My dinner solo at Mosselen

I opened up google maps to search for neighborhood restaurants and settled on a Belgian beer restaurant. I thought I’d had no problem getting in though even they recommended making a reservation. As it was just me and the menu being as amazing as it was, I decided to walk the block and a half to face my fate.

As soon as I walked in, I got worried. It was packed and people kept walking in. I caught the eye of the host and after he seated a couple, I told him I hadn’t made a reservation. He asked if it was just me and I responded yes. He said I was in luck, that someone had just canceled. I was seated in the back room at a two-seater for one facing the room of a few occupied tables.

Yes, this was my first solo dining experience outside of the states. I’ve eaten out solo in Vegas but at my comfortable neighborhood spots. Actually, on second thought, I lied, I ate solo in Cameroon during my one-year stint in the Peace Corps.

I started with a refreshing non-alcoholic Stella Artois. I liked it. I like the taste of a Heineken type beer which today I learned is a Pilsner but I don’t like the feeling of ‘getting’ drunk.

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The seafood soup was delicious with bits of mussel, salmon, perch and broccoli in a lemony-garlicky-buttery-creamy goodness of a broth.

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The mussels were large and tender but I didn’t love the creamy garlic broth, a bit too salty but I did indulge by dipping my baguette slices.

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I ended my dinner with a cheesecake of ricotta cheese and strawberry jam and a cup of chamomile tea. I normally don’t like cheesecake but this cake was light with none of heavy cream cheese base that seems to take up residence on my tongue.

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All in all, I had a comfortable meal. No one stared at me and the wait staff were very nice.

Reflections from my journey

Traveling through 4 cities in central Europe has been great and I am ready to go home. I’m ready to be back in own home and comfortable bed. That being said, the pleasant experience has left me a little contemplative as traveling will do.

Here are some of my thoughts:

I want to live in Vienna, at least that was my immediate reaction upon arriving in the country; clean, ordered, emphasis on art, music, architecture, and history.

I want to visit more of Austria; the mountains, take in the gorgeous landscapes.

I want to see more of Europe; the Netherlands, Scotland, Ireland, Romania, Georgia, and more.

Come to think of it, I’ve never traveled alone and I would like to and figure out my preference, it might be alone.

The pull of owning multiple small businessess is still there. I visited a couple of small shops/boutiques/cafes and they appeal more to me than malls and big name chains. They’re more intimate, more personal, and charming.

I like the feel of walking through a small town/village with cute shops and seeing people out for a stroll or sitting at a cafe chatting with friends; where getting around doesn’t necessarily require a vehicle or if transport is required, then taking the tram is the next best option; where people are friendly and saying good morning or good evening with a smile is normal.

My airbnb guest from a few weeks ago who lives in Bratislava invited me for a trip. We were there yesterday and it was absolutely beautiful. We spent most of the day in Old Town after having had a traditional meal there with Nika the night before and it was like being in a bubble. There were a few cars around the embassies but it was a walkable enclosed section of the city with brick and cobblestone streets around the Hrad ‘castle’. By all appearances, an intentionally and lovingly preserved time in history with exactly the kind of feel I just described. Nika, short for Veronika, told us a story about a woman who’d recently opened up a gelato shop called Koun. She’d been in the news and had become popular for her amazing gelato. The story goes that she quit her corporate job, moved to Italy to go to gelato making school, returned home to Bratislava and opened her own shop. We forgot to go, even though we were right there 😦 in any case, stories like this tug at my yet unpursued dreams.

Now to plan…

For pictures of my journey, visit The Wandering Lesbian on Facebook.

Greetings from Prague

I didn’t have a chance to post yesterday as I usually post at night and we had to prepare for our overnight train to Prague last night.

