Thursday, June 28, 2012

What's next???

So we are closing out our tour here in Sofia this summer and getting ready for our next adventure.  I seriously can't believe that we prepared for so long to move here and now it's coming to an end.  Just this week I have MAJOR mixed emotions about our move.  For one, I'm not really THAT excited for our next country and 2) I'm used to living here, I have (in all honesty) the best job I've ever had.  BUT, at the same time, because everyone else has started to leave the embassy for good I have the fear of missing out and am ready to go.  I think everyone else's "short-timer syndrome" is rubbing off on me! 

Anywho, as you probably already know, we are moving here, in September:

See, it's JUST next door to Bulgaria.  We will literally pack up the car(s) and leave work on a Friday and start at our new Embassy the following Monday.  That's so weird to me for some reason.  On a positive note, I got a job!  I interviewed for three different positions and was offered the job as the Secretary in the Political Office.  Of course they don't call it secretary, it's some other more "glamorous" name but let's just call a spade a spade.  I think it was the best job out of the 3 and I think I'll have the chance to do some really interesting things.  I'm just NOT used to being chained to a desk....which is sort of the point to a secretary-right?  I know I sound really negative, I guess that's where I am at this point in time.  I know it'll be fine, and it'll be an adventure, and we'll get used to it.

 Oh, Matt just returned from a trip to Skopje and he was able to see our new HOUSE!  So that's fun.  We were assigned to a house and Matt said it's BIG.  Keep in mind, we are used to apartments so any type of house would be big for us.  So that's exciting.  We'll have a house and a little yard.

So that's where we are at for now.  Finishing up our time in Bulgaria, preparing for our move.  We are having a Summer Soiree at our place this weekend so I'm trying to come up with some fun appetizers.  Next week we have the 4th of July party at the embassy (our biggest event of the year) and then next week is my birthday day.  My lovely husband has planned a mexican fiesta for me (my only request for my birthday!)  I'm looking forward to hanging out with friends and stuffing my face with mexican food, which I've been craving like crazy lately!  Luckily I had a dinner with some girlfriends last night and they were all craving mexican food as well.  Since we dont have any mexican restaurants here, we'll all join forces and create a feast together.  Yum!!

 Hope you all have a wonderful 4th of July (one of my most favorite holidays!)  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Last Stop!

The last stop on our great amazing road trip was to the Bulgarian Black Sea resort town of Sunny Beach.  I had yet to go to the Black Sea so we thought spending the last part of our vacation and Matt's birthday at a beach resort was perfect.  But first we had to get there...

Seriously.  This is what we were dealing with.  Also, the border crossing was something out of a 1960s horror film.  I wish I had pictures.  We had to get out of the car, go into a building and see 3 different people to clear the border on the Turkish side.  There wasn't a lot of English speaking here.  Also, the 3rd and final man to stamp our passport was around the side of a building having a Turkish tea, smoking a cigarette, and stamped our passports on a tree stump.  Crazy.

I don't have any pictures of our day time activities.  I was underwhelmed with this resort town.  Lots of Russian, British and German tourists come here to vacation.  The beach isn't that great and it's really centered around cheesy tourist stuff and binge drinking.  Huge clubs and bars everywhere. It was nice to have  a pool day, though.  

We headed back to Sofia...and I was SO happy to sleep in my own bed again.  We had once last day to do last minute things with Dan and then I made a big homemade meal and birthday cake to celebrate Matt's birthday.  It was one of the best meals we had on our trip, if I do say so myself!  haha. 

And that, my friends, is the end of our trip.

Now we are hunkered down in Sofia for the summer before our big move very soon!!

Istanbul and the Black Sea

The next portion of our trip we headed to Istanbul.  We got up early on Tuesday morning and hit the open roads.  Getting to Istanbul was an adventure.  First of all, we did NO research and depended solely on our GPS which kept wanting us to drive ALL the way back to Sofia (the other direction) then to Istanbul.  Getting through Bulgaria was the first crazy part since there are no highways.  I navigated us using maps...I am NOT going at map reading!  We crossed into Turkey and had a beautiful highway!  It was awesome!

