Travels With Myself

A Personalized Periodic Update, just for my family and friends, of the Ongoing Adventures of Your Favorite World Traveler

Name:
Location: Budapest, Hungary

After nearly 30 years in the financial industry in the US (mostly California and New Mexico), I decided it was time for my second life. I sold my house, sold my car, sold all my furniture, took a TEFL course and moved to Budapest to teach Business English to the business people of Hungary. Amazing mid-life change! I taught for about eight years, then pretty much retired. Now I travel extensively, and have been to more than 65 countries. I have had six books published, mostly about my travels - see my author's page on amazon.com. I have made friends from all over the world. Becoming an expat is the best move I ever made and I plan to continue my travels indefinitely. Come join me on this blog and enjoy the places I've been and the people I've met, past, present and hopefully in the future.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Vaya Con Cerveca


I’ll start this last week early, with my Saturday trip to Tangiers, as that was the culmination of my travels. On May 16 I caught a very early bus to Algeciras, on the Mediterranean coast. I was worried about how to get to the port in time to catch a ferry to Tangiers, but my worries came to naught when I watched the bus pull into the bus station, which was located at the ferry port! I hopped off the bus, walked the 45 seconds to the ticket office, bought my ferry ticket, and walked onto the hydrofoil ferry for Tangiers. Piece of cake. A two-hour journey across the Straits of Gibraltar and I was in Morocco again, this time at a rather dirty and crowded port city. I had booked the Hotel Tanjah Flandria hotel for two nights, but one would have been enough. I had booked this hotel mainly because it advertised a rooftop swimming pool, and I envisioned several hours of lazing around in the Moroccan sunshine. Alas, it was not to be; the pool was closed for renovations. Bummer. Another well-planned trip foiled by the diabolical renovators.
Anyway, I found and walked around the souks and the Medina and the old city. I saw the Kasbah (I kept waiting to hear Charles Boyer’s voice echoing from a nearby café saying, “Come wiz me to zee Kasbah”). Plus, wonder of wonders, when I turned on Moroccan television, who should greet me (and in English yet) but The Blues Brothers. Incredible. Dinner at the hotel was overpriced, but okay.
The next day I did more wandering in the souks, and headed for the huge beach which is near the port. It had to be at least 300 meters wide and a mile long. But dirty, you know? Camels festooned the area, waiting for unwary tourist riders (of which I was not one). While I was having lunch overlooking the beach, I even saw one local lad walk out a ways on the beach, drop to his knees and then obviously urinate in the sand. Hmmm, good thing I wore only my high-top walking shoes and not sandals.
At least in the Medina I found a neat leather shoulder bag and during my two-night stay I stuffed as much couscous into my face as I could stand. Yummy.
One prominent feature of the Arabic countries I have visited is that the men gather at tables lined up along a restaurant wall where they talk and smoke water pipes and drink tea, basically just lazing away the day doing nothing. Apparently, this is the modern-day equivalent of sitting outside their tents sharpening their knives and waiting for the next attack, while the women do everything else to keep the community going. No wonder they still just have to look over their shoulder to see the Stone Age.
Two nights in Tangiers were more than enough. On Monday morning I caught another early ferry to what I thought would be Algecrias, preparatory to finding my way to Gibraltar. It turned out the ferry took about 90 minutes to get to Tarifa, a closer port city in southern Spain, where we had to board a bus for the 30-minute trip to Algeciras and the bus terminal at the port. Interesting logistics. Once there, I found out a taxi to Gibraltar would only run me 24 euros, so I thought, what the hell, and cabbed over to The Frontier, which is what the entrance to The Rock is called.
My original plans had been to spend the day in Gibraltar, seeing as much as I could during that short stay, then bus back to Seville that evening. So upon arrival I did the cable car tour up to the top of The Rock. While there I saw the Barbary apes at play. One of them jumped onto the shoulder of a poor tourist who was carrying his frightened small daughter; I also watched as another ape, upon spying a bag of crisps peeking out of the backpack of an English tourist, leaped onto the railing next to her, reached in her backpack, grabbed the bag and ripped it open with his teeth. Aggressive little buggers. The view from the top of Gibraltar is, of course, spectacular.
