April 17, 2016: Montenegro

I woke up this morning at twenty past seven. The bright light off of the sea and getting to bed before midnight helped to get me moving. Dominica was up soon thereafter and even Luciana, who had fallen asleep the earliest, was awake just after nine. Liesl, always the sleepyhead, was the only one who slept in for very long.

Just before ten I walked down the hill to get to the Hotel Excelsior where they have an ATM as I needed some cash to pay for our apartment. That was not a long walk and I was able to take out exactly what we needed to pay for our apartment so that we would have no left over Croatia money (Kuna) at all. Perfect.

I walked back up the hill getting a decent amount of morning exercise. Once back I showered and got myself ready to go while Dominica worked on getting the girls ready. We wanted to be on the road on the early side, we don’t want anything going wrong with the drive today given that we don’t have working headlights at this point.

We were out of the Villa Odak at ten thirty and were on the road. The drive out of Dubrovnik was easy and the drive south through the last bits of Croatia was very nice. We were surprised to find just how large the Dubrovnik enclave is and the large, wide valley that supports the region surrounded by sheer mountain faces to the east was really interesting.

Before long we were exiting Croatia and found ourselves at the Montenegrin border. Montenegro border control informed us, not surprisingly, that while Montenegro was listed on our green card for our car that a copy of the green card is not valid and so we would, once again, need to purchase additional insurance at the border. A pain but it was only fifteen Euros so not a big deal. Border control was friendly and helpful.

Once into Montenegro we took the scenic route to cling to the Adriatic shoreline and see as much of the coast as we could on our drive as who knows when we will be driving through this way again. Before long we were at the Bay of Kotor, one of Montenegro’s more famous locations. We took the very long drive along the bay which was very interesting as a huge amount of Montenegro’s coastline is against the Bay and not against the Adriatic. Nice little villages along here and Kotor itself, with an imposing Venetian fortress, was really neat. Kotor is also famously the site of the Casino Royale, of James Bond fame, even though the movie was not filmed in this part of the world and they made the movie nothing like the region.

After the Bay of Kotor the speed of our drive picked up considerably and before long we were coming into Budva. Prior to Budva, Montenegro was mostly outdated and small villages, not quite what we were expecting being seafront coast line, there were hotels and some resort like areas but they were small and mostly quite old. The difference from Croatia was dramatic. Getting to Budva, suddenly we turned from a somewhat desolate, old school Adriatic region into an endless sea of billboards that made you feel like you had been transported to the heart of trashy Florida – it was absolutely awful. Thirty seconds of driving into Budva we knew that this part of Montenegro was clearly something we had no interest in and needed to do no more than drive through and put behind us. Montenegro needs to pass some laws about billboards or they are going to destroy their country. Budva, beyond the billboards, was the worst couple of kilometres of the Adriatic coast that we have seen. Very much worth avoiding.

We did not make it all of the way through Budva before we hit stopped traffic. There was major construction going on on the only road leading south from the city so we were stuck.  We sat for maybe twenty minutes without any cars moving when a taxi driver behind us got out and convinced several cars to shift so that he could make a u-turn and go back into Budva.  We followed suit and went in search of lunch since we had been planning to tackle that once we had arrived in our village.  This seemed like an opportune time to deal with that and hopefully the traffic would clear by the time that we returned.  Dominica and thought that we could bypass the city but once we turned around she realized that the bypass loop was actually right where we had turned around and that it would not bypass the issue at all.

We had seen a restaurant, high on a bluff overlooking the sea, that looked awesome before we got to the trashy disaster that is Budva, so we decided to drive all of the way back through the city up north to find it again.

It was a short drive and we found El Rey, a cute and apparently very popular sea view restaurant.  We found parking and had to sit inside as every outside table was taken.  This wasn’t bad as the girls did not want to be outside and the restaurant was all glass so the views were still very good.  We found food that everyone wanted and ordered and had an amazing meal, highly recommended.  I had the best salmon penne pasta that I think I have ever had and we had our best coffee that we have had (and would have) for a while.  We were very happy with our meal and our decision to drive so far back to get it.

