Friday, April 11, 2014

Rocketmiles - Frequent Flier Rewards

0 comments

I just happened upon an article in one of my trusted travel newsletters that reviewed the site, Rocketmiles. You sign up for a free account; if you use this code
https://www.rocketmiles.com/refer/DRRYANJAMES, we will both receive 1,000 bonus miles after you make your first hotel booking on the site. When you register, have your frequent flier numbers handy. You can add them into your account so they are stored when you make a hotel booking. Currently, there is not an extensive list of airline programs to choose from, but the claim is more will be added. United and American are there, but Delta is not.

I did some comparing of hotel rates with this site as opposed to other sites. The rates are within the same price ranges for respective hotels. This assures me that Rocketmiles is not pulling a fast one with higher rates to offset the miles offered.

Of course, when coming to Budapest, the choice is a no-brainer: BudaBaB is worth the stay even without miles.

Another travel tip to share is Blue Ribbon Bags, an insurance
company for lost luggage. You can find their site here. For $5, they will insure your luggage for one traveler for $1,000. They claim you will not have to produce receipts for the items in the luggage. We had our luggage lost going to New Zealand, South Africa, and Portugal. Although they finally showed up, it was a grave nuisance. I will definitely try this service out for our US trip.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Pin It Now!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Sex in the City...Zoo

0 comments

 If you are not familiar with the Cole Porter classic hit Let's Do It, here is how it starts.
 
When the little bluebird
Who has never said a word
Starts to sing Spring
When the little bluebell
At the bottom of the dell
Starts to ring Ding dong Ding dong
When the little blue clerk
In the middle of his work
Starts a tune to the moon up above
It is nature that is all
Simply telling us to fall in love

And that's why birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love

Cold Cape Cod clams, 'gainst their wish, do it
Even lazy jellyfish do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love

I've heard that lizards and frogs do it
Layin' on a rock
They say that roosters do it
With a doodle and cock

Last Sunday, we went to the zoo with Mary Beth, Alice, Kat, Andi, and Dan came along much later. Spring was definitely in the air and it was almost embarrassing if it were nature taking its course. We were at the giraffe enclosure where there are a goodly number of animals. People are standing near the fence delighted that two giraffes are leaning over for the zoo chow being offered by children and adults alike. Ron and I have been to a giraffe refuge in Kenya, so we know the thrills of having a close-up with a giraffe. I had one nuzzle my mouth when I was bullied into holding food this way, by our guide.

As the giraffes lost interest in the food or people ran out, I am not sure which, something happened that we had not seen in Kenya. A male giraffe was standing behind another and within seconds had an erection and tried to mount the female. At least we assume it was a female; a second erection was not apparent. Giraffe # 2 moved a foot away. Horny giraffe, completely lost his erection, but within seconds it had returned...in full force. He could star in a Viagra commercial. This scenario was like one of those auto accidents that you know you should not look at, but cannot stop yourself from staring. The show continued for a good 20 minutes, but please don’t ask me how I know that. It is embarrassing. What was more embarrassing was how the human men seemed to be awed by the proportions of such a human-like firm turgid form. Finally, all of us dragged ourselves away.

This was not the only romance that spring had sprung. Two mountain goats were doing the nasty while on a very narrow ledge in their exhibit. What a great show of balance. Any gymnast would have given them a score of 10 for the performance. 

Monkeys were doing it, but hell, you expect them to monkey around, right? Lust was definitely in the air. Everywhere you looked males were after females and a good number of them were not even caged, but should have been.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Pin It Now!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

A Fine Ride Ten Years in the Waiting

0 comments

It only took 10 years with construction starting in 2004 and a final cost of 452.5 billion Ft, but it has finally opened. One billion Ft = $4,466,000 or €3,259,000. You can do the math. Budapest's fourth metro line opened to the public on Friday. The first two days of travel were free, so you can imagine the crowds.

Ron and I had Mary Beth and Alice in tow coming from our extensive tour of Vác. We thought they would be too tired to follow us to Rákóczi tér where we intended to take our first ride on the first day of the new metro. Being troopers, they conceded that this was a golden opportunity for another fabulous travel story to share later, so all four of us lost our Metro 4 virginity as a group. We along with hundreds of others flooded the escalators at Rákóczi tér to descend to the next platform, but not yet to the tracks. It took a second escalator ride to put us train-side.