Upon reaching the bottom again, I planned to walk back to The Frontier along Main Street, have lunch along the way, then catch a bus back to Seville. Well, Gibraltar was just too cool. Okay, it’s like being in Oxford, but I liked it. I had a great fish and chips lunch and the shop owner recommended a hotel for me to stay the night if I was so inclined. My incline was working, and I did. The Canon was one of the few one-star hotels I have ever stayed in anywhere, but the tiny rooms were clean and the bathrooms down the hall were generally unoccupied, so it was satisfactory.
I found Pusser’s Landing, a great restaurant and bar in the marina, and downed several rum concoctions: a Pain Killer, Rum Punch, Reef Juice, Jamaican Me Crazy and Grog. Hell, I may even have had a Boat Drink in there somewhere. A good lazy afternoon. I bought a couple of Pusser’s shirts and had dinner of conch chowder and conch fritters. Mmmm, love that conch (pronounced “conk”), which I had only previously found in the Bahamas, at another Pusser’s, amazingly enough. And to make my day, it turned out the bartendress was Hungarian, so it was almost like being home, but with more sunshine and cool breezes. The next day, after a big English breakfast, I caught the 11 AM bus back to Seville.
For the rest of my final week in Spain I just relaxed. I walked around, ate sparingly and got more sun. Thursday night was my final karaoke night at Flaherty’s, and I was known as a regular by this time. I did several oldies, alone and accompanied by local women.
Late in the evening I was sitting at the bar, contemplating whether to sing again or head back to the flat, when a young, tall, blonde, very attractive Dutch girl came over and introduced herself to me. Now, it’s been a very long time since anything like that happened to me, and I must admit I was somewhat taken aback. Luisa and I chatted for awhile, and over the music and noise I thought she mentioned something about seeing her hotel. I agreed, and we chatted some more, then she said she and her friends had to get something to eat. Disappointment, naturally, but I thought we then arranged to meet the next evening. Needless to say, it never happened. Another potential adventure lost. Ah, well, I gave her my card, so who knows?
And finally, all too quickly, it was over. On May 24 I flew to Lisbon then home to Budapest around 8 PM. I entered my flat, tanned and sweaty and happy, to find my carpet gone, my plants moved out onto the balcony and all of my stuff and furniture moved around. There were also a number of still-wet towels drying on my drying rack in the living room. What the hell? I looked around and then looked up and what do you know? A large chunk of my ceiling plaster had apparently come unglued and fallen and covered my flat with dust and debris. Luckily, it had all been cleaned up by my landlords, but still. The chunk came out right where I usually sit to watch TV. Maybe things aren’t so bad after all.
So, that was my month in Spain. Good adventures, a nice relaxing time away from Budapest, new people, great food, welcoming sea breezes and a nice culture. But expensive, Gang, quite expensive.
Okay, one final note. Two days after I got back our InterNations Group had a gathering at a local Indian restaurant. I was able to hook up with many friends I hadn’t seen in while (obviously), and the evening progressed nicely, with the beer flowing and the samosa being consumed. All of a sudden I felt a small group gathered behind me. I turned around and they were all wearing red t-shirts with a really bad picture of me on them, and the caption “Everything is Gary’s fault!”
It was my welcome home present. They even had a t-shirt for me, which I donned then and there, taking off my Hawaiian shirt to the whistles and clapping of many of the other guests (a few diehards looked embarrassedly away, but I figured they didn’t know what they were missing, so to hell with them). A really nice gesture to mark my return to Hungary. Good friends – how could I ever leave here? You can see the photo on Facebook.
All for now, Readers. Take care, write me sometime, and watch this space for future events. Next trip: Montenegro.

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