26/9/16 – Bring on the pizza

Back to the more relaxed get-ups, since we didn’t have to check out till eleven. Slowly got ready and packed up before heading off to Fort Lauderdale. We’d gotten up and dressed a little late for breakfast, so we stopped off at a Taco Bell en route, as it was something I’d always wanted to try. Yet another disappointment, unfortunately. We all wanted a good nosey at the menu, since we’d never been there before, but we felt rushed because of the miserable cow behind the counter who clearly had no time of the day for tourists, as she was perfectly sweet to everyone else. Pretty sure that’s still racism. Stupid bitch.

I had a quesarito and a spicy potato taco from the savers menu. The quesarito was okay, but far too full of cheese sauce and got quite sickly. I had to pull all of the salad out of the potato taco and it wasn’t even a proper taco. It was just a tortilla shaped like one. I call bullshit. That is so not a taco, which is all I really wanted in the first place. Taco Bell experiment failed. Happily got back into the car to carry on and had a far more satisfying Red Bull.

Despite driving past where we’d already stayed in Miami, the drive up to Fort Lauderdale really didn’t feel that long. Only another hour or so from Taco Bell. We found our cute little apartment complex, Tropi Rock, which actually has its own pool for once. I most definitely favour pools over the sea. Something to do with the fact that I can actually get in the water at the pool, rather than just crisping up in the sun on the beach. We unpacked a bit, milled around a while and then headed out for a little wander around to see what’s about.

Apparently, not a lot. There was the beach, obviously, and it really was a beautiful beach. One thing you can’t flaw Florida on. It was also the first one we’d seen with protested turtle laying grounds. Lots of little triangles of sand were all roped off. We had a meander past some apartment complex and found that even above anywhere else we’d been to, Fort Lauderdale is absolutely lizard central. I even saw a huge one that was two feet long from head to tail. I thought it must have been an escaped pet as it was bright lime green and had a crest and a beard, but we saw more afterwards. Talk about exotic looking wildlife.

After the very hot walk that didn’t really enlighten us on much other than the lizard situation, we came back to the room for a longer while. I started reading my Kelley Armstrong book, showered (in the worst shower we’ve had so far) and downloaded a cool notes app for my phone that’s designed to look like a Death Note with the black pages and the same fonts and everything. Love it. That’ll do well for my writing notes. Got ready to then head back out in search of food. Mom had already researched it on her tablet, since there hadn’t seemed to really be anything around, so we were on the lookout for an Irish grill and bar called McShorley’s.

Unfortunately, this was another plan that didn’t quite work out. It had a truly lovely bar and atmosphere, but the barman Rob told us that they don’t serve food, although they’re happy for people to bring food in from the adjoining fast food places. Ah. We didn’t want to be rude and just walk out, so we all had a drink first. They actually had a few ciders – often quite a hard find in America – so I had a bottle of Magners. Mom had a pint of their draft cider, Woodchuck. It was actually really nice; so much so that I wished I hadn’t just gone for the one I was familiar with. Some guys then brought in a takeout pizza and sat at the bar with it, watching the American football. That just seemed like the best idea ever, but stingy Brits would never allow that back home.

We decided to follow their lead, so after we finished our drinks, we moved across the road to the pizza place, Primanti Brothers. I pretty much never fancy pizza as I’m not a pizza fan in the slightest, but the one the guys had got in the bar looked really good so for once, I was fancying. The smallest they did was a fourteen inch pizza – typical America – so I ordered one with sausage, ham, salami, onions and extra cheese. Oh my god. Best pizza I’ve ever had. Dad had two of the smaller slices since he’d only had a hot dog and I happily devoured the rest. Normally, I find pizza gets far too boring to eat that much in one sitting, but not this pizza. Serious hats off to the Primanti Brothers.

