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.

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

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17/9/16 – What about second breakfast?

Up fairly early again, at least before eight o’clock. That doesn’t usually happen naturally on holiday and/or on a weekend. Played on my Disney game a little before getting up to get ready for breakfast. I got to have my two rounds of pancakes this time, hoorah. We headed on down to get the trolley over towards the Garden District. We went to Lafayette Cemetery first. Last time I came here, it was incredibly hot and we’d tended to stick to the lines that were in the shade. Not quite that hot today, so I got to explore a bit more fully. Still easily the most interesting cemetery I’ve ever seen. It was rife with lizards too, so I did a lot of lizard spotting.

From there, we went for a wander down Prytania Street to see all the big celebrity houses. I didn’t know/couldn’t remember who any of them belonged to, but I’d certainly be interested to find out who owned the house that had a huge stuffed tiger sat out on the front path, guarding the threshold. Mike Tyson, maybe? We then ran into a Maccies to get drinks and binge off the WiFi for a bit to figure out what other trolley routes we could take. Whilst we were then waiting for the trolley to arrive afterwards, a very nice American guy came over to warn us about what area we ventured into. Apparently, two blocks over from where we were standing was their ‘ghetto’ and three shootings had occurred there just last night. Scary! We took his advice and certainly didn’t look back once we got on the trolley.

We went up and down the St. Charles route, then got off when we saw a little strip mall with plenty of eating options. We ended up in a cute place called O’Henry’s, where we got to sit upstairs out on the little garden balcony. I had a blood orange mimosa, a side of jambalaya and fried bayou wrappers, which were deep fried tortillas stuffed with chicken, andouille sausage, cheese and herbs. All very yummy. Mom erred over having the bayou wrappers too and our nice waiter suggested that maybe I’d be generous to share. I point blank told him no, which he seemed to find very amusing. Then when he brought the food out, he gave me mine and said “this is only for you; nobody else”. He clearly got me.

Following that was a Baskin Robbins. The girl serving us loved my red check dress. This seems to keep happening. A woman along the street last night told me she liked my pineapple dress. Funny how both times it’s been my super cheap Primark bargains. I had scoops of strawberry and coconut with pineapple, then we got back on the trolley and completed the St. Charles line there and back. We then came down to the Mississippi and got on the Riverfront line. That was actually pretty much hell on wheels. It was packed, hot and there was a screaming child who was honest-to-god called Siri. She also looked like Dora the Explorer and was an equally annoying little shit.

When we got off, we slowly meandered back to the hotel. I stopped off in a shop to get my Red Bull fix and a fancy New Orleans keyring for Lisa. Had a slow session of showering, getting ready and reading in between. I really themed it up with my Daryl Dixon inspired wing-backed dress and crossbow and arrows jewellery. Because I’m nerdy like that. For some reason, we let Dad be chief navigator again and wandered round for ages looking for a Mexican place that he reckoned he knew exactly where it was, despite the fact that we hadn’t seen it on our walks and he hadn’t looked at the address online. We shouldn’t have trusted him really. We never found the Mexican place.

We ended up in a little diner/bar type place called Déja Vu. I had the most horrendously strong Hurricane that I probably only drank a sixth of. We all shared gator balls to start with – deep fried and blended with onions, peppers and Cajun spices and served with ranch. They were really nice and quite delicately flavoured. Kinda like a soft tasting meatball. For my main, I had fried chicken fillet with country peppered gravy and super creamy mash. The mash and gravy were good; the chicken, not so much. It was one of those thing but heavily fried pieces that are a little too sickly. At least I finally got to try the alligator meat.

We then had another big wander around looking for a bar, because Dad decided he was going to be super picky about everything. He faffed around one place so much that I didn’t know where to stand to get out of the way of people and ended up stepping in a giant puddle. That wasn’t so fun. Me and Mom got fed up of meandering, so we ended up back in Pat O’Brien’s for more Hurricanes. Now these are the proper Hurricanes. Obviously wasn’t complaining about that.

After a long sit and drink, we came back to the hotel. Cue the oldies wanting to go straight to bed again. I wasn’t too put out by it this time, since I hadn’t slept too well the night before due to my sicky episode, so I happily sat and read quietly for about an hour before retiring myself.

