22/9/16 – Doing as the locals do

Got up semi-early to get ready and pack the last few things before leaving our nice Miami apartment. A friend of Lydia’s picked us up and took us to the Alamo to fetch our car and didn’t even want to charge us for the ride! We still tipped him, of course. Our car wasn’t ready yet, but the man behind the desk upgraded us to a bigger one free of charge to save us spending our vacation sitting in the Alamo. I do love Americans. There was also the Latino double of Oliver Hudson working on the desk. I genuinely thought it was really him (and that he’d super downgraded his career somehow) until I heard him speak.

Our car was a big Dodge Journey that I quickly dubbed Harry (Hazza if you’re feeling casual). It’s so good to have a car to just pile everything into, rather than having to lug around various bags and cases, particularly the box that’s filled with alcohol. Both the Alamo guy and our unofficial taxi driver commented on how it was the most important piece of luggage we were carrying. Not untrue. We only drove about an hour out of Miami before we had to stop off at a Burger King. Hunger is real, people, even if Burger King is pretty unsatisfying when you consider the wide variety of eating options here.

Back on the road again. Watched an episode of Psych and then we were distracted by a Walmart. Actually the first one we’ve seen. Finally got my big box of Seagrams, as well as more Red Bull, Sunny D, Milk Duds and a giant bag of popcorn. Then I discovered the clothes section and got very distracted indeed. I ended up picking out a stripy jumper dress of all things, but it was just too nice to pass up and as Mom pointed out, it was very me. Everyone knows black and red is my colour scheme. Even better, I also got various pairs of boxers with Deadpool, Batman and Wonder Woman on them. There were some lovely Harley Quinn ones, but sadly, they only had them in massive sizes.

By the time we were leaving, it was pouring with rain, so we had to wait it out a little before we were brave enough to make a run for it to the car. Thankfully, we didn’t have anymore distraction stops. I’d planned on using the driving time to write, but the drive was so nice that I ended up just watching through the window instead and taking the odd photo. Definitely some lovely views driving into the Keys. We booked into our very cute hotel in Key Largo and had a mill around in the room for a while. Had a little read and then Skyped Kel for a bit. I don’t think she’s enjoying hamster-sitting for Wilson, since he managed to get out of his ball. Yes, I named my hamster after a ball and yes, it’s ironic that he’s tried to make his grand escape from it on a few occasions.

Headed on out after that and had a little wander around the area. We walked down the waterfront first and found some lovely red and blue wrasse, stripy little Angelfish looking Sergeant Majors and some teeny, teeny jellyfish. We then went inwards and onto the street that ran parallel to the water. It was so freaking adorable. It was like being in a proper little fishing village, which I guess technically, we were. All of the houses were built up above the first storey with open patios underneath, besides the garages, clearly prepared for any potential flooding. They all looked really nice and cute though and everyone had their own unique mailboxes, like ones that were being held up by a manatee or alligator statue.

After exploring everything there pretty much was to explore – which really was only a little – we went to a restaurant called Sharkey’s, where we got to sit upstairs out on the balcony, overlooking the waterfront. Now this was just the most perfect night. I had a literal bucketful of a cocktail called Sharkbite Punch, which was mango and passionfruit rum, pineapple and orange juice and grenadine. To go with that, I decided to be adventurous and went with the beer battered fresh shrimp and sea fries. I’m really fussy with seafood and had to ask for them to be served without the tails on, so it was a brave step for me, but god, it was such a good choice. It was so fresh and so tasty and I felt so pleased that I’d chose to be adventurous. As well as the food and drink being delicious, there was a musician playing an acoustic set of great covers of songs I love like Three Doors Down, Oasis and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Then we even got to sit and watch an electrical storm out over the river where the lightning made the clouds light up pink and blue. Talk about the most incredible atmosphere. Everything was just perfect.

Suitably stuffed and with Mom certainly not wanting any more cocktails after our buckets, we headed back to the room. I had a few of my Mike’s Hard Lemonade and read, then planned to watch the rest of Sahara and then do some writing. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on which way you look at it – Dad discovered Impractical Jokers on the telly, so I had no choice but to watch that after only watching a little more of Sahara. Guess we’ll try again tomorrow.

