Where to stay in Dubrovnik- Hotel Bellevue.

This is the first of our Dubrovnik hotel reviews, as we were fortunate to stay in a number of venues under the fabulous Luxury Adriatic Hotel group while we were there, so that we might best highlight the variety, and excellent accommodation that is on offer. 

Hotel Bellevue is situated literally on a cliff leaning over a bay, quite near to Old Town. It is a great location, mere minutes from the hustle and bustle of the tourist attractions by bus or taxi, yet the ambience and its positioning, makes it seem to be a quaint exclusive resort, or a more substantial boutique hotel. With 91 rooms, it is not a towering presence, but what it lacks in size, is made up for in amenities. It is one of a few hotels lucky enough to have a proper private beach. By that I mean that the coast line of Dubrovnik is mostly large rocks, and thus many other venue's private beaches are areas of rocks with steps lowering into the turquoise depths, rather than sand for example. 

We had checked in early, and rushed off to get some more attractions in over the morning, and we were delighted to find that our suite was prepared for us, and we didn't have to just leave our luggage by the desk. The reception staff were very friendly and polite, and when we finally did explore our rooms, and discovered the air conditioning to be broken, they sent a caretaker up within minutes to make it work. Every room has views over the bay, and is decorated in cooling creams and browns, scattered with eclectic artwork. Our balcony was a welcome relaxation break for the day after some hectic sightseeing, and we peered out over the the beach, and watched locals dive from the neighbouring cliffs. We stayed in an executive suite, which was compact for a suit, but reflective of the size of the hotel in general. It was however, well arranged with a lounge separate to the bedroom, and bathroom furnished with an in-bath shower. All of the Luxury Adriatic Hotel group seem to provide lovely L'Occitane toiletries, which I adored, Hotel Bellevue, offers a turn-down service, 24hr room service, mini-bar, and safe. The only thing missing, which really isn't an issue when you are on holiday, was a TV in the bedroom, but there was a TV in the lounge.

We were thrilled to have a treatment booked in the Energy Clinic spa, which is located in the wellness centre of the hotel, and we felt comfortable casually strolling along the corridors in cover-ups over our swim wear. Hotel guests are invited to use the indoor pool, jacuzzi and fitness studio for free, and we loved this idea for after the sun had set. Our treatment was a couples full body massage, which was a treat as in many spas, you and your partner have to go into separate rooms, so this is ideal for romantic breaks where you wish to enjoy as much time as you can together on holiday. We were welcomed by a couple of very friendly staff, who took us to the soothingly decorated spa room, and discussed our massage, before leaving us to get ready. It is sometimes difficult to review massages, as they tend to be a time of ultimate relaxation, a time when you can just switch off. Indeed, if you find yourself thinking about work and writing when at a spa, then really that is testament to how effective it is. About half way through, Mr Biscuit more or less voiced his opinion of the treatment, when I heard some quiet snoring from his side of the room, and I also started to feel any knots of tension fade away. Afterwards, in the fading sunset, we took in the horizon from the sand and pebble beach. The views are quite lovely, but there did seem to be a problem with rubbish floating in the sea. There were vast stretches simply filled with junk, all floating towards the shore, something we can only assume is due to the tides coming into the bay, and not really reflective of the hotel's cleaniness. By the morning, when we went for an early pre-breakfast swim, it was bright, clean, and clear again. 

Later that evening, we chose not to dine in any of the x3 hotel restaurants, and chose instead to book into a local place we'd heard great things about on trip advisor. The 'Taj Mahal' is not, what you would assume it to be- an Indian cafe perhaps? But instead is a venue specialising in Bosnian cuisine. It is located literally moments away from the hotel, with another popular branch being in the centre of Old Town. 

Breakfast includes continental and cooked options. There are some lovely additions like smoked salmon, and baked breads and muffins, but get there early to avoid missing out on most of the spread.

Hotel Bellevue, has the vibe of a venue suited to perhaps a demographic of young professionals, or families who still want a luxury vacation, with the amenities of a resort, but without the crowds or noise. The addition of the private beach means the water is shallower for a more nervous swimmer, as you'll find with other hotels, whilst the sea is still lovely, literally jumping in from rocks or a patio into deep water can be daunting to some. It is in an idillic location, and the service is very efficient and professional indeed.

You can find out more about the hotel, and make reservations here.

Pics copyright of Whim Biscuit 2015.