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18/11/15 – Where Febo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thank you Holland for your wonderful foods.

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

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We found you, Febo!

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

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

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

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

13/5/15 – I don’t do these goodbyes

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

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

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

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

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

Nobody told us we were the only people flying today…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10/11/13 – Help is on the way, dear!

Up early to make sure we had plenty of time to get down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Finished off my yummy rice and watched a bit of Chamber of Secrets. America have a serious problem with re-sharing the same set of films. It’s worse than ITV2 with The Mummy! We got different trams down to the Wharf. We had breakfast at Maccies – word of advice: don’t ever have McGriddles. They’re weird as fuck! The pineapple and mango smoothie more than made up for it though.

We then had our movie location tour. It wasn’t quite as great as we’d expected, probably not helped by the fact that we were both young and British – we hadn’t even heard of most of the films mentioned, let alone see them, so about ninety-two percent of it went straight over our heads. Annoyingly there was a parade going on down one of the streets so we couldn’t see the apartment from Interview With A Vampire. One of the two places I was most excited about! We did get to see the other one though, which was the house from Mrs. Doubtfire. We also saw locations from George of the Jungle, X-Men 3, Star Trek and Dr. Doolittle. Our guide Whiley was very knowledgeable, though it wasn’t too surprising seeing as he was an actor too. He was apparently in a TV series about Alcatraz and an extra in the new upcoming Tim Burton film!

The big-ass tree kinda ruined our shot. Where were you in the movie, tree!

We went to Applebee’s again for lunch and then went to catch our cable car. We had to wait for over an hour which was annoying, but it was fun going down the big hills. We had a bit of a mishap with some tickets we’d booked, so we then got the tram back to our motel. Guess what was on TV? Chamber of Secrets. Again. Come on America, there are other Harry Potter films. There are other films in general! We showered and watched some Yes Man early on, ready for bed before nine o’clock. God, I won’t miss these early flights.

A nice man took this for us! Though it was only fair, since he then shoved his bum in my face during the ride.

22/10/13 – Everybody do the dinosaur

Skyped Mom this morning before heading to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. They had the best dinosaur exhibit I’ve ever seen – complete with whole skeletons of Tyrannosaurus Rex, Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Deinonychus, Triceratops, Diplodocus, Plesiosaur and a lot of ice age creatures, among others. They have the largest complete Megaladon jaw ever found, the best Tyrannosaurus hands and feet, and some of the best Triceratops feet too. They also had an actual sample of preserved Triceratops skin, proving they were actually bristly, rather than scaly like everyone originally thought! They had a ‘pet a dinosaur’ exhibit too with a preserved impression of Edmontosaurus skin, which you were actually allowed to touch. That was pretty damn awesome (can you tell I’m a huge dino geek?)

They had a cool Egyptian exhibit as well (and a gemstone display that we got lost in since it was all in the dark. Good logic there, Houston). There were three partially unwrapped mummies in there. I think mummies are fascinating, but they still creep me the hell out at the same time – especially seeing perfectly preserved, millenia-old human faces.

We grabbed some Maccy’s for lunch, which we then ate in the car, ready to get on the road again. Had a petrol stop and then a three-hour drive. Some idiot truck driver got really petty about being overtaken, so what did I do? That’s right, I kept on overtaking him. It was really quite amusing! (Just keep trollin’, just keep trollin’). We stopped off at another Maccy’s to steal their wi-fi since we didn’t actually have a room for tonight. Kel took care of that whilst I took care of a praline and cream McFlurry.

It didn’t take long to get to our hotel from there, but once again we couldn’t be bothered to go back out so we ordered in more pizza and sat and watched TV. Patton Oswalt popped up in some other show we’d been watching. Great, now he’s haunting me too! Then we watched a good chunk of Criss Angel. Now I love watching magicians do impossible tricks, but this just horrified me more than anything. He freaked everyone the fuck out, but in a bad way (not like Dynamo). He split two people in half, like really split them in half. He was even picking the pieces up, it was horrible – everyone literally screamed their heads off and then legged it. Now apparently on the next episode he wants to raise someone from the dead. Talk about messed up. Safe to say we won’t be watching that or it’ll be hello nightmares.

That’s the old palaeontology dream kicking in right there…