Monday, February 25, 2008


About four months ago, my mother offered to take me on one of her business trips. A PR firm was holding its annual nutrition-centered conference in Budapest in mid-February, and she offered to let me tag along as sort of a late Christmas/early birthday present. Surprisingly, it took a bit of convincing to get me to come. I don't know why I was so apprehensive at the time. It might have been because the most recent trip I had taken with my mother had not turned out quite as well as I had expected. It also might have been because I, like so many of my contemporaries, had very little knowledge of Budapest.

Around Christmas time, something in my brain snapped. I remember thinking "What am I thinking? It's a FREE trip to a European city for christsake!"

I left a voicemail for my mom early one morning saying I would be happy to join. I was biting my nails the rest of the day, hoping to God that it wasn’t too late. I got a call from her later that day and she told she was trying to secure a ticket for me. Ironically enough, I was in a Barnes and Noble at the time waiting in line to purchase a travel book on Budapest. As luck would have it, she was able to cash in her frequent flyer miles for my ticket, and the PR firm allowed the invitees to bring guests for a small fee. So my hotel and plane ticket were practically free. When I returned home from Barnes and Noble that night I read the book nearly cover to cover.

After reading the guidebook, I decided to set some goals for this trip. I knew that it would be a long time before I would be able to go on a vacation like this again. This trip had potential for some intense isolation and self-discovery, so the goals I made were built around that. I am happy to say that I was able to fulfill most of my goals. They were as follows:

Goal # 1) Take night photographs- Check.

I was able to borrow a tripod so I could test out some night photography.

This was our hotel, Four Seasons Gresham Palace. This hotel was the Four Seasons of Four Seasons.

This is Szechenyi Chained Bridge. It was the first permanent bridge built across the Danube in Budapest.

Detail of the bridge.

This is the Royal Palace in the Castle District. It houses the National Gallery.

This is a statue of Deak Ferencz, an important Hungarian statesman.

Goal # 2) Visit a Turkish bath- Check.

This is the Szechenyi bathing complex, which houses one of Budapest’s biggest outdoor baths. The word “furdo” means spa in Hungarian. It also has indoor baths, saunas, and steam rooms. It was a gorgeous complex. It was very opulently decorated, like a palace. Here is some of the detail of the lobby:

Goal # 3) Meet new people-Check.

The smart-looking lady is Lisa and the handsome devil to her right is Rob. We met at a lecture about Hungarian food one the first day of the conference. Rob and Lisa were traveling with Rob’s mom. I spent a lot of time with these folks. Lisa was a sweet and enthusiastic individual, and Rob was funny and affable. Lisa and I shared an affinity for all things hippy-like, and Rob and I shared an affinity for a fine glass of scotch. Since both of these of these folks are from California, they both…

…love drinking wine. We had a great time together.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Sandra. She is probably the most delightfully entertaining and interesting person I’ve met in quite awhile. She was traveling with her cousin Keisha, who was also attending the conference.

Goal # 4) Try new foods and eat a lot -

That’s a big check.

Goal # 5) Take at least two pictures that I am very happy with- Check.

Goal # 6) Buy Absinthe- Check.

I bought two small bottles of Pere Kermann's brand. I bought one for me and one for my brother.

Goal # 7) Try palinka.- Check.

I tried some in the hotel bar. Unfortunately, it was too dark to take any pictures. The drink was very similar to grappa, and had the propensity to be just as disgusting.

Goal # 8) Have a one-night stand.

I’ve never had one before, and, to sound ever-so cliché, I’m not getting any younger, therefore, time is running out. Having a no-strings-attached fornication session in a beautiful foreign country with a hot guy who I would never see again seemed like the way to do it. I don’t have pictorial evidence of this, not only because I’m a lady and would never post such things, but also because it didn’t happen. All the good-looking men I saw on this trip were either taken, gay, didn’t speak a word of English, or just didn’t seem interested. So that’s a big UNCHECK.

Accomplishing seven out of the eight goals was awesome. I knew goal # 8 was pretty far-fetched anyway, and I just sort of threw it in half-jokingly. The other seven goals were necessary for a well-rounded cultural experience.

In conclusion, this trip will be remembered as one of the most luxurious and breathtakingly beautiful experiences of my life. I guess what I’ve learned from this voyage is to never, under any circumstances, turn down a free trip to a European city.

If you would like to see more photos from my trip, please visit: