After an excellent night’s sleep, we got up at 6.30am and got washed and dressed and ready for the day ahead. A quick look out on our Juliet balcony let us see that the sky was blue and cloudless and the air was warm, even at this early hour.
We enjoyed a full and varied breakfast downstairs in the dining room. I must say that some of the buffet items were unusual for breakfast; for example mixed salad, olives, pickled vegetables and stuff that would seem (to us, anyway) to be more usually eaten at lunchtime. Nevertheless I enjoyed some cooked meats, cheese and fresh fruits, washed down with frothy coffee and orange juice, and finished off with a pain au chocolat.
Once we were fed and watered, we returned to room 213 and I made sure my phone and watch were fully charged before attaching my bum-bag containing essentials such as hand-gel, lip salve, pen, tissues and proof of vaccination cards.
We had a few minutes to spare before meeting our guide, so we went out of the hotel’s back door and crossed a leafy road which led to a lovely little harbour and beach area. Some people were already settling down on the beach and the sun shone cheerfully, enhancing our holiday mood. 😊
We then went along to reception for eight o’clock to meet our tour guide Natasha as well as the other five in our party: Linda, who had been on the same flight as us; another couple Owen and Phoebe, and two ladies Jane and Kath who had been on a different flight and had arrived much earlier yesterday then we had.
This morning we were having a guided walking tour around Budva. The eight of us set off along the same leafy road; today was Sunday, so Natasha said that all the shops, apart from souvenir shops, would be closed. We walked alongside the imposing city walls that encircled the Old Town of Budva, defensive walls that were originally built in the 9th century, before they were largely destroyed by an earthquake in the 17th century and rebuilt by the Venetians.
It was a lovely walk. Whichever way you looked, there was something amazing to see; the sparkling blue of the Adriatic on one side, the purple-grey immovable mountains behind us and the imperturbable medieval walls gently winding their way around the town.
Soon we came to a portal in the wall that allowed us entrance to the old town. The walls also afforded us the luxury of some shade from the sun, which was already very hot; it was going to be a scorcher today.
Inside the city walls we walked over the smooth, shiny stone floor. At first glance it was easy to think that it was marble, but the smoothness and shine was simply the result of the millions of footsteps over the years made by visitors. It was just as well I was wearing good trainers as I could imagine it being easy to slip on the stones.
There were one or two small souvenir shops open, and here and there little pavement cafés; some of their tables occupied by coffee-drinkers sitting leisurely reading the Sunday newspapers.
Natasha told us all about a devastating earthquake that took place in Montenegro on 15th April 1979; it had a magnitude of 6.9 on the Richter scale and caused major widespread damage. We stopped at a building where each of the stones from which it was constructed had visible numbers on them; apparently the stones were picked out of the rubble and numbered so that the building could be put together again with the stones in as near to the correct order as possible.
Montenegro is located on a major earthquake fault line so earthquakes are not uncommon; the last one was in September 2021 at a magnitude of 4.2. No wonder all the buildings we’d seen, old and new, were robustly constructed – they’d need to be. 😊
Back outside the walls and in the hot sunshine, we stopped at a small stone-built church with the characteristic red terracotta roof tiles and a small bell tower. A service was taking place and some people were standing in and around the church singing hymns. Natasha told us it was St. Mary’s Church (Santa Maria in Punta Church) and it was one of the oldest pre-Roman buildings in Montenegro, built in the 9th century. As she was talking to us, the bells suddenly started ringing out, drowning out her voice.
We then came across another church, the Holy Trinity Church, which had an open-seating area outside, contained within a small courtyard. Natasha explained that there were often open-air performances and shows here. We spotted a number of cats skulking about; they were ‘stray’ in that they didn’t have a single owner, but in Montenegro (especially Kotor, which we’ll come to later) everyone adopts the strays as their own, and the locals put out food and water for the cats and look after them. 😊
As we walked on the smooth stones around the side of the church we were rewarded with the sight of the sparkling Adriatic sea and the rugged coastline, seabirds swooping and wheeling on the warm updrafts, and we inhaled a huge lungful of the sea air and felt so glad to be alive. 😊
As we continued through the quaint little streets, looking in the windows of the shops, we spotted a display of colourful hand-painted pottery ornaments including, of course, a family of painted cats. 😊
We walked along the shoreline and spent some time looking at the boats (I love looking at boats, and wishing we could afford one!). There were small pleasure craft and tourist fishing boats and, further along, the millionaires’ yachts, huge, whitely gleaming vessels with their gangplanks portraying the word “PRIVATE” and their own individual inflatable tender dinghies. We could see people moving around on the yachts, sitting in the sun, drinking cold cocktails and enjoying a lifestyle we could only ever dream of.
