We embarked on our second trip with a baby, this time going further afield than Malaga, and to a country we’d not been to before: Croatia.
As a family with a 7 month old we wanted a trip that would be quietly luxurious, with just enough to do, but not too much so that we’d feel like we were missing out. 10 days away with a baby in a hotel would be adventure enough.
Sam rolled the buggy down the hill from our flat in Brighton, while I pulled two 20kg bags, one either side, to the station. With Small Batch coffee in hand, we made the train with a full 5 seconds to spare. At Gatwick our knack for timing continued, with Sam getting squished between the monorail doors as she leapt on with a buggy.
The train, monorail and plane were the easy bits of the journey. EasyJet once again looked after us with our baby, and the flight was only 2 hours. The tricky bit would be the 3 hour transfer by minibus from the airport to our hotel. Conway slept well on the plane, so was awake and unhappy for the drive, much to the chagrin of others in the vehicle with us. The drive took us from Pula, 1 hour north to a ferry terminal, then across to Cres. The road was nauseating as it weaved up, and around and down the island’s hills, though the views were fabulous.
The islands are brown and yellow beneath blue skies, their haze and heat balanced by the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean surrounding them. Roads are lined with shingle walls and shrubs, trees are mostly pine, with an occasional olive. Where towns and gardens are cultivated there are pink oleander blooms bursting out over walls and between fences. Terracotta rooftops dot the landscape.
From Cres we crossed a bridge onto Lošinj, then a second one over to Mali Lošinj, our journey timed to avoid bridge closures that allow boats to pass. We arrived to the plush coolness of Hotel Bellevue, looking a little pale and sleepy.
Hotel Bellevue is a modern white monolith that sits in a natural harbour to the North East of Mali Lošinj. It’s surrounded by pine forest and is a stone’s throw from the sea.
The building’s exterior is an architectural monster, it stands out like a chalk rock in a field of grass. Unlike the refined buildings either side – stone built and terracotta roofed which peek through the pines, Bellevue is an unnatural white and beige beacon. At night it’s the only source of light pollution.
But on the inside it’s gorgeous. Sleek sofas in a wide open bar with views out to the sea, a breakfast area with outdoor seating in a secluded courtyard or on a terrace overlooking the pool. Inside the sharp corners and cool white works to create modern chic. As we walked through the hotel on our arrival tour, Conway arced his head to the ceilings, dazzled by all the new and shiny lighting he found there.
The corridor to our room was low lit, with arches of cool LED light illuminating the way. As you pass through it feels like street lights when driving at night. Conway watched them fly by.
Our second floor room boasted a balcony and sea view, though for the most part it was obstructed by tall pine trees. Our bed was comfortable and enormous, and Conway made sure to roll around, jump and examine every bit of it with glee. He had his own cot too.
There was a safe, an overpriced minibar, a bath and shower and we had space for all our stuff, buggy and car seat included. The carpet was thick beneath our feet, and fresh linen always invited us to sleep a little more. We used the complimentary toiletries and enjoyed the indulgent smells of orange blossom and sandalwood.
Importantly the room felt soundproofed, perhaps our screaming and teething baby wouldn’t wake the other guests.
After family nap time we ventured out along the sea front. There’s little beach here, instead concrete platforms jut out into the water, with ladders into the sea for swimming. Where the shoreline bends around there’s a small shingle beach with some bars and it’s where the locals gather to bathe.
Further on there’s a couple of water polo pools demarked in the sea, and at weekends they’re filled with kids playing league matches – the whistles of the officials and the cheers from onlookers can be heard around the bay.
Tonight we stopped just beyond this to eat at Restaurant Diana. The first of very many meals we’d have out with Conway. He had his own high chair and we gave him rice cakes and crackers, and bits of salad to enjoy. It was here that he developed a fascination and taste for menus – apparently reading them intently before opting to eat them from the corner.
Diana specialise in steak, but we opted for burgers and the buns arrived with two great slabs of meat between them. Plenty of food to tide us over until breakfast.
Our relaxing holiday didn’t begin the way we’d hoped it might. After a tiring journey we needed a good night’s sleep, this didn’t happen.
With lights off and the air conditioning set to a relatively warm 23C, we settled for the night. I thought I’d slept through, when in the morning I could see light through my eyelids, but when I awoke the curtains were closed and all the lights were on. It was 1am. And it was cold, the aircon read 18C. I fixed everything and went back to sleep.
At 2am it happened again, waking both Sam and I as the lights all flickered on by themselves. We rushed to turn them off to avoid waking Conway. The aircon beeped occasionally and again it was chilling us to 18C.
This happened twice more, and happened between Conway’s night time feeds. Our night was very broken.
The room is modern. It uses a keycard to know when you’re in the room and turns on the power. When you enter the card it triggers a welcome mode that turns on the lights to greet you. It turns out that our card reader had trouble reading cards, and after a short while it’d forget there was a card in there, only to find it again – and assuming we’d walked in the room, it turned on all the lights. This is what happens when Smart Homes go wrong. In the morning the hotel replaced the reader and it didn’t happen again. But the aircon remained broken and we took to turning it off overnight.
Thankfully breakfast at Hotel Bellevue runs until 11am, we could lie-in and still enjoy our morning meal.
And what a breakfast it is. We sat out on the terrace, a light wind ruffled the sunshades, Conway sat in a Stokke high chair and the waitress served us cappuccino then filter coffee. We took turns getting food from the buffet.
With plate in hand I perused the offerings. Bacon, sausage, fried eggs, potatoes, fried vegetables, frittata, boiled eggs – hard and soft, and eggs any way you want them. Freshly baked bread of all kinds, sourdough, with olive and sun dried tomatoes. Then a row of sweet pastries – croissants, swirls and grašnjaci, and freshly made pancakes – thick or thin.
And this is just the beginning. There’s smoked salmon, trout, tuna steak and halibut; chia seed concoctions with yoghurt and fruit; fresh fruit and nuts and cereal and someone who’ll make you whatever vegetable or fruit smoothie you want; fresh meats and cheese; freshly squeezed fruit juices; a selection of loose leaf tea; salads and olives and breadsticks. And to top it off, complimentary bubbly – pink and champagne.
Then alongside this you could also order from a menu, and we’d regularly ask for eggs florentine, which was served to perfection: just the right amount of hollandaise, always oozing yolks, and tasty spinach.
This was also magical for a weaning baby. We could pick and choose all sorts of things to offer him. From breadsticks to chew on, to slices of vegetable, to cottage and cream cheese on crackers, to raspberry and yoghurt desserts, to hard boiled eggs and slices of watermelon. We’d also get a smoothie made for him, to spoon feed, we put in a couple of nuts to introduce him to them in a small dose.
He tried the lot, most went on him, or the floor, or somewhere in between, and as holidaying parents we revelled in not having to tidy everything up at the end.
Breakfast was our staple meal, and we’d hang around in comfort for a good hour. When we left our table it looked like a bomb site, Conway’s little metal spoons scattered across the floor, tainted with yoghurt or whatnot, napkins covered in food.