Important Things to Know Before Going to Budapest, Hungary

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Heading to Budapest?  Here are some helpful hints!

General  It is important to know the difference between Buda and Pest (pronounced ‘Pescht’). Until a few hundred years ago, they were separate cities. Buda is on the west side of the river, is a hilly, residential area that also is home to the Castle district. Pest is on the east side and contains the business district, the Jewish Quarter, and more affordable accommodations and fare.

1.  In the airport, there is an ATM in baggage claim, which is an easy way to get forint (Hungarian currency or HUF).  200 HUF roughly equals $1.
2.  From the airport, the best way to get to your hotel is to take the minibuses, which are very reasonable (look to your right when exiting customs).  One way the cost is 2,990 HUF or about $14.50.

Getting Around
1.  Only take a taxi from your hotel, never hail one from the street.  Taxis are not as safe in Budapest as they are in cities elsewhere.  If you do need a taxi and you’re somewhere other than your hotel, go into a restaurant or pub and ask one of the staff to call one for you.  They’ll call one from a reputable company and you’ll be less likely to be ripped off.  Fortunately the transit system in Budapest is very good so you shouldn’t need them too often.
2.  Do take the buses, trains, and trams whenever possible.  They’re everywhere, frequent, and cheap.  When you get on the bus/train/tram, no one will take your ticket.  You have to use the orange boxes to validate your ticket each time.  To do so, simply stick the ticket in the slot.  If a ticket checker audits the car and your fare isn’t validated the fine is 6,000 HUF.  Also, tickets aren’t for sale on the street, so you’ll need to get them from a hotel or train station.  I found a weeklong pass was the best.
3.  Do not buy the Budapest card, a transportation and museum pass all in one. Unless you plan a museum marathon for 72 hours (the longest length available), it is less expensive to pay for transport and museum fees separately as needed.

What to do when you’re there
1.  As I mentioned in previous posts, do join a free walking tour.  From this overview you can decide which are the most important highlights that will best match your interests.
2.  The best place to buy food and souvenirs is the Grand Market Hall. It’s a two-story building with all sorts of delights.  A traditional market is on the ground floor with vegetables, meats, grocery goods, bakery items aplenty.  On the second floor are local textiles, souvenirs, restaurants and food stalls.
3.  When booking a hotel room, make sure it has air conditioning if you’re planning on a summer visit.  I found this one out the hard way!
4.  Do go at night to the little bars in the Jewish Quarter called ruin bars or ‘romkocsma’ in Hungarian.  They’re fun and a part of the culture.
5.  The language is hard, there’s no way around it.  Do at least know a few basic words, thank you in particular…you don’t want to be a rude American after all!

Hello or Bye = Szia (sounds like “See Ya”)
Goodbye = Viszlát (sounds like “veeslat”)
Yes / No  = Igen / Nem  
How are you? = Hogy vagy?  
Thank you = Köszönöm (sounds like “kozonom”)
Thank you very much = Köszönöm szépen
Good morning = Jó reggelt
Good afternoon = Jó napot  
Good evening = Jó estét
Cheers! = Egészségédre!
You’re welcome = Szívesen  
Sorry! / Excuse me!  = (to apologize = Bocsánat!) (to gain attention = Elnézést!)

Food Tips
1.  More often than not, salad refers to pickled vegetables as opposed to the green leafy variety.
2.  Noodles are really small but dense dumplings.
3.  Hungarian wines are surprising good – an undiscovered secret in my opinion.  Explore beyond the usual hype of Bulls Blood (not really blood, but it is a red) and Tokaj (white) – there are many very good varieties to choose from.  My favorite wines came from the Villany region.
4.  Try anything that is made with cottage cheese – sounds weird but trust me!  Also, a must – bread with fat….I’m still dreaming of it!
5.  If you’re in a restaurant and don’t know what to order and can’t communicate, when all else fails, order paprikash.
6.  Most Hungarians eat a heavy lunch and a lighter dinner.  As a result, many local restaurants close at 3 or 4 (tourist areas excepting).

Above all, just relax and have fun – Hungary is a country with so much to offer, you can’t go wrong!

Enchanted in Palm Springs, CA

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Last year I had the opportunity to go to Palm Springs, CA twice.  Both times were a bit out of season, in September and October, so it was rather hot and sticky – it is a desert after all.  Fortunately I was joined by great company and indulged in refreshing swims every day.

The first trip was to the La Quinta Resort (a Waldorf Astoria property), which was simply beautiful.  Situated against the backdrop of stunning red mountains, the scenery was breaktaking.  The resort is comprised of casitas (small villas), restaurants, a spa, and conference facilities.

