On a Ramble in Alicante

I finally got going around 1:30 this afternoon. Sundays are quiet in Alicante, so I decided to do like my last day in Barcelona and focus on having a nice lunch and then going to the beach before ambling around the old town.

It was very, very, very dead in Alicante early this afternoon. Just a few restaurants and the odd shop open. But I quickly found the super touristy part of town with lots of people coming off the cruise ships where there was more happening.






I saw a lot of menú del días for 11-13 euros for two courses, drink and dessert not included. Not a great deal! I brushed off the touts and continued wandering until I found a quiet alley and a restaurant with a Spanish-only 10 euro menú del día that looked good. Service was slooooow, but the server acknowledged me right away, so I knew he was just being run off his feet and not ignoring me. I eventually ordered my two courses and he confirmed that I could have a glass of white wine with my meal!

Considering I’d ordered pasta as a first course, I was a little confused when he brought me a big salad. I squinted at the menu board and, sure enough, it did say salad above the first course. So this would be a four-course meal! I was almost done with the salad when he brought me my first course (I was surprised he didn’t wait till I was done).

I was a bit shocked when I saw the size of the pasta portion. It could have been a meal unto itself! It had a really lovely sauce and the meat was cooked with a touch of nutmeg. So far, I was really impressed with my meal.


I chose the baked pork ribs as a second course and was surprised by how much meat was on them and also how flavourful and tender they were. The beans/carrots/eggplant were well seasoned and very tasty as well. I was surprised to have the veggies. I was shocked when the server came to ask me if my meal was okay, something that I’m told really doesn’t happen in Europe.


I wasn’t done yet… The included dessert was flan. I declined, telling the server I’m allergic to eggs. He offered me ice cream instead! This vanilla and three-chocolate confection came shortly thereafter…


Maybe Spain won’t be as unaffordable as Barcelona makes it out to be…

I headed towards the waterfront and found this trio of fine American dining options.



I really think I’m meant for this climate…









My favourite captain! 😀


Um, wow…






Can’t believe I was all the way up there yesterday!





I can’t believing people were swimming. It wasn’t that hot out and the water was cold…


Taking my first steps into the Mediterranean Sea. 😀





Sandy feet are the only thing I don’t like about going to the beach. Surely, there had to be a place to rinse off…


I was right!


This tiling job is incredible!



At first, I thought this walkway is a waterslide. I bet that’s the effect they’re going for.







I must have gotten “Je parles français” tattooed on my forehead at some point and forgotten about it because how else can I explain tourists coming up to me and asking me for directions to the castle elevator in French?! It’s funny how I end up giving tourists directions everywhere I go.


I was rather impressed by this retaining wall.


The Polvora tower. I like how they are rebuilding it with the same material to show what it would have looked like new.


That stone is really gorgeous!





I got back to the Rambla, a main street, when I realised I wasn’t quite ready to go home yet. So I headed towards this interesting building, with the water behind it.


I passed a shop with notebooks that had funny messages on them. My favourites are: “Come on. Eat the world!”


and “Life is a journey, not a race.”


I had such a laugh when I was looking for lunch and headed off to this giant TACO sign in the distance. What a disappointment!


Bast, did you open a restaurant in Alicante?


I can’t quite make out the last word in this, but rico would make sense. So “Marry someone who cooks well. Beauty is fleeting, but hunger isn’t.”


Am I following my dreams if I follow this arrow?


This ad for a new real estate project had me burst out laughing in public. The wife: “New construction homes. What more could you want?” Husband: “A steak.”


The arrow above took me to this wonderland!




Children were playing hopscotch. I had to wait for one to finish to take this picture and you can see a bit of his shoe.






This sign told me something very interesting about Alicante. This area was the original elevation of the city, which for a very long time impeded its development. Levelling works ended in 1946.



Here’s something I’ve noticed since I got to Spain. They use the verb “alquilar” for renting, as opposed to “rentar,” like I saw in Mexico. I did some research and learned that Mexico is the only Spanish-speaking country that uses rentar for this meaning.


Here’s the park outside my window again. It’s prettier from this angle.


I had a lovely walk around Alicante today and didn’t need to pull out my map once!

So on to Almería tomorrow! I am beyond ready to stop for seven weeks and replenish my coffers.

Ambling Around Barcelona

I ended up with a ton of work due tonight because I forgot to tell the client who sends me stuff on Fridays that I’d be traveling tomorrow. Thankfully, my jobs were easy, so I decided I would do one of them in the morning, go out and walk until my feet hurt, and then come in to do the other one. I got to work around 9AM and was ready to head out at about 1PM. It was cool and very overcast, so I pulled out my cool weather clothes and made sure to pack my umbrella!

My only plan for the day was to visit a beach and then just amble around and see what I could find. But first, lunch!

I headed towards the marina area, stopping first at the same place as yesterday for a coffee. I would normally have given up on coffee so late in the day, but I’ve been on such a late schedule here I figured it wouldn’t matter. I sipped my magic bean potion as I walked very slowly behind a huge gaggle of school kids blocking the entire sidewalk and was glad to be rid of them around the monument to Columbus.

These trees were by the monument and I was not the only person photographing them. They are Ceiba trees, just like we find in Mexico. I’ve just never seen any there that look so roly-poly!



They have beautiful flowers.




Barcelona has a couple of cable cars. Very $$$ to ride them, of course.


I wonder if this is the world’s second biggest lobster.



I got to the turnoff to head towards the beach at about 2PM, which is right bang at lunchtime for Spaniards. So I decided to head inland to find lunch and then return to the water when I spotted this restaurant across the street:


Ooh. I haven’t had conveyor belt sushi since Eugene, Oregon! I hurried to the nearest crosswalk and doubled back to the restaurant to see if they had a lunch special. Yes. 12.53 euros for all you can eat with a drink, including beer. That’s only 19CAD, a bargain! I did a quick review check and any less than five-star reviews were by folks who admitted they came very early or very late, so the food wasn’t as fresh. I went in and was seated at the best table in the place — the first stop after the kitchen.

I dug in, knowing I wouldn’t need to eat again today. I focussed on the sushi, but did try a few other tidbits, like noodles and gyoza (dumplings). The salmon nigiri (bottom right) were were the best I’ve ever had, with the fish fresh and the rice perfectly seasoned. I could not believe what a deal I was getting. I like this format better than the all you can eat in that the portions are smaller and so you can get a bigger variety of stuff. With all you can eat, you’re committed to a large roll of whatever, plus you have to wait for your orders.


What a wonderful find and a great experience. I love stumbling on places like these!


I then headed back to the waterfront to find a beach. Here’s the museum of Catalonian History. Like most museums, there was a hefty admittance fee and a long line up. I have no regrets about my trip to Barcelona being mostly spent ambling somewhat aimlessly as I’ve been spoiled by the non-touristy Balkans.


I’d rather like to rent a Ferrari for a day… 🙂



I loved the last line on this sign:


And tah-dah!


Can you imagine how long this journey would have taken in ancient times?



I sat there for a long while, studying my map before setting off again.


“We are and ever will be a refuge city.”


The number of refugees Barcelona has welcomed.


There were some amazing sand artists at work.




I’ve seen these signs all over the parts of Barcelona I’ve visited. Half a roasted chicken with potatoes or a whole one. About twice as expensive as in Mexico, but Mexican chickens tend to be scrawny, so this might not be a bad deal, although I’d rather have rice than potatoes.



Exterior window blinds like in Belgrade.


This was an interesting building. It belongs to a natural gas company.


These signs always make me laugh. How many people had to drink the water or swim in it for the sign to be necessary?



Torre d’Aigües (water tower).


I’m starting to notice some linguistic similarities between Mexico/Spain and Quebec/France, with the younger country holding on to a purer form of the language while the older country is starting to have a lot of anglicisms. For example, Mexico has “alto” signs and you look for estacionamento, while Spain has “stop” signs and you look for parking, just as Quebec has “arrêt” signs and you look for stationnement, while France has “stop” signs and you look for parking.



Dead end.


Here’s the natural gas building again.



By this point, I was completely disoriented, off my map, and Siri helpfully told me I was in “Barcelona, Catalonia.” I had to ask a local to orientate me towards the Old City!

Here’s the natural gas building again. It’s really interesting!


I found myself for the first time in my travels since June in an area that made the hair on the nape of my neck stand up. Turns out there was a reason for it.


