Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Open Wide and Bite

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After seeing this venue being "trialed" on an ExPat group site, we decided to give it a shot. Having pulled pork on the menu was the clinching factor.

Clean, simple decor with most of the seating along the right hand wall, prepares you for enjoying the food, without being overly stimulated by the scenery.

Our server apologized that the menu was only in Hungarian. This could be a major drawback for the traveler and hopefully it will be rectified in the near future after their trial run is completed. We could read the menu so we ordered the New York and Roasted Pulled Pork sandwiches.

What arrived were mounds of shredded pork piled onto a cushiony bun baked on the premises. The pork had some BBQ sauce, a dab of relish; each had a small side of coleslaw, and a generous portion of French fries. There was no way to bite into the sandwich without first cutting it in half.

It only took one bite to transcend into ecstasy. This is without a doubt the best pulled pork sandwich I have eaten, including those in the US. By the time I had consumed the first half of the sandwich, I was full. However, the second deadly sin - gluttony, forced me to finish the rest of the meal. The French fries were cut with a V-blade, not my favorite. Much of the potato is cut out leaving little flavor and an overly crunchy French fry. The coleslaw, on the other hand, was heavenly. It was so fresh tasting; you could imagine the cabbage having been shredded minutes before being served.

To accompany the meal, we had a lager craft beer, locally made. It had an incredible bite to it that satisfied our thirst while stimulating the taste buds enriching the food's flavors.

Trying to replicate American cuisine, the majority of the menu items are various types of burgers and pulled pork sandwiches. There are some Mexican food choices such as burritos and quesadillas. They had my heart at pulled pork.

Adding to the overall pleasure was the excellent service. We were well cared for without being doted on. Our first server was willing to do any translation of the menu if needed.


We wish them well; we will return with friends.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Humor Me

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In my case, it is after I hit Publish. Either way, until this blog becomes a paying venture, you will just have to overlook mistakes. I am a better editor when there is a financial reward. I am kind of like Pavlov's dogs in that respect. 



 

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Thinking Outside the Box Yet Again

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Desperate times call for desperate measures as the saying goes. I could say that I have begun feeling a bit of desperation creeping into my life. For the last year or more, I have sensed my creative side had been on the wane. In an attempt to refresh or reboot my creativity, I read a half dozen books on the topic. Still, my creative mind was as sharp as an overripe cantaloupe.

Without having university courses to prepare for has given me much time for exploration. With this in mind, after investigating print on demand companies, I decided to contract with Zazzle. The concept is easy. After creating a design, it gets uploaded to my virtual store where I then apply it to any number of products running the full range - A to Z. When someone orders from my site, Zazzle creates the final product, delivers it, and guarantees your satisfaction. Then, I get a small commission. 

This may not make me rich, but it has helped my creative side. In order to showcase the line of products, I have created a different blog BudgetNomad World Store which you can find here. Do start with the Global Shopping page to find the URL in or closest to your country to reduce shipping costs.

There are other money making ideas in the works revolving around shopping, so keep tuned.

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Nostalgia Lasts a Lifetime

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Nostalgia comes in many forms. Our friends Bill and Walker sent this video about the 1950s. Cultural icons, even fads, last for more than a few years, but the memories they create continues for a lifetime. 

Some of the pictures in this video literally brought tears of happiness thinking back to times of less stress, less worry and being oblivious to the problems of the world around me.

Enjoy scenes from my childhood. I was an avid reader and collector of all the comic books shown. The automat was my favorite restaurant treat in NYC.

I am curious as to which pictures create a clueless association for some people. There are things shown without a reference to what they were used for, so it may be confounding. Hit me up with an e-mail (drryanjames@gmail.com) if you cannot find the answer.


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Monday, September 08, 2014

Traveling with Critters

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We have a couple here from Melbourne, Australia as B and B guests. They were due to arrive a day earlier, but they were unfortunate to have been victimized by an air traffic controller strike in Florence, Italy. It only lasted for 2 hours, but enough time to disrupt the entire schedule. They arrived the next day after the airline bused them to Bologna, putting them up in a hotel.

They settled in and went out to see the city, but first presented us each with a Bubi bottle. I have had these on our Wish List for the longest time. It was a thrill to get them; they refused reimbursement, which was even more surprising.

They had left their bedroom doors open so as Ron went into the bathroom to start some laundry, he caught a glimpse of their bed and called me. Later, Jamie showed us a card game he customized as a gift for Susan. Each card had the picture of one of her numerous stuffed animals. They travel with 3 of their critters in tow.

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Color Me Abstract

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There seems to be an evolution of public murals being painted on sides of buildings. Bland, grey concrete walls are being transformed into visually appealing masterpieces. 

There are a few around that are magnificently realistic causing the observer to take a second look before realizing it is a painted surface. 

Most recently, we witnessed the scaffolding being assembled on our street, within our block. This is the result. It is modern, abstract, interesting mix of colors; it reminds me of E.T. 