We continued on and found that traffic was still stopped, but was not backed up as far as it was when we were there earlier so we knew that things moved from time to time.  We sat for probably five or ten minutes without any movement then we were able to go.  Not too bad and we were glad that we had taken the hour or longer break to get a nice lunch while we had the chance.

Once we were past the traffic jam we made good time and were in Petrovac, our village for the next few days, quite quickly.  Getting into the village was quite easy and we found a parking lot in the middle of town and the grocery store, Voli, that our apartment was supposed to be right behind, but we could not see the apartment.  Dominica sent me on driving some and we went to the north and to a dead end in town where I could barely turn around and we really did not fit very easily.  Driving can get to be rather challenging in these little towns.  So we returned to the parking lot and Dominica set off on foot to see what she could find out about our apartment.

Ten or fifteen minutes of searching on foot and Dominica had no idea where the apartment was.  So she returned to the car and we called from my phone (as hers never seems to work) and got a description of where to go, which was directly behind the Voli super market and we were able to park and got right into our apartment.

Our Montenegrin apartment in Petrovac is a super modern refurbished apartment in an old stone building one building behind the boardwalk of the village.  Our front entrance touches the back of the Voli, which is very handy for getting supplies, and our back terrace goes directly into the back side of the Cuba Caffe Bar so that we can get drinks and pizza without even leaving the apartment, which is neat.  And from that entrance we spill out directly onto the boardwalk which touches the beach.  So even though we are not exactly water front we have a small Adriatic view from the back door and window and we can get to the bar, boardwalk and beach without ever coming close to a road.  We are right in the centre of everything.

Terrace of the Lux Apartments

We got settled in, got the Internet access up and running and set out to get some mojitos and relax with the view of the sea.  The mojitos were good but definitely not as good as the ones from Dubrovnik yesterday, those were the best ever.

We decided to walk the boardwalk and explore.  I did a little walking on my own to get a quick feel of where we could go then we all went and did a long walk to most of the entire board walk and got ice cream while we were out.  We had to leave the apartment unlocked as the back door lock was broken so we texted the apartment owners and they came over after we had ice cream to work on it.

The apartment owner and I were able to get the lock working enough to get us through the day but a handy man is going to come over in the morning to get it working reliably.  All of these logistics got us to nearly dinner time.

At eight thirty, after we were settled, had relaxed, and dealt with stuff at the house, after I had made a grocery run to get some necessities and such, we set out in search of dinner.  There are at least a dozen restaurants on the boardwalk, mostly seafood and pizza.  We looked for a while but had seen one, the Mediterranio, that looked great on our earlier walk so we headed there.

We learned from this experience that we eat much later than Montenegrins do and we were starting dinner about when the last people in town were finishing.  We were likely the last diners out on the entire boardwalk!  And we were the only ones with kids, too.

Dinner was awesome.  Liesl and Luciana split an order of fried calamari, which they really liked.  Dominica got Dalmation style fish and I went for a seafood risotto which was mostly octopus and mussels and was very delicious.  The whole dinner was really, really good.  We felt bad keeping them open until ten thirty, they likely would have closed up and gone home at least an hour earlier if we had not been there, but we were easily half of all of their business for the evening so we could only feel so bad.

After dinner we did a little walking on the boardwalk in the dark, although the boardwalk is well lit, and then went back to the apartment to call it a night.  We were all ready for bed and nearly asleep before midnight.

There were only a small number of people out and about today in Petrovac.  Many of the restaurants and bars are only serving limited menus, or only drinks, because it is still the middle of the shoulder season and there are very few tourists around.  Our selection is rather limited for a lot of things, it would appear.

The village itself is gorgeous.  An old village with a mix of old stone buildings and modern construction.  Lots of things going up currently as Montenegro is a hot bed of building.  The sea views are excellent and the boardwalk is really nice.  The town has a lot of potential and we are going to enjoy getting to relax here.  Our plan is to be here for two nights, so some time to get to enjoy town.

The girls really like it here and are looking forward to hitting the beach in the morning, tomorrow.  There are several places that do coffee right against the beach so it will be easy for Dominica and I to relax with coffee while the girls play on the beach.  We found a bakery down the way as well.