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Family Travel

Croatia’s Islands and Coastline: Camping, Calamari and Compulsive Swimming

4 October, 2013

We came to Croatia primarily because someone told me once that National Geographic had voted it the “most beautiful country in the world” – oh yeah, I thought… You sure? Because I have seen quite a few beaut things in my life, and like, who are YOU, some kind of AUTHORITY on countries and landscapes and geography and that?

Within the first hour of crossing the border from Slovenia we were muttering at the mountains and coastline “Wow. Yep, it is alright this place.” After our first full day we were hyperventilating with all the stunning scenes making our lungs compress and eyeballs water. A week in and we were saying to each other “That National Geographic most beautiful country in the world thing? Hello, UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR.”

Turns out those kids (actually I imagine them to be Teva-toting bespectacled old fellas) Know Stuff.

Our 25 days camping through Croatia are very nearly up. We weren’t sure how we were going to cope, spending all that time with a toddler and a baby in a tent, but we are so SO glad we pushed through after the catastrophe that hit Betty the Campervan in Italy. The weather has been kind, we have had sunshine, and therefore swum, everyday apart from 2. At least once a day we are gobsmacked by the outrageous postcard perfection of the coves and bays and marinas and the way the oceans just pull you in.

I was on holiday with my folks in New Zealand many years ago when we came across the most breathtaking little waterfall with a plunge pool. We scrambled down to it, like children rushing upon the Turkish Delights in the Snow Queen’s palm. We stepped in to it, up to our ankles. My mum though, she kept stepping. She stepped in up to her knees… her waist… then she dived in, every bit of clothing on including her precious watch. It says a lot about my free-spirited, frolicsome mum. But also about the water. Some rivers, lakes and seas poke a Swimming Button, they unleash an overwhelming urge to jump right on in. Here in Croatia, this water is EVERYWHERE YOU LAY YOUR PEEPERS.


After visiting the National Parks, Plitvice and Krka, we headed down to Split and jumped on a ferry to the Island Korcula. We resisted the swim compulsion at the port – too chilly at 8 am- resisted it on the beautiful ferry trip – too fatal- and resisted as we drove along the Island shore in search of a campsite – too anxious as campground upon campground seemed to be non-existant or closed. We finally found a little camp in a place called Prizba but the man showed me the sign he was about to erect “CLOSED UNTIL JUNE 2014” Nooooooo! But, pity upon us he took, we built the tent under the olive groves and DASHED down to the sea to finally yield to the tug of clear-as-glass turquoise waters.


The beach at Prizba is sheltered from any wind, and looks out towards a couple of tiny Islands. There is the funnest slide into the harbour, just a couple of bays along from where we camped. And within half an hours drive there are hidden coves with rocks to clamber, each one clamouring for position as Most Beautiful Beach In Most Beautiful country in the world. (Pupnatska Luka and Bacva were our favourites although the latter at the end of a pretty treachourous windy trail! Vucine on the Peljesac Peninsula then popped along and blew even these two out of the water.)


Most evenings we’d wander down to the tiny marina and chuck in the lures and line we had foraged from the bottom of the sea, joining the local nuns (honest truth- nuns in full habits- with a daily fishing habit, hoo hoo tee hee) in a dusk calamari search. Apparently they were there, and indeed one morning Ramona came running back from a walk with Tim absolutely bursting with a story about the octopus they spotted in the sea! They had shown a local Grandad who came over! And caught it right there in front of them! And then it got free and tried to use its legs to creep back in the water! But the old man got it back! And octopuses change colour on the rocks so noone can see them! It was pink! Then it was brown! As you can imagine Tim was gutted he didn’t catch the bugger. I was, throughout the telling of this adventure, trying my utmost not to boff. Ugh. Octopuses.


We felt like we had finally found the swimming idyll that we had secretly been hunting for throughout this whole trip. No wonder we stayed there for a week and then moved to the Peljesac Peninsula for a further 4 days.The campsite owner didn’t think much of my Squatters Rights stance. (Jokes.) We left with resigned reluctance, a bank of memories and a small flock of fleas courtesy of the mangy cats who were part of the Mangy Cat Sanctuary he ran alongside the camp that would rampage through our tent each time we turned our backs.

But back to all this beauticiousness. From almost every point on Croatia’s Islands and Coast you can see other islands; hundreds and thousands of them. Round like blobs of paint dripped perfectly into the sea; scattered like a giant kid blew the candles out on his birthday cake spitting billions of soggy crumbs of crisps everywhere…

Or like “God’s tears” as someone more, er, elegantly put it…

After the peninsula we trucked into Dubrovnik for the day, which hands down must be one of the coolest old cities ever (yeah, in fact UNESCO gave it that award a few decades back, turns out.) An ancient town of beautiful architecture, ruins and cathedrals, inside walls you can walk on (we spent a happy 3 hours doing it!) inside another layer or rocks protecting it from the clean, deep ocean- rocks you can bomb off into, yep, water that just compels you in.

