Monika’s Musings

miscellaneous tidbits on marketing, advertising, and life in general

Day 2 – Good morning, Florida, a game of Quidditch and some love

October2

You know in college you make friends and they are some of the most amazing people you’ve ever met? And then they move on with their lives, often in far-away lands and there they meet someone? And it is casual at first, then it becomes an I-think-this-may-be-getting-serious thing, and then one day you get a wedding invitation? And you’re happy, but you’re also a little nervous? Because your friend, the one getting married, is so awesome, but you don’t know the stranger they’re marrying… Does s/he deserve to baste in the awesomeness that is your bff? Could s/he possibly be remotely as cool as your gang? S/he couldn’t! Right?

And so you worry a little bit. And then the wedding day comes closer and you worry a lot. And then … Then you meet the person and they have you at “Hello”. And it’s like you’ve know each other forever. And they complete your friend’s awesomeness with their own. And they make your friend super happy. And even though you didn’t know them until like two minutes ago, you realize that they’re exactly what you have always wanted for your friend?

Yeah. That happened. A couple of times during the trip, actually, but twice on that glorious Thursday when we woke up in Florida for the first time.

After I got over the initial euphoria that I am waking up in Florida, still in bed, I messaged Tracy (the bride to be) and she said that her and Bobby had been driving all night and they had just arrived in St. Augustine. I thought they’d go have a rest and we’d meet later on, and she asked me if I were crazy. Of course they were coming to pick us up immediately and they were taking us for breakfast!

There’s something to be said about the emotions you feel when you see one of your closest people in the world for the first time in 10 years. That’s what made this already special trip even more so – it was a long overdue reunion with some of my dearest friends who ended up living thousands of miles away from me.

So there was a lot of hugging and kissing and squealing and holding hands and jumping up and down – and all that stuff that you do when you’re just plain happy. We went to breakfast to this place called Wildflower where I felt like I was in a scene from a movie.

First of all, we walked in, and I looked around and Oh my god. We were just about the only people under 75 there. But they were the coolest, most tan, happiest-looking octogenarians I’ve ever seen. Talk about a retirement heaven!

And then, just like in the movies, the waitress came over, holding a pitcher of coffee, she introduced herself and poured us some. To those of you based in the US this is just a regular morning, I guess, but this stuff I had only seen on Hollywood productions. In fact, I would often feel like I am in a movie over the next couple of weeks.

After breakfast we let Tracy and Bobby go take a nap and headed towards Orlando to visit the Universal Islands of Adventure. For my birthday, my super duper colleagues had given me a ticket to go visit the Harry Potter amusement park there. Now, laugh all you want, but this was a dream come true for me.

The Hogsmeade village is done so well, you feel like you’re on the actual set. IMG_0681

We did this amazing 4D immersion ride during which we flew on a broomstick throughout Hogwarts and even played Quidditch with Harry – unbelievable! While we were queuing for it, we saw the Sorting Hat looking more real than in the movies even, and also walking/talking portraits made out of LCD TV screens, but so well, you could not tell they weren’t really magical.

IMG_0705

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We spent a good part of the day at Universal and then met up with Mikey and his lovely wife Katie for dinner. They took us to the Red Lobster which I had wanted to visit for ages – ever since in my junior year of college Jen was telling me how few things in life were tastier than the Red Lobster biscuit (It’s true. I later had dreams about the damn biscuit and was left with no choice, but to find the best rip-off recipe on the net and still… not the real thing).

We had a wonderful dinner, catching up with old and new friends. I loved the fact that I was ID’d (not as much when the waitress told me she has to, if I look anywhere under 40… whatever…) when ordering a pint of local beer, and then the jetlag hit. So we called it a night.

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Day 1: Apple vs. Lufthansa and a small jeep

September3

Vesko crosses the Atlantic back and forth a couple of times a year for work. He has this great-sounding advice about dealing with time differences and the lack of jet-lag to prove it: while on the plane, you set your watch to the destination time and (this is the key) you keep looking at it. Eventually despite your body’s protests, your mind will catch up on the lie and start functioning on destination time.

Side note to the airlines: early flights should be banned! Businesses can and should afford the extra-night hotel fare, if you have an 8 o’clock. No one should be having a business matinee after having woken up at some ungodly hour to travel across borders. I’ve done it. While your brain should be processing complex rebranding strategies for example, it is stuck on iwanttosleepiwanttosleepiwanttosleep.

Anyways, we went to bed at around 1:30 cause of course we had absolutely not left packing to the last minute … and woke up sometime before 4. Or rather, Vesko woke up – I merely kinda got up and continued to on minimal body-and-brain functionality for the next, very confusing 24 hours.

We flew Sofia-Munich-Charlotte-Jacksonville. I did the whole setting the clock back as early as the Munich airport (very nice lounge area!!), and kept looking at the longest day of my life. Or at least in recent years.