It was soon time for us to meet our driver to take us to our next destination – Kotor. We had spent time here once before, on our cruise on the Queen Victoria in October 2018, so we were looking forward to seeing it again. If someone asked me to describe Kotor in one sentence, I would say it’s “Norway with palm trees”. 😊
We boarded the mini-bus and revelled in the air-conditioned respite from the sun. It was a pleasant, relaxing ride of around one hour, and we enjoyed looking out of the window at the scenes beyond; locals and visitors going about their business, cars and buses and scooters and bicycles, and of course, the never-ending scenic, rugged coastline and the glittering, sparkling sea which we never tired of looking at.
Presently we pulled up at a ‘bus station’ opposite another city wall; this time the walls to Kotor Old Town. We alighted from the bus and Natasha led us across the road and along the harbour for a short way. We looked around to see if we could spot any cruise ships, but there were none in sight; however, a quick look at MarineTraffic told us that Ponant Cruises Le Lyrial and Silverseas Cruises Silver Spirit were at anchor further along the coast.
We entered the sea gate to the old town and tried to stay in the shade wherever possible. Natasha pointed out a 15th century stone relief containing Madonna and Child, flanked by St. Bernard and St. Tryphon. We learned that St. Tryphon is the patron saint of gardeners and winegrowers, as well as that of Kotor. As we passed through the portal we entered a large square called Trg od Oružja, or “Arms Square” which is named after the Venetian arsenal which was made and stored here.
Looking around, the square contained many pleasant shops, banks, bakeries and cafés, all rubbing shoulders with historical monuments. The most prominent thing was a large, Baroque style 17th century clock tower with a reconstructed medieaval pillory in front of it.
As we walked along, watching our step on the smooth stones, we came across St. Tryphon’s Cathedral, which is a Roman Catholic church built in the 12th century. As we stood as best we could in the shade listening to Natasha giving us a history lesson, I spotted a nearby café with chilled drinks cabinet inside and nipped in to buy a bottle of cold water, as it was far too easy to forget to drink enough and run the risk of becoming dehydrated. Others in our party followed suit. 😊
Once outside the city walls again we walked along the harbour, stopping to stroke some of the many cats we spotted on the way. Some were friendly and purred and rubbed themselves against your legs, others were wary and flitted away nervously as we approached. We noticed lots of the cafés and shops and placed water bowls and dishes of cat food outside. 😊
Around 12 noon Natasha announced that it was the end of our tour this morning and now we had some free time before taking the mini-bus back to Budva. We all agreed an hour and a half sounded an ideal amount of time and Natasha, after making a quick call to our driver, told us the bus would be waiting for us at the same place where we were dropped off. Then she thanked us and said goodbye and disappeared off into the crowds, leaving us to our own devices.
Trevor and I pondered whether we were hungry or not after our substantial breakfast, but decided a large, freezing beer would be our first priority. We walked along, looking to see if any of the attractive little pavement bars caught our eyes, and we settled on one of those where the chairs and tables are under canopies, and every now and again a refreshing, fine spray of water is released into the atmosphere to try its best against the relentless heat, which was now 33ºC. As we took our seats at a table, we noticed bar staff to-ing and fro-ing with their trays of drinks, but none of them so much as glanced in our direction, despite our attempts to signal to them. After 10 minutes of waiting, I stood up and was just about to go elsewhere when a waiter came over. We each ordered a large beer and it came a few minutes later; cold, foamy and very welcome indeed! 😊
Afterwards we wandered for a while along the sea-front, looking at the boats, stroking the cats and just soaking up the laid-back atmosphere. Then we decided to start making tracks for the mini-bus, arriving back at the ‘bus station’ around 1.20pm, with 10 minutes to spare.
