Rio de Janeiro 2020 Day 8-9-10 Flight to Rome and flight back to Singapore, Home Sweet Home

I quickly got into a hot bath (to warm up after a night exposed to the cold rain) and changed into a set of new clothes and went for breakfast at the hotel. It was only one round of food at the buffet and then I was back in the room, sleeping.

Main breakfast
Some fruits

Woke up at around 1030 after 4hrs of shut eye but sat on the bed till it was only 15mins left to check out at 12. Rushed to get a quick bath and packed up before proceeded to check out. Left my luggage at the storage and went out for lunch, at a certain Churrosaria called Braseiro just on the street behind the hotel. Ordered a mixed meat and rice and fries and it turned out too much for me. Had a really full and pretty delicious lunch, and on top of it, made acquaintance with one of customers, a German who stayed in Brazil. He started a conversation with me and we had a nice exchange. I left the restaurant after paying around 100reals and at the start of a drizzle.

On the inside, eating next to the kitchen
Main dish with various meat portions
Rice and fries
Braseiro restaurant

Got my luggage and went to book an uber to the airport for 80reals and since I had spare cash, I paid in cash in which the driver requested that we deal in private which I agreed. Then again I fell asleep until we reached the airport.

Checked in at Alitalia and proceeded to the departures. Bought coffee powder from Brazil (again from Britt shop) before boarding the plane.

Rio de Janeiro Airport
On the inside
Walking through the large retail section
Cute M&M’s in Brazilian outfit
There were 3 levels of airport

The 12hrs flight to Rome was a blur as I slept most of the way there. I managed to catch a movie called Ready or Not that had a really weird plot and continued to go back to sleep.

Flying out from Rio
Arrival into Rome

After 12hours of flying I landed into a very cold Rome and while it was fully possible to go visit the Colosseum just for kicks, I gave up that idea and went to do some designer brand shopping and use the lounge (Passenger lounge) since I was flying business class home.

Rome Airport
I loved the automated gate to speed through the immigrations
Express blue lane
Huge duty free for shoppig
It was my first time here in Rome’s ultra modern airport.
More shopping
Taking the train to the gate
The way to the lounge
Passenger Lounge

The lounge was ok, nothing particularly amazing with simple foodstuff and drinks. Then it was boarding time and seated at the luxurious business class of Singapore Airlines, I felt so indulged! The seats were so much better than the other business class seats I had taken throughout the trip ( they were domestic though but still), the service was excellent and the facilities were just awesome. I caught the Ford vs Ferrari show which was quite nice though I fell asleep a couple of times. Even the stewardess also noticed that I was particularly tired in which I shared about the flight I had previously. But I supposed the nice thing here was the care demonstrated by them that set The Singapore Girl above the rest!

Lounge had a nice design
What I had at the lounge
Ultra huge screen at business class

I set my seat to a full flat bed and sleep most of the journey and it was the best sleep I ever had on a plane. I woke up very much rested and with the breakfast and coffee, I was ready to get back home fresh. I spent the remainder time to jot down my memories from Lima to the last day (as I had been slacking and too tired to do so for the last 2days). We landed 30mins ahead of schedule, calling an end to my first trip to South America.

Fully horizontal converted bed to sleep
Breakfast was fantastic
More fruits
Yoghurt to complete

This trip was planned as a solo trip to the South America as I so wanted to see and visit a new continent and see the 7 wonders like Machu Picchu, in which, my last visit was the Taj Mahal in India many years back. However, there were just too much concerns over travel for a family that it would be easier for myself to go alone. And so I did, timing it within the week where my wife would be more free with her time and also with the carnival parade. I came back home with head full of memories, unforgettable experiences and myths debunked on how dangerous these places were. I will be back and with my family the next time.

Austria & Istanbul 2016 Day 17 & 18 – Flight to Istanbul then Home Sweet Home

We would be taking our flights back on this day. Baby k woke up at 4am asking for milk but I asked him to go back to sleep and wait for morning instead. He woke up at 8am obediently enough. Then it was rushing time, starting with packing everything into the luggage. Mommy also cooked baby K’s lunch. I brought the luggage down and loaded them into the boot before going to the top floor where breakfast was served, only to find out that we didn’t have breakfast in our booking and misunderstood when the receptionist said that we could have breakfast at the restaurant, but for a cost of 16euros per pax. We didn’t have the money nor more importantly, the time to have buffet breakfast.

View from the top floor of the hotel

915am and we drove towards the airport. Luckily with the data plan we bought the day before, I utilized for the last time with Google map to bring us to the airport. Before arriving at the airport, I topped up the petrol to the required level. A short drive later, we arrived within the airport compound and followed the road signs indicating the directions to rental car return. We entered a shelter car park and parked at the Avis dedicated slot. There weren’t any other instructions so I tried taking the lift up and found the rental car counters there. Returned to the car to retrieve the luggage and with my family, we returned the keys and the vehicle documents at the counter and that was it.

The check in was just a street away which we quickly crossed over to check in as it was already 10am and 1.5hrs away from departure. We quickly went through security and found ourselves at close to the gate already. Went to visit one of the shop there and baby K entertained himself, helping himself with the color pencils on the little desk. We spent the final minutes at the sitting area until the call for boarding. Interestingly, the immigrations was directly before gate and we had our passports stamped just before passing through the gate to board the bus which brought us to our plane.

Salzburg Airport, crossing from the car rental companies
Inside the small Salzburg airport
Gates at Salzburg airport

The place to Istanbul was not full luckily and so we got 3 seats for ourselves. The short 2hrs flight to Istanbul had some turbulence but not too bad. Meals were served, adults first and baby K was hungry while waiting for his and wanted to eat ours. He took some of our rice and then his own porridge that mommy had cooked earlier on. The baby food that was served later came but was the purée that he disliked and ended up not taking any.

Just before we were about to touch down in Istanbul, baby K fell asleep. Then it was about carrying him around the airport while we searched for transfer desk, which caused him to wake up. As our next connecting flight was another 10hrs which qualified us a complimentary stay. However, the room offered was outside the airport and we had to go through immigrations. There would be a hotels desk that would provide the information to to the complimentary hotel. As Istanbul airport had suffered a terrorist attack just months earlier, we weren’t prepared to risk going out into Istanbul. In the end we chose to stay at the TAV airport hotel which required us to go through security scans eventually. During the check, the alert but a little heartless security staff found a pair of scissors in our food container that we used to cut baby K’s food and had it removed and thrown away.  After that, we then proceeded to the TAV airport hotel and checked in. We booked a 9hrs time slot for 194euros, very expensive short stay.

Airport hotel room

We stayed in the room for much of the time after the check in. There was nothing much to do but to watch tv. We also made use of the shower to wash up. I didn’t choose to explore Istanbul as the return trip would take minimum 4hrs by train and it was already 4pm, which was neither here nor there.

Did some shopping of water and beer at the nearby food court and that, went out again for early dinner at the same food court. We got ourselves some Turkish food pide with tomato and cheese and chicken cutlet. I found it difficult to order since there wasn’t a queue that I was used to, and it seemed kinda random picking by the staff on who to serve. Food was ok but costed 22euros in total, for food and 2 canned drinks.

As usual, baby K was having his porridge. One of the clearing staff gave baby K some toys, which was so kind of him. After the meals, we went shopping at duty free.

After dinner, I bathed baby K, drank my beer then went out to buy the toys that mommy saw in the duty free. Had to come and go for 3 times as I made so much blunders. First I had no boarding pass with me, second I brought the wrong boarding pass, one that was for the flight from Singapore to Istanbul. I finally paid the 40euros for Duplo and Hape toys, which was supposedly cheaper.

