Kotor, Montenegro… and a mini road trip to Budva, Sveti Stefan and Niagara Falls

Having said a sad farewell to the gorgeous Dubrovnik, when we first got off the bus at Kotor, we thought we’d fallen asleep, missed our stop and somehow ended up in Beirut. Hollow, neglected, abandoned buildings line the otherwise picturesque bay. Rob was like – “Where have you taken us?”

As we walked slowly and cautiously away from where Homeland-meets-Elephant & Castle-on-sea, we stumbled across the city gates and meandered our way into Kotor Old Town. Here, I breathed a sigh of relief. The cosy, cute, cobble-stoned city within walls, hugged by moody mountains, has a charm of its own… despite being a bit like life post-apocalypse (well, it is off-season).

To mark our arrival, Rob suggests we / makes us climb a mountain. Now, I have a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to climbing mountains – or any physical activity, come to that – and yet, as we ascend the 1,300+ steps (omg), I can’t help smiling at the view (& cursing Rob under my breath), and I felt ever so proud when we finally reached St John’s Fortress.

I only told Rob I hated him once and we didn’t break up. Bonus. This is the tired face of victory;

The way back to earth, however, was a different story. I spent most of the way down doing an impression of a demented duck, yelling “oh for – !” each time my knees buckled. I’m as graceful as those dancing elephants in Fantasia.

Advice: If you’re going to brave the hike, don’t wear Toms. Funnily enough, I didn’t think to pack any mountaineering gear for our relaxing bank holiday trip. 🙄

Day two sees us in a fairly unsexy hire car. From Kotor, we bomb it (forgive the pun) to Budva.

Aside from the spot of beach we found to take a pic, the so-called “mini Dubrovnik” is pretty similar to the two other cities within walls we’ve visited. Cutesy, quirky maze-like allies lead you into the direction of the city’s choosing. Don’t try and use your phone for a map; these old towns are GPS black holes.

After sadly realising we couldn’t find a bar that served Budva in Budva, we jet off towards Sveti Stefan to check out the place that all sorts of celebs, including the queen, spend their glorious sunny summer holidays.

Only for us, there was a hurricane and we nearly died at the nearby Olive restaurant (some of the roof fell down on us). But what’s a potential brain haemorrhage when there’s a free beer in the mix (that was our prize for surviving / bribe from management to stop us suing)?

From here, we chase the stormy skies to the Niagara Falls, just north or south and somewhere east or west of Podgorica (basically we found it by sheer chance):

Advice: download a map (most phone networks don’t include Montenegro in their travel data pass packages), type in Niagara Restaurant (a vast empty restaurant with a carpark leading directly to the falls) and keep your fingers crossed.

The drive to and from Kotor is scenic, regardless of the route (we did both).

Some other observations:

* people aren’t as friendly here as in neighbouring Croatia but what they lack in smiles they make up for in… erm

* think of a menu as a guide as opposed to what bars and restaurants actually serve

* check your change

* “thank you” is like koala (the bear) but with a “hhuh” instead of a “k”

* if you choose a “Montenegro special” on a menu, just be warned, it might be cat. There are so many cats here. There’s even a cat museum. And some of the meat looks suspect. Pay your money, take your chance.

* best restaurant = Konoba Santa Scala

* worst restaurant = Regina del Gusto

* most lively pub = the square pub

* if you’re not a fan of passive smoking, don’t come to Montenegro

* on Easter Sunday, the church starts ringing the bell at dawn. Every hour, on the hour – DING DING DING!! Forget any plans to relax. You have to get up and pray the bells will at some point stop.

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A whistle-stop tour of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Day 1 & 2 of our Dalmatian adventure:

We got the Atlas shuttle bus from the airport to the old town city gates (around £6 for a one-way journey, and takes about half an hour). Make sure you sit on the left side of the bus for the best views.

From here, we made our way through the old town to check into our hotel for the night: Dominus Little Palace. The first thing that strikes us – aside from how beautiful the city is – is how friendly the people are (the hotel manager is simply brilliant). The second thing that strikes us is how expensive it is. Well, it’s on a par with London. Apparently Dubrovnik is 5 times more expensive than other cities in Croatia. Ouch.

We’d booked our buggy adventure in advance (you get a small discount) so we had to make our way to the top of the hill (Srd) and the easiest / quickest / cheapest way of getting there is by cable car (around £15 return).

We had lunch at the Panorama restaurant. As the name might suggest, great views. But as the location might suggest, very pricey. £6 for a beer. We still haven’t looked at how much the bill came to.

Then it was time for our buggy safari (which is parked up just outside the cable car exit).

