Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Yes, I know....

I know, I know...I have not posted any updates lately! Since Jennie's arrival we have been on the go nonstop! We made it back from Paris, London, and Scotland last night and we are enjoying a day of rest before heading off to see Brussels and Bruges tomorrow and Friday!

There are so many stories and pictures to share, but I am going to need some time to sort through them all! I will be back with an update soon!!! I cannot wait to tell you about our adventures!

Here is a sneak peak into our adventures in Paris...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Pictures tell the story....

If you know me at all you know my love of pictures and it is an obsession I am very proud of! I try to post some pictures on my blog, but have started a collection to show you more (if you are interested). I believe pictures tell the story better than I can!

The collection can be accessed by clicking the following link:

The password is 'tippa'.

I will continue to post all of my pictures in this collection, so bookmark this page and check out the latest photos of my "European Adventures"!!!


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Countdown continues....

2 days to go....

I am getting ready and more excited about Jennie's arrival! We are going to have so much fun! I think she is more excited about escaping the heat in Memphis than she is about coming to see me....HA! Just kidding! However, I have to say that it was in the mid-60s today and in the 70s next week....I love Brussels (when it is not raining or gray skies).

We have a huge itinerary planned while she is here for 2 weeks. She gets in on Sunday and we are leaving for Paris Monday morning. We get back from Paris on Wednesday night, stay in Brussels until Friday when we take the Eurostar to London for a few days then on up to Edinburgh, Scotland. She will spend the remaining few days in Brussels hanging out with me and Maxie!!!

Whoa....wish us luck and lots of energy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Assumption Day

Today is yet another holiday in most of Europe and a day off for me!!

Wikipedia defines Assumption Day as: "According to the Roman Catholic doctrine and traditions in the Catholic Church, the Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. This means Mary was transported into Heaven with her body and soul united.

The Assumption is important to many Catholics as the Virgin Mary's heavenly birthday (the day Mary was received into Heaven). Her acceptance into the glory of Heaven is seen by them as the symbol of the promise made by Jesus to all enduring Christians that they too will be received into paradise."

Happy Assumption Day!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Budapest Finale

After the Terror Museum, JR and I had lunch at a great little outdoor café. I love Europe and all of the outdoor cafés. I suppose the weather here enables you to sit outside and enjoy your lunch while not baking in the heat like what is going on back in Memphis.

JR left Saturday heading back to Brussels and I decided to explore the sights and shops of this part of town. On my way back to the Danube River area, passing St. Stephen’s Basilica where a wedding was going on, I headed toward the Chain Bridge where on weekends in August they shut down the bridge to car traffic for summer festivals! There are tons of vendors selling their hand-made items, music, dancing, drinking and eating. It was a great festive time…until the rain came. I was half way across the bridge when it started pouring! Luckily, my hotel was close by and I made it back without getting too drenched!

I slept on Sunday and got all packed up to head back to Brussels. I did some last minute shopping (I hope to have all my Christmas shopping done early this year) and headed back to the Chain Bridge where the festival was still going on. I purchased a few other gifts and called it a day!

Budapest is a great little city to visit! The people were incredible, the food was great, and the sights were memorable. I look forward to returning!

House of Terror - Budapest

JR and I visited the most interesting museum I have ever been to. I am not much into history and it really depresses me in some ways; however, I am more and more intrigued after visiting this museum. The entire museum is put together in an artistic style, with rooms designed on themes matching topics of the time, such as work camps, prisons, etc. In the center courtyard is a huge tank, with oil dripping down like blood. All the while there is music playing that greatly enhances the mood. The artist who put this museum together is a genius, and the House of Terror is by far the most interesting place I visited in Budapest.

I could not have described the museum or the times better than the here you go:

Budapest is home to one of the most powerful museums in Europe. Illustrating the grim decades of Nazi and Communist repression, the museum is the former headquarters for the secret police of both the Nazi and Communist governments. The building's awning has the word TERROR cut out of it, and when the sun projects through these letters, it symbolizes the terror which was projected onto the Hungarian people for fifty years.