“No tourist apartments.” My host told me about this the other night. Barcelonans are unhappy with tourists moving into residential areas through sites like Airbnb and behaving badly. I was told that if anyone asks, I’m her friend and a guest, not an Airbnb customer. Now, I know I’m not at all the kind of tourist this sign is warning off, but it did nothing to make me feel welcome and I was glad to return to a main boulevard.


More interesting exterior window shades.



I was surprised that this one appears abandoned.



Ah, the name of the abandoned building. I found an article on the Catalan Wikipedia (who knew there was such a thing) and between it and Google Translate I learned that in 2008, major deficiencies within the building were found that halted renovations as there is not enough money to restore it properly.



Entrance to the Parc de la Ciutadella. It’s near the beaches and my map indicated it had some interesting buildings, so it seemed like a good place to end my day.



It is the home of the Barcelona Zoo.




There are abandoned buildings on it from the 1888 Universal Exposition. This one is called L’Umbracle.


And another building called the Castle of the Three Dragons.


And an abandoned museum.


That had huge chunks of rock outside of it, all labeled.



This is L’Hivernacle, a greenhouse for tropical plants during the exhibition. It is a contemporary of Paris’ Eiffel Tower.







The Castell dels Tres Dragons was the café/restaurant for the Universal Exhibition.



I liked these chameleons at a non-functioning fountain in front of the castle.





Here’s the Arch of Triumph I saw the other day, from the other side.


Toilets in Catalan are lavabos, which, spelled exactly like that, are bathroom sinks in French…


There’s that gas company building again. 🙂


I just love these details at the top of the castle!



Hommage to the Universal Exposition.



It was getting late, so it was time to head home. I wanted to do a withdrawal and found a Deutsche Bank on my exact route. How convenient!

Vicki, I found your toad!


This sounds like a great deal if you’re not a nervous nilly like me.







The one-way system in the Old City made more sense to me at intersections between wide and narrow streets. So here, you would turn onto the wide street from the narrow street.



I liked both the shape and colour of this building.


I decided at the last minute to make a detour down Barcelona’s famed pedestrian walking street, La Rambla, since I hadn’t taken any pictures of it.


With all due respect to Barcelona, anyone who has ambled down Plovdiv’s Ulitsa Knyaz Aleksandr, Belgrade’s Ulitca Knez Mihailova, and/or Sofia’s Vitosha Boulevard would find La Rambla laughable. I didn’t see anyone who looked like a local and all the restaurants served the same overpriced menu, a far cry from the bustling pedestrian streets I encountered in the Balkans where locals truly live and restaurants are of very high quality. There is a pedestrian street just a block from my flat that is much more like what I’ve become used to.







I couldn’t resist taking a picture of all the goodies in this window. They don’t look real!



Here’s “my” pedestrian street waiting for the sun to go down to come to life.


Here’s a map of my day:


I’ve had a lovely stay in Barcelona! Next stop, Alicante.

A Day In Old Nessebar

I did a lot of research about the “Bulgarian Riviera” and got heaps of testimonials. I wanted a quiet seaside holiday, but it quickly became apparent that that’s not really feasible. The entire coast is developed and there are many resorts. It’s basically like my worst Mexican nightmare. The only village that really stuck out was Old Nessebar because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many people I spoke to, including a few who have had a few weeks to know me, said that the Bulgarian Black Sea coast’s atmosphere would not be to my liking, but if I simply had to have a taste of the Black Sea, then at least Nessebar would give me something substantial to enjoy. So that’s how and why I ended up here and why I will be happy to leave the coast tomorrow morning.

It was a fairly good night in Nessebar. The room was stuffy and I eventually got up to open the balcony door after things quieted down a tad, then slept very well. I was tired and in no hurry to go anywhere this morning. Breakfast was served between eight and ten and I didn’t go down till well past nine, and with very low expectations.

Well, my day got off to a great start! When I read I would be served Bulgarian fried bread, I had a vision of a cold greasy commercial pastry and certainly didn’t expect cooked to order little pillows of doughy delight! They reminded me a lot of bannock. With them, I was given a slab of sirene cheese and two different types of jam. The salty and sweet combination was wonderful! My meal also came with an orange drink that was cold and refreshing as well as two small cups of excellent coffee to which the server had added just the right amount of milk. To round everything off, I had about a half dozen slices of crisp watermelon! Needless to say, I was stuffed when I got back to my room to pack for my day. I am so pleased with my stay at this hotel and still can’t believe it was only 95CAD for two nights!

