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June and Derek
June originally hails from Blairgowrie in the East of Scotland, and Derek from Newtonmore in the Highlands.

We first visited Bulgaria in 1987 and the allure of this beautiful country and the friendly people captivated us. After many visits we decided on a change of lifestyle and June resigned from her job in
Lyubo leading the dancing at PenBro
Market Research and Derek took early retirement after 32 years as an agricultural biologist.

Since 1987, Lyubo and family had become close friends, and with their invaluable assistance we bought our house in Banya in 2001 and settled here in July 2002. We renovated the house, and with Lyubo we established our company PenBro (Penev & Brown) and built the ApartHOTEL.

June with "friends"
As the first "foreigners" to settle in Banya we were quickly adopted by the local Valley community, and we insist that nothing must change as it is essential we adapt to the local and Bulgarian lifestyle and culture.

The Bon Apeti crew with June at PenBro (Ivan Zvezdev bottom left)
We are now very privileged to have many close and dear local friends in the Valley, and to be referred to as "Banyans". This has provided us with a unique insight and knowledge of the local area and people and we enjoy sharing this with our visitors. Whilst learning Bulgarian is undoubtedly difficult we have discovered that we are learning the local dialect. For us this is special, as when we travel around Bulgaria and practice our "Bulgarian" we are frequently identified as coming from the Bansko area through our use of the local dialect.

Shortly after arriving in Banya, June was invited as a guest cook on Bon Apeti, the premier Bulgarian television cookery series hosted by international chef Ivan Zvezdev. June became a media star through her now famous "Scottish whisky soup"! We have also had a Bulgarian television documentary made about our settling in a small mountain village community and how our "neighbours" feel about the Scottish couple coming to live amongst them.

We have been interviewed by many Bulgarian newspapers and travel magazines, asking why we choose Banya and Bulgaria our new home. We have come to appreciate that first and foremost it is the friendly local people, but also the magnificent nature, the superb naturally grown food, the fantastic Bulgarian wines, and the lifestyle and culture that collectively are the reasons we enjoy our new life.

Derek was invited to become Director of the College of Tourism that opened in Bansko in 2003, and along with several Expats from the UK and Germany and some Bulgarian friends, he is a founder member of the European Bulgarian Open Society (EBOS). EBOS was established to provide opportunities for Expats and Bulgarians and for business people to meet informally to facilitate and promote social and business links.