Sunday, December 28, 2008

Are You Hungary? I Thought We Just Ate!

Here we are, sitting on the back of the boat, or what we all call the "aft", as in get your "aft" to the back of the Boat!

We're learning all the nautical terms, as in "starboard," "helm," and "no, thank you, rather than Port, I'll stick with another vodka tonic".

The boat is pretty darn fancy, with about one crew person for every 2 1/2 people. The half person might get short-changed, but we being the two of us have been doing very well!!

We had a marvelous time in London over Christmas with Jona and Claire. Having only lost one day of our trip with our little side trip to SFO, we met them on Tuesday, December 23, staying at the City of London Apex Tower Hotel, right by the Tower Bridge which happens to be right near the Tower of London. Very handy the way they grouped all of those Tower Things right next to each other!

That first evening, we all went to see Spamalot, the play based on Monty Pythons' movie from the 70's, "The Search For the Holy Grail." Although Karen and I had seen it before, the cast was marvelous and it was a very fresh and funny performance. After watching the play, we grabbed a taxi to the Oxo Tower, where we had a marvelous meal at the Oxo Brasserie overlooking the Thames!

The next day, we slept in a bit, had a Full English Breakfast, complete with sausages (they even had vegan sausages for Jona & Claire), toast and beans and several hours of subsequent burping. We walked over to the Tower of London, intending on touristing there, but the Tower was closed and the most you could do was pose with the resident Beefeater who stood fairly still (considering the beefy guy that he was).

From there, we were off to Harrods' Department Store, a Christmas destination resort. Our mutual goal was to do speed-Christmas shopping for each other with a ten pound maximum (English currency, not weight). Judging from the presents that evening, we all had a lot of fun both shopping and opening! Our elaborate wrapping consisted of a collection of newspapers and bags - it worked very well. We had a great shopping extravaganza! Harrods was very well decorated and its food court is an oasis all to itself.

After shopping, we went to see the production of Edward Scissorhands. The show was based upon the story and music of the Johnny Depp movie of the same name. It is basically a ballet and, like almost all ballets I've ever been to, it has marvelous music, incredible leaps, twists and the various "pax" pieces, with an overwhelming emphasis on the word "long," as in, "how long is this piece going to last?" Or, "they sure have been going at it for a long time, are they going to give us a break?" Or, "I long for a drink, why didn't I order a double at the intermission?" There is the occasional funny bit, where you chuckle for a second and then they're right back at it, the violinist sawing away and the dancers princing, leaping and prancing left and right, as our legs go to sleep in our narrow seats. The best part came at the very end, being the very end. Of course, the ballet folks know how to bleed out the applause, and don't even consider leaving the stage until we're all clapped out. They seem to have a sixth sense about leaving just before we start chucking objects onto the stage to get them off.

We split up for awhile, Jona & Claire heading off for food. I suppose it is the very sensible approach of a Vegan lifestyle, where you end up with numerous healthy and smaller meals. I have always approached my meals like a python, devouring some large animal at a single seating and then looking for a rock to lie on and digest.

In any event, we were looking forward to having a nap (napping being one of the single biggest events of any of our adventure holidays). Karen wanted to do some "blogging," so I went to the hotel room safe to take out our computers. Fact is, I didn't realize how safe the stuff was. Our secret code didn't work, so I tried it again and again, assuring Karen that I was doing everything correctly while she looked at me with a look somewhere in between "any idiot should be able to remember four numbers" and "I suppose you think this is funny?" I called maintenance and they sent up the English version of Gomer Pyle, "Golly, I can't seem to get this here safe to open!!" I assumed they had a master key, or code, or secret back door to get into the safes, but this one was really safe, at least from guests and hotel maintenance people. I suppose any normal criminal could have had it opened in seconds. Eventually, as in, almost two hours later, the safe was opened. Seriously, I think it just popped open and Gomer had no idea what was wrong or how he had done it. I thanked him, showed him the door and assured him we didn't need the safe to be fixed, we had decided to give all our stuff away and not worry about it any more, preferring to sleep.

Jona & Claire showed up, we ordered some cheese, fruit, crackers and wine, put a video Christmas tree and fire on the television and enjoyed our Christmas that night. We had a great time!!

