Tag Archives: solo travel

Goodbye to Las Vegas Club, Glitter Gulch, Mermaids and All My Money.

This morning I woke up at California hotel and began to pack for a move to Four Queens.   As I was doing this, I found a can of Pringles in my bag that I had forgot about.  I then picked it up, the top fell off and now my suitcase is filled with a million potato chip crumbs.  ARGH.  I am done with this place.  I finish packing and check out.  I leave my keys in the room because I do not need them anymore.  The second the door shuts I realize there is Diet Pepsi in my refrigerator.  Damn it all to hell.

I check my bags at the Four Queens Bell Desk and get on a bus.   Today I am going to the Mirage to visit the beautiful Buffalo slot machine that gave me $1800 back in March.

I took the CX bus to Treasure Island.  It is hot out.  I walk through Treasure Island to take the tram.   The tram is not running.  I walk back through Treasure Island to get outside to walk in the heat, so much  heat.  HOT BURNING DEATH FIREBALL SKY.

But it is pretty.

las vegas strip from mirage

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I stop at Starbucks and order an iced green tea latte please!  I get a hot green tea latte.  NO.  DO NOT WANT.  REMAKE IT.  BAH.  GROSS.  HOT.  NO.

I walk over to my Buffalo machine and a woman is playing it.  I walk around the entire length of the casino to kill time and come back.  She is still playing it.  I do another loop.   Still there.  I become increasingly cranky.   I sit down and play $20 in Double Double Bonus video poker.  I lose it.  I go back.  The woman is still there.  I decide to get the fuck out of here.  If all I want to do is play that one machine, I need to stop.

I go across the street and catch The Deuce bus back to downtown.  I check into Four Queens.  It doesn’t look fancy but I still love it.

four queens las vegas hotel room

And of course, the same view I have had more times than I could count.

four queens hotel las vegas room view

I took a nap and woke up defeated.  I go home tomorrow guys, where is any win?

I still had a bunch of quarters so I went to play Sigma Derby next door at The D.  I didn’t win.   I kind of gave up and went back to my room.  I figured tomorrow is my last day, let’s go nuts in the morning before my flight.

Fast forward to the next morning and I had my biggest win of the entire trip!

buffalo stampede slot machine win

Yep, a whopping $108. Oh well, better than nothing.  But still close to nothing.

It is a good thing I am a lazy blogger.  If I had written this up when I got home, I might have remembered how much of a loser this trip was, and not have booked the next one.  But I am.  So I didn’t.  And I did.

Bonus photo of Mermaids, Glitter Gulch and Las Vegas Club being prepared to be made a distant memory.   Just like my gambling budget.

fremont street las vegas las vegas club glitter gulch mermaids closed

 

Las Vegas Trip Report: the Sky Is Blue but There Is a Black Cloud Hanging Over Me

I was asleep at Planet Hollywood when I am awoken by this loud as all fuck noise.  At first I think it is my phone.  I jump out of bed to make it stop, why is it so fucking LOUD.  But it isn’t stopping.  I turn on the light and realize it is the fire alarm.  It is 3:00 am and the fire alarm is going off, louder than anything that was ever loud before it.  It is so loud.  SO. FUCKING. LOUD.

I don’t know what to do.  Obviously you are supposed to do something, like leave your room.  But I don’t want to.  I am comfy in my jam jams and just want my heart to stop palpitating.  The alarm is not stopping.  There are no announcements.  I know to not call the front desk, I will be one of a million.  I peek out the peep hole on my door and there is nothing out there.  Fuck I guess I will get dressed and go downstairs.

As I am putting my shoes on, it stops.  Then comes the announcement that it was a false alarm.  Then that announcement begins repeating a million fucking times.  Holy shit.  I came to Vegas to win a million dollars but the real million dollar win will be me inventing a system for hotels where their guests can push a button to acknowledge they heard the first 75 announcements that it was a false alarm.  Then it can fucking STOP IT ALREADY.

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There is no way in hell I am going to fall back asleep so I go outside.  I get Starbucks and cross the road to Cosmopolitan.  Worst mistake ever.  Cosmopolitan loved me at one point.  They sent me a teaser offer.  But I blew it.  It was a bad trip and I could not afford to gamble enough to keep them sending me offers.  But I for some reason, keep chasing them.  I don’t know why I do this.  I don’t normally do this.  But with Cosmo, I do.  And I lose way beyond what I am allowed to.  Then I leave knowing I could have paid for two nights with what I just lost in a few hours.

I played a fuckton of old school Buffalo and never hit a bonus, which is insane.  I walked back to Planet Hollywood, hanging my head in shame.

At Planet Hollywood, I was going to play $20.  I did not have my card.  I played $20 anyway and ended up there for over an hour on one $20 bill.   Not getting any points for it.  Because asshole.

I went up to my room to grab my Las Vegas Advisor to use my $10 off coupon for a breakfast buffet at Planet Hollywood.  This is my absolute favorite buffet in all of Las Vegas.  Or at least it was.  Until today.   I didn’t realize it would be holiday brunch, although I should have realized it.  So it was more expensive than usual.

Drinks are now self serve, which I like.  No waiting for someone to bring you something.  The orange juice needed to be changed out, it was pouring something closer to Tang from the two dispensers I tried.  I didn’t have a spoon for my coffee so I had to get back up and get that.  The scrambled eggs were raw.