Soon we saw the rest of our group appear, and shortly afterwards the bus pulled up at the kerb and we all boarded, relishing the air-conditioned coolness of the interior.
Back at the Hotel Budva, there was only one thought in our heads – a swim in the hotel’s roof-top infinity pool. Returning to our room, hot and sweaty, we quickly undressed and donned our swimming costumes, ensured we each had one of the “towel tokens” we’d been provided with along with our room keys when we checked into the hotel.
The infinity pool was in a lovely location, and there was a small bar and some tables and chairs set up under the shade. We each selected a sun lounger under a parasol, and kicking off our sandals approached the ladder leading down into the pool. Gingerly descending each rung, I gasped as the comparatively-cold water enclosed my feet and ankles, then my calves, thighs and lower body as I slowly immersed myself in the pool. At first it seemed uncomfortably cold, but once I got used to it I found it refreshing and exhilarating. Treading water, I watched Trevor’s facial expressions with amusement as he too descended the ladder, knowing he was shocked by the cold as well. 😀
We enjoyed a leisurely swim, looking out through the branches and leaves of the trees towards the sparkling Adriatic sea. I immersed myself completely, throwing my head back so that my hair was slicked back away from my face. Once we were cooled down, we emerged from the pool into the hot sunshine, made a mad dash across the hot tiles towards our sun loungers and dried ourselves off before we signalled to the barman to bring us some cold beers. 😊
Sitting there enjoying the warmth of the sun, the cool sea breeze and the cold beer, we made polite conversation with the couple on the adjacent sunbeds. Amazingly, I discovered the lady and I work for the same employer – Durham County Council! Obviously the council employs over 3,000 people working at many different premises, so we didn’t actually know each other, although we knew several people in common. What a small world!
Enjoying another drink, we let the sun dry us off before returning to room 213, removing our damp cossies and tying them to the railings of our balcony to dry, before settling down for a 30 minute power-nap. Then we just relaxed and pottered around a bit, doing what we wanted to do, taking as long as we wanted and not looking at any clock.
We then decided to take a slow stroll back into the old town and look out some of the little cafés and restaurants we’d spotted earlier. We walked along to the beach front, pausing along the way just to enjoy the view. There was no need to hurry. At home, whenever we’re walking through a town or along a pavement, we’re always in a hurry: we have to be somewhere by some time, or if at work there are deadlines to be met, meetings to be attended. Instinctively then, we automatically tend to step up the pace when walking along, and we had to remind ourselves to slow right down, pause frequently and reeeeee-laaaaaax. 😊
As the sun dipped lower in the sky, we marvelled at the fact that it was still over 30ºC. We walked along, stopping to peruse some of the menus outside the restaurants, and soon we came to the seafront with lots of little boats bobbing and clinking, and a promenade along which people with dogs on leads and families with kids strolled with insouciant ease. We spotted a restaurant with an open front which looked onto this charming view, and after a quick look at the menu we took a seat at a vacant table.
The waiter soon came over and I ordered a chicken Caesar salad and a large beer, while Trevor opted for chicken in a mushroom sauce and French fries, which he also washed down with a beer.
The food was delicious and we decided to round it off with a dessert. I chose something called a “fruit cup” which advertised itself as fruit with ice cream, but when it arrived it was a huge fruit platter, consisting of slices of watermelon and cantaloupe melon, kiwi fruit, apple, orange, pineapple, strawberries and cherries, with a scoop of ice cream in the centre! There was certainly loads of it, and more than I could eat (Trevor helped me out!) but at least it was healthy! 🙂
After our meal we continued walking around the town, watching over the Adriatic as the sun went down. The temperature was still a sultry 28ºC, but the heat was offset by a gentle breeze. We’d had a fairly long day and packed a lot in, so we decided to go back to an English pub we’d spotted earlier called “The Prince”; it was tucked out of the way down a side street and contained some tables outside in a tiny, dimly lit courtyard. We each ordered a pint of Guinness and sat and enjoyed them in a companionable silence.
Around 10.30pm we returned to our hotel and went back to our room, where we got into our PJs and relaxed a bit before settling down to sleep. We would be moving on tomorrow morning, but we decided to leave our packing until then; to be honest we hadn’t really unpacked, knowing we’d only be in the Hotel Budva for two nights.
We slept soundly.