We had heard terrible things about the crowds; cruise ships that bustle up and take over the town but we must have been there in off season as it felt calm and peaceful and free from those pesky tourists. *cheeky smile*

We are now staying in Campsite Serina outside of a little town called Omis, south of Split. It is on a little peninsula, with lots of little coves for swimming straight into the ocean. It must be one of the best campsites ever, with an acoustic folk duo playing on camp each night and the host family welcoming everyone like kindred souls. But, we probably need to leave soon so we can actually get some sleep- the extreme, noisy winds make it feel like there is a giant trying to blow his birthday candles out all over our tent…

PS Come over to Instagram and check out more of our snaps, I’m @lulasticblog


London’s Best Car Boot Sales

14 May, 2013

Whenever we leave London for a countryside adventure we make it a priority to visit car boot sales – there is nothing like scrabbling around a windy field in someone else’s rural junk. It is such a different kind of cast off, there is more tweed and wool and much less “Yes, it is VINTAGE, dahlink.”

But I love the fact that we have so many local London sales – we can spend every minute of every weekend rooting around other people’s dusty possessions if we want (we do want.)

London’s car boot scene is pretty diverse – if you are after something pretty special for a gift those “vintage, dahlink” ones are perfect. Equally though, there are a good crowd of car boots where “vintage” still simply means “really old, noone will want this, put 10p on it” – you might have to search harder but amidst the 6 months out-of-date packets of crisps and plastic toys they’ll be some hidden gems.

Battersea and Wimbledon are well known, but there are others that don’t get much of a shout-out. Always the promoter of the underdog, here are a few others; car boot sales which I reckon are the best. London’s top five!

Car boot vintage suitcases

5- Dulwich Hamlet Football Club, East Dulwich
This is only a small one but it has a great starting time (11am) and is very close to East Dulwich train station, a ten minute ride from Victoria. It is my local so I pop up there often and have found some seriously great stuff. It is worth going to even if you aren’t local because then you can nip down to Lordship Lane and rummage in the vintage boutiques and charity shops and grab a beautiful lunch in the Deli or the many independent cafes. Sundays, 50p Entry, Edgar Kail Way, SE22 8BD

4- Old Kent Road Car Boot Sale, South London
This is run by the same people as East Dulwich, but is brand new. It is a little harder to get to – about a 20 minute walk from New Cross Gate station or South Bermondsey. It gets to number 4 as I got some TOTAL BARGAINS there last time. I spent about a fiver and got a beautiful quilt, a Peppa Pig toy for Ramona, a vintage parasol and a few knick knacks. I was 40 weeks pregnant and on my bike and had to use various bits of string to tie it all on my back. I had quite a few gawkers on my way home HA!  It is a nice and early one –  one to sneak in before you head off on another Sunday adventure. Sundays, 50p entry 8.00am – THE CLUB, Hornshay Street, SE15 1HB

3- The one at your local school.
YES! YOUR local school! Once a term schools will often have a fair and these can be the absolute BEST places to nab a steal. Why traipse around London when you can nip around the corner and have a rummage? The only setback is that you kind of need to keep your eyes peeled for signage or keep in touch with the local paper to hear about it. Worth it though.

2- Capital Car Boot, Pimlico
Capital Car Boot is a car boot sale that has entered 2013, unlike nearly every single other which tends to be happily settled in the 1970’s, free from most marketing and online presence. Pimlico’s car boot is full of hipsters and gorgeous vintage stuff, but there are great deals to be had particualry compared to normal vintage boutiques. They are in second position because I have spent WAY TOO LONG poking through hedges trying to find elusive car boots that are meant to be on and aren’t and there is no info to be found about it. This one pretty much goes rain or shine and you can find them all over the web. Sundays, Pimlico Academy, Lupus St, SW1V 3AT. £1 from 1pm.

1- Hayes Street Farm, Hayes
This has all the bonuses of a rural car boot yet is only 40 minutes on a train from London Bridge – you can even use your Oyster. From the station it is a ten minute walk, whereupon you will find a MAHUSIVE field filled with country folk and city slickers and the most fabulous array of cheap, cheap knick knacks. It is my favourite London Car Boot fair by about a million and I’d say 50% of all of my booty has come from here. 50p entry from 6am, although I have been at 9 before and got some ace swag. 239 Hayes Lane, BR2 7LB. Get there on the double!!

