The Croatian coastline is speckled with over a thousand islands; little green, wooded jewels in the bright blue sea, some inhabited, some not. In summer, brilliant white yachts tack between them; day trippers trailing their feet languidly into the sea, basking in the sunshine.
On our first visit to Croatia, four years ago, we explored these enchanting islands from our base on the mainland and discovered a relaxed, unhurried pace of life. The wooded landscapes dotted with ancient towns and the clear blue water utterly seduced us and we decided to stay on one of them next time we came.
Two years later, I found a little cottage to rent in a fishing village on Brač, an island near Split. It looked idyllic but was it going to live up to expectation?
Driving off the ferry, we followed the signs uphill out of the port and drove west through a landscape of olive groves and farms. Fruit trees grew in abundance and a purple rash of bougainvillea spread along many walls. Surprisingly, there were piles of white stones poking out of the ground everywhere.
Brač is famous for its limestone and there is still a working quarry on the island. The Diocletian’s Palace in Split is built out of it and Croatians claim it was used to construct the White House.
We turned off the main road into our village and drove down to the harbour. Looking at the narrow lane winding its way perilously close to the sea and crowded with shops and restaurants, John asked, quite reasonably, “Are you sure we can drive along here?”
I looked at my detailed printed instructions, “Yes. Just go slowly. We’ll be fine.”
He made his way hesitantly past the harbour, fishing boats rocking gently, some small shops, a tall church spire and a restaurant with tables and chairs set out by the sea. Inches to our right, was the Adriatic, where children were playing and men fishing.
Then, a beach and a small bar with a spacious balcony perched over the sea: our local for the next fortnight.
“Turn left, our cottage is up here,” I instructed.
John turned up a narrow lane and there was our cottage, an old fisherman’s place with white walls and green shutters, its little garden holding a magnificent fig tree.
Flagging in the sweltering heat, we dragged our suitcases out of the car.
“Who’s coming for a swim?” I asked.
The boys perked up and flung everything on the floor in their rush to find their trunks. We walked back down the lane and dived into the sea.
Floating on my back in the warm water I smiled. In front of me the sea stretched all the way to Split, just visible below the mountains, behind me the village clung to the hillside, colours vibrant in the hot sun. In the distance, the little coast road disappeared over the horizon, meandering past tiny coves and pine forest, enticing me ever onwards …