The motto of Villa Dubrovnik is ‘romance forever’. But after a couple of months of a rainy London, we would happily take ‘romance temporarily’ such is our desire for a weekend away together. We just want to be sun-baked piggies that eat too much and do very little.
As Mr Smith optimistically tries to pay the driver from the airport in euros (der – Croatia has its own currency), I spot the mediaeval Old Town across to the right, and watch a gaggle of glossy superyachts gleam arrogantly in front of our hotel. I’m in a real-life Instagram photo, and I am fidgety with anticipation.
At the hotel’s entrance is a futuristic lift door flanked by a small wall. Thanks to the breathtaking views of the sparkling Adriatic sea below, it’s hosting a pair of pretty young tourists taking ‘selfies’ with the watery horizon as their backdrop.
Exiting the lift we’re thrust into the modern, minimalist space. Completely renovated in 2010, the hotel is resplendent in light, airy wood and stone textures, punctuated with cream lounges and latté fixtures. Relaxed and sophisticated, this is not your standard Eastern Europe seaside hotel. This is the new guard. This is fresh.
Passing a cluster of tanned guests barricaded by piles of LV luggage, we are checked in and given a tour. Our third-floor room has a full, glorious sea view, and is a medley of timber, sand and taupe. Understated and comfortable, it feels deceptively spacious. Bulgari toiletries and Egyptian linens catch my eye. Being a man midway through a bathroom renovation back home, Mr Smith scrutinises the taps, sinks, toilet and the fact that we’ll shower at no cost to the view thanks to a large glass wall. For this modest Mrs Smith there is heavy linen curtain available.
After a long, grubby day of travel, I wrench open the huge glass doors to our balcony and we devour the vista of deep green pines and grey rocks clashing with fantastically clear aqua water. Like all 56 rooms at Villa Dubrovnik, we get full ocean frontal: the hotel is built so that all rooms are treated to the money shot.
‘Swim?’ Mr Smith asks as he furiously tries to capture into his camera what our eyes are seeing. 37 degrees outside, and the Adriatic ocean at the foot of the hotel. There is no option but to dive in. Except for maybe an activity involving icy cocktails. (Which we also do; my advice is to skip the too-sugary daquiris.)
After a slightly confusing skip down to the sea (you have to walk through the fine-dining Restaurant Pjerin through a picturesque, pine-shaded stone terrace and the more casual Al Fresco Bar Giardino, down more stairs and through a tunnel), we find ourselves in a scene from a 1960s’ movie.
A huge rock shelf, modified with steps and levelled-out platforms, it still feels gloriously natural with its undulating, imperfect rocky mounds. Despite being almost 7pm, the area is still peppered with swimsuited guests who are lazing on blue-and-white-striped deckchairs only rising occasionally to dive directly off the platform into the deep, flawless bluey-green water before returning to their lovers, friends, or sunkissed, goggled children.
Moments we’re in that water, babbling to each other just how clean, and clear and perfect it is, and unlike what we’re used to. No bities or nasties or stingies. A stylish wooden Riva boat glimmers to the side, and we watch as well-dressed, perfumed guests, (they’ve been here a few days, you can tell by their unhurried, loved-up dawdle) climb aboard for the 10-minute trip to the Old Town for dinner and maybe some artisanal pepper shakers/teaspoons/salad servers. We have no energy for such things, and settle for zingy margaritas and sharing platters in the hotel’s rooftop SkyBar lounge.
We rise early enough to hit the gym and earn ourselves some lunchtime burgers. We’re not the only ones up: after a glimpse at the indoor pool we see that the sun deck is already full and the gym is also packed. Maybe we’re all eating burgers for lunch. After a day of swimming and reading and lunching by the ocean (and flirting dangerously with heatstroke) there is no other option than to head to the Villa spa.
Australia’s organic Sodashi products are the headline act in the quiet, cool, dark spa, so I immediately sense that we are in good hands. As it transpires, we are quite literally. We find hotel spa massages can be a bit so-so; we prefer the pain and torture of sports massage, but our Croat therapists are strong and experienced, and as we drift out into the corridor and back to our room, eyes glazed, hair knotted, muscles limp, we resolve that a nap is the only option.
That evening, mimicking the guests we’d seen the night before, we dress in our resortwear finery (bejewelled sandals for her, white pants for him) to take the Riva into town, forgoing hotel dining for something a little more… traditional. We tick all the tourist boxes – ice-cream, useless souvenirs, photos in the heaving town square. Then, back at our oasis, we’re delighted that a late check-out will permit another morning of sleeping in, blueberry pancakes and jumping off the rocks into the magnificent emerald sea.
Mirthfully we realise we are now the unhurried, loved-up hotel guests dawdling along, feeling fond of each other. ‘Romance forever!’ Mr Smith shouts, startling the reception staff as he does so. We laugh, and despite making fun of the motto, quietly concede its pertinence with a kiss. Then we order room service dessert. Because we’re pigs.