Daily Journal: Sunday, 12 March 2017

Was up early to finish packing and to clean the flat. Yes, I know that part of the Airbnb rent is for cleaning, but I don’t like someone else picking up after me. My target was to leave by 10:30 and I was out the door at 10:28.

Had planned to take public transportation to the airport, but changed my mind and took a taxi. Taking into account that I would be carrying my suitcase up and down a few flights of stairs, a taxi sounded good to me. Maybe some other time with the public transportation.

My flight didn’t leave until 2:40, but wanted to try getting a VAT (Value Added Tax) refund from when the new phone was purchased in December. I had tried to get a refund in Milan when I was there in January, but ran out of time due to the long lines. In Budapest, I only had to wait a few minutes. It is well worth asking for the VAT refund – an extra $100+ was refunded.

Given that I arrived early to the airport, had plenty of time to get a quick bite to eat and go through security. Arrived at the gate about 30 minutes before boarding. Nice!

Glad I had a small lunch at the airport. Had forgotten that we would get a full meal on the flight from Budapest to Cairo, via EgyptAir. Think they may be one of the last airlines to provide an in-flight meal as part of the ticket.

We took off on time and landed a little ahead of schedule. Got through customs and found my suitcase waiting for me in baggage. The only issue was my driver couldn’t be found. So, I had to take my chances with the taxi service – which is like a free-for-all. While still in the terminal, one guy flagged me down. He seemed nice and the price to take me to my hotel was very reasonable. The only problem is that neither he or the taxi driver (and me) knew where to find my hotel.

So off we went into the unknown. We knew if was in Sun City, near the airport, and the street name, but that was all. I couldn’t look up the whole address because I didn’t prepare my phone to access the Internet. We asked a few people along the way if they knew where the hotel was, but no luck. I remembered that I called the hotel a few days before, so we used that number and called for directions.

Upon arrival, I asked to have a quiet room. After being assured that my room was quiet, I proceeded to check out the room with the porter. I knew immediately that the room wouldn’t work. It was positioned just outside the main entrance and you could hear people talking, car horns, and music from inside the room. For the first time in my travel experience, I asked for a new room.

I was given a free dinner in the dining room, which was very much appreciated. By the time I got settled, it was 9:00. The dining room was still open and as I walked in I soon realized that I was the only guest. I found a table and looked over the very extensive menu. I asked for some tomato soup and a chicken dish. (And a vodka tonic.)  Talked with the staff, since I was the only guest, I didn’t think they were ignoring the other patrons.

The soup was perfect. Tasted fresh and had the full flavor of tomatoes. The chicken dish was prepared well too. When I left, I was full – but not too full.

I hope to get my blog completed and into bed early tonight. My driver will be here at 8:30 and I’d like to be ready when he arrives. Of course I’ll have time to watch an episode of Next Generation before going to bed.


Daily Journal: Saturday, 11 March 2017

Was up early so I could join the InterNations group to explore the Szemlő-hegyi Cave (or barlang, in Hungarian). It is located in the Buda hills above the Danube.

And it was a very beautiful morning in Budapest. Perhaps the nicest so far. Clear blue skies and a mild temperature of 55 degrees. Just dressed in a shirt and light coat for the walk to the M3 station at Duna Plaza.

It took a few transfers to get to the meeting point, but I arrived on time and met the event organizer and the other members who signed up for the tour. We all rode together on the last leg via a city bus. After we arrived, we applied for a group pass and met our English-speaking tour guide.

The cave is well lit and the path through the cave smooth and well-maintained. The guide explained the cave’s history and many of the natural features that we saw during the tour. We could see how tight some of the passages were for the early cave explorers. Our guide called them cavers, who we call spelunkers.

We saw some cavers practicing with ropes, for climbing, in one of the larger chambers.

The tour lasted about an hour. After the tour, we walked down to a nearby sweet shop for some goodies and coffee. From there I met a bus that took me to the Arpad Bridge (Árpád híd) and I walked across the bridge to the Pest side to catch the M3 back to Duna Plaza.

Below, is a view from the bridge looking back to the area where I’m staying. (See the high-rise buildings next to the river.)  One picture is the wide view of the river and the other focuses on the apartment buildings. With the reflection of the blue sky, I can see where the Danube got the name “Blue” Danube – since you can see so much of the sky in the river, when the river is still.

