Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Rab Island, Croatia - Island Paradise

It was strange arriving on Rab on Saturday.  We took an auto ferry from Stinica.  Pretty much the only thing that is in Stinica is the ferry so it was easy to find.  We drove off the ferry and the instructions from the realtor said, go straight on the road.  I didn't have to worry about being confused as to which road because there was only one road leading off the ferry and onto the island.

But what did surprise me was how barren the land was surrounding us.  No trees, just brush.  Not one single house.  What did we do?  And why were all these people on the ferry going here too if there is nothing?  It turns out that this is because while the island is parallel to the mainland, this then forms a tunnel for the cold, dry wind which makes this side of the island rocky and barren.  The western side of the island is protected by the mountains and is more mild and relatively no wind.  It is when we arrived on the western side of the island that suddenly things became greener with trees, plants and other fauna. Not to mention finally seeing some houses!

Our first sight of Rab... not what we expected!

Much to my surprise, this island was founded back in the 1st century BC.  I would have expected it to be more built up like the Vineyard after more than 2000 years of colonization.  Apparently it was ruled by the Venetians up til the late 1700s before it became a part of Croatia.

To compare the island to others we've visited - I'd have to say it's smaller and more quaint than Menorca.  However, the beaches don't even come close to those we saw there last year.  It's larger than the Vineyard but in no way overpopulated or overly touristy (yes there were tourists, but it wasn't such an influx that you could barely walk down the street).  I'd say it comes closest to our time on Paxos in Greece where it wasn't overly populated with lots of natural space, not overly built up, but enough to give us choices for places to eat and things to do.  It definitely had it's rustic charm though with tight, windy roads, small grocery stores and quiet, slow pace of life.

Regardless of where we were, the word of the day was:  relax!  This was our annual, totally relaxing, recharging, do nothing, beach vacation.  Don't get me wrong, we enjoy all the vacations we take together, but we make a point of doing at least one just chill beach trip where we aren't frantic about seeing all the sights and making the most of every single moment in that city/town.  This was a take it day by day kind of deal - just the way we like it!

We focused on 3 parts of the island while we were here:  Kampor (which is where we were staying), Lopar and Rab Town.

The town of Kampor was at the northern end of the island, surrounded by a long bay on either side. This made the beaches super calm and they were incredibly shallow as well.  You could easily walk out 100 feet and barely be up to your knees.  It was a sandy beach, perfect for making sand castles. Josh and the kids spent a bit of time snorkeling (and Josh tried to teach Liam how to use the snorkel but it may still be a little early for him - he just wasn't getting it and was perfectly happy with just his face mask).  Josh got to use his new GoPro video camera with the snorkeling and the kids had a blast with him video taping them under the water!  Josh also did a dive trip and had hoped to have some video of that - alas, the camera was set to photo and not video.  But there are videos below of the kids snorkeling!  And the water, while not as turquoise as that in Menorca was still crystal clear as far as the eye could see.  The food choices were somewhat limited in our area though the best meal (I think) we had was right next door to our apartment.  And every night there was a trampoline that the kids went to jump on!  We just loved the peaceful, easygoing pace of Kampor.

The town of Kampor and our beach, Mel

Liam on beach Mel

Liam's idea of snorkeling ;)

On his Gormiti raft

View from the edge of the beach

Aidan was all about building sand castles this trip.  And why not?  It was perfect sand castle sand - we didn't even need to add water!  Of course that meant the sand was pretty compact and not as easy to shovel (nor as comfortable to lie on) but he still had fun!

Josh and the kids heading out to snorkel - see how far they are and it's barely to their knees!

Aidan is such a water baby - loves to be in the water!!!


Mud castles!

I am seriously muddy!

And I can't get up out of this mud...

Josh and Aidan playing paddle with these cool paddles I bought in NYC

Terrace of the restaurant next door to our villa - beautiful views of the water and grapes above us!

We had a number of huge thunderstorms, thankfully they were all at night with the exception of the one below.  But the ones at night were so bright and loud that they woke all of us.  It was nature TV at it's best, especially when viewing it over the open water.  

No there isn't anything wrong with this picture - this is a storm coming in - the sky was almost as dark as night and my brilliant family thought it was a good idea to snorkel.  

If only I could have captured the lightning strikes fast enough on my camera... alas my point n shoot doesn't cut it in that case.  What was amazing though is eventually everyone cleared out of the water when the storm looked imminent... and within 10 mins the whole thing had disappeared (no rain or anything) and it was bright and sunny again.

Liam snorkeling at Mel Beach by our apartment

Aidan snorkeling at Mel Beach

Another one of Aidan at Mel Beach

Rab Town
Rab Town is the capital of the island.  It's a bustling touristy town but full of historical buildings which were delightful to walk around.  Aidan and I climbed to the top of the Cathedral of St. Mary the Great, one of four bell towers in Rab Town.  The views were magnificent of the blue waters below and other parts of Rab as well as other nearby islands.

Aidan at the harbor of Rab Town

Historic Rab Town in the background

More of the port

Fresh corn on the cob from a street vendor

Tempted to go in the fountain... I can tell...

Aidan at lunch

Liam at lunch

View of another town from Rab Town

One of the 4 bell towers

These next group of pictures is of Aidan and I climbing the Cathedral of St. Mary the Great.  I'm glad we didn't bring Liam up there with us as the stairs were pretty much vertical and at the very end, it got a bit tricky getting outside!

Hey mom, I'm going to keep going up!

We are at the tip of the island!

Made it to the top!  Stunning views!

While Aidan and I were climbing the tower, Liam and Josh were out checking out more of Rab...

One of the bells in the bell tower

That's the tower we climbed

Liam took this picture of us...not too bad!

Liam is totally an animal whisperer...

Moments later they were fighting again...

And they found a playground!

With a bouncy...

And a trampoline...

And a "motorcycle"...

Storm coming in (same storm as in the Kampor pics)

Walking thru Rab Town

Lopar is where all the tourists are.  However, I can understand why.  With clear blue water and beaches that go on forever, it's a beach goer's paradise.  It was also a great place to just rent a chair and an umbrella and relax while the kids built sand castles and played in the shallow water.  We took an hour and rented one of those slide boats, at Aidan's insistence.  He refused to go down the slide, just a sudden onslaught of fear around it.  But it was still fun to paddle around the bay for an hour!  And like in Kampor, Josh and the kids enjoyed some snorkeling!

Me and my boys at Lopar / Paradise Beach

Aidan all smiles on the beach

View of Paradise beach

Fun in the water

Totally relaxing!

Building more sand castles

Josh pulling Aidan out to the AquaAdventure Park

Aidan going down the slide

The Aqua Adventure Park

Sand castles

Paddle boat slide

This could be fun...

Josh is looking forward to it...

Here we go!

Josh with his GoPro cam going into the water

Yeah...he didn't jump...


Freezing cold!

View into Lopar

Clear clear water!

Yeah he didn't jump either...

View on our way back to Kampor

Check out the sunrays...

Aidan snorkeling at Paradise Beach in Lopar

Josh going down the slide at Paradise Beach in Lopar

All in all it was a great trip to a beautiful island!  It was totally worth the journey!!


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