Going on Vacation – When Everything Goes Wrong – Guest Entry by Miri – Part One

Hey guys, this is Miri. I recently went on a trip to Bulgaria with my mother, and what looked like a wonderful, relaxing trip to the ocean turned out more or less a complete failure. But let’s start at the beginning.

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How it began

January this year, my mother and I decided to go on vacation together. We’d flown to Egypt together back in 2012, and that turned out to be one of the most beautiful trips I’ve ever made. It started with a negative event, because originally my sister had booked the trip and wanted to go with my mother, but briefly before they were scheduled to leave, her then-boyfriend (now husband) had a motorcycle accident, so she stayed and I got to go on the trip in her stead.

Now. Egypt was a dream, but it was way too expensive for my mom and me. So was Spain. The travel agent we were corresponding with suggested Bulgaria, a place we had never considered before. She said that Albena is a hotel city, but that it has a beautiful beach, and that she had been at this particular hotel before and that it was up to standards. The hotel had four and a half stars, and the entire trip was really cheap, so we agreed. We picked September because the summer holidays would be over by then and off-season vacations are infinitely more comfortable (less people, lower price).

Cut to eight months later. About three weeks before our flight, we got a call from the travel agency, saying that our hotel had been overbooked and that we would be relocated to the hotel next door. I asked which consequences this would have, and we were promised that the only consequence would be that we would be sleeping in a different hotel with basically the same standards (half a star less), that we would be allowed to use all facilities of our original hotel (restaurants, pool area etc.), and that our new room would still have a balcony with ocean view. It still sounded like an acceptable arrangement, but really we didn’t have any other choice if we still wanted to go on vacation, so we said, okay, we’ll do it. There wouldn’t have been any other way but cancelling and getting our money back on such short notice, and we really needed that vacation.

Now the next thing that happened didn’t directly have anything to do with the trip. About a week before our flight, my father was involved in a terrible accident and sustained a number of potentially lethal injuries. I don’t want to go into too much detail, just know that he will be fine, it will just take a while until he’s healed. The point is that, a week before our flight, there was yet another thing to be considered. Should we really go on vacation while my father was hospitalized? Then again, there wasn’t much we could do either way. The accident occurred very far away from home, and the hospital he was taken to by the rescue helicopter was even further away, so that it took a 2-hour drive just to get to him, and neither me nor my mother have a driver’s license. Thus, visiting him was almost impossible, and we could be either worried about him at home, or worried about him by the ocean. My mother was agonizing over the decision, while I was not, at least not a lot, because the accident had been partially his fault, I felt, and I was (am) rather angry with him. Eventually, my mother decided that she still wanted to go because, as I said, there wasn’t anything we could do, and we had been looking forward to this trip since January.

The Hotel

Thus, we flew to Bulgaria. The first thing we realized upon arrival at the hotel was that our room was absolutely tiny. Sure, we had a balcony with a view of the ocean, and that was beautiful, no doubt about it. Still, our room was basically a large bed with a door. There was a small couch, and a small table, and in-between those there was a small space for moving around, and that was that. Well, okay, we wouldn’t be spending too much time in this room anyways, since it was only for watching some Netflix (we were on season six of Orange Is The New Black at the time) and sleeping. Life on vacation takes place outside the hotel, so who cares if the room is smaller than advertised?

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The bathroom was nice, with a very spacious shower, the door of which didn’t close completely, so you had to adjust the shower head in a certain direction so as to not cause a flood, which I discovered that first day. There was a small bundle of hairs in the shower when we moved in, which stayed there the entire time until we moved out, so I reckon the shower wasn’t cleaned once while we were there. There really wasn’t much cleaning going on, as far as I could tell. The guy responsible for cleaning the rooms on our floor (we bumped into him a couple times in the hallway) apparently only folded our blankets and left it at that. I think he at least cleaned the toilet, but I’m not one hundred percent sure.

However, our room wasn’t terribly dirty to begin with. It wasn’t like a cesspool of diseases or anything. I reckon the rooms were cleaned thoroughly whenever someone moved out. I would have just wished for some more rigorous cleaning while we were there. Well, anyway. Our towels were replaced every day, which was nice, except for the towel used to stand on when getting out of the shower, which was only replaced when we explicitly asked for it at the reception desk. People were nice when talked to, but otherwise not especially forthcoming, which didn’t bother me at all.

The Food

The food, however, is another story entirely. The restaurant at our new hotel offered food which was absolutely inedible. It looked old and greasy, it tasted old and greasy, and we were told by another resident that the same dishes served for lunch were still there for dinner. So necessarily, we tried the restaurant at our original hotel. The food there was better, although for lunch the quality was usually better than at dinner time. Breakfast was always good. The problem here was connected to the reason why we were staying at another hotel than our original one. The travel business who had overbooked the hotel and relocated us to another one had done the same thing with who knows how many other people, and since the food at the other hotel was disgraceful, everybody was eating at the original hotel. The result was that not only the hotel’s actual residents were eating there, but dozens of other people, too. Obviously, that meant that the restaurant was hopelessly overextended.

For breakfast, coffee cups were a rare and valued currency. For lunch and dinner, getting your hands on some cutlery that included knives and forks at the same time was a fight for survival. The best meals (the chicken was usually the best) were always reserved for the ones who could run the fastest. If I’m making it sound kind of apocalyptic, that is genuinely how it was. After the first two days, my mother and I cracked the code of how to eat: for breakfast, you had to be the first there, so we got up early and trudged over to the restaurant unshowered and barely awake. That way, not only did we get a coffee cup and saucer, we also found a place to sit, which also was never to be taken for granted.

For lunch and dinner, you could never be first, because it would be so crowded you could barely move, let alone find a place to sit, or cutlery. Or plates, or clean glasses. At one point, my mother got a glass that still had dish soap in it. I’ve never seen a white wine with so many bubbles. So for lunch and dinner, you had to wait at least an hour after the official start of dining time before entering the restaurant. Usually, we waited about an hour and a half. The advantages of that were numerous. First, some of the dishes had been emptied by our predecessors and refilled, so the food was warm when we got there. Second, rush hour was over, so we usually found a place to sit. The cutlery issue was omnipresent, and I couldn’t find a solution for that except theft, so on more than one occasion I stole cutlery from reserved tables. No choice in the matter.

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