The view over Hvar Town. Image by: Ivo Biocina
Yachts and parties aren't the only thing on offer.
On the third day of my week-long journey through Croatia, I picked up a local phrase: “Ste uzimanje masnoća iz mene” – or “You’re taking the fat out of me.” Although the literal translation sounds like something you’d say to your personal trainer, it’s actually a lighthearted way to say “You’re making me jealous.” And that’s exactly what I was doing, according to my friends via Snapchat, as I shared a play-by-play of my day exploring Hvar – a ruggedly picturesque island off the country’s southern coast.
The port at Hvar Town. Image by: Getty
Hvar’s draws are plentiful: secluded pebbly beaches, weather so sunny it borders on obnoxious and a wine-making legacy dating back more than 2,000 years. The most famous feature of all, however, is the pretty 13th-century port town that shares the island’s name. Thanks to the surge in the Croatian Riviera’s popularity as a summer getaway spot, Hvar Town has earned a reputation for two things: yachts and youth. The former, moored in Hvar’s rocky inlet, are unapologetically lavish (who needs a helicopter pad?), while the latter emerge at night and travel in packs toward the neon lights and thumping beats emanating from the clubs that hug the island’s shoreline. Hvar Town is party central.
The writer in Hvar.
Which is why my guide, Sinisa, took it upon himself to show me “secret” Hvar with an off-road tour of the parts of the island that are often overlooked by visitors and locals alike. So while the previous night’s revellers were still sleeping off their après-beach apricot radlers, I was in Sinisa’s road-battered Toyota 4Runner, driving down dusty paths flanked by olive trees, in pursuit of Hvar’s alternative attractions.
The village of Malo Grablje.
The first stop was Malo Grablje, an eerily idyllic ghost village located in the island’s interior. The tiny settlement was largely abandoned in the 1920s when the local grape crops failed. In the early ’50s, the last holdouts – a man and his goat – finally packed up and moved on. The crumbling stone houses are overgrown with wild capers; it seemed like the village was under a spell and that life would resume if I simply pressed a “play” button. I imagined that the communal olive press would start up again and an elderly man would appear to ask what I was doing in his yard, his goat giving me the side eye.
After a brief stop at the nearby straight-from-a-postcard village of Velo Grablje (not quite abandoned – population: seven), it was time for another perspective. I bounced in my seat as we drove up a precarious cliffside path to Sveti Nikola, Hvar’s highest peak, and its tiny chapel and even tinier weather station. From the 628-metre height, the Adriatic appeared boundless beyond the bulging tops of the neighbouring isles Brac and Vis on one side; on the other, Hvar’s craggy landscape, with its ancient vineyards and sleepy townships, opened up before me. They are views you could never see from the deck of a 60-metre yacht, and I revelled in the fact. Then, the “aha” moment: I figured out what the helicopter pad was for. It was my turn to feel jealous.
One way to get to Hvar is to fly into Zagreb and then take a boat from the southern port town of Split. Here’s how to make the most of your time.
Ban Jelacic Square. Image by: Istock
Don’t overlook the country’s capital city, located east of the Adriatic coast, which combines striking Austro-Hungarian palaces, a vibrant arts scene and plenty of foodie delights.
St. Mark's Church. Image by: Istock
MORNING Grab a cheese bureka (a flaky savoury pastry) in the city’s Lower Town neighbourhood and claim a bench in the verdant Ribnjak Park, a quiet spot hidden behind Zagreb Cathedral. Then, after a brief stop to admire the ornate art-nouveau facades of Ban Jelacic Square, climb the stairs to Upper Town, the city’s historic heart. The coloured-tile roof of St. Mark’s Church is a must-see.
The Dolac food market.
AFTERNOON Head to the Dolac open-air food market, known as the “belly of Zagreb,” for lunch. On the menu? Whatever catches your eye, like nutty sheep cheese with lavender honey. For shopping, check out the Croatian Design Superstore. The name is a bit misleading (the shop is more quaint boutique than Costco), but it’s well stocked with local designs. You’ll find leather accessories by Kon2re and zany printed sweatshirts by Ana Krolo.
The Croatian Design Superstore.
EVENING Book a table at Vinodol’s walled-off terrace in Lower Town. Peka, a traditional Croatian meat-and-veggie dish cooked under a cast-iron dome, pairs nicely with a glass of the country’s underrated red wine made from indigenous high-altitude Plavac Mali grapes.
Zagreb's Zrinjevac Park. Image by: Istock
LATE NIGHT Finish your day the same way you started it: at a park. Zrinjevac comes alive at night, with couples and families coming out for a starlit stroll under the plane trees. If you’re still hungry, try some freshly grilled corn from one of the street vendors.
Croatia’s second-largest city leads a double life. Where else do raucous bars share walls with ancient Roman residences?
