25/9/16 – Rollin’ on the river

Up earlier this time in order to get the complimentary breakfast in and get to the Everglades fairly early. I was actually ready before anyone this time, so I did some reading before we went for breakfast. First place we’ve been to that actually has a waffle make, woo! Safe to say that went down a treat. We then headed off to the Everglades. I watched an episode of Psych on the way. We stopped off at a little information centre to figure out a bit more about what we wanted to do, since the Everglades is a seriously huge place.

When we actually got into the park, it was chucking it down. Feels like home when the weather’s that typical. We bought our ticket for the Stingray boat tour, which leaves from the bay, goes along the canal and out into the lakes. The shop backed right onto the dock. I saw the fin of a tarpin cut through the water a few times. It’s kinda freaky; they’re like mini sharks. Armed with my brolley, I wandered further down the dock to have a nosey in the bay to see if I could see anymore, looked sideways and had the shock of my life when I instead saw the head of a three-metre crocodile rising up out of the water and against the side of the dock. I mean whoa. Talk about scary. I kept my distance, because I’ve seen how high those things can push themselves out of the water. I was certainly ready to be back inside the shop if it looked even remotely like it was going to try and climb out.

The croc disappeared when the boat came back in to dock from its last trip, but we saw another couple swimming further down the bay before we got on the boat ourselves. Apparently, this is the only place where crocodiles and alligators share the same water. I’d seen plenty of alligators when I did a swamp tour the first time I went to Louisiana, so getting to see wild crocodiles was a new and interesting one. They’re also scarier looking than alligators. However, our biggest problem on the boat wasn’t the crocodiles, the alligators or the horrible giant banana spiders we saw underneath the bridge we drove through; it was the goddamn mosquitoes. The boat ride was certainly interesting, but I felt like I spent the whole time slapping bugs away.

We had our ride cut short by about twenty minutes when a big thunderstorm hit whilst we were out in the middle of the lake, so we had to turn around and come back. I was super hungry when we came back in to dock, but with the weather being so temperamental, we wanted to keep seeing stuff rather than sitting down for a proper lunch. Instead, lunch was a pink lemonade and a bag of Funyuns from the little shop. Whilst we were having a munch, we went over to the other side of the bay and got to watch some baby manatees surfacing and sticking their noises up out of the water, ahhh. I really love manatees and they’re actually not endangered anymore. Well done, world.

We had a wander around the park and tried to do one of the trails you can walk along to look for wildlife. However, it was super overgrown and you had to try and cut your own path – not only unappealing when you’re in shorts sandals and a low-cut top; there was also the possibility that there could be snakes and all sorts lurking in the grass (in America, a lot of their snakes are poisonous). And we’d barely got anywhere before we were getting fully eaten alive by the bugs. We hastily changed our mind on that idea and returned to the car to drive round to the other side of the park to find Shark Valley.

Unfortunately, that idea also fell through when the satnav went on another mad one. We drove a really roundabout way, didn’t find anything for ages, then realised that we’d somehow bypassed the entire park and were suddenly a lot closer back to our motel. Well, bloody hell, satnav. We didn’t really feel like trying again, so we hit the next Walmart we found to get more drinks and things. I found some cute little jester gloves that are blatantly Harley Quinn inspired and will go great with my costume.

Mom had had a taste for KFC for ages now. We knew there was one nearby and had planned to bring some into the room last night before we’d spotted the Applebees, so that was moved to our plan for tonight instead. However, like the Applebees, it was also disappointing. We asked for a regular twelve-piece bucket and when we got back to the motel, we realised the dopey server had given us boneless chicken strips. Still nice, but nowhere near as good as the proper Kentucky coated stuff and when that’s what you’re expecting, chicken strips are definitely disappointing. Homestead have really failed us in the food department.

At least the TV selection was more satisfying. Mom turned it on to find 22 Jump Street, so that had us occupied for the night. After that, we found more Impractical Jokers and I had a mad reading spree to finish off my Clive Cussler book. With more Seagrams on the go, of course. As nights in go, not half bad.

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Now this is what you call a holy crap moment.

