Monday, 29 August 2016

Barbu, the Southbank, Central London

A intense and intimate circus performance featuring a hefty cast of hirsute performers, Barbu is performed in the South Bank's atmospheric and vintage wooden Spiegeltent. Accompanied by a live three-piece band, which plays continually throughout the 80-minute performance, Barbu (bearded in French) features a heady mix of acrobatics, juggling, clowning, nudity, magic and feats of strength. Much of the comedy revolves around the bushy beards and the stiff upper lips of the four male acrobats, while the more elderly clown, who has a discrete grey goaty, relies on pair of high heels and a stone-faced puppet to raise a few laughs. One of the most impressive scenes sees a performer in what looks like a giant inflatable nappy twirling around inside a hoop at high speed, while another involves one of his colleagues lifting three men at once using his shoulders, his legs and his arms. In one cameo, a beefy man slings a metal beer cask around with surprising ease and then pierces it open to spray foam everywhere. A female acrobat also gets the blood racing by spinning manically inside a ring suspended from the ceiling while hanging on, one limb at a time. There is also a daredevil episode in which various members of the cast use a springboard to leap on to the shoulders of their colleagues. At times they look genuinely nervous, adding to the sense of risk.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Lokanda Peskarija, Ribarnica, Dubrovnik

A large and bustling fish restaurant overlooking Dubrovnik's old port, Lokanda Peskarija is staffed by a small army of waiters in distinctive sailor-style blue and white hooped t-shirts. The menu is dominated by seafood, even eschewing standard side dishes, such as chips or potatoes. You can get salads and olives, but no meat. The seafood dishes, such as cuttlefish risotto and seafood risotto (both 99 kuna), is served in generous portions in black metal cooking pots. The small squid (99 kuna) has a pretty subtle flavour and isn't that exciting.  In general, the food is fresh and competently cooked, but isn't spectacular, while the service can be a little frazzled and haphazard. Still, the buzz and the view compensate. 7/10

Lovrjenac Fortress, Dubrovnik

Included in a ticket for walking the city walls is a visit to Dubrovnik's 11th century fortress, built on a rocky outcrop more than 100 feet above sea level. The higher ramparts offer fine views of the terracotta roofs of the old city and the surrounding coastline. Inside, the fortress is pretty much an empty stone shell, but it does host some plays and concerts.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Golden Hour on The Stradun, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Early evening sunlight illuminates the Stradun - Dubrovnik's picture-perfect main drag. Rules forbidding conventional shop facades mean this pedestrianised street can feel like a giant film-set. The highly polished flagstones, worn down by generations of travellers, and the period lanterns outside each building add to the Stradun's captivating charm. 

Banje Beach, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Crowded, stony and commercial, Banje Beach isn't Dubrovnik's best feature

Pizzeria Domenica, Ul. za Rokom, Dubrovnik

One of a cluster of pizza restaurants on this street running parallel to Dubrovnik's main drag, Pizzeria Domenica serves tasty toppings on light dough. The Greek salad, with a generous helping of feta, is also fresh and appealing. Although the food is a tad expensive by Croatia's standards, in this tourist-packed city, the prices are reasonable enough and the service is warm and welcoming. A pint of local beer is slightly cheaper here than in most of Dubrovnik's bars and restaurants, while the house white wine is quite good. The outside tables also offer good people watching. Not a bad pit-stop. 7/10

City Walls, Dubrovnik, Croatia

It takes about an hour to walk around Dubrovnik's formidable medieval limestone walls, but the views of the sea and the city are so diverting you might want to take two hours to travel the 2km circuit. Try to go first thing in the morning or after 5pm in the evening, when the cruise ship passengers are back on board their vessels. As you work your way round, you'll scale numerous stone steps, visit watchtowers and peer down over the battlements at the jumble of terracotta roofs, elegant bell towers and opulent domes that form the Dubrovnik skyline. There are also a couple of bars where you can linger over an expensive beverage.  Highlights include the view down over the Stradun, the main drag, from above the Gate of Pile  - the primary entrance to this captivating city - and the extensive vistas of the coastline. Admission is free if you have bought a Dubrovnik Card, otherwise an adult ticket is 120 kuna (with a visit to Fort Lovrijenac included in the price), while children (aged 5-18) pay 30 kuna. 9/10

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Fort Wellington, near Korcula Town, Korcula

A relic of the British occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, Fort Wellington is actually just a stumpy stone tower, but it does offer absorbing 360 degree views of the lush Korcula coastline and the PeljeĊĦac Peninsula. A short, stiff climb from Korcula Town,  the conical tower is reached by dozens of flights of steps that start in the suburbs. If the door to the tower is open, you can follow your nose up the staircases to the small roof terrace. You might find a chatty fire watcher on the stairs.