In Progress
Completed project
On the opposite side of the building, another painting is in progress. I will be curious to see the result.
Mural 2 just starting

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Friday, September 05, 2014

ImmiGracious

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Our friend Dan had to go to immigration this last week. He came across this sign and snapped a picture.


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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

With Sympathy ~ Annette Schneider Smith

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My last years of high school were spent in New Lothrop, Michigan where I attended St. Michaels High School. There was no apostrophe, before anyone writes to correct me.

These years were some of the best of my youth, even when being an active gay teen in a town with a population of 1,000 people was at times devastating. My entire graduating class was 52 students, but one young man died in a car crash before we reached our senior year.

All of students were related by less than seven degrees of separation in this farming community. I was not only from out of town, I was from out of state making me a rare anomaly. They loved when I spoke because they enjoyed razzing me about my accent. The sound of their speech was out of place for me too, but since my father was from this area, it did not quite sound as foreign to me.

When we graduated, the school closed up. There was an initiative passed in Michigan that cut all funding to private schools. It was many years before I returned to Michigan and even longer for a class reunion. Being our class was so small it came upon one or two people with the motivation to get something rolling. I attended the 26th year reunion with Ron in tow. No one thought about a 25th year reunion until it was too late. There was some hesitation in bringing my male partner to meet my former classmates in this very conservative Catholic community. He was a hit. The only thing they objected to was his little ponytail that he sported at the time.

Today, I received word that a second classmate has passed away: Annette Schneider Smith. I am deeply saddened by this news. Our classmate Karen Wenzlick is always excellent about keeping us informed with all classmate events. Regardless of the short time spent with these people, they contributed to the person I am today for which I am grateful.

Using Firefox, Chrome, and IE try to find the obituary online, the connection timed out making it a useless and frustrating experience. I called the funeral home in Michigan to explain where I live, who Annette was to me and what I hoped to achieve. The young woman who answered the phone said she was just on the funeral home site without an issue. After assuring her that I used every Google tool to find the various ways to infiltrate their database, it was useless. She then offered to send me the information. After offering many platitudes of thanks, I hung up and waited.

After refreshing my mail several times with impatience, her mail finally arrived. This is what she sent.
www.thenameofthefuneralhome.com
I hope this works!

She did insert the real URL, but I changed it not to cause embarrassment. I had one of those HOLY COW ~ DUH!! hit my forehead in exasperation times.

Well, after several more e-mails, she finally came through.


Annette, I have not seen you in years. We have not been in touch, but you still live on in my heart and wonderful school memories.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Absolutely Fabulous

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At the risk of bragging, but hell, why not...the party was fabulous. We ended up with 19 people. Scheduled for 6-9pm, people started arriving at 5:45 and stayed until 10pm. Most of the Fulbrighters who came were probably under 30 with 2 exceptions. All but 2 were non-professors. Two of them brought their husbands. A third was to bring her husband, but he didn’t make it. Two others sent a Yes RSVP, but did not show. It was wonderful to have such a turnout!

Our friend Kat helped out by making prosciutto egg muffins for me the day before. I created my usual artichoke dip, which turned out different (I am guessing it was the Hungarian cream cheese). I wrapped bacon around dates and dried apricots, then broiled them. 

Originally, I was going use a cookie cutter on the pizza dough to make mini serving sized pizzas. The only non-Christmas cookie cutters I could find were hearts, so I went with that. Unfortunately, even after partially freezing the dough, it would not pull away from the cut portion. As a last resort, the pizza sheets of tomato and spinach pesto were cut into squares.

To round it off, we had mango chutney with cranberries over cream cheese, duck liver pâté, peppers stuffed with goat cheese, and then the usual snacks including pretzels, peanuts, cheese sticks, and assorted crackers. Everything was a hit!

Ron had visited TourInform and the transport offices. He had a new transport map, Funzine magazine, bicycle map, culture schedule, and some other things for each person to take home when they left. It was a smashing success. 


Of course, I hardly left the kitchen other than to serve, but I was happiest doing it. My Italian heritage invokes my love to feed people. The food was divided between the living room and the kitchen, so I was able to socialize with those who ventured forth.

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Monday, September 01, 2014

Party Time

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Each year we try to host some type of welcome for the Fulbright group coming to Hungary. Generally, we wait until the end of their orientation, but years past have shown this is not the prime time. Not all of the incoming group will be working in Budapest, so after they finish orienting themselves, they take off for various parts of the country. Some, never to be seen again, but us at least. 

This year, we wizened up and are hosting it pre-in-service. It worked. We have 26 people coming tonight. 

Busy times!

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Slow Cooker That Time Forgot

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For a few years now, I have been missing my slow cooker that is sitting in storage in NJ. Not that it would be useful here; a convertor would be needed and then it would be iffy if it would work at all. Checking every store numerous times, I had never found one.