Here’s a lesson traveling on the Czech line from/to a different country: you must buy an international train ticket in addition to any supplemental upgrades like a sleeper. Perhaps I’m the fool but I was under the impression you couldn’t get a seat upgrade without an actual seat but that’s exactly what I did. We almost weren’t able to get on the train as we didn’t have ‘tickets’ and only a sleeper car reservation. Luckily, the steward took pity on us and said we could buy tickets from the conductor which we had to do 3 times in the three countries we were traversing before we could sleep undisturbed for 5 hours.

I’m writing in a cafe, drinking mead, across the street from the Blacklight Theatre where we’re waiting for an 8:30pm rendition of a non-verbal production of Faust.

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We just came from listening to classical czech music and other classical music from around the world in a small, cold church.

Ta ta for now. We’ll be in Vienna tomorrow, travelling on another overnight train.

Let go, be confident, and have fun

Let go of expectations, be confident & have fun. These are the words I have embodied consistently for the past few months and no more so than my trip to Eastern Europe with my friend Cristina. She makes it easy since she is very funny and charismatic and also very laid-back.

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We spent the day sightseeing on a Big Bus tour as well as on foot. Yes, more achy feet but we got thai massages, me for my feet and Cristina a full body.

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We walked a little more this evening on fashion street and it turns out it was fashion week here in Budapest but it ended today. We didn’t do any shopping but I did buy a chimney cake from a street vendor. You can watch the video on the making of it on FB. I have to say, the visual experience was much more rewarding than the tasting, as it’s just sugared dough.

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I’ll leave you with this:

Who are you when no one is looking?
How often do you show up as that person in your interpersonal relationships?
Why?
What prevents you from being the you you are in front of others?
Who taught you that you had to hide you from the world?
How has hiding your true self benefited you or your relationships?
What would you need from your relationships in order to show up more authentically?
How would it feel to let go of expectations & the need for approval, be confident & have fun?

I should have brought walking shoes

My feet hurt. I should have brought walking shoes. I thought about it. I even bought a new pair recently. I knew we’d be walking. I printed out 5 walking tours. Alas, I didn’t. Instead, I brought a pair of warm, rain-proof ankle boots with no heel support. My feet hurt but hey, I walked 10,000+ steps today which my Samsung smartphone congratulated me for.

Today was a good day, much better than yesterday. We decided to head to the grocery store and on the way, stopped by a cafe Cristina had found, Rumli Cafe. I had an egg salad sandwich, grilled on the panini press with a cappuccino and Cristina had a latte.

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We then walked to the grocery store which was across the street from West End mall which we visited after dropping off our groceries in our room.

Typical mall and very busy for a Friday morning and it only picked up more as time went on with the afternoon lunch crowd. We sat for a coffee and planned to go over to Buda and do the Castle Hill tour.

The walk was laborious as both our feet hurt but we crossed Margit hid (Margret bridge) and stopped halfway at Margitsziget (Margret island) where we encountered a water fountain dancing to music.

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We stopped to rest before continuing the rest of the way across Margit hid and looking for a hungarian restaurant to have dinner.

We found Földes Józsi vendéglője which wasn’t too far away. We both ordered soup and an entree. The soup was good but the entrees left a liitle to be desired. Dessert was a little better, crepes with a sweet orange filling.

 

We then decided to find a massage place and the closest one was a Thai massage place, a 15 min walk away further into Pest so off we went. It was actually located in a mall, another one. I was fantasizing about my feet getting some love only to be told by the receptionist that there was no availability until the next day. Well, that sucked.

Taking a taxi home was a great idea.

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All things considered, it wasn’t so bad.

We arrived to drizzle which was expected. Whisked through passport clearance and customs, thank goodness.

I had mapped out our route to our ‘hotel’ via public bus and our first bus was right at the entrance to the airport. Buying bus tickets was a challenge only because the 1st ticket machine wouldn’t accept payment.

