Ever since our first experiment with AirBnB (where we snagged a New York City...
“If we tip over, no one is going to be able to save you but you.” Brian’s blunt but empowering words, torn from his mouth by the wind buffeting our kayak-for-two, renewed my focus on the panic-inducing task at hand: trying not to drown, while also admiring the view. Seated in the front of the kayak, I stared head-on at the ominous black waves, feverishly wielding my paddle to properly position the kayak, while Brian wielded the camera.
Croatia surprised us in so many ways. We knew to expect good things because virtually everyone who’s ever visited has had only good things to say. But that still didn’t prepare us for what may very well be the most beautiful country we’ve ever visited.
We spent a total of four weeks in Croatia, traveling from the southern tip of Dubrovnik to the northern reaches of Istria. We ferried to a few of its more than one thousand islands and traveled overland from its western shores to as far east as its capital city Zagreb.
Along the way we discovered some of the most remarkable and well preserved medieval old towns we’ve seen anywhere. And not just one or two, but scores of them. Croatia has coastal walled cities and inland walled cities and island walled cities, too. Every one is set against a scenic backdrop of dramatically rippling mountains that tumble into a sea so beautifully blue you’d swear it’s been Photoshopped.
But none of that is what surprised us most about Croatia.
There’s a lot not to like about flying these days. Airport security screening is a colossal waste of time that doesn’t make anyone any safer. Airplane seats are smaller and planes are fuller, which brings us all that much closer to the inevitable squalling, temper-tamper-throwing crybaby in the next row. And here I’m just talking about the adults on board.
Adults like Matt Foley whose complaints were deemed serious enough for the Washington Post to highlight in their article Gripes about air travel have some people swearing off certain carriers.
Matt Foley’s breaking point was the coffee. He wanted a cup of joe on a recent Frontier Airlines flight from Washington to Denver, and a flight attendant asked him for a credit card. ‘A buck-ninety-nine for coffee?’ he says. ‘Really? To charge for nonalcoholic drinks almost made me scream.'”
The truly remarkable thing about Matt’s complaint is how familiar it feels to anyone who’s ever taken a commercial flight. But to someone who never has, surely the criticism sounds ridiculous. That’s because it is. Matt wants a cup of coffee and doesn’t think he should have to pay for it. None of us would ever walk into a Starbucks expecting a free cup of coffee. Why do we expect them on our flights?
As we walked through Rome, searching for the Trattoria Der Pallaro, anticipation began to build. After exiting the Campo de Fiori, a modest piazza by Rome standards whose hallmarks are a daytime market and a statue of an excommunicated Dominican monk burnt at the stake centuries ago in that very spot, we took a wrong turn. The often warren-like streets can be challenging even with a GPS for guidance.
But if we had to search every side street in the area and spend hours doing it, we weren’t giving up the quest. This wasn’t just any restaurant we sought. This was a restaurant I had waited to return to for fourteen years. After all this time, I vividly recalled arriving at the trattoria, a haven on a chilly, rainy March night. We sat in a cozy, wood-paneled dining room with friends, one of whom had come across the listing for Trattoria Der Pallaro in a Frommer’s guidebook as the “Best Value” eats option in Rome (it’s still their pick). The wine began to flow and, with barely a word exchanged between diners and servers, platters of food began arriving at the table.
“Buona sera. Come in, sit down.”