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Robb Recommends: Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik

Our regular pensman (and Midsomer Murders actor) visits a green-list hotspot less than three hours flight from London.

The once simple concept of just booking a holiday can easily feel like a thing of the past at the moment, with the rules for exit from and entry into the United Kingdom fast becoming something like a Mastermind specialist subject. Not only is it a minefield of forms and PCR tests: it also changes as rapidly as the British weather. So when, after nine months of solving many-a-murder in the county of Midsomer, I decided to take my wife away for her birthday I was also dipping my toe into the aforementioned choppy waters of international travel.

After I’d become quite set on the sunny isle of Ibiza (green list, along with the other Balearics) it was moved to amber – meaning quarantine on return. We then had our sights set on Barbados – on the green list, so why not? Turned out that on arrival we’d be contained to our hotel room for seven days as we aren’t both double jabbed – and confinement wasn’t quite what we had in mind. Then out of nowhere, Croatia – somewhere I’ve never been to, bar an inebriated three-day stag do near Split – shifted onto the green list. A quick check that we wouldn’t have to stare at the beach from our hotel room window, and we were off. Booked. Packed. Airborne. All within about three days. That’s summer 2021 for you.

The nice thing about booking last minute is, you don’t have time to research, plan and/or pre-empt, so everything is experienced in the moment. My wife and I are what I would call “hybrid travellers” – we love to explore, love some history and a bit of hustle and bustle, but we also love the quiet, the relaxed, the vaguely exclusive and a little touch of chic. For this reason, we chose Hotel Excelsior on the outskirts of the historic city of Dubrovnik – if its good enough for HM The Queen and Elizabeth Taylor, it’s good enough for us.

The location is everything we would want from a hotel – not so much “in the mix” as “near the mix”. The first thing you notice on arrival is the hotel’s simply outrageous view of Dubrovnik Old Town – a stunning medieval castellated city, almost cartoonishly antiquarian. (Parts hark back to 7th Century, but it’s so well looked after it looks like it was built yesterday.) The hotel designers have wisely surrounded the entrance lobby in floor-to-ceiling glass, so you see nothing but that view in all its glory.

The hotel as a whole is also a hybrid of sorts: a fusion of a beautiful old villa (complete with cream stone frontage and Parisian shutters) and a monolithic modern annex creatively named The Tower. It isn’t exactly beautiful: more Canary Wharf than Empire State Building, but there’s something about this architectural oxymoron that, weirdly, works. What it also means is that the restaurants and bars (which are all within The Tower) are vast and open-plan thanks to the nature of modern design.

After acquainting ourselves with the room – a deluxe double with a large bathroom and an all-important balcony with further views of the old town as well as directly down to the turquoise Adriatic – we headed out to explore the rest of the building. To add to the split (pun kind of intended) personality of the building there are two lift shafts which go to a different number of floors, which can get a little confusing, but once that was aced we were quickly at home. There’s a large open-plan piano bar (Abakus) with a lovely terrace that it shares with the fine dining restaurant (Sensus). Did I play happy birthday for my wife on the baby grand? Yes, yes, I did. Did she love it? Still waiting on the reviews.

A floor down is the large breakfast-only restaurant (Salin), which has a considerable spread in the mornings whether it’s a freshly made omelette, indulgent French toast or some healthy fresh fruit that you’re after. The coffee is strong and well-made and aside from a few hungry pigeons that keep trying their luck, the terrace is a wonderful spot for brekkie – complete with, yet again, that epic view.

The real crowning glory of the hotel (aside from its tasty Negronis) is the sea-front terrace. There’s no beach per se (don’t worry, there are plenty in close proximity) but there is a long terrace complete with sun loungers, umbrellas and very attentive staff. I personally love being able to dive straight into the ocean from my sunbed without having to dislocate my ankle on a pebbly beach, or spend hours getting sand out of every nook and cranny. Each to their own of course, but it is a simply stunning place to while away the hours reading, drinking, eating and swimming.

Evenings can be spent wandering around the old town exploring its endless supply of restaurants and bars (Restaurant 360 for Michelin stars; Azure for Asian-fusion) or taking a drive along the coast to explore nearby coves and coastline. Carrying out the latter, we quickly realised we’d barely scratched the surface of this fascinating country. We loved Sveti Jakov Beach for its secluded paradise, and Kupari Beach for being a post-apocalyptic urban wilderness (google it – it’s quite a sight.)

If you are a location, location, location kind of person then this hotel is for you. A 10-minute walk to a thousand years’ worth of history and a slice of the Adriatic to call your own? What’s not to love? Oh, and apparently some TV show called Game Of Thrones was filmed there. But you wouldn’t’ know it if you visited – they barely mention it.

A stay in the three-bedroom Villa Agave at Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik (see lead pic) currently costs around €7,000 per night, per room.

 

 

 

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