Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Medieval Gateway To Luxury

A view of Michael's Gate from Michalská Street in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Michael's Gate, built in the year 1300, is the only city gate that has been preserved of the medieval fortifications of the city.  In medieval times, the city was surrounded by walls and entry and exit was only possible through one of the four heavily fortified gates.

Now the gate leads the way to luxury shops and restaurants that dot the area around it.

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Talking To The Toms

2016: Hand Truckin'
2015: Zero Tolerance
2014: Twenty Minutes On The Water
2013: 1960s First Aid
2012: Far From The Soaking Of The East
2011: Inspired
2010: Lucky To Be A Woman
2009: I Feel Like A Thief
2008: Emulating The Brazilian Bombshell
2007: HMMWVs
2006: She’s Still Learning
2005: Woof

Monday, October 29, 2018

Where József And Dorrotya Meet

Because of low water levels on the  Danube, our river cruise was delayed by two nights. What this meant for us was, that instead of staying on the ship the first two nights, the company put us up in a hotel in Budapest instead - the Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge.

Let me remind you that our first four nights were spent at the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest, a spectacular five-star property.  True luxury.

The Sofitel?  Not so much.  Although billed as a luxury property, it didn't even come close. The lobby was beautiful, the front desk staff friendly and competent, and they had a very decent restaurant, but the rooms were less than spectacular.

A little disappointing, but river levels aren't something anyone can control - that's all up to Mother Nature (and probably global warming) - so we checked in, showered and slept, and got ready for our adventure.

The photo above is the view from our room - if I craned my neck and looked toward the corner.

József Attila Utca and Dorottya Utca are the streets where the buildings in the photo sit.  The building with the dome is the Ministry of Interior, and the white building on the right houses a post office.

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A Day Like No Other

2016: I Could Be This Guy
2015: Thinking Place
2014: The Fruits Of My Internet Surfing Labor
2013: They Never Talk About These In The Brochure
2012: A Day On The Giant Sleeping Frog
2011: Off The Board And In The Air
2010: Evening Fruits And Vegetables
2009: He Parks Like A Girl
2008: Out Cattin’ On Halloween
2007: The Bridges And A Cowboy
2006: What Happens When Time Falls Into The Wrong Hands
2005: Me

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Food, Drink, And Boxes With Secrets

The Great Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok in Hungarian) in Budapest, Hungary is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.

In 10,000 square meters (107,639 SF) of space under one roof, it houses everything from eateries and bakeries, and meat, cheese, liquor, and paprika vendors, to stalls where you can buy scarves, Hungarian embroidered goods, leather, decorative eggs, and "secret boxes" - a wooden box with secret compartments and a trick to opening them.  

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Crack Is Wack

2016: A View Into DIY
2015: Thirty Minutes To The Ultimate Comfort Dessert
2014: Sweeping Views
2013: Some Mothers Find Time To REALLY Play With Their Kids
2012: Even At 9,000 Feet Above Sea Level, He's Still A Handsome Devil!
2011: Perfecting The Paillard
2010: This Beautiful Place
2009: If I Had A Horn, I’d Toot It. I Do Have A Blog Though.
2008: We Are THAT Good
2007: Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures
2006: Alabama’s Greatest Showplace
2005: Half Nekkid Thursday Virgin

Friday, October 26, 2018

Country House

A night shot of the Hungarian Parliament Building.  Currently the largest building in Hungary - the photo doesn't depict the size of the building - it's also the third largest parliament building in the world.  It has 691 rooms, 12.5 miles of stairs, and is 315 feet tall.  Read a little bit more about the building in this link.

I will have more photos coming of this building and other areas in Budapest, and will be posting and writing more when I can.  The internet hasn't been as fast as I'd like, and with all the running around we've been doing, I can barely stay awake to eat dinner let alone write blog posts.

Keep checking back - you'll want to see the gold ceilings in this thing!

* Országház in Hungarian means "country house", and this word is used to describe the parliament building, meaning "House of the Country" or "House of the Nation".

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I Experience Fall Via The Internet

2016: Sizzling Hot Balls Of Meat
2015: How To Get On The Do Not Call List
2014: Gazing At The Stargazers
2013: Oh, How We Love Our La-Z-Boys
2012: The Road To Luminosity
2011: Old School Meets New School

2010: There For The Climbing…If You’re So Inclined
2009: I Need A Thing That Ain’t No Big Thing
2008: Race To The Head
2007: Eddie Fresh From A Nap Friday
2006: Forever Yours
2005: Blur

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Fried Dough Is Delicious In Any Language

The day of our market tour, we took the bus to the stop where we were instructed to wait for Manuela.  While waiting, since it was breakfast time, we had to have something to eat.  We found a bakery, where we ordered a pastry and coffee, but that just didn't do it. Next door to the bakery was this food stand.  We ventured over to investigate.

It was a stand that sold palacscintas (pancakes) and lángos (no translation).  I had read about lángos and it was top on my list of things to eat while in Budapest.  Lángos is a Hungarian specialty - deep fried dough.  How can you go wrong with deep fried dough??

According to the Wikipedia information, lángos are made with water or milk, flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.  They were traditionally baked in the front of a brick oven, close to the flames.  Its name come from láng, the Hungarian word for flame.  Since people no longer have brick ovens and do not bake bread at home, they are virtually always fried in oil.

You can order them plain with no toppings (sima lángos), but most are served with cheese (sajt) and sour cream (tejfölös).  We knew we wanted to try it the way it was traditionally eaten, but decided to copy the Hungarian guy in front of us on line who ordered his with onions (hagymás) and ham (sonká).
Ed and I split one, but a person can easily eat one by themselves as almost everyone - including the little old ladies - was doing.  The cost for the one we ordered was 650 Forints (Hungarian currency - HUF), which came to $2.31.  The plain ones were 300 forints ($1.06 USD).  I can easily eat one of these every day.

Looks like it wouldn't take much convincing to get Ed on board with that plan.

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Ladies Night

2016: When Your Plane Lands, You're Home
2015: Lining Up For The Pony Ride
2014: Keep It Movin' People
2013: Salt For Miles
2012: I Attended Without An Entourage
2011: It’s All Greek To Me

2010: Italy On A Shoestring
2009: What The Elle???
2008: Weird And Random
2007: California Burning With Need
2006: Walking Into Another World
2005: Fall Into Winter

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Shopping With The Locals

The first day we were in Budapest, Marlaina set up a market tour excursion for us through Eat With, a website that connects you with locals for food experiences like tours, cooking classes, home-hosted dinners, and more.

The tour was given by a local woman named Manuela.  The name didn't sound very Hungarian and when we inquired found out that it came from her father's ethnic background - he was Cuban.  Assuming her mother was Hungarian, we inquired again and found out that no, her mother was German, but that Manuela wound up coming to Hungary 30 years ago when she was 22 and just stayed.  

The market, Bosnyák téri Vásárcsarnok, is a local market, not a tourist spot, and the place where Manuela does her own shopping.  She took us to the stalls where she buys her own food, told us about the regions the vegetables were grown, and snagged a few samples for us from her favorite vendors. This woman - who gave us a sample of celery root - gave us little baggies of homemade paprika, a spice the Hungarians are famous for.

Manuela bought cheese, bread, meat, tomatoes, wine, and some local cabbage slaw, and took us back to her apartment to make us lunch from the fresh delicacies she just purchased.

She was so knowledgable and so friendly, creating a great first impression of this city that we found to be wonderful.  The experience of meeting a local, shopping where they shop, getting recommendations for other places to visit and eat was invaluable.

We had a second Eat With experience planned for the evening, and based on this experience I was now looking forward to it even more!

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2017: New Jersey On Hudson
2016: Behold The Beautiful Brisket
2015: He Really Is A Carpenter
2014: Constant Surveillance
2013: Not Even Good Enough To Make My Top 100 Pictures Of Fall List
2012: Exactly
2011: A Little Grease More Often Is Better
2010: Scenes From Florence
2009: Eddie Palm Sketch Friday
2008: Moabulous
2007: Ready To Draw The Future
2006: Red Fish, Blue Fish, One Fish, Two Fish.
2005: Beautiful Enough To Lick

Monday, October 22, 2018

Sleep-Inducing Mood Lighting

Two days ago I wrote about our Business Class flight on Turkish Airlines - the class where your seats turn into beds.

