Archive | November, 2012

I Left Hungary For More: Budapest part 1

29 Nov

I know it’s been another long absence, nearly two weeks if I’m to believe the very sparse-looking calendar thing somewhere on the right side of this page. But I also know that you know to expect any kind of regularity is more futile than telling me how Back to the Future part III is fundamentally flawed. I won’t hear it.

Anyway, the main reason I’m back is because I actually have something to write about. That’s right, as promised over the past week and a bit I have returned from the West island of New Zealand (still funny), done a jet lagged 4 1/2 days of work, and spent the weekend in Budapest. By my standards I need around two months paid leave to recover now.

So I’m sure at least five of you seven loyal readers are thinking along the same lines: “you only went to Budapest for the many obvious Hungary puns.” Well you’re sort of right, but I had also heard it was an amazing place from everyone who’d been, therefore it was on my list of must-see places for this trip.

It began with what is widely accepted as the most shambolic airline in the world. Ryanair. I know you’re not paying for the service, but you do pay for pretty much everything else. That being said, it got us there on time and without too much fuss. We then set about getting to Wombats Hostel, and given how much trouble it can be to get from some airports in the world, the fixed-price taxi service was extremely welcome.

The following morning we were determined to make the most of our flying weekend visit, and so embarked upon a free walking tour. Rather than being ‘free’, these tours are actually based on tips (which they make very clear at the start) and are a very cheap way of seeing a city and getting heaps of information. After winding our way through various landmarks, we arrived at the Palace overlooking the river and were greeted with:

I know what you’re thinking. And despite the fact that it is neither on a shit angle, nor blurry, I did in fact take this photo. This is taken from the Buda side and overlooks the Pest side of Budapest. There’s a story about the names but you’ll have to visit if you want to hear it, since to explain it would take this dangerously in to the territory of an actual travel blog.

Along the way we also stopped by St. Stephens Basilica, a very impressive cathedral located on the Pest side. It looks like this:

You’ll be pleased to see a return to my “arty” photography style

I think you’ll agree on it’s impressive-ness. However I really only point this out to show you the ingenious way previous town planners have employed to make it seem even more impressive:

No doubt they erected the most boring building they could so as not to detract from the cathedral’s majesty. Or perhaps communist Lego blocks were not as colourful as ours. Either way I think it makes a nice juxtaposition.

After our walking tour we resolved to find some authentic Hungarian cuisine, which we were informed consisted of meat, lard, paprika, and occasionally potatoes. Seems limited but after two days I’m convinced they are the only 3-4 things you could ever need to cook. In any case we found we were looking for in the form of a nice hearty goulash soup.

Probably wouldn’t work as a Master Chef taste challenge

That was tasty, but what I really need to talk about is that we saw this:

If you’re not sure because you can’t see him that well, YES. That is a man playing the wine glasses! It’s one of those things I’ve seen on TV but never did I dream I would see one in real life. Clearly this is not just your average guy who happened to have some free time and a fully stocked armoire. Such is the organisation of his packing cases (not to mention his skillz) I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a roadie in a Jamie Turner T-shirt skulking out to replace cracked vessels.

That will have to do for now, as I’m trying to string this out ’til Christmas. Speaking of which, I have some exciting news (exciting for me anyway). Stay tuned for that, plus the epic conclusion to the Budapest adventure. Now THAT is dangling some impressive carrots!


Safe travels, thanks for reading. J

Tenuous Travel Puns: Giving Long Haul A Royal Brunei

14 Nov

Don’t you hate it when something that’s clearly run its course teases you with ever-lengthening absences, only to make an unwelcome return just when you thought it was finally over?

I’m not referring to anything in particular, I just find that really annoying. On an entirely unrelated matter, here’s another post!

Now THAT is high-brow humour, don’t be ashamed if you didn’t get it.

Today is an extra special edition of BBS. The reasons for this special-ness range from my clearly diminishing vocabulary (see: special-ness), to the fact that I’ve found time in my busy catch-up schedule to write this down.

In any case, these words are “slicker than your average” (as Craig David would say) because they come to you all the way from my homeland. My homeland being what delusional New Zealanders refer to as the West Island. Though I say this is special, it seems less so when I consider that the majority of my global readership (7) is already in Australia.

“Why are you back in Australia” I hear you not asking? Well, since you didn’t ask, I won’t tell you that  I’m on a worldwide campaign to eradicate the use of the word ‘amazeballs’. And if this explanation has got too convoluted to bother to keep reading, then here.

In actual fact I’m back for a very special wedding, in which I will be participating. No, I’m not the groom. But I did have a hand in choosing the suits.


