Hungover in Hungary at Hungaroring

At around 10am, I get a text from the track, “I’m not feeling so good this morning”. That’s no surprise after last night but the text wakes me up, and probably saves me from missing the race. I delicately sit up and the room is a little blurry, but the bright sunshine streaming through the window puts a smile on my face, will we have a dry race?!

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My phone bleeps again, it’s Sarah at home, “so I hear the rain has finally arrived with you?” Erm, it’s glorious here? But apparently the track is wet. Better pack my poncho then, this could be an exciting race!

Breakfast – damn, what’s the time? I need food. So with five minutes to spare I slide into the restaurant sideways and manage to get my order in. Then back upstairs to slap on the sunscreen, F1 stash, shades etc and off we go.

Strangely enough, the metro and bus seem no busier than yesterday (race day is usually far busier)? The bus drops us off at Mogyorod, about a mile from the track, so it’s another long hot walk ahead. En route, I get chatting to an Aussie called Daniel. He’s on a tour over her (his fifth time!) but he’s interestingly doing a kind of Eastern European / Baltic tour: he’s been to St Petersburg, Vilnius, Oslo… and flew here from the Ukraine on Thursday, to catch the GP before heading back to Sydney.

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It’s a fair old trek up to gate 2, and by the time we get there I must’ve worked off breakfast. It’s the hottest part of the day and I’m sweating buckets. So glad I brought my face wipes… is that a bit sensible? Or am I just getting old?! But with an hour to go before lights out, and knowing my seat is in direct sunshine (ie I’ll bake out there), I grab some shade whilst I can, in the only place covered – the beer tent – oh go on then, mine’s a pint…

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The perfect start

… just not for Schumi! According to Will Buxton on Twitter, he switched his engine off!! Classic!! Erm Michael, how long have you been driving in F1? It made perfect entertainment for us though, seeing Lewis lead the pack round the circuit, followed by Jenson, Ferraris, Red Bulls, Lotuses (Loti?), a lonely German Mercedes, Force Indians, Saubers, Caterhams, Torro Rossos, HRTs, Maurissians… and bringing up the rear, a good 5 seconds after all other cars, Schumi toddles round to a standing ovation, clapping and cheering (laughing) from the stands at turn 6 (and right round the track apparently!)

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The perfect finish

So Lewis leading from qually to podium, enabling the national anthem to ring out, for a Brit on the top step, on the London Olympic opening weekend was awesome. Michael just added the cherry to the bakewell! Can’t wait to hear what excuse he gives Lee McKenzie et al afterwards… 

Schumi’s subsequent retirement also meant he got the F1 equivalent of an early bath – fast track to Parc Ferme – meaning the team finish pack-up earlier than the usual 11pm.

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That said, the crew are somewhat jaded tonight: Orsi rain checks, so Anna comes out on her own. Papa Pirelli seems quiet, no sign of Junior. Tom & Kevin seem ok, although they didn’t get up until 2pm. Mr Petronas was late to work (waking up 5 minutes before his lift to the track was setting off) and no idea what Mr Mobil’s day was like?! Ah well, it’s a 4am start for me tomorrow heading back to Stansted, so a quiet pint and pizza suits me fine!

Great day Lewis, Rule Britannia!
ttfn /Rxx

The city in a night

So tonight’s plan is dinner in Rezkakas, then A38. But this is me, it’s never going to be normal is it?

To start with, there’s Paul. As in, Di Resta. Yes, he’s staying at the same hotel! So whilst I wondered why the paps and fans were suddenly everywhere, no I hadn’t been recognised, Paul had. Unfortunately, not by me though (had to be pointed out to me). So I’m not used to seeing him without his race suit am I?! He scrubs up ok though and is taller than you’d think.

Anyway, the girls go swarming off behind Paul, who is clearly just out to see a bit of Pest. But he obliges and signs a few autographs, good lad.

Reskakas

Next is dinner. A lovely authentic Hungarian restaurant complete with live music – a tightly rehearsed three piece – double bass, violin and a something else. No idea what it’s called, but imagine a very baby grand piano, with no keys, no lid and chappie’s using padded hammers to play the strings. It sounds like a quiet piano and together with the strings, makes a lovely ensemble.