124

130

Now that’s entertainment.

Advertisements

15/9/16 – Maximum effort

Up early at half four and initially feeling like I’m just getting up for my six o’clock Friday shift, but nope, it’s holiday time! First time going back to America since the two-month stint and also, sadly, my first ever trip without Kel. Since she bought a house earlier this year, she couldn’t afford a holiday and my friends are all no-go options because of either already having holidays booked or being useless with money or not wanting to go the same places. So what option did that leave me if I wanted any chance of going away this year? Tagging along with my parents. Luckily, no matter what age I’ve been, I’ve always got on really well with my parents and I’m certainly capable of paying for myself. Plus when they said the first place they were going to was New Orleans, I really didn’t have any choice. New Orleans is my most favourite place in the world.

So we got packed up and ready and got to the airport about half six. Milled about duty free once we got through customs and had a laugh over a Moschino perfume that looked like a Mr. Muscle type bottle. Since I have a super fancy phone for the first time in my life, I can officially play photographer myself. As long as I remember to take pictures, that is – I’m kinda bad at that. I grabbed food from Burger King whilst the oldies had breakfast from Wetherspoons. Apparently, going away with your parents is a good bet, because Mom also got me a giant hunk of black pudding on the side of the breakfasts. I looove black pudding.

We boarded the plane for our first connecting flight to Amsterdam. Accidentally read a quarter of my Anita Blake book, oops. The flight was only just over an hour, but there was a slight delay before we took off, which meant we had to rush through customs and boarding straight onto the next flight, meaning we didn’t have chance to get drinks or anything from the airport. Boo. I was dying for a Red Bull. It was even more annoying, because there were then more delays and we had to sit on the runway for about forty minutes. I could have used that time to shop for my fix.

Thankfully, sitting on the plane was made way better by the fact that the in-flight entertainment was the best ever. Like most long haul flights, each seat has their own screen fixed into the headrest in front of them with a selection of things to watch. Only this selection was basically like having Netflix, albeit smaller, but with very new releases, including the latest aired seasons from this year of Flash, Arrow, The Walking Dead, Gotham, etc. I promptly found and put on Deadpool. The mature ones had to be edited a little, but it basically just meant there were less close ups of gore and they cut out the whole sex montage. Not so bad, as it would have been awkward if anyone else looked at my screen. I just had to miss out on hearing Calendar Girl.

After Deadpool, I watched Groundhog Day and then The Lady in the Van (was not prepared for it being as sad as it was!) I spotted Suits and figured I could continue watching from where I left off, but they only had season five, whereas I’m still on season four. Watched a couple of episodes of Impractical Jokers instead. In between all this, we had various drink options throughout the flight, packs of pretzels, little snack packs of olives (which were definitely left unopened) and crackers with a bell pepper spread, then ice cream pots and hot chicken, cheese and honey mustard sandwiches. The main meal was cheese tortellini, cheese and crackers, a bread roll, ignored salad and a lovely rich chocolate orange mousse. Good job, Delta.

Despite how well we were looked after, the flight just felt sooo long. I spent a while just listening to music and we still had another three hours to go. I turned to my saviour on long trips and listened to an episode of That Anime Show to kill another few hours. I seem to have a knack for choosing appropriate episodes, because they spent a good portion of it talking about travel and the sore points of flights. I had people constantly knocking my elbows as I listened to them, so I certainly understood. They even talked about New Orleans and Key West – both places we’re visiting on this trip! One thing I adore about That Anime Show is not only are they super geeky and produce the dubbing work that I love; they’re all so into travelling, it’s amazing. Not enough people have the interest in travel.

Finally, after nine and a half hours, we were landing in Atlanta. The sad part was that we still had one more flight to go. Thankfully, we had a little more time in this airport. We visited for a connecting flight before and it still amazes me how huge it is. How many airports have their own train systems inside?! (Later learnt that it’s the biggest airport in the world, which really doesn’t surprise me). One day, I’ll actually get to see Atlanta properly or at least more than just the airport. I finally got to get my much needed Red Bull, as well as some fruit punch Gatorade. I forgot that America means living on Gatorade and Powerade. I managed to connect to the WiFi in the airport and update people on where we were before we boarded our final flight.

