Welshot Does… Dubrovnik 2017 – Day One

A Welshot Does…  Discover – Experience – Photograph Dubrovnik Adventure 

Excited though we were, the prospect of leaving home in the middle of the night for Manchester Airport was not something we relished. For me, it wasn’t too bad as I live closer than the others and so left home at 3.45 am thanks to a willing and loving husband! For the rest of the gang it had been a 2am start from Anglesey, picking up Lynsey, Ted and Joan en route along the North Wales coast by chauffeur, Lee and escort, Eifion who had been up since the previous morning, with no sleep at all. We knew that the early morning torture would be worth it, though.

We met up at 5am in the Jet2 entrance, bright-eyed (?) and bushy-tailed, ready for check-in, passport-control, a pre-flight snack and a flight which all went smoothly (apart, that is, from a very fast and rather bumpy landing at Dubrovnik in a plane which Lynsey and I were convinced wasn’t going to stop in time and during which, Eifion’s circulation was nearly cut off by Lee gripping it so tightly!) However, we survived to tell the tale and Jet2 were super-efficient at meeting us and transferring us to our hotel – The Villa Grand Argentina, just ten minutes’ walk from the Old City- and what a beautiful hotel it was. (More of that, later.) En route, we were in awe at the azure blue of the sea and the scenery along the way, culminating with a view of our nautical neighbours moored close to shore.

Our rooms weren’t ready for us on arrival and so we sat in the beautiful lounge, over-looking the sea and enjoyed a complimentary coffee (after a bit of a haggle). I hadn’t realised at that point that Joan didn’t drink tea or coffee, but that was lesson number one learnt! Once the rooms were ready and after a very long period without sleep, it was unanimously agreed that a couple of hours rest was called for. Those beds and pillows had never looked more inviting!

A couple of hours later, armed with cameras and tripods, we were ready for our first venture into the Old Town, stopping several times down the hill to capture the view of the town from the vantage points along the road. A bright yellow Rolls Royce grabbed our attention and was just begging to be photographed. Well, it would be rude not to….wouldn’t it?

We had just missed our first sunset but managed to capture some views with just a touch of orange and red along the horizon, planning to get here earlier on the following evening to capture the full effect. Eifion had his work cut out advising and guiding us on capturing sunsets and the city at night

You enter The Old City by crossing over a short footbridge with gorgeous views of the harbour, then through a drawbridge and archway. It really was like stepping back in time and into another world. The soft, pale stone with its hints of sepia is just beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wonder if the many people who were taking selfies of themselves against the view realised that they were setting themselves up beautifully for us for a bit of street photography!!

The evening was spent ambling round the Old Town which is simply beautiful and a great opportunity  for some low-light photography – with Eifion at our sides to help us with settings and challenging us with more unusual angles (like placing our cameras on the ground to get some unusual views of the street).

The Stradum (the main street) is famous for its marble-paving which in the day-time looks lovely, but comes into its own at night when the reflections from the street lamps and shops look absolutely stunning – like a wet street after the rain. Everywhere you looked, you were struck by the beauty and history of the place – in The Cathedral; the Convent; The Church of Saint Blaise (Patron Saint of Dubrovnik, whose statue is to be seen everywhere – including in the hotel); the Museums and Galleries; the amazingly-talented street-musicians and the eateries.

I had to check myself as I was very aware of my all-too-frequent “Wows!” but I just couldn’t help it. The place really did take my breath away. I don’t know if you know this, but our western “Wow” actually has Biblical origins and comes from the Old Testament phrase “Works of Wonder,” referring specifically to God’s works. I didn’t consciously use the expression in that sense, but for me, it encapsulated the moment.

Talking about taking your breath away…. You remember in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” when Quasimodo cries out, “The Bells! The Bells!”? Well, in Dubrovnic, it’s “The Steps! The Steps!” Off the main streets are lots and lots of very narrow streets, access to which is reached via very, very steep flights of steps : lots of them – and I mean LOTS!!!! If you’re looking for a holiday with a bit of a work-out, this is it!!! At the beginning of the week, some of us (like me) struggled with those steps, but by the end of the week, they had become much more manageable. Thank goodness for the handrails and window bars along (some of) the way! Being photographers, however, meant that we had plenty of stops along the way so had a chance to catch our breath while getting lots of views up, down and from the heights.

A definite highlight of our visit to the town that evening was when we heard loud singing in the distance which came closer and closer, until, round the corner came a newly-married couple in their wedding finery, followed by their guests and led by a Croatian flag – all singing and laughing. It was simply wonderful!!! I, for one, was just too slow in capturing the moment, but Ted took a beautiful shot which captured all the motion and emotion in a very dreamy shot. Apparently, this public walk-about is a tradition in Dubrovnik and it made our night. We had plenty of time to indulge our love of street photography in this wonderful city.

A wander round the harbour gave us time to take some more low-light shots and to try and catch some of those reflections. I was trying to capture a view which wasn’t typical postcard fare, hence, when I spotted the mooring rope, it gave me a little inspiration for this shot…. and one typical postcard shot!

We stopped for a rather nice meal in one of the local eateries and learnt our first Croation word – “Hvala,” (Thank you) which is pronounced in the same way as “Chwarae” in Welsh, so having first-hand experience of the Welsh language certainly helped. I treated myself to what I expected to be a nice glass of local red house wine and soon wished I hadn’t – it was the worst wine I had ever tasted and didn’t get any better with food to accompany it. Lesson number 3 : choose your wine carefully!

It was about this time that I learnt lesson four – check your settings! I always shoot in RAW and Jpeg and hadn’t realised that for some strange reason, I had changed my setting to the smallest file possible. How and when? I had no idea. I had wondered why my most recent shots had uploaded in seconds rather than their more leisurely chug. I’m so glad Eifion spotted my error and saved me from a week of low resolution, unlikely-to-be-big-enough-to-be-printed images. Cheers, Eifion!! Another reason why it’s great to have an expert at your side! Lee and Lynsey made sure that they captured many of the day’s key moments  on their phones including Welshot selfies of us setting off at the airport and descending one of the afore-mentioned flights of steps (easier for some, than going up).

After our meal, it was a gentle stroll back to the hotel (with more low-light photography on the way, of course) for a good night’s sleep and a very welcome sleep-in and leisurely breakfast to come.

And that, as they say, “was the first day.”

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