After allying themselves with Hitler to save their own skins (and their Jewish population), Hungary was overtaken by the Nazi-affiliated Arrow Cross in the waning days of World War II. Arrow Cross members did their best to exterminate Budapest's Jews. They killed Jews one-by-one in the streets, and were known to tie several victims together, shoot one of them, and throw him into the freezing Danube — dragging the others in as well. They executed hundreds in the basement of this building.

When the communists moved into Hungary, they took over the same building as headquarters of their secret police (the ÁVO, later renamed ÁVH). To keep dissension to a minimum, the secret police terrorized, tried, deported, or executed anyone suspected of being an enemy of the state.

The museum's atrium features a Soviet tank and a huge wall covered with portraits of the victims of this building. The modern, stylish, high-tech exhibit is designed for Hungarians, but the English audioguide gives tourists the same powerful experience. Each room is stocked with free English fliers.

The museum has many memorable exhibits, such as rooms featuring Gulag life, Social Realism art and propaganda, a labyrinth of pork fat bricks reminding old timers of the harsh conditions of the 1950s (lard on bread for dinner), and religion (joining the Church was a way to express dissent). While following elderly Hungarians through the corridors, it was poignant to think they had personal memories of the terrors that came with Hungary's "double occupation." They knew many of the victims…and perpetrators.

The last section begins with a three-minute video of a guard explaining the execution process played while you descend by elevator into the prison basement. In the 1950s this basement was the scene of torture. In 1956 it became a clubhouse of sorts for the local Communist youth club. It's renovated today, circa 1955. During the 1956 revolution, 200,000 fled to Austria and the West during the two weeks of chaos before the USSR pulled a Tiananmen Square. The Hall of Tears remembers 25,000 who died in '56.

The last two rooms — with the only color video clips — show the festive and exhilarating days in 1991 when the Soviets departed, making way for freedom. Scenes include the reburial of local hero Imre Nagy; the pope's visit; and walls of "victimizers" — local members and supporters of the Arrow Cross and ÁVO, many of whom are still living, and who were never brought to justice.

Budapest City Tour

I loved Budapest! We had an excellent week of work and a very nice weekend! We took a city tour on Friday afternoon/evening to see the sights of Budapest and we were not disappointed. Here is JR and I on the tour bus with the cheesy guy behind us trying to be cool:

Our tour started on the Pest side which had more of the historical sights, such as:

The Parliament building - In 1846, a Hungarian poet wrote with some desperation that "the motherland has no home". When Hungary opened its magnificent Parliament building after decades of construction in 1902, it not only had a home, but one of the finest Neo-Gothic buildings in Europe!

The State Opera House - A Neo-Renaissance masterpiece built in 1884, when money was simply not an issue (must be nice!!), its interior is a study in opulence and grandeur.

St. Stephen's Basilica - This Basilica is visible from all over Budapest. The dome, at 315 ft, is the exact height as the Parliament building, whose builders decided not to go higher. It was built in 1851 to 1905 in the form of a Greek cross. There was a wedding going on when I went back on Saturday to go inside! Can you imagine getting married in this church!?? WOW, the bride was beautiful and the flowers were incredible!

Heroes' Square

The Buda side had the best panorama of Budapest! We crossed the Chain Bridge and visited the Castle Hill District and the Royal Palace. Take a look:

The best panorama of Budapest was at a location called Citadella. The views were incredible.

From Castle Hill District:

For dinner, I went back to my favorite restaurant in Budapest, The Ocean Bar and Grill. JR and I went there on Thursday night and I loved it so much I had to go back. I started with a Caesar salad (it was just like the Caesar salad from home, which I have not been able to find in Brussels). For my entrée, I had the yummy sea bass with potato au gratin and a great Hungarian wine which JR picked out! Then for dessert I have the Chocolate Delight (imagine that)! It was a warm chocolate soufflé with a melted chocolate center! YUM!!!! I told you I had to go back and have this meal twice! Anyway, it rained on Friday night so I was back in the hotel and in bed early.

