7/30/2020

Bosnia's Only Seaside Resort: Neum

Our journey began in the southern tip of Dubrovnik, Croatia, where we head northbound, purposely making stops in other war-torn countries; Bosnia, Montenegro, and Slovenia. Through our travels, we delightfully discovered unexpected seaside resorts, learned their country’s troubled history, and explored this ethnically diverse region. All while navigating the most spectacular stretch of coastline in the world, the Dalmatian Coast.

Soon the border crossing into Bosnia-Herzegovina is within sight, 70km from Dubrovnik, and just west of the country of Albania. Luckily entering Bosnia was uneventful, after a 45-minute wait, passports are presented, but no face-to-face interview required; this is not the norm in the summer months, so prepare for a very long wait. We show our appreciation for a speedy pass-through leaving bottled water for the border agents.  (*As of July 2020, new border crossing regulations are in place due to coronavirus pandemic).

Just inside the BiH border, we take a comfort stop at Neum, often referred to the Neum Riviera.  The Neum corridor is the shortest coastline in the world, aside from the principality of Monaco. It boasts a scant 20km of shimmering Adriatic Sea coastline wedged in-between the Croatian coast. This tiny corridor is a result of the break-up of Yugoslavia, and the only exit to the sea in Bosnia.

    

The price of accommodations and food in Bosnia-Herzegovina is much lower than Croatia and a sought-after destination with vacationers, holidaymakers, and travelers who prefer good value for their money.With Dubrovnik and Makarska being less than 80km away in either direction it’s an easy day trip to explore the region. 

Bosnia is the poorest country in Europe but offers excellent value while enjoying a beautiful vacation destination along the azure Adriatic Sea. The official currency is Bosnian Mark, and universally accepted Croatian Kuna and some shops accept Euro.

*Travel occurred in 2018

 *New border crossing rules as of July 2020: https://bit.ly/30OuVog

Dubrovnik Riviera Tourism

Bosnian Tourism

J. Christina is the author and owner at Scribbles and Smiles, travel writer, and hobbyist photographer. Christina (Christie) is married to John, a.k.a. Mr. Christie. Where Mr. Christie is right on-board with their travel jaunts around the world sharing in their blogging endeavor - hence, their bespoke pen name, J. Christina.

After many years of intrepid travel, they thoughtfully opened their treasure-trove of European travelogues, artfully sharing with a worldwide audience. Intentionally sharing the joie de vivre through their words and images, so others can travel vicariously. 

 

 


6/30/2020

Elusive Montenegro


Where is this elusive, pocket-size country of Montenegro, Europe's youngest country; and our 29th member to NATO? Montenegro is a tiny country in southeastern Europe, on the sunny, southern coastline of the Adriatic Sea. Formerly, Montenegro was part of Yugoslavia, until the break-up in 1992, and became a sovereign state when over 55% of the population voted for independence in  May 2006.



Montenegro is often called the land of six continents for its geographic diversity. It’s a country that offers tourists, intrepid travelers, and holidaymakers a versatile vacation destination; where you can tickle the turquoise sea or enjoy the soaring, snow-capped mountains in the distance. 

Our destination is the UNESCO-protected town of Kotor, the magnificent Bay of Kotor, and the enchanting Our Lady of Rocks islet in Perast.  Just 95km from Dubrovnik we find these picturesque villages and islands just waiting to be unwrapped. Luckily, our driver has traveled the Adriatic coastal road for over 35 years, maneuvering the sharp hairpin turns and the steep switchback curves on this narrow road with ease, offering breathtaking views at every turn. 

Kotor is a very popular European vacation destination, a real gem, located in the southernmost fjord of the Adriatic. The most impressive structure in Old Town Kotor, dubbed "Little Dubrovnik," is its city walls, dating back more than 1200 years, reaching 4 km in length, and stretching up to the San Giovanni fortress, that stands 260 meters above sea level. Another medieval and Romanesque building worth stepping inside is the Basilica of Saint Tryphon, constructed in 1166, with twin Baroque bell towers, and an impressive collection of European art.
Kotor-Bay of Kotor, Montenegro
The second UNESCO site is a short boat ride from the baroque shore of Perast, in the stunning Bay of Kotor, Our Lady of the Rocks. A photogenic Roman Catholic church, built upon the only man-made island in the Adriatic by seamen who discovered an icon of the Madonna and child on a seaside cliff and vowed to honor her by building a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the patron saint of seafarers and fishermen.
Baroque shores of Perast, Montenegro
A significant historic treasure inside the church is the famous votive tapestry, the Holy Virgin, embroidered by Jacinta Kunić-Mijović from the quaint village of Perast. Legend weaves the story that it took her 25 years to finish, while waiting for her husband to return from exotic and faraway places.  A fabled story where she embroidered this iconic piece with gold and silver fibers and finally with strands of her own aging and greying hair. 

