Budapest, Hungary September 2015

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I sometimes think I need to record the conversations I have with my friends. My friend Katy and I were talking about meeting up to hangout for a weekend. Katy originally offered to fly to the States and then I offered to fly to Scotland. We talked about meeting in the middle and yet somehow, we ended up in Budapest…….

We stayed at the Hilton Budapest in the Royal Castle District on the Buda side. It’s an amazing hotel, a great location on the Buda side.I had arrived early morning after having taken the early United flight to Frankfurt. I took the Hop On Hop Off Bus to get a feel of Budapest. I should mention, it was really hot that day, 33 c or 90 f, so the bus was really my only option. I was quite surprised about how spread out Budapest is.

Buda and Pest make up Budapest. They are divided by the Danube river. During World World II, a lot of the bridges that connect the 2 sides were destroyed.  Budapest has an amazing history.

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I headed back to hotel to do a little work and wait for Katy. Lucky for me, the hotel received the memo of my arrival and had my favorite snacks waiting with an nice view as well……

IMG_5262I personally think every opportunity to celebrate life with friends, should be marked with champagne. Well champagne and Garrett’s Popcorn…..

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We had quite an enjoyable evening in the lounge at the Hilton. I would like to say we behaved and went to better early, but that’s not how the adventures of Flo and Katy go….

We met a lovely couple, Erin and Jake, from Portland, Oregon, who were on their honeymoon thru Eastern Europe. It was great fun talking with them. As it turns out Erin is a photographer,check out her work here.  We tried to convince her that she should be the photographer at my birthday party next year. Poor Jake and Erin mentioned the hotel had sent some champagne to their room. Of course, they had Katy and I at champagne, so we crashed the honeymoon suite. Another epic night in adventures of Flo and Katy.

I would lying if I said it was not a bit rough getting up the next day. Thankfully it was not as hot as the previous day. Katy has this silly idea that we are going gorilla trekking, so we need to train. And by training she meant, we had to walk down the lovely mountain our hotel was on top of. It was not as bad as I thought it would be. We walked and walked until we reached the Central Market. Where we enjoyed the one thing I specifically said I was forbidden to eat, Langos…..

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It was well enjoyed. I think the trick is not eat a whole one yourself or at least not after gallons of gluhwein.

Our next stop the Icebar. Which was great because it was starting to warm up a bit. Basically you pay to go into a freezer with ice furniture to drink out of glasses made of ice.

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By the time we came out of the deep freeze, we noticed how warm it was outside. So we decided to check out the famous thermal baths at Széchenyi Thermal Baths. It has 3 outdoor baths and 15 indoor ones. It was an experience. I am glad we tried it, but I can say I don’t think I need to try it again. I am every so thankful that we went during the day. I know that I would not have been able to handle the evening event, Sparty Hedonism. We entered the first pool, which was full of a somewhat older crowd. We soon found out why. It was one with jets.  I never seen older people move so fast or be so agressive over jets. We learned our lesson and moved to the side, or so we tried until an older lady decided she wanted to stand where poor Katy was standing and just pushed her out of the way. The whole situation was just so bizarre. The highlight was probably the little old man that was eyeing me. I just laughed it off at first, until he was standing a little to close to me. That was my cue, pool time over.

That evening we headed out on the Buda side for a traditional Hungarian meal. Ghoulash and Stuffed Cabbage and of course more Hungarian wine and beer.

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We then ran off to catch a boat cruise along the Danube. We timed to perfectly to catch the sun set.

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And then it was time for me to head home….  I had a fantastic time, as always, with Katy. I am sure there will be many of adventures ahead. I am happy to report my wallet survived with very little damage, my liver on the other hand, well…..

Until next time… Safe Travels

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Travel Tips September 2015 Verison

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You would think given the amount that I travel that I would have my travel strategies locked down, some sort of organized way to travel. The answer is NOPE……

(This blog is for my family and friends to share my experiences. I am not advertising for any of the products I link to and no I am not making money off of the clicks. I just find them useful and thought I would share.)

I personally believe every repetitive activity should re-evaluated every now and then, because technology and products change. There maybe something to improve you process. So this is my updated list of 2015 travel tips.

Good Suitcase- it was clear when I flew to Australia earlier this year that I was not going to be able to pack just carry on. So I did what I had to do

IMG_4336Yes I realize, now, that it would have been easier if I had just bought 1 bigger bag. The current carry on limits are 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels. (Check with your airline, before travel). The international airlines, especially the ones I encounter in Europe, are really strict with this limits. Since I’ve started talking longer trips, I decided it might make sense to invest in bigger piece that I could actually check it.  So I began my research into the land of luggage.  I learned that “20” and “22” equals a “26“. Thank you to Sharon, the manager at Tumi Oakbrook store, for giving me that piece of luggage wisdom. It’s based on the capacity of what each bag can hold.

Internet- I normally like be unconnected when I travel. I received a Skyroam as a gift and it’s been a nice edition to my travel bag. It’s great for short trips or trips that span multiple countries. It’s $10 day or $8 if you buy a pack of 5. It gives you unlimited data for 24 hours to up to 5 devices. It only has a 8 hour battery, but if you are a travel pro you’ll have a back up battery and if not, keep reading.

Back-Up Power- I originally purchased a brick of a power pack. Then I realized I still needed the power cord until I found this one. It’s perfect, the cords are built in and it’s light weight. This should be a staple in everyone’s travel bag.

