We've settled in nicely to Split. It's a beautiful place with great weather and friendly people. And the food!
But before we get back into the sights, we've been spending a lot of time planning out our adventures between now and January and thought we'd share some of that. As always, if you're not interested, skip down for the latest highlights.
PLANNING THE ADVENTURE
People often ask me how far in advance we plan. Currently, we have been planning in chunks so that we aren't always having to think about it and can feel comfortable that we know where we'll be in the near future. (A result of the constant planning hangover we still have from 2018.) In general, we start dreaming about the "travel path" about six months to a year out. For example, we are "dreaming" about 2020 now and have decided we will be in Southeast Asia, which may or may not include Australia and Pacific Islands, from January to June. We know we will be back in the US in July for my father's 90th birthday. And after that...well, we're still throwing around options. It's mainly like we first pick a continent, then we narrow it down to a country or countries, then to specific places.
This year, we've mapped things out and put definite stakes in the ground by booking housing for a month at a time, usually about three months in advance. Same with air travel. For example, we have all of our flights and housing booked through the end of the year now. It's reassuring to know it's done but also carries a risk if a wrinkle gets thrown into the works. Fingers crossed the only wrinkles we get are from the sun!
SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER 2019
September and October are an exercise in how making decisions too early can lead to some whacky travel.
In September, we leave Croatia and travel back to the US. I haven't seen my brother and his family in quite some time so we thought my mother's birthday in early September would be a good excuse to travel back and see everyone. We had planned, five months ago or so, that we would go to Chicago (where my brother is), my parents would come out and after a visit there we would go to DC to see the girls. We didn't think, at the time, that we would be back until the following May when both girls would graduate from their respective schooling, Morgan from Law School and Courtney from Nursing School. But best laid plans and all that.
After booking the trip to from Croatia to Chicago, we realized we'd have seen the girls in France and Croatia this summer so spending the money to go to and stay in DC to see them again so soon didn't make sense. Plus, about this time they both announced they would be graduating in December instead of May. So now much to our amazement we will be back in the US , in December. We also saw my parents in June in Portugal so September was feeling less and less like a necessary trip. But we had the tickets and we had the desire to see my brother and his family so we stuck with the plan. Adding to the complication, we also had booked three weeks in October in Cyprus doing a house sit. We'd been wanting to try out this "free living" experience and were lucky to get one in Cyprus, where we were planning to go anyway before whiling away some time in the Canary Islands and then heading to Asia for the winter. But now we were locked into flying back across the Atlantic for two months before having to come back to the US again in December. And we still had to figure out what to do between early September and October.
We couldn't go back to Europe because of the Schengen Visa rules. We didn't want to go too far out of the way to get back to Cyprus. The Caribbean was an option. But in the end, the enticement to stay in the US awhile for Scott to get to see the start of football season won out. Miami here we come. When in doubt, South Beach is always a good answer.
After Cyprus, as I mentioned we planned to go to the Canary Islands for November and we also stuck with that idea. It's one of the few places in Europe still warm enough for us in November. But traveling from Cyprus, not a big air travel destination, to the Canaries, not a cheap air travel destination, was proving a challenge. It's not just about the cost of flights for us but the "reasonableness" of the travel is a big factor. Flying all the way back to London to get to the islands just wasn't something we wanted to do. So, Marrakesh to the rescue. It's "on the way", has easy flights from Cyprus and to the Canaries and it's somewhere that's been on my bucket list forever! A week in Marrakesh it is!
Finally in 2019, we will be in DC for the first three weeks of December trying not to freeze. In addition to the graduations we'll be able to spend our anniversary at the Scottish Parade! And then, because that won't be cold enough, we'll go to Colorado and spend Christmas and the New Year with my parents. (Just kidding. Any excuse to get out to Colorado and to see my parents is a good one!)
In the end, the map looks like this. We're going to be very familiar with Gatwick airport!
Not ideal and not very efficient but...live and learn!
THE BIG IDEAS
We chose Central America and Europe for 2019 to "practice" being expats before embarking on countries that are more foreign to us. That's worked out well. We've learned how to arrive in a new place, what we need and don't, and how to navigate. It feels totally normal now and we're ready for some more "interesting" (read challenging) adventures in 2020.