The food is delicious and the wine, Hungarian of course, suitably quaffable. All very civilised but A38 is calling…

Legal drunk driving – F1 style

This has to be the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages! 10 guys sitting round a bar. Ok, but the bar is on wheels. And each of their attached barstools is equipped with bicycle pedals. Yes, it’s a certain F1 pit crew on a night out! They’re in cracking spirits and clearly having a riot, doing a good 2 mph, with their 10 break man power, and free flowing fuel of the alcoholic variety! God help their drivers in the race tomorrow…

The best nightclub in the world

A38 is a club on a boat, a Ukrainian military boat, and according to Lonely Planet, it’s the best club in the world. Personally, I’m worried. Not because I’ve almost been run down by a pit crew drunk in charge of a decacycle (?), or been to the loo beneath a glass bottomed pond (yes really, Aquarium), but last time I was in a club on a boat was Tuxedo Royale in Newcastle (and I fell of the revolving dancefloor too many times to remember).

Onboard are Anna & Orsi (resident Hungarian friends), Mr Petronas @ Mr Mobil (our fuel & lubes boys), Papa Pirelli and Junior (the rubber guys), Tom & Kevin (ex paddock boys who have come for race weekend) and yours truly. A concoctive mix which will undoubtedly end with a hangover.

From here, we head further down the river to another of Budapest’s infamous ‘ruin clubs’. I’m still not convinced the term refers to the surroundings in which these open air clubs are built, as opposed to the state in which most people leave? But it’s great; outdoors, so fresh air, no sticky floors etc, exciting acoustics reverberating off the stone floors and walls, and a lighting rig just waiting to give Pink Floyd a run for their money. There’s also a big stage but tonight is a DJ rather than a band, so the stage just accommodates dancers.

At some point, someone decides Southern Comfort is the drink of choice (why, or whom, who knows) but having had G&T to kick off, wine at dinner, beer on the boat and now onto spirits, the fun and games are free flowing!

Being out with the boys is usually entertaining, but when Junior Pirelli disappears, we wonder… until he’s spotted having a dance-off with a ballerina – I kid you not. Our rubber boy can bust a groove, but is clearly outclassed and eventually admits defeat, much to the entertainment of the now huge crowd of us clapping and cheering.

As they applaud each other it’s like the end of the water painting scene in Mary Poppins; the heavens suddenly open and everyone runs for cover… by the bar… Who’s round is it?

We finally hail cabs, about 4am I think? As some of them have something important to do tomorrow, although none of us can quite remember what?

I’m loving Budapest by night!
ttfn hic /Rxx

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The city in a day

First up, my phone. In the past three months my bill has exceeded £150pm, mainly due to the expense of data abroad. Whilst o2 assure me their new charging structure will significantly reduce this, I opt to unlock my phone and buy a Hungarian sim. Although I’m still waiting for o2 to unlock my phone, I head to Vodafone to see what the options are. 500 forints for the sim, minimum topup is 2000 forints oh and 500 for the paper clip sim extractor thingy, so 3000 all in. About £8. Really? That’s all? Beat that o2!

Pest

Now, I’m told that the only way to stand a chance of seeing a big place in minimal time, is a hop-on-hop-off bus, right? So that’s what I do.

Up the local equivalent of the champs élysées, past the old but stunning villas and I get off at Heroes Square. Wow. It’s like a mini St Peters from the Vatican, but in twice the space. I walk round the back and find a huge park, boating lake and more bridges. I purposely headed up here first as the hotel is on the Danube, so this bit’s harder to get to. But it feels like a different city. It’s wide streets, open spaces, few noticeable tourists, except this lot…

Heading the wrong way under the wrong arch beneath the bridge, they soon emerge again, backwards, with two other boats heading straight for them. Mum’s screaming at the kids, dad’s rowing perilously and they’re creating more splash than Kim Basinger in a dodgy 80’s Mermaid outfit.

But for everyone else, it’s a slow pleasant pace. Reminds me a bit of Melbourne but with older and far more stunning architecture.

The architecture

Now that is blowing me away. Think Roman effort and variety with Parisienne chic, and lots of piazzas and parks. I love it! And I’ve only done 3 stops on my bus! Right back down to the river, a spot of lunch and over to Buda.

Buda

Totally different. This is similar to the royal bit of Monaco – built in/on a limestone hill, with steep, windy streets and a castle on top.

It’s very pretty but less bustly than Pest. Until 1873 they were two different cities. On unification, Buda became the historic military side and Pest housed parliament, with more residential areas and a more bustling feel. I prefer Pest, but both have plenty to show – round every turn there’s a beautiful building, statue, feature… You could stay here and wander round for months and you’d still not see it all.

I hop back on the bus up to the Citadel (serious hillage otherwise) but end my hopping there. I sit and take in the view before walking back down to the river and over the bridge to the Grand Market Hall. From here it’s back down Vaci Utca, running the gauntlet between restaurant touts, Mango and Zara… I do well, but as the heaven open on my arrival outside Hard Rock Cafe, it’d be rude not to. And at £2.33 a pint – yes that’s £2.33 – why not?!

So tonight’s plan, subject to what time the guys finish at the track, is to meet up around 9 and head for Romkert (an open air club, let’s hope the rain stops!)

ttfn /Rxx

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Essex Airlines innit

Brilliant! Yorkshire Airlines has a distant cousin! Tonight, I’m
Flying Ryanair from Stansted to Budapest, but the entertainment begins long before I board…

Bobby

First-up, I meet Bobby, the bendy bus driver. As always, I’ve no idea of his real name, but by the end of our 10-minute shuttle from Long Stay to Terminal, I do know thathe lives in Harlow, his two children live in Preston and Germany, his son says they’ve had less rain up north than down south, and he’s off to see his grandchildren in Germany next weekend. Oh and he retires next year, is counting the days and then his life will begin. Great, thanks Bobby!

Boris & Doris

Next are the German couple in WHSmiths. When I come in, the shop is empty, so I select my Nanny’s birthday card and grandparents’ anniversary card and head for the till. By the time I get there, a queue is building behind Boris & Doris, who are about my grandparents’ age and trying to buy stamps. Unfortunately, they don’t understand Stacey on the till, who’s asking which country they’re posting to. The situation is stalemate; Stacey has the view that, if she simply speaks slower and louder, she’ll be understood. Whilst Boris is getting infuriated with her – why can’t she help him? Doris, on the other hand, seems uninvolved – I suspect she actually understands perfectly, but is just watching for fun… Eventually, they’re sorted and I get to the front of the queue, buy my cards and walk out… dammit, pen. Back to WHSmiths.

I know things are more expensive in London, inflated at the airports, and even more so during the Olympics, but since when did a biro cost £2.99? Last time I bought one it was about 15p! Ah well, I shall look after it. I write my cards, google Nanny & Hampa’s postcode, and post the cards.

You want me to strip?!

So I’ve removed my liquids and gadgets in the tray but still manage to set off the alarm going through security. I’m therefore whisked aside for the usual pat down from Kez at Security, whose fingernails could pose a security risk in themselves (thank god my anatomy is genuine!) When she finds nothing on my person, she grabs her gadget and makes all kinds of ‘clanger-style’ noises as she waves it in my general direction. I’m then sent to walk back through the scanner. When the alarm starts again, I remove my flip flops, watch, rings and bracelet and go back again. By the time the alarm is sounding verse three, Kez’s colleague Des comes over and looks me up and down, I immediately suggest there not a lot else I can take off, honestly! He nods to Kez to have another pat – oh Lordy! Eventually, she decides the underwriting in my bra is what’s causing the alarm to play Charge of the Light Brigade. They get bored and I’m waved through.

By this point I’m ready for a pint, so I head to the bar. It’s only when I open my wallet to pay, that I find the stamps… Bugger. Sorry Nanny & Hampa, your cards may arrive but you’ll be asked to pay the postage (good job I didn’t go for the massive A4 card really, wasn’t it?!)

Right. Off to the gate.
ttfn /Rxx

And the honey is for…?

And the honey is for…?

So I’m having breakfast, intercontinental style, and the waitress asks if I’d like tea or coffee, Tea please. She returns two minutes later with a pot of tea, slice of lemon and a pot of honey? Explain?

Another city another Metro

So I’ve found my way down to the metro – the world’s oldest after London – and getting the right line / train is a doddle, the signage isn’t easy to read, being in Hungarian, but the colours and position of the signs makes it obvious enough. I buy my ticket (320ft single – how do they check that? CCTV looking for rings? Would it have been more if I was still with hubby?…) but 88p isn’t bad, so ticket purchased, punched in the validating machine, and down to the platform.

Again, all the signage is clear, in that i can’t read it! But the map works, so I just need to leave the train at Albatross (or something which sounds like that). The train pulls in, looking as old as the station – in a retro cool kinda way – and Olga comes on the tannoy… I have absolutely no idea what she says! Ok this could be fun, so much for listening out for Albatross! I return to the map and count the stops, 5, and hop on the train. We set off, and sail right through the first stop…? On arrival at the next stop, I don’t see any signage other than advertising. Ok, so does this count as stop one or two? Hmmmm. At the next (second stop / third station) three guys get on clad head to toe in Ferrari gear… Well if it works for Lewis it’ll work for me; so I stick in their slipstream to Albatross station, follow them straight to the F1 shuttle bus, and activate the DRS on the final approach to pass them as we join the queue – Whitmarsh would be proud 🙂

Right, it’s qually baby!
ttfn /Rxx

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Off again

Sometimes my life feels like one big adventure

And I guess anyone looking at it would probably agree? There are down days, where nothing of particular significance happens, but on those days I don’t say anything, I just keep my head down and get on. But when things do happen, I blog about them, as it’s great to look back in time and it saves hours of telling different people the same story afterwards!

I look at special people in my life right now, and I think how lucky I am to have a heart that lets me be active, two legs that work, unaided, a bank manager who kindly looks the other way (or rubs his hands as I spend my savings!) and the mentality to get involved, have a go, and look for reasons why not, rather than justification to try. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Cliche perhaps, but recently I’m appreciating all the things I have and can do, they’re far more important that what I haven’t or can’t do. And writing about them lets me share my luck and blessings with those less fortunate.

So how much fun has the past 24 hours been??!!

I’ve started my Olympic excitement, explored a tiny bit of the South Bank, sweltered by butt off in the glorious British summer sun, got my stash and formal introduction to the games, met some equally excited and positive people (and that’s just staff, no athletes yet), been set my challenge (for a photo of me with something representing each country competing in the games) and now I’m on my way to the airport again!

Tonight, I’ll be in another country I’ve never been to before, out with more complete strangers, Anna & Orsi (the latter whose name I continually pronounce wrong, so likelihood of having spelt it right is slim to none, and I think ‘Slim’ just got on a tube towards Uxbridge, on the Picadilly line, where there’s disruption around Rayners lane…)

Anna & Orshi are rarely spoken of individually; they seem to come as a pair, like Marks & Spencer, or Bang & Olufsen, so I’m not sure what to expect really?They’re Hungarian, in their mid-twenties and are friends of a friend. So tonight I’ll get to meet them in person (people?) and find out what life in Budapest is like, from the locals.

But in the meantime, I’ve got Stansted to contend with. I’ve never been to / through Stansted and, given its one of the closest airports to the Olympics, I’m anticipating tightened security and allowing the full 2hours check-in time. Great opportunity for people watching! Might have to sample a cold beverage too…?

ttfn /Rxx

The Olympic one

During the London 2012 Olympics, I’ll be working as part of the Technology team on the Olympic Park – and I can’t wait.

In my usual fashion, I’ll  be blogging it!  But like the Australia trip, it’s something of a one-off event, so I’ve set up a specific blog to capture the clicks – to keep updated, follow  theolympicone.wordpress.com/

(Note: in Xerox terminology, a ‘click’ is a page impression or copy. So if you photocopy a single page, that’s counted on the machine as one click. If you copy a double-sided document, that’s two clicks. As I’ll be working for Xerox at the Olympics, the Olympic blog has a click theme).