Then Geoff Riddle, the visiting beau of Kat McFadden who is stationed here for her work, found a source for me online. I ordered it as soon as we returned from Spain. It was through a web shop, so it took a week to actually arrive. This last Thursday I picked it up, late in the afternoon, at the pick-pont as the e-mailed stated. I was excited to try out my new toy Friday to make our dinner. I had already collected some great slow-cooker recipes.

Thursday evening, the electric went out. We checked the main switch, but it was on. The circuit breakers were all on. Strangely, my computer, the cable box and one floor lamp were the only things in the apartment that were working. After shutting down the computer, Ron switched off all the breakers, only to turn them on again after 10 minutes. Lights once again!

Mid-evening, half way through a movie, the TV went out. That was our big clue the electric went off again. Sure enough it did, but again not the computer or lamp. This time, some of the breakers were down, but only three. Resetting them got us through the night.

Friday, we called three electricians; two of them could not come until Monday. They were out of the city or working other jobs elsewhere. Our last shot was to try our local handymen, one Brit and one Hungarian. E-mailing the Brit first, he responded that he was in England, but to call Attila. Attila was on vacation with his family, but gave us another name and number to call.

We called Laci, who managed to make it here at 7pm on Friday night, a miracle in itself. Within 20 minutes he found the problem and fixed it, telling us to call him if we continued to have problems, but he doubted we would. He complimented the electrician who put in the breaker box, stating he did excellent work. That was 3-4 years ago. Some wires loosened over time causing our current problem.

By this time, we had a full weekend planned, so we could not invite Kat and Dan over for the inaugural dinner. Tonight is the night. I am making Pulled Chicken Parmigianino sandwiches.



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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TripAdvisor Readers Appreciate My Reviews

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Initially, I started writing reviews on TripAdvisor under the BudaBaB account name some time ago. Thinking it may bring readers back to our own reviews on TripAdvisor, it was just a gamble. However, it seems to have worked as we have been getting an increasing number of guests who claim they read about us on TripAdvisor. I have yet to have someone say, “I read one of your reviews and then followed it to BudaBaB.” Perhaps, I am not asking the correct questions.

Regardless, I received these two notes from TA about my reviews.



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Monday, August 18, 2014

Holding Out for Markus!

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Spending so much time at the computer has not only ruined my exercise routine, but it has destroyed a series of chairs besides. Because my computer cabinet has restricted leg room, I find it difficult to find a suitable chair that provides both a comfortable support zone as well as ample height adjustments. Then I discovered Markus.

Markus is the alter ego name for an Ikea chair. Each visit to Ikea, I would give Marcus a spin literally to assess his wheel functions. This would be followed by the up and down motions to see if his hydraulics were quick-fire responsive. Finally, stretching backward, led me to feel secure that Marcus could handle a big man.

What kept Marcus and I apart was his cost~ 44,000 Huf. Yes, he came with a 10 year guarantee, but still, that is mucho dinero. However, while we were in Spain, I received the Ikea newsletter for the Ikea Family members. Low and behold, there was Marcus featured on the very first section of the first page. He was marked down to 34,000 Huf. What a deal to save 10,000 Huf! It was almost enough to make me say a pray the sale would last until we returned to Budapest. 

Tuesday after we returned, I made a special trip to Ikea. There was Marcus sitting on the floor with an oversize AKCIO tag on his shoulder pad. Scribbling down his number to retrieve him later, I continued to shop for smaller items.

Thanks to the Ikea Family card, there was indeed the 10,000 reduction. Without the card, it would not have been sale priced. However, it took two boxes to fit it all together, so there was no way for me to cart it home alone on the metro. Knowing well where to the service department was located; I pushed the trolley with Marcus to the desk. There was no way I could assembly him myself with the hydraulics, so some assembly was definitely required.

Delivery charge: 8,690 Huf

Assembly charge: 14,100 Huf

My 10,000 Huf savings evaporated into thin Swedish air.

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How to Piss Off and Still Enjoy Budapest

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Two somewhat related news bits arrived in my mail this weekend. There has been a strong urge to share.

One has excellently polished photos of Budapest. They are polished to the point of being surrealist in some instances. After 12 years, I have not seen some of these shots as glamorous as portrayed. Take a look at them here.

The other item caught my eye since the title mentions pissing off Hungarians. The universe knows we have been doing that for over 12 years now, mostly unintentionally. Initially, I thought they were picking on Hungarians for which there would be 10 million responses complaining about how maligned they are. To read the "How to Guide" click here. However, it seems this is a series, where evidently, people are easily piss-off-able all over the planet. Good grief, if we could only stop getting pissed off; this would be a better world.
 

Enough said! I just realized that strong urge was really the need for the bathroom and get pissed off!

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Two Chips for Sobriety

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I do enjoy beer, especially craft beers. Recently, I have also learned to enjoy wine. However, when we were on vacation in Spain this last week, I was enjoying both beer and wine too much. Although the beer was good, it was not exceptional; it seemed the only brand available in most places was Cruzcampo Cerveza Pilsen. Regardless, beer beggars cannot be choosers.

Kat found a lovely white wine that we all came to appreciate by the bottles, plural to the higher power.

Knowing what this was doing to my sugar levels, I did get lots of walking in. We cranked out over 70 miles on my pedometer from the morning we left Budapest to the evening of our return. Still, this combined with my lack of the usual two liters of
daily water intake, made me swell like the Michelin tire logo. This is not to say that I am petite by any means at other times, but there were additional rolls, not approved of by any bakers association.

Starting Monday night upon our return, I decided it was time to be alcohol free for the week to regain some healthy state of being. Following the tradition of AA, I decided to reward myself accordingly. Therefore, I have earned my first two daily Chips.

Now, one may contest that this is one Chip and one Dale, but really, they are cut from the same cloth. Let’s toast to this agreement!

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Monday, August 11, 2014

The Photos Have Been Developed

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The photos have been developed. Well not really! Aren't we so lucky these days that we do not have to wait for our photos to be developed? There is something to be said for instant gratification. One drawback of digital photos is that they look differently on different computers. Some shots that look totally spectacular on my desktop computer seem to lose something in the translation when viewed on the laptop or even the other desktop. I know it is all in the video card, but I want everyone to see the photos as I see them at their best.

Here is a reiteration of the trip. First, I joined Homeexchange.com. During my 14-day trial period, I received four offers for places in Europe. Cádiz was the most appealing due to transportation costs getting there and then doing short trips once there. Admittedly, I thought this was going to be a beach resort, which I would find boring as all get-out, but Ron was enthused and when we asked our friend Kat to join us, she was absolutely psyched. After the trial period, we continued getting offers for exchanges, but everyone seemed to want August; we had already committed.


We arrived late on July 31 flying from Budapest to Brussels to Seville. Once there, thanks to our exchange partner, for €6 each we bought Tarjeta Dorada cards. Anyone over 60 receives discounts on the trains.  On Mondays thru Thursdays, the discount is 40%. On Fridays thru Sundays, it is 25%. We did not arrive until late, so our first night was dinner out. After this, we shopped and Kat gleefully cooked dinner every night.
Cádiz is incredible! We, meaning me the non-sun worshipper, loved it heart and soul. There are incredible things to do and see; we did not even touch the surface. The city is completely tourist friendly with four walking tours painted on the streets and sidewalks in differing colors for self-guiding. The two sun bunnies did get their fill also.


We left Cádiz on August 9 to spend one partial day in Madrid. Kat paid €76.20 for her train ticket, while ours were €57.15 each. Leaving for Madrid on the 9am train got us into the city by 1pm. We checked into Hostal Oporto. The location could not be better.


Ron is like a human GPS. He can either briefly look at a map or if he has been somewhere, he remembers how to return to places. We did a lot of walking again.


Finally, we completed the day by having beer and mini sandwiches at Cerveceria 100 Montaditos at Calle Mayor 22, but to complete Kat’s brief Madrid experience we also stopped at Chocolatería San Ginés famous for their hot chocolate and churros since 1894.


Sunday morning, we had an easy walk to the airport bus, where for €5; we were whisked directly to our terminal. Coming home we flew TAP the Portugal airline, so we went from MAD to LIS to BUD. Unfortunately, the layover at LIS was 4 hours, but TAP screwed us by being an hour delayed without any notice. We were home by 8pm with a B and B guest waiting for us at the café around the corner.

Cádiz - Arrived July 31st and left August 9th
http://ryanandronworld.blogspot.hu/2014/08/spain-caadiz.html

Day trip - Puerto de Santa Maria August 3rd
http://ryanandronworld.blogspot.hu/2014/08/spain-puerto-de-santa-maria.html

Day trip - Seville or Sevilla August 5th
http://ryanandronworld.blogspot.hu/2014/08/spain-seville.html

Day trip - Jerez de la Frontera August 7
http://ryanandronworld.blogspot.hu/2014/08/spain-jerez-de-la-frontera.html
Went here for the horse show, but photos were not allowed.

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Thursday, August 07, 2014

No Horsing Around Here - Only Serious Horse Play

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 Thursday was our big day to travel to Jerez. Jerez has become known for two primary things: sherry production and Fundacion Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecusetre. We had tickets for the only show of the day at 12 noon. We could choose between €21 or €27 seats. We chose the cheaper and it turned out to be fortuitous.

Again, due to scheduling, the bus was the best option for getting to Jerez. The trip cost €3.20 each for a one-way, pay the driver if you please, there are no tickets sold at the counter. The ride is a short 40 minutes.
A note about the school first and why we wanted to go…

In plain English the title is The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art Foundation. They breed and train pure Spanish breeds of horses. The show is considered one of the best equestrian ballet shows in the world.
As it turned out, this was the highlight of the day. Our seats were in Section 3 row 5 seats 59, 61, and 63. Directly in front of us was the stairwell, giving us excellent foot freedom to stretch. There were only our 3 seats in our section, providing privacy. Though we were at the end of the ring, we did not miss a thing as most of the action either started or ended by us, but everything at least paraded around.