Sidenote:  I was scheduled to have a phone interview for our next Post.  I had planned that we would pull over on the side of the road and do the interview while the guys stepped out of the car for to give my privacy.  The interview kept getting pushed back due to "technical difficulties."  So this panel of folks calls me about 5 minutes after we wind up in dead stopped traffic in the middle of Istanbul.  I have no choice but to do it then and there.  At the same time our GPS went totally haywire and had NO idea where we were going.  Matt's trying to navigate the CRAZED traffic, I'm in the front seat answering "scenario" type questions with a panel of interviewers and Dan is in the back seat trying to read a map.  Craziness.  The interview lasted 35 min and when I got off the phone we still had no idea where the hell we were!  For the record:  I wasn't offered that position, but another position rather.

Once we finally found our hotel, it ended up being RIGHT across the street from the hotel we stayed in last time.  I had no idea, Matt did all of the planning.  It was nice because we had an idea of the area.

Now, this was our 3rd time to Istanbul in the last 15 months.  Surprisingly we didn't repeat anything while we were there.

 One of the only photos of the 3 of us, taken by a man trying to get us into his carpet shop.  Blue Mosque in the background.
 Hagia Sophia photo.
This photo is totally inappropriate, I knew.  One of my favorite things (so weird, I know) about this part of the world is all the stray animals.  It's amazing to watch them mix with the normal population.  In Turkey there are SO many kitties.  We were at Topkapi palace here and I was just amazed out how brazen/not bothered this cat was, there were 100s of people around.  When you gotta go, you gotta go I guess. 
 Entrance to the Palace.
 Beautiful views of the bosphorous straight and Marmara Sea.

 I love the turkish colors in their tiles/pottery.  Well, since being oversees it turns out I have an obsession with pottery in general.  For instance there was this jar/vase that I saw last time we were in Istanbul and didn't buy it because I couldn't bargain it down enough...I HATE to barter, Matt's even worse.  Well, this time I went back to the very store and bought the exact jar/vase because I had been thinking about it since our last trip.  I'll have to take a photo and post.

The palace Harem.  In my opinion the Topkapi doesn't do a great job of explaining/helping you understand how life was back in the days of the Sultans.  There's another palace, The Dolmbache that does a WAY better job and is much better to see (even though all the books tell you to go visit this palace.)
 We've never been into the Blue Mosque so this time we decided we'd do it. 

 You have to take off your shoes (luckily I had socks!)  and it says that women should cover their heads.  Once we were inside there were some women without headcoverings, not sure why they had to abide by different rules?
 Our second day we decided that we needed to go for a boat ride.  We weren't feeling the public ferry's (Matt and I had done this on a previous trip) so we decided to rent an entire boat!  We all agreed it was our favorite part.  The afternoon cruise was PERFECT and GORGEOUS!!

After our cruise we were a couple of Turkish beverages deep and decided to go gather some previsions before we headed out for dinner.  While Matt and Dan were gathering I stumbled into this pottery store (shocker) that had a carpet shop in the back.  If you don't know, Turkey is famous for it's carpets (like many places in the middle east) and purchasing a rug is quite the experience.

I"m pretty sure the above carpet is the one that I ended up purchasing.  I would know exactly because it's still rolled up in the bag because I'm too afraid to unpack it for fear that our cat will have our way with it.  I have promised myself that our new house will have lots of hardwood floors and I will use BOTH of our Turkish rugs there :)
Ok, I was going to do the Black Sea in this post (it'll be a quickie) but I think it's been too long of a post already so I'll save it.

Until next time.

P.S.  I DEFINITELY need to figure out how to be more concise and to the point.  I am SO long winded.  ha.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Road Trip!

Our friend Dan, the best man in our wedding, came to Bulgaria to spend almost 2 weeks with us.  We spent time in Bulgaria, visited a neat Bulgarian town, hit up Istanbul, and spent a weekend on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria.  There was A LOT of driving!

