Hotel Carmen and Fontana, Shkodra

We stroll back from Rozafa castle along the river and into the hotel parking lot where our bags are hopefully still stashed in the laundry room. There’s an old taxi driver guy having a nap in the back of his car. “That’s our way to the city center.” “Yep.”

The door to the laundry room is still open but there’s nobody in there. Our bags are just sitting there, leaning up against the wall. “Soooo.. I guess anyone could have just come in here and taken these at any point?” “Looks that way. Glad that didn’t happen.” “Or these could be someone else’s bags and we’re just gonna take em?” “Haha. Yep. Let’s steal these bags!”

We steal back our own bags and go over to check on Taxi Napper. Click click on the window and he lifts his cap up and looks out with one eye. He jerks to when he sees us and is apologizing in Albanian. Doesn’t appear to speak any English so I show him a map on my phone and point to the area that looks like the city center. “Center?” “Centar?” “Yes.” He points at his eyes and pushes my hand a distance away so he can see. Nope. Glare from there sun is too bad there. With some more hand-guiding he gets the phone in a position at just the right focal point and shadow. “Ahh. Centar. good.” He holds up five fingers. “Euros?” He nods. “Ok.” He motions for us to get in.

Taxi Napper has shaken off his lethargy and is now excitedly motioning towards points of interest as he drives. No idea what he’s actually saying but some of the churches and mosques are incredible as we make our way towards central Shkodra.

We circle a roundabout and TN pulls over and points up the sidewalk. Yep, looks like the main dealio. We hop out and grab our stolen bags from the trunk. Hand TN some coinage and a fist bump and make our way into town.

I’ve got a bead on a place called Hotel Carmen that is supposedly smack dab in the middle of the main drag. Figure we’ll check there first and see if the price and accommodations can meet our very low standards.

The sun is settling into golden hour now and as we round the corner onto Rruga Kolë Idromeno it sets the colorful buildings aglow for a brief instant.

Ok, the hotel is down thisaway. Certainly does feel like the main drag with all of these fabulous looking patios to chill on.

We find hotel Carmen midway down the drag. Nice looking, fancy-ish place with royal maroon awnings. The hostess is a stunning older lady who speaks perfect English. She’s very polite and asks us to follow her upstairs to see the rooms. I guess it’s one of those places where you look before committing to stay there.

She opens one room and then the other. Both look smashing. Spacious rooms with big fancy bathrooms. “How much for a room?” “25 Euro.” MacKay and I exchange a glance, each knowing the others thoughts. Almost in unison, “We’ll take both please.” “Two rooms?” “Yes, two rooms.” She gives us a confused look, “There are two beds in the room.” “Yep.” “Ok, ok. It is up to you, yes?” “Haha he talks in his sleep.” “Oh oh ok haha. Yes. Good sleep is very important.” She’s giggling as she takes us back to the front desk to commit. 

We take our bags up and get situated. It is a little unnecessary to each have a room but it sure does feel good to treat yourself sometimes. My own space ahhhhhh. No late night snot rockets or meat farts. This is amazing. I get completely naked and trot off to the shower to rinse off the castle grease.

We reconvene in the hallway and head back to the strip. Just enough light in the day to “Chill on one of those patios?” “For sure. Cocktails?” “Woohoo.” We truck passed patio after patio, no bardar needed here. “I mean.. any of these will do, right?” “Fontana?” “Fontana.”

Oh yeah, this’ll do nicely. Comfy corner section in a pretty, covered patio area in the center of the strip.

Basically have the place to ourselves. I suppose it is early. And Wednesday.

The server comes over and we put in a Negroni and the namesake drink, Fontana. 

They’re playing ambient edm house tunes in here. Making for a chill setting. “What’s this faux philosophical bullshit?” “Shazam says it’s Zhu, Good Life.”

“Drinks look better than they taste.” “Ya, the Fontana is too sweet. Switch to G&Ts.” “Sure. I’m thinking pizza too. The one over there looks decent.” MacKay doesn’t answer, his head is tracking the sidewalk. “The girls?” “Ya. It’s crazy.” “I know. The Balkans….” 

The pizza comes out quickly and it’s really good. The server leaves some chili oil so we partake in that too. Makes things a bit messy but it has a nice spice and is light. A perfect early evening amuse bouche. The double G&Ts are much better than the ‘signature’ cocktails as well.

MacKay picks up the menu, “Dude. This pizza. It’s only, like, $4.50.” “Haha wow. I like to pay less for in-restaurant pizza than DiGiorno.” “Kinda digging this place.” “It’s pretty. Relaxed. Ya, good vibe.” “And no one coming up to us to sell shit.” “Right. Not really much of that on this trip at all.” “Way less than other places. Almost non-existent.” “That is a nice bonus.” 

Three more rounds and we’re feeling mighty toasty. The whole place has filled in now and we’re still holding down the back corner. We’ve got a good rapport going with the server at this point and his promptness with the cheap drinks is appreciated.

It feels like we’ve done all the damage we can at this place over the last couple of hours. Time to move on and let someone else occupy the corner jam.

“Mosey? Find real dinner somewhere?” “Yep. It’s time. Whoa! Haven’t stood up for a while.” “Haha shit. Is this gonna get stupid?” “Oh yeah, I think so.” We peel ourselves out of the corner, find our footing and begin to aimlessly stroll the strip.

I like this scene of folks watching the football match out on the patios.

Very cool place, Shkodër. I’m liking it. Let’s see what else we can get into on a Wednesday.

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