The time left to departure was spent on sleep till about 10pm. Then I tried to watch online show but the in room Wifi wasn’t supporting and was disruptive. We checked out after baby K woke up before going out to Starbucks for some coffee until it was time for boarding. Unlike the previous Salzburg-Istanbul flight, this was quite a full flight. And being late in boarding, I had space issues with placing my bags in the overhead compartment and had to separate them at different locations.

Day 18

Flight took off late from the busy airport even at that time of the day and K stayed awake fora bit  before falling asleep. Sleeping on me was difficult and we weren’t given any bassinet seat unlike the other 2 babies along the same row. He was a little long and had to curl up his legs. Supper was served and were the same options as the earlier Salzburg Istanbul flight of pasta and chicken but prepared differently. I had the chicken wrap which I thought was nice and wife had the pasta that was hard. Had to eat with one hand with baby K sprawled across my legs.

I tried to make it as comfortable as possible for him. That made me sat in an uncomfortable position but I soon fell asleep as well. Next thing I knew we were already 6hrs into the flight. K woke up after I tried shifting (many times within the sleeping period as well). Made him some milk and he took some time to become the happy energetic baby that he was. Then it was about getting him entertained. Earlier in the hotel, mommy managed to download some series of Pororo and that worked. He was fascinated by the touch screen panel from the inflight entertainment and some games and cartoons took his attention. Overall there weren’t much issues with the flight.

Our plane finally landed in Changi airport at 6pm and we decided to feed K some milk in the airport before getting through immigrations and going back home.

I felt this trip to Europe was comparatively much easier than the one last year. A lot had to do with baby K being easier to manage as he had grown more logical to deal with and that we didn’t had to spend as much time in preparations of milk and cleaning of bottles as last year (no longer needed to sterilise bottles with tablets or boiling water or wait for breast milk to warm up or wait for mommy to express milk, etc). Also we have planned the route such that it wasn’t so rushed (such as not moving from town to town daily) and that gave us more time to rest during the trip and more time to explore the places. However we still didn’t do as much touring as I would have preferred such as getting a guide to tell us more about the history of the places instead of aimlessly roaming and walking around the ancient attractions.

Croatia was a much more affordable place to visit compared to the other places of Europe and everything was pretty much the same costs in Singapore. The tolls were pretty hefty though as there were many of them when using the highway and with fuel costing 1.8sgd/l, it didn’t help with costs aspects. Getting to places were quite easy but parking and driving closer to towns were difficult especially if you have a big car and you would require one with a kid. Croatia may not have the same appeal like the other popular European spots but I liked it nonetheless, probably because it was relatively safe and easy to get around.

Slovenia was a little more expensive and more “European” than Croatia. Working hours less but more orderly in matters of business. However, the medieval cities and beautiful natural scenery that it offered was definitely worth the visit.

We didn’t get much time in Salzburg and Istanbul and these cities were worth a revisit, when we come back to Europe and if the security situation in Turkey improved.

Slovenia & Austria 2016 Day 16 – Lake Bled to Salzburg, Mirabell gardens

The last day of this travel itinerary began with the packing for our road trip to Salzburg. The cold didn’t help dry the clothes and we had to leave the wet clothes in the car for the sun to dry them as we go on our road trip. As usual, we left at about 10am with a final goodbye visit to the beautiful lake Bled.

The first stop was to the petrol station in Hrusica as we needed to purchase again a vignette for travels on Austria highways. At the same time, I pumped petrol for the car as again, it might be more expensive to do so in Austria. After a 7.2 euros toll, we ended up driving through 8km tunnel that connected from the borders of Slovenia and Austria. I was unsure why we had to pay toll even with the vignette but I guessed the vignette only covered some highways and the rest that were not included had to pay tolls at the toll booths.

Austrian Vignette
Tolls before the tunnel at the Slovenia side
Checkpoints at Austria side

About an hour of driving and as baby K woke up from his snooze, we stopped a service station to have our lunch, which we ordered ham and eggs with bread and nuggets and fries from Viva cafe inside the station itself. There was another restaurant (Rosenberger) option but we thought it would be too expensive and be out of our budget. After the lunch, we thought we would just walk a bit around the station before the getting onto the highway again, for fear of another puking episode.

Service station
Viva cafe at the service stop
Ham and eggs with bread
Nuggets and fries
Rosenberger restaurant at the service stop

The journey to Salzburg was mostly smooth until we met with some road works and traffic jam, expected of traffic near cities. There was another toll of 11.5euros before we finally arrived at 330pm. I absentmindedly left the  Garmin map SD card in the luggage ( the current ones were of Slovenia and Croatia) and I couldn’t use Google without data plan and then had trouble finding the carpark to our Euro Trend hotel. I drove into the Bahnhof one and then exited and went into a Forum 1 mall carpark instead.

Spotted a castle atop a hill on the way to Salzburg
Traffic jam
Forum 1 mall

At the mall, we got ourselves a data SIM card for 10gB for 10 days for 15 euros, expensive but I didn’t want the hassle. While at the mall, we also visited the Eurospar supermarket to buy fish.

Just like any European city, it was a nightmare to be lost as we would need to negotiate the confusing roads with the uncompromising traffic. With the mifi, we managed to return close to the Austria Trend Hotel Europa where I had to park temporarily by the road side and go check with the reception on the location of the car park. She advised that it was actually around the building which I went on foot to verify before getting into the car to drive there. The entrance was at a blind spot and it led to an open air carpark, something that I didn’t expect.

Once I parked the car, we checked in and was given a room on the 13th. It was at the end of a long corridor but a pity that there were massive repainting works going about on the external walls and the scaffolding was blocking whatever view the corner could have offered.

Obstructed view due to renovations

Mommy prepared dinner with the fish we just bought and as she left it in the pressure cooker, we left the room to visit the Mirabell gardens, utilizing whatever time we had left for the day. The park was quite a distance away but it was not difficult to walk in the nice cool weather, about a 10mins walk. The garden was quite nice with many colourful flowers in bloom and some fountains and statues for people to snap some photos with. Then I walked back to the room to retrieve baby K’s dinner but found that the meal was not cooked because without the room card, the electricity was all cut. Told mommy about it through whatsapp and waited another 10mins for the food to cook before running back to garden to meet them.

Kiesel mall
Inside the mall
Walking through a park to the Mirabell gardens
Unicorn statue
Statue and fountains
Flowers in bloom
Central fountain

By the time I was back, the sun has already set and thus we gave up going to the old town for a visit, as it was still a distance away. While we were walking on the way back to the hotel, we went into a Brau restaurant for dinner. We got ourselves beef stew and pork which arrived in big portions and were quite tasty. Ended the meal with a traditional Austrian desert, Nockerl, which was again a big portion. Paid 60 euros in all for the meal.

Fountains at night
Illuminated statues
Another pegasus statue
Beef stew
Brau restaurant

En-route, we bought some bread from Spar express supermarket in a Shell station, for baby K should he need to munch on some on the flight. Once back, the night routine of bathing baby K and preparing him for bed took place. I had the additional task of trying to clean up the car again as it still stank. The strategy was to put in lots of detergent this time around. After the wash, I got myself some drinks from the same Spar express, returning to the room only at 1130pm. Bathed quickly and went to sleep.

Slovenia 2016 Day 15 – Lake Bohinj and Trenta Valley

At 630am, I was woken up by baby K who was sleeping close to our legs. Quickly I shifted him back to original position. I couldn’t return back to sleep and googled good sunrise location and was surprised to find good view recommendation at Osojnica. Informed wife who was barely awake and quickly got out of bed.

