Viking River Cruises, Budapest

For four years Kim and I have dreamed of taking a Viking River Cruise together through Europe. I have been disappointed year after year, as it never came to fruition. Neither one of us had ever been to the continent until this year. Miracle of miracles, I have been three times in 2015 and have completely become enamored with its architecture, people and food as a whole. I have fallen head over heels for the wonderful attributes of Europe. Most fortunately I also connected with Viking this year and Kim and I were able to participate in a trip of lifetime. In all our 37 years of marriage and vacations, nothing compares or can measure up to a river cruise with Viking. The overall impression is a 5-star involvement. We will treasure our memories the remainder of our living days.

 

Viking Longship Modi

Viking Longship Modi

 

We were given a list of four cruises to select from and I chose the “Danube Waltz Cruise”. Basically as a result of Kim’s creative abilities and the fact this cruise centered on Christmas Markets. I did not make the wrong choice, as I am sure you are aware, if you followed our escapades on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. We were met at the airport by a terrific native Hungarian who spoke very good English and proceeded to elaborate on a fair portion of the history of Hungary. They loaded our luggage and the superlative service began instantly. We arrived at the Viking Longship Modi and boarded to check in. The staff was friendly, accommodating and impressed me immediately. We were led to our stateroom where we had champagne, water and fabulous fresh cookies waiting for us to arrive. We were hooked right away!

 

Reception Area and upstairs Library

Reception Area and upstairs Library

 

Even though we were worn out from an over 20 hour  flight, we jumped right in for the  “Welcome Walk” at 2:00 PM, after checking into the ship. We walked for approximately 90 minutes and saw a glimpse of the Budapest Christmas Markets and several statues of Heroic individuals, along with a plethora of beautiful constructed government buildings. Most of which escapes my memory since we were exhausted. I was instantaneously mesmerized by the architecture in Budapest. Kim immediately was drawn to the Christmas Markets and the laser cut wooden spoons, as those of you that followed us know full well by now.

 

Wooden Spoons from the Christmas Market, Budapest

Wooden Spoons from the Christmas Market, Budapest

 

Each night the ship holds a briefing of scheduled activities for the following day. We napped right through the first “Welcome briefing” and somehow woke up for dinner. I can’t say enough about the food on Viking and will devote an entire post to Viking food! After dinner we went straight to bed and slept like rocks. To my knowledge we neither one moved after going to sleep. We were worn out. We both woke up during the early morning around 3:00 AM or so, because of the time difference.

 

I have a greater respect for the fortitude of the Hungarian people over the years. They have survived countless invasions, wars and staunch oppressors without losing their desire for Independence. The young lady tour guide on our bus presented it in a humorous fashion, stating countries would come to help and then forget to leave. Our tour was a combination bus ride and walking tour. All along the walking tour Viking has a guide that speaks English very well and instructs you on the various works of art, government buildings and parks you may pass, along with taking us through the Christmas Markets in Budapest. The markets were very crowded and she managed to not lose any people. I thought that was as amazing as her dialogue. On each tour every participant is furnished with a wireless headset in which you receive the tour guides narrative.

 

Marzipan of Many Flavors (Yes we bought some)

Marzipan of Many Flavors (Yes we bought some)

 

We returned just in time for lunch. I must add that the Maitre D’ attends individually to everyone with dietary needs or restrictions. I was impressed beyond comprehension. He stopped by our table, introduced himself and greeted all of us at every meal. He inquired if any of us had any allergies or issues. As I cannot eat certain foods, he privately discussed my needs and told me he would stop by each morning at breakfast and discuss the lunch and dinner menus. Each day he made sure to let me know what was safe for me to eat and helped me choose my appetizers, entree and desserts daily at breakfast. As each meal was open seating I just had to give the waiter my room number. I have to tell you, since I am naturally introverted, sitting with complete strangers was at first a little scary. In the end though Kim and I met fabulous, well traveled people and made several lasting friends. We traded emails, phone numbers in some cases and I really enjoyed the various individuals more than I anticipated.

