29/9/16 – All good things

Final get-up of the trip. Was a little earlier today, since w wanted to make the most of the pool whilst we could. The forecast is… sunny, yay. Got into my bikini, put together my beach bag and down to the pool we went. We found ourselves some sunbeds in the sun and we were well away. It was blisteringly hot.I started off reading and ended up finishing my Kelley Armstrong book, so I then switched to lying on my front so that I could tan my back. Had to take short breaks to go and stand in the shallow end to cool down every now and then.

When the sun disappeared behind the very big hotel, we figured we’d be best to go back to the room. We Skyped Kel, all showered in procession and got the rest of our stuff packed up. We moved everything downstairs and got a shuttle service to the airport. The first thing we wanted once we’d got through customs was food. Went to some little take-out restaurant place. I had what was supposedly Jamaican jerk chicken breast with rice and plantains. It definitely wasn’t jerk anything. Just a grilled chicken breast with a bit of sauce on it. I’m still not entirely sure what plantains are, other than that they’re not nice. It was filling enough though.

After that, we went to check out duty free. Always a good place for restocking our alcohol cupboard and Miami airport didn’t fail us. I got a big, fat 1.75L bottle of Smirnoff for only twenty-three dollars. Sometimes you’re hard pressed to get even a litre for that amount at home. They also had the fancy Belvedere stuff for only thirty-three dollars – again, cheaper than at home. Since I’d never tried it before, I decided to get a pink grapefruit bottle as a birthday present to myself for next week. We also got a refill on Cointreau, since we get through quite a lot of that when we do cocktail nights in.

We went to a little bar afterwards for mimosas, then I ran to grab some drinks from one of the shops before we had to board. Fabby in-flight entertainment once again. I’d watched half of Elvis and Nixon before we’d even taken off. Charming film, though they really couldn’t have got an uglier Elvis. At least Evan Peters kept it up on the eye candy front. Following the same actor theme, once we were up in the air, I decided to rewatch X-Men Apocalypse. I then got distracted by a spectacular electrical storm that we were flying by and managed to get some good photos through the window.

Food then came during X-Men. I forget how weird Air France food is. Bread roll, fine; wheatgerm and shiitake mushroom rice salad, eh; chicken and rice, ropey; apple sauce, okay; chocolate brownie thing, okay. Even the cheese was really weird. I remember Air France being better for the snacks, so maybe we’ll have to wait for that. The one upside was that I got a glass of champagne with my meal, so I guess I can’t complain too much. Unsurprisingly, I felt a little tired after the food and champers, so I decided to go with a movie I knew well, since it meant I wouldn’t have to concentrate too much.

That meant opting for Princess and the Frog, which instead succeeded in waking me up, as it made me want to have a singalong. Like any Disney, it also has its super sad moments. I already felt super emotional about leaving America behind and if I didn’t shed a tear over Princess and the Frog, then I definitely did over Big Hero 6, which I saved till last and watched afterwards. I have a definite love-hate relationship with that movie, very much like with Clannad. Serious adoration for it, but it still breaks my heart every time. Fuck you, Disney. I switched to writing after that and did another couple of flash fictions.

We landed in Paris after the eight hour flight and were now six hours ahead in time. These time zones really are so confusing, especially when you haven’t slept. The flight was then delayed half an hour. That always sucks worse when you’re coming home, because you have nothing to look forward to. By this point, all you want is to get home. Thankfully, the flight itself was only about an hour long. I listened to some music for a bit, watched some Psych and was so tired by that time, that I slept through on and off until landing. I kept doing that whole nodding dog thing, but at one point when I did it, we’d already landed. Guess it worked out to an extent. My ears are usually excruciating when landing, so I was glad I skipped that part.

Baggage claim and passport control were fairly simple and we were outside and in a taxi within twenty-five minutes. Thank god. It had been a long day, made worse by the fact that I’ve never been so depressed to come home. What with the fact that my closest friends don’t live so nearby – two of them technically living overseas – besides Kel and the dog, I really didn’t feel much reason to come back at all. My love affair with America is just far too great and seems to be getting stronger all the time. Maybe now it won’t be so much as saving for the next trip, but saving towards moving there on a more permanent basis. I need to hurry up and start getting my books published.

