Category Archives: Travel

Gruž Market – Dubrovnik Croatia

Local fruit stand at the Gruž Market

Being on holidays in a foreign country can be, at times challenging to eat in the way that you are accustomed to in your own environment. Whether you have health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, or dietary restrictions like not eating meat or being gluten-free, you can never be 100% sure of what really is in the foods from supermarkets, cafes or restaurants.

This is why buying fresh produce from local Markets and making your own meals is a great option! This way, you know exactly what is going into your fares as you are making them yourself. And, it also gives you a local understanding of the food, and where it comes from.

My family is currently renting a house in Dubrovnik, Croatia; which means we are able to cook at home a lot! I think, that we are an extremely healthy family eating mainly fish, vegetables, grains and fruits. A lot of the time we eat vegetarian, cutting fish out all together, so a local Farmer’s Market is indeed a godsend.

So where can one get produce if spending time in Dubrovnik, Croatia?

Our Market of choice is the famous Open-Air Fish and Produce Market in Gruž, where it has stood for many decades on a section of the ruined garden of an old Summer Villa known as Gundulić. These Ruins were previously owned by the last known Royal’s of Dubrovnik – the Bona Family. The Villa was first attacked in the World War 1, and completely ruined in World War 2.

The Gruž Market is the largest and cheapest in the City. It is a lively, colorful and very busy exchange where local farmers (& farmers from further out) sell everything from flowers, cheese, eggs, sweets, oils, liquors, fresh fruits and vegetables. Generally speaking the smaller stalls are run by immediate farmers, while the bigger stalls are hosted by farmers who travel from Konavle (suburb of Dubrovnik) or the neighboring country of Herzegovina.

There is also is an indoor fish market with daily freshly caught seafood coming straight off the boats governed by local fisherman who dock and drop-off at the Harbour directly across the Street – you can’t get any fresher than that!

Have you EVER seen tomatoes this good before. They tasted AMAZING!

The Gruž Market is the real-deal. Here you will find food that is grown on farms the old-fashioned way with no pesticides, additives or harmful chemicals. This area is one of the oldest settlements in the world, and they have thankfully kept themselves removed from modern-day food culture, which unfortunately is not the way with the same industry in the United States where I live with my family. Literally, what you see here is exactly how the local climate was able to produce the foods and I LOVE that!

Perhaps this is why people who eat a Mediterranean Diet are so healthy compared to other cultures, not to mention the natural beauty they have all around them keeping people calm and stress-free — just a thought!

Buying some local produce

Gruž Market is open every day from early morning 6AM to 6PM in the evening. I have heard though that all the good stuff is sold very quickly at the start of the day, especially in summer when locals/restaurateurs travel first thing to shop before it gets too hot. Friday and Saturday mornings are known to be the busiest, while Sundays are the quietest as a lot of the farmers take the day off.

Please Note; the adjoining Fish Market is a little different with timing. They open at 6AM but close when the fish runs out and on some days this is 10AM. However, the official closing time is 12 Noon.

How To Get There

If you do not feel like walking to and from the market (dependent on where you are staying) it is located close to public transport options of boats and buses. Privately, you can catch a taxi, with a pick-up hub conveniently located right across the Street.

**Environmental NOTE

Just say NO to plastic bags and take your own to the Market. I see so many abandoned bags littering the Adriatic Sea, and while I try to pick up as many as I can, if we just stop using them – PROBLEM SOLVED!

The Gruž Market is on the Street Obala Stjepana Radića on Gruž Harbour.

Other Markets Read More Willy B Mum

The Little Red Semi Submarine – Dubrovnik Croatia

Little Red Semi Submarine about to pick us up in the Old City!

I have traveled to Dubrovnik, Croatia for the last 4 years on our annual family summer holiday. My father-in-law was born in Croatia and raised here in Dubrovnik, so we have been fortunate to be able to stay here “local knowledge” style each time we visit. This means that we never really explore the tourist attractions, more so we visit local restaurants, hang out at the beach and spend time at the house we rent with extended family.

However, now that Miles Storm is nearly 3 years of age, this time around we were happily forced into exploring the area doing fun things to keep him entertained. Thankfully, we have experienced a whole new world of Dubrovnik because of this.

