Healthy Recipes Free of Gluten, Dairy, and Soy for Serious Eaters

2024 June: From Sea to Snow to Storms!

2024 June: From Sea to Snow to Storms!

 

This last month has been one of our most adventurous trips. Our aim was Croatia. Getting there and returning, we traveled through five countries from Germany: Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, and back to Germany. I’ve learned a lot about traveling for a month in a car and what to do and what not to do. The “do’s” outweigh the ” don’ts” on this month-long adventure.

I thought I’d share some of my lessons since most of you have kept up with our travels on FaceBook, and these tips might be helpful wherever you plan to travel. The first “do” is to check out bike and boat island hopping. I discovered this great trip and booked it right away.

Do take a car if you have time. We wanted to take our car to explore several areas on the way and while in Croatia. We took our collapsable bikes but soon discovered there were plenty to rent. May and September are the best times to travel to Croatia. The kids are in school, and the crowds are fewer. But expect some rain in April and May and warmer water in September. Our first stop was in Italy. The City of Sirmione on the Gada See was great. However, we arrived in a downpour!

No worries. The sun arrived the next day, and all went well. There were low crowds, and it was perfect for sightseeing. The day we left, it was an Italian holiday, and the traffic to the city was backed up for 10K. So “do” check for holidays!

The seven-hour drive from Gada See was gorgeous. And the first sight of Adriatic water takes your breath away! Of course, I had to get out of the car and feel it…burrr! Shocker! “Do” expect the water to be chilly.

“Do make plans ahead.” I spent three months searching for accommodations with kitchens to avoid gluten and to save money by not dining out since the price level for a meal is the same as in Germany, between 20-35 euros per person! We discovered the best apartments around, I believe. Our first stop was Poreč. We reserved this apartment on Booking.com. Sorry for the terrible picture, but we copied it from the site.

It was in the best location, and our bikes came in handy. There were lots of trails along the shore with beautiful views.

In addition, there was a daily open market right next door!

And fresh fish!

Our view from our balcony was over a little park, and in the evening, you didn’t have the traffic or downtown noise!

Poreč is filled with history and many Roman ruins. The city is small enough to see everything and not feel rushed.

Downtown is evidence of the Roman occupation adorning restaurants and unique housing.

Poreč is a great location for exploring. We visited a few castles,

We checked out wineries,

Maybe more than we should.

“Do make plans to expand your visit.” Buses are available to many local towns, and tours are offered at the city information offices. We also explored some of the small villages inland. Grožnjan was a historic, quaint town nestled in the hills behind Poreć.

 

The streets in this village twist and turn, and there is something of interest at every corner! It’s home to many artists.

Rovinj was another town worth visiting. It is south of Poreč, about thirty minutes.

It sits along the sea and has the most welcoming port. The houses are quite interesting, and of course, there is a church at the top of the hill.

The town has little nooks and crannies to peek into and many art displays!

 

A “must do” is a stop at this tavern while in town.

It’s a great place for “people watching” and a spectacular port view.

Of course, we needed to ride to the top of the hill to see the church!

I read an article about Croatian food, and one of the specialties was roasted pork and lamb.

“Do make sure” (if you desire such a meal) that you stop at a location where it is the first day of roasting. Otherwise, (as you can see) they slice all the meat the first day, and you end up with day-old re-heated meat. My mom and dad lived in Mexico for 15 years and roasted whole pork often, so nothing compared to that first day of roasting. But it was an interesting meal and worth experiencing.

Several caves date back ten-thousands of years, so “Do make plans” to explore at least one. This tour took us to Baredine Jama-Grotta, a half-hour drive inland from Poreč.

I’m not sure how far down we were, but halfway down, I turned and took this picture; you can see the steps leading out! We had an English-speaking tour guide, which was very informative. The kids would love this.