I was going to take a bus to Old Nessebar, 3KM away, but by the time I got to the main road, there was a nice breeze and I didn’t see any need for a ride. It was pleasant, albeit boring, stroll to the entrance to Old Nessebar:

I’ve seen mobile libraries before, but never a mobile bookstore!

Old Nessebar is a peninsula. The way it is built up, I could see water on two sides of it.

Its famous windmill:


I’m not sure if that’s a real bird because it was still there at the end of the day!




I was surprised there is this much parking in Old Nessebar, but I would not have wanted to drive there!


I took two shots of this sign in rapid succession. Notice what’s changed?


I’ve seen a lot of transliterations of the name НЕСЕБъР. The ъ sounds appears to be problematic, as I’ve seen the same issue with Malak Izvor, where transliterators cannot decide whether ъ should be an A or U. Since ъ is meant to be the U as in turn sign, I favour that and would translate the name as Nessebur, with two Ses being necessary to convey the correct sound in English. But Nessebar and Nesebar are the  most common transliterations I’ve seen.


Western fortress walls.



They mean salon, but I love the idea of a place where I can get beer and ice cream! 🙂


Beautiful map outside the history museum.


Nessebar “world heritage.”


What kind of museum? Oh, the history of Nessebar.


I opted to pay 20BGN for access to five churches and seven museums. Spoiler: that’s the way to do it. Every attraction is really small (most can be done in at most five minutes), but still well worth seeing so you save a lot going that route. They give you a map with a route to all the sites and you collect a stamp at each one.

So this first museum was about the history of Nessebar. Lots of wonderful artifacts!



I did a double take when I saw this ring because I have similar one in silver that I bought in Mexico!





We were not allowed to take a picture of this room full of icons, but I got this shot before I saw the sign!


Map of Nessebar when it was still known as Mesambriya.


This prehistoric pottery shows abstract thought that is very advanced for the time:


Document certifying Nessebar as a UNESCO world heritage site. “Placement on this list honours the exceptional universal value of a cultural or natural good so that it may be protected for the benefit of humanity.”


Here’s my map of Nessebar showing the route to all the sites. You get a lesser quality copy to collect stamps on.


This is old Nessebar, all tiny cobblestone alleys and homes with stone foundations and wood upper floors.




St. Stephen Church:






Can anyone explain what the heck happened with this photo?!




I went inside and was bowled over by the unexpected frescoes!



I thought that was it, but then I saw a door that was a little ajar, so I cracked it open and realised there was more to see!


I may get thrashed for this, but this rivaled St. Paul’s in the beauty of its decorations!


This church was built in the 11th century and later reconstructed. It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary.






Next stop was Christ Pantocator Church. Nessebar has a record number of churches. I’m pretty sure the last time I visited so many churches in such a short span of time and distance was in Tuktoyaktuk! Spoiler: the churches in Nessebar were all unique and I never got a moment of “Okay, that’s enough churches for one day”!




This church had a bonus exhibit of cartography featuring Nessebar. On this map, its name in red signifies it was a port of importance.





So many maps! I went through twice and would have returned to my favourite ones a third time, but the church was tiny and getting crowded.





There were a lot of taxis outside. The prices are insane! In Sofia, a reputable taxi charges only about 0.75BGN per km!


Next up, St. John the Baptist Church:







It was built at the end of the 10th century and is one of the best preserved medieval monuments in Nessebar.


There was an informational plaque on the floor and nothing around it. I had to really squint to see this image on the wall. This is the only photo I retouched for today so that you could all see this ghost of an image from the 14th century!



Next stop, St. Spas Church:



I loved the stonework outside of this one:


Inside, so many beautiful frescoes!










