Duplicating a Perfect Experience in Argentina

Two weeks ago, I had a perfect day.

The weather was sunny and breezy.  I rode a horse through the Argentinian countryside with some of my best friends. I ate a homemade meal of empanadas and chicken-and-rice from an abuela (grandma) which was absolutely delightful. To cap it off, I rode home on a bus that stopped at the absolute CLEANEST bathroom I’ve ever come across in South America and then had a delicious dinner and thoughtful conversation with my roommates back in Cordoba.

This adventure (minus the clean bathroom and roommate add-ons) was sponsored and lead by my program leaders & city team with Remote Year, who called it Gaucho Day as it showed us the average life of a Gaucho, which is essentially the Argentinian version of a cowboy.  We learned about lassoing, horse shoes, and cooking and even had a little Argentinian wine.

So when the opportunity arose to go back into the hills for Gaucho Day Part Two (it was such a hit the first time so others wanted to go as well), I jumped right on board.

I asked a number of people if they were also riding again, and heard the same answer from each of them.  Because it was such a nice day, they didn’t want to go again and ‘ruin it.’

I wasn’t sure what to make of this – ruin it?  How could another day spent riding horses with your friends ruin anything?  I suppose I understand the logic: you can’t recreate the exact same experience.  But I didn’t want to recreate the same experience. – I wanted a new experience!

I knew there were different people going (plus my friend visiting from the states) and I’d wear different clothes for all the dang photo ops. I didn’t know we’d take a different route through the mountains, or that lunch would be carne and potatoes (and still those amazing empanadas! Thank God).  I didn’t know it would be slightly rainy and then super overcast for amazing clouds over the hills, or that the sky would open up midday to clear brilliant blue.  All I knew was I wanted a nice day, and set my expectations accordingly, knowing that nothing I could do on THIS day would ever impact what happened on the first day.  That experience was already in the books; I’m no time traveler.

And I had another perfect day.  Followed by cooking and eating a few dozen empanadas with my roommates.  I just really like empanadas.

 

I’ve heard the ‘going to ruin it’ notion a few times this year – specifically about cities or countries where someone had been, maybe with a significant other, and didn’t want to tarnish their memory for one reason or another.  But I disagree with this notion!  I firmly believe your thoughts create your world.  Thoughts become things.  So choose the good ones!

 

Second Trip

 

First Trip

 

First Trip

 

Second Trip

 

Second Trip

 

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I told you I liked empanadas.

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12 Times I Was Proud of Myself This Year

— The time I saw a gigantic bug crawl on my arm and I don’t freak out.

— The time I enjoyed a meal not knowing what exactly I was eating.

— The time(s) I rode a motorcycle.

— The time I spent over 20 minutes trying to communicate even when I didn’t know the language and the local didn’t know mine. And I didn’t give up. And we ended up discussing the meaning of our names (Casey meaning Brave).

— The time I visited a city I didn’t even know existed.

— The time I booked a trip I wasn’t sure I could afford or even enjoy.

— The times I said yes, even when the activity in question sounded weird or scary.

— The time a 20 minute drive turned into 2 hours, which turned into surrendering myself to a Cambodian driver for another 5 hours, having no control of the situation not getting upset.  Because (1) even if I got mad it wouldn’t change the circumstances, and (2) Cambodia, ya know?  Roll with the punches.

— The time I decided clothes don’t matter so much.  And that wearing the same clothes over and over doesn’t matter so much.

— The time I realized wearing eyeliner doesn’t mean I’m prettier.

— The time I remembered that my job description isn’t a self description.

— Oh and the time I made the decision to quit my job, left my friends and family and cat to go CIRCUMNAVIGATE THE GLOBE with some ridiculously interesting people.  Pretty proud of that cold day in February; this one Yes enabled me to do all of the above.

Rehabilitation and Release

This month I had the amazing experience of a behind-the-scenes look of a Cambodian wildlife rescue center with the help of Wildlife Alliance, a local nonprofit dedicated to protecting forests and wildlife with a focus on rehabilitation and release.  They work with the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, which is just south of Phnom Penh.  I, along with my gorgeous-inside-and-out travel partner Joelle, had the opportunity to support the conservation work by taking a day tour to meet animals rescued from the wildlife trade.

What I appreciated from the start of our experience at Phnom Tamao was an explanation of how to identify if a ‘rescue center’ is actually abusing their animals.  While it was sometimes sad to see animals in enclosures at Phnom Tamao, it was reassuring to know that the primary focus of their work is on release – as opposed to places that train/abuse animals with bull hooks, drugs, and sleep deprivation so a tourist can take a picture with a lion, or ride an elephant.  There’s a lot of literature on reputable sanctuaries, so if you’re interested in visiting, do the research.

 

 

We spent the day watching animals be cared for and fed.  Some notable experiences include :

— Meeting tigers (interbred cross between an Indochinese tiger and a Bengal, which is sad because these guys have a lot of back and hip pain from the improper genetic mix).

— Meeting tigers who peed on me.  Pro tip: when the tail goes up, MOVE.

 

–Meeting Chhouk, a baby elephant who lost his leg on a snare (our guide believes he got caught, struggled and self-amputated his leg in order to return to his family).  Eventually, his herd made the difficult decision to abandon him, which is when Wildlife Alliance were called to relocate him to Phnom Tamao.  We watched as he did ‘tricks’ for us, meaning standing in the proper position for health checks to change his prosthetic leg.  Chhouk made himself a little pina colada after (alternating bites of pineapple and coconut) which was completely adorable.

The bottom of the prosthetic is made of a car tire!

 

— Meeting my DREAM MONEKY, a gibbon.  This poor girl was caught in the pet trade, and has adapted too many human behaviors to be released into the wild.  Examples: making steady eye contact, and completely freaking out when she sees another monkey.

GIBBON!

 

I started thinking about the parallels between myself and these rescued animals.  It’s not infrequently that we are asked the question “What will you do after Remote Year?” — and the fact that we’ve spent the past month with another RY group who is on Month 11 has brought this question to the forefront of my mind.

Am I spending this year on a sort of mental/emotional rehabilitation?  Nurtured by my experiences and friendships abroad?  Am I meant to be released back into Corporate America/the wild/my natural habitat?  Am I taking this analogy too far?

The beauty of changing cities every month is that I really can’t dwell too much on future plans.  My immediate future includes moving to Kuala Lumpur and finding more work projects, and that’s about as much as my poor brain can handle these days.  So do me a favor and check back in with me … oh I don’t know, maybe three days before the end of RY.  Hopefully by then I’ll have a plan.

 

 

If you’re interested in learning more about Wildlife Alliance or to a sponsor an animal, check out http://www.wildlifealliance.org.

 

**Special thanks to Joelle for this amazingly unique and unforgettable birthday gift.  I’ll never forget it for all my days.

Items seen on the back of a motorbike, ranked by strangeness

Motorbikes, being the primary form of transportation in Hanoi, transport not only people but anything their owners are carrying.  4 weeks living in the Old Quarter has led to some odd sightings.

Listed in Order of Strangeness:

  • Baskets of flowers
  • Crates
  • Crates of chickens
  • Boxes
  • So many boxes that they have to be strapped in and are twice the width of the bike
  • Badass women in heels and a pencil skirt
  • Sheets of metal
  • A tree
  • Remote Year participants
  • Baskets of fish heads
  • An infant
  • A family of four
  • A pile of feather boas
  • A casket
  • A mattress
  • A 16 foot bamboo ladder
  • A Corgi
  • ME!

 

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(Almost) Birthday Reflections in Hanoi

I often like to pretend there’s an alternate reality where I never went on Remote Year.  I never saw the Instagram ad, or thought it was a hoax, or maybe even applied and was rejected.  It allows for good perspective when I imagine what Alternate Casey would be up to right now, right this very minute.  Sometimes it’s easy, routine, like a Monday morning where I’d be driving to work instead of walking along a lake in Vietnam, dodging motorbikes.  It’s especially easy watching videos of my friends’ weekends, Oh for Halloween I’d be in Hoboken in a last-minute costume dancing like a fool and probably drinking too much vodka, as opposed to being at Dracula’s castle in Romania in a last-minute costume dancing like a fool and definitely drinking too much vodka.

I thought about Alternate Casey today, as I make birthday plans (or rather, my best bud Josh makes our joint birthday plans, and I am just a pain in the ass).  What would she be doing on her 30th birthday?  How would she be feeling?

I came up with a few likely scenarios.  One, she would be in Pennsylvania, at work at my old job, getting ‘surprised’ with cake (but more likely fruit salad) in the mail room by my amazing team, and receiving a singing birthday call from my Nana and Granddad.  I’ve had that birthday before, and it was very pleasant, and I’d end up getting dinner with some friends and going home to my cold apartment (heat turns on in January) to snuggle my cat.  Not exactly the stuff of birthday legend, though I miss that cat fiercely.  Alternate Casey might be feeling mildly content but probably a little lonely, probably with a suspicion that something is missing.