Again, this one was only an hour long. I read another quarter of my book, then was just so tired that I attempted to sleep through until landing. Not only did it not work; I realised far too late that they were showing Flash on the screens. Damn it. That would have made it far more enjoyable. Baggage claim was fairly smooth and then we had the hopper ride to our hotel, which was another half hour to the journey. I was a lot more interested in watching everything through the window now that we were finally in New Orleans.

We checked into our Best Western and started unpacking things. I soon discovered there’d been a toiletries explosion in my suitcase and that half of my clothes were soaked through. Oh, no. Thankfully, the culprit was my now completely empty bottle of heat protection spray for my hair. Not greasy and gross like the shampoo explosion we had one of the years and it actually smelt quite nice, rather than making all my clothes stink like chemicals. I hung them over every chair and rail I could find and will just have to hope for the best. On the bright side, we had free WiFi in the room and there’s fucking millions of PokéStops in New Orleans. I think we’re seriously cheated back home.

Updated a few more people on our whereabouts, played a bit of my silly but adorable Disney game, then finally hit the hay. Super, super comfy beds and I even get a double all to myself. It was seriously welcome after all the travel. Tonight’s gonna be a good night.

001

If you got your bottles mixed up, it’d either my an expensively clean kitchen or a not-so-niced, possibly burning perfume.

24/9/15 – Less suck, more good

Well, it certainly didn’t take us long to get onto our next holiday. We had just over twenty-four hours at home after the Isle of Wight before we were leaving again. I made sure we watched brand new Gotham before leaving. Oh, Cory Michael Smith, I have missed you since May. We decided on the way to the airport that our taxi driver was like a mix of Cisco’s dad and an Asian Mickey Flanagan. Yeah, we come up with odd deductions.

I seem to be making a habit of getting stopped going through security at airports. Though this time they informed me they were scanning me for explosives! Charming. I tend to wear short shorts and little tops, so I have no idea where they thought I’d be hiding these explosives. Maybe I don’t want to know. Our first stop when we got through to the waiting area was obviously Burger King. After that, we got the necessary things from Boots (mainly Red Bull for me) and then Kel had some surprisingly yummy white chocolate and raspberry thing from Costa’s whilst we were waiting. I did a bit of reading before we had to board. Didn’t get to play in the big musical Pod thing this time because it was overrun by kids, boo.

Sadly, we weren’t able to sit next to each other on the flight – we had to sit across the aisle from each other. I was sat next to a middle-aged couple and man, where they annoying. The man next to me clearly had no concept of space, because I was constantly getting elbowed, kneed, having things passed to the air hostesses right in front of my face and, at one point, I got fully leant on when he was trying to get a photo of his wife. No apologies for any of it either, which always makes it more annoying. Then when I was trying to write, he was very obviously trying to read it, then nudging his wife, whispering something and pointing to my notebook. Yeah, that’s reeeally distracting when I’m trying to work. Not to mention they had about eight mini bottles of wine between them, so of course, that meant I had to keep getting up to let them out so they could go to the toilet. Do you guys not get how the liquid cycle works?

I did manage to get another short story written though. As well as watch the 100 Clues episode of Psych (such a great tribute to Clue; it’s just perfect), an episode of Nabari and listen to some That Anime Show. Highlights were Tatum’s thoughts over Lin, which were hilarious – basically that he’s a dick but has great hair. Priorities, yo. They also talked about the less suck, more good direction when working in the booth. That’s what I want from my seat buddies on the flight back home. The flight itself took just under four hours, landing us there at about ten o’clock. Weirdly, there’s no time difference in Gran Canaria. I’m still trying to fathom how that works.

Getting cases was fairly quick, as was our transfer to the Hotel IFA Continental. I don’t remember ever staying in a hotel like this, unless we did when we were very little, but it’s huge and pretty fancy. Our room’s very nice and we have an awesome bathroom. It’s very hot though. After unpacking, we had to put our Tetris skills to use to make a tower out of the suitcases and books for our travel fan to go on, so that we’d both be able to feel the effects. Now I think we’re ready for bed!

Our schedule for the all-inclusive - we must familiarise ourselves well with this!