We've learned so much about what we like and don't like in the last 15 months but it's always changing and adapting. 2018 was the Year of Constant Travel followed by the Long Mexican Winter. Two ends of the spectrum, neither of which were ideal. So 2019 has been the Year of the Month-long Stay. It's has its upsides in reduced costs and relaxation but it has its downsides of committing to plans too early and lack of flexibility (see above). So 2020 is, tentatively, the Year of Winging It! We're hoping the reduced cost of living in SE Asia will allow us more flexibility. It's not that we won't stay places for longer durations, just that we won't be picking those places so far in advance. We're also of the mind that different continents/countries demand a different style of travel. In other words, Europe is expensive and there are usually discounts for monthly stays so moving around less makes economic sense. Asia is cheaper and lodging options and approaches are very different so it's not as necessary. I'm sure, if nothing else, it will be an adventure! Anyone out there with "must see" destinations in SE Asia, let us know!
SEEING THE HEIGHTS IN SPLIT
You thought it would be sights but so far we've focused on the heights! Croatia and it's islands are very mountainous and as result there are great view points everywhere.
Brač is the closest big island to Split, just across the channel. So to try out the ferry system, we headed out. The port is a chaotic jumble of cars, people, and ships. But once we found the departure board and sighted the numbering for the piers, it all made sense and we found out ferry.
Supetar is the port city for Brač and includes Supetar itself as well as the three villages: Splitska, Škrip and Mirca. With a population of 3,213, it is the island's largest town! It's a charming village that today is mostly a beach resort town but the harbor is beautiful as are the old stone streets. It's August in Europe and everyone is on vacation so the beaches and resorts were packed.
Interesting fact - all of the stone for Diocletian's Palace in Split came from Brač, prized for it's white stone.
Since we didn't come prepared for a beach day, we rented bikes and headed out to explore. I had read that the village of Mirca was lovely and not far so off we went.
What I neglected to realize was that it, and the olive trail we were headed for, were at the top of the ridge line! It was a hot and steep ride but the views were worth it! Croatia has a thriving olive oil and wine industry and both are exceptional.
I will never tire of the beauty of old olive trees and older stone walls.
And the little village was a beautiful spot for a break before heading down to the beachside for a coffee.
Finally we had an amazing meal at the harbor before heading back. Scott is in love with the Italian food influences here, especially the pizza, and I'm loving all of the fresh grilled fish and vegetables.
MARJAN HILL, SPLIT
Marjan is 178 meters tall (584 ft.) and offers a view of the entire city, the surrounding islands, and the nearby mountains of Mosor and Kozjak. Hiking, as I may have mentioned once or twice, is not Scott's favorite activity. SO I was really pleased when he agreed to "hike" up onto Marjan Hill. I put hike in quotes because almost all of the paths are paved. Nevertheless, it was a really steep climb, initially up a never-ending set of steps. From the first viewpoint at the top of the stairs, there are amazing views back to Split's harbor and back to the mountains.
Then it's up a beautiful walkway...
...to the Chapel of St. Nicholas, built in the 13th century. These chapels were popular pilgrimage sites throughout the Middle Ages and beyond.
The path continues to the chapel of Our Lady of Bethlehem, built in the 15th century. As it required more steps, Scott was happy to wait at the bottom.
As an aside, we've realized I like to climb things. Light houses, bell towers, doesn't matter. Scott, not so much. So we both do what we enjoy and we end up all smiles.
Beyond this chapel, there is the Chapel of St. Jerome and the first of the hermitage caves, also from the 15th century. I guess pilgrims used to come to these sites and live in seclusion as hermits to contemplate God. It's hard to imagine now that it's a recreational park for a large city but it does feel like a very blessed place.
And finally, the Karepić Hermitage. According to the coat of arms above the entrance and the date, the fortress was built by the Karepić family in 1523. They also built a palace in the old city of Split. The inscription below the coat of arms reads: CONCORDES VOTA SEQVNTVR, DISCORDES FRVSTRA LABORANT. Which apparently translates as HARMONY MAKES WISHES COME TRUE, DISHARMONY MAKES DECEPTIONS. I really like that.
The path continues on to the end of the peninsula and affords amazing views the whole way down.
We grabbed the public bus back (the bus system here is awesome, cheap, and easy to use). It was a great day.
Days we're not out "height-seeing", we while away our time on the beach. Feels like August for sure as the temps were over 100 for a few days. But with nothing to do and all day to do it, we don't mind.
Well we're off to the airport to pick up Courtney so stay tuned for more adventures. And remember to follow us @arrradventures on InstaGram.