Perast Travel Blog

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Baby Freya is now almost 8 months old. This was the age at which we took Hugh on his first trip, so we thought we would give it a go travelling with two kids. It couldn’t be that hard could it???! Please no, I don’t want to hang up our travelling shoes just yet!

We caught the 8hr midnight flight to Singapore on the 1st September, waited in Singapore for 4 hours and then caught the 13 hour flight to London. I strongly discourage anybody to follow this plan!! Starting this huge journey at midnight when you have already been awake for say 17 hours is not too smart! You really need to be well rested before you start that journey! Next time (!) we will set out early in the day after a good nights sleep.
I think the wisdom behind this decision was that we thought that the kids would sleep well (for the first leg at least) as it was their normal sleep time.

However in a journey that takes more than 24 hours there will of course be awake and asleep times anyway. As it turned out, the kids slept and behaved just fine. We on the other hand were vastly different. I like to think we behaved just fine, but sleep on the other hand….. Cameron managed maybe an hour in the entire journey, I around 20 minutes.

By the time we got to Singapore we were so tired. I didn’t even have any energy to look at the shops. We found a quiet area in Changi with lovely long seats with no handrests (very thoughtful of the airport corporation I thought) and Cameron and I agreed to let each other sleep for half an hour while the other watched the kids (who were bright as buttons at this stage). Half an hour just seemed sooooo luxurious! I didn’t care at this stage if we looked like hobos.

I managed around 20 minutes before people started arriving at this previous deserted area waiting for their flight. Oh well. On the plus side, for Hugh at least, we found a playground in between A15 and A16 (take note parents ;) ) Plus a pretty large open area right next to it for him to burn off some energy before our next flight.

The leg to London was…. well at least it’s now a distant memory. It is just so long, and try as I did, I just could not sleep a wink. Australia is just so far away from everywhere, but unless you never go anywhere you have to wear it :-/
I knew that once we finally got to London, we had the long wait to get through customs, and THEN had to catch a coach to Gatwick Airport where we were staying overnight, which would take around 1 ½ hours. At least we had our beautiful destination to look forward to.
Once we finally got to Heathrow, we were last off the plane and another jumbo had arrived at the same time. You can imagine the line up. We went to join the end of the queue, when a customs official yelled out, “Baby. In here” and lifted a rope up. Some people in front of us though he meant them, so they started to go through, to which he added, “no, not you! Only babies!”. We were then escorted into the ‘family line’ of which, as it turned out, we were the only members! So we walked straight down, past all those suckers lining up, and had our passports stamped, and were out in about 2 minutes. We have had this treatment in Iran and Thailand, but London was the last place I would have expected it. It was a pleasant surprise. You have to be lucky sometimes!

We caught our National Express coach to the Gatwick Airport Premier Inn. It was one of those characterless transit places, but I loved it as it had a bed! I couldn’t wait to get to sleep – it had been around 44 hours at this stage since I had slept (well, not counting the 20 mins in Singapore). First however we had to have dinner and then bath the kids. Unfortunately, both kiddies were wide awake for several hours as it was the equivalent of daytime in Australia, however they finally nodded off and we had a passable amount of sleep before we had to get up to catch our flight to Dubrovnik. When we woke up however we had a major panic as Hugh appeared to be missing. He wasn’t in his bed. We looked outside in the corridor and couldn’t see him. He wasn’t in the bathroom. It was one of those dreadful moments, however we thought “check the room properly first” and thankfully I saw his Thomas pyjamas (with him in them) on the ground, between his bed and the cot we had for Freya. You can imagine the relief……

We arrived in Dubrovnik and were picked up by the driver we had organised to take us across the border to Montenegro. This only took around ½ hour. It wasn’t possible to pick up a Montenegrin car from Dubrovnik airport, so we went just across the border to a town called Herceg Novi and picked it up there. It was an already dinged and scratched Chrysler Aveo. We thought that was probably not a bad thing, as hopefully if we did anything minor it wouldn’t be noticeable. The law in Montenegro states that even if you have insurance, if there is an accident and it’s your fault, you pay 20% of the damage bill. You don’t have to pay anything if it’s not your fault, but as foreigners who don’t speak the language, it would probably end up being your fault anyway. There was also a chip in the windscreen. My eye kept moving to it, hoping it wouldn’t split any further while we had the car.