I left at about 7am and quickened my pace in order not to miss the golden hour, the time when the scenery would look the best with the rising sun. Brought along my mifi and followed Google map, which showed a possible shortcut to the location and I took it. And as with the usual trekking in the forest using a shortcut, I got lost and ended up climbing steep hills to get to the top. There were no signs around and while I depended on my iPhone to guide me, it died (the battery was not so good already and I had Wifi on which drained it even quicker). The android that had the data plan on was working but somehow I didn’t know how to operate due to unfamiliarity and outdated apps (belonged to wife who had fully customised it with weird icons that I couldn’t decipher where the map was and also because it hadn’t been in use for a long time, the apps weren’t updated). I was on my own, like a survivor. After struggling for a bit, I finally found some routes that looked more like a clear path. Following it towards the lake direction, I finally ended up at the viewpoint. Beautiful view of the lake, definitely worth the climb.

Morning view
Viewpoint with a seat
Another viewpoint
Beautiful Lake Bled in the morning

I spent some time taking photos and selfies and also a deserved break from all the climbing to catch my breath. When I am finally ready to go, I found myself at a lost again, because I didn’t take the right route Initially, how do I return? I tried to follow the path back where the signs indicated a long journey back, I was doubtful. I ended up at another view point. Then it was just about do or die, I followed the direction towards Bled and as the path became clearer and wider (although there were multiple terrain changes from muddy to rocky to track), I knew it was right and then the feeling of relief when I saw people walking in the opposite directions and the main road. It was still a distance from the apartment and my brisk walk became a slow jog as I headed towards the apartment. I got back at 840am, got some drinks to quench the thirst from the morning exercise and returned to the apartment. I was pleasantly surprised then baby K was still asleep in bed.

Muddy terrain
Rocky terrain
Sandy terrain
Another view of the church

Baby K was cranky as he woke up, maybe he was tired. We were going around places near the lake for a visit, and one such place was the beautiful Lake Bohinj, a much bigger lake then Lake Bled. It was a short drive there, we managed to park at a public carpark as it was still early and paid 1.5 euros per hour for tickets. It was quite cold in the morning as we walked around the bank of the lake to take some photos. The water was so clear and looked like I could just drink from it. After that, we visited the tourist information center to see if what else we could do there. We walked to the small but interesting Church of St John the Baptist, and found it full of people from tour group. Then walking towards the bank again, we saw another family nearby, feeding ducks that were waddling in the shallow waters.

Parking ticket dispensor
Goldhorn Statue
Church of St John the Baptist
Inside the church
Tourist Information counter
Calm Lake Bohinj

Enough of being so close to water, we returned to the car and drove to Vogel, a gondola station that would bring us up into the mountains. The car park at the main level as the station was full so we parked at a level down, closer to nature. I bought the tickets 28euros for the gondola but there was a family package tickets which was only 12 euros but it was not available to us as baby K was too young to be considered as a family (weird but true). There was a schedule for the gondola and missed the 1130 one because while we were about to board, I showed the staff the receipt which I thought were the tickets and he told me that these were not the tickets. As mommy was pissed off with me, I ran back to the ticket counter and the staff there who wrote me a voucher for me to take the gondola (whom was herself pissed that I dropped my tickets which I explained that I didn’t receive any in the first place). We managed to board another one just before the scheduled 12 noon one.

Vogel receipt
Way to Gondola

As the gondola climbed steeply, we were offered the beautiful expansive view of the lake, the view constantly changing subtlety as we gained elevation. At the top, we could see the lake acting like a mirror, reflecting the mountains that surrounded it and also the fluffy clouds in the skies. At the top, the ice capped Julian Alps could also be seen. However, there weren’t much to see other than the view. We walked around the area to take some photos and didn’t venture further like the others who took the time to explore deeper than we did. There was a chair lift meant for transporting skiers but we didn’t pay for that (neither was it operational). Ended up at the cafe where we ordered some drinks before returning to ground level in the gondola.

At the top
From the top of Vogel station
Another view of Lake Bohinj

We drove back to the same parking lot and was lucky to find space, for another 1.5euros. We walked to the nearby cafe Pod Brezo Skalco to have our lunch, and ordered Panini ham and cheese and Slovenian desert cake, all for about 6euros. K was cranky and cried a lot and made a ruckus. After the uncomfortable lunch, we returned to the car and K fell asleep.

Panini for lunch

There were 2 more places to visit and one was the Vintgar gorge, about a 30mins drive away. As we got closer to the destination, what was initially road converged to small streets. We parked the car at the free parking space and checked out the ticket counter by myself (as mommy stayed with the snoozing baby), it costed 5 euros per entry with an estimated 30mins one way walk. Decided that we would skip this since it was said to be a smaller Plitvice, which we had already experienced it ourselves.

Small town on the way to Vintgar gorge
Vintgar gorge ticket counter
Stream near Vintgar gorge

Our last place to visit was Trenta valley, this was a longer journey away, smacked in between the Julian alps. Before we got off onto the smaller roads from the highway, I got the car topped up with petrol at service stop. The entire journey was about a 1.5hrs drive one way. The challenging part of the drive was the mountainous road that consisted of 24 hairpins up and 26hairpins down. The beautiful views along the way that accompanied us made the journey a little more enjoyable. As we went through the Vrsic Pass, there was a Russian Orthodox Chapel that was mentioned as something worth a visit. Wife went to have a look as I stopped by the road. We chose not to take up too much time there as before us was a bus load of tourists whom have disembarked to visit the chapel too and we didn’t want to end up driving slowly behind the bus. Baby K woke up as we continued on the roads so I slowed down to avoid any puking incidents. Along the way, we encountered cows grazing near the roads and even on the road while we were going downhill.

Russian Orthodox Chapel
Face to face with a cow
Julian Alps on the way to the Trenta Valley

We arrived at Trenta valley and parked at one of the open yard before visiting one of the small store to buy drinks and yogurt. We soaked in the calmness of the little town sitting on a wooden bench while baby K ate his yoghurt, our family surrounded by the mountains and the sounds of flowing water in the background. There was a tourist info center where we visited to use the toilet and bought ourselves a souvenir. After this short stay, it was time to get back, and it was the only the same way back (at least the shorter way back). I drove slowly and everyone seemed fine. We stopped at hairpin 28 as there was a viewpoint of the valley in which I took a few photos. We got past the hairpins and arrived at a little lake called Lake Jasna and stopped there for a breather and took the opportunity to feed the ducks there. After the 10mins of rest, we hit the the road again.

Shop at Trenta Valley
Tourist information counter
Trenta Valley
50th hairpin
Trenta Valley
A water mill at Lake Jasna
Lake Jasna
Another statue of the Goldhorn

Baby K asked for milk and bread and biscuits while driving back and it was quite a smooth journey. But then our nightmare returned when baby K puked the second time this trip just when we were reaching the apartment. We brought him up to apartment quickly to bath and mommy also washed up while I brought detergent to wash car. The familiar smell was back. The only difference this time was that I didn’t have to return to the apartment to fetch water, I only needed to go to one of the drains where fresh gushing water from the streams was readily available (I left the keys in the apartment and was locked out anyway and couldn’t enter! Thankfully somebody came out from the building and I was able to retrieve my keys).

After all the washing, we got ready for dinner and walked to the same restaurant we previously had lunch the day before. This time around, we chose the seats on the inside to avoid the cold. Ordered Gnocchi, chicken fillet Ljubljana and grilled dory. This was the first time for baby K to have outside food completely for his meal and as usual he didn’t eat a lot. For desert, we ordered Grmada which was pretty delicious. All these for 55 euros, paid with card.