I was ready for ice cream after this church, especially since it had a shady place to sit. The pimply teen who took my order ignored my request for a small cone and gave me a HUGE one. Holy smokes, almost 4BGN worth of gelato! I was torn between seeing it as a gift from the universe and refusing it. The money wasn’t the issue here, but the calories! One thing I love about buying ice cream in Bulgaria is that they sell it by weight so you can order just a few bites and no one thinks you’re weird for doing it. This is how I can eat ice cream several times a day — I really only have the equivalent of one cone. This was the first time I’d seen cookies ‘n cream since I got here, so I decided to go with door number one and consider the huge treat a gift from the universe. 🙂

I then came across the ruins of St. Sophia Church (free to tour):









The dark side of Old Nessebar is that it is a tourist trap, just one store selling tchotchkes after another. There were some articles of genuine quality (like lace), but, really, it was mostly junk. The sellers were adamant no photos of their wares be taken and so it was often hard to get a shot of a nice building or alley. At least, the vendors were not aggressive!



I forgot to make a note of the name of this church. Its museum was not included in my pass.






On to St. Paraskeva Church. Loved the exterior archways on this one:






This was another church with a bonus exhibit. I should add that there was a lot of English in Nessebar, most of it very good. This whole area is to the Brits what parts of Mexico are to Canadians, so you can’t get away from English. The best rated restaurant in Old Nessebar is an English pub serving only English food!




The colour and detail of these murals were exquisite.



I’m embarrassed by how long it took me to realise what these pokey things are for!





The torment of St. George in prison. OUCH.


There was a hole in the floor with coins in it:






St. Todor church was not open:





I have to say that I was tempted by some of the breezy dresses for sale! But the point of this picture was the second floor. So pretty!


My final stop was the Ethnographic Museum.



This exhibit was about the town’s history from the late 18th to early 20th centuries. A lot has changed, but not the recreational uses of the area!



This plaque had the first major typo I’d seen all day, leaving rather than living. I was really impressed by the effort made to get decent translations!


See, just like today! 🙂


The building itself was also interesting. I loved the ceilings.



There are about 80 preserved “Black Sea style” houses left in Nessebar that date back to the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries. The major difference with inland houses is that the second floor of these homes do not have a large open veranda because of the strong winds coming off the water.


This dress looks very risqué despite the centre panel!





The population of the town was once overwhelmingly Greek, but the two Balkan wars and the First World War changed that.



Craft magazine from the beginning of the 20th century:


Embroidered lampshade with layers of muslin. Not my taste!


Wedding album:


A very favourable report of bustling Nessebar in 1786:


Fifty years later, a contrasting report:




More about the changing ethnic composition of Nessebar:


That blanket looks rather similar to what you’d find in Mexico!


Traditional Bulgarian clothes:


A very low table and stools:



Stairs down out of the museum:


Exterior of the museum from the courtyard:


I then wandered aimlessly, trying to orientate myself.







Ruins of the Basilica “Virgin Merciful” (Eleusa):



I should have ended my day in Old Nessebar here and gone back to the hotel for a swim. But I was stuck on the idea of having a seafood or fish lunch. I went to TripAdvisor to get a few restaurant reviews and then tried several ones, but could not get service, whether I waited at the entrance to the restaurant or sat down at a table (and in both cases, asked for service). Reminded me of my experience in Sofia. One person even yelled at me for perusing their menu, which was displayed on a stand outside the restaurant! This did give me an idea of prices for seafood, and it was high, like 35CAD for a whole grilled octopus or over 100CAD for a lobster!

I finally found a spot with a view and service, but pretty much got robbed blind for a whole small grilled fish (delicious, I do have to say) with a beer, sliced tomato and slice cucumber. It was by far my most expensive meal in Bulgaria. I wish I’d listened to my instincts and not pressed on to have lunch in Old Nessebar. 🙁



(no picture of my lunch because it had eyes and I know some of you have sensitive constitutions! *g*)

I wandered some more and found this lump of a gem!




Lovely door into a restaurant:




Back to the western fortress walls:










There was a low street full of shops right by the entrance to Old Nessebar, so I decided to check it out before heading back. This building was interesting:



That was it for my day in Old Nessebar. Half of it was really good, the other half reminded me to avoid Gringo Mexico. 🙂 I still wasn’t exhausted, so I decided to walk back to the hotel. En route, I passed this sign that made me wonder why the YA sound letter Я was backwards! You know you’ve been in Bulgaria a while when… In my defense, the rest of the sign is in Bulgarian. This was my laugh for the day. And, yes, I actually Googled, “SOYAK” before going waitaminute…


I missed this sign this morning, announcing a protected natural site of sandy dunes. Notice the yellow writing, which is Russian. So similar to Bulgarian, yet so different!