23/9/16 – We’re gonna need a bigger boat

Usual early up and get ready to get the rest of our stuff packed. Only this time I had to get Mom to try and help me put my hair into pigtails. That was fun, since Mom is nowhere near as perfectionist as Kel, which is what I want when it comes to my hair. Safe to say it took a few tries. We then loaded up the car and went off on our way further down the Keys. Once again, the drive was beautiful. Had to go across several long bridges and at a few points, the road narrowed out so much that we were driving the with the sea right on either side of us. Apparently one side if the Gulf of Mexico and the other is the Atlantic, but I’m rubbish at geography, so I couldn’t tell you for sure without Googling. Either way, the water was so incredibly still and flat that you could see the sky reflected in it to a point where you couldn’t tell where one left off and the other began.

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Now that’s scenery!

We stopped off at a Walgreen’s because Mom said that Auntie Lynne had requested us to bring back a specific toothpaste, of all things. I ended up having another mad shop when I found more DC stuff and bought a Harley Quinn makeup bag and lipstick, a mini Deadpool plushie and more Red Bull, of course. We then didn’t get much further down the road before stopping at an IHOP for brunch. Now this is what I’m talking about. I had to have my usual country omelette – ham, cheese, onion and has browns – with a side stack of pancakes and plenty of strawberry sauce. I also had a lemonade mixed with lime and mango syrup. Yum yum.

We made the rest of the drive uninterrupted down to our room in Key West. Another really cute place. Our ‘hotel’ building is like a small collection of massive houses with a pool and lots of front and side porches with swinging chairs on them. However, it’s also the first room where we haven’t got a fridge and we have a lot of drinks to chill. Thankfully, there was an ice machine out by the pool, so I did the first trip to fill up the ice bucket and then try to fit as many drinks in as possible. We had a quick settle into the room before going off to explore.

First off, I felt like I was in a Zelda game, because there were escaped chickens just randomly around on the streets – and some baby chickens, aahh. We headed on straight down towards the harbour. We walked past a pool party where a guy and girl were fully recreating the dance-off scene from White Chicks with Run DMC playing and everything. It was hysterical. Of course, technophobic me didn’t know how to find the video camera on my phone, so by the time I did start recording, they were just finishing. I need a tutorial for my phone, even after a month of having it.

We stopped off at the Key West Lime Shoppe for key lime pie and a lime slushie, mmm. Gotta have things where they originate from. We sat in a nice little courtyard with a koi pond. The shop itself was really cute. They did lots of lime flavoured sweets, sticks of rock, soaps, drink making kits… It helped that they were playing Red Solo Cup too. I sand along whilst Mom bought a proper, easy-use lime crusher so that we can make even better margaritas back home. We have our priorities straight. From there, we had a wander down the harbour, right along the waterfront. It didn’t have the same fishing village type feel as Key Largo, as it was much busier. Still totally welcome atmosphere though. Buzzing, but not crowded, not like poor new Bourbon Street.

We took great enjoyment in watching some very exotic fish along the edge of the harbour and that was where the excitement then came in. We saw more wrasse and Sergeant Majors, some electric blue wrasse-like fish, big fat jellyfish, a beautiful blue and yellow angelfish and some giant, giant tarpin. We saw a huge one lurking in the shallows and looking super evil before it disappeared under the dock. We were trying to point another one out to Mom, who couldn’t see as well, and then the show-off flashed all the silver on its side, right under the surface of the water. It was four foot long! But then whilst we were distracted waiting to see if it would surface again, Dad spotted a seven-foot nurse shark, right under our feet! Talk about seeing something exciting in the wild.

We headed back up one of the strips from there. Saw a Senor Frogs, which made me giggle as it makes me think of Impractical Jokers, as well as a shop that had a lurid pineapple design painted across the window that looked totally Psych-esque, as well as lots of real pineapples in the window. I went in all excited, but then they didn’t actually have anything pineapple themed that they sold. Boo the false advertising. On the way back to the hotel, we walked alongside a huge cemetery that was all built above the ground like Lafayette. It seems to be a real imitation of New Orleans here. They do Creole cuisine, have several bars named after Bourbon Street and some of them even do Hurricanes. Not sure why the similarities are there when the places aren’t even close.