Our schedule for the all-inclusive – we must familiarise ourselves well with this!

8/5/15 – Come on, baby!

Our next trip is go! This time it’s more for visitation purposes rather than a holiday, as we’re going to see our friend Emi in her Bulgarian homeland. If we get to add a new country to our list (and hopefully discover some awesome Bulgarian foods) in the process then that’s fine with me! The taxi driver picked us up at half eight in the morning. Most talkative taxi driver ever! I’m not sure why every Asian person seems to claim a personal connection to Slumdog Millionaire. Is there a British film that we do that with? Maybe I should start telling people I was an extra in Harry Potter. Or that Neville Longbottom was based on my clumsy-ass life.

We got to do self check-in when we got to the airport and had some initial distress when it looked like they hadn’t sat us next to each other on the plane, followed by confusion when the second lot of seats were then three-by-three instead of two-by-two. Sitting me in a different row is one thing, but I certainly don’t wanna be on my own plane! But it turned out we were just being stupid, as usual. Both seating plans were for one person – the first for our flight into Germany and then our connection to Bulgaria. Oops. Drama over. Of course my priorities once we’d then gotten through security (why do I always forget they make you take your shoes off? I couldn’t have been wearing brighter socks than my Flash one) were to grab some Burger King and a can of Red Bull. Necessarily in that order.

We had a quick nose in the arcade – never as good as I remember – then started heading towards our gate once the board told us it was open. On the way we found a big inflatable igloo type thing called ‘the Pod’. It was clearly for kids, so of course we had to have a mooch inside and see what was going on. It was dark inside with a circle of lights on the floor and a small screen on the wall to choose different options. We found out from the first option we picked that if you blocked any of the lights it’d make a different sound effect. There was one that sounded like a depleted horn/fart. Obviously that one was our favourite. We then picked the ‘groovy’ option and found ourselves turning into master DJs when we discovered that each light played a different layer of funky music or a woman singing things like “come on, baby”. I felt like I was playing Twister, trying to reach as many lights as possible at one time. Very amusing, though we probably pissed off the staff outside who likely have to hear it all the time. We walked away with our own funky masterpiece stuck in both of our heads.

We boarded and then took off all very quickly, leaving at about eleven in British time. I watched an episode of Psych on my iPod and we were given some drinks and extremely weird chicken and feta cheese sandwiches. I ate most of mine before giving up and turning to my Red Bull, which I was more interested in. Managed to fit in a little bit of writing and then suddenly we were landing, half an hour early! The journey only took about an hour and a half, making it half past one in German time. Munich airport was quite big, but eerily subdued. Apparently there’s some truth to Germans not being particularly happy people. As we saw the taxi rank outside we noticed that all of their taxis are a quite horrible cream colour. The Magnolias of Munich. Lovely.

Since we had a good five or six hours before our connecting flight we decided to make the most of our first time in Germany and do a bit of exploring. Kel had picked up a leaflet that said if we got the train from the airport to Oberschleibheim we could check out some of the fancy palaces. We left the airport, which opened up into this really wide space that was circled by shops and overlooked by a crazy high canopy. All very fancy. For some reason they also had a load of Mustangs parked out front. Of course I was enthralled – I don’t expect to see good Mustangs like these outside of America (sadly the only one that’s finally being imported into England as right-hand drive is a crappy new one. Boo).

We cut down into the underground and hit the ticket machines with our leftover euros from Greece last year. Kel managed to switch it to English, but we were still uncertain of whether our ticks would class as returns and which would be the cheapest option for us to get. Whilst we were faffing a very nice German man who was using the machine next to us finished up and then helped us to find the equivalent of a group daysaver, all on his own accord without us having to ask for help. I respectfully take back my unhappy Germans comment.

We’d been waiting for a while and not seen the train that we seemed to want, so we asked a German woman if we were looking for the right thing. She pointed out that we should check out a timetable as she wasn’t sure how often our train would be leaving from the airport today. After looking into it more on one of the timetables we learnt that none on the trains were departing from our station. Well, Kel figured it out. I don’t even understand English transport timetables, so I entertained myself by finding funny place names on it like Poing, Grafrath and Abfahrt.