Miles Storm in the lower part of the Semi-Submarine checking it all out.

One of Dubrovnik’s new tourist attractions, is the very cute little red Semi-Submarine — named the Semi-Submarine because it does not go all the way under water. Half of it does, and half of it doesn’t. You can see from the pictures what the top looks like, and underneath there is a very small compartment which seats only 12 people at a time. It reaches 1.5 meters down and there are windows that you can look out to experience the underwater world of the surrounding Adriatic Sea.

The ride passes the Old City and then circles around sailing close-by the South East Island of Lokrum. It costs 90 Croatia Kuna per person which works out to about $16 USD – a bargain really and I think incredibly reasonable.

The Semi-Submarine runs from early morning to mid evening so you can choose what suits you best. The day tour last 45 minutes. While the night tour is 30 minutes long and has huge spotlights lighting up the water as you travel along – pretty cool.

I will say that I was extremely skirmish on the trip. I could not sit downstairs for long because of the side-to-side pendulum motion, but in all fairness we did go out when the Sea was quite rough. Instead, I spent most of the time up on deck enjoying the amazing views you have of the Old City. Dubrovnik is truly a beautiful part of the world.

We also did not see much under-water, we barely saw any sea life, just some small fish, but this did not bother Miles Storm at all, he still had a great time looking out the window and tripping-out that he was underwater! It was definitely a winner for him, and I highly recommend it as an activity for Little Ones. He especially loved when the Captain let him drive for a while. Little Boys love things like that so much don’t they!

Miles driving the Semi-Submarine

To book the trip you can call ahead (number on website) or alternatively go to the company’s booth in the Old Port which is located near the Ploče Gate in the Old City aka Stari Grad. Either way, you have to physically pick up your tickets from the booth. I do suggest calling ahead of time as when we went the first 2 trips of the morning were cancelled due to a random safety/security check. Also, because it only seats 12 people you may not be able to get a seat when you hope too. It fills up fast as you can imagine.

One other thing, life-jackets are not provided, so if you want your child to wear one, like us, you will have to supply that for yourself.

For more information you can visit the web page – www.semisubmarine-dubrovnik.com which includes time-tables, a map of route taken and some really cool calming music (which they unfortunately do not play while you are out on the trip).

Thanks for reading my BLOG!

Banje Beach ain’t you Grand — Dubrovnik Croatia

Banje Beach,in the the Old City of Dubrovnik in Croatia

Banje (pronounced Ban-ya) Beach in the city of Dubrovnik, in the country of Croatia where I am visiting at the moment on a family summer holiday, reminds me of Bondi Beach (without the surfers or the big waves) in Australia where I grew up. Perfectly located close to the masses in a thriving city community, crystal clear waters which offer a bevy of activities for young families. Not to mention the beauty… well, you just cannot take that away from Bondi or Banje can you?

Banje Beach is a 5 minute walk up the hill from the Ploče Gate in the Old City aka Stari Grad. The Old City of Dubrovnik is an awe aspiring water port community which was founded in the first half of the 7th century, and is pretty much still standing in its original beauty and condition.

Me and Miles loving our time at Banje Beach – so beautiful!

Banje is the most popular public beach in the area and therefore during the hotter months gets very busy from early in the morning. The photo above was taken around the 10.45AM mark to give you an idea. To maintain a place for your towels during the day, I suggest getting there around 9AM at the latest.

There are also deck chairs available for rent from the East West Restaurant/Nightclub who actually own half of the beach, but I have heard it is quite expensive and almost impossible during summer because they pre-sell to all the people on the MANY cruise ships who lay anchor in the Port of Dubrovnik, in advance?

East West offers cocktails and food if you are so inclined.

There are also a ton of activities for sale if you do not just feel like lounging; you can go parasailing, paddle-boarding or tubing out the back of a speed boat. All of these options leave from Banje Beach throughout the day.

Other than that, a spade and a bucket is the perfect thing to keep one amused. Pretty much, all my little munchkin wanted to do was shovel and build. And, here lies the beauty of going to the beach!