Game of Culture- Things to do in Dubrovnik

So you have a break, or holiday booked in lovely Dubrovnik, and you’ve spent hours on Trip Advisor or Lonely Planet already, you've come to right place. Below, what we have tried to do whilst collaborating with the lovely Dubrovnik tourism board, is pull together a few recommendations, of what to do in this picturesque city, particularly if you only have a couple of days.

Do check out our top tip travel guide, as well as our hotel review posts, and Restaurant guide- all designed to save you a lot of time and confusion.

None the less, whether you only have a few days there, or a fortnight in the city- here are the things you just should not miss in scenic Dubrovnik.

Things to do, places to go….

The City Walls.

Surrounding the rustic splendour of Old Town Dubrovnik, are the series of stone walls that were built to defend and protect the city between the 12th-17th Centuries. A World Heritage Site, they span over 6000 feet in length, both tower over, and encircle, the multi-story townhouses within, and overlook both the sea, and the rest of the city. 

In peak times they can be very busy, and it is recommended you avoid the rush of cruise ship tourists, and the midday sun, with the best times to visit being either early in the morning, or after 6pm (shuts at 7.30pm). They take between 1-2hrs to go around on average, and there are a considerable amount of steps at nearly all of the points- more perhaps on the city side where you climb the initial wall height, and then continue upwards towards the Minceta Fort (known to be the location for the House of The Undying in Game of Thrones).  

It is possible to only tour half the walls at a time, and there are places to rest continuously along the way, should you so wish. It costs 100HRK (approx. £10) per person per visit. We could elaborate, but really the views speak for themselves.

The Island of Lokrum.

Just a pleasant 15-minute boat ride away from the city walls of Old Town, is the beautiful island of Lokrum. Uninhabited by anything aside peacocks and rabbits, this peaceful isle is an idyllic getaway from the hustle and bustle of tourist areas.

For around 80 HRK (approx. £8) return, it is a wonderful and convenient choice for those travellers who love the idea of island hopping off the coast of Dubrovnik, but perhaps just don’t have the time. We spent several wonderful hours roaming the wilderness, exploring the botanic gardens, and finding the Benedictine Monastery. There is also the Dead Sea lake, Fort at the the top of the hill, and even a nudist beach. There is a café for refreshments and light meals, and a hut selling swimming essentials and ice-creams.

Our favourite thing to do here was to wonder along the rocky shore, find one of the many stairs that lower into the sea, and enjoy what seems like your own private bay to snorkel for a few hours. We also bought sea shoes from the hut, as the rocks are quite rough, and sometimes you need to jump from one to the other to reach the sea. All in all, this was possibly our favourite excursion of the holiday, and it is highly recommended.

Cable Car.

Looming over the City nearly 800 metres up, is Srd Hill. The Cable cars are a regular service that for 108HKR return (roughly £11) will transport you to the most incredible views of Dubrovnik. 

Once again, we recommend you wait until the evening to visit to avoid the crowds. We choose to get there just before sun-set, and we enjoyed the best of the sunlight pouring over the city views, then the wonderful light of it setting, followed by admiring the bright twinkling of the evening street lights below while we ate dinner in the ‘Panorama’ restaurant. 

We haven’t included it in the top places to eat guide below, because the food is not amazing, but its generally quite nice, and the views at their tables with a coffee or cocktail are totally worth it. It was Mr Biscuit’s birthday while we were there, and we called ahead to book a table, they were really lovely and saved what we felt to be the best table on the cliff for us.

Game of Thrones City Tour.

Now obviously Dubrovnik, and certainly the Old Town are enriched with history and cultural tales, but thanks to the success of the TV show Game of Thrones, it now has an abundance of fictional history as well. Fans of the show delight in finding locations of the sets, but with the magnitude of wonderful sights, and hidden areas, it can certainly be difficult to get a grasp of where everything is. Mr Biscuit and I had watched a few series of the programme, and we were keen to explore the city and learn more about its past regardless, so this seemed like the ideal option. We were booked onto the tour by www.dubrovnik-tourist-guides.com with expert guide Ivan Vukovic, and we met him just by Pile Gate. 

From the moment we met Ivan he whisked us down a seemingly hidden path to a cove that had wonderful views of the wall forts, and what we later heard, was the building known as the Red Keep on the show. His incredible knowledge of both the real history of Dubrovnik, and the complex stories of every character in Game of Thrones was quite impressive. He intertwined real culture, with stories of both cast and crew, pointing out how they utilized the locations. 