Our stay in Poreč was so rewarding and full of discoveries. To reward ourselves, we packed up and had the best dinner out. Just below our super apartment was an Asian Street Food restaurant, and off we went. Delicious! But first and most importantly, I ensured I had some hot sauce and chilis. They were very accommodating.

For starters, we had steamed dumplings with pork belly!

Then, we moved on to our main dish: Fresh caught Tuna Bowl!

Lutz had the Asian barbecued chicken bowl.

We had to try their sticky pudding for sure. So far, this was the best meal out!

After a week of exploring, it was time to leave Poreč and head to our next adventure: National Park Plitvicka! Yes, those are tourist groups walking the designated path! We thought we avoided all this, but when we spoke to the employees, they all were so happy because this was the low season.

The only time we thought we blew this portion of the tour was when we got to the end of our hiking; there was a line to Kingdom Come, waiting for the tour boat to take us back to the main entrance area!

“Do expect crowds and waiting periods for the boat.” The buses that transport folks drive along the walking path every twenty minutes and are always available. After taking a nap and waiting until the crowd thinned, we boarded the boat.

This park was so gorgeous. Truly, I’ve never seen such clear, pure water. One of the guides told us hikers use it for drinking water!

The falls were amazing!

“Do think about staying here for two days.” There are several trails and ways to see the falls—boat, bus dropoffs, and walking. We covered 5-8k a day by walking. With one boat ride after our 8k walk. The trails were empty, and the viewpoints were amazing.

Regarding lodging, I decided to stay at the main hotel, Jezero Hotel, by entrance two. Several reasons for picking this spot were: 1) free park entrance tickets for all the days you were there, 2) close to entrance #2 and a van shuttle if needed, 3) free hour rowboat rental, 4) free breakfast, 5) I had no idea what else to look for since it was a new area for us, 6) no parking fees. The first day, the view scared me. I thought, what have I done? But they thinned out the next day with only three buses!

We had dinner out for the two nights we were there, and we recommended this cool spot about 5 km from the hotel: Restoran Antemurale.

It was delicious! My first meal was the pork and croquettes.

While Lutz enjoyed the lamb dish.

They were so happy to see us again on the second night, and we received a nice welcome appetizer. Yummy goat cheese!

I choose their local farm soup for dinner.

Lutz enjoyed freshly caught fish! “Do check out this cute place.” Whether you are looking for lodging, meals, or both,

After three days, it was off to Jeneice, just south of Split, about 40 minutes. I decided that staying directly in Split was more expensive, and locating a place with a balcony, kitchen, washer, and sea view was difficult. My search was pretty specific, so I explored options on both Airbnb and booking.com. Further from Split, I discovered paradise on the sea. This cute one-bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living room equipped with a washer/dryer unit was a bingo!

Yes, our own little beach! It’s a fantastic bargain, too. The night views were just as lovely.

We stayed for six days in this lovely treasure and happened to venture out for one day to tour Split, which we did with the help of a Tuk-Tuk!

It was worth the trip. If you are unfamiliar with Croatia’s history, then “Do take a tour.” It is very helpful in familiarizing yourself with the city’s layout and history. Instead of hiking to the top of the hill for a spectacular view, we were escorted!

The tour included a guided walking tour of the city.

Learning about Croatia’s transition to independence was very informative and quite interesting. As you can see, the crowds were very low.

Especially fun to watch were the costumed information people.

I was sad to leave our little paradise on the beach. I was just getting used to the cold water, about 16-18C or 45-50F.

We celebrated our last night by walking down to the end of the little harbor to a small restaurant where we had the chance to meet the “catcher of our food.” Fresh squid on the grill for Lutz!

I stuck with the grilled pork!

But it was time to board our ship for a week-long biking boat tour of the islands from Trogir to Dubrovnik and back.

This trip was amazing. We folded our bikes in our car and rented e-bikes from the ship. This was a very good idea since each island was a 20-38 km tour over the island to the other side and back.