 

One of the More Creative Packaging for Soap on a Rope

 

Little did we know our journey across some of Europe’s finest Christmas Markets was just beginning. These markets are beyond comprehension unless you have actually seen them. They all are a mixture of various crafts, souvenirs, foods and items particular to the individual countries. One item that was present at every Christmas Market was Gluhwein, both with alcohol and without. We didn’t realize until after Budapest, every market has their own mug and it comes with the Gluhwein! Some passengers collected mugs from every market. What a great way to remember each city’s Christmas Market. By the way Gluhwein tastes wonderful!

 

Buda Castle, as Seen From Our Side of the Danube

Buda Castle, as Seen From Our Side of the Danube

 

After lunch we had a choice between three “Optional Shore Excursions: The Godollo Palace and Gardens, The Dohany Synagogue or The Budapest Spa Experience. Optional tours cost additional funds. We chose to walk back to the Christmas Markets and explore them more in depth and review the remaining optional tours on the cruise. After all our main objective was to see and visit every Christmas Market, in every city we visited. We chose to revisit the Christmas Markets and explored until dinner on the ship. I barely made it through dinner and couldn’t eat my dessert, I was so full.

 

The next day we ate breakfast and joined the “Shore Excursion: Budapest” from 8:30 to 12:30 PM. Highlights were the National Opera House and the historic Heroes Square via a bus and then were able to walk along Fisherman’s Hill to Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church. I learned of the sacrifices the Hungarian people made over the years and how many hundreds of thousands people perished during all the wars collectively.

 

Paprika is One of the Largest Exports of Budapest

Paprika is One of the Largest Exports of Budapest

 

We  loved the bus ride and guide for the excursion through both the Buda and Pest sides of the Danube. Pest is a flat city filled with historic architecture. I love buildings that have survived wars and conquests from outside armies and still are standing. Some had exquisite and detailed trim, which I favor. Overall Budapest was one of our favorite cities and we have pledged to return. Then we hit the retail shops on Fisherman’s Hill and glimpsed the Danube from Fisherman’s Bastion.

 

Handmade Linens Adorn the Shops on Fisherman's Hill in Buda

Handmade Linens Adorn the Shops on Fisherman’s Hill in Buda

 

We learned that all goods labeled as handmade in Hungary, have to be authentically crafted and sewn in Hungary. If a retail shop offers goods from China or another country that basically is a knock off, they stand the chance of losing their business. Obviously it is not worth the risk. The shop that Kim purchased a table linen runner was in fact actually handcrafted in Hungary. Kim validated this by looking at the stitching on the reverse side. I would have never known! She loved the linens and vowed to wait to purchase additional items. Lesson learned. We quickly discovered, if you really like something buy it then, don’t wait or you take the chance of not seeing the item ever again.

 

Matthias Church with Magnificent Architecture, Especially the Roof Tiles

Matthias Church with Magnificent Architecture, Especially the Roof Tiles

 

At the top of Fisherman’s Hill is a gorgeous Roman Catholic church, originally built in 1015. The current building was constructed in Gothic style in the second half of the 14th century and was extensively restored in the late 19th century. It was the second largest church of medieval Buda and the seventh largest church of the Medieval Hungarian Kingdom. The first church on the site was founded by Saint Stephen, King of Hungary in 1015. This building was destroyed in 1241 by the Mongols; the current building was constructed in the latter half of the 13th century. Originally named after the Virgin Mary, taking names such as “The Church of Mary” and “The Church of Our Lady,” Matthias Church was named after King Matthias in the 19th Century.

 

We headed back to the Viking Longship Modi and sailed after dinner to our next destination, Bratislava.

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liberty Hall, Tyler Texas, Part One

After visiting and writing about several Texas Towns, I have adopted several. One of my favorites is Tyler, the “Rose Capitol of the United States”! The “Vision” of this fine city is “To be the standard for performance excellence in local government”. The “Vision” of Liberty Hall is “To support the City of Tyler’s efforts to revitalize downtown by creating an arts and entertainment culture, thereby attracting residents and visitors to the downtown district.

 

Liberty Hall’s mission is to create an exciting, stimulating, arts and entertainment experience, that will integrate the arts into the downtown’s social, economic and community fabric, by providing diverse opportunities for entertainment, through film, theater, comedy and music.

