I was riding the metro to work the other morning, a pretty mundane task, since I’ve done it pretty much every working day for the last 10 or so years I’ve been in D.C. It was 7:45 in the morning and already a muggy 78 degrees. I had just walked the 10 minutes from my house to the station and missed my train by mere seconds. It was pulling out of the platform while I bounded like a madwoman up the escalator stairs, whacking my fellow commuters with my lunch bag, purse, and umbrella (late afternoon showers predicted).
The next train would be 5 minutes.
As I stood on the platform with sweat rolling down my professionally-attired back (and even my knees – how do knees sweat??), dabbing away with a soppy Kleenex at rivulets of sweat that were careening through my carefully applied makeup, and willing another train to come in the opposite direction, merely for the novelty of creating some type of breeze, my mind whirled back to Villa Dubrovnik and the gentle non-humid, breeze-carrying air of the Adriatic.
Sometimes, memories can be unintentionally painful.
Especially memories involving sunshine playing so brightly on the cool blue water that it made your eyes hurt. You had to squint to protect yourself from the twinkling starburst-like effect.
Yes, Villa Dubrovnik was lovely. It was beautiful. It was sublime. And like most good things, it’s both pretty pricey and a bit difficult to get to.
The 56-room boutique hotel is situated on a cove just a short walk south of the charming Old Town. It’s a lovely (and shaded) 20-minute walk from Old Town, along a very narrow switchback lane that’s almost impossible to find if one’s driving there from the airport. Oh, you may well be adequately armed with maps and Google directions, but you’ll soon find they are utterly useless. Primarily because maps and directions use things called “street names,” and there are no street signs in Dubrovnik.
In addition, because the roads surrounding Dubrovnik are carved into the hillside and involve a number of switchbacks, you will catch tantalizing glimpses of your far-off hotel, but there will be no discernible way of actually getting to it.
When we finally arrived at the Villa, the valet asked us how many times we’d had to drive the entire loop around the Old Town before we found the switchback.
We only did the loop once before stopping and asking someone. The local guy assured us that the blue sign with the red circle with the line through it did not, in fact, mean that you could not drive down the street that eventually got us to Villa Dubrovnik. Silly us.
But from the moment you arrive, everything at Villa Dubrovnik becomes effortless. The service is beyond excellent; there’s not a single thing that hasn’t already been thought of, and the staff accommodates every request in a totally relaxed and unobtrusive manner. You won’t get scolded here for carrying a glass of your own wine into the top floor Proscuitto and Wine Bar. The bartender merely asks if you need anything else.
Don’t like the exact position of the sun on the rock and concrete sunbathing area just below the hotel’s cliffs? You just find one of the patiently-waiting nearby staff to lug the sun-lounger, ginormous umbrella, and all your gear to a different, more remote spot, preferably making them scramble over rocks like a billy goat. Oh, and feel free to ask him to bring you another mojito on his way out.
On one particularly breezy morning, the staff did not set up the tables on the outside deck of the restaurant for breakfast. A stubborn family of guests were determined to sit out there with their newspapers flapping in the breeze. Instead of informing the family that they weren’t serving outside that morning, the staff just quietly brought out the table cloth and service sets. Predictably, the family soon moved inside. Nobody seemed in the slightest bit bothered.
The hotel architecture was just gorgeous – modern and sleek, it blends seamlessly into the cliffs and every room has a view of the sea, the Old Town or the island of Lokum (or all three).
We were in a corner (executive) room on the fourth floor, which oddly enough, is the first floor/reception area, with three more floors being built beneath it and two floors above it. Even more confusing, the entrance is just an elevator shaft at street level, which takes you down to the reception/fourth/first floor. Confused yet?
Don’t worry. The hotel is small enough, you won’t get too lost. On the first floor are the spa, an indoor pool, and outdoor deck with covered cabana beds, in case you don’t want to sunbathe on the rocks. Adjacent to the pool is a garden area where you can have lunch al fresco and the stairs leading down to the rocks, a changing area, and to a dock for their vaporetto to take you to the Old Town.
Actually, this brings me to my only complaint about Villa Dubrovnik, which is the erratic vaporetto schedule. It’s sporadic at best, and dependent upon totally calm seas. There is a shuttle service when the boat is out of commission, but that may be little use if you are stuck in the Old Town and don’t know that the boat has been decommissioned.
But more annoying is the fact that there’s no service at all for about 5 hours in the middle of the afternoon. We had a late lunch in the Old Town one afternoon, finishing up around 1:30 and had to take a cab back because the last run was at 1:15. Plus, the last trip back from the Old Town was around 11, which was a bit early for late diners.
The third floor has a library lounge and the restaurant which has unbeatable views of the Old Town walls. We had breakfast there every morning (my favorite was the smoked salmon with capers and arugula.) We also had a fantastic dinner there one night – I almost licked my bowl after eating the seafood risotto. The scallops were also great. It was one of my favorite meals of the trip.
We went up to the Proscuitto & Wine Bar every night at sunset to have a glass of Posip, which was a nice way to kick off our evenings. We were at the hotel right before the high season began (on July 1, when rates totally skyrocket), so I don’t know if it was the time of year or what, but the bar was hardly ever busy.
The busiest it got was late one evening after a free concert in the Old Town by Croatia’s top pop star, Severina (I’ve included a video of her performance below). The concert was a gift to Dubrovnik to celebrate Croatia’s accession to the EU and there was a rumor that there would be fireworks after the show, so a bunch of guests gathered at the bar to watch the fireworks. Alas, the fireworks never came, which became a running joke for us the entire trip.
Anyway, we loved Villa Dubrovnik – excellent location, fantastic staff, gorgeous rooms and shared spaces. And our room had a hot tub on the deck, so that pretty much seals the deal in my book.
The rocky cliffs are a far cry from the sweaty metro platform that makes up my typical day. But, vacations must be paid for somehow, and when I close my eyes as the next train blasts warm air into the station, I can almost imagine I’m standing on our private deck at the Villa Dubrovnik again.