Sometimes it seems like it would be the simplest, most logical thing in the world for me to be a travel writer: combining two passions into an honest living.
But the more I travel, and the more I write, the more I realise I would be a terrible travel writer. I’m no good with specifics and logistics; I have no patience recommending hotels and art galleries and restaurants. I tend toward a writing style so snobbishly, aggressively verbose as to turn off (I can only assume) the sensible reader. I prefer the way words sound to what they convey.
And while I so desperately want to write about my favourite places in the world, I don’t want to do so in any kind of way that would help you plan a trip there. I just want to wax lyrical about how those places made me feel. About how they might make you feel, too, if you have the chance to go there. When I tell you Dubrovnik, Croatia, is the most magical place I’ve ever been, I’m not basing it on careful research on affordability, accommodation options, availability of services, weather. I’m basing it purely on the fact that I spent ten days there in early September and if I never get to take another holiday, that one will be enough.
Herewith my entirely impractical, subjective, nonguide to having a wonderful time in Dubrovnik.
Go in early autumn, or perhaps spring, before the hordes descend from northwestern Europe and pack the restaurant terraces and narrow bars. Even in September, you’ll get pedestrian bottle necks at Pile Gate and have to weave your way through crowds of American wedding guests and cruising retirees on the Stradun, but you’ll always get a table for lunch.
Take friends, old and new. Mix them in together, it will be okay. Everyone gets along in Dubrovnik. Talk politics. Play cards. Get caught in the rain.
Brave the steep hillside, if your legs will allow it, and book a room or a flat that has some stairs between it and the Old Town. You’ll curse yourself every time you walk home but the view once you arrive, over the town and the Adriatic and the island of Lokrum, will be priceless. It is, in fact, possible to live inside a postcard.
Order the house wine. It’s cheap and it’s good and sometimes it comes in litres and you’ll look at your friends and say, this is foolish. A litre of wine? And then after an hour you’ll order another, just to be sure.
Buy a pair of cheap snorkelling goggles from a souvenir stall slash icecreamery and wade out from Banje Beach to plunge your face into the sea. Without them, you will never realise that disinterested seabream are passing your feet to nibble around the rocks below. Shake out your hair and dive into the middle of a school of tiny silver sand smelt, who will make space for you in their midst with an admirable show of broadmindedness. Become, momentarily, a mermaid. Drift out into the intense blue and gaze back at the city walls.
Go to the only nightclub, even if you don’t like nightclubs or electro music. Go because it’s carved into the ancient city walls themselves. Go because you might be met with shirtless firebreathing bartenders. Go because it contains one of the world’s most dense population of tall, attractive men*. It won’t just be the smoke machines that make you feel faint.
Eat icecream cones. Every day, twice if you can manage it. Eat one as an entrée while you decide on a restaurant.
Say yes to as many things as possible: to parasailing and to kayaking and to guided tours and to 2am swimming and to 3am lemon-picking and to a nightcap with a new friend.
Try not to say winter is coming TOO often.
Take the cablecar to the top of the cliff, there’s literally a whole other side to Dubrovnik. Pick up your jaw. Order a pina colada.
Go back into the sea, to make sure the fish are still there. Try not to be too sad each time you have to leave them.
Find the fountain with a legend attached (if you drink the water, you’ll come back to Dubrovnik again). Swallow handful after greedy handful.
*based on a small-scale study.