28/9/16 – KFC hunt, round two

Lazy start with another eleven o’clock check-out. Cue the slow get ready, get packed and whatever. We had an hour or so drive into downtown Miami. The satnav started playing up again – she must not like the oldies, because me and Kel never had this problem – so we stopped off at a Maccies to bum off the WiFi and use Google maps to figure out exactly where we needed to go. When we got back en route, the satnav decided to play nice again. Go figure. We wanted to get lunch first whilst we still had the car, so we pulled into a little strip mall that was only about five or ten minutes away.

There wasn’t a lot there in the way of eating, so we went into a Little Caesar’s, which we’d actually seen adverts for on the telly. It was a good choice. I had wings, which were okay. I like my wings dry and fried and whereas they weren’t covered in sauce, they were still a little sloppy from the marinade. But I also had their crazy bread bites, which were way better. Little garlicky dough balls topped with different cheeses and bacon. Now that is more my kind of food. We popped into a CVS over the road after and I restocked on Red Bull. Drove to our Best Western, as well as the final hotel, and unloaded everything. I then stayed in the room and read whilst the oldies took the car back to the Alamo. Bye, Harry.

We did have a pool at this place, but I hadn’t seen where it was and wasn’t sure how to get to it, as it was a huge hotel. By the time the oldies got back, it was closer to five and there wasn’t a whole lot of sun left, so it wasn’t really worth it.  carried on with my reading and then showered and got dressed to head back out in search of KFC. Hopefully, this round will be more successful, since we’re all still craving the real stuff. Since getting the car, we hadn’t done a whole lot of walking really, so it felt like quite a jaunt. Got to watch an electrical storm, as well as all the planes landing nearby on the way though.

We ate at the KFC, rather than risking the food going cold on the way back. This time, we made sure they gave us the proper chicken. They got it right and damn, it was good. They gave us biscuits as well. Now there’s a food that’s super tasty, but that sure as hell confused us the first time we had them. I mean firstly, they’re called biscuits and they’re absolutely not biscuits. Secondly, they’re actually scones, except they’re savoury. Weird or what? Still good though and would be even better slathered in butter.

The way felt even longer on the way back. Maybe because we were distinctly fatter. We had much drink to break out too, since we had to finish off everything that we had. That meant four bottles for me. No problem. The maids are gonna think we’re all serious lush-heads when they see our bin. Dad tried to put on the new season of American Horror Story, but I quickly made him change the channel as it wasn’t the first episode and I didn’t want any spoilers. The theme for the new season actually looks pretty good – hopefully a lot better than Hotel and without any Lady Gaga. Dad decided he was watching Thor instead, so I figured I was much better off with my iPod.

Watched more Psych, did some reading, played some Disney and had to do a serious packing spree of everything, bar what we’d need for tomorrow. Mom had asked if we could have a later check-out on the way back from the KFC, so at least we can spend a little time around the pool. Here’s hoping it’s sunny for our last day.

187

This is what good fast food looks like. Can we have a Little Caesar’s in Birmingham please?

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.

SAM_6463

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

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.