Literally every question we could think of, from asking who the statues and building engravings were of, to what venue particular scenes were set, were all fielded with a sense of professionalism. We also thought it was great that he brings with him a clip-board of stills from the show, so you can directly see the comparison of the location how it is, versus on the show. It doesn’t really matter if you have watched it that much either, as the interesting details about the old town, finding hidden view points, and recommendations for cafes was a real treat. With it being between 1-2 hrs in length, it was an ideal time to spend exploring the often uphill, humid city, without really desperately needing a cup of tea.

To find out more about Dubrovnik, please read our Top tips guide, and www.tzdubrovnik.hr for more information about summer festivities and future events.

We recommend travelling with British Airways, who made our journeys there and back very pleasant. Particularly as we found their business class fares very reasonable for the return journey, and the service was just excellent.

Pics copyright of Whim Biscuit 2015.

Top Travel Tips for Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik, in the region of Dalmatia on the Adriatic Sea, is the perfect mix of great climate, and

Famous for its historic walls with it’s system of turrets and towers, that surround the Old Town, it is this area that is also used as the set of ‘King’s Landing’ for the popular TV show ‘Game of Thrones’. The local airport is less than half an hour away by convenient and affordable shuttle buses, or indeed private transfer, and the whole city is connected by a very accessible bus system.

When packing to travel to Dubrovnik, remember comfortable walking shoes, swim-wear, and sun-cream. In the picturesque Old Town area there are no cars, bicycles, or public transport allowed, and it being very hilly, there are hundreds of steps should you wish to explore it fully. It allows for wonderful views, but very tired feet should you not bring adequate foot-wear. With it’s Mediterranean climate, the average temperatures are more than pleasant, generally peaking from May through to September. We visited mid-June, and being used to the mild British weather, and with our significant pallor, we found it positively tropical, humid, and the sea a real delight to take a quick dip in. As for travel money, we took only a modest amount of HRK that we’d changed up at the airport, just to get by the first few days, and easily found cash-points, which obviously automatically convert to the local currency, whilst out there.

As there is a lot of choice as to where to stay, we have reviewed a number of hotels in the Adriatic Luxury Hotel group for you in further posts, as well as a more modest apartment from AirBNB. We found that your choice of accommodation there, should really be motivated by two factors- 1)What you enjoy doing on holiday and 2) How central to everything you like to be.

Dubrovnik is spread across x5 major areas. These are- ‘Grad’ which is the historic centre of Old Town, again, no transport is aloud inside the walls, but it is the cultural hub for all the museums and attractions. You will find a few hotels, and many small apartments to rent, but be prepared to carry luggage uphill, up sometimes hundreds of steps. Then you have ‘Pile’ which is essentially just the gate outside Old Town, but this is the main spot that transport connects with other areas of the city. ‘Ploče’ which is the area just past Old Town where many luxury hotels and residences line the coast with their private beaches. Then ‘Gruž’, which is a more residential area, with many apartments, as well as the main bus station, the port where the cruise liners arrive, and where you can find boats and ships to sail to nearby islands. Plus finally there’s Lapad, which is very scenic with it’s promenades, greenery, and the majority of hotels. Whilst this makes Dubrovnik sound very large, technically from area to area, it should only take you roughly x10 minutes by bus, and as such it is very accessible and wonderful to explore.

Many hotels have their own pools, and access to private or shared beaches nearby, whereas apartments around the city, especially those in the Old Town, will not. We love the contrast of culture and relaxation on a holiday, and with Dubrovnik providing you the opportunity to do both, we liked the choice a hotel gave us to lounge by the pool or sea in the morning. The ease of wandering up to our room to get ready, before venturing out to explore and adventure in the afternoon was very convieniant. Of course, apartments are generally great value, and you could easily find a beach you could access should you be in the Old Town, or inland slightly, but the compromise is having to travel to do so.

With the temperatures reaching their hottest around midday, locals strongly advise you utilize these hours between say 12-3pm to relax and enjoy the ambiance. This is an excellent tip, not only to avoid the midday sun, but in the more tourist prone areas like the Old Town, this is when many of the cruise ships, or tours take place, and it gets very crowded indeed.

