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A last minute, whirlwind romp from Amsterdam to Budapest-A gal on the go-the mini sequel

A last minute, whirlwind romp from Amsterdam to Budapest-A gal on the go-the mini sequel

Sep 8th, 2006, 04:49 PM
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A last minute, whirlwind romp from Amsterdam to Budapest-A gal on the go-the mini sequel

Mikes bike tour in Amsterdam -22euro, lagos at the central market in Budapest - 80 Forint, Ex Delta flight attendent neighbor on the 4th floor with first class buddy passes----ABSOFREAKINLUTELY PRICELESS!

Just got back from a gorgeous, beautiful-wish you were here 4 day trip to Amsterdam and Budapest and am completely jet lagged. I'm gathering the notes to post a a jam packed report and this time I even wrote down the restaurant names.
laartista is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 03:01 AM
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Looking forward to the Budapest bit!
julia_t is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 06:09 AM
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And I'm looking forward to the Amsterdam bit!

Byrd is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 07:20 AM
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So here's the background. I usually take one big Europe trip every winter after my season ends when the work load is minimal.This is not one of those times. For the past 2 months have been working about 70-80 hrs a week. The Tuesday evening before Labor Day Monday I went down to the car to get some lumber and in the elevator ran into my neighbor Robin who lives upstairs. I've known her for 4 years and although not good friends we occasionally hang out and chat. She asks what I am doing that weekend for Labor day and I think I could use a night out for a few drinks so I'm like no plans. So she says hey, I've got buddy passes and the flights are wide open interested in going to Amsterdam and Prague for 4 days? What? Did I hear right? I did. I'm like um, let me think about it, come by tomorrow.

Could I really do this? Drop everything and just take off for 4 days to Europe last minute. Am I that spontaneous? But more importantly did I have enough Xanax for the flights? Wednesday evening a knock at my door, it's Robin, well? I say any interest in Budapest instead of Prague? She says yeah, why not and Delta just began direct service from Budappest to Jfk. So I'm like yeah I'm in- let's do it.

We will leave Sunday the 3rd and return Friday the 8th. Saturday, the day before we leave we make the reservations on Delta. She flies for free(just paying the taxes) and I pay a total of 300$RT for Business Class. Yes, 300 dollars-can't pass that up. We also reserve a flight from Amsterdam to Budapest on a low cost carrier. No hotel reservations for Amsterdam but for Budapest she gets a Delta flight crew discount and we book the Kempinski for 80 Euro a night which is crazy cheap.

Sunday we leave for JFK at about 3pm, our flight is at 6:30ish. Technically we are flying standby, but beacause there are so many open seats no problems boarding and being seated. I have never flown Delta, I'm a Continental girl, but I have to say it was lovely.

Biz first on Delta compared to Continental:
-Way more leg room on Delta, but Continental has wider seats
-The food although good on both is definitely better on Continental
- Service - Delta blows Continental away. The flight attendents were awesome and friendly.

We land in Amsterdam at 8:30 am, pretty long line at customs but our bags were first off the plane due to the standby status. We stop for a coffee at one of the airport cafes, then to the ATM, then to the hotel reservation counter. There is a board with phones and different hotels and you press the number of the hotel you want and it connects you.

I saw this hotel listed that I had checked out on the internet so I called them and score availability. The Banks Mansion(details to follow) for 219 Euro a night- we book. Next off to the airport shuttle bus, I think it was about 19 Euro round trip, it drops you off at your hotel and you schedule your return. We were leaving the next evening for Budapest so we were to have 1 1/2 days in Amsterdam. I had been to Amsterdam twice before, Robin's first time so the time there was packed with activities.

more later
laartista is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 07:32 AM
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Geez laartista, why don't I have a neighbor like that, lol!!! Waiting for more...
LoveItaly is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 08:11 AM
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What a great start laartista. I love your trip reports and can't wait to see Budapest ( I was there in May, and LOVED it!) Hope the jetlag is treating you OK.
gregeva1 is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 08:50 AM
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Yay! Can't wait to hear more!
(I want your neighbor)
Scarlett is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 11:29 AM
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Yes, great neighbor, and now a friend who was a pleasure to travel with, a similar travel style and alot of fun to be around.

