A last night on the boat and Croatia throws us a Belle Epoque curveball in Opatija.

A few days earlier on the little island of Olib, I’d met a cheeky old character called Tony who – when we told him we were heading north – had whispered quietly “You must go to Opatija. It’s beautiful. The perfect place to finish your trip.”

last day patina

sketch opatija

feeling blue

In the mid 1800s the first hotel was built in Opatija. Others quickly followed and soon the Austrian imperial family and other European heads of state were holidaying here. A railway was built from Vienna in 1873. Russian Tsars, European royalty, Puccini, Chekhov, Einstein, dancer Isadora Duncan – all made their way to the “Nice of the East”.


Once again Croatia was surprising us – this time with Belle Epoque splendour. Grand hotels and residences dotting the densely forested foreshore.

If only those walls could talk and give up their secrets of days gone by, of concerts and moonlit liaisons.

verandah opatija

walking patina

There might be a sense of faded glory – her best years, her golden years might be behind her – but she is still a beauty.

umbrellas opatija

Twelve kilometres of paved pathway follows the coast.

coast walk patina

swimmer opatija

coast walk patina

coast walk opatija

And, as with every place we had visited in Croatia, extraordinary public art in every corner.

pay the fisherman

patina across the water

sculpture opatija

Sadly, it was time to leave our watery home of the past two weeks.

But Tony was right. It was a stunning finale.

Through teary goodbyes, we jumped on a bus with plans to head to Trieste, an hour and a half away in northern Italy but as the bus started its descent into that massive bowl of a city, we decided to push on – to Venice – another two and half hours or so by train around the gulf. But as we approached Venice we realised we couldn’t break the spell of the boat in any city. 25 minutes west of Venice lay Padua, a city that lies a little outside the tourist river, a university town full of bicycles, open air markets and the first botanical garden in the world.  Now that felt more like us …


    Stumbling upon Love Island and is Rab really the most beautiful medieval village in the world?

    It’s a big call isn’t it – suggesting that a place is possibly the most beautiful medieval village in the world – but that’s what some well known travel writer had once said about Rab. After cruising past the town’s ramparts, we’d moored in a quiet cove (on a finger of land that creates a long inlet in front of Rab) and had an uninterrupted view of her four bell towers.

    from our mooring ran

    What we hadn’t realised was that, behind us, lay Love Island. And if that one line in the guide book describing Rab had piqued our interest, well, the sign for Love Island definitely warranted further investigation.

    love island sign

    No nudist beach or shady resort, it turned out to be a low slung restaurant capturing the last of the day’s rays and a surprisingly good excuse to have a break from cooking.

    Love Island

    The next morning we upped anchor and slid quietly into the main port to take a look behind those walls. For me, this slow early morning glide past Rab was one of the really special moments of our time on Enigma. Hard to describe. I think the reality of the experience just hit home at this moment. Man, we’re really here, we’re sailing in Croatia. And it’s been sublime. Steve and I looked at each other from across the bow and we didn’t need to say anything. Just smiled. Shaking our heads. Laughing. A bit teary (me). A little overwhelmed.

    rab early morning

    On that note I’ll step out of the way and let the pictures do the talking …

    rab central square

    roman ruins rab

    view from the walkway ran

    rooftops rab

    high terrace in rab

    rab foreshore

    view form the terrace rab

    rab garden

    alley way rab

    view from the tower rab

    view across the towers rab

    rab central

    The most beautiful? As I said it’s a big call. How about one of …

    Either way, it touched something very deep in me.



      A solitary trek up snow covered Mount Panorama

      We’ve lived in Bathurst for 20 years and we’ve never seen a snow fall like this.

      Not in the Bathurst valley.

      They’re saying it’s the heaviest dump in 30 years.

      mount panorama under snow

      It started in the wee hours of the morning. Literally. And since Steve was up, I got up and since we were up we thought Darce might as well be up too. 17 year olds love being woken up at 4am to see snow.

      4am home

      At first light I decided to try my luck and take a walk to see if I could get to the top of Mount Panorama, now also known by its original name Wahluu – Wiradjuri for ‘sacred place’.

      As it turned out I had the mountain to myself for an hour. Couldn’t believe it.

      Just me, the birds, the quiet silence of snow and the odd council truck.

      footsteps and car track in snow


      View from the track

      the view from mount panorama under snow

      brock's skyline

      I’d love to see the V8 boys take this on …

      looking up the essex

      esses mount panorama under snow

      mount panorama esses under snow

      Frozen, wet feet. Frozen, numb fingers. But who knows when we’ll see something like this again.

      A pretty special here and now for our part of the world at least.

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