Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Visiting Dubrovnik, Croatia

06/01/2012, Friday, Dubrovnik, Croatia

I am really excited for Croatia, as I have heard this is one of the hidden (not so anymore) treasures of Europe and Mediterranean cruises. Something I enjoy about cruising is the opportunity to see places you might not take the time to visit on a land trip, such as Croatia. The goals for today are to “walk the wall” and find the Buza Bar aka Hole in the Wall. My main goal was to find the secret bar I read about, I was determined! My family not so much, will they regret this? Find out!

Solstice: Room service breakfast again on the balcony (such a good idea for port days). I did not wake up super-early today; I think the lack of sleep paired with excitement is starting to get to me. We disembarked the ship around 9:30 and took a taxi into town.

En route: We used 2 taxis; we found this to be cheaper than the shuttle. I recorded the Celebrity Shuttle to be $16.00 per person. I do not remember the price of the taxi. However the prices are clearly posted on a sign so you know upfront how much it will cost. I did do the math and for our family of 5 it was cheaper for taxis.

Dubrovnik: You enter the old walled town from an opening complete with a drawbridge. I had fun letting my mind wander to what it would have been like to live here back in the day. This is one of the few towns left where the entire wall is still up and encloses the entire city. Our first observations include: clean, wow, incredible.


Dubrovnik, Croatia
The walls and streets are made up of a white material, perhaps marble? I am bad with construction materials so maybe someone can chime in with the correct material; sorry. Regardless, it is all white and clean. Lots of neat, narrow streets!

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik, Croatia






















We were so awestruck at first we kinda just stood there in amazement like dumb tourist haha (well I guess we kinda are, hehe). After coming back to reality we strolled down the main street and went into some of the shops. The people here are SO friendly; some of the friendliest locals we encountered on this trip. There were more than willing to convert Kunas to Euros for us and everywhere we went accepted Euros. They also wanted to talk to us and ask where we were from etc., we really enjoyed the people of Croatia.

After some shopping we realized the line to buy tickets to walk the wall was getting long. So mom was nice enough to wait in line while the rest of us wandered around in the main area. You could pay for your tickets in Kuna, Euro, or credit card; unfortunately I did not record the price. The main area is not very big so you can easily separate and find each other by standing in the main section.

Before I forget, walking the wall is not something to be missed! Yes there are some stairs involved but I think most people can walk the wall easily. You can go at your own pace. There are NO where near as many stairs as climbing the fort in Kotor.

Start of our journey “Walking the Wall”

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Walking the wall in Dubrovnik, Croatia

kayak excursion Tyler and I almost did, maybe next time!



Dubrovnik, Croatia
Walking the wall is incredible. I would say Croatia is in the top 3 of our trip. It is one of those unexpected surprises. Of course we new Rome would be amazing; but finding a treasure like Croatia is special. Spending time with your family strolling along the wall is something we will remember forever. In fact I am tearing up as I type this in the basement of a building on the UGA campus. The colors of the Adriatic here in Dubrovnik are OUT OF THIS WORLD and NO pictures can do it justice.

As you walk the wall there are lots of look out spots, old cannons, narrow sections, wide sections, places to pause and rest, drink vendors, etc. It is also nice to get a glimpse of life in Croatia. We passed people looking out their windows observing all the tourists walking the wall and most waved at us with a big smile.


VIDEO: View from the walls
http://youtu.be/U6jzJHUqkd0





Just chillin’ in Croatia, no big deal!



p.s. I may have did break a law to take this picture! Don't tell!

There really is no shade so it can get hot, make sure you bring lots of water. I wrote it took about 1 ½ hours to complete the walk; that includes lots of breaks and pictures.

Pictured below: notice the dense city and the wall surrounding it. See the orange roofs? You will notice some are darker, almost brown. The brown ones are original. There was a fire (I know I am butchering this story) that destroyed many homes, hence the new orange roofs.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Something I alluded to in the beginning of this installment was the Buza Bar, aka Hole in the Wall. I read about this online at TripAdvisor and CruiseCritic. I did some research from google and found the real name for this bar is Buza Bar. There are NO marking for this bar, it is literally a hole in the wall. You have to be in the “know” to find it. The bar is located on the rocks surrounding the wall and the Adriatic Sea.

aHa! A BUZA BAR SIGHTING!!! I caught glimpse of the Hole in the Wall bar from walking the wall. However there is no way to see how to get to it from inside the wall. Everyone instantly (except me) gave up of trying to figure out how to get to it once ending our walk. At the time it seemed like it would be a LONG walk from where we exit the wall.