Another scenario would be what I’ve threatened to do for years: drag my best girlfriends out to Las Vegas for a blowout.  The reality is that Vegas, while still one of my fave cities (true), is cold in December and the pools are closed, so it’s not an ideal time to visit.  So I imagine I’d have a handful of quite chilly drop-dead-gorgeous ladies in tow, walking the strip in impractical heels.  This would make for some funny stories, but perhaps would not be the most fulfilling birthday.  PSA to those girlfriends: my hypothetical bachelorette party IS happening in Vegas.  You have years to plan for this – no excuses.

But if I’m honest, Alternate Casey is probably about to celebrate her birthday with Mom and Dad, and maybe Austin, Tori, and Erin.  The Carr-Jones family.  With beef burgundy, some really nice cabernet sauvignon, an apple crumble pie for dessert, and a heartfelt rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ on a call with my grandparents.  This is probably one of the only times I would like to temporarily swap places with Alternate Casey, just for the day.

Just for the day.  Because truly, the real me is more comfortable with turning 30 than I ever thought I would be. No house, no kids, freelancing and entrepreneuring (yes I’m making that a word) instead of a full time job, living out of a suitcase and thoroughly depending on a group of people I met only 6 months ago.  Not exactly a scenario I ever had in mind, but it appears to be exactly what would cure me of the keeping up with the Joneses blues.  I’m half Jones, so how’s about you try keeping up with me??

 

Cambodia Saturday!

 

P.S. The best part is, no matter where I am on December 1st, I can count on Nana and Granddad to call and sing.

Viet Noms!

Blog takeovers are so HANOING!

Ugh Casey, puns are the worst, pho real.

Welcome to my sister Tori who’s assisting me in recapping our week in Hanoi, where we ate our way through the city and lived to tell the tale.

NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list of every single thing that went into my mouth that week.  I refuse to tally up exactly how much nem and bia hoi I had, for guilt and sanity reasons.

 

 

Saturday

Bun cuon


Tori’s first meal in Hanoi was lunch, and I took her to a local place that serves Bun cuon, which is a rice crepe filled with pork and mushrooms, topped with crispy onions. My brain was unable to understand what time zone I was in, but my tummy totally understood that this was delicious. 

 

Tiger beer

After walking for about 45 minutes, we enjoyed Vietnam’s finest brew (most percentage alcohol) overlooking the Hoan Kiem lake. Beer is plentiful in Vietnam, but it’s pretty tame if you are the craft IPA type. I happen to enjoy a lighter beer when it’s hot and humid, perfect for winter in Hanoi.

Side note that we played a game called “Try to count to 5 without hearing a horn honk.”  We both lost.

 

Obama Bun Cha


Tori’s first dinner in Asia had to be special, so we visited the spot where Anthony Bourdain took President Obama.  Metal tables, blue plastic chairs, nothing fancy or particularly nice-looking about this place, but they make a decent bun cha.  Broth, noodles, herbs, and grilled pork.  This place is much more expensive than other delicious bun cha spots (dinner was $6 and not $2), but well worth the visit.

BUN CHA!!! I hope I can find you stateside, you delicious bowl of goodness.

 

Hanoi beer


Part of the Obama combo was a local beer called, that’s right, Hanoi Beer. Thanks Obama! Good choice!

 

Ice cream pops


After dinner, we walked back along the lake and into the Night Market.  We saw a person swirling a gigantic metal pot and stopped to see what was inside – ice cream pops!  Strawberry for me, Coconut for Tor. Tip: if you are curious about something in Vietnam, just get it. Especially if there’s a crowd. ESPECIALLY if it’s food.

 

Sunday

Banh Mi, juice, coffee at Banh Mi 25


You can check out my review of a Banh Mi in my other post, but we had some delicious breakfast Tori’s first true morning. Great for a hangover. Probably, I wouldn’t know.

 

Avocado toast at Hanoi Social Club


It’s not a Sunday without Sunday brunch.  Tori and I met up with some of my friends at the Hanoi Social Club, which is a cute expat cafe where we enjoyed a cocktail and avocado toast with cheese, figs, and red onion. I was very jetlagged at this point, but it was so nice to finally meet some other Remotes!

 

Monday

Coconut

On Monday, we took a day trip to Ha Long Bay, and as we checked out a cave we found coconuts for sale!


