What I Got Up To
This month I hit a cool milestone: Jordan is my 30th country on the TCC list!
I spent the first half of March exploring a little more of Bulgaria with day trips to Plovdiv and Rila Monastery. I also spent time enjoying Sofia with a trip to the National Gallery and an evening at the Sofia International Film Fest.
The second half of March was even more exciting-my first trip to the Middle East! I went to the TBEX International conference, which was held in Jerusalem this year. I used this work conference as an excuse to get off my ass and finally start exploring a new region of the world (conveniently located within easy distance of my new base). All in all, I was in Jerusalem for a week (with a day trip to the West Bank) and I’ve been in Jordan for another week (split between Amman and Wadi Musa).
Pic of the Month
My most popular pic on Instagram was this one of an ancient gate from my trip to Plovdiv, Bulgaria:
My most popular pic on Facebook is this view of the Old City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives:
- Plovdiv & Rila, Bulgaria
- Jerusalem, Israel
- Jericho, Ramallah, and Bethlehem, Palestine
- Amman and Wadi Musa, Jordan
- Seeing Petra!
Petra at night last night. One of the places I've always wanted to see, and it was just as good as I thought! 🚨🚨🚨 Contest alert: I'm going to buy a tacky Petra refrigerator magnet for me and one for one of you guys. Just leave a note on this picture and tell me one place you've always wanted to travel. Contest is open for the next 24 hrs. Update: Congratulations @clairestiefel for winning the drawing! Thanks you to everyone who entered!
- Having an entire ancient Roman village to myself while visiting Um er-Rasas.
- Visiting the Dome of the Rock and seeing all the different groups of people visiting.
- Attending my first conference specifically for travel bloggers and meeting awesome people who have the same interests (and headaches) as me.
- Visiting Palestine. It was a heavy day, but very beautiful and rewarding.
Banksy Street Art on a Bethlehem car wash wall in the West Bank in Palestine. By the end of my day in Palestine I was in tears. Seeing the wall that goes through Bethlehem and going to the museum in Banksy's Walled Off Hotel was really moving and heavy. I wish everyone could just go see what it would be like to have a wall go through your town. I put a link 🔝 to a video about my day yesterday. It's mostly about how beautiful and historic the West Bank is.
- The light show at the Tower of David in Jerusalem called the Tower of David Night Spectacular. IT BLEW MY MIND.
- Finally seeing Plovdiv! I had scheduled to go there three different times when I was in Bulgaria last year, but I never made it. In March I went for a day trip from Sofia and really loved the city. It’s over 6000 years old and has the most preserved ancient Roman Theater in existence. We ate a pleasant lunch outside on one of the first nice spring days, and then we did the free walking tour.
- Seeing Hair at the Sofia International Film Fest. One of the stars of the movie spoke beforehand, and I was surprised how much the movie resonated with me. It’s a super-hippy anti-war musical. I hadn’t seen it before, but I dug it. (Plus Norma from Orange is the New Black is in it and she talks!)
- Going to the Al-Pasha Turkish Bath (my first Turkish Bath) while in Amman. I left with super scrubbed, clean skin. And it was wonderful getting a massage after walking around the cobblestones of Jerusalem the week before.
- Smoking Shesha and drinking lemon mint at the Jafra Cafe in Amman. I hung out at this café three times because I loved the atmosphere so much (and the food was great too!).
- My first day in Jerusalem. I spent the entire day lost, missed my tours I was supposed to go on, and ended up having a minor meltdown. I’ll tell the full story in a separate post, but it was one of my worst days traveling solo. Luckily, everything was fine by about 9am the next morning.
- My hostel in Jerusalem. You get what you pay for (and Jerusalem isn’t a cheap city to travel in). The place was adequate and the employees were nice, but my room was so tiny and dingy, my bathroom (I had a single with a bathroom) was just a toilet and a hose (not even a hook to hang it from), and I accidentally set fire to one of my socks on the heater. It felt like being in a thin-walled coffin. The upside was that because I was there for a conference, I didn’t have much time to spend there anyway.