Buza Bar inDubrovnik, Croatia





Continuing on the walk…

Walking the wall in Dubrovnik, Croatia
There are a few spots you can climb up even higher for a better view, this would be a little more difficult for people, but it is not required when walking the wall.

Dubrovnik, Croatia
After walking the wall some of us were pooped and wanted to look at shops and head back to this ship. Actually, I was the only one who wanted to stay and find the Buza Bar. I even told Tyler he could go back to the ship and I would do it alone, I was NOT giving up! Tyler didn’t think it would be a good idea for me to go alone so he reluctantly stayed with me.

I simply asked a nice hostess where I could find the Buza Bar. She was very sweet and said it is NOT far (YES!!!) but there are a few turns so it could be easy to miss. She told me to take a couple turns and ask the next hostess along the way if they could keep guiding me. Remember I said everyone was so nice here! She was right at the next restaurant I asked the host and he told me the next set of turns. Before long we found the hole!!! WOOHOO, happy dance!

I was so excited, there really are no markings and it is a hole in the wall. Tyler doesn't look too impressed, YET!

Entrance to the Buza bar in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Ummm WOW
There are just a few tables and chairs on the rocks. It is not crowded (At least when we were there) so we were able to get a table just fine. There is only one waitress; that is how quaint this bar is. She quickly came over and handed us a drink menu. YES, the drinks are expensive, however, the view is PRICELESS. When will we get this opportunity again. We just ordered 1 drink each and enjoyed the view.

Buza Bar (whole in the wall) in Dubrovnik, Croatia
I get really excited about this next part!!! There is also an area you can walk down where people read books and enjoy the sun. And a special surprise, there are steps leading into the Adriatic Sea so you can put your toes in the water! I was just a little excited about this. Another pinch me now moment. !!! I think the exclamation points are needed for you to understand my excitement to find this!!!!

Buza bar in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Looking up from the stairs:


  

Tyler and I headed back to the ship after enjoying the view at the bar for a while. We needed our real passports again today, as opposed to a copy. I also recorded it is true everywhere accepted Euros but might not be able to provide change; this was not an issue for us personally.

Back on the Celebrity Solstice: We had some time to hit the pool before getting ready for dinner. This is the second time we have been able to land a lounger/bed thing poolside. These are awesome, especially for playing backgammon. I also got a workout in and tried the sauna out. Every time I used the sauna I was the only one in there. A nice feature of the gym is ice-cold wash cloths to cool down with.

We got ready for dinner and headed to the Lawn Club to watch us sail away from Croatia. Au revoir Croatia, hope to see you again one day!


VIDEO: Sail away from Croatia
http://youtu.be/Fv_L9cP3TGI








Remember how I mentioned we all had a favorite spot on the ship? Well I asked Tyler where his favorite place was and he said the dinner table! HAHA! I think he loved the food the most and often ordered multiple entrees. Another humorous anecdote, in my real-life I hate grass, really hate grass. I think this is another reason why I love the Lawn Club because I kept calling it “clean grass” there are no bugs (that I saw) and I don’t know where the dirt is because I couldn’t see any. Those who know me, know I can be prissy at times...


Celebrity Solstice Lawn Club
After the Lawn Club we hit up the Ensemble Lounge to listen and enjoy the classical strings again. We also saw the juggler, Steve Rawlings, perform. It was entertaining.

We had dinner and listened to the concert in the Ensemble Lounge. They had an amazing cellist(?) tonight; I love the cello. We ended the night at the dessert extravaganza in the Sky Lounge and brought some back to the room.







Caught red-handed with a plate of desserts. I have a sweets problem!



It finally hit us today the cruise is coming to an end. We still have Paris to look forward to but we are really going to miss the Solstice, which has felt like home to us. And if you were wondering, Tyler is very pleased I forced him to find the Buza Bar with me! Maybe next time more people will listen to me, just kidding! Everyone was a good sport this trip dealing with my craziness!

Yes, I think everyone agreed they wished they had seen the Buza Bar! Guess we just have to go back!

Ciao Ciao,
Ashley 



 Other stops on our trip:
Barcelona Day 1 (exploring on foot)
Barcelona Day 2 (hop on/hop off bus)
Cote d'Azur and Monte Carlo, Monaco
Florence, Tuscany, & Pisa
Rome
Naples, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Positano
1st Sea Day
Kotor, Montenegro
Venice, Italy Day 1
Venice, Italy Day 2
Dubrovnik, Croatia


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pao de Queijo)

Brazilian Cheese Bread Recipe (Pao de Queijo)

Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pao de Queijo)

Prep time: 5 minutes (can prepare ahead of time)
Cook time: 15 minutes
Yield: Enough batter for 24 mini muffin sized cheese breads.


We first has these at Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steak house. We found ourselves filling up on them before the steak arrive. They are quite addicting! Turns out, this quick and easy bread is a common staple in Brazilian homes. This is a simple and basic recipe. Think of it as a base; it is great left as is or dress it up a bit with herbs or spices of your choice. You could use different cheeses, play around with the base recipe!

Ingredients

1 egg*
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups tapioca flour (found in grocery store near the gluten free/specialty flour)
1/2 cup grated cheese, your preference, we used Mexican queso fresco
1 teaspoon of salt (or more to taste)

*It helps when baking with eggs to start with eggs at room temperature.

Directions
1 Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a mini-muffin tin. Put all of the ingredients into a blender and pulse until smooth. You may need to use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the blender so that everything gets blended well. At this point you can store the batter in the refrigerator for up to a week.
2 Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until all puffy and just lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for a few minutes.

Eat while warm or save to reheat later.
Note that Brazilian cheese bread is very chewy, a lot like Japanese mochi.
Recipe adapted from here

Yoga Week 3 and 4: The Crow and Forearm Stand!

Week 3
This week I felt really motivated! After attending actual yoga class, and not just winging it from instagram follow me here :) and youtube, I feel great improvement! This week I was able to master crow! I only held crow for a few seconds, but it felt wonderful to hold a pose I thought was impossible. All of the poses I see that involve balancing on hands, one way or another, always seemed impossible! Now I find myself practicing crow every day because I am so excited I can actually hold it! 

Week 4
This week I went to my best class yet. Only myself and one other lady showed up. The teacher said we were more advanced than some of the others so he was going to push us, oh boy! I should add a little back story here: I was a cheerleader, dancer, and figure skater growing up so I have no fear of going upside down. I have been doing handstands (not being able to hold them for more than a few seconds) for years. Handstands are not something I fear. However, the forearm stand, that is another story!

Our teacher had us go up against the wall, a few inches away, and had us get our arms and legs lined up. Then he had us kick up. I was a little nervous at first and did not get my legs up, I thought there was no way I could do this. My teacher thought I was ready for it, so he must believe in me?

Ok, here goes nothing! I tried again, kicked harder, and got my legs up! I was in a forearm stand assisted by the wall! WOOHOO! Wow, what a break-through for me mentally and what a workout. My shoulders and arms were shaking. He gave us homework, he asked us to work on these at home. I have only tried them twice at home so far... I need to work on them more.

In May, which will be starting my second month, I will be doing another yoga instagram challenge called #mayibeginyoga My goals for may will be to work on form, strength, and flexibility. In particular, my back flexibility and splits.





Friday, April 18, 2014

Weight Watchers Berry Cobbler Dump Cake

I have a CRAZY sweet tooth, no a mouthful of sweet teeth! I am trying to watch what I eat so I searched around on pinterest for a "diet" dessert that would satisfy my sweet cravings AND have my husbands approval who hates "diet" food. This EASY, I repeat, E-A-S-Y dessert which will help you stick to your calories while remaining delicious.

3 Ingredients, that's it!



















Berry Cobbler
Servings: 16
Calories: 140.4
Fat: 2.9 g
Fiber: 1.3 g
Protein: 1.4 g
Old Points: 3 pt
Points+: 4 pts+
Ingredients
Two 12-oz bags frozen mixed berries/peaches (you can use whatever you like)
1 box white cake mix (we used French vanilla)
Approximately 1 bottle of diet sprite or other clear soda
Instructions
1.) Place frozen fruit in a 9x13 baking dish. 
2.) Add dry cake mix over the top. 
3.) Pour soda slowly over cake mix. DO NOT stir the cake mix and the soda  - this will give you a 'crust'. If you stir the two, you will have a cake like topping. 
Bake 350 degrees for 45-50 min or longer until berries are cooked. 
Recipe adapted from here
























Skinny Smoothie King "Banana Boat" Recipe

If you live in a state lucky enough to have Smoothie King, you may have noticed they have an "indulgence" section on the menu. If you feel into the trap and ordered a Banana Boat, you have experienced greatness. Congratulations. Part smoothie, part milk shake, part amazingness. Until you read the nutrition information. Just stop. I have an obsession of banana and chocolate. After playing around in the kitchen one afternoon I came up with a recipe for a healthy and protein packed Banana Boat smoothie.

Smoothie King Banana Boat Recipe

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup of UNsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 frozen banana, slight thawed to soften (and peel, obvi)
1 scoop of vanilla (or chocolate) protein powder
1 heaping tablespoon of coco powder
handful of ice cubes*

Directions:
Throw it all in the blender :)

*Sometimes I will use A LOT of ice cubes to add volume and think I am getting a super giant smoothie. 



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Venice, Italy Day 2

5/31/2012, Thursday, Venice, Italy and at Celebrity Solstice at Sea

This is day 2 of Venice, you can read about day 1 here. 

I can’t help but think of Andrea Bocelli’s “Time to Say Goodbye” (Con te Partiro, which became our "1st dance" song) when I think of Venice. This song has become an anthem in our household now. I catch people (cough cough Tyler cough cough) randomly singing it when they (he) think no one is listening, haha. We are now wannabe lovers of all things Italian music and S.Pellegrino; the 2 have become common in our household (Sams sells 'grino by the case!) We are such Americans, lol. Just wait until you hear about our cheesy “Europe Night” tradition we started. Stay tuned.

Moving forward with this report. When I started this trip report I had no idea it would be this long, I am already at 45 single-spaced Word Document! We still have to finish Venice, Croatia, sea days, and Paris left! Lots to cover still! And we still have the engagement, oh when, oh when is it going to happen? I know my parents we on their toes wondering!

Moving on with Venice…

Celebrity Solstice: The plan for today was to do some more shopping, take a gondola ride, and maybe head to Murano. We had room service breakfast this morning and headed out for Venice around 8:30am. We used the previously mentioned modes of transportation from this post.



Venice: Well, just so you know, nothing is open this early (9am) in Venice! All the shops and vendors are still closed. Therefore we enjoyed sleepy, peaceful Venice for a while until the shops opened up. Once they opened we went back to the cheaper places that we scouted out yesterday. We got some “Murano” glass, who knows if it really is… it does have the little blue “M” on it and it comes with some card of authenticity but even if it is not, I still bought it in Venice so that is good enough!



Rialto bridge


Venice, Italy

Next we took a gondola ride. It was 80 Euros total for our party of 4. Mom stayed on the ship today. It was nice, quiet, and peaceful. Our driver did not sing, but he told us a lot about the history of being a gondola driver, which was interesting to hear. It is a hard career to get into, usually it is passed down from father to son. We asked to go down the unpopular/non touristy canals.


Venice, Italy





We went searching for this pizza place for lunch I read about on the Cruise Critic message boards and trip advisor. But it was closed, not sure why, it was lunchtime but I was disappointed. We did more shopping, just enjoyed taking Venice in. I did record the shops started opening around 9:30 and almost all were open by 10am.

VIDEO: Venice in Action:
http://youtu.be/50aTbvaSpCY

Back on the Solstice: We decided to head back to the ship and not go to Murano. We wanted to enjoy the Solstice as we feel we have not had a lot of time to appreciate the ship. Mom and I played trivia; it was REALLY hard! We played in the Ensemble Lounge. The Ensemble Lounge became a popular place for us. I was previously a figure skater and really enjoy classical music; I imagine skating routines (and Johnny Weir skating to them). We would visit the ensemble lounge to hear the amazing string quartet almost nightly.

Ensemble Lounge:
Add caption
We really enjoyed the relaxing parts of the ship, such as the Ensemble Lounge, Lawn Club, and Sky Lounge. A Med. cruise is port intensive. Meaning, lots of early mornings, walking, sun, etc. You will be pooped! A relaxing cruise is a real treat when you have the time to enjoy it. I know there are debates over the Lawn Club being for old people, we really enjoyed it and saw people of all ages enjoying it. (Maybe because I am secretly an old person; my family likes to joke that I am). However, the décor is pretty current/modern/swanky in the club and public spaces. We checked out the dance club a few times, it was never very busy; people watching was fun. We also enjoyed the activity of the bartenders and people watching at the Martini Bar.