This is what our cabin looked like once everyone was asleep.  There's a 2-3-2 configuration to the seats.  We were in the two seats on one side of the aisle, with a window.  In the middle was a pregnant woman flying with her two kids, ages 4 and 6.  And Marlaina and MacG were in the other two seats by the window.

My first thought when I got on the plane was, "Great.  We finally make it to Business Class and we still get seats next to two kids."  The universe is definitely trying to teach me a lesson.

I had the 4-year-old next to me.  And although he was squirmy, climbing in his seat, watching his iPad, and talking a lot, the drone of the plane drowned out his voice a little, and overall, he was extremely well-behaved.  And beautiful.  I think they were Turkish. Although the mother spoke English, she was speaking to them in their native language. He had shiny black hair, the most gorgeous black eyes, and skin that only a four-year-old can have.  He was even more beautiful asleep.

But while he was awake, he was so confident using his iPad to watch movies, and using the flashlight on his mother's iPhone to look for something under the seat, I thought he'd probably flown many times.  The mother told me this was the first time she's flown alone with the kids, that her husband was working.  When I told her they seemed like old pros, she laughed and said she hoped the next leg went as smoothly.

As for the seat-to-bed situation - it was infinitely better than flying economy, no doubt, but it wasn't as comfortable as a bed would be.  Or even a couch for that matter. I fully suspect the comfort level is directly related to my size, because even though it turned into a bed, the seat area and width of the "bed" was still 22" and there's no way this body is fitting comfortably into 22" of space.  Oddly, Ed, who is also larger than 22" seemed to sleep like a rock.

Still, I have to say it's amazing that this is even a thing - the flight attendants actually come around to prepare the bed for you, and you get slippers and a goodie bag with earplugs and eye mask.  Some airlines even provide pajamas.  We brought our own.

The leg room and the fact that someone isn't reclining into your lap for fourteen hours, is totally worth it.  

2007: Reflections

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Baklava And Beyond

There main street in the old town section of Istanbul was lined with sweet shops and vendors selling boxes of nougat, pastries, and other confections.  Koska Helvacisi was just one of them.  
I didn't have a chance to try anything since we were rushing around, trying to see the mosque, and going to get something to eat, but we'll be going back through on our way home so I'll try to snag something then.

These are Rahat Lokum, chewy sweets containing dried fruits and/or nuts.  They look sooooooo sweet, I feel a cavity forming just looking at them.  But I love pistachios, so I'm definitely tempted to try this one.   
I should probably buy a box to serve to guests once I get home, don't you think?

2012: Barrio Viejo
2011: A Daunting Task
2010: Salivating Over The Salumeria
2009: The Cheapest Entertainment Around
2008: Proud To Be A Liberal American
2007: I Don’t Think This Is What The Gideons Had In Mind
2006: Ten Reasons Today
2005: The Big Five Oh!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Flying While Supine

I know I've already posted a photo from Istanbul, but I didn't get to brag about the flight yet.  We took off from Los Angeles on Turkish Airlines Flight TK10, heading to Budpest, Hungary with a 20-hour layover in Istanbul.  In Business Class.

This was our first time flying Business Class and I can tell you right now that it's ruined me for any kind of air travel in the future.  Unless it's First Class.  It makes a 14-hour flight much more bearable.  I don't think I can fly economy ever again, although I know I probably will.

Our friends Marlaina and MacG have taken several Business Class and First Class flights on their yearly trips to Asia.  They are familiar with which airlines are better than others, they know which Business and First Class lounges are the best, and MacG is a pro at scouring the flights to get the best times and fares.

Flying in Business Class is an experience.  If you've done it before, then you probably think it's no big deal.  But for a first timer, it's an eye-opener.  Sure, it costs thousands more than an economy ticket, but it does come with some perks.

The first thing they wanted to show off was the Star Alliance Lounge at the Los Angeles International Airport. Holy Mother of....I don't even know what.  It was the most amazing place-to-sit-and-wait-for-a-plane I've ever seen!  Beautiful decor, newspapers from around the world, TVs, comfy seating, quiet, and the most amazing array of food and beverages I've ever been offered in an airport in my life.  At no cost - it's part of flying in the business class section.  We ate and drank and ate and ate and ate.

And then we got on the plane and ate again.  Seriously.  I've never eaten so much food in an airport, or been served so much food on an airplane in my life.  I was actually groaning at the amount of food.  And this chick likes to eat!