I came in and was no longer in the mood for a swim when I saw how crowded the beach was. Introvert burnout was imminent after all the crowds today! Instead, I had a long cool shower, then sat on my balcony to enjoy a breeze. Aaaaaah.

I thought I’d get his blog post out before dinner, but WordPress was being stupid. I gave up around 6:30 (I’d come in near five) to get dinner. There are a few restaurants behind the hotel and with the pizza last night being so cheap, I figured they’d all be like that and picked the Hawaii Grill for its extensive menu, which included Chinese food (which seemed very popular). I went through the menu a few times and was surprised that the most appealing thing was… spaghetti with cheese, broccoli, and chicken. I’ve really been in broccoli withdrawal! It was one of the cheapest mains on the menu at 6.20BGN, so I assumed it would be very skimpy. My lunch had been very light and felt a million years away, so I asked if I could add a kebapche to my order, knowing that was the cheapest way to get some solid extra protein. The lovely server said that of course I could do that. Well, my pasta wound up being very substantial! What amazing value compared to my lunch! Even with a “small” (I’d hate to see their large) beer and a generous tip, my supper cost me all of… 8.74CAD. Here’s my Old Nessebar tip for you: eat in New Nessebar. 😀

It’s been a lovely weekend on the coast, especially the hotel, and I am very happy with the quality of the historical sites I saw in Old Nessebar. I have no desire to see anything else on the coast (had been toying with going to Sozopol), so I’m heading back inland tomorrow and thinking of spending the night in Veliko Tarnovo. I’ll make a final decision over breakfast. There are a few sites near Ruse on the Romanian border that I’d like to see en route, but I can’t imagine leaving early enough tomorrow to manage all of that.

Plovdiv to Nessebar… In a Chevy

I managed a good night of sleep and woke up around 6:30 this morning. There was no work waiting for me, so I rolled over and went back to sleep for another two hours. I needed it! When I was finally up, I made my decision to head straight for the coast and booked a hotel for two nights. Even though Bulgaria is tiny, there really is no way I can see everything this week and I didn’t want to put extra pressure on myself my first day of driving in this country.

I took my time dressing and packing before leaving the hostel around 9:30. I stopped at the café next door and decided to try their “brioche” as it appeared to be savoury. Sure enough, it was a pastry filled with sirene cheese, the salty and lemony flavour a nice contrast to my coffee. So a successful final breakfast in Plovdiv!

I then headed to the car rental place, a few blocks across the Maritsa River and a straight shot from the pedestrian streets, so very easy to find. I needed a top up for my phone, but the Telenor store en route was closed. I didn’t have any luck yesterday either — the first store only had 40BGN cards and the second store was closed by the time I got there.

I reached the rental company office around 10:15 and my car wasn’t back yet. The clerk barely spoke any English (he said I had more Bulgarian!), but his English speaking colleague had briefed me on everything last night, so the paperwork process went smoothly enough since I was able to use my phone for translations as needed. What did we ever do before Google Translate? I was annoyed with myself for not having foreseen that I’d be asked to prepay in cash, so I had to go to an ATM and use my main debit card since it would take too long to transfer funds to the secondary account. I did have the deposit, though, thank goodness.

10:30 rolled around and the car still wasn’t back. I’d actually expected this and wasn’t irked. I spent time reading a (French!) brochure about the coast and memorising the directions for getting out of Plovdiv. At one point, the clerk passed me his phone to talk with his English speaking colleague, who admitted that he was concerned because he could not reach the folks with my car. I said that I was absolutely fine for the moment and took the opportunity to ask him where I could buy a road map of Bulgaria. He said that if I didn’t mind one in Cyrillic only, he’d ask his colleague to lend me one. So glad I didn’t shell out for one!

I suddenly remembered that I needed a phone card, so I did a search and found a Telenor store nearby. I told the clerk I was going there and would be back in about 20 minutes. This store only had 25BGN cards, which was fine since I knew I’d be going through a lot of bandwidth with Google Maps this week!

