Budapest or Bust

14 January 2014

Departure day, 12pm…we were planning to load all the gear into the back of Jeff’s truck but snow flurries and the possibility of rain in Denver forced a change of plans. We managed to load all our bags into Jeff’s Volkswagen GTI and the two bike boxes into the rear seat of his pickup. Marc rode with Brett and Julia rode with Jeff and we headed off to Denver, all the while contemplating who or what we should sacrifice to the weather gods to ensure the snow didn’t get worse.

Upon arrival at the Denver Airport our plan was to shuttle all the bags and bike boxes into the British Airway counter one at a time, but as we were unloading curbside a Skycap approached with a large wheeled dolly and offered to load all the bags and get them inside. This seemed like a much easier plan and with a little creativity we managed to get everything to fit on the dolly. Our check in with British Airways was extremely painless, and as a result of our weather paranoia we had arrived three and a half hours early for our flight and there were no lines at the BA counter. Thanks to Julia’s excellent planning that got us the upgrade to Business class, we were authorized 3 bags per ticket and each bag could weigh 32 kg or 70 lbs which eliminated the overweight baggage fee on Marc’s big rolling duffel (it weighed in at 66 lbs). We did have to pay for our seventh bag, but the savings incurred with the 3 bags per ticket allowed in Business class, plus the heavier bag allowance, more than offset the extra we had to pay for taxes and fees on the upgrade.

After check in we cleared security and headed to the American Airlines Admiral’s Club, another benefit of Business Class. FREE booze and food while we waited for our flight! The Admiral’s club also provided wi-fi so we were able to send out a few last minute emails and post our status on Facebook. Thanks to all of you following along who wished us well.

Julia in Club World

At 4 pm we headed down to board the flight and, after a short wait at the gate, moved aboard the plane and settled into our seats. BA’s business class seats (called Club World) are like a small cozy room; we had adjoining seats that were separated from the other passenger by a small partition. Again free booze, Julia had a Glenlivet and Marc settled for a glass of champagne as we waited for takeoff.

Shortly after takeoff the flight crew served a 3 course dinner.  Slightly tipsy and well fed we reclined our seats to the fully horizontal sleeping position (pillow and blanket included) and drifted off to sleep. We both awoke seven hours later, just in time for a light breakfast and coffee before landing in Heathrow.

15 January 2014

We arrived in Heathrow about 9 am and discovered that Heathrow is not the easiest airport to transit. We departed the airplane at terminal 5 and had to take a bus to terminal 3. Upon our arrival at terminal 3, we had to pass through a security check point. Yes, we got off an airplane, never left the secure area, rode a bus with everyone else who had just gotten off the same airplane, and then did security again. There was a fairly significant line at the terminal 3 security checkpoint which required about a 30 minute wait. Fortunately, we had a five hour layover in Heathrow so we were not concerned about missing our connecting flight, other people were not as relaxed and easy going about the delay. As a warning to anyone flying over to visit, ensure you have at least 3 hours on the ground at Heathrow. Once through security we wandered through the crowds at terminal 3 to the BA business class lounge.  According to BA’s website, all we should have needed to enter the lounge was our inbound business class international ticket; however, the attendant at the lounge entrance had not read the website. He initially was not going to let us into the lounge because our connecting or outbound flight was an economy class ticket. Julia was very insistent and after he checked with management she convinced him that we could use the lounge. 

Wait for it…yes! You guessed it, free booze and food again. Oh, and wi-fi. More emails since we had to let the families know we made it safely to Heathrow, some good food, a quick clean-up in the restrooms, and we were off to the gate for our flight into Budapest. Another bus ride out to the plane and we were seated and ready to go. The flight time from Heathrow to Budapest is only two and a half hours and the pilot managed to cut that down to 2:20. He must have been flapping his arms like mad.

We arrived at Budapest and cued up for immigration, if you can call one person in front of you a queue; it was very smooth and quick through immigration and then down to baggage claim. All the bags made it, even the bikes! We rented a couple of the little airport baggage carts and loaded everything on, with one bike on each cart and the bags split between the carts, and headed for customs. Marc was dreading opening up everything for the customs inspectors and was very pleasantly surprised that we sailed through customs. The inspector asked if the bikes were new, we told him no they were one year old and that was it. He waved us through without even slowing down. We proceeded out to the curb and there began the great taxi adventure…

Albert had emailed and said to go to the Fotaxi stand to get a cab. Marc walked up to the kiosk, asked for a cab to Kapital Inn, and pointed to the two carts full of gear. The guy at the kiosk leaned way back in his chair, pointed at the gear and started to laugh. He quickly radioed for a big cab and told Marc stand-by. Within just a couple minutes a small van cab pulled up. The driver was a genius with packing stuff into his cab. He dropped half of the rear seat, stuck the bike boxes in at an angle and wiggled, cajoled, and squeezed everything into the cab with just enough room left for Julia in the now miniscule front seat and Marc in what was left of the rear seat. It was amazing! The drive from the Budapest Airport to Kapital Inn (N47 30.497 E19 03.934) took about 30 minutes.  Upon  arrival at Kapital Inn, Julia jumped out and rang the buzzer at the front door while Marc helped the cab driver unload and pile the gear in front of the door. Albert, the owner of Kapital Inn and all around fabulous person, was on vacation in South Africa and had arrange for a friend of his, Andy, to meet us. Andy got down to the door shortly after Julia hit the buzzer, and he must have been moving fast because the Kapital Inn is on the fourth floor. Oh, did we forget to mention that the hotel is on the fourth floor and there is no elevator;  and these aren’t the wimpy 8 foot american floors, these are the old school 12 foot tall ceilings European floors. With the front door open, we moved all the gear into the foyer. Marc paid off the taxi driver with a good tip for his packing expertise and we all began to shuttle the bags upstairs, up lots and lots of stairs!

Andy was a great help, and between the three of us we got all five big bags, the four carry-on bags, and both bikes up the stairs and into the Kapital Inn. Andy gave us the grand tour of our rooms, showed us the kitchen, gave us the keys, laughed at the amount of stuff we had, and then he headed for home. He was awesome!

All this and it was only 7 pm. We grabbed our jackets and headed out for a walk to stretch our legs and find some dinner. We wandered down Andrassy Avenue until we found a gyro stand. Gyros seem to have become our fallback food upon arrival in a European city, they are quick, easy, and everywhere.  After dinner we walked down to the river to view the beautifully lit castle and cathedral on Castle Hill. The sky was clear and a full moon was just coming up over the skyline as we walked along the river bank and then headed back to the hotel. The traveling was over, we are now in Budapest.

© Eat, Drink, and Carry a GPS 2013