This review - with photos! - is excellent.  The author shows everything we got on our flight and really gives you an idea of what was available (our goodie bags were Christian Lacroix, not Bentley, but the contents were the same) in this class of travel.

Can I just say....

The seats turn into beds, people!  Beds.  

OK, so it's not like my bed at home, but it's at least 5 feet of leg room that the people in economy could only dream to have.  

I'm ruined for life.

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Living In A Boy's World

2016: Ten Outstanding Years
2015: Mangiare All'aperto, Trucker Style
2014: Released To The Press
2013: In A Time When Gentlemen And Ladies Actually Existed
2012: The Great Affair  
2011: The Gaping Void Says It All
2010: Under The Tuscan Sun Within 3,000 Year Old Walls
2009: Dragged Back, Kicking And Screaming
2008: Seniors Maintain Law And Order By Way Of A Fluke Discovery
2007: Lisa Lavie Is The Angel Here
2006: Fight The Moth
2005: Abandoned But Not Forgotten

Friday, October 19, 2018

Serving Two Religions

This is the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. When it was built in 537 AD, it was the world’s largest building. An engineering marvel of its time, it was famous for its massive dome. 

The structure was originally built as an Eastern Orthodox Christian cathedral.  It served that purpose until 1453 - with a short break between 1204 and 1261 when the fourth crusaders turned it into a Roman Catholic cathedral.

In 1453, Constantinople (Turkey) was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and Mehmed the Conqueror ordered the church to be converted into a mosque.  All aspects of Christianity were destroyed or plastered over, and Islamic architectural elements - a mihrab, minbar, and four minarets - were added. 

It operated as a mosque until 1931 when it was closed.  In 1935 it was re-opened as a museum.  According to Wikipedia, "as of 2014, it was the second-most visited museum in Turkey, attracting almost 3.3 million visitors annually. According to data released by the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry, Hagia Sophia was Turkey's most visited tourist attraction in 2015."

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2017: Beyond Cayo Hueso
2016: Bathing Beauty
2015: Win In A Complex World
2014: Farm To Belly
2013: It's The Weekend. Kick Back And Relax.
2012: With Pleasure 
2011: It’s Exhausting Imagining You In These Pants
2010: Florentine Youth
2009: What’s In A Name?
2008: Farming The Wind
2007: Eddie In The Big Little City Friday
2006: Photograph It If You Think You May Never See It Again
2005: Why???

Thursday, October 18, 2018

An Evening In The Land Of Angels

The view from the rooftop of our hotel in Los Angeles.  Today we started our vacation with our friends Marlaina and MacG. Once we settled into the hotel, we went for dinner and then hit the rooftop terrace. We spent over an hour watching planes takeoff and land - I was sipping coffee, the boys were drinking beer.  The weather was AMAZING, a perfectly cool clear night. Perfect way to start the adventure!

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Drawbridge Warning

2016: Driving Into The Sunset With Voices In My Head
2015: Look Away, Look Away, Look Away, Dixieland
2014: Denial For Sale In New Mexico
2013: Friday Night Fright
2012: Ten Things For October
2011: Jane’s Addiction

2010: Isolated Iesolana
2009: WWJD?
2008: Where The Angels Arrive And Depart
2007: Diamonds In The Deep Blue
2006: Everyone Is Doing It
2005: En-Gulfed Coast

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Signed, Sealed, And Being Delivered

The mid-terms are only three weeks away, folks!

This year they're dedicating a special voting day for each party.

Democrats vote on November 6th.

Republicans vote on November 7th.

Don't miss your day. 

Make sure you get out there and VOTE!!

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Growing Season

2016:  The General Landscape Of Southern Arizona
2015:  A Bright Spot In The District
2014:  The Way The River Went
2013:  If You're Looking To Flip A House For Money....Don't
2012:  A Sad Day For The Piggies
2011:  A Warrior Waging A Noble Fight, Fueled By Chocolate Ice Cream

2010:  Ragazzo dell’Ombrello
2009:  Eddie It’s Not Even Halloween Yet Friday
2008:  Not So Different, Are We?
2007:  Quite Uneducated, If You Ask Me
2006:  Sometimes Identity Theft Can SAVE You Money
2005:  Mina In Fifty Years