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After Work: Somewhere On The Croatian Coast There Must Be A Party

… The 20 -somethings tolerated our tagging along to this waterfront lounge. Besides a bartender tilting eight glasses on his forearm and sloshing meager shots of rum in each glass, I’ve seen more excitement at a church youth night. Tight little groups were clumped here and there. The music pounded away. And no one danced. Just like youth group. Not an A-lister was in sight. Not one that we recognized anyway. At least, youth group had Clyde Sorrell who sported a perfect Elvis pompadour….

Dona Gibbs and her husband, holidaying with friends on the Croatian Coast, sample the night life at Carpe Diem, Hvar’s new chic nightspot.

Dona found lots to enjoy in Croatia, though the nightlife was tame compared to her twenty-something party-going, when furniture was pushed back against the walls of a Manhattan apartment and the volume was turned up on the latest Stones’ album.

“How do you holiday in correct style in the new Riviera? You potter around in a boat, of course, “ so reports John Bedding in a recent Sunday Daily Telegraph article on the Croatian coast.

He then goes on to write that many nouveau riche Russians and movie A-listers have done just that. Big bold face names such as Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise and John Malkovich have been seen in the new hot spots of Dubrovnik and Hvar and the many charming little coves of the beautiful Dalmatian coast.

Recently, my husband and I were lucky enough to accompany our friends of many decades, their children and their children’s friends on a weeklong cruise in Montenegro and Croatia. Our yacht didn’t measure 337 feet or have bullet proof glass or a missile detection system like Roman Abramovich’s, the Russian oil billionaire and owner of the Chelsea Football Club. However, its size and complement of two tenders and enough water skis, jet skis and a banana boat kept six 20-somethings amused between meals, naps and nightclubs.

Bedding’s article touts Carpe Diem, Hvar’s new chic nightspot. The 20 -somethings tolerated our tagging along to this waterfront lounge. Besides a bartender tilting eight glasses on his forearm and sloshing meager shots of rum in each glass, I’ve seen more excitement at a church youth night. Tight little groups were clumped here and there. The music pounded away. And no one danced. Just like youth group. Not an A-lister was in sight. Not one that we recognized anyway. At least, youth group had Clyde Sorrell who sported a perfect Elvis pompadour.

Since there was no dancing to be done, we left the younger crowd on their own. The big gusty sigh we heard was not one of disappointment.

Now when my husband and I were twenty-somethings we knew what a party was. Our definition was a nearly empty Manhattan apartment with what few pieces of furniture there were pushed back along the wall, a big bowl of potato chips (crisps) and onion dip if the hosts were feeling creative. The latest Stones’ album was popped on the stereo and everybody took to the floor to do what we called dancing.

It was just such an occasion that I met my husband to be. And in fact our exceedingly generous yacht host had been the host of that party way back then, where he not only provided enough ice but onion dip. He always knew how to throw a party.

Anyway at Carpe Diem it seemed unlikely that anyone would be seizing the day. Or night for that matter.

Croatia is beautifully unspoiled. There are wonderful touches from the time of Venetian rule. Even Roman mosaics can be seen. Facades are being restored. Streets are scrubbed. There’s fresh seafood on the grill, air cured ham, creamy cheeses, fragrant herbs and deep green olive oil. Most charmingly, the statues that remain in town parks are of seated , or in one case leaning, musicians and poets, rather than generals on horseback.

When finding the most beautiful secluded cove for swimming pales, one can always pull into a movie set-like town with cobble stone streets with flowers spilling over ancient walls and search for the best gelato or perfect thin-crusted pizza. Not a bit of neon to be seen. Even the beer is advertised on café umbrellas dotting the sidewalks rather than on blinking day-glow signs.

The prices are low, at least now, which explains the swarms of 20- somethings in the larger port towns but to call it the new Riviera is to insult both Croatia and the “old” Riviera.

True, Croatia shares some of the same spectacular topological features—rocky coast lines, parasol pines, palms, azure waters-- but it has its own distinct history and possesses every reason for its newly-minted national pride.

The “old” Riviera is something else again. No matter how many ribbons of asphalt snake along the coastline and through the hills, I am drawn to its history. Think back. What made the Riviera the Riviera wasn’t the Hollywood A list. Not in the beginning.

A charismatic ex-pat American couple—Gerald and Sara Murphy—can be said to have made the old Riviera a glamorous destination. They surrounded themselves with the literati and artistic of the 20s. F. Scott Fitzgerald and his tragic wife Zelda, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker and Picasso defined the Riviera social scene. It is said that the Murphys reversed the social season when they persuaded the Hotel d’ Cap to stay open in the summer.

Elsa Maxwell and the Hollywood crowd came later. And later still, Brigitte and Roger. Now, of course, you’re likely to find Bill and Barbara from Cleveland, but the Cote d’Azure still possesses a mythic charm that no even a coastline traffic snarl can diminish.

And they sure knew how to party. When there was music, I’m sure they danced.

But then again the 20-somethings and Croatia are still very new at it.

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