The last leg of my Adriatic cruise on the lovely Azamara Quest included a port call in beautiful Split, Croatia then a final overnight port in Venice, Italy. Previous posts tell about Naples and the Amalfi Coast and marvelous Montengro, but this third installment will be about my cycling experience in Split and my solo finale in Venice.
Being the avid cyclist that I am, I knew I would be missing my bike after a week, so I contacted my Twitter friend Andy DuVine, president of DuVine Adventures, to arrange a day ride when the ship was in port in Split. He put me in touch with the charming Andro, his senior guide in Croatia. Andro met me at the dock with a bike and helmet and off we went. We rode past the historic old town and busy waterfront, along the beautiful coast of the peninsula. Andro was a delightful host, chatting about Croatian lifestyle and cycling in this spectacular country as we rode.
I live and normally cycle at sea level with very few hills, so I was a bit apprehensive as we started to climb and Andro pointed to our destination far above us! The vantage point at the top of a hill (I thought mountain), overlooked the whole city nestled at the foot of the mountains, the harbor and the Adriatic beyond. The route to the top was laced with switchbacks to mitigate the angle of ascent, but much to my chagrin, I had to stop for a break at the last one before the top. My ego took a bit of a hit when I just couldn’t push through that last stretch, but the ever-affable Andro never blinked and kept on chatting as I caught my breath! The views from the top were worth the effort, and then the descent was much faster! We returned through the tiny winding alleyways of the city where Andro left me to explore the remarkably preserved Diocletian’s Palace and the historic Old Town.
Although this was only a day adventure, I am absolutely sold on the beauty of Croatia and fully intend to return to do a longer cycle through the Croatian islands. Andro told me that the islands are even more hilly, so I’ll have to do some serious training first! DuVine Adventures’ forte is the cycling, with almost equal emphasis on food, wine and cool places to sleep, and I like all four of those, so I will definitely be back – although I think this is a fun group type of trip. Who’s in with me?
The last port of the cruise was the incomparable Venice and Azamara scheduled an overnight port so guests have plenty of time to explore the intricate alleys and charming neighborhoods beyond the famous St. Mark’s Square, Bridge of Sighs and glass blowing on Murano. I’ve visited Venice several times and to write about all of her magic would take an entire post. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit but had one last solo adventure to log. I decided to take all public transportation from the ship to the airport via an overnight stay near the airport, due to a very early flight. The difference in taking public transport instead of a private water taxi or cruise transfer easily paid for my hotel night and I wanted to put my new found solo skills to one last test.
It turned out to be so easy! I marched myself off of the ship and down to the vaparetto (water bus) ticket office. I put on my best Italian, “Vorrei un biglietto per Piazzale Roma.” (I’d like a ticket to the bus station.) Fortunately, the kind man there understood Italian with a Virginian accent and I was on my way. When I got off of the water bus at the land bus station, it was a hectic scene and it occurred to me that I chose to leave the island on a local bus at the end of the work day on a Friday! I bought another ticket (in Italian – so proud!) and found the right bus in the sea of busses in the yard. Figuring out the stop for my hotel took a combination of rudimentary Italian and sign language, but I established that the driver would tell me when to get off. Long story short, I did it…SOLO.
As my solo cruise experience came to a close, I found that I had become quite comfortable in my solo skin. I met some delightful and interesting fellow cruisers from California, Texas, Scotland and Wales, as well as lovely folks in each of the places I visited. Sometimes I dined with new companions, other times I kept my own company. I explored ports alone, with said new companions, and enjoyed one hosted excursion. I found that solo does not really equate to alone and certainly not lonely. I got a taste of what my solo-traveling friends rave about and really understand the draw now. More than anything, it was a very empowering experience – one I recommend and one I think I’ll repeat!