Nowhere else can you discover so much natural beauty, picturesque villages and pristine nature in such a compact area, as in Montenegro, another hidden crown jewel of the Dalmatian coast. 

*Travel occurred in 2018




Follow Scribbles and Smiles recent posts on Perfectly Provence  France Today, Bonjour Paris, The Good Life France, and  often from onboard an elegant European river ship - sharing the allure of Europe’s great rivers. Or, follow them on their journeys via Instagram.

J. Christina is the author and owner at Scribbles and Smiles, travel writer, and hobbyist photographer. Christina (Christie) is married to John, a.k.a. Mr. Christie. Where Mr. Christie is right on-board with their travel jaunts around the world - sharing in their blogging endeavors. He supports, encourages, handles gadgetry and embraces the role as  editor - hence, their bespoke pen name, J. Christina.

After many years of intrepid travel, they thoughtfully opened their treasure-trove of European travelogues, artfully sharing with a worldwide audience. Intentionally sharing the joie de vivre through their words and images, so others can travel vicariously. 















5/30/2020

Rising From the Sea: Dubrovnik


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Our  journey began at the deep southern tip of Croatia, in Dubrovnik, the Pearl of the Adriatic. Where we navigated over 1400 miles, on this intrepid adventure, along the most magnificent stretch of Croatia, the Dalmatian Coastline. Sometimes, playing hide-n’-seek with the azure waters of the Adriatic Sea, other times, marveling at the soaring Balkan Mountains in the distance. Dubrovnik is a natural beauty – one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Scribbles and Smiles JChristina
The walls of Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik hardly needs an introduction as one of the world’s most carefully preserved medieval walled cities in the world. From afar, Dubrovnik dramatically ascends up from the Adriatic’s cliffs edge, dangling precariously high above the sapphire sea, accented with its red terra cotta rooftops - offering an unforgettable dreamscape vista. 

Our guide, Zoran, a veteran of the Croatian Army, shares his city, regaling stories from his youth, the war, and the history of this remarkable UNESCO Heritage site. Beginning in Old Dubrovnik via the south entrance, and emerging through the historic Pile Gate, onto Stradun, the main street of old town. Slowly strolling, on this dry and hot day - destination the Rector’s Palace.

The Rector’s Palace is home to the cultural history museum, where it contains invaluable antiquities and artworks from the 15th – 19th centuries. Still, today visitors can walk through the notorious palace prison, where the infamous Ilija Dadić, dubbed Dubrovnik’s Monte Christo, was permanently imprisoned after five foiled attempts at escape. Zoran points out historic Murano stained-glass windows that were destroyed during the Homeland War, and explains that the Venetian Murano glass company donated all the replacement stained glass to restore the windows to their historic luster. 
Murano stained glass
In 1991, after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Dubrovnik was besieged by the Yugoslav People’s Army for seven months and the city suffered significant damage from the mortar shelling and bombs. A territorial war, that many only heard about on the national news, and local Croatians simply chose not to speak about this turbulent time in recent history. The repair and restoration of Dubrovnik’s historical and irreplaceable buildings took over ten years to complete, and reemerged as one of the top travel destinations in the Mediterranean.

Nowadays, in the pretty courtyard of Franciscan Monastery’s complex, the Romanesque cloister leads to the old Pharmacy Museum, one of the oldest in the world, where among the exhibits you can see various pharmaceutical tools, containers, grinders and similar utensils from the 7th century, from the once named, Republic of Ragusa. Stopping inside the Franciscan Monastery we admire the Romanesque cloister, from 1360, considered one of the finest features of Dubrovnik’s architecture. Consisting of rows of elegant double-pillared columns, embellished with reliefs of faces, animals, and leaves.

