Ankaran

Our original plan was to head down from Slovenia, though Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro and get the ferry over to Italy before coming all the way back up. But research told us it would be far too hot, and there were insurance issues with driving in Bosnia and Montenegro.

Then we were going to stay on the Istrian peninsula for a week, but it turns out Croatian campsites are crazy expensive. So instead we stayed on the narrow Slovenian coast with the intention of hopping over the border to Croatia for a day during the week. In the end we scrapped even that idea as further investigation established Croatia is outside of the Schengen zone and border queues in summer could be up to two hours each way.

I double checked with this campsite that we had a shady pitch, but really shouldn’t have worried, pretty much the whole site was in pine woods, and our pitch had zero sunlight. We were pretty wedged in with our neighbours but we could live with that.

The campsite was on the seafront, with a gravel beach and some pitches being right on the harbour wall which would have been lovely, had they not been overlooking a huge industrial port. Still, at least the comings and goings of the tankers would provide some entertainment if you’d paid the premium for one?!

It started to rain shortly after we arrived, but that was actually a relief after the heat of the last couple of weeks. With Evelyn in her welly boots, we set off to explore the huge site, splashing in all the puddles along the way.

Monday was my birthday and I was very excited about going for a curry, something I’d craved for much of the trip. A quick tripadvisor search told us there wasn’t one anywhere nearby in Slovenia, but there was one 6 miles away… in Italy. So we headed to another country for my birthday meal!

We made an afternoon of the trip, especially since there was a Decathlon in Trieste and we needed a blow up bed for Grandad Geary’s imminent visit. A bit sad, but a trip to Decathlon was an excellent way to spend a birthday. We love that shop at the best of times, and spent far more than intended on new clothing and camping accessories. And Evelyn made the most of gym trampolines!

I’d been to Trieste before, ten years ago when I visited El teaching in Italy, so knew that although there was an excellent town square, there really isn’t much to do there. Still, we headed there for the late afternoon to mooch about while waiting for the curry house to open.

After killing sufficient time, and walking nearly a mile into the backstreets of Trieste, we got to the curry house after it opened. Except it wasn’t. We walked past it at first and only after consulting Google Maps because we couldn’t find it did we realise it was the place with the shutters firmly closed. I rang, but there was no answer. This place wasn’t opening any time soon.

A bit pissed off, I went back to tripadvisor sure I’d seen another curry house here. There was one ten minutes away, with mediocre reviews. By this point I just wanted a curry so we headed over there, only to find them closed for renovations.

Hot and hungry, I gave up on the idea of an Indian and just searched for anywhere local with a decent review. We headed to a trattoria around the corner only to be told they were fully booked.

At this point I was close to tears. It was getting close to the kids bed time, no one had eaten and we were a mile from the car. We stopped in a cafe bar to have a wine and so that Evelyn could eat her left over lunch bits, which she promptly dropped on the floor. In the end she had the balanced meal of crisps and an apple, and we decided to give up and go home. We’d get the kids to bed and get a takeaway pizza at the campsite.

Having finally got home and got the kids to bed, Simon headed out for pizza, only to be told at just past nine that they’d stopped serving. FFS. Luckily we had some emergency stuffed pasta and pesto in the cupboard. Happy birthday me.

After the disaster the previous day, I deferred my birthday till later in the week and we had a lazy day at the campsite, checking out the swimming pool and fixing the awning. We’d bought a fancy new air awning for the trip, and were really disappointed when one of the main beams burst at Lake Bled. A social media assault got us a useful contact in customer services who promised to send us replacement parts to Slovenia. We asked for it to be sent to our next site and were impatiently tracking it online for its arrival. After a false alarm of it being sent back from the reception and a very helpful phone call, we were finally united. Except in replacing that one, another immediately burst. Fortunately they actually sent us two spare beams. We’re not very impressed with air awnings so far.

On the Wednesday we headed to Predjama castle and Postojna caves. Predjama castle is 800 years old and built on to the front of a huge cave high up on a cliff face. We had great fun exploring the rooms and the caves behind – an audio guide to press buttons on, plenty of steps and a bell to ring to warn of invaders kept Evelyn entertained, along with the bonus of a bus to Postojna caves with the combined ticket we bought.

Postojna caves is a huge underground cave network, stretching 4km underground/ into the hillside. There’s a fairground type train ride to get into the depth of the caves, which ran for a surprisingly long time. It was only at this point I realised quite how deeply underground we were going and my claustrophobia kicked in. Luckily my anxiety tablets took the edge off a panic attack, but I am really testing my many (boats, caves, bridges, heights) phobias on this trip!

Evelyn however loved the train. Luckily she was in a good mood as it went pretty fast, and the small carriages didn’t have belts or side doors. I imagine a few handbags and flipflops have gone overboard over time, and a petulant toddler would be a nightmare to keep contained.

Despite my anxiety, the caves were great. Part of that was the relief of being in a cool 10c, rather than the baking 30+ outside. We’d packed hoodies, but it was only when Evelyn crouched down and tried to tuck her knees in her jumper that we realised her legs were cold too. Luckily we had emergency leggings in her backpack. Stan was perfectly happy snuggled in the sling and mummy’s cardi.

We had a guided tour of various caverns and stalagmites/tites and learnt the history of the caves. I was still convinced a tremor was going to see us stranded miles underground, which wasn’t helped when she demonstrated just how pitch black it was with the lights off. I was a little bit relieved though when she told the story of the army using the caves to store fuel in the war, and it being discovered by the enemy, who set it alight. Despite explosions and fire raging for days, the only damage to the stalactites was a heavy layer of soot. Much more resilient that I’d given them credit for. Still, I was relieved to be back on the train, wizzing out in to the hot, bright daylight.

Thursday was another lazy campsite day, so I took the opportunity for a birthday treat. There was an indoor spa/ pool on site, so after quizzing the receptionist on the quietest times, I was waiting at the doors at 9am to have a bit of me time.

For the first hour or so there were only me and a handful of nanas in there and it was delightful. I hadn’t realised it was a salt water pool, and doing lengths in hot, salty water was an experience I’m not going to repeat in a rush, but wallowing in jacuzzis and whirlpools was lovely. It was a shame to get out and join the chaos of the outdoor babypool for the rest of the day!

Thursday was a big day as not only was it the second attempt at my birthday meal, but it was also inadvertently Stan’s first meal when he swiped a pepper from Evelyn! He loved it, so that was the start of our weaning journey.

We headed to Piran for the day, a pretty town on a spit sticking out in to the Adriatic. After inadvertently wandering off in the wrong direction for 1/2hr, we eventually made it to the town, a winding mass of tiny passageways and a beautiful seafront prom.

We slogged up a steep hill to the old castle walls and had great fun climbing up the somewhat perilous steps on the ramparts which gave us amazing views back down over the town. Then on to the church, who’s huge tower gave a great view down on to the beautiful town square.

Dinner was at a Thai restaurant in a town half way home, and I finally got my meal! They were very accommodating of the kids, and the food was delicious, especially my langoustines, or “dinosaurs” as Evelyn repeatedly called them.

Saturday was another lazy pool day as Evelyn was really taking to the small baby pool, happily spending a couple of hours at a time splashing around with her inflatable crab, before we packed up and said goodbye to Slovenia on our way to Italy.

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