- Not understanding how Shabbat works in Israel. The public buses don’t run, so I ended up burning a day in Jerusalem instead of having an extra day in Jordan. This meant I had to drop seeing the Dead Sea from my itinerary.
- The town of Wadi Musa. This is the town that Petra is in, and I used it as my base for my visit to Wadi Rum as well. I loved Amman, but I found Wadi Musa a gross tourist trap where nearly everyone I met was trying to scam tourists. This took away some of the magic of seeing Petra and Wadi Musa, unfortunately. I far preferred the people and atmosphere of Amman.
- The way taxi drivers operate in Jordan. I’ve handled my share of scam taxi drivers in Bulgaria, Israel, and elsewhere. But Jordan was on a whole different level. One driver picked up a hitchhiker and didn’t tell me why, just talked to him in Arabic and only explained who he was after we dropped him off. Another spent a lot of time sexually harassing me. A third spent eight hours (8 freaking hours) trying to sell me on the next job and took me to places I didn’t ask to go so he could get commission off taking me. It was just too much. One of these incidents wouldn’t have fazed me, but all of them combined at the tail-end of a two-week trip was exhausting and demoralizing. (Although the taxi company that drove me from the Sheik Hussein bridge to Amman the first night was professional and pleasant).
My most popular post in March was Explore Brooklyn Like a Local: 18 Things to Do in Park Slope which covers all the amazing things to do in Park Slope brought to you by ten-year Brooklyn resident and my bff Ashley.
Other March Posts:
- 7 Places to Make Awesome Friends While Traveling Solo
- Why Skyline Drive is My Favorite American Highway
- Millennial Traveler Bingo
- Celebrating 5 Working Women Artists on International Women’s Day
- Life Update: Why I’m Making Sofia My Home Base
- UNESCO World Heritage Site #12: Seventeenth-Century Canal Ring Area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht (The Netherlands)
- UNESCO World History Site #37: Rila Monastery (Bulgaria)
- UNESCO World Heritage Site #40: Hallstatt-Dachstein / Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape (Austria)
- UNESCO World Heritage Site #43: Budapest, including the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue (Hungary)
- February 2017: Adventures & Expenses
- January 2017: Adventures & Expenses
Travels with Lucy
This was the first month since April, 2016 where Lucy didn’t go on a trip with me. She stayed in Bulgaria while I went to the Middle East. Instead she got lots of time at the dog park and walks around the neighborhood. I think this is better for her at the moment, but she’ll go on some trips around Bulgaria with me this spring and summer.
March By the Numbers
- Steps: 172K
- New Books Purchased: 13
- Bowls of Hummus: 10
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites: 7
- Kanafeh Slices: 5
- Houses of Worship Visited: 5
- Beds: 5
- Countries: 4
- Walking Tours: 3
- Ancient Roman Theaters Spotted: 2
- Airports: 2
- Continents: 2
- Spa Visits: 1
- Mexican Restaurants: 0 =(
- English Books by Bulgarian Authors (Especially Miroslav Penkov’s East of the West: A Country in Stories)
- Date Palms
- This New Books Network interview with the author of the new The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary
- Yemeni and Iraqi food
- Young M.A.
- My new tacky refrigerator magnet collection
My Favorite Pic
Pictures of people always bomb on Instagram, but I like to share them because I want everyone to see what people around the world are actually like. I love this picture of a group of young women I saw visiting the Dome of the Rock. Some people say women who choose to wear a hijab are choosing to be submissive and silent, fading into the background. But looking at these ladies, despite the fact that they’re wearing nearly identical clothing and headscarves, it’s impossible not to see a wide array of foreceful personalities.
I have twenty days left on my Bulgarian tourist visa, so I’m going to chill in Sofia and catch up on the backlog of projects I have for this blog. Then later this month I’ll be exploring Romania and Moldova. I also have some Bulgarian day trips planned to cities I’ve wanted to go for a while.