Oh, remember how I said you should definitely try anything you might be curious about? It is not entirely foolproof. After a walk through a limestone cave, everyone was stopping to get coconuts. You drink the coconut water, then a tiny lady machetes it open for you to enjoy the coconut meat. I joined in, only to discover that coconut water is gross. So, I convinced people to drink mine because I KNEW I was going to love the coconut meat. Nope. It’s bitter and gross. I’ll be sticking to the sweet, shaved coconut of my youth, but at least now I know!

 

Corner bia hoi


After an exceedingly long bus ride back from the bay, we literally stumbled across the street to our corner bia hoi food joint.  I’ve been here about 20 times already this month, so we ordered a plate of nem (fried spring rolls) with a miso dipping sauce and a chicken/veggie stir fry.  And a beer, of course. Nem, all day, every day. Ideally while you sit on a tiny plastic chair and watch the hustle and bustle of the Old Quarter.

 

Tuesday

Raw smoothies


Raw is a local juice/smoothie shop (mostly filled with expats) near the office.  A good way to get in some fresh fruit and greens in between the salty goodness of the local cuisine. Also good for a hangover. I assume, again, I wouldn’t know.

 

Bun Bo Nam Bo


My personal favorite.  Noodles, some broth, greens, and beef or pork with crispy onions. Also wins the award for the most fun to say!

 

Vietnamese coffee


Got Tori to try the crack cocaine oops I mean Vietnamese coffee – which is crazy strong coffee with condensed milk.  It’s sugary sweet and caffeinated so obviously Tori liked it. Very yummy, but it didn’t make me loopy like Casey.

 

 

Wednesday

Pho 10


What did you think Tor?

First pho! Certainly not my last, it gives you a great opportunity to perfect your chopstick skills and noodle slurp.

 

Thursday

Thanksgiving

Remote Year held a gigantic potluck in a treehouse for Thanksgiving, because if you’re gonna have a weird Asian style Thanksgiving, may as well go all out in the trees.

 


We ordered in a turkey and gravy, but everyone was responsible for making something of their own.  We got creative, with a no-bake pumpkin pie!  Turned out really well, wish I had gone back for seconds.

 

 

All in all, a delicious trip with happy hearts and tummies.  And that’s all folks!  Cheers.

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3 Days in Budapest

Last month my brave father visited me while I was living in Serbia.  After exploring Belgrade for a few days, we rented a car and took the A1/M5 north to Budapest, Hungary.

Now first of all, Fun Fact #1 about Budapest is that it’s not pronounced Budapest.  It’s BudaPESHT.  And actually, it’s Buda, and then Pesht, divided by the Danube River.  Buda is where the fortress is, and is more residential.  Pest (keep pronouncing it Pesht in your head though) is the lively part of town, with bars, restaurants, and shopping.  Dad and I got a hotel in the Jewish Quarter of Pest (Pesht) at the Hotel Continental Zara, and this was in a great location for us to get to the main Vorosmarty Square as well as explore the more trendy part of town.

Fun Fact #2 about Budapest is that all roads take you to the river (pretty much), and it’s a very walkable and easily navigated city.  We parked our car with the hotel and didn’t even need to use a taxi or public transportation the whole time.

So, what trouble did Father Phil and I get into during our three days in Hungary?

 

Monday

The drive to Budapest from Belgrade was a bit of an adventure in itself.  After stopping for hot dogs in tube buns (don’t ask) and sitting a while at the border crossing into Hungary, we made it into town and dropped our bags at the hotel.

Our first goal was to explore and find a place to eat dinner.  We wandered into a little bar called Legfelsőbb Beeróság that served 10 craft beers on tap, with dozens of other bottled craft options.  Dad and I enjoyed choosing between beers named Brewsk Willis, Invisible Bikini, and Bigfoot Meggeys.

We wandered a bit more and looked up a highly-rated restaurant nearby for dinner.  We walked in around 8pm and realized that no tables were available!  Dad and I quickly debated and decided any burger joint requiring a reservation on a Monday night had to be amazing.  So we walked to another bar, ordered jalepeno poppers, and went back for our 9pm reservation at Tuning Bar & Burger.

Tuning was absolutely amazing.  Their shtick was to project the cooktop onto the wall so you could watch as your burgers and fries were cooked.  But the food didn’t require such fanfare as it was amazing on its own – we got the Pepper burger with red-pepper sauce, a bacon-wrapped jalapeño pepper, and sriracha aioli.  Nom noms.

