My neighbour complained about his life though-  he wanted to go to Australia to make a lot of money and I laughed- he lived in a 300 year old house by the sea that he owned outright, ate yummy seafood all day long, only worked hard for 4 months of tourist season and spent the winter playing video games while his kids attended a free school on the island - his life for so many around the world would’ve been a complete dream and yet he couldn’t see how lucky he was because he didn’t own all the material goods he had always wanted. It really brought home how our perspectives influence the scope of our gratitude, how disconnected we all became when it came to what money was really for and how full life could be in simplicity :  doing breathwork in the sun like a rock lizard charging up, the swooshing whisper of evergreen trees carrying the scent of pine on the breeze, a nightly talk to fishermen about their catch. Peace was here and it was simple - it didn’t require gurus or workshops - just a whole lot more Nature. Being alone wasn’t lonely when the starry heavens opened up like fireworks at night, unhindered by smog and light pollution, when cute, little fish nibbled on my toes as my feet dangled off the pier, when the bluest blue of the sea penetrated so deeply into my anxiety that it engulfed it in comfort.  Then my teenage daughter arrived and nixed the whole idea of moving here, so outraged was she that I would take her from her exciting life in Sydney to a little outpost in the middle of the Adriatic Sea “where literally nothing was going on” and I could see her perspective saw something else here and laughed at the different versions of the whole we were all experiencing. 

This recipe was born out of my adoration for the loquat - a chronically underused and undervalued fruit in my personal opinion - a small, tangy, seeded nugget bursting with flavour that only ripens for a short time in early spring. Not sure how to describe the taste of loquat for those that have never had it - I suppose it’s something like apricot, pineapple, citrus and apple having a baby, the thin skin bursting to uncover intense flavour inside. At this time I was trying to eat a lot more blue fish for health reasons ( omega 3 is so calming to the nervous system ), so I’d hit up fishermen for nourishing goodies nightly. Not entirely sure what this fish is called - endemic to the Adriatic it is very similar in taste to mackerel, but not well known or cultivated commercially. This recipe is a burst of fresh citrus - fruity but salty and oily, great for skin and hair. If you can't find loquats, you can substitute with apricots or cut up oranges. This salad would also be great with some chopped avocado and chopped chilli but I couldn't find those things at the produce market that day - great as a salsa for fish tacos also!

INGREDIENTS ( serves one generously or two as an entree ) 

  • 1 bulb of fennel, cored and chopped up finely or sliced ( reserve the fronds for stuffing fish)
  • 1 small purple onion or half a larger onion
  • A handful or two of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • A handful or two of loquats, halved, seeded and chopped up 
  • Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon and one orange
  • Mint leaves to preference 
  • Chopped up pistachio
  • Extra virgin olive oil to taste 
  • 2 x blue fish, gutted and de-scaled
  • Salt and pepper 

METHOD:

Stuff the fish with thin orange slices, salt and pepper and the reserved fennel fronds, turn the oven on to 220 fan forced and grill to high. Cook depending on the strength of your oven and grill, these fish only needed about 8 minutes on each side before they developed crispy skin and cooked through in my oven but bigger fish or weaker ovens will need a little longer. Assemble all the other ingredients into a bowl in the meantime , season and serve! Bon apetit 

A COMPLETE GUIDE TO BEACHES, RESTAURANTS + THINGS TO SEE AND DO

I debated writing this story as I really didn't want any more people to go to the island I have been taking my annual summer vacation on for the last 14 years and yet all my squirrelling away was foiled with the release of Mamma Mia 2 

 

Even though the island portrayed in the movie pretends to be set in Greece, it is really the island of Vis, a place far away from mainland Croatia in the indigo of the Adriatic sea scented by pine and wild flowering herbs. So how could anyone have kept something so magical a secret for so long?


Exploring a monastery in Thomas Puttick

Even though it was under siege throughout history, the 20th century saw the Yugoslav army seal the island off to the public in order to expand the military bases so it sank into obscurity for decades. Yet even with the fall of Yugoslavia, tourist invasion never came due to distance, as people tend to seek immediate gratification or flashier, more famous islands.