I am having a terrible morning and now my favorite place to eat has forsaken me as well.  Sigh.

I go to the room and say fuck it, I am out of here.   I attempt to shower before packing and in my shower is a penny on tails.  ARE. YOU. FUCKING. KIDDING. ME.

I leave without showering, planning to do so at California.  When I go outside, the sun burns my retinas.  But that beautiful blue sky…

las vegas strip arialas vegas strip cosmopolitan

I take the Deuce to Oakey, and get off to buy cheaper cigarettes at 7-11.  Then I wait for the Deuce again, which never comes.   Then when it finally does, the driver does not stop.

A man comes crossing the street yelling to me “Can I ask you a question?”  It is 110 degrees outside, he has on a sweater and is clearly on something.  I say “yes” just because I obviously don’t have a choice so why anger him?  He thanks me profusely, tells me most people are afraid of him because he looks like a methamphetamine addict.  Then he giggles “Or a serial killer” and laughs even harder.  Dear kind sir:  If you are a serial killer, just please, take me now.  Anything that cuts this conversation short, I am down for it.

He wanted bus directions.  Thankfully not for anywhere the Deuce goes.  I point him to where he needs to go.  He thanks me and actually walks away.  Had my luck turned?

Finally another Deuce comes.  And stops.   I get to California and am told I cannot check in because it is too early.  Of course.  I have checked into this hotel early a million times. Including at 6:00 am when I wasn’t even trying to.  I was trying to check my luggage but the Bell Desk was closed.  So I got checked in instead.

But of course today, I cannot check in. FINE.

I sit in the lobby a bit and use their internet to play MyVegas on my phone for a little while.  Then I try for the nickel Keno progressives.  Nada.  Finally I get a room.

I got one of them there new, fancy rooms.  It looks nicer.  The bed doesn’t seem new though.  I am probably the only person who misses the old air conditioning system.  You used to be able to put a luggage rack on top of it and let the air blow up to dry your sink washed clothes.  Now there’s a fancy schmancy air conditioning vent. Oh well.

california hotel las vegas remodeled roomcalifornia hotel las vegas room remodeledcalifornia hotel las vegas remodeled bathroomcalifornia hotel las vegas remodeled shower

At least my room view luck is improving?

california hotel vegas room view

california hotel las vegas room view

I shower and go right to bed.  It is 2:00.

I woke up at 5:00.  According to my notes, I attempted to go to the Strip but it was too hot.  Why on Earth would I want to go to the Strip when I am on such a losing streak?!  The Binions thermometer said it was 117.  I don’t think it was correct, but it does feel like 2837483 degrees outside.

I play around Binions.   I cannot seem to get to 40 points for the second tier of the Motherlode promotion.  Everything I touch turns to broke.  I did get one spin for 5 points and won $5 free play.  And then I lost $5 free play.

I walked over to Main Street Station and played some slots on the second floor at California.  They hated me just as much as the slots on the first floor of California.  I remembered I had $10 free play with my room offer. I went to get that loaded and played it on a Buffalo slot machine. An $80 win later, I am finally cashing out for cash for the first time today.

I got dinner to go at Triple 7 Brew Pub.   I have $10 dining credit with my offer so I charged it to my room.  Then I went to my room and cried.  I mean slept.  After crying.

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sky is blue

Las Vegas Trip Report: Last Full Day in Las Vegas

This morning, I woke up at the California hotel in Downtown Las Vegas for my last full day in Las Vegas.  Aw.

I walked over to The D for breakfast, using a voucher from a mailer.  I had French Toast.  It was really good and after the $10 voucher, cost me $1.35.  I miss when this casino loved me and sent me offers.  OH WELL.

I stopped at Dunkin Donuts for some iced coffee and then played in Binions.   Last full day = slot play to win big = $216 win.

216 buffalo slot machine win

I tried playing Double Double Bonus video poker on quarters, but the stupid button was stuck so I had to keep slamming it.  I just cashed out.  Got my voucher for a deck of cards, threw out my voucher for a deck of cards and headed back to California.  I am ending a two night comped stay here and have yet to put any money through any Boyd machine.  This is the beauty of knowing you are not coming back, you do not have to keep your comps.  I ran through $60 and got nothing.

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I checked out and walked over to the Four Queens to check in for my last night.  This room was completely covered by Hotwire credit I got for my Henderson room not having the advertised casino.  Score!

Dropped off my stuff and went gambling!  There is a penny machine named Cirque something, near the elevators, that I have won on before.  I won again!  Then I went on a Buffalo slot kick and could not stop hitting the bonus.  I cashed out up $220.

I got on a bus and went to Palace Station.  Partly because I wanted to play here, partly because I want to buy a shit ton of cheap cigarettes before going home.  I had visions of drinking Starbucks while having a huge win on my last day.  Sadly, only the Starbucks dream was realized.

From here, I went to Longhorn.

I loved this casino so much.  If I were returning and had no comps, I would not even hesitate to stay here again.  I played some quarter Double Double Bonus video poker, some four card Cleopatra Keno and some quarter single line Cleopatra Keno.  Nope, nope and nope.

Dinner was using my points.  I had steak and baked potato.  It was decent and for free, even more so.

I played after eating and turned $20 into $50 on Cleopatra Keno.  Oh hey, let me go cash out.  I get to the TITO machine and realize I didn’t actually cash  out.  Idiot!  Luckily, the credits were still on the machine when I got back.

