Dalmation deluxe duo delight

Karen Lawson

Countries go in and out of fashion. It wasn’t long ago that Croatia was the holiday equivalent of double denim but now its hot to trot. With a coastline studded with island gems, and its mainland offering more ancient delights than the history channel, it’s no wonder the luxury hotel scene is starting to catch on. So whether your ideal getaway is boutique and beautiful or bold and beautiful, you’ll want to read on.

Join Mr G and I as we check out two places offering very different Dalmatian Delights.

Bold and Beautiful - Valamar President, Dubrovnik

Stepping into reception, Valamar President has us at “Hello Ocean”. It’s Grecian glory meets The Hamptons with floor to ceiling windows, muted blue lounge chairs and a marble catwalk showcasing a beautiful blue sea. Having just re-opened following a complete refurbishment, it’s got wow factor. Cold towels magically appear off silver trays as we check in, only for them to be replaced with glasses of non-alcoholic bubbles. I’m kinda loving this place and I haven’t even seen the rooms.

Valamar President

Cascading down the hillside, the best rooms are at the top, with reception in the middle and lower floors closer to the pool and beach area. Our room is 8006. A quick scan takes in the huge one bedroom suite. I am wondering if it’s been designed by a woman, because for the first time there’s more wardrobe space than I have clothes! We’re welcomed with a basket of fruit and a bottle of Croatian rocket fuel at 15% alcohol (Croatian wines are superb but deadly). A Nespresso machine seals its cool hotel status.

Photo: Valamar President

We’re on top of the world with a balcony spanning the length of the apartment and a panorama of the Adriatic, Otocic Island and mountains. It keeps getting better! We have a Jacuzzi complete with underwater disco lights, sun loungers and more sofas, this gives a whole new meaning to a room with a view. Would it be wrong to sub-let the balcony?

We don our comfy Valamar thongs and trot down to the hotel pool. It’s a serene scene with romantically draped four-poster cabanas and a range of luxurious sofas, loungers and posing options.

Mr G is heads down one more level to check out the beach. Could you ask for much more? (Well if am picky, sand would be nice) but Croatia is pebble land. I nab a lounger and Mr G is gets his thrills jet skiing around the island at warp speed.

After a few sneaky Pinna Coladas at the Beach Bistro, we check out the wellness zone, which could keep us entertained all day with its turkish baths, saunas, whirlpool, relaxation gardens and cardio gym. Instead of hitting the treadmill, we head into the old town for the evening. Thanks to a convenient bus stop just outside the hotel, in just 10 minutes we are hand in hand wandering its maze of cobbled streets, music filling the air, lights magically illuminating thousands of years of history.

Photo: Valamar President

We opt for a late dinner back at the hotel. If a hotel buffet fills you with dread of human conga lines and death by heat lamp food, this is a surprise! Sitting out on the terrace, our BBQ chef whips up creations a la mode and soon we have plates of local squid, fish and prawns. If this is bold n beautiful I am a convert.

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Boutique and Beautiful – Lesic Dimitri, Korcula Island

For once ‘the journey’ not ‘the destination’ is true of our 2-hour bus ride north and 15-minute ferry ride to Korcula Island, the famed birthplace of Marco Polo. If Moley from Wind in the Willows won the lottery and bought a subterranean palace, my bet is that it would look something like this.

Photo: Lesic Dimitri

Part of the Relais & Châteaux Group, the Lesic Dimitri is more akin an art collection of designer apartments than a hotel. Our apartment has its own front door directly off one of the cobbled streets and opposite the main reception. Set below street level it’s perfect for shoe-addicts who will be fascinated by the parade of foot traffic viewed from our shuttered windows. Our residence is an Arabian composition of white domed ceilings, banquette seating along the far side, with soft lighting splashing romantic shadows across the room.

The chairs with their metal ram-head finishes create a bit of whimsy, which can be found in the kitchen (with no view) but a light box picture of the seaside to help you imagine what you are missing! It’s fully equipped with all you need to rustle up a fishy feast from the local fish markets. Tassel curtains separate the bedroom with its four-poster bed and marble ensuite.

Photo: Lesic Dimitri

Dating back to the 17th Century every apartment is individually designed. Locals look at us wistfully when we remark we’re staying here it has a reputation for the best spa on the island; so for purely research purposes we check in. It’s like stepping into your rich uncle’s house (if I had one) with soft furnishings, regal colours and perfect spa etiquette. We’re guided through to our couple’s room where lights cast shadows through carved wooden screens. He selects “Thai torture”, I order Swedish bliss. We both emerge happy and rejuvenated, though how such a tiny lady can inflict such pain to a man and him still be grateful is a mystery!

Photo: Lesic Dimitri

We could opt to hire the LD speed boat and zoom over to the Pelješac Peninsula. Toni (who runs LD), takes us out exploring the island in his 4x4. It’s a tossup what’s more remarkable; the scenery or his knowledge on the history of Croatia. We spend the afternoon meandering along the old town’s cobbled streets built to resemble a fish skeleton (presumably to help fishermen find their way home?). In the evening we are nourished by LD restaurant. Chef Toni Erceg delights us with a degustation of local olive oils followed by King Scallops with cauliflower and saffron cream, kid goat (not kidding – the addition of azuki beans is genius) and stunning seared tuna fillet with scampi sauce. We are luckily in town for the Korkyra Baroque Festival, thanks largely to the operatic passions of LD’s Toni! Bringing together some of the most sought after musicians in the world under the roof of St Marks Catherdral ‘His Majesty’s Sagbutt’s & Cornetts’ might sound painful but provides for a special end to a unique stay!

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