4/30/2020

Undiscovered Gem: Croatia

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What an amazing month-long journey discovering Europe’s unpolished gem, Croatia. Traveling the crossroads of central and southeast Europe, along the Adriatic Sea, exploring and hearing amazing stories of this once war-torn country.  Zigzagging through six great nations plus a very unexpected micro-stop along a tiny sliver of Bosnia and Herzegovina was an unforgettable experience.  As this adventure unfolded, many of you traveled vicariously, enjoying this grand journey right alongside us, sending messages and comments as you perused our postcard images on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.  Thank you for joining this grand journey!  #Croatia #Montenegro #Slovenia #Italy #France #TheNetherlands #BosniaandHerzegovina

This journey began slowing in Amsterdam while revisiting world renowned art museums, touring hidden, off-the-beaten-path museums and gardens, cruising the historic canals and catching trains out of the city.   Then it was time to hopscotch down to Croatia’s Adriatic Coast.  It began in the deep southern tip of Dubrovnik, then migrated northward, logging over 1400 miles, while navigating the most spectacular stretch of coastline in the world, the Dalmatian Coast.  Playing hide-n-seek with the sea on one side and catching a glimpse of the coastal Balkan Mountains soaring in the distance.   

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Traveling to the Republic of Montenegro was a real highlight, heading to the mouth of the beautiful of Bay of Kotor, the longest and deepest fjord in Southern Europe, where sailing by a small boat to the coast of Perast, where Our Lady of the Rocks, was waiting. Our Lady of the Rocks is a man-made island with a Roman Catholic church built by seamen to honor a vision of the Madonna and child. One historic element is the famous votive tapestry, embroidered by Jacinta Kunić-Mijović from Perast. It took her 25 years to finish, while waiting for her husband to return from exotic and faraway places.  Legend weaves a story that she embroidered this iconic piece with gold and silver fibers and finally with strands of her own hair. 
Perast, Montenegro
Continuing on north, the trip went along the spectacular Adriatic coastal highway, past old fishing villages and new resorts, arriving in Split, the second-largest city in Croatia, on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea.  Split is where the remnants of the Diocletian’s Palace still exist, a UNESCO site that honors Split’s Roman heritage.

Then, zigzagging inland reaching the much-anticipated Plitvice Lakes National Park, one of the oldest and largest in Croatia, where 16 terraced lakes flow with natural turquoise water and majestic waterfalls. Hiking the mountainous region is a real challenge on this wet, foggy, and overcast day. 

The Istrian Peninsula is shared by three countries; Croatia, Slovenia and Italy, allowing a smooth segue across the border into tiny Slovenia with ease, the tiny country with “love” in its name. The journey went winding westward along the glistening Istrian Peninsula, stopping at the Bay of Kvarner, near the popular 5-star resort town of Opatija, often referred to as Opatija Riviera for good reason. Truly a magnificent vacation destination created by the Habsburgs and still frequented by the Europeans.   It’s a beautiful town where you can reach out and tickle the azure Adriatic Sea, and enjoy Renaissance, Venetian and Gothic architecture that enriches the town's culture. 

After several hours the Julian Alps are within sight, rising up 2864 meters high at Mt. Triglav, continuing northwest, reaching Bled, Slovenia. Bled Castle dangles precariously high above the lake-shore with magnificent views and reflections in the mirrored lake waters. 

Before leaving Slovenia, visiting Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia is a must-see, where it’s still an undiscovered treasure.  Dragons are a prominent symbol in Slovenia, decorating historic bridges, castles and doorways. Ljubljana’s beauty is often compared to Prague with its eclectic mix of architectural beauty.

After a few nights, sadly, leaving Bled and her stunning scenery behind, making the final push-transitioning south to Trieste, Italy. Trieste is a seaport in northeastern Italy, sitting on a narrow strip of territory between the Adriatic Sea and Slovenia, only 30 km from Croatia border.

Nearing the end of the first 15 days of this three-part adventure, Venice, Italy is on the horizon. There were only a few days in Venice revisiting and strolling the Grand Canal and famous landmarks.  Sadly, saying arrivederci to Venice after a few nights  - pushing-on, making for the finale in Bordeaux, France for the next several days. 

This journey will continue with blog posts and images for the next several days and weeks to come, spotlighting several specific destinations.  It's a magnificent adventure with highlights to share and destinations that some only imagine. Continue your travels here on Scribbles and Smiles, while enjoying traveling through Croatia, a once war-torn country in 1991-1995, find the love in Slovenia and imagine romantic sights in Venice, Italy. 
 
