After three action-packed days in Venice, we hopped in a long-distance transfer service, called Go Opti—which was essentially a private car with a lovely driver—and traveled across the Slovenian border to Lipica. The journey took a little under two hours and landed us in a horse lover’s paradise: the stud farm and training center of the famous Lipizzaners.
These fabulous white horses are known for their athletic, leaping prowess, and dressage skills, and are the mount of choice for the Spanish Riding School based out of Vienna. Yes. Go figure. Slovenian-bred horses, ridden by Spaniards in Vienna. Anyway.
There is a tradition of breeding in Lipica which dates back to 1580. And this year alone, the stud farm marked the arrival of 22 foals. The property is surrounded by acres of wide open spaces, which the herds seem to enjoy roaming and thundering around.
These equine stars appear to be the main attraction in Lipica and I am happy anytime I’m around horses. With a dressage lesson booked for the following day, for both me and Monkey, we arrived at the rather drab, 1970s hotel next door to the stud farm, in the middle of a rainstorm. An inauspicious start to our stay in Slovenia.
I must have been born with ants in my pants, because rather than sit and quietly enjoy an afternoon indoors, I decided we should drive the short Slovenian coastline in the late afternoon. Our outing took us first to Izola, a smallish town built right on the coast with a pretty marina (pictured up top).
It was a hot and muggy afternoon, with the kind of stuffy stillness that inspires lethargy. We arrived just as the locals were finishing their day with a dip in the sea. There was no sand, just concrete and pebbles, but everyone seemed to be having a very social time connecting with their community. I wish we had that type of communal bon vivant here in the U.S..
The restaurant at the Hotel Marina had been recommended to us, but despite the early hour and the empty restaurant (this seemed to happen to us a lot!), we were told that there was no way we could be accommodated. So, after grabbing a quick drink at a lovely wine bar just off the main road, we hit the road again and headed to Portorož.
I was curious to visit the Kempinski Palace Hotel, located on the main beach-front road, because it had turned up in my research before our trip. It sports an original grand old building, and a newer modern addition with a sweet looking pool. We wandered around feeling a little under-dressed and stumbled about Restaurant Fleur de Sel which has a lovely terrace overlooking the pool. Hungry by now, we ordered a couple of large snacks, including mussels and sausage.
Despite not ordering a full meal, we were given delicious, sweet petit fours with our bill. Yum.
Portorož is unusual in that it has a sandy beach—it seems glam in a very low-key kind of a way with beach bars and loungers all along the front. The whole of Slovenia is rather low-key, which is probably why I liked it so much.
After our meal, we wanted to check out Cacao – a rather classy gelato joint which has a few outlets dotted across the country. There were multiple flavors to choose from, including a number of different chocolate varieties featuring different sources of cacao. Delish!
Satiated and weary, we decided to call it a night before the sunset and made our way back over the hill and around the coast, back to Lipica to dream of riding white stallions.