The casitas were lovely complete with fireplaces and a true sense of seclusion.  They are arranged in groups so they form little communities around pools.  Each pool had roughly four to six casitas surrounding it, making it feel like your own private oasis.

The resort itself has a number of restaurants and the food was quite good.  The best thing I had there was the margarita at Adobe Grill.  Honestly, the best margarita I’ve ever had with the perfect blend of tart and sweet, citrus and salt.  Just writing about it makes me crave for one!

My second visit was for work to the Hyatt in downtown Palm Springs – a completely different experience.  It was a very good hotel, convenient to all the attractions and restaurants downtown but lacked the relaxed romance and charming warmth of the LaQuinta.

All in all, I’d recommend going closer to the season (ie winter – November to April).  The rest of the year some of the local attractions are not open and it can be oppressively hot.  Not matter the time of the year, though, I hope I get to return sometime soon, there’s a margarita with my name on it!

Check out LaQuinta, its well worth a visit:

Going Down Under? Don’t Forget Your Visa!


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Craving a smear of Vegemite? Thinking of heading Down Under? Don’t forget to apply for your visa!  I’ll be heading there for a quick turn work trip in a couple of weeks and am getting ready.

To visit, Australia requires an Electronic Travel Authority (aka ETA).  You can apply for an ETA online, but you cannot be in Australia when you do so.  According to their website, “The ETA allows people to visit Australia for short-term tourism or business purposes of up to three months. There is an AUD20 service fee only for an online application for each ETA applicant. An ETA is available to passport holders from over 30 countries, regions and locations.” 

To learn more about Australian Electronic Travel Authority, click here:

Applying was easy and they sent me the approval very quickly with instructions.  In addition, a day or so later I got another email from the Authority outlining a few more benefits…..A few months ago I applied and was accepted into the US Trusted Traveler program.  It basically means Uncle Sam did a background check and interviewed me so I can reenter the US from trips without going through the long customs/immigration lines.  According to the Aussie email, “Late last year, Australian Customs and Border Protection opened up access to its automated border processing system, SmartGate, to U.S. Trusted Travelers. Now when you arrive in Australia, you can bypass the passport processing queues and self-process using an ePassport.”

US Trusted Travelers can use SmartGate when flying into Australia without any additional due diligence.  FANTASTIC!  It will take me more than 25 hours of travel to get there and I’m flying coach (since my company is paying and there are no upgrades available!) so I imagine I’ll look a bit like these jet lagged people once I arrive!

Needless to say, the thought of not having to deal with long passport lines when I arrive is a welcome relief. 

To learn more about the US Trusted Traveler Program, click here:

Sail Into The Sunset – Newport, Rhode Island

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Newport, Rhode Island is widely considered the sailing capital of the world, with a rich history in all things nautical.  A beautiful place to visit, it has more surviving colonial buildings than any other city, brick streets, and that intangible crisp quaintness of a New England town.

There are so many things to see and do here, including The Breakers, Cliff Walk, and Castle Hill.  There are multitudes of articles on all of those places, each worth spending time visiting.  I won’t focus on them here, though.  If you follow my blog, you know I’m a water girl and elect to spend my time on the water as often as possible.  With that spirit, last fall I had the opportunity to take a group of business colleagues on a sunset sail that was more enjoyable than any round of golf.

I used 12 Meter Charters and booked a trip aboard The Heritage.  Twelve of us boarded on a perfect day, with calm waters and just enough wind. I’ve been sailing for years and am a certified sailing captain, but even I was in complete awe of the beauty of this boat and the deft capabilities of its crew.  In addition to showing us the splendors of the area, they served us a catered dinner as we toured the coast.  The gentle rocking of the boat, lobster roll in hand, and the stunning mansions of Newport framed with hues of an orange and pink sunset created one of those perfect moments that somehow make everything worthwhile.

While my favorite, water is not the only playground there.  I also got to spend an evening on an impromptu bar crawl, which I highly recommend!  Having stayed at the perfectly positioned Hyatt on Goat Island, we strolled downtown, hopping from restaurants to pubs to bars, sampling local brews and seafood along the way.  Some of the local breweries include Newport Storm, Coddington, and Coastal Extreme.  We tried them all (perhaps more than once!) and then stumbled back to the Hyatt without ever having to take a cab.  If you’re in town with friends, its the perfect way to spend the evening.