Diocletian's Palace. Image by: Istock
EXPLORE Diocletian’s Palace was built in the fourth century by one of the few Roman emperors to enjoy retirement. Some 1,700 years later, the Unesco World Heritage Site served as home to Daenerys’ brood of dragons. But you don’t need to be a classics nerd or a Game of Thrones fan to appreciate the labyrinthine halls, which are packed with restaurants, shops and people.
A view of Split from Marjan Forest Park. Image by: Istock
HIKE Marjan Forest Park is just steps away from Split’s main strip. If you’re up for a bit of a walk, the pine woods are worth breaking a sweat for. They look dark and imposing from a distance, but the hilly hike offers an escape from the bustle of the town’s high-traffic port and some of the best sea views in the area.
Split's trendy Bokeria.
EAT Set in an old hardware store in Split’s historic Old Town, trendy Bokeria is the go-to for elevated Mediterranean fare – think risotto with pesto and capers and sea bass ceviche made with local ingredients.
FLIGHT PLAN Air Transat offers flight and hotel options for two- or three-stop stays in Croatia. I chose the three-stop option (Zagreb, Split and Hvar) and found that I had enough time to seek out adventures despite the multiple transfers.
WHEN TO GO July is considered high season; expect crowds of bacchanals wherever you venture. A visit in late August will find the beach towns winding down for the season.
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I found out that my husband was cheating when I read our iPad Internet history. “It’s against the rules to Google clues to The New York Times Saturday Crossword,” I grumbled, shocked that Tim – who has a vocabulary that Rory Gilmore would be jealous of – had resorted to such treachery. He was sheepish but not surprised that I had found him out – this wasn’t the first time my snooping had unearthed a secret in our relationship. And the time before, it was something far more serious than “What’s a four-letter word for new pop of 1924?” (Nehi, if you’re wondering.)
Five years ago, my all-consuming curiosity ruined the surprise marriage proposal Tim had planned for a weekend getaway in Montreal. It started innocently enough. A few weeks prior, we had been debating the age difference between then couple Derek Jeter and Minka Kelly. (Don’t ask.) I borrowed his phone to look for the answer, and when I opened the browser, a window with a search for engagement rings popped up. Most people would hand back the phone calmly while internally combusting, get their nails done and then hunker down to wait out a proposal. But I couldn’t let it go.
At the first opportunity, I searched the Web history of our computer. And I found links to rings! So many sparkly rings! From Tiffany’s! And Birks! Then I did what no person should ever do: I read his email (I know his password, which, according to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., is common – about two-thirds of couples share this info) and saw a note from my best friend that contained a hearty “Good luck, Tim!”
I knew, and because I’m a rotten liar and panicked every time he knelt down to tie his shoe or reached into his pocket for his wallet, he knew that I knew. After a day of sightseeing and too much poutine, he ended up proposing while we were sitting on the bed in our hotel room eating Tootsie Rolls. He held out his hand, mumbling with a resigned air something about how I probably knew this was coming, and I’ll always regret robbing him of the moment that should have been.
You’d think I’d learn my lesson, but I snoop more than ever now. I regularly creep Tim’s email inbox and read his text messages. I don’t even know what I’m looking for. And I’m not a sociopath – I know I shouldn’t do it, and I do feel badly about it. It’s a violation of his trust and the Criminal Code of Canada, and I would be livid if he ever did the same to me. I’m not the only one doing this, though. According to a 2013 survey by a U.K. mobile-phone company, 62 percent of men and 34 percent of women have scrolled through a partner’s phone. So why do we do it? Jennifer Pink, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology at Simon Fraser University who has studied snooping and its effect on relationships, says that one of the most common reasons is also the most obvious: trust – or a lack thereof.
A 2012 study published in College Student Journal found that 66 percent of college students felt that it was okay to snoop when they were curious or suspicious about the actions of someone they were dating. Technology has made it so much easier: If you’re worried your BF is being unfaithful, you are far less likely to get caught reading a phone than rifling through his desk for receipts and sniffing his coat for perfume as if you’d stepped onto the set of Days of Our Lives.
I wasn’t spying because I was worried that Tim was having an affair – he’s no Noah Solloway. In fact, he probably hasn’t talked to a woman outside our circle of friends since 2007. On the other hand, he’s not overly emotional or expressive – I’ve seen him cry only twice in 10 years, and once was while watching Field of Dreams – so it can be tough to know what he’s thinking. He also sometimes forgets to tell me things, big things, like when he got a bonus at work or the day that a bunch of people got fired from his company. Maybe that’s where my urge to check up on him comes in.
Pink agrees. “If you’re feeling like your partner isn’t as open as you’d like him or her to be, that can lead to uncertainty about ‘What is my partner thinking and feeling about this issue?’ or ‘What’s the future of our relationship?’ So that snooping can really be an effort to seek reassurance.”
