I thought it might be a bit of an impossible ask... and felt a bit stuck before I even started looking. But good old twitter came to the rescue, and after a cry for help, loads of people recommended Croatia.
WHERE WE STAYED
We wanted a mix of sunshine-lazing and city-exploring, so we split our holiday over two locations: Hvar, one of Croatia's many islands; and Split, an amazing city on the coast that is built around an amazing 4th century Roman fortress (which is also one of the main filming locations for Game of Thrones!).
We stayed in airbnb apartments in both places, which were ace. I can't imagine booking a normal hotel anymore, I think airbnb is always so much better (and cheaper!).
Our Hvar apartment was lovely! It was nestled in a private bay, in a small block of about eight flats. The apartment itself was a bit basic inside, but very clean, and we had the most amazing view from our little balcony. The bay was absolutely beautiful, with clear water, boats bobbing about, and a few loungers dotted about for days when you just wanted to read your book and soak up some sun.
The owners were lovely too - even if we couldn't quite understand them! Every night they'd have fresh fish, and if you met them in the morning, you could put a request in for your dinner that night. They also would drive you into town if you didn't have transport - the apartment was a 10 minute drive from Hvar town, or a one hour walk (which was quite pleasant, once you got up the massive hill!).
The studio apartment in Split wasn't quite as picturesque, but we were only there for two nights (and it was only £15 per night!). I was under the impression that it had a balcony, so was a bit put out when we discovered it was on the ground floor - my fault for not looking at the listing properly! It was really central though, which made it a good budget option, but if I was to go back I would definitely find a balcony flat!
WHAT WE DID
Our main mission on Hvar was to eat good food, drink lovely wine, and read as many books as possible, so it wasn't the most action-packed holiday. Hvar island is quite small, but very hilly, so after swithering over electric bicycles (which sound magic!), we hired a moped for a few days, which was so much fun! Joshua had driven one once, but we managed to enthusiastically convince the rental place that he was a pro at driving them, and we didn't get into any moped drama!
There's loads of little towns dotted around the island that are worth visiting, with little cobbled streets, beautiful marinas, and old architecture. The island is covered in olive groves, lavender fields, old vineyards and interesting historic features like the Spanish fortress in Hvar Town - it's all pretty picture perfect.
There are millions of little beaches and bays around the coastline, and you can get a water taxi to even tinier islands nearby too, so we never ran out of places to swim and laze by the sea.
Split is such a beautiful and interesting old city, and you can easily spend hours exploring its old streets and underground passages. The city is built around Diocletian's Palace and it's absolutely fascinating, I've never seen anything quite like it! It's full of twisty little streets and old clocktowers and hidden underground wells and old cobbled courtyards.
We did a lot of walking in Split, climbing a massive hill that overlooks the city to visit the world's weirdest tiny zoo (featuring one wolf and an army of guinea pigs), and going on a mission to find a beach, and coming across the brilliant Archaeological Museum - we were the only people there, and they just had corridor after corridor filled with mosiacs and statues and ancient stonework.
WHAT WE ATE
Croatian food was brilliant, and so cheap! There were amazing cheeses and salamis, fresh pasta, and incredible seafood. My favourite morning was when we got up at 6am, walked into Hvar Town and bought fresh fish that had just been caught - we had fresh sashimi for lunch and barbecued fish for dinner. So perfect!
Split is packed full of restaurants, cafes and bars, so it was always easy to find something interesting and great to eat. Hvar is a wonderful place to eat, if you avoid the more pricey, touristy places in Hvar Town. We managed to get a table at Dalmatino and it completely lived up to the hype, and stumbled across Konoba Kokot - an amazing traditional restaurant, tucked down a tiny path in a little village. I want to go back just for that meal!
Croatia is beautiful, but it is rocky! If you are planning to go in the water, you'll need something for your feet - I just bought cheap surf shoes from Amazon that did an ace job. This will also protect you from the little stinging sea anemones that line the coast - you do not want to step on those with bare feet (or, ahem, sit on one by accident).
Also, if you're European, remember your EU medical card! I didn't. Then I was bitten by a spider, had a massive reaction, had to go to a Croatian doctor and get loads of drugs and a massive bandage. It wasn't too expensive or traumatic (apart from when Josh told me the spider probably laid eggs in my arm, aaaaah), but it would have been less stressful if I'd been more organised before travelling!
There's so much more to see in Croatia, and I'd love to explore the other islands - take me back!