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One day in the far, far off future I’ll be sat in a rocking chair on the porch of the really cute Residential Home that Old Timer Me will be a resident of, having a deep and meaningful natter with one of my old lady friends, Nancy.
We’ll be eating French Fancies and sipping blackberry tea out of vintage teacups that look remarkably like Chip from Beauty & the Beast. Oh, we’ll also be somewhere not in the UK because LOL what even is a porch!
Nancy and I will be reminiscing about the good old days when cars didn’t fly and supermarkets were run by people instead of robots; when Morgan Freeman was unanimously voted President of the United States following Trump’s untimely death by choking on a tangerine; when the UK was actually friends with the rest of Europe and not just some lonely little friendless weirdo floating in the middle of the ocean with nothing but shortbread biscuits and teabags to call their own.
Somewhere in between the hoots of laughter and impressions of Darth Vader (because what else would two old ladies swinging on a front porch do together), Nancy will stop in her tracks, look me dead in the eye and say:
“Ethel*, what’s been the happiest accident of your life?”
*For the sake of dramatic effect, my name has been temporarily changed to Ethel, which is way more of an old lady name than Rhiannon.
My answer will come as a surprise to Nancy, who met me for the first time while celebrating our 82nd and 83rd birthdays with a skydive in Dubai, and so didn’t know much about my life pre-false teeth.
She’s expecting to hear me say one of my three children, Xerox, Xanax and Xylophone, all of whom could be considered ‘happy accidents’ depending on how you look at it.
If not my children she’d maybe expect to hear (for the fifteen hundredth time) that story of how I accidentally dropped a dish of prawn cocktail on Barack Obama while moonlighting as a waitress in Hawaii.
Do you know what my answer to Ethel will be?
At my current 24 years of age (with what’s hopefully a long, long way to go before Ethel and Nancy become my reality), Montenegro has been the happiest accident of my life so far.
Or maybe we should push that to joint happiest, alongside that time I happened to be walking past the world premier of Flight in London and got to meet Denzel Washington. The Denzel Washington. It’s okay, you can be jealous.
I’d like to think that happier accidents will occur further down the line of my life (falling into a manhole filled with £50 notes would be a nice one), but for now my accidental captivation with Montenegro will do.
Visiting Montenegro was never my intention.
It was my stubbornness and unwillingness to pay more than £50 for a flight anywhere in Europe that landed me smack bang in the middle of what turned out to be one of my favourite countries ever. And yeah, I say that about more or less everywhere I visit, but nowhere on this earth has made me catch my breath quite as quickly, or sharply, as Montenegro did.
You know that bit in Part of Your World (the Disney version, not Peter Andre) where Ariel goes “But who cares? No big deal. I want more!” and delivers that last line with an astonishing amount of gusto for such a tiny little mermaid?
That was me after just 3 days and 2 towns in Montenegro.
I want more. I want so much more.
From the very second my plane touched down at Podgorica Airport (which, FYI is absolute teeny tiny) and I had a momentary “Shit, I’m not in the EU anymore – do I need a visa?” panic (no visa needed for UK fellas, you’re good), my stay was full of pinch-me moments.
From getting into a taxi which turned out to be a not-taxi, as I discovered when my driver pulled over by the side of the road to throw the “Taxi” sign from the roof of his car into the boot and then proceeded to first give his mate a lift home before taking me to the bus station, to finding myself in the middle of Sims Medieval and Hobbiton in the same day, Montenegro was everything I never imagined it to be.
And I say never imagined it to be because, other than the occasional throwaway “where’s that?” comment whenever Montenegro is mentioned on the Eurovision Song Contest, I’ve never really given the country much thought.
It wasn’t until planning a trip to Croatia and finding it to be more than £100 cheaper to fly first to Berlin, then on to Montenegro, then bus it into Croatia, that it became a blip on my “I really want to go there” radar. Even then, it was more of an “I kind of want to go there” radar.
Then I came across this post on Caroline’s blog and around the same time my brother’s brother-in-law mentioned in passing how there was some sort of mountain or canyon in Montenegro he wanted to go to, and all of a sudden for every time Montenegro hadn’t crossed my mind in the past, it was crossing my mind twofold.
So instead of flying into Podgorica and getting a bus straight to Croatia that very same day, I decided to give myself a few days in Montenegro, “see what all the fuss was about” so to speak.
Let’s just say, if funds had allowed it I’d still be there right now.
The sky was grey for almost my whole stay, and the Heavens well and truly opened themselves up to me half way through day two. Nevertheless, my normally quintessentially British (in that I will let bad weather ruin anything) self didn’t mind for once! I was so happy being there, living my own little medieval fantasy that I didn’t even care that my socks got wet or that I ended up resembling a drowned rat.
Montenegro well and truly enchanted me.
I haven’t felt this much desire to return to a place since I was living in Spain and found a local supermarket that sold Cathedral City cheddar cheese at a decent(ish) price.
It’s totally bizarre because like I already said, I only spent 3 days there and visited 2 towns. But still, I’m already looking into cheap flights for later on in the year, hopefully to spend more than just a few days in the one concentrated location.