The trains look like the new trains on the M2 Red line. Each station either has some adornment or not. Rákóczi tér looks plain and unfinished, while Szent Gellért tér has lovely tile work. One station has blocks of bright colors. With only 10 stops on the entire line, the ride was not extensive. A Hungarian overhearing our English commented as he was exiting the train "They stupidly set stops within 500 meters of each other. What a waste." Perhaps so, some of the stops are ridiculously close like Fővám tér and Kálvin tér. One could almost throw a rock between the two.

The stations include:
Kelenföld vasútállomás    
Bikás park
Újbuda-központ
Móricz Zsigmond körtér    
Szent Gellért tér    
Fővám tér    
Kálvin tér - Intersects with M3 Blue line.    
Rákóczi tér    
II. János Pál pápa tér    
Keleti pályaudvar - Intersects with M2 Red line.

There are 15 vehicles on this line. Each vehicle has four cars, but they are contiguous, so one could walk the length during the ride if so inclined. They are reportedly controlled automatically. This should be interesting.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Pin It Now!

Vác You Been Up To?

0 comments


Well, since you asked, I have to say we had an amazingly pleasurable day this last Friday. As I have mentioned previously, our friend Kat’s mother and aunt were staying with us. We offered to take them to Vác, a small town just 34 km (21.12 miles) outside of Budapest. Depending on the train you choose from the 3-4 options each hour, the ride can take either 28 minutes or a lengthy 45 minutes. The one-way fare is a paltry 650 Huf, less than a Starbucks Grande espresso.

Leaving home about 10am, I really thought we would be returning home close to early afternoon. Arriving at the train station, we decided to take the next very train after we had tickets in hand, regardless of how long it took. After all, the scenery would be new and different for our traveling companions. It did take us 45 minutes, but the train was clean and comfortable; the scenery was of interest to our companions.

Aunt Alice has problems walking, but Mary Beth is a champion walker who can keep pace with my long strides making her a desirable walking companion. Alice enjoyed Ron’s prodding pace, so she was quite comfortable being at his side, knowing he would accommodate all of her needs for a stop and sit break in stride. There were a few times when Mary Beth and I were so far ahead of them, we had to backtrack to make certain they knew where we were.

Once in the center square, I had convinced the two of the ladies they definitely needed to see the Memento Mori where the Dominican church crypts, including a few mummies are stored. When the white church across the square was under reconstruction, these were excavated. These crypts long forgotten were newly rediscovered, sealed in an airtight space; thus, all the clothing and much of their bodies remained intact. What I had not shared with the women was that the exhibit was downstairs. Had I done so, Alice would not have gone. As it was, with the investment of a ticket, she managed to get down and back up the stairs, exuding the magnificence of the display. Ron and I had seen these multiple times, so we waited.

The main square is utterly charming after a reconstruction from the last 8 years or so. Especially in the spring and summer months when the weather is agreeable, sitting at an outdoor café is a luxurious experience not to be missed.

Not too far off of the square is the Desszert Szalon at Köztársaság út 21. Here you will find some of the most unusual and lushest desserts in Hungary. The owner won the 2009 World Cup for Dessert Chefs. Rather pricey as one would expect, the ladies opted for an ice cream cone and the use of the bathroom.

The day was spent strolling, relaxing, and taking in the scenery. One of my favorite walking areas is the József Attila sétány, which runs along the Danube. A well-maintained park includes areas for children’s play equipment, bike paths, walking paths, benches to relax and flora abounds that would please any gardener.

As the day wore on, we decided to have lunch at one of our favorite restaurants in the town. Quite honestly, it is the only restaurant we have had meals at when in Vác. It has never disappointed, so there has never been a reason to change. Remete Pince is set on a hill on the small Fürdő lépcső utca 3 (Telephone: 27-302-199; Hours: noon to 10pm). What makes this our perpetual choice is the garden that adorns a large section above the outdoor seating. You can dine while feeling you are in a botanical garden. Sheer delight!

After our praise worthy, but light lunch, we continued our exercise regimen so we could indulge in dessert at Choco Cafe Váci Csokizó on the main square at Március 15 tér 20. Mary Beth, Ron and I ordered different slices of 3 pastries and then with great precision, divided them in 3’s. Alice, not being a dessert eater, was perfectly happy with one morsel of chocolate.

This was the topper for the day. We meandered back to the train and finally arrived home by 5:30 pm. My only regret was not having my camera. I did use my phone for some shots, but the battery was not fully charged when we left home. Next time…

Enhanced by Zemanta

Pin It Now!

Counting Down

0 comments





The first alarm is for when we leave for the US. The second is for the actual wedding. I swear when this is all over, I will have about 1 GB of free space on my computer from lists, notes, financial records, etcetera and so forth.

Pin It Now!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Surprise! We Are Giving You a Pre-Wedding Party

0 comments

This is a week overdue, basically because life gets in the way sometimes. However, it does not negate the importance in the least. Months ago, our friend Kat McFadden planned for her mother and aunt to come stay with us for a visit of close to 2 weeks. Knowing we would step up to tour the ladies around, she wanted to show her appreciation ahead of time. 

Kat suggested that she would like to provide us with a pre-wedding party, timing it for when her mom, Mary Beth, and Aunt Alice could assist. This was a truly unexpected surprise, but thoroughly welcomed. Honestly, knowing Kat, she did not need the preemptive thankful for entertaining her relatives as an excuse, since she would have offered the party regardless.
 
Due to the size of her apartment, she asked if we could have it at our place. Thinking that 12-15 would be a reasonable number to cook for, Kat went forth with the preparations. We have some mutual friends, but she gathered the names and e-mail addresses of others sending out e-vites. The party was a week ago today.

Little did we realize that this was going to turn into a major production, which is proclaimed with astonishment and not the least bit of dismay. Kat was here on Saturday night to start the preparations of food with mom, Mary Beth and Alice working alongside of her. Both Mary Beth and Alice have Hungarian roots and experience learning culinary arts at their mothers’ sides. Alice also has graduated from culinary school.

Jumping on Kat’s bandwagon, our friends Dan Stroiman, Hunter Roberts, and Andrea Mitnick also provided some tasty treats to the buffet. There was enough food to feed the population of a small country and wine flowed like Niagara Falls. As most parties at our place do, everyone congregated in the living room, but there were multitudes of trips to the kitchen to replenish plates with food beyond the morsels which were spread over the coffee table and within arm’s reach.

Beyond the extraordinary party, Kat had a present commissioned specifically for us. It is the wine decanter pictured created by one of Furman University’s faculty members, Professor Robert E. Chance. Notice that it is adorned with pomegranates, which also decorate our wedding rings. This was not just coincidence, but the fact that Kat paid attention to the details of the stories we share. Kat’s mother did the personalized shipping from South Carolina to our doorstep, taking extra care so the braided handle as well as the decanter would arrive in tact.



The party was fantastic and the party assemblers were also the clean-up committee. They were the best catering service and party planners one could hope to have. Thank you for making us so appreciative.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Pin It Now!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Rainbow Voting

0 comments

I came across this in the metro station at Nyugati today. It is reminding people to vote in the Hungarian and EU elections.



Enhanced by Zemanta

Pin It Now!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day

0 comments

Google and I want to wish you a Happy St. Patrick's Day. There won't be any corned beef, boiled potatoes and cabbage for us. Though we can have and cook the latter two, it is just not the same when you have to ask "Where's the beef?" At least we can color our beer green.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Pin It Now!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

You Say ToMAYto, I Say ToMAHto...

0 comments

This post is the responsibility of a former student and dedicated reader of this blog. Árpád sent me an e-mail yesterday after reading the post on the rosette. 

He wrote (edited):

"What caught my attention was your usage of rosette for what we call kokárda in Hungarian. I am wearing one right now...but this one object, the kokárda, is special and dear to most of us. Therefore, I really want to know what it is called in English, which is similarly dear... to my heart. I had been under the assumption that cockade was the correct term, but you did not use it once. In your post, you kept referring to it as a rosette, which made me wonder whether the term I had known was incorrect. I have looked up both cockade and rosette, but the definitions I found were too vague. Luckily, you know the object I am talking about, so please help me decide whether cockade or rosette describes Hungarian kokárda better."

This made me wonder. I had never heard of cockade, but it did send my thoughts wandering. This is what transpired after his question. I used Google images for both words and the results were almost identical. However, this did not answer the question and left me curious. I had wondered if my education had purposefully denied me knowledge of the term cockade, at least referencing this in this manner.

Last night I asked Ron if he had ever heard of a cockade. He hadn’t. I told him about the question and he reminded me of something that happened on Friday. We were out shopping with an American Fulbright professor, Andi Mitnick, who is teaching at a Budapest university for the semester. We stopped in a little shop where the woman makes all that is sold in the store. She also has the Hungarian rosettes. Andi, who had no idea of the association with the holiday, pointed to them and said “Oh, look! Hungarian rosettes.” The woman said the name in Hungarian and her husband said in English “No, they are cockades.” None of us thought to question the English difference.

Today I found this reference at the site here: “A cockade isn’t a term we often hear in the 21st century, but my research shows that they’ve been popular since the mid 1500’s.” 