After getting our behinds kicked in trivia, we had lunch at the buffet, which was not crowded. At 2:15 we went up to the Lawn Club to watch as we sail away from Venice.



Parting shots of Venice, notice the leaning towers:

Leaning buildings in Venice, Italy


Venice, Italy


I also learned today that the Lawn Club Shop is only open for limited hours on sea days. I have had my eye on this light pink Lawn Club t-shirt all trip. Stay tuned to see if I get it!





Sail-away, was again spectacular. I think I shed a tear (for the hundredth time). Famous tunes were piped in again as we waved goodbye to Venice… cue “Time to Say Goodbye” now!



here is a good tip, Tyler learned the hard way. Pack enough underwear! (and socks) Here’s the thing, I have a fear of running out of underwear anywhere I travel. I warned everyone before we left to make sure they had enough. I packed 30-something pairs, excessive I know, but hey, I was prepared for getting stranded in Europe! Well somebody didn’t take me seriously. Tyler ended up washing underwear in the shower! It was pretty amusing. He had to use the blow dryer to dry them. Ha, it was a good laugh. The underwear situation will come up again later in the trip.

Later we went to the Hot Glass Show, surprise, surprise! I told you we became groupies. I actually wrote in my journal we were groupies, how sad. We got ready for dinner and headed to the Sky Lounge for 2-4-1 drinks. This is the only time I bought a drink on the trip. They also had the strings playing up in the Sky Lounge. Very nice and relaxing as we sailed along the Adriatic Sea.

Corning Museum Hot Glass Show at Sea on Celebrity



CMOG at Sea


I also took a video of the seas. I could not believe how calm it was! I was really worried about the seas as I get sea sick easily (even though I am a water baby!) and I also have a slight fear of big waves in the open sea without land in sight. No need to worry on this cruise, check out the video, you have to see it to believe it! I think my fear goes back to the fear of flying- control type situations. But I felt completely calm on this trip! 1.) Captain Yannis was present (taps into my control thing) he always kept us up to date; and 2.) the seas were smooth as a pancake.

VIDEO: Unbelievably calm seas! You might ask “What seas?”
http://youtu.be/kEqL72X9OAg

Every night at dinner we went around the table and shared our favorite (or few) activity of the day. Tyler and I often talked about the Hot Glass Show. We found out today they will have an auction on the last day since they cannot sell their pieces. We will not be able to afford anything but it will still be fun to go. We told the family about the auction on the last sea day (they still had not made it to a show). Today I also declared a “No Dessert for Ashley Day” I really need to lay off the sweets!

Today might be no dessert day but I can still take pictures!



The buffet:


Our deck, Deck 10!



After dinner we went to see Katy Sitterfield who performs impressions. She was very good but I only knew a few of the singers, such as Cher. We also got to enjoy the A Cappella group, the Neptune’s, they were spectacular.

After that there was a masquerade dance party. Apparently we missed the memo that tonight had a masquerade theme. People in the main dining room wore masks they bought in Venice. It was nice to see the beautiful masks. The dance party was awesome; they had a synchronized dance.



We also tried our luck at the slot machines with $5 each, all we had in our budget. No luck, it was fun though. We played nickle slots to make it last as long as we could. Tonight was an eventful night tonight! Oh just one more thing before I finish, we have a drag queen on the ship! We spotted him several times in a tight red dress. But he wasn’t a good drag queen, hairy face and lop-sided wig. We enjoyed seeing people over and over again, such as “Rod Stewart” and the drag queen. There was another couple that was obnoxious and almost got into a fight. They were with their parents, around my age, and were complaining about all the old people. Some people heard this and a fight almost broke out! I will refrain from telling you the name we gave them! (lets just say the name would be appropriate for Jersey Shore)

Ok, that is enough for this post! I miss the Solstice!

And I miss Captain Yannis saying “Ouutttt”
Ciao, Ciao!

Ashley  

 Other stops on our trip:
Barcelona Day 1 (exploring on foot)
Barcelona Day 2 (hop on/hop off bus)
Cote d'Azur and Monte Carlo, Monaco
Florence, Tuscany, & Pisa
Rome
Naples, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Positano
1st Sea Day
Kotor, Montenegro
Venice, Italy Day 1
Venice, Italy Day 2
Dubrovnik, Croatia