The boat tour we took was on the MY Relax. It had twenty cabins and could take up to forty guests. Twenty-eight passengers were on our ship, which is not unusual during May and September since it is off-season.

“Do make plans to take an Island tour.” Whether you go on a week bike and boat or just a boat trip, this is one way of seeing Croatia’s popular islands and some of their hidden villages. Electric bikes aren’t necessary for the young at heart. We had several folks who used regular bikes. The road traffic was minimal, and the drivers were very courteous to bikers. This view is from our bike ride over the island of Mijet.

The advantage of a biking and boat tour is that you can stay in shape and view a different location on the island instead of staying in the port. The views were classic!

Resting spots were also amazing in the middle of a bike ride!

Lutz even ventured into the water to cool off after a tough ride in the heat!

I especially enjoyed exploring the harbors and seeing the small villages. I loved this spot on the Sipan on the island of Otok Sipan! There were just locals in the restaurants, and we were treated royally. Sylvia and I had to assist the captain when landing.

The other spot I loved was on the island of Havr, Stari Grad. It is small enough to see the city in a day and has many wonderful places for fresh fish.

The streets were tidy, and little alleyways filled with greenery and warm sun.

Midway through our bike and boat tour, I decided to take a day off biking and tour Korcula’s main town. This port is said to have imprisoned Marko Polo during one of many uprisings. I still haven’t found proof in history, but it adds charm to the island, and the tourists eat it up!

The small museum is worth the time if you are not bothered by reading. I had to read all the English (two and a half hours for me), but it was so helpful in understanding Croatia’s twisted ownership and what they went through to keep their homeland. This view from the museum was once a wealthy palace, but now it houses exhibits from every era collected by some pope. It’s quite interesting for 5 euros.

I loved the grand entrance to the town.

It is laid out quite interestingly with evenly spaced curved alleyways designed to avoid the Bora and Jugo winds that occur every season. Each alleyway houses handmade goods such as jewelry made of local pearls and cool cafes and restaurants. You can see how the alley curves.

Outside the village walls along the water are more cafes and beautiful sites, such as the tower with a bar at the top.

Our tour was a little off due to weather conditions, like wind and rain, but the captain made up for it by stopping on the way home to recapture promised island tours.

He was remarkable, and the tour was super. Meals included breakfast with a lunch or dinner, depending on the planned bike ride. The meals were plenty, and halfway through the trip, I had to slap myself back to order. Skipping breakfast to ensure I continued fasting for 16-18 hours was necessary. But trust me, I did not lack for anything. One of the most delicious meals served was risotto and black squid. AMAZING!

Upon arriving in Dubrovnik, we entered under a huge bridge. Later, we took a tram ride tour over the bridge. Our boat is down there on the left somewhere.

The small bus tour took us to the top of Dubrovnik for an aerial view. The tram to the top was not working, so this was the next best thing.

The city is large, but the old town is walkable. This shot gives you a closer view of the whole city.

The best part about going to Dubrovnik was meeting up with one of my past kindergarten students, Annika, and her wonderful mother, Deedee Nelson, whom I hadn’t seen face to face for 15 years!

After touring the rest of the day, we found a spot for dinner, and Lutz had to try the local cuisine of Ćevapčići. Seasoned meats are shaped like sausage! I stuck with the risotto and black squid.

The city of Dubrovnik is gorgeous and filled with wonder. Spectacular views and interesting history.

We ended our bike and boat tour back in Trogir and had a guided English tour of the city. Our wonderful tour guide from Bosnia shared many amazing facts about her escape during the war. She filled us with little-known facts, like this shot below, that made history come alive. The gates were closed at a certain time each evening, and if you didn’t make it inside the city wall on time, you were locked out. The little building next to the gate was made eventually for those who had to sleep on the street due to missing their curfew!

To celebrate our last day on the boat, we found a quirky and friendly local eating establishment. The owner and his server were a hoot. They kept cheering us on with local schnaps (quite diluted)! “Do make sure you seek this place out, Konoba Štorija.” The food was delicious and reasonable, and the owner and staff were very friendly. Most of the folks there were locals.