Tonight I will prepare to finish packing in the morning and I’ll be out of the door by 10:30 a.m. (Just need to remember to leave the key in an envelop for my host.)



Daily Journal: Friday, 10 March 2017

Time to get ready for the next move. Up early and started the packing process. Top priority was to get the laundry done, so headed to the laundromat with my pile of clothes. Skipped working out this morning to make sure I had enough time to complete the items on my list.

After some lunch, I headed out to return some clothes that I bought earlier in the week. I’m still trying to get used to the differences in clothes sizing. I’ll learn one of these days.

Another item on my list was to get a tan. Since I’m not supposed to (nor should most people) use UV to get their tan, I use a spray-on tan. In the states, you can go into a booth and the spraying is automated.

Ross from Friends gets a spray tan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hksuDOkqx2k  (very funny – but gives you an idea how the process works)

I now know, that in Hungary, there are no spray tanning booths. You have it sprayed onto you by a tanning technician. She said she had been doing this for 11 year. Throwing any modesty out the window, I stripped down to my underwear while she sprayed me. I now know what a car feels like getting a new coat of paint.

Think I might have gone too dark. But know it will wear down in a few days. I just didn’t want be down by the pool in Hurghada and be ghost-white. The picture below is of my leg, showing the difference. And as I’m writing this, it keeps getting darker.

After the tanning adventure, I headed home and waited for Csabi to finish his workout so we could go have coffee at Costa Coffee.

After coffee, we walked around for a bit, then headed back on the M3. Was late when I got home and still hadn’t had dinner. Had some chicken thawed so just ate that and called it good.

I have the directions to meet up with the InterNations folk tomorrow for our cave hiking adventure. But first, some Next Generation episodes before heading to bed.


Daily Journal: Thursday, 9 March 2017

Most of today I was doing things to get ready for Sunday, when I leave Budapest for a few weeks. So, not much of an update today. Success for moving to a new location requires a bit of planning and allowing time for any unknowns.

I remember my last day in Portland. Seemed like I was two hours behind all day. Worst of all, I pushed my friendship asking for favors. Before heading to the airport, I was cleaning up and clearing out the last few items right up to the last minute. Stuffing my suitcase with everything that I thought I needed. I vowed to never be in that situation again.

The challenge is finding where I put things when I first arrived. I use about 80% of my stuff after I unpack. It is the remaining 20% that I “tuck away” that take up so much time. I’m getting better at lightening the load after each stop. I suppose I could just stuff everything in my suitcase when I leave, but then I just transfer the problem to when I unpack.

Tomorrow I need to get in a final workout at the gym, do the laundry, find a place to get a spray-on tan, and meet up with Csabi. (I really don’t want to be “Winter White” when I arrive in Harghada. On Saturday, I’m going spelunking with some InterNation folks – which could last most of the day.

One last item. This morning, I saw some green outside while going for a walk. Just in the grass, but think the warm weather yesterday inspired Mother Nature here in Budapest. Nice!


Daily Journal: Wednesday, 8 March 2017

I was in for a pleasant surprise this morning. Sun and more sun throughout the day. The forecast was for clouds. Amazing how a few rays of sunshine can really perk you up.

Made it to the gym in the early afternoon and found that I pretty much had the place to myself. Makes it easy to get through your workout and not have to wait for equipment to be available. I’ll have one more workout at this gym on Friday before leaving on Sunday. This gym’s location has been super convenient.

I had made plans to meet up with Csabi after his dental appointment. We headed over to the Buda side to check out my new neighborhood for when I come back on 31 March. From there we walked down to the Mammut Mall where there was a Cafe Frei. This is the free trade coffee shop that we enjoy and has several Budapest locations. Fun to go through the menu, by country, and try new flavors.

Csabi said there is another mall a little further up the hill from my new flat. I’ll probably do more window shopping than buying since I only have so much room in my suitcase. The Buda side of the city is a little less urban and more residential – and hilly has well.

Thought we might have some time to check out some of the gyms that I might join in April but it was getting late. In fact, I didn’t get home until 8:30 – and still hadn’t eaten since late morning. Just made some baked chicken and mashed potatoes. Today, I walked a little over 16,000 steps so ready to rest and watch some Next Generation and head to bed.

