Tag Archives: Vacation

Budapest Day 3: 13.1 Miles Of Fast Fun

Today was race day! Ellen came with me to the start. We helped a runner from Uruguay, who was racing around looking for the subway in near panic. We were glad to get her going in the right direction.

The expo looked pretty much the same as a race in the USA, except it was also set-up on race day.

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There was a warm-up that I half-heartedly participated in, mostly because I don’t like to tire myself out before the race!

The race had 6 corals, even with an expected time of 2:10-2:15, I was in corral 5.

About 10:15am, I was off! The race started in Hero’s Square and went right down Andrassy Avenue. Much of our activity yesterday, House of Terror, Opera House, lunch, was on that street, the main boulevard in Budapest. So it was familiar.

We went right past our Airbnb, and then over the chain bridge to Buda. This is the only picture I took during the race, I decided I was racing for time.IMG_2457

So only a few differences between this race and a race in the States. I liked that the course was marked in kilometers. Even though you are running 21 instead of 13, you feel like you get more regular signs of accomplishment as you reach them much quicker. Instead of gels or gummies, the glucose they handed out were pieces of bananas and white sugar mints (that looked like marshmallows to me at first).

From my watch, I was under a 10 minute/mile pace for every mile except one, and that included water breaks every 2-3 miles. I knew I was on a good pace, and I wanted to try to beat 2:10. It was warmer than I like, getting up to 72°F and the sun was out. But I gave myself no excuses, picking up the pace the last several miles. Mile 13 in fact was my fastest at 9:04 and the last part of the race (.22 miles on my watch since you always go longer than the official race distance) was 8:37 pace. I was really happy with my finish, the 2nd fastest of my 13 half-marathons.

For the first time for me, I had raised funds with this race for the charity I have been consulting for. If you’d like to make a donation to SOS Children’s Villages, please click here.

While I was running, Ellen was doing her own exploring. In those 2+ hours, she went to Hero’s Square, City Park, the zoo, and the Miniversum. We met back up near our apartment, going to the Spring Market (like a Christmas market but around Easter). I got a bread for lunch, Ellen got a potato latke-type thing with toppings. We went back to the apartment to eat.

Soon though, we were off again, We decided to treat ourselves to the baths and a massage. We went to Rudas Baths.IMG_2461

Saunas, pools of different temperatures, a beautiful outside pool that had a view of the Daube. And then after all that, the Lavender Dream massage, which was a scrub with lavender salts followed by a massage. Took much of the pain from the run away.

We walked back to the Pest side, pulled out our phones and found a place for dinner. A small cafe, Gerlóczy Cafe was just perfect. Salmon for me, duck breast for Ellen.

One more thing on the way home. Ellen wanted to ride the ferris wheel in a park near our apartment. So we did. The top had an awesome view of the Buda side, the castle and the church. IMG_2473


Budapest Day 2: Full Day (and then some)

We had a lot to do today, making up for some lost time yesterday. So first thing was to pick up the race packets. The expo was at the start/finish. IMG_2424

Luckily, that was also right at Hero’s Square.

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We stopped at Coffee Cat for a quick breakfast.

Next stop was the House of Terror. Housed in the building where all the torture and killing took place, it told the story of the “double occupation” of Hungary, first by the Nazis and then by the Soviets. What a terrible 50 years this country had. No pictures inside, so here’s from the exterior.

Lunch was next, at a Rick Steves recommendation of Menza. It had an old time, kitschy interior, with really good food. Hungarian stew, anyone?

Because we weren’t bummed enough by the House of Terror, we then walked to the Holocaust Memorial Center. 90% of Hungarians Jews were expelled, with most turned over to the Nazis in 1944 and sent straight to Auschwitz. Just an awful reflection on the Germans and Hungarians of the time.

We figured we needed to lighten up, so we had a late afternoon dessert at Gerbeaud Bistro, near our hotel. IMG_2435

Now it was shopping time. Ellen found a Hungarian exclusive charm at Thomas Sabo. I found the Hungary national team soccer jersey, my souvenir of choice when we travel.

Had time for only a short rest, then dinner time. Pasta carboloading at Akademia Italia. A bright and friendly restaurant, we both had pasta. Yum!

After dinner we walked to the Chain Bridge and looked out over the Danube. Such a pretty city. IMG_2443

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Now off to bed, there’s a race to be run tomorrow!


Iceland Thanksgiving: Day 1

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When visiting a country you have been to 3 times previously, it’s pretty easy to hit the ground running. We got on the plane and slept. We landed and knew just where to get our SIM cards (Arrivals Duty Free store, ask the cashier, Nova cards). We knew where to catch the FlyBus to the Blue Lagoon.

What was different this time was it was dark. We landed at 6:30am, were on a 7:30 bus to the lagoon, arrived there at 8, and got out of the water just around 10:30am…when it was just starting to get light. It was cold and windy and rainy, but with 100ºF water, it was still really comfortable and relaxing. But you miss seeing the moonscape-like lava fields on the way in from the airport.