As mentioned before, the bus networks are great. They work slightly differently to British buses, as you purchase a ticket either beforehand from a machine, or from many hotels for 12HRK (roughly £1.20), or for slight more at 15HRK (approx. £1.50) if you buy directly from the bus driver. As far as we could tell from conversations with the locals, you can use that ticket for up to an hour to travel around Dubrovnik before having to purchase another. Taxi’s are everywhere, particularly around Pile Gate, which is for example, a place the shuttle bus can stop from the airport (also stops at the bus station in Gruz, and it costs 70HRK or about £7 return). They work on a meter system, and the pricing is generally comparative to London taxis. However, do ensure the meter is working, or it is not set to a high amount before you travel, as when we arrived, we didn’t realize our hotel was so close and ended up paying the equivalent of £15 to travel what should have been a less than x3min journey. That kind of cost should take you the whole distance of the city, and once we realized, before any further taxi journeys, we began to ask the hotel desks, or a local, how much they would roughly pay for the journey we were about to make. The bus is definitely the best method of transport, but when dragging your luggage from hotel to hotel, sometimes a taxi is sometimes preferable. If your aim is to travel around a bit, and hire a car to do so, be aware that parking, particular around the Old Town, is sparse. Especially as that area does not allow cars. Do check in advance if your hotel or apartment has space before you book.

If venturing further afield, we were recommended to consider day trips to Montenegro, Mostar, and any of the gorgeous islands off the coast of Dubrovnik and further along. We sadly didn’t have time to explore any of these options, but it is certainly on our to-do list when we are lucky enough to holiday there again.

Do check in over the next week or so for a few more posts about Dubrovnik, where we will be reviewing a few of our favorite hotels, and offering guides of things to do, and places to eat in the city.

We travelled to Dubrovnik with British Airways, via a really efficient direct service, being only around 2hr 25mins from London, and we were even early!

 Pics copyright of Whim Biscuit blog 2015.

Digital bathroom scales with a difference.

My first impressions of the Ozeri WeightMaster II, reflected it's modern yet pleasing design, however the myriad of additional functions it had aside from actually just weighing you, at first, put me off. Ever technologically challenged, I asked Mr Biscuit to assist, and after a good read of the instructions, I was pleased to understand the excellent functionality of the machine and was eager to set it up for us both, especially if they work well alongside our health regime. 

It was indeed, quite easy to set up, and what makes them unique is the fact that they are designed so that up to x8 individuals can use their pre-set programmes.This means you simply put your height and weight in, and then it guides you through everything. Once started, with your initial weight, it will from then on, light up red or green depending on a gain or loss. It's actually quite motivational, trying to constantly keep in the green if you are trying to loose the pounds.

It has an added extra of an anti-bacterial surface, helping you maintain your home's cleanliness, and keeping the freshness of the design colour you choose, so that it blends into your interior decor.

There are unfortunately a few negatives to these bathroom scales. As a personal preference I would have liked a stone option, rather than just kilograms and pounds, and secondly, we just cannot seem to get an accurate reading in our house. It does state that a hard, flat surface is required, and apparently, according to the drastic variation of up to 20lbs that weighing ourselves from a side of the kitchen to the other shows, our floorboards must really not be level. Or if you use it on carpet or vinyl flooring, it doesn't settle and no reading is made.

All in all, some fab helpful technology here, but only useful if you perhaps have a tiled floor.

The Ozeri Weightmaster II is available here on Amazon.
Pic courtesty of Ozeri on Amazon.co.uk/

Chic & Stylish- a bin to remember.

Our kitchen is not exactly the modern, minimalist design from our dream house, 
or Mrs Biscuit's pinterest, 
but it will do.

It’s quite good in comparison to those from our student house years, and definitely more convenient than our previous kitchen, that on viewing the house seemed glam, but in working reality lacked literally everything from storage, counter space, or draws- I mean seriously, where do you put the cutlery?? However, despite its general normal-ness, our kitchen now, is so bland that the only way to perk it up, is to accessorise, and invest in good quality appliances.

This is distinctly Mrs Biscuit’s forte, I’m no style guru after all. Indeed, we once had an argument over my lack of enthusiasm for cushions or any sort of soft furnishings. Yet what I do show enthusiasm for are gadgets- and when fun meets function, with an obvious chic to the item, then really, what else would you want in your home?

For a while we’d had this hand-me-down bin, which as a concept in itself sounds disgusting now that I think about it, but we were no bin snobs at the time. No longer did we have a built in under sink convenience, but we did have this annoying space under a semi-breakfast bar/ general area that washing up lingers, to store our gifted pedal-function delight.