No one could have described to me in credible terms what these horses could accomplish. I have never seen horses skip, dance the way they did, or jump in the air from all 4 legs at once. The show was 1 ½ hours with a ten minute break. Well worth the time and money to get there. The only downer was there were no pictures or video allowed. They were strict about it too.

We had thought to go sherry tasting afterward, but it was hot and siesta time. Everything closed up until our bus was scheduled at 6pm. I will give just a brief tutorial on sherry, since I did not know anything about sherry.

Sherry is a protected name like Champagne, Port, and Roquefort. Products from out of their designated areas are not legally allowed to use the name on the products. Sherry is from a triangular region in Andalusia including Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María. Produced mainly from the Palomino grape, a white variety, it can have a couple of other grape varieties added for an increase in color or alcohol content. During aging, the wine develops a layer of flor, similar to yeast.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Seville or Sevilla

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Yesterday, Ron and I went to Seville. Kat was supposed to join us, but changed her mind in the morning. I have been budgeting €100 for the 2 of us each day. So far, it has been sufficient, therefore, it did not occur to me that the bus would take a real bite from the wallet.

We did get Tarjeta Durado tickets, which gives a discount for those over 60. For Seville, the savings would have been negligible considering the train is a higher cost to begin with as opposed to the bus. The bus also had more flexible scheduling.
 

Shelling out €44.50 for both of our bus tickets, I quickly started to calculate where the rest of the money might part ways during the day. It was too late to return to the apartment to get more cash. Although our ticket had revuelto on it, our seats were assigned. If this were only a one-way ticket, we were screwed.
The ride to Seville was only 1 hour and 40 minutes. As soon as we arrived, we asked if our ticket included a return. It did, but we needed to commit to a return time and get seat assignments for our choice. We were issued new tickets without a fee.


Both of us were in dire need of a bathroom once we had left the station, so we stopped on the edge of the Prado de Sebastián for a coffee and the use of the facilities. Cha-ching, goes the wallet, but only €3 so not too bad.


As we approached the Plaza de Espaῆa, I noticed the architecture was covered with porcelain tile and embellishments. As we walked to the front, we were blow away by the incredible beauty of the place. Covering the territory of about four city blocks, this humungous building was covered with painted tiles, painted plaques representing each city in Spain, each situated in their own alcove with short tiles walls on either side. In the courtyard was a man-made lake large enough for rented row boats to sail around. There were three bridges over the lake and in the center of all of this, horse drawn carriages traversed around with overjoyed tourists. We spent about two hours here just going from one tile selection to another.


Much of our time here in Sevilla was spent walking around, just gawking at the lovely sites. Ron wanted to go into the Catedral y Giralda Museo Catedrallico. This is the cathedral of the region. From the outside it looks like it can compete with any fabulous church. Inside, I cannot tell you. They wanted €8 entry fee, which I refused to pay for two reasons. 1) I hate paying to see a church that has more gold than some small nations and 2) We were on a tight budget.


There was a caveat though. That day and that day only, there was one chapel open to the public that generally is closed except for exalted occasions. I saw the line and joined it not really knowing what it was for, but if it led me to a cashier’s booth, I could always turn around and leave. It led to this special chapel. I could hear chanting before getting an inside view of the chapel. I could tell the singing included petitions to Mary for this, that, and the other followed by hear our prayer. Inhabitants on Pluto could have heard their prayers; they were so loud. Then the chapel came into view. People were walking up to a porcelain statue of Mary. She was overdressed for the heat and her headdress was larger than her body. Had she been alive, she would have needed a neck brace to not cripple her spine and buttresses on both sides to keep her head straight. Then I noticed what was happening. As each person walked by they kissed her hand where immediately thereafter, a volunteer woman wiped the hand clean with a dry cloth. It did not strike me as very sanitary and I didn’t hear any chant that went “Blessed Virgin, keep me safe from disease after I kiss you hand, because only God knows what germs that last person has left. Hear my prayer!”


No! No! No! I did not do any hand kissing. What I wanted to do was a Mary makeover. She obviously didn’t have any gay men getting her ready for this event. We walked behind the hand kissers and left the chapel. Ron continued on to the church where he begged and pleaded for the concession rate for seniors, which at ½ price was still €4 leaking from our waning budget. I waited across the way.


By now it was mid-afternoon, so hunger hit us. We shopped around for a cheap restaurant, but in this area, it is like trying to find a pregnancy test in church. Settling on one place we reasoned that a regular portion of a dish at €9, which we could share, would be more food than two tapas at €3 each. Our choice, though a good one, was still not worthy of the cost. A smallish bowl arrived with creamed spinach, walnuts and pine nuts served with a basket of bread. This and two small beers set us back another €13.