I got back and within minutes, the car showed up. Woohoo! The clerk settled with the driver and then took me out to inspect the car. I was happy to see that it was full of dings and scratches… and amused that it’s a Chevrolet. There went my dreams of having a really European car, like a Peugeot or Citroen! The clerk was very thorough explaining everything about the car and was very relieved when he started on the spiel about the reverse (with lots of miming) and I was able to cut him off and explain that I had the same type in my last car (where you have to pull up a ring and move the gear stick into first). I hate that type of reverse, but at least I have a lot of experience with it!

Reader Dee had some comments about driving in Bulgaria, including whether they drive on the right (yes) and if we can get automatic transmission cars. As long-time readers know, I hate driving automatics, so I wasn’t looking for them, but I did find one company whose Varna office had a few automatics… for twice the cost of the equivalent manual transmission model!

Here’s my car (parked in Nessebar):



With the paperwork all signed, it was time to take a deep breath and hit the open road! To make things easy for myself, I decided to just follow the signs for Burgas and once there, use Google Maps on my phone to get me to the hotel. Here’s a visual of where I started on Wednesday and where I am tonight:


Getting out of Plovdiv was easy enough. Most of the signage was in both Cyrillic and Latin letters, but often, an exit was announced head of time in Cyrillic, with the Latin being right at the exit. I was once again very glad I can read the signs!

The drive to Burgas was unexpected. There was just a whole lot of nothing. It was like driving to Moose Jaw or across northern Ontario! No towns, few services, just a lot of empty space bordered by mountains. Bulgarians either drove like they were wading through molasses or like the devil was at their bumper. It reminded me of Mexico in that I couldn’t just settle into a speed, but would often find myself having to break or accelerate hard. I was glad I’d refused the radio since I wouldn’t have used it because driving required such concentration and I’d been under strict orders to take it out of the car at every single stop (even just for fueling).


I stopped for fuel twice, the first to get an idea of how much a fill would be and the second to actually fill completely. The fuel I had to use was about 2BGN/L (1.52CAD/L or 4.5USD/gallon). The service stations were just like back home (in fact, the second was a Shell), with modern pumps and a convenience store. I was pleased that there was service! I showed the attendant the paper explaining what fuel to put in (A95H gasoline) and held up bills to show the amount. I’d then be told my pump number and be directed to go inside to pay, where I did so with my Visa. Paying took a lot of time because the cashiers were also short order cooks! Bulgarian “efficiency” reminds me of that in Mexico. 🙂

Finally, Burgas was upon me:


I used my Mexican city driving experience to get through — ie. do whatever I need to to not get hit (or hit someone else) and not worry about going around in circles. I made a couple of wrong turns, but eventually got through. I wish I had my GPS and regret not leaving out a pair of underwear to make room for it in my baggage. 😀

After Burgas, I pulled over to capture my first view of the Green, I mean, Black Sea!


And then, Nessebar!


I made about 50 billion wrong turns getting to the hotel and once I found it, I couldn’t find so much as a place to drop the car for five minutes to go in to ask where parking was. I was caught in a warren of super narrow streets and had to do some crazy manoeuvres to get through. It was too much after the end of a stressful day. After going around three times, I decided to just block traffic and run into the hotel, what I should have done the first time. The clerk immediately ran out to remove a bollard that magically opened up a nice wide space for me to slip into! There is no way I’m getting out of that stop tomorrow. I’m staying parked till Monday!

The hotel clerk greeted me in good English and asked for payment in cash. Doh. Off to the bank I go again tomorrow! I was surprised when she asked me to pick a breakfast from a list of choices. I asked how much breakfast is and she said it’s included. Oh! I asked for a traditional Bulgarian breakfast, which, if memory serves, is just a pastry with jam, cheese, and coffee… I was also told I was being upgraded to a different room than what I’d booked. Hmm…

I went up to my room and discovered something that made me really glad that I watch so many travel shows. I had no power in the room, but I didn’t have to go ask at the front desk about that. I have no idea where I saw or read about this, but I knew there was a place into which I’d have to slide my room key to get the lights. I was right! This is an energy-saving thing, but it’s a pain because it means I can’t charge anything while I’m out and the fridge is pretty much useless.


I’d booked their cheapest room, which I’d read would be really small with no ocean view. The bathroom turned out to be humongous, and a wet room again.


After my Plovdiv dormer room, this room seemed very spacious!


