Barcelona … small pics of a big city

My wife and I went to Barcelona last week. We did a lot of walking and looked around. The sunnier and warmer than home weather was nice. And the coffee … I miss that already.

Check out what I saw.

In my next blog post I’m going to try and capture my new found like for that famously tasty and just a bit addicting Spanish ‘jamon’. You may have heard about it 😉

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Three Days in Budapest & riding the retro metro

It was wet, grey, tiring and dingy in places. Not at all the way I’d imagined a January. I imagined it colder, much colder. However that is the kind of weather that awaited my wife and I on a recent short city holiday into Hungary. Budapest to be exact.

A cheapo Easy Jet flight three nights including breakfast at a reasonable price in a well situated and well appointed Hotel in the midst of that large city was just the thing.

Budapest as seen from a higher vantage point on the western side of the river Danube

Budapest as seen from a higher vantage point on the western side of the river Danube

Not that the weather where we live on the German side of the Swiss/French border was any better as we were herded through the airport gate like so much documented cattle. It could have been worse, much worse. The city could have been held in the frosty clutches of mean old man Winter. But it was not. And so a little bit of wet weather didn’t seem all that depressing when we stepped out into the Hungarian rain for the first time.

We arrived mid afternoon and  it being a Sunday and us not having planned anything touristically urgent as far as activities go, we located our hotel via our helpful little and later much used city/map book and my suddenly in demand sense of direction (albeit a bit confused with having to read/decipher a new language neither one of us was face with before). Then we set off and rather embarrassingly our very first jaunt  took us to a pretty big mall. Say no more, say no more.

January darkness fell more rapidly than we had anticipated and as the rain had let up a bit, we took advantage to look at the city lights from Margit Hid bridge over the dark Danube at the southern tip of Margaret Island. Nice.

View of Hungarian Parliament building on the bank of the Danube from bridge

View of Hungarian Parliament building on the bank of the Danube from bridge

going down to the retro metro on the transit escalator; we also went up these escalators towards daylight

Going down to the retro metro on the transit escalator; we also went up these escalators towards daylight

Very glad to have a guidebook/map along for this trip. Knowing and figuring out exactly where we were or exactly where we wanted to be/go wasn’t all that much fun all the time but it certainly made getting around easier. The locals we approached were very helpful when asked for assistance in either German or English. Thanks kindly you friendly Budapestians.

tourists looking at map books and waiting for transit salvation

Tourists looking at map books and waiting for transit salvation

There were tips on good eats in the guide booklet at several, actually two indoor market halls where various delectables from all over could be sampled and I had set my mind and stomach for an afternoon stroll of deliciousness in silly proportions/portions. I was really looking forward to the culinary experience and the usual list of local eats such as goulash and … well, goulash was the only culinary dish I knew of. But we were open to new things too. After wandering down a canyon of tourist shops lining the Vaci Utca;

One of the lesser shopping display along the Vaci Utca

One of the lesser shopping displays along the Vaci Utca

…pretty much all of them selling pretty much the same wares. Hmmm. At the end of that Utca we suddenly came upon the Nagycsarnok or Central Market Hall. Halleluja I thought; well maybe not thought so much as I felt something akin to that expression as we pushed our way through the heavy dirty darkish green woolen curtain flaps that separated the winterish outside from the warmish interior. Let the fun begin.

Inside the Central Market Hall where disappointment bit me in the ass.

Inside the Central Market Hall where disappointment bit me in the ass.

One stall sold fresh and colorful vegetables, the next sold honey, various sized bags of Paprika both sweet and hot along with different alcoholic souvenir bottles along with nuts, dried fruits and trinket sized wooden scoop spoons. Along the lines of ‘Souvenir’ accoutrement. Noted. The next stall sold meat: poultry, pork, beef, various cuts and meats in differing states of deconstruction depending on what the butcher was doing. These stalls also stocked huge supplies of the ‘Pick’ salami that I also was keen on purchasing to take back and sample in the comforts of home. These salamis came in different sizes and the different stalls appeared to apply differing prices for these same wares, depending on where they were located in the hall. The wife made note of that fact. Nevertheless we bought some. In a nutshell, a large market hall with many stalls but all stalls basically selling the same things. And upstairs arranged around the outer walls, more stalls with traditional embroidery and more tourist trickery. Bummer. The whole thing could have been condensed into four shops based on goods sold. Nothing for my belly other than a couple of excellent spicy dried snack sausages. We did not go into the basement for further my disappointment.

National Spice of Hungary is Paprika ... ok, so these samples had collected a lot of dust over the course of many years of being window displays.

National spice of Hungary is Paprika … ok, so these samples had collected a lot of dust over the course of many years of being window displays.

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Nope … didn’t eat here. Why not? Well, the name implied certain culinary danger. No matter that the hustler out on the street touted the menu to be “just like your mother home food”.