We got back to shower and get ready. I broke out my last Mike’s Hard Lemonade that I’d managed to cool some in the ice bucket, which I then had to down on the way because the oldies suddenly put a speed on and were ready to go. We went to a nearby Peruvian restaurant called Inca’s. We really are getting around. Our server Jessica was so lovely and shared drunk sangria stories with us when we ordered a pitcher. For food, I had Peruvian styled fried rice, which was rice fried with chicken, spring onion and some kind of salty, soy tasting sauce. God, it was so good. I scarfed literally every single grain.

We all agreed none of us wanted to walk past the cemetery again in the dark, so we headed off towards one end of the town, which is actually the most southerly point of the states. However, when we realised how long of a walk it was, we changed our minds and hit a bar instead. Big mistake. The moment I walked in, it was very easy to tell that it was a smoking bar. Good god, it was disgusting. I hate the lack of smoking bans here. I had to breathe through my mouth the entire time I was in there, so I passed on having a drink as I wouldn’t be able to taste it. I actually went to stand outside for a while for some fresh air, but when the same middle-aged guy somehow found a way to walk past me three times and told me twice that I was “too cute to be out there by myself”, I swiftly decided to go back in and watch the oldies play pool and just go back to mouth-breathing. It was actually quite funny when Dad then ended up playing some crazy woman from Kentucky.

Came back to the room after that and did some more planning for the trip going forward. I then read some more Shock Wave and broke open the Seagrams before bed. The next move is afoot.

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The fake Psych shop that lied to me.

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.

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Now that’s entertainment.

20/9/16 – I’m meeelting!

Got up after my most uncomfortable sleep so far. The bed itself was fine; it was just the first time I’ve felt really hot in the night. Clearly we need to have the noisy air con on through the night here. Had a pretty slow getting ready as we had to wait for the landlord Lydia, who wanted to come round just to say hi and give us some recommendations on where to go for food and where the beach was. Of course, we’d already found all of that out for ourselves last night. Watched some Suits, got suncreamed up and into my new bikini, then we were ready to go.

The beach doesn’t have any parasols or sunbeds – you have to bring that kinda thing yourself. Thankfully, we’d found some beach chairs in the cupboard that can recline, so we brought those down with us. It was ridiculously hot with no sign of a breeze. I couldn’t seem to get comfy in the chair or lying on a towel on the sand. I did have fun finding the tiniest, perfect little seashells though, as well as watching the adorable piper birds. Totally made me think of the little Pixar short they showed before Finding Dory.

We did have a bit of drama when somebody came down the beach shouting, “Get out of the water!” At first, I thought he was joking – maybe it’s just Brits who’d joke about that kind of thing –  but he kept on going, “I’m serious; get out of the water! It could be a manatee or it could be a shark.” Of course, by that point, everyone in the water had got out and the rest of us had ran down to the water’s edge to get a better look. Sure enough, there was a big black shape moving along the line of the shore and very close to where people had been swimming. Part of it broke the surface a couple of times and it turned out it was a giant manta ray, wow. Never seen one of those in the wild before. It really was huge too.

After the excitement, I pretty much started to die in the sun. It really was harsh without a breeze and I usually love lying in the sun more than pretty much anything. I’d already finished the drink I’d brought with me long ago, so I was very relieved when Mom and Dad suggested going for lunch. I wasn’t even hungry – always a sure sign that I’m flagging in one way or another – I just wanted a drink and some air con. Not much to ask for.

We ended up in Burgers ‘n’ Shakes, which had the poorest air con in the whole of America. Typical. I ordered cheesy fries and should have known that when it came, it’d be cheese sauce, rather than actual cheese. Americans need a few lessons in what real cheesy fries are, methinks. Though to be fair, I really didn’t care much about my food and just ate mechanically. I was much more in the drinks machine that was one of those machines that has hundreds of drink options. I tried and quickly poured away a lime Fanta, which tasted very much like Coke for some reason (hate Coke), before moving to the strawberry and fruit punch flavoured Hi C. I definitely made the most of my $2.50 by pounding two drinks there and then taking another to-go back to the beach.

