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.

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1/10/15 – Last day on Gran Canarian soil

We got up, got semi dressed and went down to breakfast first, this time. Why have we not been doing this the whole holiday? Had my usual sausage, bacon, chips and cheese and ham toasted thing. It was the last one and I actually ran for it, so I felt I deserved it. Cath caught us at breakfast and told me off for not wearing something pineapple-y. Apparently I’ve gotta that reputation as the pineapple girl that I was kind of expecting. Guess that’s better than my reputation as the drink that I got on our trek in America. Though that one became apparent this time too, as Cath was surprised at how much I’d been drinking in the day, every day. Eh, I’m on holiday. We wanted to leave some time to do some more packing after breakfast before we went down to the pool. Kel had already spoken to the guy on reception to see if we could keep our room on for a few more hours, which was fine. We primarily did it just to keep the all inclusive going, as we figured they’d cut our wristbands off as soon as we checked out.

Once we only had a few necessities for the day left out, we suncreamed up and headed down to the pool. We were given more word searches to do. This one was much easier than the last. I did that and then another short story. Patrik tried to convince me to join the aqua gym by sitting on the end of my sunbed, facing me, and doing his stretches. I must have an iron will if I can resist that. I really didn’t want to get wet though, as I won’t be able to shower or do anything with my hair later on, once we lose access to our room.

Instead, we got roped into the paper plane game. Surprisingly, this was the one activity that got most people to join in – over forty of us altogether! All to play with paper planes. We were each given a sheet of paper and told to make a plane with it. That was a challenge in itself as I’ve never even made one before. I’ve always gotten other people to make them and then give them to me to play with. I tried my best to make mine aerodynamic, but when it came to us all lining up and taking turns to throw them, mine just insisted on going nowhere but down. At least mine was more awesomely decorated than anyone else’s – I’d written Thunderbird 3 on the back of the wing. The Barry/Murr guy almost landed his in the outdoor shower, which was funny as you had to stand where your plane landed, so he was practically standing in the shower. One guy even had to stand in the pool when his went really off course. Gutted.

We then went for our last inclusive meal of the trip. So sad. I bid goodbye to the rice, pizza, chips, beef with champagne sauce, lasagne-less pasta and some new garlic potato cubes that I really hadn’t gotten the time to know. I did my last bid to get drinks in before we checked out, so I ran down to the pool bar to grab another sangria and cocktail and left them on the table by our sunbeds. We then brought the cases down, put them in a storage room for safe keeping as we don’t get picked up till later and checked out. Apparently my drinks preparations had been futile – they didn’t take off our wristbands or say anything about the all inclusive ending. Happy days!

I went back to my shade after that. I didn’t want to risk the sun and getting sweaty because of the whole no shower thing. I don’t wanna be that icky person. Joel caught us and got us to go join Patrik for the new rifle shooting activity. Now this is an activity I can get behind! I did feel a bit stupid holding a giant rifle in my bikini and big sunglasses though – the kind of look you’d expect to be all sexy badass, but this was me, so it wasn’t. But it turned out I was pretty good at the shooting part. Even Patrik was like, “Who are you?” My first shot went wild before I got the hang of it, but I quickly got the highest score and also the first bulls-eye. Boo-yah! Nerf guns, eat your heart out!

Did more reading and chilling in the shade afterwards. Also watched some bits of Arrow on my iPod. Ah Brandon Routh, you are a pretty, pretty man. Eventually, I conceded that it was probably time to sort out my appearance at least a little before eating. Had to pop in and out of the room where the luggage was being held (more so than I should have needed to, because I was stupid and kept forgetting things) and got changed and did a bit of makeup in the toilets downstairs. It was actually just a horrible ordeal, as it was really hot in there, so I tried to be quick about it.

We then went for food around six, pleased that we got an extra meal more than we’d been expecting. Bonus meal! The evening menu has a split earlier on and they seem to serve different foods for each half. We’d obviously never been down to eat this early, so it was all new to us. Was initially horrified to see that they had a yellow rice rather the usual amazing rice, but then it turned out it just tasted exactly the same anyway. You deceived me, rice; well played. Also had some salted potatoes with the Gran Canaria sauce, some pork and crackling (wow), chips, a chicken drumstick and some chicken and chickpea stew, which was super yummy.