I want to point out that this is a pebble rock beach so I highly recommend wearing water-shoes to protect your feet. It is also around 100 steep steps down from the Road to access the beach level, which means around 100 steep steps up when you leave the beach to go home. Just something to think about.

Sveti Jakov Beach

HI BABES, HI MILES STORM! I counted over 100 really steep stairs…. which is a lot in the sweltering heat so plan accordingly if visiting Banje Beach!

If you are not feeling Banje Beach, the next closest beach I would suggest is further up the hill (just keep walking for say 20 minutes)- to Sveti Jakov. Sveti Jakov is on the tree-lined street where I stay with my family each year on the Road of Vlaha Bukovca.

But, PLEASE watch the cars – they are madder than NYC cab drivers and I mean that with all my heart. Drivers here in no way care about pedestrians and that includes our beautiful children…. they SPEED on by, no matter what, and as this is a shared road it is very concerning.

Situated close to the Hotel Villa Dubrovnik, Sveti Jakov Beach still has the amazing views of both the Old City and the Island of Lokrum (600 meters across the Ocean from the Old City) but is not as busy. Good option, if you have the stamina to walk further and up a long ongoing hill.

What about you, any plans on visiting Dubrovnik in your lifetime, or maybe you have already? If so, would love any other tips you can share on this beautiful part of the world.

Thanks for reading my BLOG!

Miles Storm loving the pebbles at Banje Beach

The Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground — London

If you are inclined to the Commonwealth of England, you will probably remember without a doubt where you were on August the 31st 1997 when the beloved Princess Diana passed. I definitely do. I was in Hollywood, California (where I was living at the time) with my ex-fiance former pro-skateboarder Jason Ellis.

We were having a drink at a bar close to our apartment on Hollywood Boulevard. It was surreal to say the least, even now for me looking back at the experience. Jason wasn’t so much effected, while I was instantly devastated.

In retrospect, it brings tears to my eyes. Princess Diana was such a wonderful Lady who did so much for so many people, and we must give credit where credit is due for that.

Her whole existence truly touched me… And, clearly millions of others!

LONDON

Being in London, en route to Dubrovnik Croatia, for our 4th annual summer holiday a few days ago we stopped by The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground which is located behind Diana’s former residence in the famous Kensington Gardens. We stumbled across it quite by accident, but as my almost 3-year-old was on a mission to find the newly born Prince George of Cambridge it was a fitting tribute to be able to take him to Prince George’s Paternal Grandmother’s playground.

THE PLAYGROUND

The playground is, to date, the most beautiful I have set foot in with my Son. It is perfectly inspired by Princess Diana’s love of Children with the theme of the magical story-book character Peter Pan. There is so much to do and see with the backdrop of the greenery of Kensington Gardens. There is a fragrant garden, as well as an area for disabled and visually impaired children. Love that!

Diana’s playground is unique in a way that it encourages children to take risks by exploration & following imaginations in a safe environment. In effect, Little Ones learn while they play. For example, climbing up one of the wooden walls or exploring the different kinds of elevated cubby-houses.

There is a lot up for grabs depending on the level of adventure considering each little adventurer on site!

If I was a child again I would never want to leave!

MY EXPERIENCE

There was a huge line out the front with security at the gate letting children and parents in, as the same left. From what I heard from other parents in line, this playground is always busy, and no wonder! We waited on-line, and were through the gate within 20 minutes but we were also visiting late afternoon. I imagine during the morning it may take a lot longer to enter the park.

We spent most of our time in the area for under 3′s playground, however if you have older children there is the most amazing huge wooden pirate ship you have ever seen to play on, among other things.

There is something here for everybody!

A FEW NOTES

  • Free Entry
  • 750,000 children visit the playground a year
  • No child over 12 years of age is permitted and all must be accompanied by a parent/carer
  • This playground is completely enclosed by a fence
  • There are toilets with a baby change area as well as a Cafe inside the playground
  • Adults without children may view the park between 9.30AM – 10.00AM only on each day of the week
  • Always attended while open with staff monitoring activities and providing first aid if needed
  • The only day of the year that the park is closed is Christmas Day being December the 25th
  • The park opens each day at 10.00AM and closes at the earliest during winter at 4.45PM, and the latest during summer at 7.45PM
  • Last entry is 15 minutes before closing time
  • DEFINITELY worth a visit

Read More Willy B Mum

The 4th Annual Maya Tulum Mexico Yoga Retreat 2013 – Guest Blog Post by Sarah Willis Founder of SVARA Yoga.