Merriam Webster defines cockade as
- an ornament (as a rosette) usually worn on a hat as a badge
Origin of cockade: modification of French cocarde, from feminine of cocard vain, from coq cock, from Old French coc, of imitative origin. First Known Use: 1709


The dictionary's definition for a rosette is here.

However, it was the Britannica that was additionally helpful. See the reference here.

cockade, French cocarde ,  a bow or knot of ribbons worn in the hat.
-Though originally ornamental, cockades soon came to be used to broadcast identification with such various organizations as a political party, a military unit, or a household (in the form of livery). -During the French Revolution the partisans of the new order wore a blue, white, and red cockade adopted from the colours of the royal family and the city of Paris. Later, French émigrés fighting against the Revolution assumed white, orange, or black and yellow cockades, depending upon the nationality of the army in which they were serving.
-In the armed forces, cockades went out of use when the army and navy ceased wearing cocked hats. A leather cockade, however, survived in the headgear of many liveried coachmen and chauffeurs.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Pin It Now!

Dear to whom it may concern,

0 comments

I received this e-mail note, so I promised I would post the information. Truthfully, I get so many questions about the time an American can stay in the Schengen Zone, I hope this will cut back on my needing to respond. Now I can just point them to a link. Many US Americans seem to believe that since they are from the US, they have unlimited time in Europe. Not so!


Dear to whom it may concern,

I hope I am not interrupting you. My name is Kathie Dotson and I am the coordinator of a webpage that we have created and it contains info on Schengen Visas.

We have worked hard to collect info and offering quality info. The website www.schengenvisainfo.com has a lot of information for people who want to go in Schengen Zone Countries and need Schengen visa.

We need your support.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Great Regards,
Kathie

Enhanced by Zemanta

Pin It Now!

BB Booking

0 comments

BudaBaB is now listed with Booking.com. See it here.

Soon the Feri Place apartment will be listed too as a summer rental during the months of July and August. If our current tenants decide to leave Hungary, it will be available as a long term rental starting September.

Pin It Now!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Possessed by a Demon and Loving It

0 comments

Remember the old scapegoat phrase "The devil made me do it"? Well, it wasn't really the devil that gave me the nudge to turn into a man possessed or a man obsessed. All it took was the reality that I am going to the US. The last time I was there was January 2003, so there was shopping to be done.

Ron generally returns annually with the exception of last year when we went to his niece's wedding in Florence. Try as I might to get all of my ordering in when Ron is stateside, it is never really fulfilling. He has this aversion to carrying things. Around Budapest, it is an argument getting him to take his smartphone with him when he goes out. "It is extra weight" that I hear him moan. Hence getting him to cart a large suitcase to and from the USA has been out of the question.

Well, my year has come and I am making up for lost time. After getting the A-Ok from friends in Des Moines to have packages sent to their house, I hit the Internet highway and drove from store to store shopping until my fingertips were calloused over. I ordered so much merchandise, I needed an Excel worksheet to keep track of it all. I also need an accountant to monitor the bills, but damn it was fun.

I keep monitoring our friends' threshold of tolerance with onslaught of packages arriving. They have admitted that they meet the delivery in person. They assured me that they are enjoying these opportunities for getting to know the UPS driver and the mail-person on such an intimate level. By the time our packages stop arriving they will all be exchanging holiday gifts and getting invited to each others' birthday bashes.

The last time we had to dig out our large suitcases from storage downstairs, um, well never. They have been stored away since 2001. We will be flying KLM and then Delta. In keeping with Delta's stricter regulations, one suitcase is 3 cm more than they allow. Normally, we would chance it, but empty it weighs 15.1 pounds. Our luggage limit is 50 pounds each, so we cannot risk a 15 lb. suitcase limiting us to 34.9 lbs to stuff it with. I ordered 6 pairs of jeans (Lee jeans for $29 I couldn't beat it), but not before I took an old pair and weighed them. One old pair is 2 lbs. exactly. There are still 2 sweaters, 2 pairs of slacks, 5 shirts, business cards, sandals, photos of our mural, and yes about 22 books, but all paperbacks. 

We will have to borrow someone's lighter, but large suitcase. This will probably be the only time we need two large suitcases, so why buy one? We spent 7 weeks in Central America with only 2 carry-on bags and a backpack.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Pin It Now!

No Rosette For You

0 comments

Yesterday, I stopped into an Aldi store, a global discount supermarket chain based in Germany. I lined up at the register to purchase two packages of batteries. As the line in front of me was progressing, I noticed the cashier was giving each person their change along with a tri-colored rosette typically worn on March 15th. 

