No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Rainy Night In Amsterdam

October 14, 2013

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Rainy Night In Amsterdam

Our trip back to the US was punctuated by an overnight layover in Amsterdam, which is always a fun experience. We stayed in the Sheraton located right in Schipol airport, which made it easy, especially since there is a metro station right in the airport that makes a 15 minute train connection to the Amsterdam Central station downtown.

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The bad news is that it was raining heavily almost the entire time we were there, which made easy movement slightly less easy and comfortable and made it sort of a task to walk around and see things easily. Thankfully we had both been in Amsterdam before and had the opportunity to check out most of the stuff we had wanted to see including the Anne Frank house, the incredible museums and even the Heinekein experience.

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This visit the rain kept us mostly isolated to the area near the train station, which being the infamous Red Light district had more than enough crazy and interesting stuff to keep us busy. Packed with bars, restaurants, the famous coffee shops and a plethora of prostitutes, sex shows, sex museums and the like, the red light district was as packed as ever in spite of the heavy rain.

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We enjoyed dinner at an Italian restaurant, then wondered around in the rain watching the people and the scene, stopping along the way for a beer at the occasional bar. We also visited the Hemp and Marijuana Museum to check out the displays touting the weed that is so prevalent in Amsterdam, and the subject of so much controversy in the United States.

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The museum was interesting certainly, it examined the historical significance of the plant in medical applications, there were a number of medicine bottles from my hometown pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly, that once contained extract used for medicinal purposes. The history of medical use, the huge propaganda war against the drug and what the future may hold for marijuana were all featured. Of course overall the museum was very pro-marijuana which is to be expected I suppose given its location, but it was also interesting and off-beat and a lot of fun.

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I must say that I find the Red Light district fascinating, We had heard that the more conservative government was going to be putting the clamps down and prohibiting the sale of marijuana and some of the openness of the prostitution industry there, but we noticed very little difference from our previous visit. It is amazing to me still just how out in the open it all is and watching tourists perusing the sights like they are at Disney is still amusing.

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We had hoped to visit a more traditional museum the next morning before departing, but the lines were hours long and the wind and rain were unbelievable, so we just headed back to the airport to shop and eat before heading home.

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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Back to Budapest

October 13, 2013

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Back to Budapest

We had a couple of final days back in Budapest after having really enjoyed Vienna it was nice to be back in more familiar territory. We did stay at a totally different hotel, the cool boutique hotel called the Buddah Bar hotel which is located just on the Danube at the Elizabeth bridge. The hotel is funky with an Asian theme and really unique atmosphere. We were upgraded to a suite, which was very nice, especially since we would be spending our tenth anniversary there. It was huge and had a humongous bathtub that could easily fit 6-8 people.

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The location was awesome as well, just off Vaci Utca and with-in easy walking distance of most of what we still wanted to do. One of the things, we still needed to do was shop for a few gifts for people and we spent part of a day back at the central marketplace shopping. We also went for lunch at the fabulous and famous Central Café.

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The Central Café is known as the cream of the crop of Historic old world coffee houses, the best in Hungary and one of the best in all of Europe since opening in 1887. Coffee houses were once an important aspect of daily Hungarian life, meeting places for the intellectual movers and shakers. Most were destroyed during the communist era, but a few survived including the grand Central Café which has been restored to its traditional historic opulence.

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We also found another great restaurant that is more of a locals hangout than a touristy place, the Café Kor where we had traditional Hungarian cuisine with modern twists so that it both honors the tradition of Hungarian food, yet makes it more accessible to a younger and more willing to experiment generation of Hungarian foodies. It was a wonderful find and we really enjoyed both the food and atmosphere of the place.

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One last thing that was one our must see list in Budapest was Margaret Island. Margaret Island is a 1.6 mile long island, 550 yards wide, 238 acres in area in the middle of the Danube in central Budapest. The island is mostly covered by landscape parks, and is a popular recreational area. Its medieval ruins are reminders of its importance in the Middle Ages as a religious center. The island spans the area between the Margaret Bridge (south) and the Árpád Bridge (north).

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The park is equivalent to Central Park in New York for Budapest and is a fantastic place to visit. It is heavily utilized by both locals and tourists alike and has a wide variety of sports fields, ruins, a small zoo and all the beauty and serenity to make you forget that you are in the middle of a busy city.

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Kathy and I rented a four wheel bike to explore that island and just rode around checking out the sites under the beautiful fall foliage on a perfect crisp beautiful fall day. It was a magical way to wrap up our visit to Budapest, exploring the park where my mother used to play and swim during her youth and which is still wildly popular. Visiting Budapest with all my family was really the trip of a lifetime, so wonderful to experience a little of our family heritage with loved ones.

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