About J. Christina:
J. Christina is founder at Scribbles and Smiles, travel writer, and hobbyist photographer.  She writes a personal travel blog from North America. Christina (Christie) is married to John, a.k.a. Mr. Christie. Mr. Christie is right on-board with their travel jaunts around the world - sharing in their blogging endeavors. He supports, encourages, handles gadgetry and embraces the role of editor - hence, their bespoke pen name, J. Christina.


3/30/2020

Discovering Croatia's Dalmatian Coast

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And we're off! Join our 2018 bespoke journey across six nations, kicking off in handsome Amsterdam, affectionally referred to as the Venice of the North, where we will step into  the world of Vincent van Gogh's art and cruise on  400-year-old historical canals, once again.

Amsterdam 2017
Travel  along with J.Christina by plane, tram,  foot,  private transport, and by European river cruise ship, all-the-while discovering postcard perfect destinations that will linger in your memory forever.
As our adventures unfold, wing on with us, as we  hopscotch  down to Croatia's Dalmatian Coast,
including stops in Montenegro and Slovenia where we will explore the length of this majestic Adriatic Sea coastline. 
Old Town Dubrovnik
Following the mid-segment of this sojourn as we overland along the Pearl of the Adriatic, traveling south to north, where we will cross the finish line into Venice, Italy.  It's a quick stop to regroup, reminisce about Croatia's sights and sounds, while admiring the glories of Venetian architecture while strolling along the Grand Canal.  Sadly, we will say arrivederci to Venice all too soon - pushing-on, making our segue on to Bordeaux, France. 

Join the finale! Come on along and explore with J.Christina in  Bordeaux, France, a city with a 2000-year-old history, often referred to as the "Port of the Moon."  We will celebrate our birthdays and toast our 25th wedding anniversary, while plying the waters of the Dordogne and Garonne rivers, onboard a European river ship.

Arm-in-arm let's complete this final bookend of our month-long journey immersing ourselves in southwest France - one ancient wine village at-a-time. Here we will stroll through picturesque hamlets, admire beautiful medieval villages, taste the terroir, and lunch in historic châteaux. Come on along, travel vicariously  from the luxury of your armchair to places some only glimpse on a postcard.   


Together we will create, capture and record countless shareable moments to last a lifetime. 

About J. Christina:
J. Christina is founder at Scribbles and Smiles, travel writer, hobbyist photographer and often a digital nomad.  Writing a personal travel blog sharing adventures from Europe and beyond. Christina (Christie) is married to John, a.k.a. Mr. Christie. Where Mr. Christie is right onboard with their travel jaunts around the world - sharing in their blogging endeavors. He supports, encourages, handles gadgetry and embraces the role of  editor - hence, their bespoke pen name, J. Christina.

After many years of intrepid travel, they thoughtfully opened their treasure-trove of European travelogues, artfully sharing with a worldwide audience. All-the-while, sharing the joie de vivre through their words and images, so others can travel vicariously. J. Christina believes smiling with your eyes is a beautiful thing.

You can read their most recent dispatches from aboard an elegant European river ship, sharing the allure of Europe’s great rivers and their capital cities. Or, follow them through serendipitous discoveries in the Cote d’Azur, where J. Christina captures the essence of a  perched medieval village. J. Christina’s work has been featured on France Today, Bonjour Paris, The Good Life France, and Perfectly Provence.






 








































1/31/2020

Saint-Émilion: Lost-in-Time Storied Village

Scribbles and Smiles by J. Christina
Saint-Émilion is a charming medieval village located in the heart of the famous Bordeaux wine area.
Saint-Émilion is a honey-colored wine village in the Gironde department in southwest France, where it gracefully adorns a rocky outcrop overlooking the Dordogne river valley.  In 1999, Saint-Émilion was awarded the title Cultural Landscape by UNESCO; protecting its ancient  architecture, landscape, and historic vineyards that still produce world famous wines today.  This quaint wine village will pull at your heart strings with its photogenic beauty, glistening limestone facades, and  vine-laced vineyards.
The most practical piece of advice I can give you for visiting Saint-Émilion is to wear sturdy walking shoes. You will thank me later, as you navigate up and down those captivating winding lanes, all inlaid with centuries-old shiny and slick ballast-cobblestones, beckoning you forward - to explore this remarkably rich village.
Saint-Émilion is a medieval, fairytale-esque town with a maze of curlicue stone streets filled with charming storefronts, enchanting squares, and flower-laden terraces just waiting for you to enjoy the splendor. The village of Saint-Émilion grew famous and wealthy in the eighth century through its wine trade and prominence on the route to Santiago de Compostela. Visiting Saint-Émilion is so much more than wine; nowadays, you can spend time just strolling the crooked and charming streets without ever visiting a wine château (but wouldn't that be a shame).