The real wallet test was going to the Real Alcázares, the oldest royal palace in Europe that is still used. Originating from the XI century, it expanded over the years. Because every culture that conquered the Iberian Peninsula used this as their capital’s kingdom, the architecture reflects the changes in styles. Many parts of the outside reminded me of buildings in Morocco. The kicker was that they charge €9.50 entry fee. Ron was able to pull off his “I am so old, look at me” routine at the cathedral and it worked, but here not so much. They wanted real ID, which we did not think of bringing. We were there and our train was not leaving until 7pm, so we had to suck it up and pay the €19 for the two of us. In the end, I guess it was worth it, but it really hurt to part with that money. 


We did do a great deal of walking around the city. It is lovely and we could easily have spent more time here. Actually, Ron wanted to spend an overnighter here, but I made him realize that the purpose of a home exchange is not to spend money on accommodations.


Before we left, we had another drink and little snack, bringing us down to €7. When we returned to Cadiz, this was just enough to buy some dinner things at the supermarket across the street from the apartment. Food here is very cheap!

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Monday, August 04, 2014

El Puerto de Santa Maria

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Sunday was a lazy day to explore, which is what we did. Following Chris Columbus’s lead, we traveled to El Puerto de Santa Maria, where he launched his 2nd trip to the New World. Unlike Chris, we went by catamaran at a cost of €2.10 each for the 40-minute ride. We sailed across the Bay of Cádiz for a surprisingly long time considering the town is only 6 miles north each of Cádiz.

For the most part, the locals must have had the same sleepy attitude; it was closer to a ghost town than the vibrant tourist spot it is given credit for being. Only those of us leaving the catamaran breathed life into the surrounding areas.


It seemed at first like this was a case of mistaken identity where we had identified this as a place that needed visiting and were wrong. However, after a bit of discovery, we came across a small castle like structure, which was quite admirable. Later the cathedral in the main square was incredibly impressive, albeit it needs major repair. For a hoot and a holler, there were storks nesting on the top in chimneys and other suitable indentations. 


We uncovered the information informing us that Chris Columbus met his pilot, Juan de la Cosa, here. Juan drew the first world map that included the coastline of the New World. Not bad for the year 1500, there is a replica of this map in porcelain tile on a monument.


The streets were for the most part empty of people and traffic. Finding a small café open at the main square, we stopped for a bite. I had chicharrón, one of my favorite foreign foods. Thankfully, my cholesterol report was normal, so I felt safe indulging. These chunks of pork meat with an equal amount of fat were charbroiled and scrumptious. It was here that we tested sherry, as this is purportedly the sherry capital of the world. None of us had great familiarity with sherry before this, but what we sampled was light, refreshing, and worthy of trying. I doubt it will become my drink of choice any time soon.


Wandering into the depths of the town, we encountered a bullring that would compete handily with any coliseum in the world. The tremendous size gave witness to the lust for the sport of bull fighting. Appreciatively, we were between performances, which allowed us to escape the area without manufacturing protest signs declaring cruelty to animals while risking a jail sentence.  

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Saturday, August 02, 2014

Beautiful Cádiz

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We traveled on Brussels Air from Budapest to Brussels to Seville July 31st. Our three-hour plus waiting in Brussels was smoothed over by access to the Diners Club lounge. We offered Kat guest membership, but she said she would be fine going it alone out with the masses. Guilt did gnaw at me for a short time, but I got over it once I relaxed with a Belgium beer on tap. The flights were uneventful, but the seating was spacious; more so on the first leg than the second, but still comfortable.
 

Once we landed, the bus to the train station was efficient. I think it cost us 4 Euros each. It was super crowded, so we stood the entire ride, missed our stop and found ourselves at the end of the line without realizing it. As it turned out, we were not alone, so there were more than the three of us taking the ride back. The driver just shook his head, but did not require more money.
 

Once at Seville, we had to wait forever for train tickets. There was only one person selling them and the line was extensive. The overhead sign said there was a labor strike going on. We caught the train 3 minutes after getting our tickets; perfect timing. Once in Cádiz, we found our home away from home by walking. It took us about 20 minutes, but we were all too cheap to spring for a taxi. Teresa, our exchange partner had a friend, Esperanza, waiting for us. She had her grown daughter with her to explain everything. They were sweet.
 

Teresa had left me a USB Wi-Fi connection. I could not get the damn thing to work at all. It connected, but would not show the connection window to add the password. We went to the store that Teresa told me about if there were a problem, but Francisco, the person I was to ask for, was not there. The woman I spoke with wanted me to bring the computer in. We were going to do that in the evening, but then I tried using a different USB port and it worked fine. Now, my mouse doesn't work, because it only works in one port. Oh well.

Our first night we went to Quilla restaurant, thanks to Esperanza. We were too late to grocery shop, so this was our splurge. Great food, wonderful views of the ocean. This morning we shopped across the street and cooked breakfast here.

Cádiz is nothing like I expected, not that I did any research ahead of time. I leave that to Ron. What I was expecting was fabulous beaches with clean sand, gloriously blue water, and tons of people having fun, but not much more. Well, let me tell you, it is all that and more. There is SO much more, it is rather shocking. There are four historic walking tours marked on the sidewalk color-coded. Each stop on each tour has a well-illustrated sign in Spanish and English. We have yet to do a full walking tour, because we have been busy exploring on our own. We keep saying we will get to it, but we are really staying busy.

No, we have not been spending hours at the beach, though it is tempting. They are free and glorious, but in reality we only went down from 6 to 8pm one evening; we have yet to return. There is so much to do and see. Due to living in an apartment through our home exchange, we have been shopping and cooking dinner each night. An extensive grocery store across the street makes is ultra-convenient. The food prices are incredibly low. We bought a kilo (2.2 lbs.) of delicious tomatoes for 89 Euro cents.


At lunchtime, we are generally too far from home to run back to fix a meal, so we snack out. Ron and I have kept well below our budget of 100 Euros a day for the two of us for all expenses. The apartment we exchanged with is in a perfect location. The beach is just three blocks in one direction and everything else we could need is only a few blocks or more in the other direction.


My only complaint is there is no Internet access in the apartment. I have yet to see an Internet café in the city. With the USB Internet connector the service is limited and it will only work in one of my two USB ports. With the limitations of Internet, I most likely will not write much while we are away. Ignore the mistakes if any, I will not have time to make corrections or even to blush over them.
 

Love the city!!! We are ready to buy property here. : ) 

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

It IS a Wonderful Life

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For more than two decades, I have watched the movie It’s A Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart, usually right around Thanksgiving time. It is a sentimental movie, but the underlying theme is more than pertinent as a memory refresher for love and friendship. With each viewing, I fantasize about the movie ending similarly occurring in my life. Of course, tears stream down my eyes with each viewing. My romanticized thoughts don’t necessarily have people pouring money on a table to get me out of financial trouble, but pouring an abundance of appreciation.

Last night was my magical moment. One of my former students, Balázs Varga, invited us to try a new restaurant in City Park. Knowing that we were leaving Thursday for Spain, dining out was not high on the priority list. However, we had recruited him to do the ‘meet and greet’ with the Spanish ladies involved in our home exchange. Obligation prevented me from negating the offer.  We in turn extended the invite to some friends, one of which was also a former student, Szilvia Zörgő and our American friend Kat McFadden.


If I were still writing for Frommer’s, the restaurant would never get a nod for inclusion, but it was passable for a breezy light-hearted night with good people. It was rather surprising when the check came so soon after eating, not a typical Hungarian trait. One of our merry-makers, Szilvia suggested we return to the old ELTE campus at Ajtósi Dürer sor to see how the building had been converted into a pub. Strangely, her reasoning for visiting the campus never raised any red flags in my mind.  Coincidentally, I had met up with a student from my 2nd year of teaching; he initially wanted to meet in the garden area of the same campus. It was only a thunderstorm that thwarted that plan. I had not been back to the campus since we moved from there six years ago.


On the way to the campus, our friend Kat did an Oscar winning performance of needing a bathroom, which took us across City Park in the opposite direction of the campus. Later it was discovered this was a purposeful time waster for others to arrive where they needed to be. After finding a small dive with questionable bathroom sanitation, we stayed for another beer in payment for the use of the facilities. My desire to return to the campus was dwindling by the second. I wanted to please Szilvia, but Kat expressed such an intense interest in seeing where I once taught, refusing was not an option. Why didn’t it strike me as strange that Kat has been here over a year, but never cared before?
 

By this time, we were so far away, we waited for the bus. Much to Ron’s protests, but at my insistence we got off at the wrong stop, causing us to walk one additional bus stop. As we approached the building, Sylvia Finali another former student was standing outside texting on her phone. It was astounding to run into her, but she invited us in to join her gathering.
 

I was so overcome with the transformation of what once was the cafeteria and coffee shop it took more than some minutes to realize there was an extraordinarily large group of people in the direction we were headed, yet there was no smaller group for Sylvia to include us.  As we moved in closer, Aaron Hunter came into view. He was my first teaching partner at ELTE and I missed him dearly ever since he left. He stood up as did everyone else around him; each person started clapping. Talk about clueless! It still had not dawned on me what was happening. All the mystery books I read, I should be ashamed.
 

Aaron and Sylvia Finali devised this good-bye party in my honor. Secretly sending invitations through Facebook, they cast the net wide. Students from my first teaching year, 2002 were mingling with students as recent as 2014. They later apologized saying they found out too late that due to a Facebook glitch a number of people invited never actually received the invitation.
Needless to say, my sentimental nature took over and I started tearing up, not a shock to many of these dear people. Aaron gave a short speech extolling my teaching qualities that positively influenced his own teaching. Sylvia added to this from the students’ perspective. Then it was hug time. Being hug deficient, the evening replenished some of the lack. It was incredible.
 