Chicken fillet Ljubljana
Grilled dory

The night was about washing again, had to clean up the smelly clothes and hanged them in the balcony and hoped that the cold would dry them by the time morning come. After the work, it was bath time and then joining mommy and baby K in bed, who both had gone to bed earlier.

Slovenia 2016 Day 14 – Ljubljana to Skofja Loka to Lake Bled, Bled castle

We woke up late and baby K snoozed even longer as we entered the last few days of this trip. Though it was at a far more relaxing pace then our Swiss France trip from more than a year back, traveling for long periods of time with a toddler definitely was tiring. We packed and prepared for our journey forward as we would be driving to Lake Bled. Got out the apartment by 1030am and in our haste, we locked ourselves out! Quickly contacted the landlord but were relieved that it was ok to leave as she had spare keys to the apartment.

Before going back nature, we drove a quaint little town of Skofja Loka, some 45 mins drive away. We found a parking lot as close to the castle as possible and parked there. Walked through old town, which didn’t look all that old until the end where we saw the Capuchin bridge and took some photos. As we returned, we got onto the old but still stable bridge to cross it.

Skofja Loka map
Skofja Loka town
The Mark of Mary statue
Interesting facade
Church of St. Jacobs
Capuchin Bridge
St. John of Nepomuk statue on the bridge
Buildings in Skofja Loka

There wasn’t really much to see so we thought we would visit the castle. After returning to the point where we started off, we had to climb a long gentle slope followed by a long flight of stairs to the castle. Upon reaching we noticed that other than a cafe, the castle was not available for visit as it was turned into a museum, and that frankly, we weren’t really interested. We returned to ground level where we visited a local shop (Trava) and ended up with some more packs of medenjaki, cheaper than those we purchased from Ljubljana market.

Skofja Loka castle and museum
View from the castle
Castle exterior
Front view of the castle
Trava store

On our journey towards Lake Bled, we stopped by a Interspar hyper mart to shop for more groceries (what else?). It was easier to shop here as there was a tiny shopping cart for baby K to push around and he was enjoying pushing it around, much like his grocery shopping mom. After we were done, we changed his diapers in the car before we were on the road again. The trip took only 40mins before we arrive in Bled.

The Airbnb that we had booked was one just a road across the beautiful Lake Bled and had a clear view of the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria. I parked at the carpark which was just in front of the apartment and was met with the landlord almost immediately. She showed us the initial room that we had booked and offered a bigger one which I agreed as it had a wider balcony. It was difficult to move our giant luggage up the steel spiral staircase up to the second floor where our room was but I managed nonetheless. Had to visit Mercator supermarket next door to get some water after all the exercise.

Spar supermarket near Skofja Loka
Kids’ trolley
Carts of pumpkins seen on the way to Lake Bled
Lake Bled Airbnb
Master bedroom
Living room

I drove the car around the lake to explore the lovely surroundings. Baby K was asleep from the drive to Bled and so I left mommy in the car with him as I checked out the lake myself. Didn’t spend a lot of time before we drove up to Bled castle. Bought myself the castle tickets and was amazed by the beautiful view of the lake that afternoon. The lake became a mirror that reflected the blue skies together with its white fluff, a sight that got me wowwing and stuck to the spot taking photos. I spend little time around the other places of the castle, walking briskly past some exhibit with no time to see and appreciate. By the time I returned to the car, baby K had already woken up.

Bled castle on top of the hill
Entrance to the castle
Tickets to the Bled castle
Castle inner compound
Chapel in the castle
Armour on display within the castle
Other exhibits
Castle with a view
Digital exhibition of its panoramic surroundings
Mirror Lake Bled
Panoramic view from Bled Castle away from the lake

For lunch we drove back to the apartment where there was a restaurant Penzion Milno next door. We ordered chicken curry and dory fillet with rice for 27euros. We had sat in the open and we felt chilly halfway through our lunch since it was a little windy and the temperature was quite cool.

Dory fillet with rice
Curry chicken
Pension Milno restaurant

We returned to the apartment for a while to removed some stuff from the day bag and lightened the load. Then we proceeded to the bank opposite the apartments where the boats were parked and asked to be taken to the island where the Church was. It costed 14euros return per adult but we had to wait for more passengers as it was a boat that could take at least 10. It wasn’t too long though, about 15mins or so, that we had already about 6 people on board before the boatman picked up his oars and started rowing. It was a gentle row along the calm lake for 10mins before we reached the shore at 430pm. Before we disembarked we were told that the boat return was at 510pm.

Boat transfer to the church
Duck on the lake
Heading towards the entrance of the church

There was a flight of steps to climb before we were on the same level as the church. It was a nice view to see the town from the island. We then proceeded to visit the small church and bell tower, which costed 11euros for our family. Inside the Church, we could actually make a wish and then ring the church bell. The gong of the bells could only be heard softly but it was fun to tug the rope. Afterwards, we climbed the bell tower where we could see the clock but didn’t stay and wait for the bell to ring. There were some popular quotes and sayings pasted on each level as we went up and down the stairs. Baby K was still fascinated with bell towers and therefore had fun.

Church of the Assumption
A cross inside the church
A bell rope to pull at the front of the altar
Pendulum and weights of the clock
Clock gears

We enjoyed the last bits of the island taking photos and having a gelato, which was claimed to be best outside Italy but really, we couldn’t tell the difference.

Then it was the same boat back and we were early just to be sure we didn’t miss the boat back. There were another couple there and on the boat back with us and the rest seemed to want to stay longer. We returned to the room for a while before driving out to the Bled castle again.

As I had earlier bought tickets for my own visit, I asked for re-entry like I did in Croatia. The ticketing guy allowed me after murmuring that it was for single entry and was clearly unhappy. Mommy bought tickets and we entered. Baby K was obsessed with climbing steps since he was at the stage of learning to walk and so I stuck to him at the stairs while mommy walk around to see. The lake was a different view during sunset, beautiful still.

Museum with a scary figure overlooking
Lake Bled in the evening

We left the castle for the apartment. Mommy cooked dinner while I bathed baby K in the small bathing area. For dinner, I drove to what looked like a tourist center or mall, Trgovski center. Bought a chicken burger from Tropical Kava bar for 4.5 euros and bought tomato soup and chicken fillet from Arbor restaurant for 19.8 euros. As it was already late, nothing but food establishments were opened. I soaked in the night view and went around taking photos of the lake with the illuminated castle while waiting for food. The temperature at night was very cold.

Trgovski center, closed.
Within the mall
Tropical Kava bar
Inside Arbor restaurant
Bled castle illuminated

Driving back I stopped along way take photo, though it was really dark and couldn’t really capture anything. Mommy was putting K to sleep while I ate first. After our dinner, and t was bath and then bed, typical night.

Another night view of the lake
Dinner of chicken fillet, chicken burger and tomato soup

Slovenia 2016 Day 13 – Ljubljana old town and castle

Got up a little later than usual. It was the second day at Ljubljana and we had only a city tour so we could afford a little more rest in the Airbnb.

We only managed to get out by 1020am, but with the bicycles available to us, we could cover more distance in a shorter time. I strapped baby K onto the baby seat that came with one of the bicycle and out we rode towards old town. As like many modern European cities, there were dedicated lanes for bicycles, made it much safer even if it was on the road. Our first location was famous triple bridge in Ljubljana, and it only took less than 5mins to get there from the apartment. The old town was a little bumpier but it was still easy to ride there. There were many bicycles parking available and so we went to the unused ones and chained up the bicycles, with chains that were provided to us along with the bikes.