One note-my trip reports tend to be lengthy-I'm a story teller who writes like I speak -so here's my apologies beforehand to those it might annoy.

Monday- Sept 4

O.K. so the Banks Mansion located at Herengracht, www.carlton.nl/banksmansion
is a great hotel with an even better location, super central. 219 Euro a night for a twin might seem steep but that included taxes, breakfast, free mini bar, free internet and an open coffee and alchohol bar all day including free flowing champagne - well worth it. The room was lovely with a great bathroom. By the time we checked in it was around 11:00 and we wanted to do the Mike's bike tour (a tip I picked up from this board so thanks)at 12:30. We were jetlagged, neither one of us slept,so while Robin took a 20 min. catnap I went downstairs to get the bike info.

While waiting a guy walks into the hotel and over to me and is like Hey, how's it going. I just gave him a blank stare. He asked if he could take me and my friend for a beer. Then it dawned on me that it was the older guy from Seattle from our airport shuttle. I think we exchanged the typical tourist pleasantries, where ya from, here for business or vacation, blah, blah, blah. I'm thinking what's he doing here, We just arrived. I said we were going on a bike tour maybe later(I didn't want to be rude).The reception girl asked he was a friend I said no and that if he came by again to tell him we were out. He was kind of creepy-and that's why your mother always told you never to talk to strangers! Speaking of mothers-yes, I did call mine to tell her I arrived.

I mentioned I had been to Amsterdam twice before, what I didn't mention is my foggy recollection. My first trip was in the late 80's November, senior year of college and the only thing I recall from that trip was smearing chocolate spread on salami while watching Hazel reruns on TV. Blame the loss of memory on way too many space cakes and house bong action at the Mellow Yellow lounge.What can I say, I was in college. Second trip in December 2002 was so cold my eyelashes froze, caught bronchitis and was stoned on Dutch cough syrup for 3 days, so again don't remember a whole lot. The good news is that it was like being in a brand new city for the first time and I loved it.

Mikes bike tour is a great way to spend a day and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. It's 22 Euro and you spend 4-5 hours riding through Amsterdam and into the immediate countryside. Pete was a great guide, very informative about the history and architecture of Amsterdam. Robin and I both competitive rode right behind him in the front of the pack the whole way. I swear we would have whiplash in our necks because ATTENTION LADIES, listen up , the Dutch guys all look like male models. Sigh.

We stopped occasionally so Pete could point out sights. We stopped in front of the Intercontinental because there was a ton of paparazzi outside. Why? Because Madonna was there and had a concert that night. Nope, couldn't get tickets. Then to a windmill, where Pete the guide collects everyones cameras and takes a group picture for each one of us, which I thought was really cool. Then onto a farm where they make cheese and clogs. I was totally out of my element there. They show you a demonstration on how delicious cheese is made. Weird thing was the cheese guy somehow found a way to comment on Bush's foreign policy during the demo. Then the cheese guy makes a clog, then to the gift shop-all very well scripted. There were about 20 people in our group all adults who followed the bike guide like ducklings following a mama duck. In a single file line we rode, pissing off every local we cut off. Over the canal bridges and thru the neighborhoods. I hadn't been on a bicycle in years- but you know what they say "it's like riding a bike" so yeah, it comes back. What you don't recall is how much your ass hurts from being on a bicycle for 5 hours. The last 1/2 hour of the tour they take you to an Irish pub where you park your bike, have a few beers and drunk ride back to the bike shop. All very fun, it's now 5:00 and our day is really just starting.

laartista is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 03:29 PM
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More, more!
grosenb is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 03:41 PM
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laartista -- Great read. I love all the detail, those are always my favorite reports. How fast was the bike ride and did any pre-teens ride it? Some friends of ours are going next summer, kids 11 and 13. They play soccer and are in good shape.
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Sep 9th, 2006, 03:50 PM
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thanks guys
5alive- there weren't any on our ride but I'm sure they can go. Pace was not very fast in the city, a little quicker outside the city, but the guide stops every so often to make sure all catch up, I'm sure they would be fine. I'll find the website and post it.
laartista is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 03:55 PM
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So, bike tours ended now for some shopping-they say great shoe shopping in Amsterdam. Problem is it's a little after 5, shops close at 6 except for Thursday open til 9 but it' not Thursday it's Monday, so sad. We still manage to hit about 3 stores, afterall we are 2 girls on the search for shoes, boots actually. Found a pair and fell in love but to my despair not in my size. I would pine over these boots for the next 18 hours. Anyhoo, we head back to the digs for some free cocktails and chit chat while drinking in the ever so nice lobby lounge for a few hours. It's about 8 pm still no sleep since Sunday am so we decide we will just rest our feet for 1/2 hour, 3 hours later- I'm saying to Robin it's 11:00 we need to get up and go out. We pull ourselves together really quickly and head out for some dinner.

