Thanks to Sweden’s excellent parental leave, we were able to take a massive road trip this summer. As I took off less than the typical time for maternity leave when O was born, I had days left to use up. As he was born before 2014*, these days last until the end of his first year of compulsory school (in other words, the school year that he turns eight). However, we have enough days between Husband and I that we decided it would be better to use up some of them now.
And so we began planning our big summer adventure.
Summer in Croatia
We decided that part one of the trip should be to the Istrian peninsula in Croatia. I’ve wanted to visit for a while, and once we found that we could fly in to Budapest and drive down there, a route began to form. (By which I mean that I spent hours poring over Google maps and planning out said route…)
Since our flight got in to Budapest mid-afternoon, we drove from there to Croatia’s capital Zagreb for an overnight stay to break up the journey.
I don’t know if we just didn’t do enough research into what to do in the city, or whether we were just focused on getting to the coasts, but we struggled a little to find things to occupy us for the morning we spent in Zagreb. We wandered a little around the old town and visited the market, both of which were lovely, but still we found ourselves itching to leave. (I know I am most likely doing the city a massive disservice but it just did not hit the spot.) What we did see was beautiful though.
Zagreb’s old town – Gornji Grad
After buying a small wooden recorder for the boys (thanks, Husband…), we packed up and headed to the coast. And neither Vrsar itself nor the apartment that we rented – a gem that we discovered on AirBnB – disappointed. Everything about the place was perfect (although if we were not so used to walking and to stairs, we might have struggled more as the house is up on the hill of the old town, and the boys often got tired on the walk back up the steps).
The owner of the apartment kindly took us on a tour of the town, pointing out all his favourite restaurants and, just as important, which to avoid.
The view from the apartment was stunning. Just look at that.
The old town was also charming. We found a great little coffee shop around the corner from where we were staying, in the shadow of the church and sat there for our breakfast many mornings before heading to the water.
I was inspired by the colours of the town, especially the powdery blue of these shutters. The blue of the sky isn’t too shabby either.
That powdery blue again, against the light stone of the buildings. I took so many pictures of these houses and spent many hours daydreaming about living in one – or at least holidaying there.
We spent much of the day down at the water. The little areas of beach fill up quickly, but we found that if we walked further along the northern coastline to the Orsera campsite, there was a little tidal inlet there where the boys could play in the water, collect stones and shells and generally splash around. The water in there was up to around my knees at high tide, so even for E it wasn’t a problem.
We didn’t make many excursions while we were staying there, mainly because the boys were having such a great time in the water, but we did one trip to nearby Pula (about a 40-minute drive). It is the site of one of the largest amphitheatres outside Italy and the boys loved exploring it (and hiding from the two guys dressed as Roman centurions in the blazing heat).
On Fabio’s advice, two of the nights we ate at Fancita (Dalmatinska 38), a short walk from the marine and perfect for families with smaller children. Both boys loved it there and we enjoyed the fresh fish and seafood. We also tried out his recommendation of Trost, at the marina. We both agreed afterwards that had it just been the two of us, this seafood restaurant would have been good, but they just were not so happy catering to families. Only one of the waiters was friendly, fetching lobsters from the tank for the boys to look at, but the others all treated us as if we were a nuisance they could not wait to be rid of.
We ate at a little restaurant called Orlandin by the water on the last two nights – a place that Husband had found while out running. It was perfect for the boys as there were toys to play with and drawings to colour in, as well as a playground to climb and swing and jump off.
We loved our time in Croatia and both agreed that we will be returning. The coastline is amazing and Husband has dreams of sailing along it in a few years’ time when the boys are old enough.
* The rules are slightly different for children born after 1 January 2014 – then parents cannot carry over more than 96 days after their child turns four but you can use those days up until your child turns 12. You can read more about parental benefits in Sweden here.