Monday, October 1, 2018

The Lady is a Tramp

To be honest, Lady PiPi is grotesque.

Head thrown back like her throat's been cut, face frozen in a grimace, breasts pointed disjointedly at the sky, the seated figure's hands encircle her, uh, girl parts, from which a metal tube provides the flow of water. Lady Pipi, you see, is a sculpture.

And just to be clear, that's pronounced lady Pee-pee.

I'm not sure I'd have ever known about her or her namesake restaurant if I hadn't seen that the owner of Note Bene had been in Dubrovnik over the summer. Knowing I'd be en route myself in a couple months, the next time I'd been in for dinner, I'd made sure to pick her brain about must-dos.

The first words out of her mouth after, "You're going to have a ball in Dubrovnik," was, "Lady Pipi, you have to go! Fabulous food, amazing views." And no question about it, she's someone I'd trust completely when it comes to food recommendations.

And no surprise about that because the outdoor restaurant has the feel of a treehouse perched above the city, with a grapevine-draped pergola overhead and plants for "walls." On the street level is a small area with a few tables, while upstairs is an open air grill (ah, now I se the Note Bene connection) with wooden tables and a postcard-worthy view.

And while some visitors might be put off by a restaurant all the way at the top of the walled city or by their no reservation policy, we had issues with neither. So after a couple hours spent walking the side of the city we hadn't walked the day before, we came to Lady Pipi's.

Funny part was, we didn't even notice the sculpture out front, despite that I knew enough from my research online to have looked for it. That may have been because when we inquired about a table for two, the server pointed to the young Japanese woman standing nearby and informed her she'd be eating with us.

Lady Pipi is apparently too desirable a place to eat to waste a table on single diners.

But it worked out well for us because Shiho, our third, turned out to be delightful company whose English far surpassed our Japanese. Turns out she was on a two week solo holiday from her job with a film company and had come to Lady Pipi solely because her hotel concierge had recommended it.

Without, by the way, mentioning the Lady's namesake sculpture or its bared body parts.

The views were astonishing, covering the entire walled city and beyond to the Adriatic, and the couple behind us shared that they'd waited half an hour for their prime table. We were three feet away and had done nothing more than walk up and luck into our table.

To quote Rod Stewart, some guys have all the luck.

It was interesting, Himself and I naturally ordered seafood (hello, blue-green sea and its bounty), but the representative from Japan went straight for sausages and potatoes. I guess when sushi is a mainstay, it's animal parts that seem exotic on vacation.

My Buza shrimps (no menu here uses the plural without an "s") were actually head-on prawns in a creamy tomato sauce perfect for sopping with crusty bread. But opening and eating them was one step removed from eating crabs, with the added challenge of being immersed in a hot sauce. I cut my thumb on a claw and bled a little on one bite, but who's keeping track? Himself made do with a large plate of onion-filled octopus salad, a staple in these parts except breakfast.

At least so far, but the trip's far from over.

Because she was wearing a black baseball cap from "The Met," we asked how she'd liked New York City. But she'd never been and the hat was a gift from a friend who had. "And it looks very good," she insisted with a smile.

Chatting about our respective vacations as we ate, Himself, ever the planner, inquired of Shiho - mind you, she was only on day four of her trip - what her next vacation was going to be. When she looked surprised at the question, I couldn't resist explaining that this is a man who already has vacations planned through Fall 2019.

And that's just what I know of.

Shiho's mouth dropped open and her eyes crinkled as she laid her head on her hand atop the table to laugh. "Next year?" she asked, amazed and perhaps making generalizations about Americans in her head, but never spoken aloud.

Yup, you heard right. And that's only the stuff that's been nailed down.

She told us how difficult it was to find someone to travel with now that her friends are all married and knocking out kids, but also that few of her peers got two weeks vacation yet. And when you're talking about a trip that took her 30 hours to get here (and I thought South Africa was bad at 20-some), a fair amount of commitment is involved.

When I found out that Shiho knew nothing of Lady Pipi or her exhibitionist tendencies, I insisted the three of us lay eyes upon her together. I didn't give anything away, just led her and Himself downstairs and made an abrupt U-turn.

If you've never seen a young Japanese woman agog, allow me to tell you abut it. Her eyes bugged out, her face went a little pale and her mouth dropped open. Shocked as she was, she obligingly took a photo of Lady Pipi, Himself and me when he handed her his phone and asked her to. In fact, she was gracious enough to snap several.

He went on to insist on taking her picture with the Lady, fully aware that no one back in Japan was going to fully comprehend the glory of Pipi without a picture to prove it. She promptly insisted that I be in the photo with her, because what makes more sense than a crass sculpture paired with an American and a Japanese in a Met hat?

My work in Dubrovnik is finished now. I can move on, knowing my legacy here will live on in Tokyo. Godspeed, Lady Pipi.

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