We started driving around the Bay of Kotor to the town of Perast. It was so beautiful! The weather was warm and sunny. The Bay of Kotor is surrounded by mountains, with little towns nestled by the water and inching up the mountain a little. There seemed to be a lack of big resort development ,which was great as these big concrete monoliths, common in other areas in these parts, would definitely spoil the quaint beauty of areas like this.

Perast is World Heritage Listed and was a really pretty little place with shutter windowed stone villas and old summer mansions lining the waterfront and hills behind. Even for a tiny town there was something like 30 churches. All the buildings were made of stone with red roofs. I think there were only 2 hotels in town (though plenty of private apartments for rent) and they were done well – in existing stone dwellings rather than new modern buildings. (You’d approve Derek ;)

There were two tiny and very picturesque islands just off Perast. One, St George Island, has a Benedictine monastery on it, surrounded by cypress trees, the other is called Our Lady of the Rock Island and has a small chapel and museum. We took a boat ride to this one, but you can’t visit St George Island.
Our apartment in Perast was up a set of steep stairs in a narrow cobblestoned alley, through a courtyard covered in grape vines with grapes hanging down. I pointed them out to Hugh who decided that they were “Not really grapes, just pretend”. I told them that,no, they were really, really grapes. The view out of our window was beautiful, overlooking the bay and the little islands.

Perast was a quiet little place with little fishing boats bobbing on the bay, and many small stone terraces built over the water with steps leading down. Locals seemed to just chill out, sunning themselves or swimming in the bay. Very tanned, and pretty relaxed looking. It really could have been something out of the 50’s, meant in the best possible way, as there was no obvious outward signs of modernity.

On one of the days, we drove up to the Ostrag Monastery. This was a few hours north. It is a white monastery built in the 16th century into a cliff face, high in the mountains, with hundreds of meters of sheer rock above and below. It was quite a spectacular sight. It was a hot day, but you weren’t allowed to wear shorts or singlet tops, so we pulled jeans and a long sleeve top on out in the car park. The Ostrag Monastery contains the bones of St Basil in a tiny chapel, watched over by a black robed monk. The devout go in and touch him and pray for miracles etc. The monastery is reached by a very narrow precarious road, barely wide enough for two cars, with few if any guard rails to protect you from the huge drop below. Thankfully we made it back in one piece.

While we were in Perast we took a trip to the walled town of Kotor. This is the largest city in the Bay of Kotor and is pretty spectacular walled town with a maze of narrow, cobblestoned streets. A fort overlooks the town from the hill behind. It’s easy to get lost, but the town isn’t huge, so you know you’ll come out somewhere familiar at some stage. In the meantime it was very quaint and very romantic, wandering aimlessly, and stumbling upon little squares with churches or cafes, washing hanging outside shuttered windows, stopping for a coffee every so often….

Because of it being the largest town on the Bay of Kotor, and a pretty stunning one at that, it is very hugely popular with tourists, and is on one of the stops for cruise ships. Day time is pretty crazy, though I imagine once everyone has left at night it would be a lot more relaxed. Traffic was also crazy coming into town, and parking spaces hard to come by, but thankfully there were no cars allowed in the old town. Hugh was able to wander and run around safely. We have turned a corner with him in that he doesn’t need to be carried around all the time, and is happy to walk (or run) for long periods of time. When he gets tired, we have one of the ergo baby carriers where he sits on Cameron’s back. He has been pretty good, very well behaved and very cultured! Apart from frequent nagging about wanting to watch the ‘Cars’ movie, and in spite of it, he has been a delightful travel companion.
Freya has also been great. I carry her around in another ergo carrier, and she quite often goes to sleep. When she’s awake she loves just looking around, or smiling at Hugh. They have become even greater friends during this trip, laughing and wrestling each other. She doesn’t seem to mind a little rough play with Hugh, and the way they get on with each other is lovely to see.