From  here, the most obvious thing I could do was visit Cromwell one last time to play my beloved Ultimate X machine.  I know I am pushing it here.  There is no way this machine is still going to love me after all these tries.  It has to suck up my money at some point.  It is my last night here, what are the chances she still loves me?

Turned out they were very high.

[000259]

I also got this cool hand that led to nothing:

dealt flush ultimate xFrom here, I walked through Flamingo to take the monorail to the 108 bus.  I am willing to pay for the monorail to avoid getting on the Deuce bus.  But it turns out I do not have to.  Someone getting off the monorail offered me an unused ticket for free.  Score!

I get back Downtown and stop at Dunkin Donuts, obviously.  Then I played at The D.

the d las vegas

I played at the upstairs bar.  Whenever I play here, I always have a large iced coffee with me.  Whenever I play here with a large iced coffee, the bartender will ask me over and over if I want a drink.  This never used to happen to me when I drank in Las Vegas.

I quickly lost $100 and walked over to Four Queens to play some Buffalo.  No matter what I did, I could not stop hitting the bonus.  I left up $235.

I finally went to bed at 1:00 am and did so only because I need to get up early to go home.

Gambling Day: + $300
Gambling Trip: + $990
Miscellaneous: (breakfast, tips, coffee, cigarettes):  $67.92
Comps used: California room, The D breakfast, Longhorn dinner
Freebies:  nada

Sunday, January 10, 2016
Breakfast: MSS free ACG 7-3 $11.99
Check into
Lunch:
Dinner:
Binions burger

Las Vegas Trip Report: Visiting My Beloved Riviera

I am at California hotel in Downtown Las Vegas.  I didn’t sleep all that well because I am on a party floor.  There are several rooms with what appears to be a very large, extended family, who are celebrating their “Most Important People on Earth” win and being the most important people on Earth, they have no reason to consider that anyone else may be trying to sleep.  Must be nice!

Today I am headed to the Strip.  I want to eat breakfast at Planet Hollywood and visit my beloved Riviera.   Breakfast is $10 off with the Las Vegas Advisor coupon.  I had some comps as well and it ended up costing me $1.07.

There is only one other table near me with people at it.   Either my server was invisible or I was, because I only saw her one time.  That’s okay though because this buffet has smoothies.

After eating, I got an iced coffee from Starbucks and walked across the street to Bellagio.  I wanted to play in Cosmopolitan, but I had only been inside one time during this trip and lost money.  I love Cosmopolitan too much to risk losing a second time and killing my extreme love for this place forever.

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I attempted to get photos of the Bellagio Conservatory, but of course, it is closed as they do the change over from Christmas to Chinese New Year.

bellagio conservatory las vegas changeover to chinese new year bellagio conservatory las vegas closed bellagio conservatory las vegas construction bellagio las vegas conservatory construction

Of course, I took these two photos, as I do on every trip and probably did earlier in this trip:

paris las vegaslas vegas strip from bellagio people mover

Bellagio interior walkway:

bellagio walkway las vegas bellagio walkway las vegas chinese new yearBellagio reception and Chihuly ceiling:

bellagio las vegas receptionchihuly ceiling bellagio las vegas

I played $20 in Cleopatra and cashed out when my iced coffee was empty, which also nicely coincided with my $20 now being $40.

Across the street to Cromwell to my Ultimate X machine!   This machine was so nice to me this entire trip and continued loving me today!  I have been fantasizing about this machine since coming home.

two x 3 ultimate xkings x 4 ultimate x

I left here up $220.

I walked over to Ellis Island, stopping in Westin for Starbucks.  Here is a view of the High Roller from this way.

high roller las vegasInside Starbucks, there was a man on line behind me who was on the phone, talking about how he lost his wallet and could only eat at Starbucks for the rest of his trip, because they would let him charge it to his room.  Not sure how he was going to do that without ID but not my problem.

I went to put some half and half in my coffee and discovered that some asshole had unscrewed the top so it spilled all over.

At Ellis Island, I have free play coupons from both American Casino Guide and Las Vegas Advisor.  I get $10 from one and $20 from the other (You get to pick a chip for your free play and the $20 was just me being lucky.)  I was hoping to have a great free play day like I did last week.   I was almost at zero with it when I had a $30 win on four card nickel Keno.  I cashed out and ran.

I tried taking the 202 to the 108 to get to Mardi Gras casino to use my free play coupon in Las Vegas Advisor but I don’t think the 108 stops there on the way downtown because I didn’t see it.  My bus driver also did not stop at Westgate, even though I rang the bell.  I had to walk back from the Sahara monorail station.

westgate las vegasI had $10 free play here from Las Vegas Advisor.  I tried finding the player’s club, looking in the spot it was in the last time I was here.  A woman asks me if I need help. I tell her I am looking for the player’s club.  She asks me “Did you get your free play and show tickets?”  Oh you are a time share person.  I say “I just need to find the player’s club.”  “What do you do for a living?”  I answered “nothing.”   She says it must be nice, I say it is.  I don’t have any idea why I am lying to her, other than I do not want to talk to  her.

The player’s club is now merged with the cashier.  This means the line is twice as long and with only one person working it, three times as slow.

I get my free play and lose it.  Then I went degenerate on a Buffalo slot machine.   I haven’t really gone degenerate in days.  As much as I enjoy shoving all my cash into a machine and having zero wins, I left here angry at myself.

