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Jelsa on the island of Hvar was my favorite spot during the 2016 Croatian Sunsail flotilla we took to celebrate Charles’ 50th birthday. It fulfilled every single check box I’d come to expect four days into the trip. Picturesque old-world town wrapped around a protected inlet? Check. Excellent food? Check. Exceptional wine tasting? Check. A hike up the hill to soak in postcard views of our tiny boat in the distance? Check. Dogs all apparently fathered by a smooth talking Basset Hound? Ch…hold on.

What I lovingly refer to as The Dogs of Jelsa was not on the original list, and I am dismayed that I did not capture them on film resulting what I fear might be a Loch Ness Monster type scenario where no one believes me except those who also experienced this phenomenon first hand.

It started out innocently. A fuzzy black and white dog, about 50 pounds, ran down the dock. “I wonder if that is a Border Collie?” I thought to myself. “His face looks like a Border Collie, but he is a bit…short. And long.” I didn’t think anything more about it.

Later that day, we ran across a young pup with a sweet lab face, but that undeniable “longer than normal” body with his little front feet turned out. Very cute.

And then again. More dogs. All of mixed breeds but all with somewhat of a Basset physique.  Slowly it became clear that there was a rogue Basset Hound making the rounds. Our crew named him Casanova. We never saw him, but in my mind, I envision Casanova the Basset Hound home after a long day, wearing a silk lounging jacket and matching slippers, with a snifter of brandy.

If you go to Jelsa, please keep an eye out for him. While you are there, you should also pursue “The Easy E’s of Jelsa”. See below.

 Explore the Town and Hillside

The most charming part of Jelsa, I thought, was the waterfront itself, with views of the plaza, the boats hugging the town key, and the surrounding hillside with old, character-filled buildings and churches rising high above the water.  Jelsa is so lovely, in fact, that it is one of the spots where ferries and large tour boats come to bring day travelers who do not have their own sailboat transport.

Take some off-boat time to explore this lovely spot. I highly recommend heading to the Fortress Church of St. Mary of Mercy first. It is in the middle of town and there is access to the inside. They have done an excellent job of posting historical information and the views from the windows are breathtaking.

After that, head up! You can see a white church high on the hill from the town key. This is the Our Lady of Health Church, and while it will most likely be locked when you arrive, it is abundantly photogenic, and the views are worth it. Plus, you’ll get a little exercise which is heart healthy. A win-win.

Enjoy Local Wine

Also heart healthy? Wine! And you are in Croatian wine country, so my advice would be to book in advance a wine tasting at Vina Tomic. What a wonderful and worthwhile experience!  Reservations are required, so follow this link for more information about how to do that and where to find this winery: https://www.bastijana.hr/visitus. As you walk around town, you will see signs for other Croatian wine tasting opportunities at smaller bars, restaurants, and shops.

Eat Octopus Salad (and as many other local dishes as you can)

Our dinner in Jelsa was probably our best of the trip. Great food and excellent service at the restaurant, Me and Mrs Jones. It is right off the town key, so is very convenient for sailors in addition to having great views of the dock and bay. Of course, we ate Octopus salad again. Such a delicious Croatian treat! The food in all of Croatia was spectacular and budget friendly. I am not sure we encountered a bad meal on either of our Croatian sailing trips, and if you do a quick Internet search you will find an abundance of excellent choices in Jelsa and extending to the neighboring areas.

See? Easy! In fact, everything about Jelsa – mooring at the town key, swimming in the protected area just as you enter the harbor, enjoying the vibrant yet slow pace of the place – is easy. Rolled all together it makes up the last E: Experience. It is unbeatable.

No wonder Casanova put down (and continues to put down) roots in this magical spot. Be sure to make it one of your Croatian sailing destinations, and please give a nod to that enigmatic, long-eared, droopy-eyed charmer if you spot him.

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