No entertainment room tonight. We hung out in the lobby instead, so we could see what was going on and if our coach turned up. We had our free cocktail to share that we’d won from the movie quiz. It was called a San Francisco (woo!) No idea what was in it, but it was nice and sweet. I made the most of my last sangria before switching to pop. I really don’t wanna be drunk on the plane or, worse, risking a migraine from lack of hydration. Sadly, we didn’t get to see Joel, Patrik or Marek before leaving. It was an awkward time in between when they’re clearly usually getting ready before the entertainment slots have to start. Sad times. But at least we have their Facebook details. The practicality of the modern age.

The transfer was a bit horrific. It had been alright up until the last pick-up, then about fifteen people got on and every one of them had a child with them, all of which were screaming and crying and shouting. It was like hell got on the coach. I was surprised I wasn’t screaming and crying and shouting too. To make things worse, the girl sat behind me could not stop complaining. Everyone who knows me knows that I actually really, really hate kids, but no way do I ever go on that much about it. Sh was actually causing more of a fuss than the kids and the kids really were making a fuss. Her and her mom were clearly not the kind of people you want around though anyway. Soon found out that they robbed a mirror from a club and were trying to get it through security. I secretly hoped that they weren’t allowed.

Checking in was a real ball-ache, as there were loads of us and then hardly any people behind the desks. The plus side was that we were told our flight was gonna be half an hour early. Getting through security was brief, though I did get swabbed for explosives again! Why me, guys? Do I look that dodgy? Once we were through, we grabbed some drinks for on the plane and I bought a big bottle of citrus Grey Goose from duty free. I’m calling in my early birthday present to myself. Since I asked people for vodka anyway, that’s just like skipping a step. No seriously, I really did ask for vodka for my birthday. I’ll get more use out of that than a gift card for New Look.

We got on the plane and had a bit of a mix up with an older couple who had misread their tickets and were in our seats. They were completely fine about it and the man apologised, saying it was their fault, to which the woman corrected that it was just his fault. She gets how it works. I watched the Psych musical on my iPod to clear some time. It was funny because at one point, even though Kel obviously couldn’t hear it, she could see Shawn’s mouth moving and knew exactly that he was doing the ololololololol hoo-de-hoo hoo-de-hoo bit that she loves from Santa Barbara Skies. Well done, Kel.

After Psych, I watched several episodes of Impractical Jokers. Those guys never fail to make me laugh. I then listened to the Galavant soundtrack, did a little writing and a little reading, then thankfully, we were coming in to land. I’d been getting really tired, but I hate trying to sleep on the plane because it always makes me feel really bleugh and out of it. Which probably would have been made worse by the fact that I’d still pretty much been drinking all day. Getting through passport and baggage control on the other side was pretty quick, thank god. We grabbed a black cab from outside and found ourselves with a very chatty, travel-savvy driver. Awesome.

When we got home, I saw that Dad had put the hard top on my car for me. Aww. I guess we left the sun behind in Gran Canaria for the rest of the year. Would absolutely go back though and recommend our hotel to anyone. Great food, great drink, great place and great crowd. First shot at all inclusive was an absolute success too. For now though, I have to concede to grey old England. We got into the house and, of course, Izzy was very eager to get into my bedroom. She got onto my bed before I did and immediately took up all the room. Home, sweet, home, I guess.

One fancy cocktail to see us off!

One fancy cocktail to see us off!

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!

11/5/15 – Let the shopping commence (oh god)

Made sure we were up in time for breakfast today. I had more toast, cold cuts and cheese, frankfurta and a new spicy sausage that they didn’t have the other day. Followed by more of the tinned strawberries of course. Very slowly got ready – watched an episode of Fullmetal and did a couple of pages of writing in between, since Kel had to shower. Emi messaged us saying to meet her and her mom in Billa, the supermarket over the road. It wasn’t raining, but it looked grey outside so we smartly decided to park our little brolleys in our bags.

We not so smartly forgot to bring Emi’s brolley with us. Kel remembered when we got down to the lobby, so we had to go back up in the lift again to fetch it. We got outside and made it about a third of the way down the road before deciding it was actually far too cold for shorts this time, so we quickly went back yet again to change. I stuck with the same shirt but swapped my little cardigan for a longer one and traded shorts for jeans. I’m glad I decided to pick a variety for this trip. It took three attempts, but we managed to get down to Billa and find our personal Bulgarian guides.

