A Last Minute, Surprise Hotel Booking
Sunday, August 15th, 2004: Poreč, Croatia
Pula to Poreč: 68 kilometres
Yesterday in Pula, Greg updated the website while I did research on various things, such as where the airport in Trieste is (it isn’t – it’s actually around the bay) and airport parking. As a result of our hotel experiences in Opatija and Pula, at Greg’s suggestion I also researched hotels farther up the coast, in Rovinj and Poreè. I discovered that the Croatian Riviera has over 100,000 hotel rooms, and that in contrast to both Opatija and Pula, a room in a 3 star hotel could be had for a last minute price of 54 Euros, including breakfast and dinner. I made the reservation, and printed the map.
We arrive shortly after 12, the smell of our hotel in Pula still lingering in my nostrils. We drive through the 1st gate, telling the guard we are checking in. He points left (there are 3 big Riviera Hotels here – 1 left, 1 right, and 1 straight ahead. This is a big complex). We arrive at a 2nd gate, and this time the guard tells us to park and walk the few metres to the check-in. It feels a bit like we are trying to visit friends in some ubiquitous American gated community.
I hand over our passports and my credit card, and get back a key, a map on which our building and the restaurant are circled, a pass for the car and a card to show in the restaurant. Off we drive, passing through the 2nd gate.
Greg reads the map, then flips it over, and asks with surprise if I knew that we were staying in a “naturist” resort. What? I ask. He says it again – we have checked into what used to be called a nudist colony. I am indeed surprised – Riviera Hotels, which operates about 10 hotels in Poreè, has a great website. I guess I clicked the specials link too quickly, because when I check back on the website after we arrive, I do indeed discover that 1 of the hotels, the hotel offering the last minute special, is indeed a “naturist” hotel. I guess they assume you will check out the specific hotels before you take them up on any last minute deals. But at $16/hour in the internet café, I wasn’t too worried about the fine print.
We decide to make the best of it, and after unpacking, we shed our clothes and head to the beach – heavy duty sunscreen already applied!
I have absolutely no idea what to expect. I try to think about what I know of naturism and come up with 2 sources. First, David Sedaris’ very funny book Naked – but I sure hope it’s exaggerated for comic effect. (It is!) Second, those 50s magazines that some neighbourhood kid was always finding in his or her parent’s room, and sharing with the rest of us – magazines that always had a somewhat clinical tone, like National Geographic talking about the African natives – to describe the rituals of the Happy European Nudists Playing Volleyball. As we walk past the (oh no – it’s true!) – volleyball court, we discover that everyone playing volleyball this afternoon is dressed as though they were competing in the Olympics Beach Volleyball Competition; speaking of which – Go Canada!
We get to the beach, which is not clothing optional. After only a minute or 2 of self-consciousness and surreptitious gawking, we relax into the sunshine. I didn’t sleep well last night (the smell at the Hotel Omir kept punching through the sleep and waking me) and in no time at all I am conked out on the beach.
When I recover consciousness and hit the water, I am surprised at how much warmer it is than the water was in Primošten – there is no need to slowly work my way in, it is warm enough to jump in without shock. And best of all, we discover as we walk around that this beach has a Blue Flag – the international symbol awarded to pristine beaches.
Sitting on our balcony after we get back from the beach we start to see people heading to dinner. Gee, what do you wear to dinner at a naturist camp? It’s a good thing we weren’t the 1st ones to head to the dining room, for dinner is not naturist – indeed, some take the dressing very seriously, and are seriously dressed up. Dinner is a nice change from the norm – a buffet with lots of different salads, 6 or 7 mains (none of them pizza or pasta) and sides, and fresh fruit and ice cream for dessert.