Travel Bags-  I love me some Longchamp totes (maybe a little too much). They are ideal for travel, because they can fold up. I also swear by PacSafe bags. They are great for places known for pickpockets, like Rome or Barcelona. You should find a bag that is functional for you that meets your travel needs. I have several bags, I know big surprise, in various sizes to suit my various travels.

Entertainment- If you have Amazon Prime, you can now download movies and tv shows to watch later. It appears it for mobile devices only as of now. I just finished watching the first season of The Royals.  It was actually more interesting then I thought it would be. I now working my way thru season 1 of Unreal, I am only on episode 3, so I will report back.

Socks– it’s getting to be sock season here in Chicago. The last think you want when you have to take off your shoes for security is to have holes in your socks. So do yourself a favor, clean out your sock drawer. Apparently I am a recovering sock hoarder. I just cleaned out my sock drawer. There will be no holey socks in my near future.

Dual Voltage- must current electronics are dual voltage. I did not realize you are not supposed to use your heating electronics ( hair dryer, flat iron, etc.) with a converter. To avoid blowing up your blow dryer ( which I did in Australia) make sure your items are dual voltage.

Shoes- invest in a good pair of travel shoes. There is nothing worse your feet hurting from trying to be cute when you travel. Study and safe are your friend. I wore new sandals in Paris this summer, they were thrown away when I got to Italy. There was just no coming back from that pain.

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I may not be winning any fashion awards with this get up, but my feet were quite thankful.

Online Back Up- in this digital age that we live in, we really should have a good online back up. I apparently have several. I realized that is a good and bad thing. You may want to organize your back up system and set it up to auto back up. This way those great photos you take on your phone will auto sync to the “cloud” somewhere and if something happens to your phone, you still have your pictures. I will be taking my own advice this week, I realize my “cloud” is scattered over several continents.

Bag for the Plane- In the last year, I’ve 2 ipods and a Kindle on my flights. I got the Kindle back, but the ipod’s were eaten by the lovely seats on United Airlines. So bought I a SeatPak ( in my defense I had a coupon). I had previously tried using one of the bags from an amenity kit, but it was like a black hole. I am hoping my new SeatPak will keep me organized on my next flight, no more lost Kindles.

Toiletry Bag- I am pretty sure I have 5 mini tubes of toothpaste in my toiletry bag. I really need to clean out my bag. And replace the stuff that need to be replaced. Like hair ties, I buy them in packs of 20, you know the ones for $.99? I can never find one when I need one? How is that possible? So after you finish with the sock drawer, maybe do an inventory of your toiletry bag.

Well I am off to clean out my toiletry bag and pack for my next adventure….. heading to see my friend Katy…. which is just dangerous for my liver and my wallet. Stay tuned ………. Until next time safe travels!

Vancouver, Canada September 2015

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A few months ago, I was having an argument with a friend on pronunciation, you know the tomato-potato one. Of course it was an argument with no end, until I said how do you pronounce that country that is north of the United States? KAN NU DUH ( Canada) ? I said no I say CA-NA-DA….  Good luck getting that out of your head.

Vancouver has been on my list for years and with the long holiday weekend, it was a great excuse to finally visit.

I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver, which is located in the Downtown area.  Vancouver is quite tourist friendly. They have great street maps every few blocks that highlight the different areas and gives you a general idea of how long it would take to walk somewhere. I took adventure of the dry weather and walked. I checked out Chinatown and Gastown, including the famous steam clock. It really was a beautiful day.

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It had a crazy few days for me before leaving on this trip. So crazy I forgot my camera, (I took pics with my phone), I almost forgot my passport and I did not pack properly for the weather.  In my defense, it was quite hot in Chicago and I could not imagine that I would need hat and gloves.  So to alleviate some of the craziness, I booked a spa treatment at Life Luxe Spa. I had an amazing experience. I highly recommend it.

The next day I went in search of Willy. While I did not find Willy, I found some of his cousins.

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Whale watching is interesting. I would akin it to safari. You spend a lot of time traveling for a few moments of reward. It was worth it to me, but I see why it would not be for everyone. There was a group of about 25 and we had an open air boat. So we had to wear anti-exposure suits, which you need because it can get quite chilly.  I was worried about getting seasick, but I was did ok. I would not recommend drinking a lot of fluids prior or while on board. Remember, you have to wear the anti-exposure suit, and while there was facilities on the boat, yeah well, you were warned. I choose to go with  Wild Whales Vancouver, because they leave from Granville Island.  After sitting on a boat for 7 hours, I was happy to be on land. So I toured around the island. They have a fun public market and lots of cute little boutiques and food stands. And loads and loads of tourist.

The next day, I headed to Stanley Park. It was an easy walk from my hotel. I walked around the seawall a bit, but it’s like 9km’s, so I opted to take a tour around instead. I lucked out again in the weather department.

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I really enjoy visiting Vancouver. I would definitely recommend it. I don’t think a few days really does it justice as there is so much more to do and see.  I am sure I will be back again, if only to get a better shot of Willy or his cousins.

On a not so funny note, I managed to leave my Kindle on the plane. I am actually surprised, given the amount of travel that I do that I don’t lose stuff more often. I did file a claim, so hopefully it will resurface.
If only I had brought my new SeatPak with me………

Until my next adventures- Safe Travels…..