We got the subway into town where Emi had to run a quick errand, then whilst Tamara went off to shop w went to catch the tram into another part of the city centre. I still can’t get over how cheap public transport is here – an unlimited daysaver that includes the subway, buses and trams is only four lev! This place is crazy! I mean, it’s great for us to come over here when it’s so cheap in comparison, but it must have sucked for Emi to come from here to very expensive England for her studies and work. But then I suppose it’s also sad that we’re used to the more expensive place. I feel I’ve been very cheated in life.

We got to the mall that Emi had in mind and the first thing we did was hunt down the food court. We grabbed a Subway – chicken teriyaki with honey mustard and sweet onion sauce for me, yum – then hit the shops. Well, Kel and Emi shopped. I mostly wandered around with them and daydreamed, which is what I usually do when people are shopping. I’m generally not interested in shops unless they sell books or toys. We found the Bulgarian equivalent of Superdrug and the others got quite excited in there over all the makeup and nail varnishes. I joined in somewhat and got a couple of cheap silver eyeliner sticks, primarily for cosplay purposes, then a perfume I’d never heard of before called Eclat D’Arpege by Lanvin, which was really nice. I can never resist getting perfumes in places like this.

To make my shopping experience even better, the next two shops we hit were book shops. Somebody heard my prayers! I went a little crazy for the notebooks, which are one of my biggest weaknesses for impulse buys, and ended up buying seven. Oops! They were all just so awesome though! I found two different pineapple ones – which were obviously a given – one with a manga style Gothic girl’s face on the front, a pretty Japanese style one that actually looks very similar to the one I’m currently writing in, a steampunk looking adventure one, a nice green one with a fancy binder, and another steampunk-like Paris one that is actually laid out more like a day-to-day diary but eh, I can use the date space at the top for my word count instead. Or maybe find an excuse to write a diary perspective story.

I actually don't know how I stopped myself from buying this too. My collection of geeky/silly t-shirts has reached an alarming total

I actually don’t know how I stopped myself from buying this too. My collection of geeky/silly t-shirts has reached an alarming total.

We did a couple more nonsense shops after that (i.e. shoes and bags and things. I promise I am actually a girl) then we had a peek around a giant toy store, yay. I bought a little cow with tufty hair for my collection. He’s still yet to be named. By this point we were all officially shopped out, so we headed back to the tram, after quickly taking pictures of a shop we spied called Totally Erected Man. I’m not even kidding. We got the tram back into the part of town that we visited on Saturday and immediately went back to the ice cream shop, which I learnt was called Ice Cream Kingdom in English. I ordered the exact same thing and we sat down outside a mosque to eat. I watched the pretty fountain in front of us and Kel watched the pigeons. She’ll make a great old person.

We got the subway back and went our separate ways so that we could freshen up and get changed. I decided to shower whilst we were back, rather than having to do it much later on. Did some more writing whilst we were in the room and downed a big Red Bull, then got ready again to go back out and meet Emi for nine o’clock. She took us to a typical Bulgarian restaurant where we’d point to a picture that we liked the look of in the menu and she’d translate what it was. We would have been stuffed if we were doing this on our own. I got what was effectively some cheesy chips for the table to share, and a Bulgarian dish called sach, which is pork, onions, peppers and cheese all cooked on a big sizzling platter. It was huge! Not to mention the ratio of meat to everything else was totally wrong for someone who doesn’t like veg. I still ate quite a lot of the onions and peppers though, until I ran out of the meat to go with it. Hey, I’m a big girl now.

If only they did an option that was entirely meat and cheese... Hey, a girl can dream!

If only they did an option that was entirely meat and cheese… Hey, a girl can dream!

On the walk back we had a very lengthy conversation about great TV shows that got cancelled and how much the world would lose its shit if they ever made even one more episode of Firefly – like seriously, I would just explode – then we stumbled back onto one of those weird exercise gym/playground things that we’d noticed on the way there. Of course we had to have a go on them, despite being full of food. I should have claimed one of those ‘wait two hours after eating before you swim’ kinda rules. Tried the pull-up machine and blatantly didn’t even have a hope of doing one. All I could manage was to just hang there and lift my legs a bit. Now I just hate all the guys and gals who can do the salmon ladder in Arrow even more.

The geek discussion continued after we left Emi at her apartment block, as me and Kel talked about how we have the City of Heroes convention on Friday. This will very possibly be one of the best weeks of my life. Had another cherry Carling when we got back, watched more Fullmetal, then conceded to our usual midnight-ish bedtime.

I have absolutely nothing on the salmon ladder...

I have absolutely nothing on the salmon ladder…