The tour was a great overview of the city and allowed me to plan my weekend on areas where I wanted to go back on Saturday. More to come!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hungarian Language

I have a greater admiration for those who speak Hungarian, especially those whose first language is English and learned Hungarian (for fun). I am returning to Brussels not knowing one single word in Hungarian. The only thing I was able to pick up was that Hungarians pronounce 's' as in 'sh'. So instead of saying Budapest (pronouncing the 't') you should say Budapesh. Interesting, uh.

Some words I was able to make out just by looking at them....such as:




I have no idea!!!!

Sample Phrases and Words in Hungarian:
Note: The stress is always placed on the first syllable of each word. The remaining syllables all receive an equal, lesser stress. All syllables are pronounced clearly and evenly, even at the end of a sentence, unlike in English.

Formal, when addressing a stranger: "Good day!": Jó napot (kívánok)!
Informal, when addressing someone you know very well: Szia! (it sounds almost exactly like "See ya!")

Viszontlátásra! (formal) (see above), Viszlát! (semi-informal), Szia (informal: same stylistic remark as for "Hello!" )

Excuse me: Elnézést!
Kérem (szépen) (This literally means "I'm asking (it/you) beautifully", as in German Danke schön, "I thank (you) beautifully". See next for a more common form of the polite request.)
Legyen szíves! (literally: "Be (so) kind!")
I would like ____, please: Szeretnék ____
Sorry!: Bocsánat!
Thank you: Köszönöm
How much?: Mennyi?
How much does it cost?: Mennyibe kerül?
Yes: Igen
No: Nem
I don't understand: Nem értem
I don't know: Nem tudom

Where's the toilet?:
Hol van a vécé? (vécé is the Hungarian pronunciation of the English abbreviation of "Water Closet")
giving a generic toast: Egészségünkre! (literally: "To our health!")
water: víz
wine: bor
beer: sör
milk: tej
Do you speak English?: Tud(sz) angolul?
I love you: Szeretlek
Help!: Segítség!

The Countdown is On...

I have a lot more to share about Budapest; however, I have to post a countdown to Jennie's arrival! Jennie Bledsoe is one of my oldest and dearest friends and I miss her terribly! She arrives in Brussels on Sunday, August 19th. I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to see her. Since I arrived in Brussels, Jennie has religiously called me every weekend to check in and see how things are going. I look forward to her weekend calls so much!

We have so much planned to do and see while she is here...but more importantly, I cannot wait to just hang out with her and catch up! The rest is icing on the cake, in my opinion!

6 days to go.....

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Dinner Cruise on the Danube River

We had a great time last night on a dinner cruise we took on the Danube River. The Danube separates Buda from Pest. The cruise was really nice...the weather was great and the view was spectacular! We got a good laugh out of the aggressive 'cruisers' who ran to the buffet line when the food was brought out. Seriously, you have to jump in or you are going to miss out. I even had someone take the tongs out of my hands when I was getting dessert!!! That could have gotten ugly as I was going after a piece of know my love of chocolate!

I have found Europeans to be very impatient in a lot of situations...they will break in line and never think twice about it. It was funny though as we were leaving and crossing the cars were coming so we (Americans) crossed, but the Europeans behind us waited on the crosswalk light to turn green. For that, they wait!

According to Wikipedia, the Danube River as the longest river in the European Union and Europe's second longest river (wonder what is the longest?). It originates in the Black Forest in Germany and dumps into the Black Sea via the Danube Delta in Romania and Ukraine. The river flows through 10 countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, and the Ukraine. I think I may just take a cruise of the entire river and be able to check a lot of countries off my list!

Our boat!!

The crew....Orlando (my boss) and his wife Sandra on the right and JR (my co-worker) and I on the left.

Me and the Royal Palace in the background (more about that later)!

The Parliament Building (more about that later)

Me trying to get a picture of the Chain Bridge in the background while really didn't work out like I had hoped! Oh well!


Partners in crime - Team Brussels!!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

View from the Hotel

My day long journey to Budapest did something to my lower back. I have been in terrible pain since I arrived. It was so bad I had to leave work a couple hours early and go try to get a massage (which did not happen because they were booked), take a hot bath, and some pain medication. I have no idea what I did to it...I just know I am in some serious pain!!

