For me, 2016 was a biggie. It started with the loss of a parent, relocating from one city to another, buying a property (that needed an embarrassing amount of renovation, because we like to make things difficult) and the planning - and performing – of a wedding. So when it came to thinking about our honeymoon, we naturally decided to go to Japan. To be more precise, Tokyo. The city that runs faster than its famous Bullet Train.
The trip was as good as booked until a friend came floating into the office one morning after a long weekend away in Montenegro. Her bliss switch was cranked up to 10. It wasn’t just the fact that it’s so unspoilt, she applauded, but it’s the climate, the people, the atmosphere. I looked through her pics and, suddenly, felt like one of those cartoon character whose been clonked over the head with a hammer, stars flying. I had come my senses. We were going to Montenegro. I checked with the other half before making too hasty a decision and, to my surprise, he looked delighted: we were too knackered to go to Japan, he said; he just hadn’t wanted to say anything. What we needed was some full on R&R.
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In case you’re wondering, because I had to Google this myself, Montenegro is a Balkan country, smack bang next to Croatia. As we’d never visited the country before, we decided we’d try three different types of hotels during our stay.
1. Palazzo Radomiri on Boka Bay
When we arrived they were wrapping up a party for fashion brand Vionnet, the 100-year-old label that Kazakh-born oligarch and socialite Goga Ashkenazi purchased a few years ago. That she’d chosen boutique hotel Palazzo Radomiri for this particular party was telling: the hotel is a former 18th century villa and is chic yet not over the top whilst the staff are courteous and friendly. Here, we relaxed into our honeymoon and spent four happy days on the sun loungers perched on former sea jetties, dipping in and out of the sea surrounded by the greenest mountains. Apart from the other guests, it felt like we were the only tourists in the area. Still, we made friends with another couple and weren’t surprised when they told us they were talking to the owners about having their own wedding there the following year. Viki and Polly: I hope you do. That’ll be some wedding.
2. Hotel Cattaro
In the medieval UNESCO-protected Kotor Old Town and located in the town's main square, also forming part of the town walls. The decor is designed to themes from the beginning of the 18th century - think navel, albeit with Eastern European undertones. It’s charming and comfortable whiles the staff were unbelievable generous and friendly. We swapped numbers with one of the front of house guys called Mile. He ended up taking us back to the airport and has told us to ring him when we’re next back in the country so he can take us to his house. Lovely people, you see.
Unlike the Palazzo Radomiri, where we felt we were in a vacationer free zone, here you are in the thick of it. Kotor old town is a tourist magnet. Its winding streets and squares are very beautiful (even if most of the shops sell typical tourist tat.) You’ll be spoilt for choice on the food front, which you can then walk off by hiking up to Kotor’s Castle Of San Giovanni with spectacular views over the Adriatic sea. I’m about to sound like your mum, but it’s a steep, long walk so don’t forget to wear sensible shoes and take a bottle of water with you.
3. Regent Porto Montenegro
It’s in a place called Porto Montenegro, situated between the mountains and the sea and built predominantly on land reclaimed from the sea by the Montenegrin Navy a hundred years ago. It recently had a major, tasteful facelift – and is so clean you could drop your ice cream on the floor and still eat it. The best way to describe it is like the Beverly Hills of Montenegro. The people watching – the cosmetic surgery watching - was fascinating. A Tom Ford store is a few doors down from an international art gallery up the road from a local supermarket that makes Wholefoods look like Aldi. Upscale Montenegrin, Italian, Asian and international restaurants are dotted around the bay. The marina is for mega and super yachts only.
Our hotel mirrored the bay. It was superb, with a 64-metre infinity pool - complete with pool art – and is Porto Montenegro’s star attraction and most sought after venue. You can definitely see why. We were told that wealthy folks own apartments within the hotel. They go for millions. If ever I have that much, then that’s what I’m spending it on.
Each place we stayed offered something completely different, which says something about Montenegro. Only a moron wouldn’t like the place. I’m actually rather loathe to write such a glowing review of the country because I want to keep it all to myself. But that would be churlish (and unrealistic.) In truth, I urge you to go. We<loved> our honeymoon and couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful, interesting and heart warming place. We plan to go back soon. Japan can wait a bit longer.
Words and images by Niki Browes