We then left Perast, and moved on to the very cute walled town of Budva. This is on the Adriatic, and the hotel we stayed in was within the Old Town walls. The coastline south is called the Budva Riviera and consists of a number of beach ‘villages’. Some of these are nicer than others. Well, the beautiful clear water is the same everywhere, but at some of the beaches it is best to sit close to the water and not look back. In summer, this area is blanketed with tourists from Russia and the Ukraine. Massive (maybe unchecked) development is going on in some of the beach areas, and there are a lot of wealthy Russian owners. Prices in this area are quite ridiculous, and I put the blame squarely on those Russians – with their funny money. So annoying! There were a couple of toy shops within the old town and Hugh was always nagging to go in. As I have mentioned, he is crazy about the Cars movie. Lo and behold, Budva actually had some Cars merchandise, however I tried not to draw his attention to the plastic ‘Cars’ backpack hanging up which they were asking $110 (would be say, $20 in Aus), or the ‘Mater’ toy which they wanted around $70. Crazy.

Anyway, we went down to a nice area of the riviera called Sveti Stefan. We almost stayed in this area instead of the Budva old town, but I think we left it too late and couldn’t find accommodation. Sveti Stefan is extremely picturesque with a little island village just off shore, connected by a narrow walkway. It is a collection of small dwellings, squares, and churches and was originally a fishing village.
At some stage somebody recognised it’s potential and it was made into a resort. It was the playground of the glitterati in the 40s and 50s apparently. It fell into disrepair for a while, but very recently the super luxury hotel chain Aman bought it, renovated it and it has now reopened as a very gorgeous, luxurious resort. The little cottages have been made into intimate suites for guests, and terraces overlooking the sea. Aah.
The beach around Sveti Stefan is nice. We didn’t take our swimmers as the weather in the morning was bad, but come afternoon it was warm and sunny. Hugh had a bit of a paddle in his Tshirt and had a great old time. He didn’t want to leave in fact.
There are another couple of really beautiful beaches next to Sveti Stefan that can be reached through a shady paved path over a headland, through a pine forests. There is another luxury hotel also owned by Aman. It is an immaculate 1930’s hotel built originally as a residence for the Royals. Here there is a gorgeous beach called King’s beach (only for guests though – of which there didn’t seem to be many judging by how deserted it was), then through some more pine forest to Queens Beach, another private beach with a crescent of golden sand and clear turquoise water. Mmm.

Budva was a very attractive town , again with narrow cobblestone streets, where you could easily get lost (we did on a daily basis, but obviously always managed to come out somewhere eventually that was familiar). As the Lonely Planet mentioned, it was a place where the strutters came out to, well, strut their stuff. Most of the tourists were from Russia and Serbia. The fashion was anything tight, short, and brightly coloured (like canary yellow or hot pink for example), with a few bling bling random bits added on. I hate to use the term Eurotrash, but it kind of aptly describes it all!
I can count at least 3 times where I saw people in their swimmers, down at the beach getting their friend to take photos of them in amazingly posed positions. It was quite hilarious and good entertainment for me at least. The best one was a girl at the beach who was posing and having her poor friend take photos of her for about half and hour non stop, and then proceded to lie down provocatively in the sand, water rushing over her. Even funnier was her then jumping up anxiously to check what the photo looked like, and then jumping down into position on the sand again with a barrage of instructions for the next photo.

The town has a huge, very impressive citadel overlooking the sea and the red roofs of the old town, and then beyond this to the massive development along the coast, past the marina with the multi million dollar yachts! I think you can gather, the old town (circa 16th century) is very attractive, but the rest of it, extending out from it, built in the last few years is a bit ugly.
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photo by: sarahsan