Since they hadn’t offered much in the way of alcohol, we went back to McShorley’s afterwards. I was delighted to have my own pint of Woodchuck this time. We moved into the side room, where they had a big fish tank, a pool table, darts, a few arcade games, checkers, giant Jenga and Connect 4, of all things. I played Dad at pool and almost beat him, but cocked up my last shot and ended up perfectly lining up the black ball for him. Boo. Him and Mom had a few games after that, whilst I entertained myself by making a tower out of the Jenga blocks and watching the tropical fish in the tank. They actually had one of those goofy yellow fish that looks like it has teeth, just like the one me and Kel were so amused by in San Antonio.

Came back for more drinks in the room afterwards. By this point, I’d moved onto Bud Straw-ber-rita Splash. Played with my Death Note app some more and then did what was becoming the usual wind-down of reading, playing Disney game and watching some Impractical Jokers. Larry!

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I could be talked into being a pizza fan after this. For size comparison, see the chair behind it.

12/5/15 – Welcome to Bulgarian life

Woke up early-ish so I could get in some writing time before having to get ready to go out. Aren’t I a good little writer? Quickly scarfed down some popcorn and took my donated lime Red Bull to go, which was surprisingly nice, if not very Red Bull-like. The weather was good again so I was back in shorts and my pineapple tank top, though I’d prepared with my cardy on hand too since we were going to be going a way up the mountain. We met up with Emi and her parents and got into her dad’s car from round the back of their building.

Driving round the outskirts of the town was really good because we got to see a lot more areas of Bulgaria that way. Emi pointed out the parts where her nan lives and also the area that’s apparently at war with where she lives. We went from roads to cobblestones to crazy steep off-roading paths up the mountain. My car definitely wouldn’t have liked it. Emi told her dad that I have an MX-5. He was very impressed, woo! The drive up was nice though, if very bouncy and possibly mean to the car. It was very green and woody and there was a little river and waterfall running alongside the road.

The monastery that we were visiting was set quite high up the mountain. We were lucky to have Emi to translate the history for us. Apparently it was originally destroyed during the Turkish slavery reign and then re-built again. We couldn’t go into the actual monastery as nuns still live there, but we explored around it and found the pretty little cemetery that’s attached. I made friends with a very fluffy German Shepherd whilst we were there. I also got to experience what Emi called a typically Bulgarian toilet, which she was very gleeful about. I quickly learnt why once I found out that it was basically a porcelain bowl built into a hole in the floor, with a railing on the wall to cling to. I took no chances and took off all the bottom half of my clothing and only kept my shoes, just to avoid any quite horrible mishaps. Thank you Romans for inventing proper plumbing.

The horror!

The horror!

We went into the little chapel part, where Emi reckoned there was a good chance she might get struck by lightning. I figured that could work out well because she might get super speed. She suggested I could then somehow fall into a vat of nearby acid if I wanted to become a supervillain, but I declined and requested instead to be the goofy sidekick that makes a lot of well-timed stupid comments. We were all in agreement that it made sense since that’s basically my life, just minus the actual sidekick part. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on which way you look at it, there was no lightning and no need for clich├ęd superhero hierarchy. Instead we bought and lit mini candles to place in the fancy holders in honour of the living. My candle just had to be crooked. Typical.

The drive back down was slower for safety reasons and nicer too – I spotted views that I hadn’t noticed on the way up. You could see all of the city in the distance, with snowy mountains behind them. Emi’s parents dropped us off at a subway station so we could get back into the city centre. We had gigantic slices – more like slabs – of pizza from one of the vendors and sat to eat them in the park. I then entertained myself feeding the crumbs to the pigeons and making them race and skid for it. Oh no, I’m turning into Kel.

Behold the beast! (This was Kel's - I opted for the one without green stuff, of course).

Behold the beast! (This was Kel’s – I opted for the one without green stuff, of course).

The weather was even warmer in town, so we were perfectly happy to just meander round in the sun, whilst Kel and Emi took tourist photos. Emi’s the native and yet she looked more like the tourist with her giant fancy camera. I paid my first ever busker because he was singing a Simple Plan song that I love and it sounded cute, especially when I’m not sure he was even English speaking. I grabbed a little pineapple juice carton to-go during our wander, which was yummy but Bulgaria, why you like room temperature drinks so much? I was also mildly terrified by the woman who served me. Emi had already explained that Bulgarians aren’t happy people and they don’t like it when people ‘pay big money for little things’, as she put it, so I received absolute daggers when I had to buy my seventy cent juice with a ten lev note. I’m sorry, I gave all my change to the cute busker boy!

We had another ice cream stop at Ice Cream Kingdom. I swear, ice cream back home is really gonna pale in comparison after this hat trick. This time I swapped the blueberry for vanilla with eclairs. Very nice and creamy, but I nearly gave myself brain freeze when I bit down on an eclair that was deceptively full of a chunk of very cold ice cream. After that we got the subway back and parted ways to have time to freshen up and things. All of the Red Bull at Billa was all bloody room temperature again – seriously, Bulgaria – so I was forced to pay six lev for it from the hotel fridge. Still only about two quid, but I liked paying less than a pound for it. Cheapest Red Bull in the world!

Drank my Red Bull in the room. Did some writing, watched some Fullmetal, then decided again to shower earlier rather than later. Still had a little time before we had to get ready, so I got a bit of packing done and started listing some ideas for my final part of Superfreaks. I wanted to get a couple of fruity ciders from Billa to have and share at Emi’s, which I succeeded with at the cost of having to wait a bloody age to pay because I somehow have the inherent ability to always pick the duff, slowest-moving queue. Then cue the internal dilemma of ‘do I move to this next queue when I’ve just seen three people come and go who I know joined after I did, or do I stick this one out since I’ve already put so much time in?’ That’s another damn British trait.

Emi’s mom insisted on cooking for us again since we’d steered around her offers to treat us to a meal out. This time we had zucchini boats filled with mince meat and then feta cheese with chilli and oil and a garlic yoghurt sauce/dip thing to go with it. I discovered very quickly that I don’t like zucchini. The taste and the texture are both just urgh. I managed to eat the one because I didn’t want to seem rude by leaving things on my plate, but I couldn’t hack all of the second and had to just scoop out all the filling to eat instead. I had to have two chewing gums after to try and neutralise all the garlic I’d consumed. Still very yummy though, if we don’t count the zucchini. I had a cherry Carling with food and then a berry Strongbow I’d bought to try after. Why isn’t cider so cheap at home? It’s one of my many weaknesses.

I think we were originally intending to watch a film, but instead we ended up talking all night. We got onto story talk and then that was it. I mentioned that I wanted to try bouncing some ideas off them that I’d been coming up with earlier, which then turned into more than an hour long conversation, followed by much talk about Emi’s ongoing project Phoenix that we already knew a lot about from her last few visits. They gave me some great ideas for Superfreaks. That’s the best thing about having friends who are also writers. But at the same time they also came up with some rude suggestions regarding my favourite character that I’ll never be able to unthink. Thanks a lot for ruining Ollie for me, guys.

When we realised it had gotten to half twelve with us just talking we conceded that we’d have to leave as we still had packing to do. Emi promised to come see us off from the hotel in the morning, so it wasn’t goodbye just yet. We always had to cut through an underpass to get from Emi’s apartment block to the right side of the road that we needed to be on, and for the first time it was closed off, which totally threw us. We’d just watched a dog impressively cross the very wide road that we needed to get across (dogs here are super street smart – they know exactly how to wait for the traffic and everything) so we basically followed where the dog had crossed. Kinda feels like it should have been the other way round…

To make things even more confusing all the traffic lights on the walk back seemed to be on the blitz. They were all just constantly flashing orange and nothing else. Kel suggested it might have been from a power cut, whereas I reckoned Emi was trying to sabotage our attempts to leave. Kel messaged her about it once we got back to the hotel and had wifi (just to ask what was going on; not to actually accuse her of interfering of course) and apparently all of that just happens after midnight. Huh. Guess it’s a free for all on the roads in the early hours of Bulgaria.