I crossed the street to walk past my beloved Riviera.

riviera las vegas signriviera las vegas convention center closed riviera las vegas convention center expansion riviera las vegas food court sign riviera las vegas neon museum sign riviera las vegas sidewalk

riviera las vegas riviera las vegas zone change sign

WAH.

I walked over to Encore, intending to take Strip photos.  I got a few of Encore, which is better than I did last time.

wynn butterfliesencore las vegas butteryfly sculpture

encore las vegas

I broke even on Cleopatra Keno.

I wanted to keep going and perhaps end up at Cromwell again, for my beloved Ultimate X machine, but the sun was killing me.  So I took the Deuce back Downtown from Wynn.   It was 2:31 when I boarded the bus.

I took a nap and then went to El Cortez to visit Happy Feet massage.  $20 for an hour long foot massage, yes please!

You walk up the spiral staircase near reception.  When I got up there, I was offered free water or tea.  Then I was taken to the room.   There are a whole lot of massage beds in there, no privacy.  But you aren’t getting undressed so who cares?  I was the only person in there at this time (7:00 pm.)   There is a hook behind your bed to hang your stuff.  This is easily the best bargain in all of Las Vegas.  I tipped $20 so even for $40 total, seriously best bargain.

Afterwards, I played some Cleopatra Keno.  I cannot win.  I just cannot.  I  used to spend hoursssssss at these machines at El Cortez.  Now?  Nope.

I did a final desperate try at four card Keno and it laughed in my face as it took my money.

I stopped at Binions of course.  I love this casino.  Always have, always will.   I won no money, but did win another deck of cards.  No, thank you.

On my way back to the room, I bought McDonalds because 24 hour breakfast.  Suck it.

Gambling Day: + $30
Gambling Trip: + $690
Miscellaneous: (breakfast, tips, coffee, water, soda, massage and McDonalds):  $61.32
Comps used: California room
Freebies:  nope.

Saturday, January 9, 2016
Breakfast: Red Rock buffet 8-11 free MyVegas
Lunch:
Dinner:
California prime rib points
The D up to $100 free play ACG

Las Vegas Trip Report: Do I Win a Million Dollars?

This morning I woke up at Longhorn casino.  I am up and out by 9:00.   I go down to the casino and play.   I am playing quarter Double Double Bonus video poker.  I want to be playing four card Cleopatra Keno.  There is only one of those open and I instinctively know that if I sit there, between two people, at least one of them is going to ask me for a cigarette.  Turns out I didn’t even  have to sit there as one came over to me to ask me for one.   I hate that so much.  I don’t know what it is about casinos that make complete strangers feel like it is okay to ask  you to give them something you paid for with your own cash.

I  gave him a cigarette and then said fuck it, I  guess I can now sit at Cleopatra Keno.  As I am playing, the cigarette grubber gets a phone call.  He asks me where he is at, so he can tell the caller where he is. “Longhorn.” “What?!?”  “LONGHORN.”   He leaves, putting out the grubbed cigarette directly on the machine.  Not in any of the billions of ashtrays sitting around.  Longhorn literally  has a clean ashtray on EVERY machine at all times, every single machine, every single time.

I am playing and I am doing pretty well.  No HUGE wins, but I doubled a few $20 bills.  I thought I had $70 in wins.  When I got back to the room, I only had $50 in wins.  I am pretty sure I dropped money somewhere.  The TITO machine was spitting my money out so that it did not land in the tray and I caught a loose $20 falling to the ground.  I think I may have missed another one.  I sure as all hell hope it was found by someone other than that jerk who put his cigarette out on the machine.

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Time to check out and head downtown, where I am checking back into the California hotel for a second stay here this trip.  I take the bus there.  The hotel is a mess.  They are redoing everything and I guess now they are working on the reception desk.  It has temporarily been moved to the casino, to the right of Keno.  The line is sooooooooooo long, one person working.  It takes forever.  Finally I am next.

However.

The woman in front of me said she paid for three nights through (some discounter) but the woman at the desk was showing only two nights were pre-paid and so she owed for her third.  This went on for a while.   I mean a WHILE.

Finally it is my turn.  “Oh checking in?  Step to the side please so I can check people out.”

There are no bell men anywhere.  As a matter of fact, in the half an hour or so I have been on this line, a man is trying to get a bell man to help him.  He has asked the lone worker at reception three times if there are any bell men working today.

I am trapped here.

Finally I get a room yay!   I am in room 1113.  Just a couple of doors down from where I was a couple of weeks ago.  When I had a lot more money.

I dropped my stuff off and headed to Binions.  I was smoking while playing and some man came up and asked me for a “couple of cigarettes.”  Yeah, no.

I played in Binions for a couple of hours and only lost $20.   This is how days should go.  If I do not win, then at least let me play!

I went back to California for a nap and then back to Binions for dinner.  I had a Binions burger, which somehow was the first one I had this trip.  This is my favorite meal in Vegas.

From here, I took the bus to Boulder Station.   I have never been here before.  I always fantasized that I would win a million dollars here.  So I may as well get that out of the way before it is time to leave.

The bus stop for Boulder Station is one of those ones that grates on my nerves.  It stops between two traffic lights, which are pretty far from each other and both are far from the bus stop.  I chose to walk in the direction of one and as I am walking, I begin to realize just how far it is before I can cross.  I will no longer be anywhere near the casino.  So I opted to dart across six lanes of traffic on Boulder Highway.   Good news guys, I did not get killed!  Going back to Downtown, the bus is right outside the casino.