Preseren Square
Our bike amongst the line of bicycles

Visited a tourist information counter to get a map and directions to the nearest mobile shop, MobilSI, to get a SIM card for on-the-go data. We visited the Central market to have a look and see if we could get any breakfast but we found Medenjaki instead, the Slovenia version. We tracked back and found a breakfast store named Back Werk just near the bridges and had our breakfast in there. Ordered hot dog bun and spinach pastry together with some coffee and drink, all in for about 10euros.

Backwerk for breakfast
Our breakfast
Triple bridge
Central Market in the background
Fresh fruits on sale
Ljubljanica River

After breakfast, we decided to explore the old town further and strolled towards the funicular.  The medieval buildings lined the streets that we walked and it felt like we were transported back to the days of old. We reached the funicular station, about 10mins stroll and purchased the tickets to go up to the castle perched atop the hill for 20euros. The funicular was crowded as many wanted to visit the castle. We were lucky enough to be at the front of the queue and therefore had a window view as the funicular climbed the steep slope up.

Butcher’s bridge with lover’s locks
Gothic door arch of Ljubljana Cathedral
Another door with scary design
Ljubljana Town Hall
Old town street
Funicular to the castle
Tickets to the funicular and castle

In this Ljubljana castle that dominated the space on top of Castle Hill were various locations where they were exhibits telling the historical stories of castle. We visited the virtual castle that had a film history of the castle and climbed the bell tower which gave a nice panorama of Ljubljana. There was an interesting Chapel prison which had a small display of what used to be a prison. But the restroom required a payment of 50cts to use. We got a chance to take photos with some characters dressed in medieval costumes to enact a time in history.

Castle compounds
Castle tower
Inside the castle bell tower
Castle bells
Stairway to the top
Inside the chapel
Once a prison
Another view of the castle compounds
Panorama from the castle
Another view

After all that walking around and exploring, we decided to rest at one of the cafes Grajska Kavarna and ordered orange juice and Fanta for about 5 euros. Baby K was interested to just sit around and soon we were off to check out the castle corridors when baby K had fun running across while mommy bought a green dragon toy from the souvenir store. Green dragon was significant to Ljubljana’s mythology and history.

Boarding the same funicular, we returned down to ground level and went to the market where we bought lunch from mobile food stalls there. Our takeaways lunch consist of grilled mackerel and cheese Burek. At the same time we also purchased bags of medenjaki initially costing 4 euros per pack, we had them at 1 euro discount for each after mass purchase that we intend to bring back to Singapore as gifts.

Lunch from mobile store

We returned to the apartment where baby K had lunch when I took a quick cycle to Ljubljana town after I saw Mr. Mime (Pokemon Go) on the map (and caught it). When I returned, I had my lunch while mommy tried to get baby K to nap. I got out of the apartment again afterwards to stock up on milk and water from the supermarket. With mifi enabled GPS on phone, I cycled out to the old town but couldn’t find any in the old town. Then I cycled to the dragon bridge and found out that the supermarket had closed down. Tried another one which was outside the old town called Mercator and finally got the water and milk that I needed. The rest for the afternoon was spent lazing in bed while mommy prepared baby K’s dinner.

Green dragon statue
Mercator supermarket
Old church building

By the time baby K woke up from his nap, it was almost 7. We then rode out to the old town in search of a place for dinner. Thought we would do a little shopping after dinner and so we parked near a mall Nama. Walking down the street towards the river, we found out that there was Spar supermarket nearby (which I didn’t see earlier in the afternoon). Mommy wanted to see the dragon bridge so I led them there for some photos before returning to search for a dinner place in the old town.

Ljubjana town at night
Preseren Square at night
Night view of the river

Weather wasn’t on our side as it started to drizzle. We quickly got into a Zlata Ribica restaurant that served really good delicious food. We had mushroom soup, noodles with mushroom and pasta with scampi, for some 45 euros, expected of a pierside restaurant.

Noodles with mushrooms
Pasta with scampi
Zlata Ribica restaurant

After dinner, en-route to our bikes, baby K was attracted to the lights on the ground in Preseren square and hopped on them one after another. The green glow of the castle could be seen from here, giving it a slightly creepy yet mysterious feel about the castle. We continued on and bought pastry for breakfast at Milnar bakery for 2.2 euros, as they were about to close for the day. Nothing much were operating at that time except for the pubs and so ended our tour of this beautiful town, cycling back on our wet bikes.

Reflections of town on its river
Night view of Preseren Square
Milnar bakery

Back at room I bathed baby K and had another free beer. We spent some time on TV (cartoons) before bedtime.

Croatia & Slovenia 2016 Day 12 – Rovinj to Porec, border crossing, visit Postojna Cave and Predama Castle to Ljubljana

The day started with the same preparations. However, we would be leaving Croatia for Slovenia, which was a cross border drive and change of accommodation. After we were done packing, it was already 10ish by the time we were about to leave. The morning exercise of moving the luggage into the car boot through the gravel made me sweat in the morning. As I made my way out of the gravel driveway, my miscalculation caused the front bumper of the car to scrape the walls but thankfully it wasn’t too bad and the landlord quickly tried to guide my bulky car out.

Bakery along Ul. Stanke Pauletića
View of old town from street near Airbnb

Our first and important destination was to get to a petrol station (Bought ours at Petrol station @ BRAĆE BOŽIĆ 14, link to point of sales in DARS webby) to purchase a vignette as it was required for highway usage in Slovenia, unlike in Croatia where we could pay tolls. The highways had cameras in place to check on cars and therefore it would be unwise to risk crossing the border before purchasing one. Earlier I had researched the authorized station was actually really close to where we stayed and it was also closed to the hypermarts that we had visited earlier before. Went to the cashier and asked for the vignette (there were also indications on the counters informing that they were selling vignette) and it cost 116kunas, which I paid in euro and realized later it costed more. The cashier helped punched in the date before handing over the vignette that I promptly pasted on the windscreen on the drivers side.

Vignette for Slovenia

Mommy realized that she left an ice pack behind and at the same time, we received a Whatsapp from the landlord informing us too and so I made a detour back quickly to pick up the ice pack. This time around, I didn’t have any issues getting out of the driveway.

Our last Croatian stop was a small coastal town of Porec, 1hr drive away. It had the similar look and feel of Rovinj, only smaller in size. We arrived at a large parking lot and left the car there before taking a short walk to the old town, wherein the Euphrasian Basilica, a UNESCO site, could be found. We first explored the surroundings of the old town for a bit before finally visiting the cathedral as we were pondering if we should spend the final kunas on the entrance fees, 40 kunas per person.

Another coastal town, Porec
Streets of the old town
A piece of history still standing

The basilica had quite a couple of places to visit and had many interesting mosaics on display. We couldn’t missed the bell tower, the latest fascination that baby K had for bells. Upon climbing to the top, we were able to see the surrounding sight of Porec old town. But the most interesting experience was to see and hear the bells go off at 12noon, loud but definitely memorable. Then it was more mosaics on the floors out in the open and in the crypt before we left the location. Before leaving Porec, we decided to draw some kunas to pay for the parking and for contingencies and got 200kunas (minimum sum) from the ATM. Parking was just a mere 20kunas.

Entrance to the basilica
Intricate carving on pillars
Inner compound of the basilica
Modern algae about to cover over the mosaics
Bells that got my kid excited
Tickets to the basilica
Exhibits in the museum
Compounds within the basilica
Mosaics of a fish
Crypt where mosaics can be seen
Beautiful mosaics filled the underside at the altar

We kinda liked the Croatian cookies that we bought in Zagreb and thought that it would be great to bring some home for families and friends to eat. So we drove to a nearby Billa. I had an issue trying to get a carpark ticket to enter but I couldn’t. In the end I just entered without the ticket. As I tried to find the Medenjaki, there weren’t any available either so I returned to the car. Baby K was already having his lunch as it was already afternoon but the parents had to make do with some snacks first. Without the carpark tickets I was forced to drive out through the entrance when there were no cars entering.