Scribbles and Smiles by JChristina
Saint Émilion Monolithic Church
Postcard perfect Saint-Émilion is more than just renowned wines - it will steal your heart with its landscape, history, and serene lifestyle. In this blonde-colored wine village, just east of Bordeaux, perhaps the most extraordinary site is what lies below ground, the Monolithic Church from the twelfth century.  1300 years ago, a Breton monk named Émilion, came to this ancient town, then named Ascumbas, to escape religious persecution.  According to legend he has an intriguing and curious story - Émilion lived and existed in this dark and damp  subterranean cavern-church, where it is said he performed miracles.  In this ancient story, Émilion was believed to have carved a limestone seat that aided women in fertility; and during this period more miracles appeared among his faithful followers.  Many believed the underground spring-fed pool of water used for baptism also cured blindness. 

1/13/2020

Is European River Cruising really all that?

Having traveled on the great rivers of Europe for more than decade there are few journeys more endearing than slowly plying Europe’s waterways, on-board a specialty designed river ship.  Sailing these great rivers of Europe, including the delightful Danube, the mighty Rhine, river Rhône, and the romantic Seine; is simply a one-of-a-kind bespoke experience with Uniworld Boutique River Cruises.
Scribbles and Smiles JChristina
Douro River Valley
Embarking on a river cruise allows travelers to step-off into the heart of great historical cities steeped in tradition, with grace and anticipation.   Intrepid travelers dream of being up-close and personal with iconic landmarks, flower-laced villages, and picturesque hamlets, all lying within steps of their boutique river ship.  With river cruising you will experience vistas and landmarks that some only glimpse on postcards.  So simply put – yes, European river cruising is all that!

Scribbles and Smiles JChristina
Seine River - Paris, France
Whether it’s traveling untethered along Bordeaux’s alluring Garonne and Dordogne rivers, or the mirrored waters of Portugal’s Douro river - all are a feast for the senses.   Being immersed in local culture, discovering UNESCO World Heritages Sites, or indulging in the sip, sample, and stroll among some of the world’s greatest vineyards will make unforgettable memories.   There’s no better way to authentically connect with the region and discover its hidden nuances.
Scribbles and Smiles JChristina
Dordogne river valley
Many river cruises are inclusive, running the gamut from romantic and stunning, to awe-inspiring; others are more humbling.  One of the great benefits of joining a European river cruise is the variety of itineraries available for river cruisers.  How about a cooking lesson in a romantic chateau, biking through the leafy vineyards of Médoc wine region, or scampering around the ancient ruins of a citadel?  Or, delve into history with a private lunch destination in the once war-torn Croatia, all accompanied with remembrances of the strife and struggles during the Homeland Wars? There are many heart-warming, educational, and memorable journeys to be discovered while cruising on Europe’s diverse waterways.

One thing is for sure---you will create, capture, and record countless shareable moments to last a lifetime – right from the luxury of your floating boutique European river ship.



About J. Christina:

Follow Scribbles and Smiles recent posts on Perfectly Provence  France Today, Bonjour Paris, The Good Life France, and  in recent times from onboard an elegant European river ship - sharing the allure of Europe’s great rivers. Or, follow them on their journeys via Instagram.


J. Christina is the author and owner at Scribbles and Smiles, travel writer, and hobbyist photographer. Christina (Christie) is married to John, a.k.a. Mr. Christie. Where Mr. Christie is right on-board with their travel jaunts around the world - sharing in their blogging endeavors. He supports, encourages, handles gadgetry and embraces the role as  editor - hence, their bespoke pen name, J. Christina.

After many years of intrepid travel, they thoughtfully opened their treasure-trove of European travelogues, artfully sharing with a worldwide audience. Intentionally sharing the joie de vivre through their words and images, so others can travel vicariously. J. Christina believes smiling with your eyes is a beautiful thing.