For me, it was also a question of self-control: Once I’d started, it was hard to stop. “You’ve taught yourself ‘If I just indulge, I can soothe this curiosity,’” explains Shyamala Kiru, a marriage therapist based in Newmarket, Ont., who notes that this behaviour is common. If you read that text and don’t find the evidence you were looking for, you feel relieved. Maybe you’ll justify your teensy transgression because your worries were assuaged, and next time you’ll feel more inclined to peek. And on it continues.
As of writing this article, I’ve been snoop-free for three months. Here’s why. Two things happened the last time I checked Tim’s phone – in this case to read a text message from his cousin to see what he was up to. Tim (finally) vented his frustrations with my bad habit, which started a fight but (eventually) got us communicating about topics and issues we were regularly glossing over.
I also realized that I don’t really want to know everything he’s doing. Having some non-relationship-damaging secrets from your spouse is totally normal. I haven’t told Tim how much my Mansur Gavriel bag really cost or where I hide the good cheese in the fridge. He shouldn’t have to bare all either. “Privacy and autonomy are equally as important as intimacy and connection,” says Kiru. “The healthiest relationships that I’ve seen are the ones where the couple is able to balance that separateness with that togetherness, and privacy allows us to foster that separateness.” Even if that means letting go of the odd crossword cheat now and then.
1. Come clean and apologize. “Say ‘Listen, I have done this; I don’t want to continue because I don’t like the way it makes me feel and I don’t like what it does to our relationship,’” says Kiru.
2. Figure out why you snooped, and talk about it. “What need is snooping fulfilling for you? Is it curiosity? Uncertainty? Are you looking to feel closer?” asks Pink. “Once you know that, talk to your partner and, as a team, come up with ways you can meet that need.” For example, if you feel the urge to peep at your man’s bank balance because you’re worried he spent the rent money adding to his Stan Smith collection, find some middle ground: Tell him you don’t want to police his budgeting and suggest that he limit new shoes to one pair a month or you look at his account together every six weeks.
3. Make it impossible for you to snoop. If you feel the urge – mine gets bad after a glass of Malbec – ask him to change his passwords.
4. And if you find something you should be worried about? You’re not off the hook, says Kiru. “Share that you were feeling anxious about the relationship, which led you to make a choice that you realize was a boundary violation. Don’t minimize your partner’s feelings about your snooping just because you’ve uncovered a secret. Then express your concern.” She adds that at this point you may need to see a therapist. “There are likely some bigger issues at stake that require more focused attention.”
This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of ELLE Canada.
Céline spring 2017 RTW Image by: Imaxtree
One writer's take on the oft-misunderstood shoe that is “safe but not sensible.”
Fashion watchers say that the kitten heel is ubiquitous this spring, but is it? Since the kitten heel is neither as flat as a crepe nor as high as a flagpole, much gets dumped into its medium-sized category that isn’t kitten, or, really, even feline, at all. In fact, it’s easier to say what a kitten heel isn’t than what it is.
It is certainly not a stiletto. Neither is it square, squat, sturdy or stacked, even if it’s medium height. What makes the Dior slingback with logo strap, Prada sandal, pointy Acne Studios slingback, Loewe moccasin and Céline babushka slipper kitteny is the indentation right at the top of the heel, called the “seat.” It makes the heel look like a comma. Sometimes, it’s so bent in that it looks like a cartoon shoe that has skidded to a screeching halt. And although the heel is shaped like an hourglass, it is imperatively skinny because a fat hourglass-shaped heel is for high kicks and tap dancing. “They give your leg a pretty silhouette,” says my friend Sabine. “And if you have full calves, kitten heels make them taper away and disappear.”
Christian Dior spring 2017 RTW (Imaxtree.com)
Kittens are great in-between shoes. They are safe but not sensible, dressy but not ditzy, stylish but not slavish. Which is why they were the heel of choice for Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy (and still are for Michelle Obama).
But what do we really think about the kitten heel? It isn’t a heel that inspires heated passion. By nature a compromise shoe, the kitten emerged in the 1950s as a “training” heel for younger girls. Designed for one’s first tentative steps in what was then the high-speed foot race for husbands and high heels, kittens are cute, tasteful, elegant and demure. They are the Baby Duck that comes before champagne. They are the quinceañera of footwear.
Givenchy spring 2017 RTW (Imaxtree.com)
That said, cats have their claws and so do kittens. When the heel is spiky and the toe pointy, like last fall’s white Balenciaga bootie, it can be an interesting, aggressive shoe. Diana Rigg wore a black leather bodysuit and kitten booties as she kung-fu-chopped villains in the ’60s TV show The Avengers. Sharp kitten heels, torn fishnets, bird’s-nest pompadours and gobs of black eyeliner was how punk icons Exene Cervenka, Siouxsie Sioux and PJ Harvey rolled in the 1980s and early 1990s. These were not women of moderate taste, as the kitten heel is wont to express. This shows that it’s a shoe with plenty of wiggle room for personality and, possibly, even rebellion—a shoe exactly suited to our times.