As a solo female traveller of a certain age, you don’t want to feel invisible on holiday but on the other hand, there’s some kind of attention that you’d really rather avoid.
Some years ago I took a last minute solo trip to Croatia, Hvar to be precise, and booked myself into a very nice hotel, Hotel Podstine, for a week of sun, sea and fabulous food. It was here that I met Charlie, a sprightly octogenarian with very few teeth, a full repertoire of Frank Sinatra songs and a penchant for taking his clothes off.
It was my first trip to Croatia and I quickly realised that if I was going to get a more genuine experience then I really needed to explore some of the other islands and a boat was the only way to go. I enquired at the hotel reception and as I was a party of one they recommended that I hire Charlie and his small boat for a private day tour. Perfect! I suppose at this point an alarm should have sounded as it wasn’t particularly expensive but I just thought that it was the going rate and the next morning I had an early breakfast and sat excitedly on the end of the stone jetty waiting for Charlie to collect me.
Lesson #1 – with boats, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for!
There were so many beautiful yachts moored just off the jetty and as I was dreaming about which one would be mine for the day my thoughts were interrupted by the put-put sounds of a small boat chugging around the headland. That was when lesson #1 hit me – with boats, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for! Yes, this was my dream ride for the day and Charlie was my captain!
It didn’t take him long to establish that I was travelling solo – there was no other half waiting for me back at the hotel – and as we set off to our first destination he beamed from ear to ear, and began to sing at the top of his voice. My heart sank. I was mortified. I didn’t know where to look or what to say. I had a feeling it was going to be a long day. So I was not at all surprised to learn that our first stop was the nudist island! After we moored up and headed to the beach Charlie sat rather expectedly under a tree waiting to see if I would join the other nude bathers and strip off and go for a swim. I disappointed him on that front. After a rather awkward 30 minutes or so of not knowing quite where to look, we got back on the boat and set off again.
The day continued in a similar fashion. Charlie singing songs from shows; me trying to ignore him and concentrate on just how beautiful the scenery was. We hopped from island to island, each one more stunning than the last. Around lunchtime, we docked at the foot of a long set of stone steps, which we followed up to a beautiful restaurant terrace with a table all set up for two. I did manage to relax and enjoy the view and the food – I wasn’t going to let anything spoil that – but it wasn’t long before Charlie found a piano in the bar area and started serenading me (and in fact the whole restaurant) with more songs from his repertoire.
Lunch over we made our way back to the boat and set off towards Hvar and the hotel jetty. But Charlie had one more trick up his sleeve. He pulled the boat into a secluded bay, dropped anchor and invited me into the water for a swim. We had long since run out of any sort of conversation so I’d spent most of the afternoon sat on the front bow of the boat taking in the scenery and avoiding eye contact. A final swim wouldn’t actually be that bad, it was very hot and the sea was calm and inviting. Before I had a chance to say yes, I felt the boat rock from side to side and as I turned to see what was going on there was Charlie, stark naked, standing on the back of the boat about to dive into the sea. With a wink and a grin he launched himself into the water – I was horrified, to say the least, and decided not to follow suit. I resumed my position at the front of the boat, eyes forward, determined not to let him see how embarrassed I was and waited for him to get back on board and get some bloody clothes on!
We made it back to the hotel jetty just as the sun was setting and it was the most spectacular sight. I had certainly fulfilled my desire to see more of the Croatian islands and Charlie apart they hadn’t disappointed. That evening in my room I felt so stupid and angry with myself for not having checked out the boat options properly and for being swayed by a ‘cheap deal’ that proved to be just that. I had never felt unsafe or threatened during the day – the hotel had made the booking for me, they knew where I was and they obviously knew Charlie – but it had been uncomfortable in parts and I was also angry that I’d been made to feel that way. If I’d been in a couple or a guy on my own I’m pretty sure it would have been very different although I’m not actually sure that Charlie would have kept his clothes on!
However, I decided that it was not going to spoil my trip and in fact, I ended up having a really wonderful week. I can highly recommend Hvar for the solo female traveller.
The scenery is fabulous and the old town centre and port are beautiful and brimming with fantastic places to eat and drink. The short walk from my hotel into town took me along a cliff path which was dotted with busy bars perched precariously on the edge – a perfect place for sundowners. The food was delicious, especially the local fish stew which was a delicacy normally served for 2 as a minimum but which I managed to polish off on my own! It’s definitely a sun and sea sort of place and that suited me just fine – I’m not sure there’s a whole lot to do it you don’t like that – and I’d certainly recommend trying to get onto the water at some point – you just might want to check out all your options before you book!
I laugh now about Charlie and his antics – as I said, I never felt at all unsafe with him and I also learned a valuable lesson – always check out the options before booking and remember that if a deal seems too good to be true then it probably is! I often wonder whether Charlie’s still running his boat trips around the islands. If you find yourself solo in Hvar and see a small boat coming at you, skippered by a toothless, suntanned old man singing Come Fly With Me, well, you probably should give it a very wide berth!
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