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We then bussed into the city, found our AirBnB (our first time using it), met up with our friend Robyn who had arrived one day early, and headed into town. It’s never a mystery what my first desired stop is. img_1737

Got to visit the new flagship store. But since I own 3 jackets, a shell, a hat and a t-shirt, there really wasn’t anything compelling to buy. So I bought a pair of socks.

We walked more through town, which just feels like home at this point. Like seeing City Hall. img_1733

The Christmas decorations are up, and since there are only 5.5 hours of light now, they get to be lit up a great deal. img_1738

Ellen had picked a tapas place that Ben had recommended to us, Tapas Barinn. Fairly traditional tapas, a good amount of fish offered.

We were supposed to do a Northern lights tour tonight, but it was canceled due to the weather. Although the lights were a big part of coming in November instead of our traditional summer visits, we had read that the weather can be uncooperative, so you shouldn’t have your heart set on seeing them. So we don’t. We have two more shots the next two nights, but we’ll see what happens.

We have museums scheduled for tomorrow and the Golden Circle tour for Saturday. On the way home from dinner, we had to walk by the hot dog stand made famous by Bill Clinton. img_1739

Hope everyone back home is having a happy Thanksgiving!

 


Peru Day 9: Finishing Lima

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We made the most of our last day in Peru. Today was the day to do Lima and we did it!

We Uber’d (for $5) from Miraflores to the historic area. Plaza de Armas, above, was a picturesque square, with the Catedral, Presidential Palace and other great buildings.

We started at the Catedral. Unlike the other churches, we could take pictures inside. They had an brochure in somewhat awkward English that gave us a good idea of what each section was about. DSC_0426

We then walked the streets, happening upon a parade, we know not the reason for. Here’s some video and pictures of the parade.

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Even the young ones enjoyed. DSC_0459

We couldn’t help but notice that there were riot police at every corner of the square. Not sure if that is normal for near the Presidential Palace but we sure didn’t start any trouble.DSC_0429

We happened by the Presidential Palace right at noon, so got to witness the changing of the guard. I have videos that I’ll try to add later.DSC_0434DSC_0466

Our next stop was the San Francisco Monastery and Catacombs. We couldn’t take pictures inside, but we saw a lot of skulls and bones!DSC_0479DSC_0480

Being Capitol Hill residents, we couldn’t help but take a picture of the Congress. DSC_0484

Lunch was in Chinatown. We were the only English speakers here, but it was so worth wandering into Salon CaponDSC_0491

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My only souvenir on these trips is usually a soccer jersey from the national team. In this case, we had to find an Umbro store which meant going to the Jockey Plaza mall. We found the helado store that had been recommended to Ellen. And the soccer jersey. And enjoyed walking around.

Our last dinner was a place recommended by our neighbor, Elvis, when I was out walking Colby just before we left. It was a short walk from our hotel, and just an amazing Amazon-themed menu. ámaZ was delicious. We were sitting just next to a young couple, who happened to be huge foodies who live in Crystal City. We chatted just about the whole meal, sharing stories and food. Hope to see China & Nathan sometime back home!

We fly home tomorrow, via AeroMexico with a layover in Mexico City. Not long enough to explore anything more than the airport, but we’ll make the most of that.

Thanks for reading along. As usual, I’m asking, as a marketer, for you to like or comment this post, especially if you’ve been lurking so I know who has been following along.

There will be one more post to sort through our experiences and impressions. Buenos noches!


Peru Day 8: Cusco to Lima

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Ellen was especially glad that we were trading in 11,000+ feet of altitude for sea level. It just took a little longer than expected.

First though, we can’t say enough good things about Casa Cartegena. They greeted us by name when we came downstairs this morning, grabbing our suitcases so I didn’t have to carry them both. They had already run our credit card, so they handed us the receipt. We had arranged with OUR cab driver from the Cusco/Oly runs to take us to the airport, he was there to greet us. While he went to get the car, they ran to breakfast to bring us some juice and orange breakfast bread. Seriously, just the best experience there.

We got to the airport plenty early, checked our bags and waited. Then we heard the flight before us was canceled. Just as our flight should have been boarding, we got the news ours was canceled too, as the whole airport was closed for fog. Back downstairs to the check-in desk. Unlike in the States, they brought the luggage back and we had to recheck it. I had missed that, but luckily Ellen noticed and retrieved our bags, just as I got to the front of the line. We’ve noticed that the Peru airports are very efficient and well managed. They brought extra employees to the desks and had a supervisor available. So our 8:15am flight was replaced with an 11:50am flight. That was better than we expected. So we found a coffee shop and chilled for awhile. All travel will have some bumps, this wasn’t so bad.

Arriving in Lima, we got our luggage and met the driver our hotel had arranged to meet us. We are staying in the Miraflores district of Lima, rather upscale and nice! We took off immediately to explore the neighborhood, finding the nicest outdoor mall on the water. DSC_0396

We then walked along the Malecon and were happy to find Paddington! DSC_0401

A little while later, we found Parque del Amor that reminds us of Gaudi’s Park Guell in Barcelona. It  really was nice at sunset.

