It is not often I’m up and about to photograph a sunrise, but I happened to catch this one rising over the island of Hvar, a beautiful playground for the rich and famous. On any given day, twenty luxury private yachts belonging to famous (and wealthy!) people can be seen in the harbor during the high season. Those are just the largest yachts. There are plenty of other high-end sailboats zigzagging about as well.
The movie, “Mama Mia 2” was filmed on this island also known for its fruit orchards, ancient olive trees, and fields of lavender. Our local guide explained how lavender is processed for its oil, something she is intimately familiar with, because she has a business doing just that. Her potpourri sachets are packaged with small vials of lavender oil into pretty little ribbon-tied packages and sold at the farmers market and gift shops throughout the island.
Our guide explained that it takes thirty kilograms (66 pounds) of lavender flowers to make one ounce of pure lavender oil, and the flowers are all harvested by hand. During its best production years, ten percent of the world’s lavender came from Hvar; however, that is not the case today. Production levels are down, because the younger people of Hvar prefer working in tourism rather than lavender production or in the fruit orchards.
Our walking tour was interesting as we learned about the town’s history and saw ancient architecture, in addition to passing by contemporary artisanal bakeries, restaurants, and galleries. We also visited the 17th century Monastery of the Benedictine Nuns of St. John the Baptist & St. Anthony the Abbot of Hvar—a long name! It is rarely opened to the public; however, our group was able to get a private tour and see the amazing display of antique lace made by the nuns over a period of 120 years. The thread used for the lace is made from stripped down agave plant, and a 6-inch lace takes 3-4 months to make. Unfortunately, there are now only seven nuns at the monastery making the lace.
Following our walking tour, we saw more of the island by bus, taking in gorgeous views of the Adriatic Sea along the way. Our next stop was Stari Grad Plain, a UNESCO World Heritage Site town that was established in 384 BC. A picturesque place, the stone walkways are narrow and winding, and surround the quaint harbor. We took a walking tour of the town, and then had time to explore on our own. It was lovely!
After returning to the main harbor of Hvar, we were brought back to La Perla by our tender for an afternoon of swimming and enjoying the good life on board.
I couldn’t wait to dive in! Our days were filled with a lot of walking; however, my body and mind were craving a good swim workout. The current was strong enough that I was able to do “laps” by just swimming back and forth along the length of La Perla. Forty hard strokes up against the current, and twenty-nine easy strokes back. It was fun, especially swimming butterfly! At the same time, it felt strange being so buoyant in the very salty water of the Adriatic. It felt like somebody was pulling me up by the back of my suit when I swam breaststroke!
Back on board, we enjoyed a wonderful happy hour (drinks are included with the cruise) and soaked in the last of the beautiful views before sunset. Ante carved up prosciutto and I enjoyed a delicious local lemon-flavored beer in a quirky can with the label printed upside down. I guess the idea of it is that others can read the label when it’s bottoms up!
What a fabulous way to end the day!