August 20, 2013

First Port of Call: Dubrovnik, Rhymes with "Do Forget It"

Almost all my travel adventures have been solo experiences . . . on my own. Exceptions include a people-to-people mission of labor relations practitioners to Russia and China in 1986, a Nile River cruise in 1989, and a group tour of China in 1996. Even on these group excursions, I’d break away to go off on my own whenever possible.

Given my age and my Parkinson’s, I figured it was time to consider cruising. I was pleased with my maiden voyage in June on Regent's Seven Seas Navigator to Alaska. The port tour options involved floatplanes, helicopters, boats, and seaplanes into spectacular wilderness areas.

The Venice-Barcelona cruise is a different animal, since these tour options involve mostly city sightseeing. (I'm writing these notes towards the end of this cruise, which has been very different from the Alaska experience. But let’s start at the beginning.)

Our first port of call was Dubrovnik, Croatia. This was a first-ever visit for me, as were the next two ports (Corfu, Greece and Taormina, Sicily). Naturally, I was especially excited about these three stops.

However, the cruise ship didn’t dock at Dubrovnik until 1pm, and it left at 8pm. Given the limited time and my ignorance of the area, I decided to sign up for one of the ship’s tours. In my younger days (years), I would have joined the “bicycle adventure” or perhaps even the “kayak & swim the Dalmatian coast.” Instead, I chose “historic Dubrovnik and village life.”

The tour bus took us to a small village, after a pleasant drive along the scenic coast. We stopped at a local family’s house. Our group was ushered inside for “local entertainment” by costumed villagers. I’ve never cared much for these staged events. I spotted a trail running along a creek behind the cottage and decided to explore that instead. It turned into a lovely stroll in the woods to an old mill. A number of locals were also enjoying the walk.

I rejoined the group for the bus ride back to the old town. As soon as our guide gave us her introductory overview, I left the group to explore on my own. The buildings inside the old city walls looked nice enough.

What don't the photos show? Virtually all of these old buildings have been turned into shops or restaurants. The town was like the huge Tysons Corner shopping mall in the Virginia suburbs of Washington. I have an aversion to shopping centers in general, and to Tysons Corner in particular.

I don’t expect to return to Dubrovnik.

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