Before we crossed over to Slovenia, I drove to a gas station to fuel up my car which I paid with credit card as it should have been cheaper to do so in Croatia then its neighbour. Then its couple of minutes drive from the highway petrol station to the border which we got our passports stamped and cleared within 10 mins. Just immediately past the borders was an exchange (with an obvious exchange word prominently placed) where I received 23euros for 190kuna. Vignette was sold there as well.

Thought we would grab some lunch along the way and as we drove along  towards Postojna, we saw pizza grill sign next to Ristorante Gostilna Belvi (@ Salara while travelling on E751) and went into the open yard carpark. Went to the restaurant to ask if they do takeaways (as expected from a pizza grill) and found that they didn’t sell pizzas. Dumbfounded and thought I must have gone to the wrong place and walked to another building a level below and asked around. People there said it should be the restaurant where I asked previously. I gave up and we were on the road again.

Pizza grill next Ristorante Gostilna Belvi
Panoramic view near the restaurant was not too bad.

It wasn’t long before the small road merge into a faster highway. One good thing about highways were the presence of service stops, which we got into one en-route. I parked the car in the carpark behind the huge service stop and bought a sandwich and a pizza which we ate in the car (since baby K was snoozing). Then it was on the road again to Postojna.

Lunch from the service stations

As baby K was still asleep, I decided to quickly drive to Predjama Castle first which was furthest inland from the main highway. I parked at a obscured carpark as the main one was full and briskly walked to the castle to take some photos. Nothing like seeing with my own eyes, a castle built within a cave mouth. It’s a pity that we couldn’t spend any more time to explore the castle grounds. Quickly went back to the car for our last stop of the day.

Predjama Castle

Postojna cave was 10km away from the castle. We parked at huge carpark and proceeded to entrance to buy tickets, hoping to catch the last train, literally. Tickets costed 28.8 euros for 3 persons, 1 euro for baby K. Our train was scheduled to leave at 5pm and thus we visited the toilet and bought some drinks to quench our thirsts and put on some warm clothing for ourselves and baby K, as the cave was expected to be cold. There was an audio guide available with the tickets. A large crowd gathered at the entrance of the cave, all waiting to visit it. This wasn’t our first cave but it was surely baby K’s one.

Ticketing counter
Audio guide that came along
Steps to the entrance of the cave
Last train crowd at the cave entrance

The cave temperature was at a balmy 10DegC and it was indeed chilly on the small but long open top train as it travelled deep into the cave. The visit was a 1.5hr guided tour including 2 train rides and a 1.5km walk. The walk had a guide to lead us to the various locations in the cave and the audio guide helped to explain what we were looking at, but all seemed the same to me since I couldn’t listen to the guide as I carried baby K and had to depend on mommy’s selective explanations. The cave was huge, having many levels, different chambers and even got a gift shop inside the cave where we bought some souvenirs. After the train ride out, we hurriedly left Postonja for a 45mins drive to Ljubljana, stopping to visit a supermarket Spar before hitting the highway.

Small open top train
Stalactite and stalagmite
Different shapes and sizes
And colours
Different “halls”
Natural pillars
Proteus on display
Shop in the cave
Dusk, near the Postojna Cave
Spar before going to Ljubljana

As informed by the landlord, her friend would be meeting us instead and was already waiting for us when we arrived at 745pm (we were late for 45min). As with all old towns, it was again difficult to drive into the parking space so I had to reverse into the compound.

After I was done with parking right next to the flower pots just outside the ground floor apartment, the representative showed us around the Airbnb apartment which had a lot of other things complementary such bicycles and baby pillows. There were even free Slovenian beers!

Open concept bedroom
Storage near the entrance with bicycles!

As Mommy cooked, I went to the old town to buy dinner, bought Slovenian cuisine pork cutlet and potato for 18.8 euros at one Aroma restaurant. At the restaurant there was a certain protocol of order, I could only order from waiter, not receptionist or bar tender as I found.

Green castle at night
Water fountain
Aroma Restaurant behind the fountain
Inside the restaurant

The night view of Ljubljana was beautiful, unlike modern Singapore that were brightly lit everywhere, Ljubljana gave the feeling being back in the days of knights and dragons, the green illuminated castle on top of the hill reinforcing that image. Though not so brightly lit, there were many people around, it felt safe.

View of the river running through at night
Many people can be seen walking at night
Congress Square at night
Church near Congress Square
Dinner, potato and eggs

We had our cold but delicious dinner back at the Airbnb. Ended the night with a bath for baby K and a nice (free) Slovenian beer.

Croatia 2016 Day 11 – Opatija to Pula to Rovinj

We started the day late as travel fatigue set in from all the waking up early and sleeping late daily plus the physical exertion of carrying a 10kg baby K around. We only managed to leave the apartment by 930am and onwards we drove towards Pula, 1.5hrs journey away. Had we not done a stopover at Opatija, we would have had to drive some 4hrs from Zagreb to Rovinj, something that we didn’t want to do with a baby in tow, having learnt our lessons from the last European trip a year back. The toll was 51kunas upon exit and as we searched for parking, the roads were fully lined with cars till the train station. It was not such a bad thing as baby K had a chance to see a real train, the locomotive exhibit was placed just outside the station for people to see and take photo with. We back tracked along the road until we see a roman structure of the Arena, a structure that reminded so much of the Colosseum of Rome that we had visited while in Rome, only difference was that this looked somewhat smaller. The tickets cost 50kunas per head and we had decided to skip this one as we had visited the Colosseum before, and we were running short of both kunas and time. So we took a few photos and left.

Model of a locomotive just outside the Pula train station
Pula Arena

We then realised why there were so many cars, an Ironman sports event was ongoing! Nearby across the street behind a huge carpark was a playground and we let baby K play around there for a bit before continuing the walking tour into the old town to Augustus temple. To enter was 5kuna per head and we skipped that as well.

Augustus temple
Streets of Pula. Ironman event ongoing
Thought that the balconies looked pretty…

Then we followed the road and went along the circular single lane road that had barricades of plastic red white tapes for the race and lined with old buildings with balconies of Venetian designs. The architecture told of its Venetian influence back in the days. After passing through the Arch, we then continued to walk back to the car, ending our really short stint at Pula.

Arch at the end of the street
Blue building with some wall designs.

The drive from Pula to Rovinj was a mere 45mins and baby K had fallen asleep in the car. We got to the Airbnb apartment, a huge 3 storey terrace apartment and our room was on the 2nd floor. We managed to check in early at 1pm and I carried the 2 luggage across the gravel driveway and up the flight of stairs and left them in the room. From there, we drove to town center a couple of minutes away and while baby K still sound asleep, I left mommy and baby K in the parked car (along Ul. Giosue Carduccia) to check out the beautiful coastal town of Rovinj first. Quickly took some photos at the carpark where there was a view point and also at streets near the old town before buying pizza for lunch, from a pizzeria near our parked car.

Street view of Rovinj
Porcupine fish on sale
Market selling local products
Old town of Rovinj
Panoramic view of the Rovinj port.
Place where we bought pizza
Takeaway pizza

We ate the pizza in the car until baby K woke up. Then as we left the car (payment of parking fees were through the coin operated ticket dispensing machine at the end of the road), we chose a random quayside cafe, Caffe Bar La Tabacheina, to feed him lunch while the parents enjoyed a cuppa for 30kunas. We also couldn’t go anywhere then as the skies started to drizzle. After lunch, I went back to get my portable spare battery left in the car because the mobile Wifi was running out of battery (couldn’t do without technology these days!). Managed to see Mr Mime sighting during baby K’s lunch, the European exclusive Pokemon on the game radar but didn’t manage to catch him.