Back to business. My whirlwind tour began with me freaking out at Heathrow Airport because I couldn’t find my flight on the check-in board. I then realised my flight was a half-hour later than I thought, seasoned traveler that I am.

I was booked in to fly with Royal Brunei Airlines, and as I had found no one in the five months since I’d booked who had ever flown with them, I was expecting it to be anything from this:

to this:

Somewhat predictably, the reality fell somewhere in the middle. The planes are not exactly brand new but the service includes all the usual comforts like personal entertainment systems, complimentary food and drinks, and the requisite child of Satan ruining everyone else’s flight.

The main omission from the service that I feel I must mention is that it is a “dry airline”. No that doesn’t mean it won’t operate in the rain, but rather that there is no alcohol served on board. This was not a huge issue for me, as all I need for a good time is to fall asleep watching Snow White and the Huntsman. But if you need a few G & Ts to wash down your valium, this may not be the airline for you.

After short stops in Dubai and Brunei I arrived less tired than I’d predicted, thanks in no small part to Kristen Stewart’s monotonous work. Since then I’ve been maintaining a heavy schedule of bucks activities, friendly catch ups, and suit fittings.

I feel I should at least make short mention of my hometown. I realise the lameness of writing a travel blog about your hometown, but since London is my place of residence at the moment, it’s kind of a holiday.

I once referred to my hometown of Geelong as a place close enough to Melbourne that its just easier to say Melbourne when someone asks you where you’re from. This is something I still do, but I’m still very fond of Geelong. It’s a very pleasant city situated on Corio bay in the Southeast of Australia. I went to take an idyllic picture of the city’s prized waterfront, but we all know my approach to photography falls somewhere between “crap” and “total indifference to quality”. Therefore, here is picture taken by someone with access to either a helicopter, or the world’s tallest cherry picker.


At the end of the long pier is an establishment that includes a cafe, restaurant, very comfortable lounge/bar, and a function centre. However this is a far cry from its heyday as an all-you-can-eat-restaurant with an animatronic underwater show about a seal. I’m still smarting about that.

While my attempt to take my own photo of our iconic waterfront was unsuccessful, I did manage to capture two of the things I miss most about home while I’m in London:

If you haven’t already guessed, those two things are weather you can sit outside in, and reasonably priced sushi. Enough said, I think. I’ve got things to do, like attend a wedding. And making sure people who use the word ‘amazeballs’ are promptly tarred and feathered.


Safe travels, thanks for reading. J



Missing The Point (In A Good Way): The British Museum

4 Nov

There’s a saying you may have heard of that goes along the lines of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Wise words, to be sure. But today it has me wondering about a slight change that may become the modus operandi of this blog (I think modus operandi is Latin for “poached eggs please”, but it sounds good). BBS – “If you don’t have anything to say, start writing and see what happens.”

And so I shall, sort of. Because I have some things to say today, but not much. If, like me, you are skeptical about the upcoming content of this post, here is a link to another use of your time.

Firstly, I think it’s nice to live in a city where there are places you can go when you don’t really want to do anything, they’re just nice places to be. For me, one of these places to go is The British Museum. If you’re ever looking for it, it looks like this:

I sha’n’t (shall not) be going over my approach to photography again.

Personally though, I prefer to find it by going to the vintage Citroen hot dog van and turning right.

See earlier comments re: photography.

As I was  saying, The British Museum is one of those places I just like to be. Among it’s like, totally way-old stuff are the Elgin Marbles, the Rosetta Stone, an original pressing of Toto’s ‘Africa’, and thousands of artifacts that span our rich and compelling human history. Truth be told though, I just like the building.

As you reach for you complaint-writing pen, just bare with me a moment. The historical stuff is fascinating, wonderful and free of charge, and I recommend anyone to see it when they come to London. But even now that I’ve seen and marveled at all that, what draws me back when I don’t feel like doing much else is the main entrance hall.

This view probably takes in less than a quarter of the whole hall. It is difficult to describe why I like it so much, probably because it feels as close to being outside as you can get at the moment without your eyes turning to ice cubes.

In any case, when you’re in London and want some free tourism AND cool architecture, The British Museum is the place to go.

I guess the other stuff I should mention now is that I have some travel plans in the very near future (for those who are keeping track of my movements on a large wall-mounted world map). On roughly Thursday I will be making a whirlwind tour of my homeland. This will last roughly a week and a half before returning from all that stifling heat to the soothing cold of the UK.

Not long after however, I am booked in for a weekend in Budapest. Not to put too much pressure on Hungary and its capital, but I’m yet to find a person with a bad thing to say about Budapest. So I’m pretty much expecting it to be the greatest place on earth. Even if it’s not, I’ll settle for a nice goulash.


Safe travels, thanks for reading. J