Yoga on the Beach

Hi my name is Sarah Willis. I am a Mother of a 1-year-old Son, and an advanced certified Yoga teacher. I host a Yoga retreat in the beautiful Tulum Mexico every year. I have traveled to the Yucatán in the South Eastern part of Mexico since the 90s, and the magical beauty of this ancient paradise captivates me and draws me back again and again.

MY STORY

On the auspicious occasion of New Year’s Eve day 1999, the dawn of the new millennium, I was in Tulum with a group of adventurous women. We had decided to go on a jungle tour of an incredible emerald-green cenote (swimming hole) and experience an all women’s Temazcal (ritual Mayan sweat lodge ceremony) guided by a female Shaman who only spoke the native Mayan tongue. It was a special experience, truly a lifetime highlight. We worked with letting go of old patterns and behaviors, and making room for light and love in our hearts. Some of us were struggling with attachment to regrets or relationships that were no longer serving us, others with overcoming addiction and low self-esteem, others struggled with identifying who they were in the world and what they wanted to do. The ritual of the Temazcal offers us the opportunity to connect and support one another and then to set the intention to move forward embracing our dreams, creativity and making space for nurturing the soul’s progress, our Dharma, as it is called in Sanskrit. I remember feeling deep love and respect for the women with whom I shared this experience. Some are still close friends, others have drifted a bit, and others I never saw again, but I feel that we will always be energetically connected.

MAYA TULUM RESORT

A beautiful place to practice yoga

It was also during that trip that I discovered the Yoga retreat center and spa, at the resort Maya Tulum. Walking down the beach after a lazy morning, I stumbled on the most beautiful stretch of beach jettisoned by a stone formation extending into the water. The glimmering white sand is combed clean of the black hair-like seaweed that washes up on the shore, and chaises with white towels and beautiful natural palapa-style huts dotted the bluff above the beach. Venturing onto the property and winding my way through the manicured sandy paths connecting all the edifices and areas of the resort, I found the front desk and was able to get a tour. What a gorgeous spot! Beautiful rooms, with all the details—hibiscus flower and lily bouquets, mosquito netting draping from above the beds and some have luxurious bathrooms with views of the Caribbean. There are 2 high-roofed Yoga practice spaces with some resident Iguanas who like to lazily walk the perimeter of the structural beams, as if they were our ancestors supervising practice. The restaurant has ocean breezes and view, a juice bar, and gorgeous locally sourced food. Upon first sight, I was determined to bring my own group there some day.

Well, I am happy to say that I manifested that dream, as this April I am returning for our 4th Annual Maya Tulum Yoga Retreat!

THE FOURTH ANNUAL MAYA TULUM YOGA RETREAT 2013 IS UPON US

I feel that it is hugely important to take vacations away from our modern chaotic world. Especially as Women and Moms! So often we are running around taking care of everyone else’s needs and neglecting ourselves so much that we can start to feel very off-balance.

It is essential Read More Willy B Mum

ParaSailing, and realising that it is not just about me anymore — Turks & Caicos

Babes & I para-sailing on Turks and Caicos Islands in the West Indies.

A few years ago while Honeymooning with my husband in the beautiful Fijian Islands, we both parasailed – meaning we were towed behind a speed-boat, high in the sky, across a gorgeous sea, in a parachute, for a considerable amount of time! We both went up individually, without a worry in the world and no questions asked. I admit it seems crazy looking back now and it may sound scary to some, however I remember LOVING it! It was one of the most awesome, awakening experiences I have ever experienced, and I very much looked forward to doing it again.

Fast forward to this week, and here we are in the British West Indies on the Islands of Turks and Caicos……..

Yep, we are in Paradise, with all these wonderful unassuming safe mellow sea-venturing offerings like parasailing! Gorgeous settings, and all this free time together AGAIN as a couple. How You Ask? Thankfully, we are traveling with Miles Storm’s grandparents, and they love spending time with their Grand-Son. Mystery Solved!

