Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)


My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

(Another LONG AS HELL post in which I ramble about flights and why I now hate flying so much!)

Yesterday will long reign as one of the most awful and trying days of my life.

I’ve often counted myself lucky that I have never had any major catastrophes while traveling. Rarely a delayed flight let alone missing one.

Well, that all ended yesterday.

Things started off swimmingly in Salt Lake City. I got through security in record time, caught my flight, slept the whole way. I had just enough time to walk through O’Hare to catch my flight to London. Luckily, we got out before flights started to be delayed due to the weather.

Again, this flight went fine. I got a window seat (which I was worried about) and the leap over the pond went really quickly. As much as I loved the sweet British flight crew there were a few things that I did not like about British Airways: they did not offer in-flight entertainment like Delta–touch screen TV monitor with movie/TV/ game choices), rather they had channels each showing a movie with no way to start over; and they served curry for dinner (ick). All in all, though, everything went great.

Until we landed at Heathrow, that is.

I know I’ve been to Heathrow before (on my way to India), but I must have forgotten what a madhouse it is. After landing we sat on the runway for over an hour and a half. We weren’t even at a gate, instead we were out in the middle of nowhere and we had to walk down a flight of steps to catch buses to the terminal. After sitting for so long, I knew making my connection to Sofia was unlikely.

We finally got back to the terminal and I got into line for security. My two carry-ons (which went through with NO troubles in SLC) were flagged and had to be hand inspected by the less than time conscious security staff. The worker took every.single.thing out of both of my bags and meticulously swabbed his bomb-detecting wipes over every square inch. Now, if you know me (and I think you do by now) you know that I do not pack light. Not even close. I had those bags packed like a puzzle. Everything was snug and, dare I say, perfect. Not so much after someone carelessly takes everything out and goes through ever nook and cranny.

Still hoping to make my connection, I hurriedly threw everything back into the bags after being ruled out as a terrorist hell bent on destroying the world. Frantically scanning the departures screen, I knew I was in trouble. Sofia was nowhere to be seen. I asked an employee and she said if it was off the board the plane was gone. I tried to keep it together while I wandered around the 8 million duty free shops looking for British Airways customer service.

I finally found it and tried to be civil to the guy helping me. I’ve worked in hard customer service jobs; it’s not easy being yelled at all day. He said I had two options: 1) wait for about 6 hours in Heathrow and take the next direct flight to Sofia which would get me into the city around 10pm, or 2) catch a connecting flight to Bucharest then a flight to Sofia from there, which would get me into the city at 6:30p. I have zero patience so I rashly went with option 2.

BIG MISTAKE as it turns out.

The customer service agent assured me that I would not have to go back through security to catch the flight to Bucharest and that I had plenty of time to make the flight. I quickly shot off an email to Vince telling him that I missed my original flight and not to go to the airport to pick me up until later.

A train ride and lots of walking later, I made it to the terminal for the flight to Bucharest; a huge security line staring me in the face. I tried to talk to the employee standing at the front of the line to explain that I had just gone through security and had both my bags hand searched, but he said I had to do it again (curse the BA agent that said I didn’t have to!). With no other choice I got into line and prayed that I would get through with no problems.

I must have been asking for far too much.

Both bags were hand searched AGAIN. I lost it this time (as boarding for my flight to Bucharest was already closing) and burst into tears. The older British woman going through my bags immediately turned into the grandmotherly type and tried to calm me down. She went through everything pretty quickly and after telling me that candles will alert security staff every time (I brough quite a few for our apt. as well as for gifts) she said that  if I hurried I might catch my connection.

I ran as fast as 70. lbs of luggage would allow me and barely squeaked onto the bus out to the plane with seconds to spare. I have a sneaking hunch the nice lady in security called ahead to tell them I was coming, but who knows.

3 hours later we were touching down in Romania. Right when I got off the plane I asked the BA gate agent where I should go and where my luggage was. She said that my bags would meet me in Sofia and directed me to the correct gate.

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Up, Up and Away!

 airplane shadow

By the time you read this I will be well on my way to Sofia, Bulgaria. EEK! HUBBY, HERE I COME!

I’m not at all comfortable with my flights this time around. I almost exclusively fly Delta when I go overseas, but their flights were outrageously expensive to Europe a few months ago when I booked. At the time I thought it would be fine to go with the flight that was the least expensive but didn’t have any massive layovers; I still spent over $1,000 for a round trip ticket. Boo.

I ended up booking an American Airlines flight that had some legs partnered with British Airways. Delta partners with Air France (which I despise), so I thought a change might be nice, even if I didn’t get to accrue any beloved Skymiles for the flights.

Oh, was I wrong–at least so far.

Trying to pick a seat on my transatlantic flight from Chicago to Heathrow has been nearly impossible. I might just come unglued if they stick me in a middle seat between: a) people with what I like to call “tree trunk legs,” who have no problem pressing themselves against perfect strangers for 8+ hours, b) screaming babies/unruly children (God bless parents who are brave enough to travel with kids, they truly are rock stars. I just like to sleep when I fly and noisy little ones make that nearly impossible.), or c) the person with the bladder the size of a squirrel’s who gets up every 5 minutes to pee.

Stick me in a window seat and I’m just dandy. I usually fall asleep before the plane has even taken off and I rarely get up to use the restroom. In all my many long haul flights, I think I have used an airplane bathroom maybe three times total. I make it a priority to drink lots of water when I fly, so I have no clue how that one works out.

One thing I am extremely grateful for is that I will be 30,000 feet in the air when the new President is elected (or re-elected, as the case may be–and I certainly hope and pray that it is). I’ve had about all the campaigning/debates/political smugness/Facebook insanity that I can handle. Coincidentally, I was in Bulgaria in January of ’09 when Obama took office. You’d think it was the 2nd coming based on how most Bulgarians I encountered reacted; they loved that man! I don’t know if that still holds true, but it will be interesting to see who won and what the reaction is when I land in Sofia on Wednesday.

While I am glad the election will soon be over, that certainly does not mean that I am not interested and deeply concerned. I don’t often discuss political views on my blog, but I will break that rule for such an important event. I wholeheartedly support President Obama and, while not all of his views/actions may be perfect (what President’s have been?), I believe he is by far the best person for the job. His repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, support for same-sex marriage, healthcare reform, and unwavering stance on women’s medical and workplace rights are just a few of the things I greatly admire and respect him for. Coming from Utah, I have to say that I am well in the minority on this opinion–too bad.

Well…I think that’s about all the rambling I have in me (how did I go from flights to politics?)! My next post will be coming to you live from our new apartment in Sofia!

I’m going to try Tweeting and/or posting updates on Facebook throughout my travels (gotta do something to maintain sanity!). So check those out if you care to follow along!

Talk to you soon,


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(photo credit: Kevin Dean)


Soaring Over Denali National Park

*Linky below*

Last week, on my day off, I was blessed with another opportunity to take a flight over Denali National Park.

Waiting for my plane pickup by Kantishna Air Taxi–at a typical Alaskan runway

The weather wasn’t great, but I was optimistic anyway. Turns out positive thinking pays off!

The panoramic, bird’s eye view of the DNP landscape was, as always, completely breathtaking.

Soaring peaks. Massive glaciers. Stunning colors.

It’s almost too beautiful to believe.

Cantwell Glacier

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