If you are not in London check out Car Boot Junction for other sales – but remember to call to see it is going ahead.

Part of the beauty of car boot sales, of course, is their hit and miss nature. You just never know if you are going to strike gold or spend a morning in the cold and come out with NADA. Isn’t it this exact thing that makes them so tantalising?! So now, all I can do is give you my faves, but from here you are on your own. I wish you all the bargain-busting luck in the world, my friends. Go well.

What are you favourite London Car Boot sales?

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Finding things, Green things, Thrifty

Best Charity Shops London: twenty shops in three spots

23 March, 2012

If you are stuck for something to do this weekend and love bagging awesome shit check out my three top spots for the best charity shops London style. These are my favourite because they are either part of a route of charity shops or close by to some other fantastic activities. I have gone the extra mile for you, beloved reader, and have created some google maps to guide you around these routes. No one likes traipsing around with only the rumour of a vintage palace spurring you on. Trust me on these routes, they are not the ones featured in some posh newspaper by a journo who has wandered past a fancy looking charity shop with Vivienne Westwood in the window. These are the best charity shops London locals know of and love…Best Charity Shops London

Pimilico Charity Shop Circuit
Pimlico – such an easy area to get to, just a five minute walk south of the huge, central, Victoria Train Station. I know this circuit like the back of my hand- I get to do the rounds at least once a week on a lunch break. What a treat!

There are EIGHT, yes, EIGHT, shops in this tiny circuit. Fara really rule the roost here with Fara Retromania (with a fun £5 rail outside), a normal shop and a Fara Kids. The Oxfam shop is excellent for shoes, and smart clothing. The Sue Ryder is a fairly cheap one, the Trinity Hospice is great for fabric ends and wool, the Fara Kids has brilliant -if pricey- stylish kids clothes (but jawdropping sales.) I have bought lots of lovely items from the normal Fara and a few crazy bits and bobs from Retromania. I have worked in this patch for FIVE YEARS and it was only last summer that I found out about a sneaky little shop hiding one block back, where I have since found some beautiful jewelry. I felt so ripped off, imagining five years worth of bargains I had missed out on!
Here is the public Google Map of the Pimlico circuit for you.
It is easy to make a day of it by having a delicious lunch at the market by Fara Kids (check out the falafal stand) and then a wander a bit further down towards the Thames to Tate Britain, where they have a spectacular crafty kids corner. You wouldn’t know such a cultural hotspot could be five minutes from the back of the concrete jungle that is Vauxhall Bridge Road.

There are only two charity shops here but I count this as one of my favourite areas as thrifting fits so easily into a wonderful fun day and I have got some incredible, beautiful clothing here. There is an Oxfam here and a Cancer Research, both of which can be a tiny bit more expensive (average £7 trousers/ £4 top) but the quality tends to be quite high. We will often train into Blackheath, hop the shops, grab a delicious lunch at one of the delis, then wander over the Heath via the icecream van, into the wonders of Greenwhich park and down to the antique markets. This is a whole Saturday with something for every member of the family. I have highlighted the shops on the map here.

Central London
This is not a route for the faint of heart but for the stoic bargain hunter wearing hiking boots. If you want a real experience of central London tourism and all the best charity shops London offers up this is the route for you. You will find some swag! Begin at Goodge Street, there is a wonderful Oxfam where I never fail to buy something (often brand new stuff), a Sue Ryder and a Notting Hill (both of which are good for a browse but can be quite dear- average £8 trousers, £5-6 top). There is also a high end vintage shop on the other side of the road.

Head south west down to Oxford Circus stopping at the Salvation Army on Princes Street. It is worth the diversion this is quite a massive shop and they often have brand new designer items, alongside average shoddy (but cheap!) gear. They often have very glamorous shoes and boutique dresses. Whatever you do though, DON’T USE THE CHANGING ROOM WITHOUT ASKING. You will be embarrassed if they catch you (!!!)

If you still have wind in your sails, grab some lunch and keep heading west, but back North a little to Marylebone. This is a little area jampacked with charity shops. They are filled with designer goods and the prices do reflect this but if you are looking for some good quality shizzle, Marlybone has your name on it. It is also full of lovely little independent shops and is right on the edge of glorious Regent’s Park where you can catch some music in the bandstand, or collapse under a tree with your bags of bargains!

Check out the route here and PLEASE add more if I have missed any gems!

What do you reckon- have you visited these patches? Have you got a favourite charity shop London circuit you do or a place you could wile away a whole day?

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