Just when I thought it wasn’t possible for Albania to impress me again, it does and with a bang. Welcome to the country that has it all from mountains to lakes to cities to coast and is going to likely be the next tourist hotspot so get here while you can before it is overrun and overdeveloped like other greats such as Croatia and Thailand and get here while it is still cheap. I stayed at the Paradise Beach Resort last night just 5km or so south of Vlore for $40USD with breakfast and while more expensive than most accommodations in the area by about $15USD it was worth every penny to be treated so well in such a peaceful place, to have a great sea view from my terrace and to eat literally like a queen. The presentation of the food at Paradise was beyond measure. You get to taste things you have never tasted and often times you don’t know what it is because they don’t know the English word for it. Trust me it is always best for the waiter to select your dish for you – be adventurous and try new things.
The coastline is known as the Albania Riviera akin to the Italian Riviera. Settled at the foot of beautiful lush green hills and extraordinary mountains, depending on where you are on the coast, it is yet another paradise for your beach going, sunbathing, water sports, fine dining, relaxation or fun – whichever you prefer. The balance here between mountains and coast is near incomparable.
The following morning after a delicious and free breakfast, I hit the road Jack. Those of you my age may remember the video game Pole Position. I had my very own live version of this today complete with every obstacle from cliffs looking down from a height you can’t imagine, falling rocks, random animals including – yes a chicken that crossed the road, a man riding side saddle on a donkey, wild dogs, a horse drawn wagon filled with I don’t know how many bales of hay and cows meandering right in the middle of the road plus random pedestrians and random uphill cyclists. Notice I said the people were random! It was treacherous at best traversing one of the best coastal drives in the world with my left hand firmly grasping the wheel turning left than right every one to three seconds and the right hand consistently shifting gears. It was without a doubt the most fun I’ve ever had behind the wheel.
After seeing the Llogora National Park with its panoramic views high in the mountains looking down on a never ending ocean, the Flag Pine which is shaped like the double headed eagle represented on the Albanian flag, or at least I think so, and the Himare and Borsch beaches, I barreled to the beautiful up and coming Adriatic gem of Sarande and the one and only white sand and turquoise water beach of Ksamil. After a little swim in relatively warm water given its October, a peaceful lounge on the beach and some delicious crudo and fresh grilled sea bass, I made my way back to Sarande to hunker down for the storm heading my way for the night. I watched the lightening sparkle across the ocean lighting up Corfu, Greece – a mere 35km across the water – and listened to the rumble of the thunder from my beachside terrace at the Demi Hotel (which has really nice and very modern accommodations but is too expensive for the area at $78USD/night). I did this following a leisurely stroll on Sarande’s oceanside promenade which is beginning, without a doubt, to resemble your next tourist hotspot filled with restorants (yes that is spelled correctly), bars, cafes, gelato stands, jungle gyms for children and the occasional casino and exotic dance club. As I begin to close my eyes, I start to feel the butterflies that come when I begin to imagine what God has in store for me for tomorrow.
That’s all for now. From Sarande, Albania with love.