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Now that’s entertainment.

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.

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

18/11/15 – Where Febo

Had an ugly night’s sleep. Was hot on and off and every time I woke up, the ship would tilt and I’d feel like I was going to fall out of bed. Also heard a few loud bangs and would instantly think “what did we hit?!” I really don’t want to actually re-enact the Titanic. We were then woken up at six o’clock by a stupidly loud tannoy announcement saying that breakfast was open. For once, I really didn’t care. They didn’t say exactly how long we had until docking, so I didn’t want to risk going back to sleep. Once again, I felt like I was drunk when I got out of bed. I read some more Jurassic Park to wake up a bit and then got ready.

Docking was a bit of a bumpy transition. We stopped in Rotterdam at about nine o’clock. After getting off the boat, we got straight onto a coach instead to take us into Amsterdam. I was so tired that I was falling asleep for most of the journey before eventually succumbing to a five minute nap, which is unlike me. I don’t nap, especially not on transport. Shows what a crummy night’s sleep I had. Did see a lot of windmills en route though, when I was actually awake and looking. What you’d expect from Holland. The first thing we did when we got into Amsterdam was grab some bacon and egg McMuffins from Maccies. Clearly very exotic.

We then had a little wander around and headed to Anne Frank’s house and museum. You get to have a look around most of the house, bar the loft, which you only get a view of via the mirrors they have stationed, listen to interviews of various people who were involved and see some of the old photographs that had been pasted on the wall, as well as read snippets from and see actual extracts of the diary itself. My knowledge of Anne Frank is very small, particularly as it’s something we never learnt about at school. This visit probed most of said knowledge was actually wrong anyway, so I learnt a lot. Was all very interesting. The stairs were crazy steep though – I had visions of killing somebody behind me if I tripped. I also nearly clocked my head going through the hidden door behind the bookcase that leads into the secret annexe, because you have to duck and jump up a giant step at the same time. This goes against my athletic capabilities.

After Anne Frank, we went to collect our Ice Bar tickets that Kel had ordered yesterday whilst we were sat in the pub. We had a bit of a walk from the ticket booth to the Ice Bar itself, so we decided to cross one of the things off our food list on the way. The first thing we saw to go for was patajes or “fries at war”. I had the oolog special, which was fat fries with chopped onions, a hell of a lot of mayo and peanut sauce. I actually really hate peanuts, but tend to like the sauces. This particular one tasted like something in between a Chinese style curry sauce and a satay sauce. Super yummy.

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Another bonus to the fries at war was the hilarious name of the food stall.

When we got to Ice Bar, we were given three inclusive drinks tokens – two for in the ice bar itself and one in the normal bar. We were given gloves and hooded bomber coats and then sent through into the ice bar. I know it was expected, but holy fuck, was it cold. My feet had been hurting on the way down, but I suddenly couldn’t feel them anymore. It was minus 9.5 degrees in there. It was all very funky though with icy walls, big ice sculptures and even the glasses were made of hollowed-out blocks of ice. I had orange juice and vodka for my two drinks in there, then a Caipiroska when we came back out to the main bar. Kel stole some wifi to try and find out where one of the food places on our list to try was. She got a little lazy though and literally just Googled “where Febo”, which I found rather amusing.

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Brings a whole new meaning to having ice in your drink (they’d suck in the summer though – you’d end up with a handful of cocktail!)

We had another, slower wander around afterwards since our feet hurt. Dutch people have no concept of space, but they’ve all been helpful enough when we’ve needed directions. Biggest con is that you get a great whiff of weed pretty much every other block. I know I shouldn’t have come to Amsterdam if I hate the smell of weed, but I clearly underestimated how rife it is. This is why it should never be legalised. I managed to get some stroodlewoodles from one of the shops and Kel got a magnet from another, so we were both happy.

We then found another food stand that did poffertjes – yet another snack that we’d wanted to try. They’re like fluffy little pancake balls. We got a tray to share and had them with caramel syrup. They were so good. I easily could have had another tray to myself. We had a quick walk through the red light district too, which we were obviously being children about. A prostitute who was getting changed in the window caught me looking when I was being nosy, so I then pretty much ran the rest of the way.

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Thank you Holland for your wonderful foods.