So, needless to say, my first night in Budapest was sitting/laying in my room and ordering room service. I will say I was lucky enough to get upgraded to a room with a gorgeous view so the time in my room was not wasted. Here is my view (jealous yet??):

The Chain Bridge was the first permanent crossing between Buda and Pest.

The Royal Palace on Castle Hill houses the Hungarian National Gallery.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

We made it to Budapest...FINALLY!

After over 14 hours of travel delays we made it to Budapest, Hungary! So many of you think I have the greatest job in the world...well, yesterday's adventures show just how hard business travel can be.

We were originally scheduled to leave Brussels on Malev Hungarian Airlines at 10:05AM. JR and I arrived at the airport around 8:40AM. Upon arrival we noticed the people in front of us were having trouble with their reservations. We did not worry but was anxious to get checked in. Then our time arrived....we were told we did not have confirmed reservations and they had overbooked the flight. The next flight out was at 5:30PM. So they offered us 250 euros, upgrade on the 5:30 flight, a meal voucher, and access to the VIP lounge. (Ok, not too bad, really.)

My boss and his wife (Orlando and Sandra) had already checked in and were at the gate. It wasn't until they got to the gate that they realized Sandra was given MY boarding pass. Let me remind you that I had not even made it to the airport when they were checking in. So, she got through Immigration, and Security without anyone noticing the wrong name on the boarding pass. (I feel really safe now!) Anyway, once JR and I were bumped and the issue with the boarding pass, Orlando and Sandra decided to give up their seats and fly with us on the 5:30 flight.

After all of this was resolved and everyone had the right boarding pass it was about 11AM! We headed off to get some lunch and then to the lounge to wait around for the 5:30 flight. Yes, I could have gone home, but why??? I did not want to fight traffic to and from the airport and Maxie had already been dropped off at Dan and Pam's house. So I just hung out on the comfy couches in the lounge with Internet access and Slingbox to help pass the time.

So, around 4PM we looked on the departure board and saw the flight was delayed 1 hour and now leaving at 6:30PM. Great, I am thinking by this point! Oh well, we had been here this long...why not another hour??!! Around 6PM we head the to the gate to board. As we were trying to board, the gate attendant informs us that we do not have a reservation in the system. We tell her what happened and after about 15 more minutes she was able to get it fixed and we board! YAY, I am thinking......well............

We get to our seats and wait and wait and wait and wait. The flight attendant announces there has been a security breach. There was luggage on the plane and the owners of that luggage had not boarded so they had to search for and remove the luggage before we could depart. Then a little while later the 3 "unaccounted for" passengers walked off the plane (yes, they were in their seats the whole time) and then got back on the plane. Not sure exactly what happened there...but anyway....they get back on the plane a few minutes later.

Then the pilot announces we would be delayed another 40 minutes due to a computer outage and paperwork problems. We FINALLY backed away from the gate at 7:45PM. We arrived in Budapest around 9:30PM and to the hotel at 10:30PM.

Traveling is really not all it's cracked up to be!!

By the way, Budapest is gorgeous! WOW! More to come soon!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Oh, this is funny!!!

Ok, this is too funny not to blog about!!!!! I had a neighbor complain last week about all the barking going on in my apartment. I understand why she complained...when Maxie and Zsa Zsa get together they are a little loud. Anyway, she complained on the same day Zsa Zsa was going all was fine.

On Sunday while Maxie was exploring outside, she started barking. Since we already had one complaint, I went outside to see what she was barking at and to try and stop her. To my surprise I heard loud and clear what she was barking neighbors having crazy sex!!!! It was so loud even Maxie could not take it. I about died laughing! I came in, closed the windows and just laughed! Then, about 10 minutes later...round 2 started...and so did Maxie! It was hilarious!

Now, the next time my neighbor complains I will tell her to talk to the other neighbors and have them SHUT THE WINDOWS!!!!!!!!!

The joys of apartment life!!!