Sailing the Dalmatian coast….


My upcoming trip to South America a.k.a. the reason this blog exists in the first place, was this year’s birthday present to myself, a tradition I started a few years ago having grown up in a family environment which didn’t really go in for an annual celebration of ageing. Over the past ten years or so, I’ve treated myself to a foreign escapade around my birthday in October, one of which was a week sailing along the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia.

My friend Neil had mentioned in passing that he was thinking of booking such a trip, so I naturally invited myself along. I had never been on a sailboat, nor to the Balkans, nor on a holiday where the vast majority of my fellow travellers would be strangers. We booked our trip with G Adventures; mainly because it was reasonably priced, they had availability on our desired dates and, probably most importantly if I’m being brutally honest, they mentioned that one could do ‘as little or as much’ sailing as one liked which immediately led to me envisioning a reenactment of the ‘Rio’ video by Duran Duran (yes, I’m quite old). This ‘no mandatory sailing assistance’ didn’t entirely eventuate however as we were all given a task to perform when it came to docking or setting sail, although in fairness, when we were on open water, it appeared a similarly lazy disposition afflicted most of my crewmates as the skipper – a delectable Scot called, um, Scott – pretty much did everything.

A ‘picigin’ player

Our trip began in Split, although it wasn’t the best of starts when the bus driver looked at me rather strangely when I insisted on paying the fare with Czech Koruna, before it dawned on me that, indeed, I had exchanged £300 worth of useless currency at Gatwick. Having gotten over that hump thanks to a stray five euro note I found lurking in my wallet, which was accepted with less chagrin, we spent a couple of relaxing days in Split, drinking cheap beer on the beach while watching the native men playing ‘picigin’ in the tiniest of speedos and wondering how this sport was not yet part of the Olympic programme. I soon realised I would love Croatia.

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Giethoorn – the ‘Venice of the North’

I moved to the Netherlands in June 2014 and vowed that I would do my utmost to visit as much of the country as possible if I was going to call it home. I soon learned of a village called Giethoorn in the Overijssel province. It is inaccessible by car and has plenty of walking and cycling trails, but more excitingly, canals for boating.  Now, you may be struggling to see the appeal for an Amsterdammer to go somewhere like Giethoorn considering that my home city is not exactly lacking in canal action itself and which also bears the moniker of ‘Venice of the North’ – why come up with a new name when this one can, quite frankly, be applied to almost every Dutch city? Anyway, I digress.

My boyfriend’s birthday was fast approaching and we had discussed going away somewhere for a few days.  Respite was much needed having just spent four days in my one-bedroom apartment in the company of my mum, sister and nephew, so the pictures of Giethoorn conjured up what I thought would be the perfect tonic.

I approached a couple of Dutch friends and colleagues asking for recommendations and they were nothing if not consistent in their advice: “don’t bother going, it’s full of Chinese tourists”. Unbeknownst to the Dutchies, however, this was actually a draw for me having spent the last three years feeling like a midget in this land of blonde giants. It’s also why Japan remains my favourite holiday destination, that and, well, everything else. Although if I never saw another squat toilet it’d be too soon. I thought I had the requisite thigh strength, but the splash back confirmed otherwise.  No wonder the Japanese live so long though; they’re super supple.

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