Then there was the cake! Enormous, extraordinary, and finally delicious, each layer was a different flavor with the top one being sugar-free.
As I spoke with small groups, I had to eradicate traces of the rumor that we are moving back to the U.S. as well as other strings of untruths roaming around. This provided lively conversation hearing what others had heard and deconstructing it. In addition there was the opportunity to catch up with what they are doing in their lives.
 

So many students had wonderful anecdotes of things that I said or taught them that they have never forgotten. Best of all, there was an overwhelming sense that what I provided was supporting their self-worth and ability to succeed. It was exceptionally fulfilling to hear their stories of how their lives have been shaped since we last met. There was so much pride in all of their accomplishments. My favorite mantra “Think outside the box” was chanted too.
 

More than once, when a student thanked me for teaching them how to write, sharing how it has advanced their career, I had to add a quip of my own. There is a former student who reads my blog posts and then sends me the list of corrections for the mistakes I made. Some of this gang thought this was hilarious while others were appreciative that the table has turned, but they too still found the humor in it.

In retrospect, it boggles my mind how many people were in on this planning to get me to the venue, including Ron, yet I was oblivious. There was a definite Jimmy Stewart sensation or like Sally Fields is often misquoted from her Oscar speech “You like me! You really like me!”


As a last note, I have NEVER had a surprise party before in my life. What an amazing feeling. My heartfelt thanks to Aaron Hunter, Sylvia Finali, and all those who made this a lifetime achievement award evening.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I Sense Debt Looming Around

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Remember the movie The Sixth Sense (1999) when the kid’s classic line was “I see dead people”? When we were in Belize, on the way to the bank machine, a local was wearing a t-shirt that said “I See Debt People”. This struck me as so funny, I asked permission to take a photo.

In today’s news, neither the slogan nor the reality is very funny. A news article states that 1/3 of the American people are in debt delinquency. They don’t just owe money, but they owe so much that the account has been closed and sent to collection. I used to be a credit collection agent for Sears, Roebuck after graduating college. This is nasty stuff. 

It is incomprehensible to me how one-third of the US could be in this situation. Just to drive the point home, 77 million Americans each have debt in collection that averages to $5,200. Wowser! is an understatement!

More than 40% of the population of thirteen states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Nevada, New Mexico and West Virginia plus Washington, D.C. has debt in collection. We have friends in each of the italicized names. 

These statistics don't include the poor or the working poor who do not qualify for a credit file.

Those Americans who have a credit history, but are not in collection, average a total debt balance close to $54,000; much of this is attributed to a mortgage.

Hmm…this certainly explains why so many say they cannot afford to travel. My heart breaks for them, but hey, we are leaving for Cádiz, Spain on Thursday morning. 

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Monday, July 28, 2014

No Flying Pigs - No Flying Horses Either

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Even if this URL includes flypgs, don’t mistake it for flying pigs. When pigs can fly, not one of them is going to get you from BUD to SAW. However, if you click here, you will find that Pegasus Airlines, a Turkish low cost carrier is now flying between Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW) and Budapest (BUD).

In spite of the airline name Pegasus, the mythological flying horse, is conspicuously absent from their advertising. If you want to check out their website, click here.

Pegasus will be flying the BUD - SAW route 4 times a week, competing with Wizz Air’s daily trips. Alternatively, kind of, Turkish Airlines wins the competition; it flies BUD to IST (Istanbul Atatürk) 3 times daily.

Turkish Delight anyone? For me, I prefer good old NJ salt water taffy!


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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Corporations Move Out of the US - Goodbye Tax Base

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As many political pundits say “What the American people need to know…” This is followed by whatever they believe the American people need to know or what they want the American people to believe. Today I read a news article in USA Today about Walgreens. I for one did not realize that Walgreens is the largest pharmaceutical chain the United States. The article explains that the Walgreens chain started in Dixon, Illinois. The company which now has 8,500 stores across the United States is making a decision about whether it should save billions of tax dollars by using a tax loophole called an inversion.

According to this article, the inversion loophole allows any company conducting its primary business in the United States to bypass major taxes by merging with or buying into another company located in a country with a lower tax base. Walgreens may be buying controlling stock in Alliance Boots, commonly known throughout the UK as Boots UK, a pharmacy and more. Even I have shopped there when in England, but had no idea that this was a Swiss owned company. Additionally, it seems strange to me that the Swiss would have a lower tax rate than the United States.

The article discusses the fact that people in Dixon, Illinois are more than upset about this potential move, but this addresses a larger issue. With so much political discussion about “Made in America”, bringing jobs home to the United States, and creating jobs, the unruly power of corporations allows them to manipulate all of these concepts by moving out of the United States further depleting the tax base.

Why isn’t somebody petitioning Congress to close this loophole? According to the article this year alone multiple companies are planning their moves for the same reason. All this, while Americans who live abroad are being monitored and harassed over every bank account that they hold in a foreign country, while these corporations are getting away with billions of dollars.


The story is here.

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