Now maybe it's just me, but one would think in a town where people are up all night smoking and partying there would be someplace to eat at 11 at night, you would think-seems there really isn't except for fast food and there was no way I was eating at a Burger King in Amsterdam. So after another 1/2 hour searching for food we end up at a fast food middle eastern shwarma house-was pretty good actually, but then I could have just been really hungry, not sure.

When in Rome- I remember or should I say lack of memory of my first trip so I told Robin I would go to a coffee house with her but I didn't want to be smoking all night. I mean I am 40 and I don't have the stamina I once did. Robin is about 10 years younger than me, it's her first time in Amsterdam and she wants to party some, so we compromise. Problem 2, It's Monday , it's super quiet out it's 12:45 and coffee /smoke shops close at 1. We see a place that says Smokey's-self explainatory. Go in over to the grass bar, the veteran that I am I ask the dealer what's the mildest stuff he has-he points to the Orange something was the name so we buy a small bag 15 Euro and a pipe from which to smoke it 8 Euro and are told to go next door to the regular bar to smoke it cause the coffee house side is closing.

We go next door and I'm telling you there were alot of guys dancing together, very closly in fact-I'm thinking could have been a gay guys club- I bar-tended at the Roxy in NYC in the early 90's and the crowd was similar, but whatever, it's Amsterdam and this is a facet of it so might as well hang out. So we smoke, get a beer, listen to the bad american disco music while watching these guys dance to Vogue by Madonna, an hommage-she is in concert that night. And all the while taking pictures of each other like a bunch of geeks. I'll tell you what, it was fun leaving adulthood behind for a few hours and didn't feel the least bit guilty. Nights not over yet.

Robin wants to go see the red light district. It's 2 am and I'm not sure it's safe for two gals to be strolling around there at that hour, but we figure other tourists will probably be going to see it so we go. Yeah, not such a good idea. The red light district although best viewed at night to see the actual red lights I'd suggest more like 9 pm rather than 2 am when the mix of people, all men may I note, are the dregs of society and drunkety drunk British guys out for a bachelor party. But what a sight-pity no photographs allowed. Just the nuttiest thing how these woman stand in the windows half naked-very degrading I think- but hey just my opinion.

We walk the streets quickly because even though we are clothed I'm starting to feel quite exposed. On the walk back to our hotel we pop into a snack shop and buy one of those chocolate covered waffles. Not sure if it was because we were stoned but we were in agreeance ,it was the best thing we ever tasted. Finally back at the hotel it's 3:30ish we are exhausted and finally crash. Tomorrow is a new jam packed day and we want to be rested.
laartista is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 04:45 PM
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Day two Sept 5

Wake up call at around 8- 2 girls ,1 bathroom, 2 hours to get out of the room-consistant over the next few days.
Breakfast included at the Banks Mansion and what a great spread. All the usual cold cuts, cheeses, cereals etc. but also buffet eggs(my fav) bacon, sausage, made to order omelets, pancakes and french toast-yes, all included AND a terrific bread and pastry selection. Great start to a great day. A short day. Our flight for Budapest leaves at six, we have to be at airport at 4 it's 11 we have about 3 1/2 hours. We prioritize-shoe shopping and Anne Frank house.

We head toward the main shopping street but stop first at the floating flower market on the way. Love it! Gorgeous flowers-wish I didn't have such a black thumb when it comes to plants. I involuntarily plantslaughtered 6 African Violets this past year. But a girl can dream so I just took lots of pix and bought some wooden tulips which I cannot kill. We also bought some magnets and Robin did buy tulip bulbs. We make it over to Kalverstraat, a main pedestrian shopping street to start the boot search. In and out of shoe stores we come to Taft-great store, tons of boots, again none in my size, but Robin bought a gorgeous pair of distressed caramel brown Sedera slouch boots-really fab. Alas, no boots for Laartista, not yet, I was still pining over the pair I saw yesterday and saw none to compare. O.K time is a wasting so we head over to Anne Frank house.