Legfelsobb Beerosag

 

 

Tuning Bar & Burger

 

Tuesday

Tuesday morning began with breakfast at the hotel followed by a 2 hour walking tour of the city.  We walked all over Pest (Pesht), across the Chain Bridge to Buda, and explored the Buda Castle.  Afterwards, we were quite exhausted and mildly grumpy in search of food.  So, Daddy and Daughter found a suitable option – Ice cream!  I don’t have pictures of the ridiculous artisinal sundaes (and cappuccinos) (and champagne) we had because they were embarrassingly decadent, but we got to cross off Cafe Gerbeaud off our list of To-Dos.

We had a well-deserved nap, we ate a quick dinner (goulash for Dad and pumpkin soup for me) and boarded our riverboat for a wine cruise on the Danube!

I highly recommend this experience if you ever make it over to Budapest.  We had a 2 hour cruise with live music and were able to enjoy very large samples of 7 different Hungarian wines.  We enjoyed 2 white wines, a rose, 2 red wines, and two dessert wines.  My dad and I, being the wine snobs that we are, thoroughly enjoyed discussing the different flavors and comparing them while we passed the Parliament building and crossed under the many bridges connecting Buda and Pest.

After the wine cruise, we clearly were in the right state of mind to want to try more wine.  We landed at the DiVino Wine Bar, ordered a cheese plate, and got into great conversation with the bartender/sommelier who allowed us to sample some of Hungary’s finest wine (of a much better quality than on the boat).

 

Streets of Budapest

St. Stephen’s Basilica

Chain Bridge

View of Pest from Buda

Dad and I on the River cruise – Parliament building in the background

DiVino

 

 

Wednesday

Wednesday, we walked the city (notice a theme?) and took a tour through the House of Terror, which contains exhibits and memorials about the communist and racist regimes in Hungary.  This museum was very poorly laid out and unfortunately we visited during a local school’s class trip, so while I don’t think we had the full experience, it was a good reminder of the horrors that took place not too long ago.

That evening, we explored the Ruin Pubs.  In Budapest, old, decrepit factories, warehouses, and apartment buildings have turned into a funky and eclectic bar scene.  The building may not have a roof, is covered in graffiti, and filled with an random assortment of furniture and decorations, but that makes for a fun vibe and good time.  Throw in some cheap beer and you’ve got a spot I think a lot of my fellow remotes would enjoy.  I certainly did!

For dinner, I was able to find the nerdiest restaurant possible, AKA one me and my Dad would both enjoy immensely.  The KonyvBar and Restaurant in Budapest (Budapesht) has theme dinners based on a book, and they switch up the book/menu pairing every two weeks.  While we were in town, the selected book was none other than Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  Although Dad and I refrained from ordering completely off this menu (as it was full of snails and other odd dishes), we really enjoyed the ambiance and found the food to be incredible.

 

So there you have it.  Dad and I ate really well, enjoyed a good amount of Hungarian wine, and thoroughly loved exploring Budapest.  I look forward to our next adventure together!

 

KonyvBar and Restaurant

Ruin Pub

Ruin Pub (Szimpla Kert)

 

 

House of Terror

New Country, New Breakfast

My priorities upon arriving to a new country are as follows:

  1. Unpack
  2. Get google maps set up and drop a pin for my new apartment
  3. Find grocery store and buy breakfast for the following morning: yogurt/fruit/eggs
  4. Find workspace
  5. Find gym

 

Breakfast, as you can see, is towards the top of the list.  I am a breakfast person.  I like breakfast, breakfast likes me.  We get along, we need each other.

I arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam on Sunday evening.  It’s now Tuesday morning my time, and I’ve had a total of 3 breakfasts, which doesn’t add up but that’s okay.

Breakfast in Hanoi is not like breakfast anywhere I’ve been before.  In Spain, we had toast with tomato spread.  Portugal, I basically had wine for breakfast (Whatever. Do you boo boo).  Morocco was croissants and fruit.  Bulgaria was banitsa.  Serbia was pastries and cappuccinos.

Hanoi is all about salty and savory.  The items you’d eat for breakfast you may as well call lunch or dinner, because you can also eat them for lunch or dinner.

 

Exhibit A: Banh Mi


This is a Vietnamese street food sandwich – a baguette with pork or chicken and pickled veggies.  This was my first breakfast in Vietnam, and I was feeling a little odd about such a heavy start to the day so I ordered an egg and cheese banh mi.  DELISH.

