Our Advance Team was at the airport to greet us on Friday, June 24. Having arrived on Monday, and hired a professional tour guide, the travel trio had the lay of the land.

Before we left New Jersey, we already knew, “Folks are friendly, the city feels safe and the food is excellent!” They gave us a heads-up about the heat, about 90-99°F daily, which helped me decide what to pack. (And, I'm proud to report, I wore pretty much everything I schlepped.)

As is often the case with travel, there was a glitch. My husband and I booked an apartment in the same building as our friends. It became unavailable, because the government was replacing utilities. 

The entrance to our friends' super-cool apartment. 

The entrance to our friends' super-cool apartment. 

Our intrepid friends found us a new place to stay, a two-minute walk from their green high-rise apartment. By their definition, the Cocoon Hotel & Lounge was a three-star option.

The windows behind the mismatched curtains were translucent. 

I opened one to find out why. There wasn’t much of a view. 

There was also a creepy handprint on the wall.

But, the place has potential. A huge deck was getting a finishing touch during our visit. 

The outdoor bar and lounge was also lovely. 

The biggest plus? Breakfast. When the day starts with coffee this good, it becomes easier to throw off the shackles of my own impatience, that Jersey Girl need for speed, and embrace the freedom of being on vacation. 

Service was slow, but the food was tasty. It was food-flavored food. Tomatoes tasting of sunshine. Feta cheese that evokes an image of happy goats bleating as they ruminate on wild herbs. (I passed on the Happy Cow.) 

That first day in Albania, after wrestling the hand-held shower to try to freshen up, and taking a brief nap on the comfortable-enough bed, it was dinner time. My love and I joined our friends for a traditional Albanian dinner at a recommended restaurant, where the power kept going out. 

So, we ate our delicious lamb, spinach pie, big beans, salad, corn bread and some sort of casserole in the dark. Me being me, I had to try the local booze, Rakia, a type of grappa with a flavor best compared to lighter fluid, but, in a good way. 


AuthorVeronika Roo