Catching up on books at Srebrna beach in Zimmermann

Stay
There are two harbour towns on the island. Vis town is the main port but do stay a 20 minute walk away in Kut, a 16th century stone cobbled hamlet where flowering capers climb walls, grandmas sell wine out of their basement and kids run the streets unsupervised. It’s as Adriatic as it used to be yet trendy restaurants and bars now dot the streets too. On the other side of the island there is Komiza, an old fisherman town where men still repair their nets by hand, streets drop off into the ocean and sunset swims are a must. The rest of the island is dotted with tiny villages, vineyards and beautiful little coves. Choose to stay somewhere central for convenience or secluded for privacy but do book soon as accommodation on the island is scarce, often booking out a whole year in advance. Try Airbnb for some incredible holiday rentals or a boutique hotel like San Giorgio.


Village lunching in a Matin Studio dress

Do
Take a speedboat or sailboat around the island starting with a skip to the islet of Biševo to see the Blue Grotto, then continue on to the majestic beach of Stiniva, followed by a visit to the Green Cave and lunch on the islet of Budikovac. Alternatively, hire a scooter and head into the green inner belly for a vineyard hop and beach cove discovery. There is also a tour of the abandoned military complex tunnels available for the adventurous.


Swimming in a Massimo Dutti shirt, Matteau swim bikini and White Story shorts

Eat

In Vis, Pojoda serves old school specialties, Villa Kaliopa is set in a beautiful garden, Konoba Lola has cocktails, a pretty yard and modernised favourites, Buffet Vis is all about the freshest seafood in an simple setting and Karijola is a pizza night favourite.

In Komiza, Jastozeria had a famous scene in Mamma Mia and that said table now has a special plaque but the lobster dishes haven’t changed. Konoba Bako is perfect for date night, so make sure you book a seaside table in advance and visit just before sunset. Restaurant Hum has yummy favourites and Fabrika is great for a burger or breakfast.

If you are inland or at the coves visit Gušti Poja, Aerodrom Gostionica, Roki’s Tavern Peruka at Stiniva, Konoba Senko, the restaurant on Budikovac and Stončica for lunch. Make sure you order ahead and do try the peka, lamb or octopus slow cooked under an iron bell inside a fire oven.


 Dinner at the table featured in the movie wearing Zimmermann and Stuart Weitzman

Drink:

Vis isn’t much of a party island like it’s flashier cousins but it does have some fun. My favourite is Lambik bar for a relaxed evening drink, or head to the centuries old Fort George for a late night DJ boosted boogie. Komiza sometimes has parties at Kamenica beach but I prefer to sample the unique native plavac mali red from the many wine bars and konobas instead
This story appeared on Vogue.com.au here!

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Editing these pictures has taken me nearly a month to do- there were so many visceral moments to remember while looking through the files that I would find myself procrastinating and daydreaming; memories of eating ice cream in wet bathers, running barefoot around little cobblestone streets of "my" little island, the intense heatwave, bargaining for cold watermelon with a stoic grandma clad in black, the anticipation of arriving somewhere on a ferry you've never been to before or that serenely exhilarating feeling after an evening shower, sun kissed oiled skin cooled by an evening breeze,getting dressed in evening attire to run out into a dusk befallen night promising fun.

When I started this blog, it was as a hobby that I never thought would grow into work ; simply, I wanted to chronicle my life as it unfolded and preserve all the feelings and memories of my travels and experiences. I never knew my little blog would amount to anything except an online diary- especially since I used to post only a few times per year!

M-E-L has morphed into a business and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with brands in a multi dimensional way whilst creating beautiful pictures with talented people and carving out my aesthetic. Still, it is important to me to take time out and really see the world; document and devour it, be a traveller, a tourist; an open mouthed, awed and enthralled piece of this Universe.
Since I've been back, I have shot so many stories that I cannot wait to share with you ; life has been a blur of activity. This is why the moments on this page are so golden to me - they encapsulate a fantasy; a bubble where clocks don't exist.

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Bower swimwear one piece

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Coco wears a Coach t-shirt

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Lack of Colors boater, Kate Sylvester peasant top, Bianca Spender skirt

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Zimmermann x net-a-porter swimsuit, One Teaspoon shorts

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River swimming in the Rastoke region

With thanks to my little photographer Coco

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