Airports: One Down, Eight to Go

Because I would be visiting nine airports on my journey, I decided to make the most of each one – to make them travel destinations in and of themselves. A spot of shopping here, a special drink or meal there … you get the picture. A two-hour delay at Sydney Airport seemed to reinforce my plan.

My first delightful discovery was the Lonely Planet Concept Store, which apparently opened in 2009 (the first one in the world) and has eluded me on my previous visits to the airport’s international terminal. (My husband does have a tendency of making me run for flights, seriously limiting time for shopping.) The store is a great airport idea and extension of the brand, I think. It peddles the company’s famous guidebooks (alas, they didn’t have a pocket Bulgaria guide!), as well as other travel gadgets and comforts and interactive experiences.

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The Lonely Planet Store, Sydney Airport International Terminal

With my editorial background, it’s also difficult for me to go past any airport bookseller or newsagent without perusing the magazine covers and the latest bestsellers. (Hungry Expat Note: Australian bookstores still feel like foreign places to me, as the cover art on books here is so different from the familiar fonts and themes I came to recognise in the US.) And though I have largely converted to reading on a Kindle, I think it’s an important travel tip to pick up a physical magazine or two to get you through those slow-moving take-off and landing times that require you to turn off all electronic devices. For this trip, I grabbed the latest issue of Gourmet Traveller Wine and the launch issue of Taste.com.au, a new print magazine based on the Aussie recipe website.

I wandered by the Victoria’s Secret. It’s the only one I know of in Australia, only it doesn’t sell lingerie – just perfumes, lotions, and other toiletries. Still … it smells nice.

When it was time to pick up a snack for the plane, I purchased a pouch of my newest guilty pleasure, which I blame on my beloved South African friends – biltong! At the same Good Food & Wine Show that would be the catalyst for this European trip, I also spent an inordinate amount of time at The Biltong Man booth, sampling as many flavours of this jerky-like delicacy as I could. With its headquarters in nearby Mascot, perhaps I should not have been surprised to find The Biltong Man right where I needed him in the international terminal.

I was now well and truly ready for my long Qantas flight to Singapore – and so, finally, was the plane.

The Hungry Expat Bites into Bulgaria

Back in June, I had the good sense to visit the Sydney Good Food & Wine Show , where the event’s Cheese Alley beckoned my inner (and outer) cheese addict. What’s more, I had the good fortune to meet Elio Litti, a representative for the EU Dairy Daily, a three-year program that aims to promote Bulgarian – yes, Bulgarian – dairy products in both Australia and the United Arab Emirates. Now, the UAE, I could understand. One thinks of camels, not cows, deserts, not dauphinoise, in the land of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. But wanting to gain a foothold in Australia, which already boasts 6,700 dairy farmers and a thriving $13 million dairy industry? How were the EU Dairy Daily and the Bulgarian Association of Dairy Processors going to do that? I was keen to learn more.

And learn more I would. A couple of weeks after my fateful meeting with Elio, I received an invitation to be a delegate on the EU Dairy Daily’s next mission, to, you guessed it – Bulgaria! I would join two other Australian bloggers, an Aussie dietitian, and a handful of delegates from the UAE, among them a cheese importer (my new best friend?), an executive chef, and several businessmen.

For five days in September, I would come to learn a great deal about the Bulgarian dairy industry and its prides and joys, from white-brine cheese, to kashkaval, to its famous yoghurt. But so much more than that, I learned about the country’s interesting and challenging history, its people, the remarkable cities of Sofia and Plovdiv, the land’s beautiful countryside, and its food as a whole. In the coming weeks, follow me on my epic and tasty trip (nine airports in 12 days!) to Bulgaria. I also threw in a long weekend in Milan, Italy, for good measure (though not for my waistline!), where it was a continuing festival of food and friendship. I hope you’ll join me.

BulgariaBlog1Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria