Bowled over by beauty

Dubrovnik: described by George Bernard Shaw as 'Paradise on Earth'
Dubrovnik: described by George Bernard Shaw as 'Paradise on Earth'
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YOU know you’re in a nice place when you lose your wallet with cards, passport and £150 in cash and you get it back – all untouched.

And that pretty much set the tone for a three-day October break in Dubrovnik, a truly lovely city blessed with an extraordinary bounty of natural gifts.

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This magnificent medieval walled city takes pride of place on Croatia’s southern Dalmatian coastline.

I had heard of the city’s beauty and seen pictures but nothing had prepared me for such a sight – huge medieval walls surrounding clusters of red-roofed buildings and framed by the sparkling, blue waters of the Adriatic.

The poet Lord Byron described it as “the pearl of the Adriatic” and George Bernard Shaw said: “Those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik”.

It has no shortage of admirers and it’s not hard to see why. It is quite simply breathtaking.

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Hairpin-bend roads lead into this 13th-century city, flanked by rocky cliffsides leading down to the sea.

We started off with a walk along the top of the old city walls for great aerial views of the streets, the harbour and the coastline. Dubrovnik’s old city is a working one and we passed houses, many shops and even a school within the walls.

There are a seemingly endless number of restaurants and bars all around the winding alleys and streets which branch off the main marble-paved thoroughfare.

Top eats included lunch at Resturant Nautika, just outside the city walls, with its stunning sea views and Pizzeria Roko, which does hearty pizzas and great Mexican food.

The busy harbour area (where the wallet was lost and recovered intact at the nearby aquarium) boasts many cafes and restaurants, perfect for a spot of people watching in the sunshine.

Another must-do is the cable car ride high above the city giving stunning views of the long, unspoilt Dalmatian coastline. You can have lunch or drinks at the top.

While you’re up there, have a look at the islands dotted off the coast. Lokrum is the biggest and closest but there’s plenty of others nearby.

Island-hopping boat trips leaving daily from the harbour area, from 15-minute round trips to day-long excursions.

There are historical monuments, buildings and churches at every turn and Dubrovnik’s long and turbulent history is never far away.

The preservation of the old city is particularly remarkable given the amount of times it has been under seige over the centuries, most recently in the early 1990s.

There’s a monument to liberty outside the tourist information office and a beautifully-tended cemetery a little further up the road, which is well worth a look for its touching tributes and war memorials.

But although there is much to acknowledge the past, Dubrovnik is definitely moving on, intent on being one of Europe’s top destination.

The locals are a friendly laid- back lot and practically everyone speaks good English.

And it’s not quite as expensive as the rest of Europe. Food, drink and tourist attractions are reasonably priced and do not provoke the sharp intake of breath often experienced in France and Italy.

Dubrovnik is well-served by flights from the north of England, bmibaby run up to three a week from East Midlands airport.

Accommodation, like anywhere, varies enormously.

We chose the 5-star Hotel Bellevue, a 10-minute walk up the coast road from the old city.

The hotel’s reception area – on the top floor – drops down five floors to a gorgeous private beach with a bar and restaurant.

They might cost a bit more but the sea-facing rooms are well worth it. The view is simply astounding.

A jacuzzi, indoor pool and steam and sauna rooms make this hotel the perfect retreat for a super-relaxing weekend.

In short Dubrovnik seems to have it all, sunshine, culture, great restaurants and bars and tons of stunning sights.

In fact, I felt slightly ashamed I had not realised how lovely it was. In my lifetime it has been a place of great conflict. To see it in all its glory now more than 20 years later was a real surprise.

Don’t miss it, it’s a special place.