Castles and Caves: A Weekend at the Postojna Cave Complex

When we’re asked our favorite destinations, it’s always tough to answer. The beaches of Cyprus, the turquoise and cobalt architecture of Santorini, the glamour of Paris…there’s something amazing everywhere. That being said, we seem to continually go back to Slovenia. Although more Americans are seeking out Slovenia and Croatia these days, I feel like that area is still extremely underappreciated. From Ljubljana (the capital) to Lake Bled (castle in the middle of the lake) to the karst topography of Postojna, Slovenia is one of the friendliest, most diverse, and English-friendly places in Europe.

Quick weekend trip to Slovenia. #familytravel #slovenia #wanderlust

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During our last month in Italy, we decided to head back to Slovenia to visit Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle. On a whim, we booked the Cave/Castle/Hotel family package on the official Postojna Complex site. For about $300, the package gave us one night in the completely renovated Hotel Jama with breakfast, reserved tickets to Postojna Cave, tickets to the EXPO Karst family museum on the grounds, and a visit to Predjama Castle.

It’s beautiful even with these ominous clouds. #slovenia #familytravel #wanderlust

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Driving in Slovenia is very easy. Signs are either easily understandable in Slovene or they’re offered in both Slovene and English. For those planning a family vacation, I wouldn’t hesitate to fly in, rent a car, and motor off to any part of the country. After just 2-1/2 hours in the car, we arrived at the Postojna Cava complex. Parking at the bottom of the hill, we walked up the gentle slope to the hotel and enjoyed the views that you see from my Instagram photos above. We were too early for check-in, so we dropped our bags and went back out to grab lunch at one of the many restaurants located along the walk. Our cave tickets were booked for 11:00 the next day, which gave us time to visit the EXPO museum and drive out to Predjama Castle.

Predjama Castle

I have to admit that Predjama Castle was probably my favorite. I mean, it’s just so grand and unlike anything else in the world. We enjoyed touring the castle itself with the headsets provided (it was actually everything I *wish* Bran Castle in Romania had been). Moving from the external castle into the original cave castle was really cool. Much of the staircase into the original castle is too rickety to navigate but, as you can see from the photo above, you get a really good feel for it just climbing a few flights.

Post-tour, we ducked into the on-site restaurant for a glass of local wine (ice cream for the underage members of our family) and just admired the view for an hour or so. We also appreciated the market just up the street. Tastings aren’t possible but they sell a huge assortment of locally-made cheeses, wines, and arts and crafts from Slovenian artists.

Hotel Jama

Arriving back on the Postojna complex, we checked into Hotel Jama. The hotel was closed for many years after it fell into disrepair. As you can see, it has been renovated magnificently. Apparently, the goal was to incorporate the feel of the cave and topography into the design. The colors are all neutrals with pops of emerald and cobalt and large windows to let the light and views inside.

The on-site restaurant was also one of the best parts of the trip. Traveling with a toddler can be tough. Harper was exhausted by the time dinner rolled around. The restaurant’s menu was fabulous, featuring all locally-sourced meats, vegetables, and wines. Harper, on the other hand, was not having it. The waiter (who explained that he had a toddler at home and totally understood) worked with the chef (another angel in disguise) to make a toasted cheese and prosciutto sandwich with a side of fries, none of which was actually on the menu. Harper was happy, we were happy, and we hope the 50% tip made our waiter happy. He earned every penny of it.

Postojna Cave

Our scheduled trip into the cave started at 11:00 a.m. the next morning. After a great breakfast, we dressed warmly and headed to the cave’s mouth where we were led by language groups to the train. Postojna cave is the largest in Slovenia and one of the largest in the world, so the trip begins with a 2-mile trip by red tram. Harper has been a bit testy when visiting caves in Europe but this one worked for her. She was excited to ride the train and only got a little fussy toward the end. The views were spectacular and the length was just right.

Minus driving time, we spent about 24 hours in the Postojna Cave area and I feel like that was just right. We did accomplish everything we set out to do and nothing felt wasted or too rushed. Slovenia is typically a very inexpensive country, making our Euro/Dollar go further. Even with the higher-than-usual tip at dinner, we spent around the equivalent of $120 for a wonderful meal with wine. Would I fly to Europe just to see Postojna? No, but I would make the trip in a heartbeat if/when visiting Northern Italy, Slovenia, or Croatia. Have you been? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Five Days in Rome with Kids

Piazza Navona

The great thing about living in Italy is the fact that you get to see Italy every single day. That¬†also¬†probably explains¬†why we always choose to visit other countries when we have time to travel. After we returned from Scotland back in February and realized we only have a year or so left here, we made up our minds to see more of Italy in the near future. The Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, Sicily…they’re all on our list but Rome topped it all.¬† Continue reading