We decided to just get on the next train and follow the crowd and get off anywhere that looked popular. Let’s just hope we don’t get lost. I only know three things in German – guten tag, danke schon and ich dein gesicht, oma. The last of which most likely won’t come in use, though it’s still hilarious (translation: shut your face, Grandma. Thanks for that one, Impractical Jokers). We got on the next train that showed up. Germany is surprisingly very green and also very flat. Kinda like the English countryside, only minus the many hills. We stayed on for about half an hour before we got bored, then got off at somewhere that may have been called Orleanzplatz. Maybe. As long as we can find our way back to it, who cares?

We had a little wander around what seemed to be a cute little town. It was surprisingly sunny. I obviously love the sun, but I wasn’t pre-warned to dress for this! We passed a lot of places that we couldn’t tell what they were. I’ve never felt so hindered by a language barrier before. It’s a good thing we’re only visiting for a few hours. We managed to find a bar with a semi-readable cocktail menu, so we stopped for a drink and a chill. I ordered a Midori something-or-other after I established that it was rum, triple sec, midori and various juices, including pineapple. Yay. The guy who served me sounded oddly like Robin Lord Taylor. My cocktail was very nice – very sour. Now I feel like I’m on holiday!

Our brief experience of Germany was very green, very sunny and very pleasant. Well done, Germany!

Our brief experience of Germany was very green, very sunny and very pleasant. Well done, Germany!

We headed back to the train station after that, feeling cautious about leaving enough time before our flight. We learnt upon getting back there that we were actually in Ostbahnhof. I clearly invented the other name. Was feeling ridiculously hot by this point and really hoping my foundation wasn’t going to melt off. Now wouldn’t that be attractive? Thankfully the journey back seemed much quicker. Probably because we got to sit down this time. We breezed through check-ins and customs. Had a wander around two floors of the airport in search of food, but couldn’t really find anything ideal. Looks like it’ll be the 24/7 pizza place that Emi promised us when we get to Bulgaria.

I got a little happy in duty free, but told myself it was fine because I’d completely forgotten about the leftover euros I had anyway. So technically it’s like free money (using the word technically very loosely here). I got a mini bottle of Grey Goose vodka – partly because I’ve always wanted to try it and partly because it was cute and I’m clearly the kind of person that minis are aimed at – and then a little Flash figurine from the toy shop. I’ve been needing something superhero for my toy corner. Makes sense that I fulfill that with my all-time favourite. I also got some mini tuc biscuits and some Kinder Bueno type chocolate for on the plane, to fill the void until we get to Bulgaria. Oh, and more Red Bull of course. Hey, I’ve done a lot of walking today.

Again the plane started moving pretty soon after we’d boarded and again took only an hour and a half – half an hour less than expected. I watched a few episodes of Fullmetal, did a little more writing and then we were already landing in Bulgaria at ten o’clock their time. Finished off the rest of my Red Bull in between customs and baggage claim, then finally Emi was there waiting for us just at the end of the airport! Of course we just had to sod everyone else for our reunion and tackle hug in the middle of everything. She was there with her mom who doesn’t really speak much English, but she was able to gather that we were very excited of course.

We had a little natter with Emi whilst she helped us with a taxi and then came down to our hotel with us. We were told we were in room sixty-six on the sixth floor. Oh, come on… Me and Emi exchanged a very knowing look over that. Kel, of course, didn’t get it. We agreed on a meet-up time for tomorrow morning and Emi promised to bring us her spare phone so we’d have an easier way to keep in touch rather than just relying on the wifi in the hotel, then left us to it for the night.

We had a bit of a horror when we unpacked and realised there’d been a shampoo explosion in one of the cases. Thankfully it’s very nice smelling Aussie shampoo and the only victims were a pair of my shorts, one Skecher and one of Kel’s bras. We tried to clean things up as best as we could, so hopefully they’ll survive the rest of the trip – maybe just smelling mildly like bubblegum and coconut. I finished off the rest of my tuc biscuits and did a little more writing whilst Kel was showering, then we slowly wound down for what felt like our well-deserved beds.

The view from our hotel room in Sofia. It looks like Greece and America got together and had a wonderful baby.