I was so surprised to see how packed this casino was, which seems to be a typical thing for me at Station casinos.  I should be used to it by now, but nope.

I got Starbucks and played around, including $5 free play I had earned.  I got nothing.   Except cheap cigarettes.

I headed back to Binions and I cannot play my preferred Cleopatra Keno machine because someone is on it.  Not only is he is my machine, he is a guy who recently won $2500 on the Binions free pull, which I know because I recognized him from the photo Binions posted.  Now he has $2500 and he has my machine. What a jerk!

I lost  the rest of today’s budget, did the promotional spin, threw out my receipt for the free deck of cards, collected a free t-shirt, and went to bed.

Gambling Day: – $200
Gambling Trip: + $660
Miscellaneous: (tips, cigarettes, coffee):  $78.56
Comps used: California room, Binions burger
Freebies:  $5 slot play at Boulder Station, free t-shirt at Binions

Why do I bother making itineraries?

Friday, January 8, 2016
Breakfast: Longhorn
East Side Cannery 9-9 300 points = $500 cash or slot play
Check into California
Lunch: 
North Las Vegas
Dinner:
Texas Station $10 for $5 ACG
Plaza 10x slots
Four Queens double points ACG
Binions double points ACG
Binions $10 free LVA
Plaza $10 free LVA
Downtown Grand $10 free play LVA

El Cortez – pick envelope LVA
Four Queens $10 free play LVA

Belogradchik, Bulgaria – V.1.5

I had originally  made an “out-of-chronological-order” post about my trip to Belogradchik, which you can find here.

I loved it there so much that I could not wait to do it in chronological order.  But there is some information I would like to add, specifically about getting there and back.

When I was researching this, I found out there was a bus.  But the information was really lacking and completely conflicting.  Now that I have been there, I can help.

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At the Sofia bus station, I was told by the information desk that the only bus company that runs to Belogradchik is named Montana.  The internet says there is a second company, I know nothing about this.

The bus leaves at 16:00.  It runs seven days a week, even though some sites on the internet say it does not run on Sundays (I took it on a Sunday).

The Montana ticket window opens late on Sundays since they do not have any early buses going anywhere. I believe it opens at 11:30.  I could not read the Cyrillic sign announcing this, so I spent a few hours trying to not have a nervous breakdown in front of the window, while wondering if it was ever going to open.

The bus was mostly empty.  The seats were fancy and very comfortable.  The air conditioning worked perfectly. We made a couple of stops where we picked up people who were just standing in the road, with no bus signs anywhere.  We also had to stop for a herd of sheep crossing the road.

Here is the only clear picture I have of the scenery outside the window:

bus view sofia to belogradchik

Belogradchik was the place I was the absolute most excited for on this trip.  As we got closer and the rock formations came into sight, I wanted to scream.

Going back to Sofia from Belogradchik:  I confirmed at the Montana ticket window that the only bus they have running back leaves at 6:00 am.   The internet again, has a bunch of other information.  I don’t know anything about anything else first  hand.

I did not want to leave at 6:00 am because it meant I would need to spend two nights there in order to see the Fortress. I did not want to spend two nights in Belogradchik (side effect of having a full time job and needing to see everything RIGHT NOW as you are doing this only on vacation time).

So I decided to take the train back to Sofia.  Advice: do not take the train back to Sofia.

The internet advises you to take the train from Vidin.  There is a bus between Belogradchik and Vidin.  I think this is terrible advice.  Take the train from Oreshets.  It is on the Vidin line, but closer to Sofia than Vidin, so less time on the train.  I took a cab, it was shared with two other people (that the cab driver picked up at the bus station, after leaving me in the cab by myself for about fifteen minutes with no explanation).  It cost me 4 lev, which seemed about right since I had read it was 11.  So he must have charged each person 4.

The train ride is very long.  I believe it was about 4.5 hours (the bus is only 2.5 hours)  There is no air conditioning, it was hot and the train was PACKED.  We also made some random stop for about half an hour, where everyone except me seemed to understand they could get off the train and get some fresh air.

I will never take a train in Bulgaria again.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to post 3298473 pictures of Belodgradchik (even though you may have clicked the original link in the first paragraph of this post, which has lot of pictures in it) because BELOGRADCHIK DAMMIT.

This little guy followed me for a long time, barking at me.  I asked him if he was going to bite my ankles.  He then ran and got some backup in the form of a HUGE dog that was really mad that I insulted the little ankle biter.  I wish I had Huge Dog’s picture.  But he was HUGE and MAD.

little dog

Belogradchik, BulgariaBelogradchik, BulgariaBelogradchik, BulgariaBelogradchik, BulgariaBelogradchik rocks, BulgariaBelogradchik rocks, BulgariaBelogradchik fortress, Bulgaria

Goodbye Niš, Serbia, Hello Sofia, Bulgaria!

I was taking a 4:30 am bus from Niš, Serbia to Sofia, Bulgaria.   My Niš apartment was on the third floor of a building that had a cement spiral staircase, and no lighting at all in the hallway. Being that I am leaving at this ridiculously early hour, there is also no sunlight in the hallway.