March 15th is the anniversary of a failed revolution. The Hungarians, led by Lajos Kossuth, István Széchenyi, Sándor Petőfi and Józef Bem started the revolt that turned into a war against the Austrian monarchy. The goal was independence for Hungary. Most of the agitators were later executed.

The Aldi cashier must have sniffed my indifference to the holiday. All I received was my change, but no rosette. Holding back until the person behind me was checked out, the man received a rosette. I thought being passed up was another revolt in a minor manner.

Even Google is recognizing the day, so I received my rosette after all is said and done.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Pin It Now!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Days of Glory

0 comments

This was posted on Facebook by the first girl I had ever kissed, Jeanne V.

This was just blocks from my parents house. If you notice the tall sign in the background, left side, I think that is the giant ice cream cone representative of Carvel Ice Cream shop. It was a Long Branch landmark. 
 
Jeanne wrote "Classic picture of Brighton Avenue in West End, Long Branch with Bruce standing outside the Turntable, the cool place to buy records. In the late 1960s - early 1970's I remember discovering and buying albums of musicians from Cream to Don McLean there. Sadly, this section of buildings was destroyed by a big fire a couple years ago."

If you don't recognize Bruce, click here.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Pin It Now!

Circling the Drain, Customer Service Loses All Meaning

0 comments

As strange as it may seem, I often tell my Hungarian students that things in general are not better in the US, regardless of what Hollywood wants the world to believe. One life issue that arises with greater repetition than any other is customer service.

Each time Hungarians or my fellow ex-pats complain about customer service here, I share my tales of the hour I spent on the phone with my CA bank trying to resolve an issue. Then there were the six calls I had to make to the credit card company for another problem. Of course, there was also the time… I might as well be speaking to an android. They all have a scripted speech that is never diverted from, regardless of the issue at hand. If your problem does not fit into their operation manual, all 5 pages of it, you are out of luck.

The point is if I could recapture all of the time I have spent calling the US for this or that problem, I would have enough time to live another five years. Though many of these people who listen to me rant, just believe I am trying to be a US naysayer while being a cheerleader for Hungary.

Today, in my mail was an article that drive the point home “Yes, customer service really is circling the drain – here’s what to do about it” gave me a tool to use to justify my opinion. Give this article a look-see. Christopher Elliott has been a travel guru for a couple of decades, yet he is like Dick Clark, he never seems to age. What he does do admirably is expand his repertoire of advocacy and information providing.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Pin It Now!

Sunday, March 09, 2014

The Clocks Are Rolling with the Stones

0 comments

   

Clocks will be set ahead by one hour tonight in much of America, as 2 a.m. will become 3 a.m. early Sunday, March 9. Among the states, only Hawaii and much of Arizona will keep their clocks set to Standard Time. Most of Europe won't begin what it calls "Summer Time" until March 30.

Hungary starts Daylight Saving Time on
Sunday March 30, 2014 at 2:00 AM local time.

Hungary ended Daylight Saving Time on
Sunday October 27, 2013 at 3:00 AM local time.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Pin It Now!

Friday, March 07, 2014

When Type A Personalities Wed

0 comments

Okay, I admit to being a Type A personality verging on Type A+ or what others may call obsessive, but I like things to go smoothly. I also like for people to be able to plan, know what is happening, and circumvent 500 e-mails. Due to 90% of our guests coming from out-of-state and because I have not been to the U.S. since January 2003, there are a number of people that I have not seen in that many years or more.

In order to enjoy everyone's time during this celebration, it seemed wise to maximize their time and my attention by creating this newsletter with our schedule. Some guests are coming in early, others are leaving Sunday morning. I want to spend as much time with everyone as possible. Hopefully, this will be the key to making everyone as happy as possible. 






If you are coming, remember I need to know if you are planning on joining us for the State Capitol tour; I need a minimum of 10 people.

Also, if you are joining us for Easter brunch, we need to get the reservation settled.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Pin It Now!

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Liszt Ferenc Academy Reopens

0 comments

The Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music has reopened after being closed for a couple of years for remodeling. It looks stunning and quite bright since it received an overdue cleaning beside the renovations. This may be slightly old news, but I just happened to walk by a week ago, so it was news for me, though I think Ron had mentioned it earlier.


Something new has been added too. Outside to the left is this new statue. It is quite unusual, I must say. On the side of the statue is an inscription. I had to look up Sir Georg Solti. I had never heard the name before. He was born in Budapest, but being Jewish, fled in 1938.
The style reminds me of a sculpture on Nagymező utca. I wonder if the artist is the same.
 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Pin It Now!