Kel then went in the shower and I did the majority of my packing. I really hope the mass of notebooks I bought don’t make my case too heavy! Packing to go home is always a sad process. We managed to get the majority done besides things that we’d need in the morning, and the toiletries that we left out to dry (praying we don’t have a second shampoo explosion on the way home) and were able to get into bed at a reasonable-ish-but-maybe-not-entirely time. Looks like we’ll have to skip breakfast again. Way to kick me when I’m down: take away my food options.

13/11/13 – Home. We’re coming home again

Up earlyish, mostly so that I could have my last waffle for breakfast. We stayed in the room for as long as we could before checking out, since it was then a day to be spent in the lobby because of our crappy flight times. We holed up in a couple of chairs by the vending machines. My taurine addiction started roaring again so I had to settle for a can of Monster. Eh, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. Though I’d still only use it as a last resort. It was even colder today so we definitely weren’t brave enough to venture outside. Instead I got comfy with the first That Anime Show Halloween special.

Oh man, how have I not listened to these before? They each consist of collections of ghost stories and encounters told by various voice actors. They’re the real deal too – it’s some freaky stuff! Tatum told a totally creepy one about an abandoned cabin, which really freaked me out. Jamie and Jean-Luc shared a re-telling of Jamie’s mother’s story about her old house. It genuinely made my hair stand on end. And then Tia told this gorgeous tale about her last moment with her grandaddy. It made me really tear up. It was just so sweet and, if anything, I was actually really jealous that she got to have a moment like that. I’m still happy for her though.

We broke for lunch and I had another steak and cheese panini, then had to help Kel with her big-ass pizza. That is officially the last pizza I’m ever going to eat. If anyone suggests pizza to me now they’re going to get punched. We migrated to some new, comfier chairs after and I listened to my next Halloween special. Again, more fantastic stories. Tia spoke about an infamously cursed doll that is now in a museum in Florida, eek! Glad we didn’t go to that one! Josh told his story about breaking into an old church and Terri shared about her real-life horror movie stalker. Terrifying!

By this point it was time to get our shuttle to the airport, if we wanted to be on the safe side, so we did. Had a good four hours there with our flight being delayed. Listened to the last Halloween special I had and watched some Durarara!! The first flight and airport stays passed in a blur of Psych, Spirited Away and not-so-great attempts at sleep. It was light again by the time we got to Denmark, but then dark only a few hours later. Way confusing. Did manage to get some crazy cheap Coco Mademoiselle for only twenty-six quid though! (even if it took me a little while to figure out the crazy Danish conversion). I always seem to find good perfume bargains. Then when everyone was boarding our final flight – and last leg of the journey – I had a hairy builder’s crack shoved in my face. Thanks for that, Denmark.

The last flight felt longer than it actually was – likely because it was the very final trip of our adventure. I did manage to get a huge chunk of writing done though, so I was at least pleased about that. We were met at the airport by Auntie Ann and Sarah, still in part of our scheme of telling Mom and Dad that we were coming home a day later than we actually were (we’d given them fake flight times and everything – because we’re sneaky like that). It was so, so nice to see familiar faces in the flesh again! Kel had a little blub and we all had a goss on the way home, after some silly confusion of not being able to get onto the right floor of the car park (of course we couldn’t end our journey without there still being something).

We left all our baggage in the car when we pulled up at home. Auntie Ann went to go drag Mom and Dad outside with some inane excuse whilst me, Kel and Sar hid behind my car on the drive, ready to jump out. It worked a treat. Mom went from a scared scream to a happy scream. We then had our own surprise as we accused them of replacing our dogs, since one had no teeth and one was three times the size as when we’d left! And of course I was starving by this point, so I broke open some of my old traditional Super Noodles. Ah, home sweet home.

So that’s it. It’s been a whirlwind of two months. We’ve seen some fantastic places, done many amazing things, met both new and old people and finally learnt the damn knack to packing and re-packing. Now my only thought is… where to next?