Caffe Bar La Tabacheina

After the drizzle ended, we continued to walk towards the old town, first showing my family the viewpoint where we took selfies, before entering the old town of Rovinj proper, which was built on a hill with bell tower of the cathedral being the apex as seen from the view point. We walked upslope on the tiled roads till we were in front of the The Church of St. Euphemia. Took some photos, take in the view and also went into the church for a look before continuing to walk around old town and walking street filled with shops and restaurants. Before going back to the apartment, we drove to another carpark that showed another view of Rovinj, a commonly available viewpoint of the old town during sunset.

Fountain in the old town
Water from the mouth of the fish
An arch in the corridor of Rovinj old town
The Church of St. Euphemia
Ongoing service inside the church
Our ride parked with a view of Rovinj old town

I drove the car to the nearest Konzum near our Airbnb but it was closed at 2pm on Sunday. The GPS gave us another supermarket location, and we ended up at Plodine 6mins away which was opened to till 10pm together with 2 other supermarkets Konzum and Lidl. These huge hypermarkets had a huge carpark.

Plodine supermarket
Big supermarket selling all sorts of stuff

After the groceries shopping, we went back to the apartment to wash up a bit before I drove out myself to the viewpoint for the sunset (as mommy had to cook dinner and baby K stayed in the apartment, entertained by TV). It was a cloudy day but still it was a beautiful sight. I drove to town again to buy takeaway dinner from a restaurant Mikula, a cost of 120kuna for seafood spaghetti and chicken thigh fillet, which tasted ok.

Rovinj Airbnb
Master bedroom
2nd room
Bathroom with tub
Kitchen with dining table
Sunset view of Rovinj
Chicken thigh fillet
Seafood spaghetti
Mikula restaurant

I returned to the apartment and we had our dinner. Initially thought about using the balcony but we couldn’t quite do it as it was quite cold to stay out in the evening. Then it was washing up and putting baby K to sleep early. Mommy had trouble getting the hairdryer from the landlord whom we didn’t managed to contact so mommy waited out till her hair dried. I rested early myself at 10ish too, getting as much as rest I could.

Croatia 2016 Day 10 – Zagreb old town towards Opatija, Motovun visit

The day started with the usual same routine as the day before. We had to prepare for movement again and had to pack our luggage before embarking on our road trip towards Opatija, the town we chose as an intermediate stop before heading for the coast, as Zagreb was a town far away from water. We managed to get out of the apartment by 930am for a short visit to the town of Zagreb.

There were a few places that we wanted to visit and one of which was the massive Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which at the time of writing, was the tallest building in Croatia. The walk from the apartment was an easy 10 mins in the cool morning. Took a visit inside, going through the complicated design of the giant door arch and was wowed by the tall pillars that went so high above the heads of visitors walking on the cathedral’s ground. We didn’t stay very long since we were used to seeing them in previous visits to Europe and proceeded to walk to the Zagreb central square, Trg bana Jelačića. There seemed to be some sort of event going on there were many stalls set up selling foodstuffs and traditional items and people walking around in costumes. At the far end of the square was a stage set up for performances. All these festivities going on around the commanding statue of Jelačić on a horse which we took a picture with. Spent some time strolling around and we ended up buying a pack of Croatian Medenjaci cookies. We then walked towards St Marks’ church, eating the delicious honey cookies.

Tallest building in Croatia..
…Gothic Zagreb Cathdral
Beautiful door frame
Grandeur from the arches
Market at Ban Jelačić Square
Statue of ban Josip Jelačić.
Some events going on with people dressed in costumes.
Armour suit on display.
Making yarn
Medenjaci cookies
Concert stage with performance

St Marks’ Church was a 10 min walk by distance but because it was an upslope walk, it seemed to take a while to get there. The tiled roads brought us upslope and then GPS asked us to pass an arch in a building, which I later learnt was the Stone Gate. Underneath the arch was a shrine inside and there was quite a group of people inside which made us hesitant to pass through initially as we thought it was a church and there was an ongoing service! Upon reaching the St. Marks’ church, we were greeted with a church with a really beautiful tiled roof. Took a few selfies before walking back arriving pass 11 but the landlord was kind enough to wait for us. He had even offered for us to park the car in the car park till a later time if we needed more time in Zagreb but we had get on the road already.

The Stone Gate
St. Marks’ church

I loaded the luggage into the car, lugging them down the stairs while mommy warmed up food. Bided farewell to the landlord and we drove towards Opatija, 2 hrs journey on highway and a 70kuna toll. We have arrived at our Airbnb earlier than the check in timing but I was unable to contact the landlord who was away on business trip and her parents whom were supposed to help her link up with me was not contactable. We then drove out to the town center to eat first.

Punched in the GPS for parking and we arrived to find parking lots full. Ended up driving into a covered carpark under hotel Milenji. I was in awe of the town as it was totally unexpected that the coast-side town looked so beautiful as I initially thought it was some random town. We went to eat at an equally lovely seaside restaurant called Vongola, with a view of the sea. The costs was about 200plus kunas, slightly more expensive than what we were used to but it’s ok for a couple of meals on the trip. After the lunch of Aglio Oglio and truffles pasta, we went around taking some photos, the interesting sea water swimming pool and also of the maiden with seagull. Paid the carpark fees at hotel reception for 15kunas and we drove back to the apartment.

Maiden with seagull statue
Aglio Oglio
Truffles pasta
Swimming pool connected to sea and a view of Restoran Vongola

There was a large garden of this private detached house where we parked our car and tried to contact the landlord of the Opatija Airbnb but there was no answer. We sat waiting in the car and 5mins later, an elderly lady came and identified herself as the mother. She showed me the room and left us to our own. It was a very small place at the basement of the house but had everything that we needed. What we paid was what we got, but disappointingly there were also mosquitoes. After unloading our huge luggage in the limited walking space, we drove to the huge Billa supermarket just around the corner which had its own free carpark. We bought whatever that we needed for meals preparations and returned to the room.

Queen size bed
Shower and toilet
Huge Billa supermarket nearby
Lots of walking space

Mommy prepared baby K dinner by putting the ingredients into pressure cooker and lifting it to simmer while we drove to a nearby hilltop town Motovun at 5pm. Getting there we had to drive through a long tunnel that charged toll fees of 33kunas per way. En-route, we passed by town of Buzet that we thought was Motovun but we only arrived at the correct location after travelling way further on the road. We arrived at carpark at 6pm at the bottom of this hill and was directed into the carpark as staff said the carparks in Motovun town was full and we had to take the shuttle bus up for 20kuna each person return tickets. It was a 5mins ride up to the ancient town where we alighted and started our walk to explore this town.

On the way to Motovun, town on top of a hill
Shuttle bus counter
Shuttle bus to the top
Map of Motovun

Motovun was like the other old towns, with the tiled roads lined with bricked single storey buildings but built atop a hill that offered a lovely panorama for its surroundings. Unlike many touristy old towns, there didn’t seem to have any shops opened, but it could be that it was already late. Those that were opened were mostly restaurants and these usually were near the edge of the walls which gave the diners a view while having their meals. We took some photos with a old clock tower and the surrounding beautiful scenery and was rewarded with a sight of double rainbows in the grassy hills below.

