Starting weight = 165 lb. You know who's starting to irritate me? Non-travellers who are surprised that I usually lose weight while on vacation. I'm walking several miles a day instead of sitting in an office chair, I'm on an irregular meal schedule, I'm not eating stomach-stretching American-sized meals...but apparently these douchebags have a completely different concept of what travel entails. I can't stand douchebags. Anyway, going into this trip I was a few pounds above my recent average. I'd gone 9 months without a real vacation, and I hadn't done any hiking this summer. It was my own Summer of George. (There are many many Seinfeld references in this travelogue--try to count them!) It sucks that we have to resort to less eating and more activity to stay in shape, ever since this product was taken off the market for some reason.
Before I get to the anecdotes, I want to mention that I'd intended to write this entire travelogue using the fancy "long S" character (ſ) that was all the rage in the 18th century, in such words as Congreſs and Waſhington. Then I figured that was a dumbaſs idea.
So I started out with a late afternoon flight from LAX to Dublin on Aer Lingus. This was a pleasant flight on account of the flight attendants' brogue. Or brogues. And they do some of the announcements in Irish (which seems like a language twins invent so the rest of us don't know what's going on--and I distinctly remember Mike Myers referring to such a twin language--when was it?). I decided that when it comes to background noise, I would rather hear an Irish person speaking than anything else. Although the Indian accent is ultimately very lilting, as Marge Simpson attested to in the "I Recall Diamond Joe in Fall" episode. Also, for the first time in three trips, the plane was vomit-free. The Irish keep their liquor down.
Initially I had an aisle seat, and next to me was a comely Irish lass with a big stuffed frog, perhaps my most attractive seatmate since Contiki 2001. (Yes, I'm leaving that sentence as written.) Her remote for the TV was irretrievably wedged into the armrest such that she couldn't use it to play games and whatnot. And the flight attendant was resistant to helping her dislodge the remote--"we're in the middle of the service" she says, evidently a graduate of the JM "Jim" J. Bullock School of In-flight Hospitality. The hottie discussed several options with the flight attendant regarding moving to another seat. Then I came up with a rascally idea: Why don't we simply switch seats, so I get the window and can sleep, and you get the working remote? She agreed, and I looked forward to busting moves for the next 10 hours. And then 5 minutes later the flight attendant came back with news of an available window seat elsewhere on the plane, and the hottie inexplicably moved. Her loss--I would have gladly performed aerlingus on her.
Alcohol is not free on Aer Lingus international flights (food is though), so no wine to help me sleep. But I had a window, no one behind me, Tylenol Simply Sleep, background brogues and Celtic Woman available on audio, so the odds of sleeping were pretty good. Yeah, don't lie, you've all watched Celtic Woman during the PBS pledge drives, because they're so pleasant. Except for the poor girl who has to cover her shoulders, because she's underage and/or too fat to wear the same outfit as the others. She reminds me of the "errant black swan" in Leonard Pinth-Garnell's "Bad Ballet".
I watched "Blades of Glory" on the flight, and got "The King of Glory" stuck in my head. All those years singing it in church and they never told us the melody was really an Israeli folk song.
I felt at home on the plane, because I was among my people. And I felt confident, because I knew that for the 4th consecutive overseas trip, I had the Biggest Wang on the Plane. And can a nizzle get some pizzle frizzle rizzle up in this plizzle? (This bit isn't even close to getting old, especially since I haven't performed it yet.)
I ended up not sleeping much. The main problem was at every announcement half the plane roused and started chatting. STFU! I don't care if this flight took off at 4pm in LA--the moment we got on the plane it became 12am in Dublin, and it's time for bed. Shut The Fuck Up, if you don't know the acronym. Douchebags everywhere I go. Also, Celtic Woman was of no help because their dulcet tones were drowned out by the engine noise.
On arrival in Dublin I got my passport stamped (in the first spot on the first page--nice), went through customs, exited the secure area, went past the Snake and got to the point where I could have walked outside into a waiting taxi. None of these ever happened before when I was simply changing planes. So despite the usual exclusion of airport transfers, I believe I met the legal requirements to count Ireland as country #34. But I won't argue the point--if it makes you feel better, move it past the 5 countries on the tour and make it #39.
The layover in Dublin was 4.5 hours so I walked around a bit. I noticed there are no fast food chains in the airport. I searched numerous stores but could not locate a shillelagh, which I've been wanting ever since I saw this. So I settled into the Gate Clock Bar in Terminal B, which I recommend. I had my first official Guinness in Ireland, and my second and third. I wasn't really hungry and figured a few Guinnesses would hold me over--I think 40+ of them give you all the nutrition you need in a day.
The second pint. The first was too precious to photograph.
The bar was playing some decent '80s music--like Ghostbusters, and Prince Charming, which is on my Adam Ant "best of" tape but I'd never heard it on the radio before. Adam Ant is so underrated. Who else works a reference to The Soulful Croonings of Al Green into a song and has it go #1? And he was banging Heather Graham in the '90s(!) when she evidently thought sleeping her way to the top meant going through Adam Ant. Good on him. And then China Girl came on, which made me think of the Asian Riff, and also of Little Fat Man, which in turn brought to mind Fat Guy in a Little Coat. On a 4.5-hour layover you have to amuse yourself with beer and these kinds of thoughts.
I slept a little on the Dublin-Budapest flight. I eventually became very groggy from the beers and lack of food or sleep.
I arrived in Budapest, Hungary (country #35). Budapest was formed from the cities of Buda and Pest, and was formerly called Pest-Buda, which was evidently the capital of a Bizarro Hungary where Deak Ferenc was black, tuna swam up the Danube and Mr. Fuji was double-crossed instead of cross-doubled (as he often complained to Gene Mean). For the record, during my stay in Budapest I did not once hear it pronounced "Budapesht". That's a myth as I suspected. Other cities like Peking have had their spelling changed to correct transliteration errors, but not Budapest. So I don't want to hear that Pesht nonsense ever again.
The hotel wasn't bad. When I was checking in, an old guy was inquiring at the desk about the next day's check-in time and identified himself as an Intrepid tourist, which I though was a bad omen for the age range of the group. (This later turned out to be Buz, and I leave the "old guy" comment here in reference to a later discussion--I complained about being stuck with a 58-year-old roommate for my entire South America tour, and Mary Tod pointed out that Buz is 58, but she understood the potential inconvenience. Of course it depends on who the 58-year-old is...if I was rooming with the Nature Boy, I'd probably retire to the room before him every night.)
For 8pm on a Friday night, the street in Pest was dead. Not that I planned to go out, because I was so sleepy. It was a bit muggy and the room had no air conditioner, but it had a fan that did the job. After settling in I watched Married...With Children dubbed in Hungarian (the actors were oustanding and captured the characters well) and went to bed at 9:30pm.