In how many European cities can you sit overlooking the sea in such an environment, and not have to pounce on a free chair or pay 10 Euros for a coffee?
On offer were a fantastic boat voyage, swimming in the sea, original shopping, excellent eating, great bike trails and crazy inflatable water sports, numerous towers and churches you can just stumble upon
One of the first things to jump out from Croatia in early autumn - apart from its lively residents, green countryside and warm climate - is its lesser known inhabitants. Bears. Driving one October day from the capital’s airport to my charming destination, the coastal town of Poreč, I was accosted by roadside signs advising of who is really boss in the countryside.
We British city dwellers are not used to bears. Croatia was going to be fun.
Following my flight’s arrival in the capital, Zagreb, and tackling the usual baggage reclaim and car hire, I was rather enjoying my drive (safely inside my car). Alas, I didn’t see a bear, but after a couple of hours I was met with another wonderful sight - Poreč appearing over the horizon as I descended from the hilly forested roads.
Poreč in October - rather like the bears - symbolises the best of Croatia immensely well. It’s different, it's off the beaten track but not by far, and it’s just not too busy. Don’t mistake me, in summer it’s very popular - but, shhh, in October it’s just as good and you get so much more to yourself.
My next near-bear experience was upon arrival at my temporary home, the Gran Hotel Palazzo, in the form of a bear sized grin from the receptionist. Apparently I’d brought too much luggage, but I was ready to enjoy myself in myriad pursuits. We chatted for I don’t know how long, I checked in, dumped stuff in some wardrobes in my rather beautifully decorated room, and could no longer resist a cool orange juice on the terrace by the sea.
And this is it. In how many European cities can you sit overlooking the sea, surrounded by beautiful landscape, and not have to pounce on a free chair, breathe in next door’s smoke or pay up to 10 Euros for a coffee? On top of this, the friendliness of local staff was once again abundantly clear.
I took the opportunity to eat well and rest for the night before an intrepid early morning of local exploring. That next day, Poreč easily revealed delightful coastal paths, side road art galleries, the smell of fresh coffee, fishermen preparing for the next outing, children and their parents walking to school. Poreč is obviously a real city to live in for regular people, as well as a place to visit and find lots to do.
On offer for my week’s stay were a fantastic boat voyage round the local coves, swimming in the pool and the sea, decent and original shopping, excellent eating, great bike trails and crazy inflatable water sports, numerous towers and churches you can just stumble upon, and its highlight - an imposing sixth century Basilica. I could also visit nearby historic Rovinj and a stunning amphitheatre in Pula. I delighted in all of it, and in having such a pleasant hotel in which to rest weary bones after hours of walking and admiring.
In spite of many happy holidays in Spanish, French, Italian and Greek coastal towns, I can’t say I’ve ever been quite as wholly charmed as I have by Croatia’s little gem of Poreč.
The trick is, of course, not to go at the height of summer. But with pleasant autumnal temperatures of 20 degrees (70 Fahrenheit for those of us who enjoy an old fashioned beer and buying second hand novels from dusty bookshops), it’s lovely. Combined with the culture and the warm local personalities, it’s better described as irresistible.
Talking of which, I might just have to book again now…
Leo visited the Gran Hotel Palazzo in Poreč (average £80 per night in October through booking.com) and flew with Croatia Airlines to Zagreb (£130 return at the time through kayak.co.uk). Flights to nearby Pula are not always available outside summer.