The view from our hotel room in Sofia. It looks like Greece and America got together and had a wonderful baby.

17/6/14 – Backstreet’s back, alright!

So here I am, doing this whole blogging thing again. I learnt that documenting my last travels was actually good for retaining memories of all the smaller things, so I figured I’d try again. My lazy holidaying life in Crete won’t be anywhere near as exciting as travelling through America, but still more so than my everyday one. So here we are in a new notebook! Seeing as I obliterated my Durarara!! one with my American tales. I feel the cute sleepy puppies on the front of this one are much more symbolic of the laziness of this holiday.

The majority of our travelling was actually rather splendid. Dad dropped us off at the airport and we made a friend on the way whilst stuck in traffic – a guy in a truck in the other lane who was doing some very enthusiastic dancing and getting us to join in. Once we got into duty free we went to visit Amy at Pret á Manger. She gave me a lovely free hot chocolate with had both hazelnut AND caramel in it, mmmm.

From there me and Mel wanted grub so we went to Burger King too. Our flight on the board then changed from boarding to final call whilst I still had half a giant burger, half my hot chocolate and nearly all of my Fanta left. I had to shove the burger in my bag, down the hot chocolate (not something I’d ever recommend downing) and drink as much of my Fanta as I could on the way to the gate. Luckily we were at the one furthest away (who’d have thought I’d ever say luckily for something that involves more walking?)

The flight was a breeze compared to all the ones we did last year – only three hours and forty-five minutes! As we were taking off there was a weird groaning noise, to which Kel was like, “I think we just killed a whale!” Sky whales; who knew? I got excited when the in-flight movie started with the Disney castle but it turned out to be that Mary Poppins one, so I watched This Is The End on my iPod instead. Best film ever. I ate my leftover burger cold, which was odd to say the least, then listened to an episode of That Anime Show. Terri and Tatum never fail me on long journeys. And Apphia had a lot of love for Batman, which made me have even more love for her.

We got our cases pretty smoothly but then had some trouble finding the right coach for our transfer when the rep tried sending us to the wrong one twice. Thankfully the coach driver of the wrong one helped direct us to the right one. The transfer was only about half an hour as we were the second drop-off, woohoo. We got to Nikos Apartments and were taken straight to our room, which seemed to be the reject one in the corner. The room itself was nice enough but we didn’t have a balcony, which was disappointing. Mel went to ask Van (who was very nice to us when we last stayed ten years ago) if there were any other rooms we could move to. There weren’t, but he promised to check again for us on changeover day.

We decided not to unpack properly until Friday in case we did get lucky and to just wing it for now. Though right now we’re finally here and that’s all that matters. Bring it on, Stalis!

 

Kel was a bit mindblown by the lime green walls…

26/9/13 – Moving on

Got up quite early to finish packing up and be ready to move on. Our group tour officially starts tomorrow, so we booked the night before in the hotel we’ll be starting from. Had a quick Skype session with Mom in the midst of getting ready. Apparently Izzy’s finally learning how to catch. Before, she just used to sit there and wait, let it hit her on the head and then find it off the floor. Special dog.

We got the bus down to our next hotel. It wasn’t too far but it was awkward with the cases – plus I’d had a fall-out with mine because it had decided to clobber my foot. We were too early for check-in time but they let us leave our cases in storage so we could wait by the pool, beach, etc. We went for a little stroll in search of food and ended up just eating in Burger King. I entertained Kel by making unattractive faces and even more unattractive noises over my giant strawberry Minutemaid (no seriously, it was huge! I didn’t even finish it and I felt like I was going to explode from sheer volume of liquid).

Spent a few hours by the pool until we had to run from another sudden downpour. Didn’t really help – we still got soaked. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon Skyping with Mom and Dad, then with Sid. Did another small supermarket shop (this one didn’t smell of hamsters) for pop and snacks, then brought in some KFC for tea. We didn’t want a late night because of the tour starting early in the morning.

Discovered tonight that I got sunburnt too. A lot. Also that the interior of our hotel looks creepily like a hospital (and they really didn’t want us to have towels for some reason – they were more interested in mopping our floor whilst we were still in there!) Let’s see how well I sleep tonight.

I don’t think I agreed to spending a night in an asylum…