or was that glasses?) of wine while bathing in the sun on the boat deck as we sailed to the next island.

Despite the fact that we had a 4:40 AM wake up call the next morning, the entire trip was an unforgettable adventure.  It was a flawless vacation with beautiful weather, unbelievable scenery, exciting explorations, and fabulous friends.  I think it’s safe to say that spring break in Croatia was unlike anything we have ever experienced or will ever experience again.  While our tans may not last forever, the memories of the Croatian vacation certainly will. 

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