The next morning, we slept in, ordered up a light champagne breakfast, played games and had an excellent early Christmas dinner at the hotel. The Apex Hotel was very accommodating, and had prepared an excellent vegan version of the Christmas dinner for Jona and Claire. That night, we grabbed a taxi to Covent Garden and walked around enjoying the Christmas lights and decorations there and at Leicester Square, Regent Street and Carnaby Street.

On the way back we stopped for a late night snack at the Union Hamburger Grill (I thought Jona was joking when he said he wanted a hamburger, but they have vegan versions all over England). Back at the hotel, we said our goodbyes, a teary-eyed Karen in hand, we went back to our room to pack up and get some sleep.

Our flight left from Gatwick Airport at 9:30, but we had it down to a science, waking up at 5:30, finishing up packing, walk over to the Underground where we go about four stops on the Circle Line to Victoria Station, grab the Gatwick Express that leaves every fifteen minutes or so and it whisks us speedily to Gatwick with an hour and a half or two hours to spare. Great plan. The only problem was that this was some holiday called Boxing Day, which apparently the day where the English box things up or pick fights with one another and don't bother to tell anyone that nothing is working. The first item was that the Underground was closed, "It's on Sunday schedule, Sir, won't start running until after you need it. When do you need it?" That's fine, we think,we'll just get a cab. The Apex Hotel had a well-dressed monkey at the front of the hotel, pretending to be human and almost, but not quite, doing normal porter things, like getting a taxi. He looked sincere and we sat about for around 30 minutes before we realized their trick monkey couldn't actually get a taxi. So we walked to the closest major street and started waiting for a taxi to hail. It took awhile but finally one stopped and took us to Victoria Station. We knew we were in trouble when we saw a lot of people standing around a lot of buses and a person was shouting out, "get in line for the next bus to Gatwick!" So much for the high speed train. The bus driver hinted that the trip might take as long as an hour and a half, which would give us about thirty minutes to spare to catch our flight. Karen suggested that the driver go really fast and he accommodated us. While Karen is grateful for the speed at which he got us to Gatwick, she is still sporting several bruises from being bumped on some of the steeper and faster turns. Arriving at Gatwick at the South Terminal, the entire bus was ordered off. Our problem was that our flight left from the North Terminal and there was absolutely no indication as to where that terminal was. We walked quickly but aimlessly, asking periodic directions and eventually found the North Terminal, went up to the British Airlines counter, because that was who we booked through and where we were directed, but after waiting in line, the agent told us we had to go to their companion airline, Malev Airlines, which actually ran the flight. Since time was getting short, we rushed over to where Malev Airlines was located and we're able to not only check in, but to get exit row seats.

The flight was actually the best flight we'd been on for a long time. Hungary's official airline, Malev. Go figure.

We made it to Budapest, found our luggage and a taxi, and headed to our hotel, the Intercontinental Hotel on the Pest side of the river, looking over to Castle Hill on the Buda side. I think our whole adventure finally caught up to us (from driving in the snow, to flying out of SFO, to playing around London with Jona and Claire for days on very little sleep), as we flopped into the bed in mid-afternoon, enjoyed the view for a few minutes and then went to sleep. We awoke in time to enjoy the evening lights on the Buda side, slept awhile longer, and then ordered up room service around midnight. After eating, we went back to sleep. At that point, we couldn't tell you much else about Budapest, but for an incredible view, great food and a cozy bed, we highly recommend Room 624 at the Intercontinental.

The next morning, we ordered up room service, wanting to extend our Budapest Bedventure. I actually ventured out in search of cigars and brandy for the boat. For the former, I was directed to the Cigar Tower, a place I would highly recommend to any fellow smokers! As I was walking about, I also noticed that there was an open Christmas Market.

I returned to the hotel and we finished up the packing, checked out and we returned back to the Christmas Market. We walked around the outdoor shops and enjoyed hot spice wine.

After that, we returned to the hotel, picked up our bags and a taxi and went to the boat. The boat started off like a pampered holiday! Crew greeted our taxi and whisked away our luggage which they put into our stateroom while I settled up with the cab driver! Check in at the boat took only a few minutes and we were in our spacious room, unpacking and putting away our clothes. Everything fit wonderfully and, within a little more than 30 minutes, we were sitting in the lounge enjoying a glass of wine.

Ah, bliss.

2 comments: said...


Anonymous said...

It sounds like you all got in some "much needed sleep" I am happy for you both! The boat sounds like a piece of heaven!

Love, Susie