Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Laid-Back on the Adriatic Part 1

We left Barcelona in late April and flew east to Croatia for two reasons: first, we visited this beautiful country two years ago, had a great time and definitely wanted to go back and explore it further. And, it was time to leave the Schengen Zone for a while. Leave the what?

The mysterious Schengen Zone.
For those new to the blog, or not familiar with the Schengen Zone here is a quick primer. Back in 1995, 26 European Countries agreed to allow free travel within their borders for all of their citizens. They also agreed to a common set of rules for visitors from outside the zone.

Which means that Americans, and other non EU citizens including those who don't need official visas for short-term stays, are only allowed to stay in the 26 member countries 90 days within any 180 period.

So, for most tourists who spend a week or two in Europe, there are no restrictions. But for those of us who want to spend more than 90 days, it presents a challenge. For the first two years of our travels, with Mary's help, we obtained Long Term Visas from France which allowed us to travel anywhere in the Schengen Zone for a year.

Our original Long Term French Visas.
After two years of having these French visas, we thought we had the system figured out and decided to apply in Paris rather than waiting till we got back to the States and applying in San Francisco at the French Consulate. If our plan had worked, we would have been eligible for a 5 year visa but our plan came off the rails when we did not have some unexpected paperwork in hand last November at the Immigration Office in Paris - like French translations of our marriage certificate and birth certificates, in French, for our entire family. Not something we had at the ready.

A quick check on the storage unit in December. What IS all this stuff?
We returned to Seattle in early December for Christmas unsure of what we wanted to do for 2016 but in the end, we decided to skip the whole visa process experiment with "stepping" in and out of the Schengen Zone as needed. For the first two months of the year, it wasn't an issue since we were in Mexico and Cuba (which also required a special visa) but by mid-March we were back in Europe so the clock started ticking on March 17 when we landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.

Whew! With all that said, after spending 38 days of our 180 days in France, Spain and Andorra it was time to leave the Schengen Zone which we did on April 23 when we flew from Barcelona to Split, Croatia. Our plan was/is to stay out of the Schengen Zone until early July by spending time in Croatia, Ireland and the UK.

Our wonderful Airbnb in Split, Croatia. Ours was the bottom floor.
Like our visit to Croatia two years ago, we started in Split but this time we stayed for two weeks instead of just three days and we were glad we did. Weeks earlier, we found a wonderful Airbnb right across the street from the beach and just a short 20 minute walk into town along the water. Unfortunately, it had no reviews but we really liked it so we contacted the host with a few questions. We heard back right away and it was obvious that Jelena (pronounced Yellena) is a born host with hospitality in her DNA. After a couple of emails back and forth, we decided to book it - and be her second Airbnb guests. Here is the link: https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/11289569

Combination rusty bus stop sign and Seahawk's 12th Man flag across the street.
Debbie along the path into the old town.
As it turns out, it was a great decision. Jelena and her husband Darko were two of the best hosts we've ever had and that is saying a lot - theirs was our 102nd Airbnb.  The day after we arrived, I found a football match to attend, which I wrote about earlier. Over the course of our stay we walked and walked many, many scenic miles back and forth from our Airbnb to the old town where ancient history is so thick on the ground that chunks of the Diocletian palace built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD have been turned into planters and benches.

Huge stones from the fourth century are scattered all around the old city.
The walk back home. It was cloudy and rainy on many days, but we got some great sun, too. 
The view towards at the Riva (waterfront walk) and the city of Split from our neighborhood park.
We also wrote and re-wrote our book proposal for Airbnb and, with a wish and a prayer, sent it off to our contact there for approval. Which you know we received - and that's why I am blogging because Debbie is just over halfway through writing the book - 5 down with 5 chapters to go! 

Although we rarely complain about our health, Debbie recently turned 60 and I'll be 71 in August, so we both have a few aches and pains that come along with the senior side of being Senior Nomads. Hauling heavy bags doesn't help either. So, we really appreciated it when Jelena found a local orthopedic doctor who was willing to look at my "frozen shoulder" which seems to be getting more frozen and more painful all the time. He diagnosed a torn tendon, so there is some work to be done there. Not sure what the plan will be. She also got us an appointment at her dentist office to have our teeth cleaned by a skillful German-trained hygienist who was delightful, thorough, and best of all, very affordable.

This twenty foot giant has had frozen shoulder a lot longer than I have!
We are becoming international dental patients. Look at all those pearly whites!
The weather was mixed over the course of two weeks but we still had plenty of sunshine during the day and beautiful sunsets in the evening. I got in some early morning masses at St. Francis. Debbie made regular trips to the outdoor food market so we ate lots of yummy home-cooked meals with fresh ingredients.

The fresh market in Split is huge - Debbie was in heaven.
Fortunately, she decided these tasty morsels could go their own way.
After successfully getting coverage for our travels in the local Aix en Provence and Girona papers, we  encouraged Jelena to reach out to her local newspaper, Slobodna Dalmacija, to see if they would like to meet her "crazy" guests from America. Turns out they did and they sent a reporter out to meet us a few days later along with a photographer. Here is a link to the story for all those who speak Croatian. From what we understand it's humorous, and in fact does paint us as a little crazy. In this country where families live with, or next door to each other how could we possibly pick up and leave our "babies"?

With the reporter from the local paper in our Airbnb.
Photo opp in the rose garden!
Here is a screenshot of the online story. It also ran as a full page in the paper.
Two weeks rushed by and before you knew it we were standing in line to buy tickets for the one-hour catamaran trip to the laid-back and very beautiful island of Hvar. The "H" is mostly silent so we reminded ourselves to say "Var" when referring to our next stop. Debbie still likes to gently pronounce the H so it sounds more like pirate-speak - like in "hVAR there, matey! So, join us for the next post when we return to Hvar for our 3rd week in Croatia.

Thanks for following along,

Michael Campbell
The other half of the Senior Nomads

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