I gave myself an extra half an hour to sit down on the stairs and scoot down them with my suitcase in tow, to avoid breaking my neck and killing myself.  It is times like these that I almost wish I were not solo, just so that someone else could witness how stupid my life is.

steps death

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The walk to the bus only took about fifteen minutes.  As I was boarding the bus, I was shown that on my ticket, it clearly states that there is a charge for storing luggage on the bus.  I cannot recall the exact amount, but it was less than $1 USD.  I flashed back to the conversation I had with the driver’s assistant back in Sarajevo and now realized that I was probably about ten cents short with paying for my luggage on that route.  I had no idea what was even going on.  Now, I know.

The bus ride was relatively uneventful, save for the beautiful scenery outside.  When we crossed over into Bulgaria and had to show our passports, it became clear to everyone that I was from America.   This caused a lot of the usual interested stares I have gotten this trip, but the only person who commented on it was the driver’s assistant who seemed very surprised I was traveling solo.

We arrived in Sofia at around 9:30 am.  I did not even realize we were in Sofia at first.  We were let off at an annex to the main bus station.  All that is over on this side is rows of store fronts that contain only specific bus company ticket desks inside.  It took me a bit to realize that the main bus station was right next door.

I had approximately eight hours to go see Sofia before heading on a bus to Belogradchik (I would be back in Sofia tomorrow for more time to spend here).  I did not want to leave the bus station until I had secured my ticket for Belogradchik.  Finding out the bus information for this route was not the easiest thing.  The internet is so not clear on anything.  As a bonus, today was Sunday and the schedule I had, clearly stated “every day except Sunday”, which I had not realized until I was getting my stuff together when leaving my hotel back in Niš.  Oh I feel a migraine coming on.

The counter for the bus company that goes to Belogradchik was not open yet.  It did not open for two hours.  I spent two hours in the bus station waiting for it to open.

Once I got my ticket, I checked my luggage.  Then off to the tram to head downtown.  This was a headache as well as I could not figure out how to buy a ticket.  OH HEY you can buy one on the tram.  Duh.

My main plans in Sofia for today are:  (a) follow the tram directions for the hotel I am going to be staying at tomorrow night, so I know how to get there tomorrow  to avoid getting lost (I AM ALWAYS LOST) with luggage and (b) visit St. Alexander Nevsky Church.

My plans were slightly thwarted when outside the tram window, I spot the holy grail – DUNKIN FREAKING DONUTS.  AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!  DUNKIN DONUTS.  THERE IS ICED COFFEE AT DUNKIN DONUTS.  I HAVE NOT HAD ICED COFFEE SINCE LEAVING HOME.  I NEED ICED COFFEE.  GIVE ME ICED COFFEE NOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

I get off the tram and bolt back to the Dunkin Donuts.  I was so excited.  I think the guy working there probably thought I was a bit off with HOW excited I was.  Not only did they have iced coffee (well, iced lattes, close enough!), they also had donuts with smiley faces on them.  Of COURSE I am going to buy a donut with a smiley face on it.  I am so happy ICED COFFEE (OKAY LATTE, CLOSE ENOUGH).  I place my order in pretty much a sing song voice, which was even singier when i asked for “smiley faced donut please!!!”

EEEEEE!

dunkin donuts

As if this wasn’t cool enough (it totally was!), I managed to then walk to the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral without getting lost!  I read a map correctly!  What a fantastic day.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is gorgeous.  Insanely gorgeous.  One picture will never be enough.

alexander nevsky alexander nevsky church, sofia, bulgaria, sofia, bulgaria alexander nevsky church, sofia, bulgariaalexander nevsky church, sofia, bulgaria

I was really surprised at how empty it was inside.  There were maybe about ten people in there, with about eight of them praying.   You are not allowed to take pictures inside.  Of course, the two other tourists were ignoring  this and doing it anyway until they got told to stop.  I sat in here for quite some time just admiring it.  It was so quiet and peaceful.

After leaving, I wandered a bit around Sofia before heading back to the bus station.

former communist party house, sofia, bulgariarussian orthodox church, former communist party houseCIMG0899central military club, former communist party houseCIMG0890CIMG0889monument to the tsar liberator, sofia, bulgariasofia, bulgariasofia, bulgariasofia, bulgariasofia, bulgaria

How beautiful is Sofia’s backdrop?

sofia, bulgaria

Mentally Melting Down in Niš, Serbia

Today I was able to sleep in a bit since Nis doesn’t have all that much to see.  This means I am up by 8:00 anyway.

First thing I do is Google to see where the train station is, since I had forgotten to do that before I left.  Oh fuck.  It is a 21 minute walk, which is fine.  But there are a lot of turns and stuff on Cyrillic written streets.  There is no way in HELL I am going to be able to find it in the dark at 2:30 am.  FUCK.  This was my whole reason for staying an extra night in my hotel.  I don’t want to trust that I can get a cab.  So I decide that I will just take the bus to Sofia tomorrow.  Good bye dreams of finally taking an overnight sleeper train.  UGH.

Since I am going to the Fortress today, I make that my first stop since it is pretty much at the bus station.  This way I can buy a bus ticket to Sofia for tomorrow. It was an easy walk, passing over the Nišava River.

Nišava River, Nis, Serbia

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Buying a bus ticket was not as hard as I anticipated it would be.  I manage to convey that I want to take the 4:30 am bus tomorrow morning.  The woman working the window manages to convey that it will be 1350 dinar (around $17 USD).  We worked very well together for two people who did not understand a word the other was saying.