Thankfully, there was a little more of a breeze when we got there and with thunderstorms looming, but never actually breaking out over us other than the odd clap of thunder, the sun actually went in for a while. I never thought I’d be happy about that, but I was able to read, write and watch some Psych in a lot more comfort. On the morning, I’d been so hot that I hadn’t had a hope of concentrating on anything other than the fact that I was melting. The sun came back out later, but it was cooler by then, which was very welcome.

After another several hours on the beach, we decided to head back, stopping off at Walgreen’s to get snacks and pop for the room. One of my cosplay girls had actually shared a picture of some Harley Quinn makeup brushes on Facebook last night with the original caption saying they were only available at Walgreen’s, of all places. Of course, I knew I was very close to one, so I was ready to go on the hunt. I actually found lots of Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman, Batgirl and Catwoman based makeup, as well as a really adorable Beauty and the Beast eye shadow set. I ended up getting the Harley brushes as a present for Emi – whenever I see her next – since I don’t use blusher or anything myself, then got my own Harley makeup box that actually had red eye shadow. Red! You never get red eye shadow anywhere! Teamed the buy with some Funyuns and more Powerade.

Had a very slow shower and get ready, because it was still far too hot. Discovered I’ve crazy burnt my legs and stomach. Oops. We then had a mild trauma when Mom decided to put a wash on and twenty minutes in, the washing machine started pouring water out on the floor. Double oops. Lydia had to call someone out to try and service it. Still didn’t quite figure out what was wrong with it, but we at least got to finish washing the clothes that were already in there and get them in the dryer. We seem to be a family that break things on holiday. I’ve broken beds, curtains and hairdryers in the past and the oldies don’t have a much better history.

After that was out of the way, we headed out for food and found ourselves in a big Portuguese diner type place called Manola. Our waiter was sweet; he looked like the love child of Richard Ayoade and Gok Wan. He told us he’d actually been to the UK himself – to London and then Aberdeen, of all places. Even I’ve not been to Aberdeen. Me and Mom shared another lovely, huge pitcher of sangria and I then had twin grilled chicken breasts in a creamy green onion sauce with mash on the side. Damn, it was good. I’m loving all this South American cuisine. I think a tour of South America needs to be next on the travel list. I already want to see Mexico and Colombia in particular.

We popped into Lou’s Beer Garden on the way back, which was actually part of someone’s hotel – you follow the side of it down to the courtyard and bar area. I had an Amalfi Sunset, which was Grey Goose vodka (never say no to Grey Goose), aperol, grapefruit and lemon juice, agave nectars and bitters. Very strong, but sour cocktails always cancel that out nicely. Came back to the room after to cane several Mike’s Hard Lemonade, whilst watching more Psych on my iPod, as well as glancing up every now and then to catch the John Leguizamo parts in some awful Amy Poehler film that the oldies were watching. Back to the beach again tomorrow. A little heavier on the breeze this time, yeah?

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Now that’s a beach!

17/11/15 – Where does the lotion go?

Set my alarm so that I could get up and shower first whilst we know that we have a room with a decent sized shower. No idea how big our cabin will be on the boat, let alone the shower, so I’m just preparing. Didn’t have to check out until twelve, so we chose to stick around in the room for as long as possible before getting turfed out into the presumable cold. I watched a teeny bit of Walking Dead to keep the fuel going from relevant Walking Dead dreams, oh yeah.

Had a cookie and Red Bull breakfast and was going to have another try at writing, since I’d only managed a page yesterday (really not good when I need to be averaging at around eight a day) but that idea went completely out of the window when Kel found some Psych on TV for me. Psych! On a normal TV channel! Who knew that Psych aired on British morning telly during the week? Not me, because I’m always stuck at work when I could be watching Psych! (I know I have the DVDs, but that’s not the point). It was a good episode too. Where does the lotion go? Seriously, where does it go?

We had till three before we could get down to the dock and start checking in, so we decided to loiter around the Hull town centre for a while. After checking out of the hotel, we did a petrol stop and then went and found somewhere to park. We spent a good fifteen minutes wandering around in search of a pub, but Hull pubs are clearly stupidly laid out/run. Most were either closed down or didn’t serve food, despite having clear signs that said they do. Well done, Hull. Because of this, the pub idea fell through completely, so we ended up in a Sainsbury’s café instead. I got excited because they had corned beef hash on the menu, but what I actually got was mince meat in a giant Yorkshire pudding. I double checked with the waitress and she said that it was definitely corned beef hash. Yeah, right. It was actually very yummy, but still the weirdest take on corned beef hash I’ve ever seen (it’s mash with corned beef, yo – just look at the name!)