It gets very muddy so make sure you wear clothes you’re not bothered about ruining. Great fun! Plus you get a brief history lesson when you zoom by the fort.

After some not-too-pricey cocktails at Buzz bar, we had a lush dinner at Azur (where tapas meets Thai). So yummy. Then loads more drinks until it was time to pass out.

On day 2, we walked the wall (£18 each)…

Now it’s time to get our bus to Tivat, Montenegro. The main bus station is near the port, so you’ll need to catch a bus to get there. 1A or 1B. They only take cash – it’s 12 kuna if you pay at one of the ticket stands, or 15 if you pay on the bus. It’s the first stop after the only roundabout, about ten minutes.

I’ll report on Montenegro shortly!

Guatemala (Flores, Tikal, Río Dulce, Antigua, Panajachel, Lake Atitlán)… in pictures!

This is the kind of scene you often drive by in Guatemala.

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A man on a horse chasing a cow. Standard.

First things first, let’s talk Tikal.

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After trekking through the Guatemalan jungle for what felt like an iron age (hot day), we arrived in the heart of Tikal National Park, one of the major sites of Mayan civilisation, inhabited from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D.

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As ruins go (to someone who isn’t a history buff), these are pretty awesome.

Tikal is one of the main to dos Guatemala, so say the travel books… but the rest of the country is stunningly beautiful, featuring awe-inspiring diverse landscapes with every corner turned. We visited Flores, an island town in Guatemala’s northern Petén region. Here you can take a dip in Lake Petén Itzá…

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If you pay Flores a visit, make sure you have plenty of cash. Not because it’s expensive… but because there are hardly any working ATMs.

Following Flores, we drive to another lakeside location, namely Río Dulce. Hop on a horse (no need to chase cows) and check out the relaxing scenery…

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If you don’t speak any Spanish… well, good luck. Bilingual tour guides are far and few between, which is actually refreshing. I made friends with our horse-riding guide, thanks to a few phrases I repeated in an awkward “I’m trying” way.

This is the same town we found ourselves climbing from one section of forest to another. Take bug spray.

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(The above shot should give you an idea of how beautiful it is… I pinched this from one of my travel buddies, thank you whoever took this!)

From here, we travelled onto Antigua for an orientation walk.

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Next on the itinerary? Panajachel and Lake Atitlán. This is the place where I nearly had a coronary when my bestie Emma suggested zip-lining, claiming it’s “easy” and that it’s just zipping from one tree to another. Simples. What she didn’t mention is that these trees are a) a million metres high, b) a mile apart and b) on either side of a lake.

Check my face.

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Check the zip-line:

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I couldn’t even SEE the other tree I was zipping towards!! Anyway. We survived. Turns out it is easy – when you get used to throwing yourself off a cliff. Emma, however, managed to smash her foot on a rock. Eek.

After we were done trying to kill ourselves, we went off to meet our familia secondas for the Lake Atitlán homestay experience

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I think the above photo says it all.

Elsewhere in Lake Atitlán, there was a girl with a mountain for a face:

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Nothing to see.

Back in Antigua, we attempted to catch a bus; a pretty bus…

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And went nuts in a macadamia farm:

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Day 5: a Scottish road trip

Day 5 in the motorhome.

Today, we cross the border back to England. ☹️👋🏼 We spent our last few hours in Scotland enjoying the views from inside our cosy motorhome.

(Note the wine)

From Glenuig, we drive across to Fort William, then take the A82 towards Crianlarich, continuing down the west coast of Loch Lomond, crossing the Erskine Bridge (it’s more exiting on the way up); and then it’s the M8 before it turns into the M74, we pass Gretna and say goodbye to Scotland.

Here are some of the shots from the journey:

After a short hike on the M6 via Carlisle, we find a place to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Penrith, Eamont Bridge. Namely the Beehive Inn.

Cheers!

Great food and the staff were lovely. The local DJ, however 😐… well, make your own mind up:

Day 4: a Scottish road trip

Day 4 in the motorhome:

(Should mention I’m writing this on “day 5” coz there’s not much signal out in the sticks.)

Here’s where we settled for the evening:

Niiiiiice.

Before I talk about day 4 – first I have to mention that we witnessed a hamlet pub arrest last night! Great fun. (Not for the arrested bloke, mind.) The police had to drive 40 miles to get there – so if any bank robbers are reading this, you know where to go (saying that, I don’t think I’ve actually seen a bank… scrap that). Think he was done for being drunk and disorderly – he was singing at the top of his lungs down by the river, then he waddled up to the pub and slurred a bit, asking for the landlord. That’s when the police stepped in and carted him all the way back to Fort William. Poor sod. That’ll be one hell of a hangover to wake up to. Coz they don’t give you a lift back. And it’s a lonnnnng way away 😐

Anyway. Back to “today”. We woke up in our own little spot of Loch; but unfortunately the tide was out so… no loch. A nice spot regardless though. (Glasdrum)

We drove to Fort William via Glencoe village and spotted a woodland creature among the trees:

Strange animals up in the Highlands.