We spent Dan's first couple days in Sofia.  It literally rained every day.  Because of this, we did most of our adventuring at night.

We had traditional Bulgarian fare his first night (forgot my camera that night), the second night we went on a pub crawl that takes you to Sofia's most unique places and the next night we made reservations at this "club" that was really no more than a dingy smokey bar (f you ask me.)  The last night in Sofia we went to our favorite restaurant to pig out on Turkish food (again, forgot my camera.)

The photos below are only from our pub crawl night.

 Dinner before we head out to the park to meet up with the pub crawl folks. 
 Park where we meet up.  This pub crawl takes place every single day of the week.  It's really great if you are just visiting for a few days and need to know the best spots to go to.  This was our second time on the pub crawl, each new stop is a "surprise" and they always get a kick out of seeing if my husband knows about each new place.  Of course,  there are never any surprises for him :)
 Our first stop, a brewery

There is a bar that is solely lit by candles (although they have electricity.)  It's called The Barn and feels like you are in a barn.  There is always this old lady there with this cool dog.  Our friend befriended the dog this night and carried him around on his leash. ha.
 Our next stop was The Apartment which is literally an old apartment.  Albiet it must have been a rich persons apartment because it's pretty big.  It's quite "hipster"-ish with all sorts of different rooms that you can "hang out" in.  Ours had it's own old school Mac computer that we could control the music on.  One time someone told me this used to be some sort of "secret" apartment...maybe like the neighborhood communist headquarters or something?  My history is so terrible

 The last stop on the Pub Crawl was to a Rock and Roll club.  We literally got table service, had our own seating, everything that you would expect of a regular "club" except they play LOUD rock and roll music.  It was a nice change from hearing non stop techno music like you do everywhere here but it was too LOUD for me.  Maybe I'm old?!?
After our weekend in Sofia we hit the road for Veliko Turnovo.  Veliko Turnovo was the "original" capital of Bulgaria but I believe they had a hard time guarding/protecting it so it was move to Sofia, which happens to be set in a valley surrounded by mountains.  Anywho, I've been wanting to visit VT since we arrived in Bulgaria but had very LOW expectations since most things in this country are of poor quality, especially outside of the big city.  I was completely SURPRISED at how lovely this town was! AND it was POURING down rain during our time there.

Matt rented us a $38/night suite at this hotel.  It was definitely a pleasant surprise as well.  Definitely not the Ritz, but could have been SO much worse.

 It was raining SO hard and the "walking street" just at the entrance to the fortress was completely torn up. We literally had to wade through mud (sans my Wellies!) to get to the fortress. 

 We were even surprised by a FABULOUS meal in this quaint little town.  There was literally white glove service.  I dont think I've ever eaten at a "white glove" restaurant.  I would definitely go back here because the food definitely exceeded expectations.  Which, if you ever come visit us in the neck of the world, you'll understand that food quality is just not that of the US.  We have found things that we love and have become our favorites but people fresh off the plane think is just mediocre. 

Tomorrow I'll hit our Istanbul trip (driving there is Bananas!) and our Black Sea trip. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Last but not least!!

So I'm way behind on our last day of Italy trip, probably because I've been busy vacationing.  Our friend Dan came to visit us for nearly 2 weeks and we did A LOT of traveling!  We did a major trip around Bulgaria and Istanbul. More to come on that. 

So without further ado let's finish up Italy so we can move on.  On our final couple of days back in Rome, it was just me and Matt again.  We hit up the Pantheon, which was one of THE coolest places to me.  It's SO intact after 1000 years (this may not be all THAT accurate, my history isn't stellar ;))

We hit some of the gorgeous plazas

And on our final day we took in the Collosseum and The!

The Forum:

Matt took this picture at our apartment house, I kept joking that we should get a painting like this to hang about our mantle.  I know, I know...sooo mature ;)

Up next, a recap of our road trip and news on our upcoming move!