We had a little wander around afterwards to kill some time. We were going to sit in Costa’s for a bit, but it was packed, so we were demoted back outside. Apparently people in Hull don’t have jobs – it was seriously busy for a Tuesday afternoon. As it was raining, we soon headed back to the shopping centre we’d parked at. Walking past this little helta skelta slide that was outside, we heard it playing the Hawaiian Rollercoaster Ride song from Lilo and Stitch. Of course, I made some pathetic little noise over it. Whilst at Tesco, we bought another mix of snacks to restock up on what we’d already eaten at the hotel. Oops.

We’d used up our allotted two hours in the Tesco car park, so we moved on to another free one closer to the dock that Kel had found online earlier on. The weather was still miserable, so we weren’t really feeling having another wander around. Thankfully, there was a pub that opened up onto the car park called Minerva’s Brewery (aww!) so we sat in there for a while for a pint. I do love being British. They had some kind of beer or ale on draft called Atom, which amused me. Ray Palmer has his own drink! Whilst we had our ciders, we had a look online at things to do in Amsterdam and, of course, top foods to try. I got really excited at the prospect of stroopwaffles (or stroodlewoodles, as Marieke got me into the habit of saying years ago) which are a popular Dutch snack that I love and used to get people to bring me back from Holland visits.

We then headed down to the port to get parked up and check in. Had a right hoo-ha checking in, because the women behind the desk were trying to tell us that we only get free parking for the duration of our trip if we booked through Groupon, which we hadn’t. Luckily, saviour Kel had screenshotted all of the information of what was included when we booked, which specifically said on the P&O ferries websites that free parking was included. So they can suck it. They had us wait around for a little while, but I think they realised we were ready to kick up a fuss, because they then gave us the parking voucher and just apologised for the wait. We went to grab our luggage from the car and display our well-earned parking ticket, then we went to board.

So much more straightforward than airport customs and security. We had to show our passports and tickets and were basically just asked if we had any alcohol or sharp objects, then we were let on board. We found our cabin to drop our things off first. It’s surprisingly big and nice, even if I am on a top bunk. Shower’s friggin’ teeny though, as I’d thought – forget where does the lotion go; where am I meant to go?We then went to explore. The long corridors of cabins were a little creepy, but everything else was super big and fancy. Several restaurants, bars, a casino, two cinemas, duty free shops and kiddie areas. I made a lot of Titanic references, which probably wasn’t a good connection to make, so I soon stopped. We checked out the price lists at the bars, which are surprisingly reasonable, and had a peek out onto the deck. We weren’t allowed actually outside as there were chains and signs up to say that it was too windy, so I couldn’t do my king of the world impression. Okay, promise I’ll stop now. We did manage to get a pack of DC Top Trumps from the gift shop. Geeking it up already.

We came back to the room to get ready and then headed down to the restaurant. What we didn’t get was that the restaurant works on a weird reservation only service (despite the fact that there were only like two other people in there) so we got booked in for a time about twenty minutes away and hit the bar for our first cocktail whilst we were waiting. Again, what we didn’t realise was that the cocktails are basically the ones from the little squeezy packets, but just with a bit more alcohol added. So kind of a rip-off, money wise, but they were still pretty nice.

After our drinks, we revisited the restaurant to actually be let inside this time. Our waiter, Pedro, was very friendly and very funny. We had some bread rolls to start and then I had a steak burger with cheese, crispy onion rings and chips. I’m not really a big burger fan – I normally only have them as a last resort if there’s nothing else that I want – but this one was damn good. And I had a Magners to go with it, of course. We moved onto the bar after that; cue more Magners and us breaking out the DC Top Trumps. We clearly know how to party. We won a game apiece. I was chuffed because the very first card I turned over was Harley Quinn. It was meant to be – she clearly sensed my tattoo.

