The only certainty about a day in the company of Jelsa winemaker Andro Tomic is that the unexpected will happen. The plan had been to pick his cabernet sauvignon grapes on Sveti Klement, which we did, but there was so much more to the visit to the northern coast of the biggest of the Pakleni Islands, and I can't believe how much we crammed in to a morning and still managed to be back on Hvar with all grapes picked by lunchtime.
I diligently picked for about two hours until the first rows of grapes were picked, then went to get another container. Andro caught me and asked me if I would like to visit the Roman spa and the healthy mud baths. Given the choice of that or returning to the heat and more grapes, I grabbed my camera and pretended to be a journalist.
As with most things with Andro, nothing was straightforward or direct. We hadn't walked 30 metres until he beckoned me into a house to greet the owners with the most amazing salt. I never thought I would blog about salt, but here I am... it was amazing.
Apparently there are waves from the sea, and the sea water gets stuck in puddles on the rocks. Because it has been such a dry summer, the salt is deposited on the rocks, leaving the simple task of scooping up the salt. The lady we met had 100kg of salt for the year. It was delicious, a little sweet, and I gratefully accepted the bag,this after attempts to pay had failed.
The tour of the neighbours continued, and it was Pension Tonic next, complete with wonderful tree house for the kids.
Finally we got down to the water and the Roman villa complex which had been a spa almost 2000 years ago.
But not before we found time for a beer in a restaurant with a stunning location and view.
There are some Roman remains, the most prominent of which is this wall. Lack of funding is hampering more exploration. The Roman settlement is on the water, close to a beach known for its therapeutic powers, with the healing powers of its mud good for the skin (or so I was told by another member of our group, who filled a bottle with it for later use at home).
Whatever the truth, it was another divine spot on the island I first visited earlier this year at the better known resort of Palmizana. Vlaka was more rustic and felt more of a community.
There were about ten diversions on the way back, including tracking down Maja from Hvar TV, who was deep in conversation with this gentleman, who it turns out is the only full time resident of the island. A poet as well, we listened to some of his work, before heading off to the vineyards for lunch.
We didn't get there straightaway, and I was treated to a small lecture on rosemary on the island, and the possibilities to develop it. I admire the energy, drive and personality of characters like Andro. Quite how he finds the time to make the (for me) best wine on Hvar as well is beyond me. A quality day.