SURPRISE. Sea view with balcony! WOW. Guess where I’m sitting to write this post. 😀


I took advantage of the drying rack to hand wash a few things!

It was past four by this point and I hadn’t eaten since my pastry this morning. I went out in search of food and idiotically didn’t realise that the food would be along the beach! So I walked up and down a condominium-lined boulevard for almost an hour for nothing. Thankfully, I found a beach access and from there, a bunch of restaurants. I wanted to save a pricy seafood meal for Old Town tomorrow, so I just went with a pizza and beer for 11BGN with a tip (8.36CAD). I’m apparently in the expensive part of Bulgaria… By the way, Bulgarians know how to make pizza!

The beer really did me in, but I found the strength to go to a store across from the hotel to get water and ice cream. I was so hot and sticky and miserable by this point (even though the car did have AC) that a cool shower wasn’t going to be enough. I didn’t have a bathing suit with me, but figured my boy shorts and sports bra were bathing suitish enough. So I went back to my room to drop my valuables, stripped to my undies, wrapped a towel around my waist, pulled on a tee-shirt and went down to the beach for a swim! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. The water was cool, very shallow (too much to properly swim), and saltier than expected. I just bobbed there for a good 30 minutes before pushing out a bit further to get in a few strokes. The water never got deeper than my waist. Swim in the Black Sea was never on my bucket list, but it should have been. 😀

The plan for tomorrow is to explore Old Nessebar. It’s about 3KM to get there, so I’ll probably walk to it and then pay for a taxi to come back. It just doesn’t make sense to stress about getting the car out and finding parking there, then hoping I still have my spot when I get back here.

Parking nightmare notwithstanding, this was a pretty good day! It’s rather exciting to have a car and to know I’ll be able to visit a bunch of things this week. My budget is taking a beating, but with July having been so inexpensive, I’m not feeling a pinch. Besides, what else am I going to do with my money if not spend it on wonderful experiences like these?! Thankfully, hotels have so far being super inexpensive and I have to eat anyway, so, really, the car and fuel is the real splurge.

By the way, my hotel is 125BGN (95CAD). For the two nights!

Little Moments of Joy

April is turning into a distressingly slow month for work. I’m doing what comes in and working leads. Thank goodness I have really good reserves, although I’m not looking forward having to tap into them very soon! Anyway, these things ebb and flow. I’m learning not to freak out over the quiet moments since they never last.

Today, I did a small job then spent a few hours refreshing my professional site and also creating a Facebook page for my transcription and proofreading services. Around 3:30, I shut down and headed to the beach for a walk.

Well, I had no sooner reached the RV park that there was a dog running up to me and dropping his ball at my feet! I doggy sat him, Cody, a few weeks back and I must have made an impression. Cody’s dad confirmed that I could take him out so off Cody and I went to the water’s edge so I could throw the ball into the ocean and Cody would swim out to get it. He’s a really good dog and listens well, a real joy to play with, and I couldn’t help but laugh with joy at just how happy Cody was to play. After some time, he let me know he’d had enough by grabbing his ball and heading back to the RV park. There, I hosed him off and then accepted a beer from his dad before sitting to chat for a bit. What a way to spend an hour!

I came in and did some chores before going out for dinner. I have had “yardmates” for a few weeks now living in the little suite next to mine, M&S. They’re a young American couple and absolutely lovely. Sharing the yard and laundry with them has not been a hardship like it was sharing with the crazy woman last year. They’d asked me to go to dinner tonight, so we headed to Che’s around 6:30. There, we had a fantastic, and funny, meal since our saucey shrimp came with the heads on them and we had a lot of work to (and mess to clean up) to get to our food! They’re trying to figure out their lives and partook of some of my “being there, did the questioning, here was my solution” experience.

The beach was very dark as we walked home. It’s really peaceful at that time of night, especially with the sound of the surf. I’ve never had any concerns walking when I can barely see a few inches in front of me.

We came in our respective doors and, unbeknownst to me, M was putting together a surprise for me as I was putting out my water bottle. She showed up at my door with a huge slice of “guava pie,” which is basically a cheesecake (complete with Graham cracker crust) with chopped guava over top and caramel. I was rather craving something sweet after all that garlic so it’s hitting the spot! Not bad neighbours, huh?

Days like today are numbered and I’m savouring them!