Sadly, it wasn’t a match meant to be, as like many round kitchen bins, it fitted awkwardly, and emitted an annoying tinny sound every time the pedal vigorously made the lid open against the underside of the counter. This, combined with the gradual smell that most bins seem to obtain despite consistent cleaning, Mrs Biscuit slowly managed to move it out of the kitchen, and into the garden shed.

Most of the time, we are very practical individuals that care little for shallow opinions on still useful items (did I mention the bin was a faded lime green?) but it really did seem more in it’s element as a glorified paint pot and diy storage box, so we were quite delighted when we were told about the simplehuman tools for efficient living.

The brand simplehuman, combine technology with practicality, and produce the most amazing and useful products for the home. They have a variety of bins in particular to choose from, and we were delighted to review their ‘Butterfly Sensor Bin', a real modern convenience.

This 48-litre rubbish holding wonder, is really a feat of engineering. It’s design is contemporary yet industrial, a sleek rectangular stainless steel outer shell with a smudge proof coating. It’s around the length of the average kitchen cupboard, and it’s interior has a charcoal filter against odour on the inside of the butterfly lid. Designed as such to allow easy access to the inner bucket, but without needing the space under a counter for a full lid.

We put ours under the breakfast counter I previously described, and whilst it did definitely have the space to open, it simply wouldn’t open or would stay permanently open if the sensor was covered by it. As such, we stuck it out a bit, keeping the sensor uncovered, and it was perfect. This is something they do say in the description does hinder it’s usability, so have a good think about where it could go. It would be brilliant simply next to kitchen units, as it is comparable in size, but we for example, alas have units in a full horseshoe.

The inner bucket holds a significant amount of rubbish, at a 48-litre capacity, it takes a 50-60-litre bin liner, and on average, we have found, we never need more than a single bag a week. The bucket works best with the simplehuman specific liners, that fit it literally perfectly, but they have also thought past this and fitted a clever grip where you can turn any liner, into a custom fit liner. It comes with a sample pack of their bags so you can try them and decide for yourself.

Another thoughtful design element, is the easy bucket park, where you can simply lift and rest to remove the full bin bag with no bother. The great thing with this product, is that they have definitely thought through everything that could be vaguely annoying about using a kitchen bin, and tried to make it simple.

To actually put the rubbish in, all it needs is a wave of the hand, no need to push a pedal, or balance stuff to open it, you merely sweep past it. It is relatively sensitive, and because we have it sticking out slightly, it does react to people going past occasionally, but mostly not. With it's sense options, if you are still emptying rubbish into it, it stays open in task mode, and doesn’t shut meaning the lid doesn’t get covered in stuff. Yet if you sort of double wave, it holds it open for 30-seconds for you in it’s stay-open mode.

To work, it needs x6 C-batteries, which you need to purchase separately, or you can buy an adapter from Simplehuman to plug it in. It was very easy to get up and running, and quite simply it is a joy to use. I’ve taken to pretending I’m using ‘the force’ to open it, which is slightly less embarrassing than when I used to pretend with shop automatic doors.

At near on £250, it is a considerable investment, and initially I had reservations over a bin being this price. It’s functionality however, has very much changed my opinion. It’s a great, practical design that would work with a multitude of interiors, and it seems incredibly well built. Certainly not the average bin, and something that I hope will be a product we can use for many years to come, especially when we eventually manage to get that dream kitchen.

You can purchase your simplehuman butterfly sensor bin here, and at other well-known retailers.
 Pics courtesy of www.simplehuman.com/

Victorious Festival 2015.

From Southsea sunshine, to Waterloo Sunset, Victorious Festival 2015 is set to be the biggest, most amazing event to hit the beautiful shores of Southsea this year.
With The Kinks legend Ray Davies, Smiths former guitarist Johnny Marr, Primal Scream and Super Furry Animals being added to the already amazing line up, it only goes to show that the organisers have really worked hard to create a jaw dropping and diverse festival. Easily competing with some of the biggest festivals around.
Boasting seven stages, including the new Common Stage, a real ale festival, boutique gardens & market, kids arena, as well as entrance to a number of Southsea attractions, you may be fooled in thinking that you will be breaking the bank to attend. Yet, that is the best bit- tickets per person, per day are only £25! (until 3rd July and £30 after).
Where else could you have all of this fun, and see some of the most iconic musicians about for such a low price?

Grab your tickets now before they sell out. We predict it won’t take long.