Heading back towards our pick-up point, we stopped in another Maccies for a chance to sit down and have a drink, then I grabbed some Red Bull for the road from a shop a few doors down. Finally, we then found the little place called Febo that we’d been looking for all day (basically our day was just based around food). Febo is a weird little fast food place that has a sort of fast food vending machine. You put your money in, pick a microwave-like glass case and it opens for you to get the hot food inside. I tried a kalfsvleeskroket, which was like a croquette filled with a gravy kind of mush and bits of beef. Actually really nice, if a little on the small side. Kel tried a different kind called rundvleeskroket, which was fairly similar and also good.

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We found you, Febo!

We had a longer coach ride back to the dock because of traffic, so it was closer to two hours. We had a giggle over the women sitting behind us, because the one clearly wasn’t listening to the other. Kel then had a nap and I managed to write a page in my notebook before it got too dark to continue, since the silly little overhead lights weren’t working. I then took her advice and snoozed on and off for most of it. Told you. Long days and all that.

We quickly popped back to the room to change and freshen up, then headed for the restaurant and were horrified to learn that they wouldn’t be able to fit us in until at least half nine (despite the fact that there still weren’t many people even in there!) So we thought sod that, as we had plenty of snacky things in the room to tide us over instead. We had a quick look in duty free, but the offers were all pretty much Asda and Sainsbury’s prices. Was a little gutted – I’d been hoping to bring another bottle of Grey Goose home, sob. I then grabbed a strawberry and cream frozen thingy from Starbucks and we came back up to the room.

I hit the crisps, chocolates and Red Bull and we watched a few episodes of Flash and then Never Mind The Buzzcocks. By this point, the boat was rocking around a hell of a lot and making me feel super weird. We’d had an announcement on the tannoy to give us the emergency procedures, which was already making us nervous enough, as they hadn’t done that the first night and it certainly wasn’t helped by the captain telling us (presumably by accident, but still not reassuring) that this was what we needed to do in the LIKELY chance of emergency. Thanks cap, that makes me feel so much better.

We both went to bed at that point, since that whole horrible drunken feeling was back in full force. We’d also been told by the captain that we were likely going to be delayed getting back because we had storm force nine going on outside. Great. Cue an even more sleepless night of being thrown around, hearing what sounded like a million icebergs (apparently waves) hitting the hull, feeling like the roof was going to come off and actually concocting a detailed plan of what I was going to do to keep my most valuable possession (my notebook) safe and dry if we had to evacuate via the life boats. Thankfully, my plan wasn’t needed and we made it back to Hull with the boat still in one piece. I think a snooze in the car on the two and a half hour drive back will be imminent.

13/5/15 – I don’t do these goodbyes

Got up to get ready and do our final packing, as well as trying to finish off all of the drink we had left that we couldn’t take with us. Well, I tried harder than Kel did. Waste not, want not! Emi came up to our hotel room to see us off whilst we were faffing with the final few things. We made use of the room and both had a last pee there. Emi even decided to join us (not all at the same time of course – it wasn’t a pee party). Then we went down to the lobby to pay for our room and order a taxi to the airport.

This is where things all went tits up. Kel had originally intended to use her credit card whilst we were here, but had learnt when we were still in England that she hadn’t used it since our America trip a couple of years ago and that she couldn’t remember hr pin. She’d sent off for it but it hadn’t arrived before we left, so we agreed we’d just to have to stick to our debit cards. Only the card reader at the hotel was really up the swannie and didn’t want to take either of our cards! Kel messaged Mom quickly and told her that if she’d had any post to open it and see if her pin number had come. She then left me with her phone and credit card whilst she and Emi went to find a nearby cash point to get the money out that way, in case we couldn’t get her pin. Mom did send the pin over, but the card reader still wouldn’t take Kel’s credit card either, so it was a good thing she’d gone to get the cash too. What a kerfuffle.

