Spoiler. Dubrovnik was dreamy, and Kotor was captivating. We’ll never take sides.

We slept with the balcony door open, which meant we were awakened by the dawn chorus of shore birds the following morning. Idyllic (and necessary), because we had a full day trip planned to Kotor, Montenegro. Though we had not yet seen everything of interest in Dubrovnik, a quick consult of the cruise ship schedule while planning suggested that, “getting out of Dodge” would work to our benefit on this day.

We are not-so-much tour bus kind of people and so had rented a car for the day; soon after breakfast (outdoors on the hotel patio, so civilized) we collected an Opel Zafire, a completely functional vehicle but one with those crazy wipers that swish inward rather than left-to-right. Troublesome to those of us with OCD-like sensibilities (that would be me).  After the Rental Guy pointed out the cracked tail light cover with, “Some Americans did this,” we hit the road.

OH. MY. GOODNESS. The road from Dubrovnik to Kotor is paved with scenic overlooks, and we stopped and snapped at each and every one. From the clifftop views of Dubrovnik, its chalky walls and red-tiled roofs a more than perfect contrast to the sea blue; to the grey-blue peaks of the Montenegran rias (don’t call them fjords!), the 90 minute drive took almost twice the time. After nearly 25 years of married bliss, Tony knows to be ready to brake at little notice because I am hopping out of the vehicle to snap something. It is what keeps our marriage fresh.

Eventually we arrived in Kotor. Horror stories of crossing the border were not quite realized, but this was not High Season, either.  We almost caused an international incident when we abided by the STOP sign after passport control, however, when two agents ran over to us and asked what we were declaring. It turns out the STOP sign was only meant for those having something to declare. Live and learn.

What truly frightened us, however, was the monster cruise ship (or, at least it seemed that way to us) berthed practically against the old city walls upon our arrival in Kotor. Scale is everything, though, and in reality only a few hundred people descended upon the city, most of whom were organized by colored umbrellas and led in various directions. We headed in various opposite directions and, starving by this time, found a restaurant in a small square off from the main gate at which to sit for lunch. There were no completely free tables, so we inquired at a table where two pleasant-looking people were sitting, and they graciously invited us to join them. It turns out they were a British couple on holiday, and we chatted with liveliness for some time. They departed just after our second-favorite meal of the holiday arrived, guaranteed to be so by our wait staff. He did not steer us wrong; the squid and octopus (a meal theme on this holiday) we ordered were as memorable as our many similar meals on Corfu a year earlier.

Wanting to linger, but with the day ticking along and some gray clouds brooding above the cliffs, we spent the inside of two hours walking about Kotor, snapping as we went and dropping into shops of interest. With Tony’s injury, walking the 1.000+ steps to the top of Kotor was simply out of the question, though with the weather we did not feel we had shortchanged our views over Kotor Bay.

Eeeking out of our highly-coveted parking space we began our return to Dubrovnik, with a so-happy-we-stopped detour in Perast even though the skies above us threatened rain. Perast is beautiful. It just is. The island church in contrast with the sea and the mountains and the village prompted an, “It’s like Hallstatt!” Little white rowboats bobbing against the gray-blue water were mesmerizing and the Oleander were colorful sideshows; and it took all the reserve Tony had to keep me from walking into a real estate office and plunking down far too many Euros on a holiday home.

The return to Dubrovnik was uneventful; the rain spittered here and there (hence my Opel Zafire wiper issues). The queue crossing back into Croatia was a little longer than we might have otherwise appreciated, but the entertainment of fellow travelers getting out of their vehicles at the crossing for various reasons, coupled with my attempt to find something musical on the radio amused us while we waited.

Once in Dubrovnik and with the rental Zafire safely returned and with no “Some Americans did this” issues, we sat for dinner. Over pizza (not so original, but we were squid-ed out) and a bottle of amazing Croatian wine recommended by a friend we toasted another spectacular day.