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Took the bus to the Metro station where a lack of signage didn’t help but saying the word Metro with an inflection got us directions in hungarian made easy with hand gestures (who needs language when you’ve got hands) from a security person. The ‘station’ was separate from where the bus let us off. It was more like a mall, there was an H&M and a Claire’s. Cristina went to Vodaphone and I went to T-Mobile for SIM cards. Her for her phone and mine for my chromebook. Success and still not very many English speakers to be found, not that I expected to.

Next on the route was one stop to the next metro station where we would transfer to the bus that would take us within walking distance to our ‘hotel’.

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Ah, the 950 bus. After 2 trips up 25 flights of stairs, we were told the 950 bus is a night bus and the night bus only starts running at 11:30pm. It was 10am. So back down the stairs we went after being told we should take the Metro 3 to the last stop. Cristina wisely suggested we look at maps and I don’t remember what set me off but I proceeded to laugh hysterically including tears and I must have appeared to be having a fit because we were approached by a young man asking us with concern if we needed help. We explained our situation and he thought the night bus added a 9 and suggested that we might want the 50 tram. Hey, it was as good a suggestion as any so back up stairs we went after looking at the map for the 50 tram’s route but not finding it. At the end, after unsuccessfully trying for an Uber, we got in a taxi to our ‘hotel’.

The Metro/bus situation was funny even though we had to lug our suitcases up flights of stairs in the cold drizzle.

Now is where things really get interesting.

We arrive at our ‘hotel’ which actually looks like an office building. Downtown Apartments shows to be on the second floor and the list of occupants shows to dial 222 on the dial pad. As I’m about to do that, someone is exiting so in we go as I listen for a response from the office. No answer. Cristina calls the number from our reservation, wrong number. I get out my chromebook to call via Google hangouts, wrong number. The plaque outside shows 3 additional numbers, none of which work.

Cristina goes up to the second floor which is actually the 4th floor to knock and returns to the vestibule after receiving no response. We call expedia which due to Hurricane Matthew has longer than usual wait times. After 30 minutes, we get a representative who puts us on hold while she goes to call the ‘hotel’.

While we’re waiting, several people go in and out. It’s noon, so lunchtime. I say excuse me a couple of times to ask if anyone knows anything about Downtown Apartments and either get ignored or annoyingly waved off. Finally a young guy who thankfully speaks English stops on his way out and helps us by calling first the 1st number on the plaque. He gets a response only to say it was a wrong number after a 10 minute conversation.

p.s. when we stopped him to ask about the ‘hotel’ he says, oh yeah, there’s always a problem. WONDERFUL!!

This came after us reading more about our hotel confirmation on our expedia itinerary which said to please call the hotel before arrival to make arrangements which we had not done. Check in starts at 2pm but we figure someone should be at the office at least so we can drop off our bags.

Okay, expedia rep returns on the line and tells Cristina there is staff in the office and that lo and behold we have already been checked in. Oh Yeah? and that happened when and how and after seeing or speaking to whom? There is no one here we tell her. We have spoken to no one.

Cristina suggests I go upstairs to the office with my chromebook as we’re calling from my laptop to check which I do. After ringing and knocking several times to no avail, I say to the rep, no one is there. All I get is silence. It’s now 50 minutes since we’ve been on this call and now I get silence and then the call ends or not really because it dials back expedia so I can only think i’ve been transferred.

I return downstairs. English-speaking guy is gone and we’re on hold again but Cristina said he told her it’s the last number on the plaque that’s the right one. I can’t take anymore of this. I read on our itinerary that the ‘hotel’ has another location so in need of a both respite and to see about the possibility of getting a cab, I step outside.

I spot a taxi idling on the corner but he waves me off, guess he’s break. Another one pulls up behind him but there’s a passenger in the front seat and my attempts to make eye contact fail so I walk back to the office building. Forlornly, I look out the window, feet hurting, annoyed, and see the 2nd taxi drive by and then stop because of the car ahead of him. I rush out, he rolls down the window and I tell him, we need a taxi but have bags. I run back to the door and gesture to Cristina, Let’s Go! She scrambles out, chromebook still open and huge pink suitcase. Driver gets our bags in the car and takes us to this second location not very far away.