Tomorrow I will start wrapping up loose ends before leaving Budapest. It really is going to be interesting coming back and see more green. I think the trees, shrubs, and grass are still shaking off winter. A few more days like today should do the trick.



Daily Journal: Tuesday, 7 March 2017

I’m really getting lazy during my last few days in Budapest, before leaving for my mini “vacation”. I admit to getting up late, not going to the gym or visiting more of the city. Though for a retired person, think I’m doing okay.

Had a technical issue with my Chromebook this morning. Couldn’t load a webpage, or when I was able to, it was very slow. My phone and iPad worked okay on the flat’s WiFi connection, but not the Chromebook. So it wasn’t the WiFi. The only solution that I could find was to reset the device and start over, which I did. At first it didn’t seem that it solved the problem, but after 10 minutes or so, I could surf the Internet again. Thought I might have to buy another Chromebook. Was a little disappointed that I didn’t have to. Would be fun to have new technology.

I decided to do some shopping. Not that I really needed anything, but wanted to visit this mall that I had heard is a little bigger than the West End Mall. The Arena Mall is located near the Budapest-Keleti Railway Terminal, the main international and inter-city railway terminal in Budapest. (See below.)

The Arena Mall is very large and has the top stores in the city that carry the major international brand names. It was like shopping in the U.S. While there, I decided it was time to buy some new underwear. I had success at the first store that I visited. They had all all of the major brands and I found some that I liked. I guess I’ll know for sure once I wear them.

Got back home and took a nap. Shopping can be very tiring. Then made a simple dinner. Saw a YouTube about the making of Star Trek, The Movie (1979) so I knew that that would be the feature movie that I’d watch tonight on Netflix. Watching this movie was like visiting an old friend.

Tomorrow I’m back at the gym again. Only have a few more days for a full workout. I’ll join a gym again once I return to Budapest in April. Will be nice to have a few weeks off though. Just being honest…


Daily Journal: Monday, 6 March 2017

I’ll have to admit, its beginning to look like springtime is fully upon us. A bright sunny day greeted me when I finally decided to crawl out of bed.

Since I said I would meet Csabi at 3:00, I went to the store before working out. Just needed a few things to keep me supplied before I leave on Sunday. It is now a less than a week until my mini-vacation begins. (I’m considering this a vacation, because I’m leaving for a few weeks and returning to my long-stay in Hungary.)

At 3:00, I met Csabi at a nearby bus and tram stop. He asked that we detour so he could pick up his birth certificate before we headed to a coffee place I had wanted to try out. Got to see a new part of the inner city that I hadn’t been to before. And then ride a bus that took us near the parliament building where the coffee place was located.

While at the parliament building, Csabi said he would take my picture and I said okay.

The coffee shop that we visited was named Cafe Picard. Captain Picard is the lead in Star Trek Next Generation, the series that I’m watching nightly. I also posted the picture below to the Facebook Star Trek group too. I’m a Star Trek geek and proud of it!

After coffee, we walked around some more and I saw the uniform and gas mask on display. Good place for a selfie.

Before we got on the Metro for the trip back, I saw a pharmacy and asked for Csabi’s help. I’ve run out of aspirin and also Aleve. I use the aspirin mainly to calm my RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) and the Aleve for neck and back pain, which I get once every month or so. In Hungary, these two over-the-counter items in many countries, need to be requested from the pharmacy staff and Csabi helped with the translation.

Really is nice just walking around the city and looking in the store windows. What an eclectic variety of shops in Budapest. The late afternoon is perfect for this sort of activity. Csabi wanted some pizza so we stopped at a small pizza store so he could get a slice. He generally eats very healthy meals, so shared the phrase “guilty pleasure” with him. We had a good laugh.

Had the last of the beef stew for dinner. By the third night I get a little tired of the tried and true stew. Looking forward to something new tomorrow evening.

When shopping for fruits and vegetables, most everything is available in many Budapest stores and public markets. The quality varies, depending where you shop. I’m lucky that my local store carries raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries for my morning yogurt with chia seeds. These berries, according to their packaging, come from Chile and Morocco. The vegetable shortage in the U.K. doesn’t seem to be effecting Hungary – at least from what I can tell.

I’m almost to season 4 of Next Generation. Fun to re-watch these shows and almost hard to believe that the series ran from 1987 to 1994 – almost 30 years ago. Seems like yesterday.