After this, I realize I am starving.  I go to a restaurant in the bus station parking lot.  That did not go as well as the bus ticket did.   I asked the waitress if she spoke English.  She did not. I start off by pointing to the huge poster advertising iced coffee.  She brings me a cherry milkshake.  I am not kidding.  She also brought the check so I guess I wasn’t going to get my chance to order food.

I went to the Fortress.  It was so nice.

fortress walls grafitti Nis, Serbia

fortress walls Nis, Serbiapark Nis, Serbiapark Nis, Serbiafortress Nis, Serbia

Obligatory Nis dog picture:

doggie Nis, Serbia

I will admit I wanted to take the tourist train, even though it was clearly for kids.  It had a smiley face on the front and played ice cream truck music.  There were adults on it though.  I just could not figure out where to board so I let it go.

Train in Fortress Park, Nis, SerbiaTrain in Fortress Park, Nis, Serbia

I meander around a bit, being a tourist and taking pictures.  It took forever to get a picture of these fountains because they just KNEW I was waiting with my camera and they were being camera shy. But I got you!

fountains Nis, Serbia

Next stop:  Skull Tower.  I am so excited for this.   I walk to where it is on my map.  I cannot find it.  Flash forward literally two hours of walking around, I do not find it.  I finally give up and decide to go back to the Fortress entrance, where there is a tourist information booth.  It was open when I was here earlier.  It is closed now.

I find a big map of Nis, including all the tourist sites.  On it, they show a picture of the Skull Tower.  But it is not on the actual map.  Are you freaking kidding me?

By now, I am just about done.  I agree to do the following:  go back to my hotel, go online, re-Google the stupid skull tower, consider taking a cab.

I get to my hotel and my key won’t work.  Will not work.  Cannot open the entrance to the door on the third floor.  I know the woman who checked me in yesterday mentions she is one floor above.  I go up one more floor.  There are three doors, none are marked.  I try again and again and again.  I try kicking the door.  I am now freaking out and breaking down and sweating and about to burst into tears.

I go back down  and outside to ring the bell to get her to come out.  She meets me at the door.  “Oh Jennifer” she says.  Then she takes my keys and tries to unlock the door and she can’t.  See?  It is not just me.  Oh but it is because she tries again and on the second time, she gets the stupid freaking door open.

Okay.  Problem solved.  I get to my room and the wifi is not working.  Oh fuck no I am not going back down two flights of stairs again to ring the bell to have her meet me.  I Google the Serbia country code on my flip phone – which will probably cost me a million dollars since my data service isn’t covered in Serbia.  I call the number, and someone appears and fixes my wifi.  I am now supposed to re-Google map the Skull Tower, but instead I opt to just burst into frustrated tears.  I tend to have one meltdown on every trip I take; this was this trip’s meltdown.

I thought I might stay here for a bit and relax and build up the mental strength to go back out and see the ONE THING I AM DYING TO SEE HERE.  But it did not happen.

So now I am in Nis to see one thing I did not see.  I am taking a bus that leaves at 4:30 am, instead of one that left at 6:30 pm, which was the better option all around.  You know, so I could be here later to take the overnight train I am now no longer taking.  Everything from the moment I entered Serbia on my layover two (was it two?) days ago has gone horribly wrong.  Serbia hates me.  I still don’t hate Serbia though.  It is not Serbia’s fault I lost my magic trip planning skills.

One Day Spent in Sarajevo, Bosnia

I had originally done a “quick picture post” of Sarajevo, here.

I had not planned to spend any time in Sarajevo.  I wanted to go to Mostar, and planned to use Sarajevo as a home base to travel to Mostar from, as a day trip.  However, after arriving in Sarajevo, I just felt like I wanted to be here.  I can’t really explain it.  I don’t know if the city affected me in any way, if I was just mentally exhausted, if I was so over Rome and all the people or what. I just knew I wanted to stay here. I woke up early and was raring to go.  I wasn’t really sure WHERE to go though.  I hadn’t planned on staying here, so I hadn’t done any research.  I hopped on a tram and took it to the end of the line and walked around a bit.  I found a cool park. park - sarajevo, bosnia Sarajevo has so much beauty.  I could not get enough of gazing at the multi colored houses in the hills. Sarajevo, Bosnia Sarajevo, Bosnia

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The Bascarsija section of the city:

Sarajevo, BosniaSarajevo, Bosniasarajevo, bosniasarajevo, bosnia   silver guitars sarajevo, bosniasarajevo, bosnia I spent some time in a casino and won about $30.  That was kind of fun as well. Then there is the abundance of leftover war damage. War Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoI actually had a very nice, relaxing day.  That made me feel like kind of an asshole.  Hey Sarajevo – thanks for the relaxing day I spent taking pictures of the leftover damage from when your city was destroyed in a war!

But in the end, I got punished for having a nice day.  When I got back to the guesthouse I was staying in, I wanted to take a picture to send my sister.  At the end of the block was an adorable stray dog napping in the sun. I wanted to get him in the picture as well.  There was someone walking down the street, preventing me from doing this.  As I was waiting him out, a little kid came up and demanded “GIVE ME MONEY”.  Oh hell no.  “GIVE ME MONEY”.  No.  “I SAID GIVE ME MONEY”  I SAID NO.  “GIVE ME MONEY” NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

Then he starts playing the repeating game. “NO NO NO NO NO NO NO”  Oh you are an annoying little shit head “OH YOU ARE AN ANNOYING LITTLE SHIT HEAD”.