Paris Cemeteries — Cimetiere de Passy

paris cemeteries

Some people are drawn to Paris for romance. Others come for the food. It was Paris cemeteries that initially drew me to the City of Lights. Paris was actually very far down my list of must-see places until a friend posted pictures of his trip to various Parisian cemeteries several years ago. We finally had a chance to fly over just before Christmas 2015. Given that I have kids–really small kids who are just grasping death and it kind of scares them–I wasn’t sure cemetery visits would be smart. Still, we chose to visit two and neither kid was traumatized. (We did have a lot of talks about where the people where located in the cemetery, and Zoey took the opportunity to spell out what we’d do if a zombie apocalypse went down while we were in there.)¬† Continue reading

Must-have shoes for Italy in the fall

Whether you’re the form over function type or vice versa, I’ve noticed a really awesome trend among Italians (and Europeans, really) lately. You’re going to see a few stilettos on cobblestones (eek!) but most people–especially¬†the most chic–are opting for lower-heeled or flat shoes and boots. I’m not sure if it’s an extension of NORMCORE or if people are just tired of twisting their ankles but I’ll just say it’s a win for both comfort and style. I’m calling four major styles as your best bets when packing shoes for Italy, especially in fall and winter.¬† Continue reading

Travel tips: Skerries Ireland

So…Skerries Ireland. Haven’t heard of it? Neither had I. We were looking for one more place to visit before flying back to Italy, read about the Skerries Windmills, and decided that was as good a place as any. Skerries is a seaside village just outside of Dublin. We had a rental car and drove it in about half an hour, but I have heard it’s quite easy to get public transportation from Dublin to the Skerries station.

Things to do in Skerries Ireland

Skerries Mills.
After a week in Ireland, this was one of our favorite attractions. Traveling with two very small kids, we were constantly in search of spots that were appealing to adults but kid-friendly. I thought this was an iffy pick; turns out it was perfect. Although I didn’t see any signs of active flour milling, the self-guided tour (‚ā¨12 for a family) allows you to see the fully-functional mill. Once we made it through the various rooms in the millhouse, the reception person came through and turned on the wheel, allowing us to re-visit the mill’s rooms to see everything in action. Once exiting the mill, visitors are allowed to walk the fields to see the small and large windmills.

After freezing outdoors, it was a real treat to come back to the millhouse for warm drinks at the Watermill Cafe. Although we only chose a pot of tea for ourselves and hot cocoa for our 6-year-old, the cafe served really delicious-looking scones, pastries, and sandwiches. And they do have a liquor license, so Irish coffees are ready to go in seconds.

Especially with a small market outside, there were plenty of opportunities to shop at Skerries Mills. The gift shop had oodles of made-in-Ireland items like pottery, woolens, jewelry, and flour (duh…it’s a flour mill). The market in the courtyard seems to be new. There were very few vendors that Saturday morning but I have a feeling it’s growing based upon the fact that their ramping up their social media efforts.

mills collage

Ardgillan Castle

I love a good castle in ruins. My kids, however, prefer the fully-restored variety. For this reason, we figured Ardgillan Castle was a good bet. As it turned out, they weren’t giving tours of the actual castle that day. We still managed to make the best out of the visit. The tea room is the spot where the tours begin. Since it was lunchtime and tours were out, we decided to grab lunch there. The sitting-rooms-turned-dining-rooms were pretty. The period decor was busy enough to keep the kids entertained–nothing was drab or boring. They had highchairs, too, which was a major bonus. Sans tour, we headed back out to see the grounds. Early spring is probably not the best time to view the walled gardens. There were plenty of blooming flowerbeds but the gardens appeared to be geared toward mid-summer-bloomers. The view of the sea was breathtaking. Perhaps the real winner here, though, was the huge play area. The playground was divided into an area for little ones and an area for big kids. It was perfect for letting the kids run out some energy.

ardgillan castle

The biggest “bust” of the day was our Bed & Breakfast. Despite its great reviews, it was terrible. The bedroom looked clean enough but the rest of the house was nasty. It was so bad, we paid half a night’s stay to get out of there and booked a room at Maldron Dublin Airport. Maldron was a little overpriced but it’s a 5 minute shuttle to Terminal 2 at the airport. Most importantly, the Maldron was clean.

As a whole, I wouldn’t skip someplace like the Cliffs of Moher or Rock of Cashel for Skerries, but if time permits and you have little ones, Skerries might be worth your time. Especially in the summer months when sea breezes don’t lead to frigid windchills, you could easily spend the day beachcombing.

If you’re traveling to Ireland–especially if you are traveling with kids–check back in the coming days. I will have some other can’t-miss attractions, places, and pubs to discuss. Visit me over on my Facebook page if you have questions or just feel like discussing Skerries Ireland.