We should start by saying that people who meet us think we’ve been friends forever. While it feels that way to us too, we’ve actually only known each other for 6 years. Shortly after we met, we decided to take a bike trip together. We joined a group tour figuring if it went badly between us, the other people could act as a buffer. On the other hand, if all went well, we’d have each other, and make some new friends along the way. As fate would have it, we travel very well together and we made some great friends on that first trip.
Since that first adventure, we’ve taken a cycling trip every year in search of wonderful new destinations. We both work hard, and travel often, so finding a place neither of us has been and a time when we can both be there is quite a feat. When time came for our 2015 tour, we settled on Croatia for the timing and location. Little did we know what an adventure and love affair upon which we were about to embark!
Arriving in Split late in the evening, our taxi driver assured us that “Spilt is the safest place in the world”. Nicole soon tested this theory, leaving her passport on the back seat of the unattended, still running taxi while we checked into our hotel. Fortunately, the theory was proved true, and the passport was safely recovered. Once settled, we headed straight to the 24-hour bakery and from there wandered into the Diocletian Palace, stumbling upon live music in front of Sveti Duje. Warm nights, cold beer, hot…. ummm… baked goods?! #goodstart
The next day we were ready to meet our group and go for a ride. Destination: Marjan Hill. Hopping on our bikes we assumed we had the age advantage over our septuagenarian compatriots, but we were soon left in the dust. Turns out when you’re retired you have a lot of time to cycle; and training trumps age. We decided to nurse our bruised egos at Zinfandel wine bar (a place we would soon call home), before joining the group and guides for a delicious dinner at the local ‘’konoba’’.
The next day we made our first excursion out of Split, to the island Brac. Here we were introduced to the concept of “Croatia Flat”.
In other words, any road with less than a 7% grade is considered flat. At the top of this “flat” we took a break and were treated to a delicious lunch on a sun drenched terrace. Before pedaling on, we made a brief stop at the Gallery where we had trouble telling the difference between our guides and the sculptures made of the famous Brac limestone.
Day three saw us board a ferry to Hvar. To kill time on the way over, we studied Meridian Ten’s Croatian language sheet. By the end of the ride, we were convinced that whoever (cough* Silvija *cough) developed it had basically written a cheat sheet of Croatian pick up lines.
We started off in Hvar cycling through the amazing (and fairly flat) lavender fields; we were lulled into a false sense of accomplishment. Before lunch, we began to climb, up and up and up and up and up until Nicole could do no more. Despite Guide Andro’s encouragement, she opted for a ride to the top, and Guide Mijo came to her rescue. Sara determinedly carried on to the top; slowly, slowly one revolution at a time. That evening we enjoyed the buzz of Hvar Town, including a top notch meal at small family run restaurant.
Next morning, after a quick private boat transfer, we arrived on Korcula, fresh and ready for our fourth day of riding. Heading off into the beautiful sunshine, we honed our Croatian pronunciation skills as we rode through picturesque towns with names like Pupnat (poopnuts) and Smokvica (smoked pizza). We capped off another great day, arriving at the hotel in time for Sara to take a sunset swim in the pool, while Nicole did a bit of guided stretching overlooking the ocean.
The next morning we awoke to grey skies and rain. To avoid riding in unsafe conditions, the guides arranged a hike through the countryside. By late afternoon the rain cleared, and a short bike ride around town was organized. We can’t report on that ride because, due to the previous evening’s indulgences, we opted for a three hour nap instead! We woke up in time to rejoin the group for a tour of one of the most famous wineries. We’d love to tell you more about fabulous grk wine, but they make such limited quantities, and we love it so much, we want to keep it for ourselves!
With the rain returning the next day, we piled into the van for a drive across the Peljesac peninsula. Arriving at the Dingac tunnel, the group disembarked and walked through, while fearless Guide Andro maneuvered the van through the tunnel. He arrived on the other side having decorated the bikes with just a bit of local flora.
After this amusing diversion, the clouds parted and we were able to jump on the bikes and finish the day on two wheel instead of four. We ended the riding part of the tour at the Ston salt flats, with just enough time for a group photo before the skies opened up again.
The next morning the guides departed, leaving us in Dubrovnik with Meriden Ten jerseys and a lifetime of great memories. As our plane took off, we looked back and knew this was our first, but certainly not our last, visit to Croatia.
In the 18 months since our initial tour, we’ve been back to Split and the surrounding areas a half dozen time. We always rent bikes from Meridien Ten, and we’ve now traveled with almost all of their guides. Meridien Ten always goes above and beyond to make sure their guests’ every wish is their command, and that visitors love their country just as they do.
Stay tuned for more of our adventures with M10!
– Nicole & Sara