Then, it was time for the meal. We topped it off with fried sardines and…

Grilled shrimp.

They finally sent us on our way by delivering us a birthday dessert with a loud song—and another schnaps! Neither of us had a birthday.

That evening, we said goodbye to MY Relax and the friends we had made along the way.

The next day, we were off to Senj, about three hours north of Trogir. The shoreline changed dramatically from rock-covered islands with greenery to barren islands and a deep blue sea.

We stayed in a beautiful apartment  50 meters from a small market and…

Only 100 meters from town.

It was empty but filled with locals chatting around a cup of coffee!

We took another route home through Slovenia and on to Grossglockner Pass in Austria. What a ride from sea to snow!

Freezing at the top, but what a view. The road was very twisty.

We ended up in a wonderful Hotel, Haidvogl Mavida, for the night in Zell Am See. It was just what we needed after a seven-hour drive. The indoor and outdoor pools were both heated! YEAH, water, finally. The water in Croatia was so cold I could not enjoy it. This spa had wet and dry saunas, an inferred sauna, a meditation room, a yoga room, a blue room, and massages; I am so glad Lutz found this cool spa.

We made it home safely the next day and found all was well, thanks to Doris, Lutz’s sister. She always takes care of our mail and checks our balcony for mishaps due to rain or wind. Our plants are healthy, and the pool is clear!

We had one day of sun, and then storms returned! We took advantage of the sunny day and headed to our boat, Virus, to get some work done before we started our France canal tour in mid-June. After two days of cleaning, we still need to return and pack her up. Our greatest joy was when Lutz turned the engine, and she started right up. Faithful Virus!

So, in a nutshell, DO’s:

  • Do- your homework about the best months to travel.
  • Do- look for accommodations that meet your nutritional, physical, and financial needs. Eating out every night can get costly. We preferred a kitchen. We also needed a washer since we were there for a month. If you can swim in cold water, then use the sea. If not, find one with a pool. It does get hot in May through September.
  • Do check out more than one app for hotel/apartment accommodations (I found the same apartment on 2 different sites, and one was much less expensive).
  • Do- expect weather changes, so pack accordingly. Layers are the best in April/May! Light weight so you can rinse them out at night and dry in the sun. I packed too much!
  • Do- explore your area by bus or planned tour at local information centers in town,
  • Do- check out local foods and give them a try! The wines differ greatly from those in Germany; finding a good red is difficult. So, a winery visit might just set you up for discovering one that suits you.
  • Do- take a boat tour, whether with bikes or not. It gives you such a broad view of Croatia and the people.
  • If this is your first time in Croatia, Do- stay on the mainland or take a boat trip. Staying on an island limits your exploration. Not all ferries run when the Bora winds are strong.

My Don’ts are rather small!

  • Don’t miss a trip to Croatia!
  • Don’t buy wine from a farmer on the side of the road. The plastic bottle is the first clue that we ignored. The garlic and olives were great!

Thanks again for following along this month and catching up on our travels and adventures. Until we meet again next month, here is one of my new recipes and a site that will intrigue you if you like Indian food as much as I do!

Fave Recipe: Creamy Italian Lasagna or Spicy Fusilli Sauce

I love Italian food and have experimented with sauces. This recipe was inspired by our boating companion, Dagmar. I made gluten-free lasagna with this sauce, and it was delicious. The spicy fusilli sauce is a quick night meal. Check out the secret ingredients in this sauce!

Fave Resource: My Heart Beets

I love Indian food and am so inspired by this lady’s site. My Heart Beets is filled with many Indian dishes using pressure and slow cooker recipes. She also helps you learn about the different spices and cultural goodies that span India. Her books are filled with wonderful, easy ideas for tasty Indian cuisine. The greatest thing about Ashley’s site is all her recipes are gluten-free!



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