Tiled roads of Motovun town
One of the many cafes bordering the town
Double rainbows!
View of greenery from Motovun
Another panorama from Motovun

We returned to same point where we first alighted after at most 45 mins of walking since the last bus going downhill was at 7pm. We paid 20kunas for parking at the counter where the staff advised that we could drive up to the Motovun town now as it had much fewer cars now and car parks had became available. We had to head back to Opatija already as night fell. There weren’t mobile signal and again I had to follow signs and intuition. It had started to rain and somehow I ended on a small unpaved road because I was following the Garmin which was my backup.

K fell asleep as I navigated our way back to the apartment. Mommy went into the apartment to pack baby K’s dinner while I stayed in the car with the snoozing baby. We left for town again, for dinner and this time, parked at shopping mall carpark Slatina mall. We visited restaurant Bella Vista, which was across the road from the mall and for 180kunas, we had Balsamic rice and Cevapi, a meat platter. While waiting for the food to arrive, mommy visited the brightly lighted merchandise stalls nearby that didn’t have any customers around. We felt a little cold eating alfresco in this balmy full moon night, made worse by the fact that it was near the sea. After dinner, we took a short stroll around the area before returning to the car park, looking at the coastline dotted with lights from the buildings. It was 20kunas for parking, more expensive than parking at the hotel.

Relatively quiet streets at dinner time
Balsamic rice
Opened nearby stalls, like pasar malam
View from Opatija coastline

The night was spent washing up and packing for the road trip the next day and it was challenging packing our large luggage in the tiny spaces. Then bedtime.

Croatia 2016 Day 9 – Plitvice National Park waterfalls and towards Zagreb

Woke up to the usual same routine with the exception of moving to another accommodation after only a night stay. I carried the 2 huge luggage up the short flight of steps and loaded the them into the trunk of my car, parked outside, meters from the flight of stairs. The staff at the reception was kind to offer some coffee for us while we lounged at the sofas in front of the door for a bit before we hit the road at around 930am, in the direction of Plitvice National Park.

As we understood, there were different entrances for Plitvice National Park and we decided to start our hike from Entrance 1 after some research before the trip on Tripadvisor (Things like the best route to see the waterfalls and the gradient of the walk etc). The GPS guided me towards entrance 1 in the nearly 2 hours of driving where baby K also fell asleep.

Upon the exit from the expressway, we paid the toll fees and continued towards the park entrance. Here the mobile signal was weak and I missed the carpark and overshot by a distance before realising and made a U turn back. We arrived at almost 1130, turning into a big carpark that was parked full of cars but there were lots so I just chose a spot beside a tree and parked there. As expected, there was a long queue at the ticket office but it was fast moving. After a visit to the toilet near the entrance, we went into the park armed with a map that costed us 20 kunas.

Entrance 1

Plitvice National Park was huge, unlike what we had experienced in Krka National Park. From the entrance, there was a huge waterfall aptly named the Great Waterfall just near the split path. Went over to take a photo with it. Selfie with a camera was hard work (especially with a toddler who had the least interest and a tall waterfall in the backdrop that couldn’t fit into the selfie) but thankfully someone offered to help. There was a pathway uphill that seemed to lead to a viewpoint by we didn’t attempt that as we did not know if it was too challenging to go with a toddler in tow. We got back onto the wooden walkway following signs that said Route C.

Welcome view entering from Entrance 1
Nice stone pathway
One of the many turquiose lakes
Gushing waters on the way to the Great Waterfall
The Great Waterfall

The walk was easy but it was quite a distance. The park was beautiful with quite a number waterfalls of all shapes and sizes and the crowd was not too bad, at least there were more than enough space to stand and admire the scenery and snap a picture or two. Many of the large lakes were turquoise in colour and pretty clear, allowing us to see the fishes in them. Other the wooden pathway, the walking terrain changed as we proceeded deeper, from the initial nice wooden bridge to older ones, dirt road and rocks, and undulating slopes but nothing serious that a normal fitness person could tackle.

Clear waters
Wooden bridge pathway
Walking above the waters
One of the many lakes
Another view
Waterfalls next to path
More gushing waters
Small fishes could be seen

We managed an hour of walking before we reached P3 where we would need to take a boat to the upper lakes. Fortunately, it was also a rest stop of us and many other people as there was some eateries and tables and benches available. As mommy fed baby K his packed lunch prepared in Zadar, I went to get ourselves a chicken burger and pork chop for lunch. Online reviews were pretty accurate on the taste of the food here, the pork chop was hard! Spent some time there and before we jump start the 2nd leg of the walk, I use the toilet and changed K’s diapers. At this time, there was already a long snaking line for the boat. We waited 10mins before 2 boats came and got everyone onboard.

Rest stop
Kitchen at the rest stop
Our lunch of chop and burger
Ducks afloat at the jetty
Boat tickets
Boat arriving

The boat ride was smooth sailing but boring to say the least as there was nothing much to see except trees that filled the banks of the river. We just sat back and enjoyed the ride and the cool wind.

We alighted at the disembarkation and continued the walk, climbing the flight of steps upwards. It was then more or less the same, more waterfalls along the way, more lakes and more gushing waters. The difference was that the crowd seemed to dwindle the further we walked, rightly so as the time got closer to closing. Our final destination on Route C was the bus station ST3 and it was only after an hour of walking that we finally arrived at around 345pm. We visited the restroom and bought ice-cream to cool ourselves down after this long walk. The bus arrived shortly and we got onto the bus. Baby K fell asleep after eating some bread, knocked out from this tiring trail in the National Park. It was a 30 mins ride back through the park, except that it was travelling on roads meant for vehicles and different from our walking route. It made a stop at ST 2 where many people got on and finally at ST 1 where we got off, as this was the station closest to entrance 1. The walk didn’t stop as there was a further 30mins distance to get back to entrance and with baby K sleeping in my arms, I walked ahead while mommy offered to be the photographer (as my arms were occupied), shooting the park scenery at a bird’s eye view level.

View from the boat
Waterfall seen from the boat nearing drop off
Wooden bridge for the 2nd part of the walk
Another turquiose lake
Waterfalls of different shapes and sizes
Another one with multiple streams
One taken up close
A hint of Autumn
Station 3 finally
Thankfully transport to return us back
Birds eye view of the park
View of one the many wooden bridge
Multiple levels

We walked back to the car first and transferred baby K to mommy in the back seat before heading to the payment counter across the road to pay for the carpark fees, amounting to 36kuna before driving out of the almost empty carpark. Without telecom signal, I started the journey to Zagreb based on road signs and intuitive. Stayed on D1 and drove thru a lot of small towns before reaching the tolled highway. Then it was an easy drive to Zagreb that we managed to get in by 7pm, a 2hrs drive from Plitvice NP. While Zagreb was modern town with a lot of traffic and trams sharing the road, it was still not too difficult to drive in, unlike other big European cities.

Our Airbnb Time Inn apartment was closed to city center. The GPS directed me onto a small road without much moving traffic and I got out to look for owner by pressing on the doorbell that spelt the apartment’s name. He came immediately as he was already waiting for us and led us into a compound which was the private carpark. He was helpful with our twin 28″ luggage as there were 2 flights of steps to climb. After explaining the directions for a few important places, like the supermarket and the old town orientation, he left us to the nice cosy 2 bedroom apartment. We then proceeded to visit Spar supermarket to shop for groceries and dinner.

Baby cot in the master
Second bedroom
Bathroom with tub
Living room

Mommy cooked for baby K while I ate the dinner from Spar – tasty but cold. Then we switched roles and fed baby K his dinner before giving him a bath in the bathtub. Something unexpected happened in the toilet as water back flowed from drain pipe which made the toilet smelled a little but it wasn’t a big deal. The day finally ended after I dumped the thrash downstairs, bathed and then went to bed.

Wine sold in litres!
Dinner from a supermarket
Spar supermarket