I was at Anne Frank house on my 2002 bronchitis trip, and of all the sights in Amsterdam it seemed the most important so Robin wanted to see it too and I didn't mind going again- it really is wild. The line was fairly long but moved fast and at the end of the tour was a new interactive section that wasn't there last time. We added a leaf to the Anne Frank tree on the computer there, made a video, I'll post the link when I post the trip pix, it was really cool. I strongly suggest a visit to this site-extremely moving and of great historical importance.It's about 2:30 we have an hour before we have to be at the hotel for our shuttle.

We wanted to go to the nine streets area, but kept getting lost. A nice dutch woman tried to give us directions but we were running out of time. By now I am dying of thirst it was pretty warm and humid out so I pop into a store and grab a can of Nestea Iced Tea which is usually refreshing , but when I took a drink-yuck-carbonated-why mess with a classic. Disgusting-note to self-read cans carefully in the future!

On our way back we pass the street where I saw my I'm in love boots. I said to Robin wouldn't it be funny if they got a new shipment in and they had my size. With only 20 minutes to spare we rush over to check, this is serious, I need to know. We find the shop I grab the boot ask the girl frantically and EUREKA!!!!! They got a new shipment that morning with one pair of 36 MY SIZE-HURRAY! I swear sometimes I'm a witch. I hand over the Visa-not a cheap buy but I had to have the distressed dark plum purple, buckled to the knee Sedera engineer boots. Funny what can make a girl happy.

Back at the hotel enough time for Robin to have a glass of Champagne before our ride arrives.

Final thoughts on this Amsterdam leg of the trip. Amsterdam is an awesome city I really loved it. The architecture is beautiful,wonderful sight, great museums even though we didn't get to any, awesome shopping, gorgeous men and lots and lots of bicycles= lots and lots of thin people. I will definitely go back for a longer visit to see the sights I missed, a definite top ten city. Off to Budapest.
laartista is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 05:09 PM
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Loving this - can't wait to hear about Budapest!
Meredith is offline  
Sep 10th, 2006, 05:38 AM
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Thanks Meredith

Our shuttle picked us up at 4 for our 6pm flight to Budapest. On the shuttle we met a girl from Budapest who had come to Amsterdam for the sole purpose of the Madonna concert. She had worked in Phoenix as an Au Pair- her name was Laura and she was very helpful.

At the airport the line was ridiculous for checkin at our airlines. There were a few electronic check in kiosks that noone was using. Robin cut around the line to see if we could check in that way. We brought Laura with us to the electronic check in but it referred us to the ticket counter. So back to the new longer line. I felt bad Laura had lost her place in line because of us. The thing is because both her and Robin actually swiped their passports thru the machine they got better boarding numbers than I did. Seems there were no seat assignments- a free for all really based on what number you had. We also met some very nice people from Romania in line, we were inquiring about Draculas castle but it was too far from Budapest with us having such a short time there. I was pleased at how friendly everyone was.

Robin had boarding number 30 I had 104. The thought of sitting in a middle seat or even worse a window seat in the back of the plane was not sitting well with me(no pun intended). Robin assured me she would get us good seats. When one is a nervous flyer there is noone better to fly with than someone who has flown for a living. She was very reassuring and calm.

By the time I got on the plane to my pleasant suprise Robin had secured us the first row bulkhead seats . I sat on the aisle, she in the middle and a young, cute Dutch guy by the window. Two pilots were standiny in front drinking coffee and Robin explained what their stripes meant. The pilot a large bald German man with a warm smile looked at me and asked if I was o.k. I guess I looked really nervous.

I said yes, Robin explained to him I was afraid of flying and he replied don't worry it's my first day, I'll be really careful. So not funny at that moment.