I never did get my picture.

Goodbye Rome, Hello Sarajevo!

Today I am leaving Rome and heading to Bosnia.  This section of the trip is both where I got all frustrated while booking it, and then even more frustrated living it.  I originally wanted to go from Rome to Puglia and take an overnight ferry to Dubrovnik.  Well today is Wednesday and guess what day of the week that ferries do not run?  Yes.  Wednesday.  So I opted to fly to Bosnia.  This was the start of several days where I watched my “Best Travel Planner EVER” crown turn to rust before my eyes.

Hotel check out is at 11:00  My flight is at 4:05.  I decide to go to the airport this early because I don’t want to be in Rome anymore. Plus my flight has changed and I am not all that sure of the new time because there is no wifi in my room and I am limited on what I can see on my phone.

There was no one upstairs when I checked out of my room. I just left the keys there.  I had to restrain myself to keep from leaving a note about YOU LYING BASTARDS. THERE IS NO WIFI HERE.

I walked downstairs and the dude who checked me in is out there!  He asks me how my stay is.  I say “there is no wifi” and he says “yeah…”  in this sheepish tone that causes me to FLIP OUT on him.  I am so pissed off,  I am yelling about how I never would have stayed here, this is bullshit and false advertising.  I basically just keep yelling at him.  He basically just keeps standing there.  I finally walk away while giving him the finger.  I am still so mad about this.  It is so irrational but I hate liars and to knowingly lie about having wifi when you don’t just really set me off.  The hilarity of all of this is that this is the first trip ever in my life where I have brought a laptop type thingy.  On any other trip to any other place I have been to in my past, I wouldn’t have even known that this hotel is a liar liar pants on fire.

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PS – When I got home, I emailed booking.com to tell them that this hotel is a LIAR.  They responded letting me know they would contact the hotel.  I guess that didn’t do much because these lying bastards are STILL advertising wifi.  THERE IS NO WIFI.  I AM STILL MAD.

So anyway.  There is a train to the airport for €14 or you can take a bus for €4.  No brainer.

I walked to Termini to catch the bus.  The weather is absolutely beautiful today.   The best weather day I have seen since I first landed in Europe.  Of course I am spending this beautiful day traveling all day long.  Or rather sitting around airports all day long.

First flight – Rome to Belgrade on Jat Airways, operated by Alitalia.  It is interesting to note that it said “Alitalia” nowhere at all anywhere on my confirmation.  I only figured it out via a combo of a screen with ticket window numbers for each flight happening to be an Alitalia window.  The Jat Airways window was never open at all the entire time I was there.  Also annoying, when I was on the line for Alitalia, I asked a woman who worked for them if I was in the right line, since my ticket/confirmation said nothing about this.  She told me yes, I am Alitalia and that I could skip the line if I wanted and go check in on the other side.  Guess what happened when I went to the other side?   I was told I had to go back to where I just was.  Great.

The seats on this flight are large and slippery.  I keep sliding out of mine.  This is so stupid.  I had also picked seat 3F – right side of the plane because I naturally lean to the right when I sleep sitting up.  I am now somehow in 4A and I cannot manage to sit still because I am on the wrong side.

Layover in Belgrade wasn’t too bad.  Got to buy a carton of sketchy cigarettes for €5.  As much as I started today just annoyed over losing an entire day to travel (my own fault) I will say it ended up being a nice relaxing day.  I have not had any free day in my life in months to just do nothing.  I got caught up on writing and picture sorting. I had time to think about the rest of my trip without making a panicked mental list of what I still needed to do before leaving.  The only way today could have been better is if I weren’t an idiot and didn’t leave my zen thingy in my luggage before checking it in at the airline counter.  Then I could have had a fantastic soundtrack to my thoughts.

Just so we are clear, I enjoyed all-day-transport-day more than I enjoyed Rome.  There, I said it.

My flight from Beograde to Sarajevo was delayed by over an hour.  The Beograde airport is perhaps the most boring airport in existence.  There is pretty  much nothing open after 8:00 pm.  Finally we board, finally we arrive in Sarajevo.  Finally I get to see this awesome Roulette wheel luggage conveyor belt:

roulette wheel luggage conveyor belt, sarajevo, bosnia

When I arrived in Sarajevo – twelve hours after I left my Rome hotel – I had a driver waiting for me.  That was cool.  As we drove from the airport to my hotel, he asked me how I liked Rome.  I told him I hated it.  I told him that there were too many people  I gestured to the empty streets we were on right now and said “LOOK!  NO PEOPLE!  THAT IS SO COOL”.  He pointed out that it was close to midnight and of course, that is why it was so quiet outside.  Oh.  Well anyway…

I am staying at a guesthouse tonight.  I am arriving both late at night and even later than I was supposed to, due to my flight being delayed.  The owner was kind enough to not make me feel like a disruptive asshole.  She showed me to my room, showed me how to use the fan, informed me that there is hot water as if this was a big deal…which made me realize how lucky I am that it would never occur to me that there would not be hot water.

After she left, I realized that FUCK I did not ask for the wifi code.  We are now on day four where I have not seen the internet.  I felt too bad to go up and chase her to her room to ask for the password so I just went to bed.