We kept walking along the water to our restaurant, El Señorio de Sulco. We got there early, 6:30 for a 7:00 reservation, and had the place to ourselves for at least an hour. We enjoyed the attention, I told Ellen it was like a The Bachelor date when the couple has no one around them. We enjoyed a tuna/tomato/alvacado appetizer and meat dishes for dinner. Everything tastes so good here. And so reasonable.

We did an American thing to get home, we requested an Uber. Uber is big in Lima, touted as one of the safest ways to get around. We were surprised when a taxi pulled up, but the driver was great and it cost all of 7 soles ($2.10) for a 9 minute, 2.1 kilometer ride.

Tomorrow we have a full day to explore the city. We’ll start with walking tours and see what else we want to do on our last full day in Peru.


Peru Day 7: Machu Picchu

Up at 4:45, quick breakfast, met our guide at 6am. He told us there is already a one hour line for the busses up. It looked like this. DSC_0323

The line moved and it only took us about 40 minutes to get on a bus. What a ride it is, though. Takes about 1/2 an hour, switchbacks up the mountain, only one lane, shared by busses in both directions and hikers. From the top, it looks like this. DSC_0373

You get your ticket scanned, you walk in, and you get the money shot right away. DSC_0339

I’ve seen plenty of pictures of Machu Picchu. What they don’t convey is the enormity of the site. It covers such a large area and has so many different facets to it.

Having read “Turn Right at Machu Picchu,” I was especially looking for the Temple of Three Windows. It did not disappoint.

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Temple of The Three Windows

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The Incas used existing rocks as part of their construction.DSC_0350

As you probably know by now, I can’t resist pictures through windows.DSC_0380

I was especially taken by this rock, shaped to match the mountains it faced. DSC_0364

The number of terraces was perhaps the most awesome sight.DSC_0384

By the end of our visit, the low hanging clouds really swooped in.DSC_0389

It really is a magical place, and truly deserving of the overused “bucket list” phrase. Come to Peru!

The rest of the day seemed anti-climactic. By the time we got back into town, it was POURING. We ate at the same French bakery as yesterday. We walked around the market. The hotel so nicely brought our bags to the train station. Our train was on time. Oh, I promised a picture. DSC_0391

Our taxi driver who took us from Cusco to Ollantaytambo met us as promised to take us back. Our Cusco hotel upgraded us to a luxurious suite and had our luggage waiting there. We ate dinner at Marcelo Batata, just down the street from our hotel.  A fabulous Peruvian meal with an appetizer, 2 main courses, 2 drinks and dessert cost $54 including tip. The first floor of the hotel is an art gallery that we wandered into because of colorful tapestries. We have no wall room at home, so instead we ended up with a hand painted ceramic bull, which you’ll see on top of houses in Peru as a symbol of good luck.

We return to Lima and sea level tomorrow, Ellen is looking forward to easier breathing!


Peru Day 6: Aguascaliente

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We woke up to the beautiful view of the mountains that surrounded us. After breakfast at the hotel, we went to meet our train, which was easy since we were right there.

The train was the Vistadome, so lots of windows to watch the Sacred Valley go by. I didn’t take pictures of the train today, will do that tomorrow!

Our seats faced a mom and her daughter. We got to talking and talked non-stop the whole trip. A little unusual for us introverts, but the stories were fascinating. The mother was born in the Ukraine and left when she was 9, moving to southern California. She met and married another Ukranian. The daughter was 19, just finished her first year at UCLA. And the rest of the family was hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu as part of a group of relatives who had made the trip. So much to talk about!

We arrived in Aguascaliente, the town that is closest to Machu Picchu, a little after noon. Our hotel met us at the train station and walked us down the hill to the hotel, transporting our luggage to. We checked in, then headed out for lunch, as there was a 2pm pisco sour/cerviche class and we didn’t want to miss that!

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Our hotel, at the end

We got caught in a downpour and stood undercover for about 10 minutes to let the worst of it pass. We went into a French bakery for lunch. A tap on the shoulder and I turned around, it was our train companions. So we lunched together, then hurried back for our class.

The class was only another couple and us. The bartender taught us about the different kind of piscos. Pisco is a kind of brandy, grape based and aged in kettles, not oak. The pisco sour is a fairly simple drink, and we have the recipe to try at home. A hotel chef then came in to teach us ceviche, raw fish, lots of lime juice and several other ingredients. Tasty!

We headed back up the hill to town to explore more. We ran into our train friends again (it’s really a small town!). They guided us to a silver store, and Ellen picked up a few things. DSC_0321

We then walked through the central market. It was like most markets in what in sold, meat, chicken, fruits, vegetables. But the stray dogs roamed through it, it didn’t smell good, and I wouldn’t have eaten anything there for fear of getting sick. DSC_0316

We ate dinner at the hotel, it was included in our package. The meal was excellent. For an appetizer, I had quinoa crusted chicken nuggets. Better than any you get at McDonalds! Seriously, they use quinoa for so many things, we need to try to cook more with it.

The hotel secured our tickets for the bus to Machu Picchu and our entrance. Hoping it doesn’t rain, but ready for the experience tomorrow, no matter what.