Then, after driving through Fort Williams, we paid a visit to Glen Nevis to see Scotland’s big Ben – (Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain – not the clock). It was pretty impressive. We thought about climbing it… but didn’t.

Instead we decided to pop to Glenfinnan to see the famous viaduct that started in the Harry Potter films. Annoyingly the train’s last journey for the winter was yesterday. Double annoyingly, today was the first day the weather sucked. Prior to our arrival, sunshine shone and the train choo-chooed. Sod’s law. Can’t grumble though; we have managed to not get buried in snow. We should be grateful for small mercies.

The plan for our fourth day on the road was to avoid driving for six hours so we decided to find our home for the night in Glenuig, by Samalaman beach. We soaked up the gorgeous scenery as we soaked up some long-awaited booze.

Appetite sated, we headed to the local (only) pub, the Glenuig Inn. And had a great time chatting with the non-locals (even though the pub is 40-60 miles from anywhere, it somehow gets busy) and enjoyed the drama of the police incident. I tried some Scottish rum (yum) and then we gorged on some gorgeous grub.

Wonder where Day 5 take us…

Day 3: a Scottish road trip

Day 3 in the motorhome:

So I’m writing this sat in a lay-by, next to a Loch (Feochan) and an A road, waiting for my beloved to make a decision about where to camp up for the night. Problem is that it gets really bloody dark after sunset… and at this time of year, the sun sets at 4. It’s now 5. So even if we do find a glorious “wild parking” spot, we won’t bloody see it.

Anyway. It’s ok. I have wine.

Today, we have explored more than I have explored anywhere. Ever. Except yesterday. And the day before.

We woke up to snow. And ice. And a full waste water tank. 😐

After we nearly froze to death emptying the van, and then filling the van, we set out from our base in this place neither of us can pronounce without sounding like we’re taking the piss (Inveraray) and went off in search of Campbeltown, via the most heavenly A road known to man. Well, heavenly when the sky isn’t as white as the road so you can actually see the sights. 🙄

Nah it was lovely really. Like a winter wonderland ⛄️

And the sun did creep out as we drove further south.

We meandered ourselves and our 3.5 tonne motorhome around the scenic route up and down the peninsula. The views were truly breathtaking. I thought people were just making a big deal out of it when they said it was “spectacular”, but they weren’t. It is a big deal in its own right. It is spectacular.

Then we drove up from Campbeltown, on the east side this time, all the way up via Oban and now we’re parked in a stunning spot (thanks to Rob’s patience) overlooking Loch Creran, in a place called Glasdrum, not far from Fort William. Although we can’t see it yet so watch this space…

Day 2: a Scottish road trip

Day 2 in the motorhome:

So despite turning the heating off overnight (mistake), we woke up this morning. Woo.

We woke up in a pub car park on a main road, so we decided to do this:

Proper. Road. Trip. To somewhere that’s else.

Before hitting the road, we made the most of the pub car park. We showered. We made and ate a bacon sandwich. We pottered – more than we’ve ever pottered before.

Then we exploded the Lake District. Ladies and gentlemen, I present… ENGLAND.

Shot of the day? Lake Windermere.

You’re welcome.

So we drove and drove and eventually entered Scotland (yeah boi), crossed the Erskine Bridge…

… into Bonnie Scotland, d’yee’think’eeee’eh. (Me doing a Scottish accent… badly).

We found Loch Lomond:

Pretty huh?

But that was at 4.30pm and my boyfriend isn’t one to settle for second best (obvs coz he’s with me innit) so we carried on to Inveraray (Loch Fyne… it’s “fyyyyyne”).

After nearly accidentally “wild parking” in a cemetery…

… we decided to park in a car park (another more beautiful one) right in front of the Loch. Only problem is it’s on a slant so we had to park on ramps. Fingers crossed they hold our weight and that the hand break stays “breaky”, otherwise we’ll be found in the Loch. Next spring.

On the plus side, we found a great pub in Inveraray – The George Hotel. Awesome atmosphere, lush food, better beer.

P.s. I’ve had a lot of beer. Scottish beer, so it’s been a cultural evening. But apologies if none of the above makes sense. But having a truly wonderful time. Toying with the idea of doing this for a year. Poet. Know it.