Hidden gem – the city of Cres

Cres' smaller marina
Cres’ smaller marina

After fighting the heat and climbing to the highest point of Cres we free-wheeled down towards the only campsite within a day’s ride located besides a city that shared the island name. We gently rolled our bikes into the centre not knowing where to go. It was immediately obvious that Cres was far from the basic little community of locals we imagined; it was a vibrant and rather prosperous little tourist bubble with a very exclusive looking marina crammed with sleek yachts. Many of the visitors to Cres sported deck shoes or beautiful dresses and were well-groomed. Ellie and I felt quite scruffy in comparison and quickly ducked away into an alley emerging minutes later in our least untidy clothes and marginally neater hair; it’s hard to make sea-salty hair look like anything but straw but with the right shirts on we would at least pass for the semi-dignified traveller type.
Cres didn’t have an unfriendly elitist feel though so it wouldn’t have mattered how we were dressed, the people were charming and amongst the deck shoes and Armani shirts plenty of other travellers emerged out of the woodwork during our stay; we met other cycle-tourers, some on motorbikes and we even chatted to a couple that travelled in a stripped and re-purposed fire engine.

The best calamari I've ever eaten
The best calamari I’ve ever eaten, Cres knows a thing or two about fish

We hadn’t paid for accommodation since Ljubljana and were slightly disappointed to find that there was only a single camp-site near Cres and a pitch for two people and one tent would cost an exuberant €31, far beyond what we were willing to pay. It didn’t matter however as I’d spotted a nice patch of land just across from the marina on the tourist map. Karl Pilkington said that it’s better to live in a shack and have a view of a castle than live in a castle with a view of a shack, or something to that effect, and he was right. We camped in our olive grove and admired the city lights in the evening, I doubt people in the city could see our unlit olive grove and marvel at it in the same way.

pannier patches draw attention
pannier patches draw lots of attention – especially from children and grown men of all ages

The only thing that marred the experience was some savage, ragged looking goats that would bleat loudly and dart around on the shale. They clattered ungracefully along in the night without a hint of direction or purpose, occasionally waking us form an otherwise good nights sleep. To our delight our beach side olive grove also had not one but two showers! I quietly congratulated myself at the sight of the showers and thought of how the €31 we had saved could be better spent, the answer was almost definitely food.

We ate out on one of the many stylist little restaurants hidden in the back-streets of the town and enjoyed calamari stuffed with muscles, prawns, parma ham and some other tasty things that I wasn’t able to identify. It was one of the best meals I can remember.

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