We wait for him to drive away so we can get our suitcases out of the street and with me still holding the laptop so as not to lose our turn in the hold queue, amble up to the open front door. We look at the list of occupants of what appears to be another office building but what is in actuality offices on the first floor and residences above and don’t see Downtown Apartments listed. Ah, but what is this, a plaque with their name off to the left detailing that they’re on the ground floor.

Cristina goes off to look and comes back, no success. I go, same deal. We carry our bags inside the hallway to wait for an expedia rep to answer our call while Cristina checks out the neighborhood on google maps. Her attempts to cheer me up with other suggestions are not working. I Hate This Place!!!

It’s now 1:45pm or so. I decide, Fuck Expedia! and hangup and ask Cristina for that third telephone number. I dial it as I would were I in the states and it rings, YES! A guy answers and I explain we need to check in but can find no one. He says he’s going to get an English speaker. I thought we were on hold by nope he’s hung up, so I call back and it’s busy. On a second attempt, I get a call. It’s Downtown Apartments. Yes, we emailed you 3 times yesterday to confirm he says. I respond, we’ve been travelling since the 4th so we haven’t seen emails.

Never mind then, we’re here and want to check in. He tells us the apartment is on the ground floor. Look for a white door with a white gate on the left with a plaque on the door that says Downtown Apartments and gives us the codes. Cristina goes to look but doesn’t find it. So I go. I find the door but the plaque is a damn hologram which you can’t read without special maneuvering. I enter the gate code and it unlocks, step inside, find the door to apartment 2 and enter that code and it unlocks. Hoo fucking ray!

I thank him and tell him see you soon as he’ll be here in a 1/2 hour. Cristina and I unpack and she heads into the shower asking if a nap is possibility to which I respond Yeah cuz I’m tired. Balasz knocks on our room door to welcome us, shows me how to use the electronic key card instead of the codes and collect the city tax of 5 euros for our 8 night stay.

My turn to shower, heaven. Off to bed we go at 4pm. I wake up every so often to noise in the hallway because this is not an apartment. It’s a bunch of rooms in an airbnb apartment.

We wake up around 2am. Cristina scopes out the area on her phone and I begin this post. I’ve been writing for an hour so I’ll end here.

All things considered, Day 1 hasn’t been so bad. Yes, I dwelt in my annoyance for a couple of hours but once we entered a warm room with hot water, the world was a better place again.

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Eastern Europe, here I come

The last time I flew over the Atlantic, was on Air France and it was freezing. My poor fingers were blue and their blanket was doing nothing for me. I even felt bad for the flight attendants. Well, not tonight. I am bringing my own fleece blanket.

I spent a few hours yesterday saving maps and guides of the 4 countries my friend and I plan to visit; 140 pgs. Rather than tax my home printer, I sent the job to the professionals, Staples. I’m about to go pick up the job and a few last minute items before our flight tonight.

We arrive in Budapest on Thursday to a high of 49 degrees but it will be 8am so it’ll be more like 35 degrees and a 64% chance of rain. Luckily, the the 10-day forecast shows Thursday to be the coldest and wettest day of our trip with the rest of the day’s highs around 56 degrees. If you’re wondering why the weather forecast, it’s 74 degrees in Vegas.

I bought a new jacket which I thought would be too warm, thank goodness I kept it. It’s waterproof and fleece lined.

I’ll be bringing my chromebook to keep up with my daily posts but I couldn’t decide whether to rely just on my smartphone camera or bring my bulky digital camera. I bought it a long long time ago so it’s a little larger than the palm-sized cameras of today. I figure if I bring it, it’ll save my phone battery.

Okay, time to take out the trash for tomorrow and bring my plants over to my neighbors for watering, then a shower, wash my hair, run a few errands and head to the airport.

Talk to you in JFK during my 8 hour layover.