Flight takes off I'm starving, hadn't eaten since breakfast so I purchase a really gross turkey sandwich and a kit kat bar. Xanax kicked in and I was in conversation with Robin and the Dutch guy about 35 min. or so left in the flight when I hear a familiar voice asking if I'm better. It was the pilot. Robin said the look on my face was funny- suprised I said ,quite loudly in fact, what are you doing out here? who's flying the plane? He said the plane is flying the plane. I said shouldn't you be in there instead of out here-go back. He laughed and said o.k. but you are coming with me. I am?

laartista is offline  
Sep 10th, 2006, 05:57 AM
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Robin was really psyched, she said can we really come up front and he said sure. I asked is that allowed and he said my plane ,I'm the boss. To tell you the truth ,I sooo did not want to go to the cockpit but Robin said you are going ,get up, let's go. She asked if we could bring our camera and he said sure. Even though I look like a greasy scumbag in these photos from sweating pervusely from nerves I will post them cuz they are really cool.

We enter the cockpit and I sit in the jump seat behind the pilot and strap myself in, Robin sits next to me in a seat in the middle behind the pilots. For 1/2 hour we sit there during landing. Even though I was crazy nervous, it was unbelievable. I had never been in a cockpit before and to see the plane being landed at sunset-indescribable. The pilots just sit there chatting until the last 10 min. or so-automatic pilot really does fly the plane. AS we approach it's getting dark and you see out the front window a huge lit white cross with 2 red lines of lights that flank the runway and the moon is rising off in the distance. The altitude dials computer voice speaks aloud 1000, 900,800,700- I can't believe this-600, 500 400, this is crazy 300, 200 100, 90 and I look over at Robin and she is smiling broadly and saying isn't this awesome. 80, 70, 60,50, 40, 30 ,20, 10 touchdown .I'm like yeah, AWESOME. And it really is. The plane lands and after all the passengers deplane, we were last off with the pilots, they held the shuttle bus for us, we thank the pilot and he says to me, now you won't be afraid to fly. And, I think he was right.

Onto the bus to the terminal, thru customs, to the ATM and airport shuttle bus counter- We are in Budapest and I am psyched!
laartista is offline  
Sep 10th, 2006, 07:11 AM
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laartista, you always have lots fun and adventures when you travel. And most of the adventures seem to involve men in authority. You must catch their eye. French cops and now international pilots. I'm sure you much preferred the pilots. Hopefully he cured your FOF. I'm enjoying your report, as usual. Welcome home.
dcd is offline  
Sep 10th, 2006, 07:30 AM
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Thanks dcd. You know you have a point there, never thought abpout it that way-and yes pilots are preferrable to police officers. I have to say I did feel alot more comfortable on the flight home from Budapest to New york- so maybe I'm on my way to getting past my phobia.
laartista is offline  
Sep 10th, 2006, 11:42 AM
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Tues sept 5 evening

Arrival in Budapest. Before I start the trip report of Budapest a little family history.

My mother is Hungarian born in Budapest in 1941. She and her next eldest sister were hidden children of the war. What few pictures of her I have seen as a young child , she is wearing a coat with a yellow star marking that she is jewish. Hungary was one of the last countries invaded by the Nazis just a year before the war ended. When they came in my mothers eldest sister was taken to Mauthausen concentration camp in upper Austria, her father and brother to labor camps. All 3 survived as did my maternal grandmother. In 1948 my mother, her next eldest sister and parents came to America via Ellis Island. My mothers eldest sister entered the Hungarian army where she met her husband and received training as a doctor. In 1956 during the Hungarian Revolution my aunt, her husband and great aunt and uncle escaped Hungary and came to America. At 80 she and her husband are still practicing physicians in NYC.She has been interviewed for the Steven Speilberg film that shows at the Holocust Museum in Washington DC. My mothers brother lived in Budapest until he died in 1996. In his prime he was a very important physician to Hungarian heads of state but when his son also a doctor came to the US for a visit in the late 70's and defected from communist Hungary , my uncle was stripped of his status and unable to leave Hungary for years to follow. My mother has been back about a half dozen times first time in 1985. Both her sisters travel back every year, and my cousin now owns my uncles apartment that he visits frequently.

My trip to Budapest was very moving for me, I saw my relatives in the faces of the people there and heard my mother and aunts in their voices. Budapests history is my ancestors history, I felt an immediate connection to the city and hopefully will travel back often.

That said next installment Budapest trip report.
laartista is offline  
Sep 10th, 2006, 12:12 PM
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I'm finding your trip report interesting. Especially liked your recent post about your family Hungarian heritage.
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