We did however stumble across the ‘Strudelhaus‘ on October 6 Utca. Wow, who knew Strudel could be so good. This restaurant also offers other traditional Hungarian fare but we spoiled our appetites with mouthwatering late afternoon goodness. Absolutely recommend this establishment for a delightful and very tasty visit.

Below is a sample of the sights and personal impressions:

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Parliament building besieged by constructionism

Solitary tower view point overlooking Budapest

One of the towers of the Fishermans Bastion overlooking Budapest

Bronze Aged Police

Bronze Aged Police on Zrinyi Utca/Oktober 6 Utca. Budapest

Wooden restaurant facade

Wooden restaurant facade on Vaci Utca

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Post christmas blues in the city

from there to here (camera viewpoint)

Rokford restaurant on the corner of Honved St and Szalay St. Didn’t eat there either.

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Seriously guarding the Hungarian Presidentat Sandor Palota

Looking across the Danube river  (beside the 'Chain Bridge')

Looking across the Danube river beside the Széchenyi lánchíd or Chain Bridge

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Detail of historical graphic context

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The unintended monumental asphyxiation of statues in an unnamed square somewhere in downtown Budapest

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Two tram cars as seen from Vemezo Way

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Yup Unicum … tastes exactly like ZWACK

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Still in rail service to the nation at Nayugati Railway Terminal

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Lonely morning street with retro VW bug

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Cool colors and wheels

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Dekagrams of decadent goodness

We can imagine how Budapest might look like in spring time.

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tired tourist feet

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Good’bye’ Budapest. Thank you kindly for the hospitality.

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wrong-way adventures on the M3 Blue Line to get to the airport

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Captain, please start this engine for takeoff

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Canadiana 105

I have a favorite ‘park’. Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC (Canada) It is a pretty cool park as city parks go. Every city has a park, well most of them do. They come in all shapes and most sizes from mini to huge.

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Looking towards Stanley Park from Coal Harbor, Vancouver BC, with North Vancouver in background.

I fell in love with it as a young boy the first time I visited it, I thought it a most splendid place to build a house one day. That was before I knew that Stanley Park in the heart of Vancouver (maybe it is the heart of Vancovuer) was in fact a park, no building houses allowed; not even tree houses.

The 1,001 acres/404.9 hectares that make up this urban park is almost entirely surrounded by sea water and boasts a few ponds, a large lagoon and a swimming pool right next the ocean. It’s all pretty lush what with all the rain that pours down on these parts of the wet coast.

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Stanley Park and the Lions Gate bridge seen from Brockton Point Lighthouse

The place is criss crossed with 200kms (give or take a few) of trails and roads and not a few secret trails only the homeless know much about. Some people guess that it contains half a million trees and the whole thing is encompassed by the sea wall, a paved 8.8 kilometres (5.5 mi) path that is used by approx. 2.5 million pedestrians and cyclists year round. Throw in a hand full of die hard roller bladders for good measure.

A busy traffic artery known as the Stanley Park Causeway, bisects the park and connects the downtown core to the north shore and North Vancouver municipality via the Lions Gate suspension bridge .

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Lions Gate Bridge and Float Plane

Officially declared open and appointed the purpose as a park 124 years ago in 1888 by some guy called David Oppenheimer, it was named after Lord Stanley of Preston, the Governor-General of Canada who had this to say when he actually saw the park – “I name thee, Stanley Park”. He was seen to throw his arms heavenward in an attempt to embrace the place while dedicating it to the use and enjoyment of peoples of all colors, creeds, and customs, for all time. Generous guy.

The park area is traditional territory of several different indigenous aboriginal tribes. Historically, the  Squamish had built a number of villages on the western and northern area, and in the southern area, the Musqueam used the area for collecting resources.

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Siwash (Slah-kay-ulsh) Rock, Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC, Canada

The popular landmark is “Slah-kay-ulsh” which means he is standing up. In their oral history, a man was transformed into this rock for his unselfishness by the three Transformer brothers

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Lifeguard rowboat and swimmer on Third Beach in Stanley Park, Vancouver

The park also has a few sandy beaches along its shore line and swimming is a popular warm weather option to those brave enough to brave the frigid pacific waters.

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Canada Geese in Pacific Ocean water

Wildlife in this park includes geese like those pictured above that poop everywhere, great blue herons, seagulls, bald eagles,  a burgeoning raccoon population, coyotes, skunks, possibly beavers, feral rabbits (decedent from house pets) and a thriving and at times inquisitive population of grey squirrels whose ancestry can be traced back to eight pairs from New Yorks Central Park.

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Third Beach, Stanley Park, Vancouver BC, Canada

The park at one time housed a zoo and is home to the Vancouver Aquarium. Established in 1956, the aquarium is the largest in Canada and houses a wide collection of marine life including dolphins, belugas,sea lions, harbour seals and sea otters.

In December 2006 a fierce winter storm tore through the park with winds gusting up to 115km p/h and laid waste to an area near Prospect Point.  Approx. 60% of the western side of the park was damaged; and it is believed that 3,000 trees were negatively affected.

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