If my husband could avoid ANY activity in the world it would be parasailing… and here I am on the opposite end of the scale… pushing him to go parasailing with me! Babes is not the best up-there high-in-the-sky kind-of-guy, and to a certain point I realize I am somewhat scared of heights too.

Regardless, as a morning activity we booked a tandem parasailing adventure together!

Once on the boat, everything was going great right up until when we were first lifted up into the sky, well for me anyway, but apparently my husband, not so much. It was a speedy take-off with limited instruction. I made up for that by laughing a lot, enjoying the view and just trying to assure myself we were going to be okay. However, once I saw my husband struggling mentally, I started to get scared; it was a chain reaction. It did not help that I knew he was only doing the activity to make me happy!

The boat pulling us, started going really fast, and all of a sudden we were many miles from shore, and very high in the sky. It was a very windy day and we were being swayed from here-to-there like a feather in a hurricane… around this time my self-confidence turned South. I turned white and was having a hard time speaking. It was really scary – like I said, a feather in a hurricane kind of feeling!

In those 15 minutes up there in the sky, I wondered why I was so scared this time around when I had LOVED my first time parasailing in Fiji! I was very confused! Until, I posted this same picture on my Instagram feed and another Mother wrote back saying – “It’s funny what becoming a Mum has done to me, one of the things is I get butterflies from going on the swings at the park”.

And, with those few posted words it all made sense to me.

I am a Mother now, and it is not all about me anymore. I have to stay alive to look after my beautiful Little Boy. Before, Miles Storm was around it was just me, and if something happened to me…. well it was just me! But now, I cannot be so risky and if I put myself in similar positions, like I did before I was pregnant and did not have a care in the world – it is never going to feel the same.

I have a responsibility to make sure I am safe and healthy so I can be around for my Little One. If anything happened to me he would be devastated. It was clearly an epiphany moment, and I totally understand now, in retrospect, why I felt sick and so scared up there in the sky this time around parasailing. It was all because of Miles Storm, my little munchkin, who I want to be around forever. For me now, it is Health and Happiness all the Way.

Ain’t being a Mummy Grand!

From a Blizzard to Surf Beach in a New York Minute.

Today, the 28th of December we left our Country House upstate in NY in Rhinebeck in the middle of a snowstorm, where around 8 inches of snow had fallen. Being the first major downpour for this season, Miles Storm loved being in the cold. Personally, I am not the biggest fan of the cold, and I default that back to my Australian roots. Most Australians do not experience the snow often, and we are more-so brought up spending a lot of time outdoors in the sun and on the beach. However, my husband, is a native New Yorker and was more than happy to show Miles Storm the ropes and help him build his first snowman. Grateful for that!

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I did it all by myself – 9000+ miles/26 hours in the air with a 17 month old.

Wow, have me and Miles Storm been on a journey! It all started Monday afternoon when we missed our flight to visit my family and friends in Australia. Not sure how it really happened but we thought we were flying out on the Tuesday, not the Monday. Thanks to my husband, we managed to get on a flight the next afternoon experiencing SO MUCH STRESS to accomplish that.

I was petrified in the first place about how I was going to get Miles Storm through the 6 hour flight to LAX, let alone the 4 hour wait in between for our 16 hour flight to my home town Melbourne. However, my Son was a trooper. Unbelievable. He slept all the way to LAX, then ran around the airport when we arrived in Los Angelos… exhausting himself. Brilliant. Once on the 2nd plane he fell asleep for 9 hours in his on-board bassinet! When he woke up he was so content to sit on the floor and play with toys, watch movies on his Ipad or just breastfeed.

It did help that on QANTAS flights you can request, at no extra cost, a bassinet for babies/toddlers up to 11.8 kg/26 pounds. Luckily Miles made the cut. Another bonus of requesting a bassinet is the area where you have to sit on the plane has triple the leg space, and as there were no other bassinet requestees on my flight I had 4 seats to myself. Amazing. The flight could not have been any smoother in my wildest dreams.

I can only hope our flight back to NYC is the same.

Miles Storm in the air heading to Australia for the first time.