As it was a fifties cruise (fuck yeah), we had entertainment going on throughout the night. First we had a band called the Blue Notes, who played stuff like Frankie Valli, the Ronettes, Lulu… Then we had a Buddy Holly tribute called Bootleg Barry (at least I think), who was dressed the part but looked more like Greg Proops. By this point, we were both knackered. For some reason, being out in windy weather really takes it out of me. I clearly never venture outside when the weather’s bad. Inside good.

We went back to the room and watched an episode of Flash on my iPod. I was clearly happy with that – hadn’t had any eye candy all day. Then it was finally time to attempt to climb into my bunk and then attempt even more to go to sleep. Rockabye baby may work on kids, but it just makes me feel drunk without the good stuff.

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First drinks is always a good moment – even if they are expensive for what they are.

25/9/15 – Where everybody looks like everybody

We got up fairly early. We’d both been doing very loud yawning and stretching as we got up, so I joked, “Who can make the most noise?” And a man immediately sneezed somewhere outside. I think we have a winner. We got all dressed and sun creamed up and headed down to breakfast. The food hall is huge and has a lot of variation of foods, though it’s not very logically laid out. We didn’t even make it to the typical hot breakfast stuff. By that point, I’d already filled up on bread rolls, cold cuts and cheese, a croissant, watermelon and this really nice cheese on toast with salami thing. Guess we’ll have to explore the rest tomorrow morning.

Our pool is very big and very pretty. We got sunbeds on the decking, overlooking it. There were activities going on throughout the day and we have three entertainer/rep type people hosting everything and wandering around, trying to encourage people to join in. They’re called Patrik, Joel (pronounced Jo-ell) and Marek. Patrik is very much the Slovakian Captain Awesome and Joel commented on my diamonds tattoo being Harley Quinn and that she wanted it. I do believe that’s the first person to have brought up that particular tattoo and not had to ask what it means. Kudos, Joel.

She gave us word searches and sudokus to do whilst we were sat around the pool. Hardest fucking word search I’ve ever done too! Some people went off to play shuffleboard. We abstained as we had no idea what the hell it was. Other people were then roped in to make pretzels, as we have a German Octoberfest kinda theme going on for today (the reps were all wearing cute green lederhosen type things). I passed on that too since you had to wear little latex gloves for it and those kind of things always bother my hands, but Kel had a go at that and then the aqua gym (water aerobics) too.

I probably looked like the miserable one, but I’d been developing another migraine by this point. I’d really hoped they’d leave me alone for this holiday, but apparently not. I went back up to the room to take one of my meds and bury my head in a pillow for a little while before coming back down. Once the meds kicked in and I felt a bit more alive, I could finally start making the most of our all inclusive deal. Had a couple of sangrias and a couple of cocktails whilst sitting by the pool, reading and writing. Very nice! My only complaint is that as pretty as everything is and, despite the fact that the air itself is quite warm, there is no sun! Where is the sun! It even started raining a bit on more than one occasion. I can’t believe I flew ten thousand miles for this shit. (Very harsh exaggeration, but I just wanted to get my quotes in).

First drinks! Yes, I was the greedy one who had two. Is anyone really surprised?

First drinks! Yes, I was the greedy one who had two. Is anyone really surprised?

We grabbed lunch from the snack bar at some point in the day, which is right nearby the pool, along with the one bar. I had chips, sausage and a giant pretzel. Then a bit later I had a bread roll and a teeny cake from the ‘coffee and pastries’ stage. There is hardly any time in the day when there isn’t some kind of meal being served. This suits me just dandy. I tried to make sure I had a glass of pop for almost every alcoholic drink I had to try and start hydrated to prevent further headachey stuff. This is the kind of thing you have to worry about when you start getting old. I think I’m gonna spend this holiday peeing.

Following the German theme, they also set up a game of beer pong. Sitting on the decking is the best place because we could just watch everything across the pool. We also kept hearing this stupid Istanbul song whilst they were playing. It’ll be like the German equivalent of that gabbu-gabbu-gabbu song we kept hearing in Greece last year. As it got later, we decided to have a wander out of the complex to find a nearby shop to stock up on necessities for the room. In my case, this is Red Bull, Kopparberg and crisps. In one of the shops, I did spy a big litre bottle of Grey Goose for about fifty euros! I know what I’m doing if I have money and case space left when we leave.

