on October 6, 2012
It’s usually pretty easy to find good value accommodation in Croatian coastal towns; booking isn’t always necessary (though may be advisable if there’s an event taking place) and it’s possible to knock on doors with the ‘sobe’ sign or to find a landlady at bus or train stations in the height of the season. On our most recent trip to Croatia, more precisely to Pula, we booked in advance because we were arriving in the evening and didn’t want to spend time looking; we knew we’d want to head straight out to eat and make the most of our short stay. In terms of location we couldn’t have made a better choice. Apartments Arena is almost inside the magnificent Roman Arena for which Pula is famous. You’re right on the edge of the Old Town and within easy reach of restaurants and bars without being in the heart of the hustle and bustle so the location is handy but quiet. It’s a short trot across the road and through the little park to the harbour from where boats sail daily to other Istrian resorts, and to the nearby Brijuni Islands. Parking is possible outside the house and security is not a concern here, many foreign visitors bring their cars to Croatia and are not targeted. The bus and train station are about ten minutes walk while there are bakeries and grocery stores close by for those self catering. Apartments Arena comprises a few small apartments (really studios) in an old house. Other apartments in the building are owned by other people. The apartments that make up Apartments Arena are on the first floor; the stairs are not steep but the apartments are not suitable for wheelchair users. There is no outdoor area available to these apartments but with public gardens across the road and pavement cafes on the door step we didn’t mind this too much. If you want to smoke outside you could go to the tiny back yard at the rear of the ground floor which is left open. Smoking is permitted in the apartment but it smelled fresh and not at all of smoke to me. We received an email from the owner providing two telephone numbers and instructions to call him when we were near the apartment and he would meet us there. In the end it was not Ratko but a friend of his who came to let us in and take our payment. The friend spoke excellent English and explained how everything worked and provided us with a street map of Pula, highlighting places of interest and jotting down the number of the cheapest tax company. On the day of our departure we were to vacate by 10.00am and leave the keys on the table. Our studio was spacious and well equipped. I couldn’t fault it on cleanliness and everything was in good repair. The bathroom with toilet, washbasin and shower cubicle (very small) didn’t have a window and as a result the grouting had suffered a little from inevitable blackening but this was a minor concern as overall it had been kept very clean. We were advised to keep the hot water switched on at all times and as a result we always had piping hot water. A small kitchen area was fine for preparing drinks (there was even an electric coffee machine), breakfast and snacks. If you really wanted to prepare more substantial meals that would be possible as the kitchen was well provided with utensils and pans but personally the fact that the sleeping area is just around the corner would put me off cooking strong smelling foods here. All the important items were provided - bottle opener, corkscrew and ...well, like I said, all the important things! Seriously, there were plates, bowls, mugs, cutlery and pans and all were in good usable condition. You won’t find a kettle: Croatians boil water for hot drinks in a little pan with a tiny pouring lip. There was a hob but no oven and the little fridge was enough for our needs and had a small ice box too. A large flat screen television had more channels than you can shake a stick at with plenty of English language channels among them. It did take us a while to work out which control did what, but we are a pair of techno-idiots. Free wi-fi is provided and we found it to be fast and reliable. The large room had been broken up nicely to feel like separate sleeping, sitting and dining areas by good placement of the few pieces of furniture that there were. The sofa-bed could have enabled the apartment to sleep another person and four chairs were provided at the dining table. The furniture was modern and in excellent condition. The large double bed was comfortable and a couple of blankets were neatly folded in the wardrobe should they be needed. Zoran, who met us at the apartment, brought the fresh bedding with him so we knew it was freshly laundered and hadn’t been on the bed for weeks. We slept well at Apartments Arena switching on the air-conditioning for a short while before bed, which cooled the room down enough to get to sleep. As is usual in this part of the world, there aren’t heavy curtains to block out the light and the shutters weren’t that effective so the light started to stream through the chinks when the sun came up; however, when the shutters were thrown open the view of the Adriatic made up for the inconvenience. We paid approximately €50 per night for two people which is pretty much the going rate for private rooms in Pula in September (you can expect to pay a few Euro more in July and August). You can pay less if you are happy to be further away from the centre but we wanted to be close to the sights and were happy to pay the extra. I would happily recommed this apartment to visitors who want to be close to the sights but without the noise. It's a great apartment for up to three people, only lacking in a little outdoor space.
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