Saying bye to Emi when our taxi showed up was sad. I had to tell her off for crying, mostly so that I didn’t cry myself and ruin my makeup. I’m British, dammit – I’m not supposed to be emotional. Our drive to the airport then seemed ridiculously long, more so than on the way in. I started to become concerned that our driver could be taking us off somewhere. It then turned out that he wasn’t; he was just clearly much more sensible than the crazy driver we’d had before. I felt a little bad for that so when we paid I treated him to the entirety of my Bulgarian, which is basically just “thank you” and “goodbye” (which I feel is actually a bit of a cheat at Bulgarian anyway, as their thank you is the same as it is in French and their goodbye is the same in Italian).

We checked in to the crazily quiet airport and sent our cases off on their hopefully merry way. I grabbed a bag of some odd pizza ring crisps to make up for missing breakfast, as well as a cheap energy drink so I could take some painkillers with it. Headaches always plague me when I travel. I read a couple of chapters of my Cassie book, then we hit the duty free. Alcohol is always the best part of coming home from abroad, and even more so here. Everything is just so dang cheap! We ended up getting a whole vodka board – litres of Smirnoff’s fifty percent, the nice cranberry Finlandia, apple Absolut and a citrus Danza. The whole lot only cost about fifty euros. Our vodka stock at home has been getting low too, so hopefully this’ll keep us going for a good several months. Maybe until the next duty free visit, most likely in September.

Nobody told us we were the only people flying today...

Nobody told us we were the only people flying today…

I grabbed a last minute Red Bull and a Kinder Bueno before boarding the first flight, using up most of the remainder of my lev, I didn’t even spend a hundred quid’s worth this entire trip. Madness. The flight was about two and a half hours long, so not bad at all! I watched a few episodes of Fullmetal and did several pages of writing, all whilst having a bit of a munch. The guy sat next to me was kinda cute and was hilariously watching Fullmetal over my shoulder. I wonder if he actually knew it or was just wondering what the hell I was watching. I caught him glancing at my writing too, but he didn’t seem to be very well versed in English so probably didn’t understand any of it. Though to be fair, I don’t think many English people would understand it either. My handwriting really sucks.

We got rather confused by Frankfurt airport as it was pretty big, terribly laid out and barely sign-posted at all. I feel I probably walked an unnecessary five miles in there. Okay, that was probably an exaggeration. The flight had made me feel weirdly iffy, so I decided the best cure would be a Maccies. I know my body – cheeseburger and large fries definitely worked to make me feel better. We got excited once again about City of Heroes stuff when we loked at the prices for photo shoots online whilst we were waiting in the airport. I grabbed another Red Bull before boarding again. Red Bull is my coping mechanism for travel days. Actually, it’s just my coping mechanism every day.

Since the flight from Sofia had been slightly longer, our connecting flight to Birmingham was only an hour and half. I had my Red Bull, watched another episode of Fullmetal and got another big chunk of writing done. I felt really sorry for a girl sitting next to me, who’d been sat with her fingers in her ears from the moment we’d started descending. I always suffer with real pains in my ears during landing, so I understood completely and made her have one of my fruity sweets to suck. Well, I didn’t literally force it in her mouth; I just advised her that it helps a little. Also it weirds me out on flights that the exit lights all blink on halfway through the descent. Is this the point where we all suddenly have to get out and learn to skydive? But I brought my bag that doesn’t have a parachute attached!

Amazingly, getting back into Birmingham was an absolute breeze. We got off the plane and went through the self-check passport control as it had a much shorter queue. I got through the scanning part fast, but wasn’t impressed when the camera seemed to take quite a long while to lower to get down to my face level. Even technology is making fun of me. Then when we got through to baggage claim we spotted both our cases on the carousel almost instantly. Kel was able to figure out afterwards from the times that she’d messaged Mom that it had only taken sixteen minutes from getting off the plane to getting outside the airport into the car park. Sadly I think most of that time was probably taken by the passport control camera having to adjust for me!

To add to the madness it was even sunny and warm outside! I’ve never come back from abroad to anything other than rain before (though apparently it’s meant to be raining a lot tomorrow. Now that’s typical!) Mom came to pick us up from the car park, so we were then on our way home with another holiday over and done with. The plus side is that we have City of Heroes on Friday and for today we have new Flash, Impractical Jokers AND Whose Line to catch up on. The traveler in me might be sad to be home, but the geek in me is definitely happy!

Coming home is always better when you come home with an alcoholic's feast!

Coming home is always better when you come home with an alcoholic’s feast!

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.