We came back up to the room to chill for a bit, shower and slowly get ready. The shower is super powerful and awesome. I love a power shower – it’s so much easier to wash your hair in. I drank my Red Bull and wrote another short story in between getting ready. I wore my poofy pineapple bargain dress from Primark, which is just too cute to have only been three quid. We’ve established that people will probably think I’m a nutter, as most of the clothes and accessories I’ve brought with me have pineapples on them and I even have a pineapple tattooed on my foot. So yeah, they would be correct.

We came down for food first and had fun around the illogical buffet again. I had a bizarre turkey skewer, chips, yummy herby potatoes, cuts of beef (which didn’t seem at home with everything else), lasagne, meat tortellini, meatballs and some delicious rice. There’s something about European rice. Greece, Turkey, Spain – they all clearly add some very tasty things to it. Then for pudding I had jelly, strawberry ice cream, a little toffee eclair, peach slices and strawberry and pineapple mousses. I love pudding buffets more than anything. After eating, we moved into the ‘entertainment’ area, which is basically lots of tables and chairs pointed at a little stage and dance floor space. Of course, throughout the night we were making the most of the all inclusive again with sangria and cocktails, then progressing to some very strong vodka and lemon.

The entertainment was actually hilarious. Firstly, they were getting people up to do the conga line. They grabbed Kel, but I escaped because of my big shoes that I’ve already fallen over very painfully in before, despite how much they tried to nag me. This is where I start to get a bit annoyed, when people pester you to get up and do something. I’m not like one of those miserable people who just sit in the corner – if I want to join in with something, I will, and often do. I actually quite like a good conga line, despite some very awkward past romantic experience with it (don’t ask), so know that I have a good reason if I abstain. In this case, not wanting to fall flat on my face feels like a good reason.

I was actually very glad I said no, since they quickly turned it into a limbo tournament. I’m pretty good at limbo, but again, certainly not in my big wedges. I couldn’t do the classy thing of taking them off either, as one of the waters had smahed a glass not long before. I’ve had to have glass picked out of my foot once before and I’d really rather not repeat it, thanks. We took fun from watching everyone else play and from just people watching in general. We found a lot of lookalikes. There was a creepy guy on his own who reminded me of a weird Murr from one angle and a younger version of Barry from work. There were a couple of Chris’s from work, a girl from the Inbetweeners, a young Clive from work, an older Curt Smith and an Asian Steve Frank. Not forgetting our very own Captain Awesome in Patrik too.

After the limbo tournament, we watched them all dancing to some of the classic songs like the Macarena and the Cha Cha Slide. It was particularly hilarious because Marek has absolutely no rhythm at all. He was all over the place. He did try though, bless him. They then got everyone to bring their chairs in front of the stage. Obviously we thought we were going to watch them play Musical Chairs. But no. They all sat down in a circle and moved their feet around to the music, then when it got to the chorus they all got up, picked their chairs up over their heads and started dancing around with them. It was absolutely hilarious and so not expected! That’s definitely the oddest game of Musical Chairs I’ve ever seen.

This is how everyone should play Musical Chairs from now on!

This is how everyone should play Musical Chairs from now on!

They pulled the tombola and the entertainment ended from there, as did the all inclusive, boo. After eleven you have to start paying for your drinks. We finished up the ones we had and decided to go for a bit of a wander down the road just to see what else we could find that was nearby. We clearly chose the wrong road because all we could find were little houses and a black cat that I dubbed Satan. Satan became our best bud for the walk and followed us around for a while, before we got bored and decided to head back. Time to build up the fan tower again!

10/5/15 – Our ideal kind of lazy day

We had a lazier start this morning, which worked out well as Kel didn’t get up till midday. We’d decided to skip breakfast this time as it would mean we would have only got about six hours sleep. I got up about half ten, compensated by eating some popcorn and watched an episode of Fullmetal, then I showered whilst Kel was still asleep. She woke up after just in time for me to dry my hair. Did a little bit of writing in between getting ready, then we made our way down to Emi’s apartment block for one o’clock. Emi’s mom Tamara had insisted on cooking lunch for us all. Her dad Konstantin and her younger sister Iliana, who now lives with her husband, joined us too.

