'Fabulous guide' in Bulgaria

By Michael Weil
This item appears on page 47 of the October 2018 issue.

My wife and I had visited over 50 countries but had never hired a private guide for more than a day trip. After considering some of the challenges of reaching remote places in Bulgaria, and having read in ITN about the guide Patrick Peneff (www.bulgariaprivateguide.com), we decided to take the plunge. We are delighted that we did!

My communications with Patrick began about six months before our March 15-25, 2018, visit to Bulgaria. From our initial email exchange, it was clear this was someone I could easily work with.

Because of the relatively short lead time, he was unable to join us until day three of our 11-day tour, but he had his friend Martin take us to Rila Monastery and show us the sights of Sofia on our first two days. Martin was excellent.

After meeting us at our apartment the next morning, Patrick took extraordinarily good care of us. Nothing was too much trouble, and changes to the itinerary could be made on the fly. He kept us very busy, but he also was good about slowing down when he sensed we were getting tired.

We wanted to see many of the country's classic sites as well some of what Patrick considered the best off-the-beaten-track ones, thus we took a circular tour of the country, seeing such sites as Rila Monastery and Boyana Church while also visiting the Eagle Rock Thracian niches and Devil's Bridge.

A freak snowstorm prevented us from getting to the Ancient City of Nessebar. Patrick didn't miss a beat. He got us safely to our overnight destination, Varna, and made sure we had a quality experience. We did a walking tour of the pedestrian area and later, on a pier overlooking the Black Sea, had an excellent seafood dinner at the restaurant Captain Cook (Morska Gara, Varna; phone +359 0882 999 002, www.captaincook.bg [Bulgarian only]).

We had told Patrick that we were interested in smaller hotels rather than big, 5-star operations. His choices far exceeded our expectations. All were clean, quiet and comfortable and had bathrooms en suite.

Most of the hotels we stayed in had only a few rooms, and, due to his friendship with the owners and because we were there off-season, we often had the best room (or suite). In one hotel, we even had a 4½-hour home-cooked dinner with the owner and his family! This experience, along with a couple of other home visits, made the trip very special.

As for costs, $3,400 included our lodging, most breakfasts and guide services. Lunches and dinners were on our own, although in most cases Patrick joined us and paid his own way. Site entry fees were not included but did not amount to much.

Patrick was not only a fabulous guide, he was also an interesting and pleasant travel companion. By the end of the trip, we thought of him as a friend.


Maplewood, MN