 

Exhibit B: Banh Cuon

 

This is a steamed rice roll filled with mushrooms and ground pork, topped with crispy onions with a miso dip.  They make the rolls like a crepe, which is fun to watch.  I wasn’t super confident in this breakfast at first – not the food, but the fact I was eating it at 9am.  Luckily it was very good, but personally I’d rather enjoy this for lunch.  Will be going back.

 

 

Exhibit C: Smoothie


More my speed, happy to find this place on the walk to work.  Spinach, Mango, Banana.

 

Exhibit D: Vietnamese Coffee


This is crack.  Plain and simple.

 

Who knows what I’ll be eating tomorrow, might have to try Pho for breakfast.  Stay tuned.

Bran Castle

I spent Halloween weekend at Dracula’s Castle in Romania. WHAT EVEN IS MY LIFE RIGHT NOW.

You may not know this about me (unless you knew my nerdy self in college) but I went though a Victorian lit phase which conveniently coincided with my major.  My junior and senior year at Bucknell I was taking exclusively English and Psychology coursework, and I had a lot of fun combining principles and themes in my term papers.  So here I was, second semester senior year in a 19th Century English class and a Beauty and Attraction Psych course. Out of this combo came my term paper on sexual undertones in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  And now I’ve seen his castle.  Boom.

I dug through old emails on the bus ride back from Romania and miraculously found the paper (which I circulated to many friends.  I told you – I’m a nerd).  I had a good read, cringing at some of the wording but also remembering what it felt like to write in an academic manner as my writing now is all business (and blog) oriented. As I continue to expand my portfolio as a content writer, it’s fun to look back and see how my writing has varied over time.

While discussing the history of vampires in said paper, I referenced the country of Serbia.  I laughed out loud reading this – there I was, 22 years old, about to graduate with no specific career plan but a vague interest in HR, and no idea that later in life I would actually be living in Serbia and visiting Romania and Bran Castle.  Gotta love it.

Back to my weekend:

  • Castle ‘tour’ which I’m sure would be better had it not been insanely crowded
  • Giant tent dance party till sunrise
  • We did not make it to sunrise
  • I have GoPro footage that will never see the light of day
  • Unless I am bribed
  • I like beer and chocolate

 

All in all, 24 hours of bus travel for the most unique and memorable Halloween ever. Love this crew.



48 Hours in Sofia

Sofia, Bulgaria deserves to be highlighted as an incredible place to live and visit.  It is beautiful yet affordable, deliciously sweet yet savory, and has an all-around good vibe.  It needs to have songs written about it and be on everyone’s bucket lists.  But to make it kitschy which would take away from the very essence of Bulgaria’s capital, and I’m jealously guarding this place for myself.  Stay away.

 

If you for some reason don’t take my advice, here’s what to do if you have two days in Sofia.

 

Day One

Find a bakery and eat banitsa.  Egg, yogurt, cheese, and butter in between flaky layers of filo dough baked in the oven.  Savory goodness and very traditional.

Banitsa

 

Wander the city.  Sofia is extremely walkable and flat, so walk up to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and go inside (donation-based entrance fee).  Walk a little further south to the Stefan Stambolov monument (in a park), and ponder getting an axe to the head.  Then walk south down to Vitosha Boulevard, the main commercial street in Sofia.  A little touristy but worth seeing, and worth the view of the Vitosha mountain in the background.

Nevsky Cathedral

 

Grab lunch – find a place where you can have a good shopska salad, which is similar to a Greek salad with less olives and using a different type of cheese.

Shopska Salad

 

Take the free walking tour of Sofia with a company called – you guessed it – Free Sofia Tour.

Walking Tour

 

Eat dinner at Lavanda and don’t skip the dessert.

LaVanda

 

Walk a little further down to Hambara, which is technically an event venue in order to sneak around fire regulations, but is really a candlelit bar.  Order a glass of rakia and a local beer.

 

Hambara

Day Two

Grab baklava for breakfast, order a sandwich to-go and take a cab to the Vitosha Mountain.  Ride the gondola up to a hiking trail, explore the mountain, eat your sandwich at the summit, and then enjoy a hot coffee or cold beer at the lodge on the way down.

Hiking glamour shot

 

Take a nap.  Naps are essential. Bonus points if you have a cat.

Naps are for winners

 

Dinner at Nikolas.

Dinner at Nikolas

 

Find an outdoor table at The Cocktail Bar, order a goblet of strawberry rhubarb Gin and Tonic, soak in the Bulgarian night air, and extend your stay.

Goblet