We all sat round the little table in Emi’s room, which was cute, if a little awkward.I always find sit-down meals with people I don’t know mildly uncomfortable, but with the language barrier it was even more awkward. I couldn’t even convey my appreciation of the food properly! Emi mostly mediated. Konstantin doesn’t really understand any English. Tamara knows a little and Iliana apparently knows a fair bit, though doesn’t feel so confident speaking it to actual English people. She did have one moment thought where Emi was saying that I was clearly ready for cake and she added in perfect English, “I can see it in your eyes”. Then later on Tamara decided to demonstrate what she’d learnt from her English books and came out with, “I live in the zoo. I’m bimbo.” So cute and funny! I think the whole family’s combined English is just incredible anyway – particularly when Iliana learnt from online gaming and Emi learnt from watching movies and TV shows. Probably the most entertaining way to do it!

The food itself was great, though I quickly learnt that Bulgarians clearly like to serve a lot of things cold that we would normally have hot. It did nothing to hurt the excellent taste though! We had a chicken noodle soup to start and a type of Bulgarian salad that was thankfully put in the middle for everyone to help themselves, so I could get away without having any and not look like I was leaving anything on my plate. I am a no salad zone. After that was mash, pork steak with onions and a type of herby meat patty thing that was really, really tasty. Best of all though was the cake. It was triple layered with lots of cream, mascarpone, blackcurrants, strawberries, kiwi and banana. I don’t even like banana but it was really incredible. The sponge was just so soft and sooo good! I had some really nice cherry juice to go with everything too.

The rest of the family went off to do their own thing after food, whilst we stayed in Emi’s room to chill. Oh, I totally need a job working for Red Bull. Emi gets the best perks – she just had loads of free Red Bull in her fridge!She then doesn’t drink it because she doesn’t drink fizzy drinks, so it all got donated to me, including the various flavoured ones. Woohoo! I had a cranberry and an original in quick succession, then we started on nails.

Nails with Emi always takes a very long time as she’s such a professional. By long time I mean around five or so hours for the both of us. Not that it’s boring of course. It’s us – we can always find inane chatter to fill the time with. I got into trouble because I kept moving and then me and Kel kept making each other laugh. Hey, we were the good kids in school – we need to act out at some point in life. Whilst Emi was working I unleashed my perfect brainteaser on them that I came up with before. You have to hum/whistle/du-du-du the theme tunes to Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman and the A Team in turn, in that order. It’s perfect because it’s movie related and I can actually do it myself, but it seems to stump everyone else.

Emi finished off my amazingly perfect Harley Quinn nails, complete with a “hello puddin'” on my ring finger, and we sat back for more chill time. Of course I was the only one hungry again, so Tamara nicely heated up some more of the mash and meat patties for me. We then all had more cake. God, I really do love that cake. We talked more film stuff, as we do, then watched some of Men At Arms and saw them build an incredible Hylian shield! Want! Then they joined up with a Super Fans team to make a set of Final Fantasy kitchen knives. Sheer awesomeness.

We’d been quite horrified whilst we were there to hear it start raining, thundering and lightning-ing. Especially when it had been so lovely on the walk down – more shorts and tank tops weather and not even muggy this time! Thankfully it had died down and the thunder and lightning had stopped by the time we were leaving, though we still had to loan a brolley from Emi. Sharing a brolley only works completely if you’re sharing with someone who’s the same height. Otherwise you get one person getting rained on more and/or one person getting hit in the head, which was obviously what happened with us. We also had the added fun of having to jump some giant puddles in our very non-waterproof shoes.

When we got back I broke open one of my cherry Carlings that I bought yesterday – home away from home and it only cost the equivalent of about 50p! Watched another episode of Fullmetal (oh Hughes, you really break my heart), did some more writing and we both marveled over some pictures online of Kenan and Kel in the present day. Kel actually grew up to be really attractive! Damn. Wound down for bed from there. I don’t think I can hack skipping free breakfast two days in a row!

Hello puddin'!

Hello puddin’!