I’ve been in the area for work several times over the last year and found the fall to be my favorite.   The weather was still moderate and it wasn’t overly crowded.  During this time, the Hyatt, which also has a lovely spa, offers really good rates during the off season.  On the other hand, the regattas that are such fun to watch happen during the summer (see the schedule below).  Ultimately, Newport is a place you can’t go wrong visiting, no matter what the season.

Annual 12 Meter Regattas in Newport:
 •New York Yacht Club’s Annual Regatta – June
 •New York Yacht Club’s Race Week – July (biennially)
 •Sparkman & Stephens Regatta – July
 •Museum of Yachting’s Classic Yacht Regatta and Parade – September
 •12 Meter Championships – September
Newport Sailing Events and Regattas (non-12 meter boats)
•Newport’s Spring Boat Show – May
 •Newport to Bermuda Sailing Race – June
 •Annapolis to Newport Sailing Race – June
 •Newport International Boat Show – September
12 Meter Charters, Inc.
49 Bowen’s Wharf, 3rd Floor
Newport, RI 02840
800.820.1223 or 401.851.1216

Boston Symphony Orchestra Holiday Pops – A Holiday Must See

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This holiday season I had an opportunity to go to the Boston Symphony Holiday Pops.  It was an exquisite show, complete with classics and a few unexpected pieces.  Going to the symphony always carries with it a sense of excitement and culture, but pair it with the magic of Christmastime, chilly air, on the arm of a good looking guy and it turns into a memorable evening.

One of the highlights of the evening was that they invited Boston Bruins hockey players each night to narrate “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”  The league was on strike and it was an amusing intro to say the least.  That paired with a few heartwarming sing alongs created an atomosphere of jolly holiday fun.

It may be important to note the seating in the hall is very crowded, with tables and chairs to accomodate full service.  It’s a delight to be able to order champage throughout the night without waiting for intermission but I must say the food leaves a bit to be desired.

If you’re in town, this annual event is a must see.  Take your kids, your loved ones, or even someone you don’t like because this show will brighten your day, make you smile, and put you in a holiday mood.

North End Boston – Italian Eateries the Perfect Recipe for Romance

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Several times over the last year and a half I’ve had the opportunity to stroll around the north end of Boston, renowned for its Italian restaurants and waterfront.  The area is a delight to walk with brick sidewalks, flowers in window boxes, and twinkling white lights.  As you wander through the narrow, winding streets, every step takes you past a cafe or bar or restaurant that looks even more fun than the last.

I had the pleasure to eat at several places, but the one we went to for my birthday was particularly lovely.  Bricco was the perfect blend of exceptional food and good atmosphere.  We had Mionetto Prosecco (because I have a weakness for bubbly) and ordered the specials of the evening.  The service was perfect – they took good care of us without being intrusive, and everything we ordered was wonderful.  On top of that, the side bar was a great place to have an after dinner drink., 241 Hanover St.

If you’re planning an anniversary, birthday, or even just a first date, the North End is a great place to go in Boston.

The Little Yellow Beach House – Redington Shores, FL

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One of the reasons I was MIA this year is that I spent every spare minute for several months renovating a little Florida Cracker beach bungalow in Redington Shores.  Having grown up nearby, I have great passion for the sounds of the ocean, wide beaches with sugar white sand, and the feeling of waves beneath my board.

The Little Yellow Beach House is right next to the beach and offers the perfect opportunity to escape the stresses of the world.  With large front and back porches, beach bikes, and a double reclining swing, it takes you a world away from routine.

I plan to spend October through December there every year, with a few weeks here and there scattered in…and rent it out the rest of the year.  With two bedrooms (three queen beds), it is the perfect place for families and couples to vacation or for getaways with the girls.

If you’re interested in renting it, visit our booking site here:

or Facebook here:

Missing In Action!

I’ve been missing in action for a year…It has been a whirlwind of amazing professional growth, household changes, a beach vacation rental renovation, love and heartbreak, and many, many cities.  Things are settling down for me and I’m looking forward to getting caught up with my travel blog.

Some of the places I went during the last year that I plan to share are the British Virgin Isles, Costa Rica, Baltimore, NYC, Orlando, Vegas, Toronto, London (Olympics!), Newport, Park City, Boston, Charleston, San Antonio, Asheville, Palm Springs, and the ever less glamorous Harrisburg/Carlisle, PA.

This year I have lots of new exciting adventures planned including: Australia, Paris, Iceland, Aruba, and Curacao.

Stay tuned!

Your fellow travel addict,

Jennifer Beasley