Thankfully, the long flight was rather uneventful. Since we were travelling on the day when the clocks were set back (or forward? I never remember how it goes) in the US, at one point the rather mundane question “what time is it?” became very difficult to answer. The battle was between Apple Inc. and Lufthansa: my iPhone said it would be – let’s say – 5 o’clock in Charlotte when we land and the Lufthansa screen claimed it would be 4 PM.

Now we all know that Apple has had trouble when it comes to daylight savings time changes, but I was siding with them anyway. Vesko’s claim was that the Germans who are world-known for their punctuality and precision could not possibly be wrong. The answer made the difference between having a layover of an hour and fifteen minutes and one of fifteen minutes (and potentially missing our flight to Florida as we had to go through customs and what not in Charlotte).

I finally had to admit that one of the most reliable airline companies in the world could not miss something so important as time of arrival. We went through customs and security (a very quick and pleasant process) and started dragging our suitcases slowly in the direction of the gate. Something kept on bugging me, though, and I stopped the next uniform-wearing dude and asked what time he had. It took us a couple of seconds to process the answer, after which we looked at each other – eyes wide open all of a sudden, as if they were screaming: RUUUUN!

(Note to self: don’t do that anymore. Not in front of US officials at a US international airport. Seriously.)

Thankfully, either the Charlotte airport isn’t very big, or our gates weren’t too far apart and we made it a couple of minutes before boarding. We even found the time to sit down for a while at which point I took in my surroundings for the first time. I looked at Vesko and said, “I want to live here!!” “At the Charlotte airport?” he asked, rather surprised. I didn’t have the energy to explain – so I just nodded “Yeah!”

It was precisely half a lifetime ago that I was in the US for the very last time. And despite the grogginess, I couldn’t even begin to tell you how incredibly excited I was feeling about the 3 1/2 weeks ahead of us. Right there, at the Charlotte airport.

We had booked a car from the Jacksonville airport, so we headed directly to the car rental office. There we were met by the most smooth-talking salesman imaginable who made me feel just like I was in a movie (this would happen quite often over the next 23-4 days or so). He assured us that he wanted us to have the best possible experience with our car and wouldn’t we want, just for 10 bucks more a day to have a small, but very luxurious jeep? Vesko actually wasn’t crazy about driving a jeep, but guy totally sweet-talked us into it: it was a very compact car, but what it lacked in size (I guess he didn’t quite understand how this could possibly not be an advantage for us), it made up in luxury. Finally we agreed, got the keys, went to the parking lot and found ourselves staring at this 7-seater:

Lincoln-MKT

I vaguely remember the drive from Jacksonville to St. Augustine where we were going. I don’t really remember checking-in the hotel, but I know at one point I felt veery hungry. So we dropped the suitcases off, found the nearest pub and ordered a huge platter of the freshest seafood I have ever had (sadly, deep-fried). We barely said anything to each other during dinner/breakfast (?) because all the energy we could conjure up went to silently chewing. I don’t remember walking back to the hotel or going to bed. But knowing me, I must have been eager to go to sleep, so that I can wake up and begin the most amazing vacation ever.

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US Grand Slam: 27’808 amazing kilometers

August27

Something absolutely amazing happened this March/April and now that enough time has passed, I really want to relive it. Since it ain’t happening for real again anytime soon, I will have to resort to vicariously reliving it by writing down a day-by-day account of the most amazing almost-1-month trip to the US of A.

I actually prepared for this by doing something I had never done before: I took notes. That’s right! I loved every single minute of our trip, but as it was quite long and packed with new impressions and emotion, I knew that they will soon pile one on top of another and I will forget the details. So, in order to avoid this, I meticulously took the time every evening before going to bed (aaalright, sometimes a day or two later) to jot down an outline of each day’s activities, which would later, together with the pictures, help me recreate all the awesomeness that we went through.

US trip notes

We had the perfect reason for the trip: the wedding of one of my dearest friends in the entire world. Which leads me to the other reason why this trip meant so much for me: like Tracy and I kept saying:   my two worlds finally collided and Vesko met the final batch of people who have shared my best years with me and who are such a huge part of me growing up into the person I am today. I truly felt that before he knew all of my closest friends, he didn’t know me completely. And now we can check this off the list. Well, almost. One remains, but sadly too too far away.

Most of the places we visited were new for me – actually all of them, with the exception of NYC, which was awesome! Another thing that made this trip as amazing is that in every place we went to, we met up with so many friends – mine, and his, and some mutual. Of course, there were even more friends that we didn’t manage to meet, but you can only do so much… Plus, I needed to secure a reason for us to do this again, sooner rather than later.

So over the coming days/months a great adventure will unveil on the pages of this little site, mainly for the purpose to be here for me to come back to, whenever I need it, as time goes by.  But if you want to come along for the ride: buckle up, my friends!

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