 

Celebrating its Grand Opening in September of 2011, the theater is now and will continue presenting an array of quality entertainment, ranging from nationally known artists to regional and local entertainers from all genres of music, comedy, theater as well as classic movies. To be absolutely frank, I wasn’t aware that Liberty Hall was actually attracting the headline acts it has secured. If you are a fan of Texas music, you will definitely enjoy the next few months line up.

 

I apologize for the brief window of the first act, but I guess its better than overlooking the coming acts. First up, this Saturday night December 5, 2015 is “Gaelic Storm” the chart-topping, multi-national Celtic band. Their new release “Matching Sweaters” mixes traditional Irish music with modern influences, creating a sound that is as wide-ranging as the band’s own audience. From bluegrass and country fans, to Deadheads, rock & rollers and Celtic fanatics, Gaelic Storm has built one of the most diverse fan bases in modern music.

 

"We're a Touring Band," says percussionist Ryan Lacey, who joined the lineup in 2003.

“We’re a Touring Band,” says percussionist Ryan Lacey, who joined the lineup in 2003.

 

Those live shows date all the way back to the mid-1990’s, when Gaelic Storm kicked off its career as a pub band in Santa Monica, California. By the end of the decade, the musicians had appeared in the blockbuster film “Titanic” (where they performed “Irish Party in Third Class”) and laid the groundwork for a career that would eventually find them topping the Billboard World Chart five times, making appearances at mainstream music festivals such as Summerfest, Telluride and The Rock Boat Cruise, and regularly headlining the largest Irish Festivals across the country, all the while gaining a reputation as a genre-bending Irish band whose songs mix Celtic traditions with something new and unexpected. Now, with the band’s 20th anniversary on the horizon, they’re putting even more emphasis on those newer directions.

 

"Playing for a new crowd is great," says Twigger. "It takes you back to those early days, where you've got something to prove. We could just do Irish festivals, but why not play a crossover show where 90% of the audience doesn't know you, and you have to make them know you? That's what makes your band good."

“Playing for a new crowd is great,” says Twigger. “It takes you back to those early days, where you’ve got something to prove. We could just do Irish festivals, but why not play a crossover show where 90% of the audience doesn’t know you, and you have to make them know you? That’s what makes your band good.”

 

When it came time to write Matching Sweaters’ 12 songs, Murphy and Twigger teamed up with longtime friend and co-writer Steve Wehmeyer. Together, the three found inspiration in everything from old Irish newspapers (“The Rustling Goat Gang,” whose details were gleaned from an article about a vanishing goat herd from Waterford) to bits of conversation overheard in local pubs (“Paddy’s Rubber Arm”).

 

"Playing for a new crowd is great," says Twigger. "It takes you back to those early days, where you've got something to prove.

“Playing for a new crowd is great,” says Twigger. “It takes you back to those early days, where you’ve got something to prove.

 

The following weekend, December 12th, Tyler and the Liberty Hall is thrilled to welcome back comedian Henry Cho to Liberty Hall. Cho was in Tyler in 2013 and sold out his comedy show. Cho is of Korean American descent, and was born and raised in Knoxville and went into stand-up comedy in 1986. He often uses his childhood experiences as an Asian American in the South, as a basis for his comedy. Cho’s TV and film credits include appearances on NBC ’s The Tonight Show, CBS’s The Late, Late, Show, and NBC ’s Young Comedians Special.

 

In 2012, Henry sold a special/pilot to GAC (Great American Country) in which he served as host, co-writer, and co-producer. “The Henry Cho Show” aired in Fall 2012 and Henry awaits the chance to do more shows for GAC for the network.

In 2012, Henry sold a special/pilot to GAC (Great American Country) in which he served as host, co-writer, and co-producer. “The Henry Cho Show” aired in Fall 2012 and Henry awaits the chance to do more shows for GAC for the network.

 

Henry was the keynote entertainer for The 59th Annual Radio & Television Correspondents’ Dinner attended by the Bush Administration and has worked extensively with Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Willie Nelson, Carrie Underwood and many, others. Henry’s clean comedy is so versatile that he can headline Vegas and then tour with Michael W. Smith in the same month.

 

Henry Cho is an American stand-up comedian. His work can be heard nationwide several times weekly on XM Radio's Channel 151, Laugh USA and Sirius Radio's Blue Collar Radio channel 103, Pandora Radio's PG Comedy Radio channel

Henry Cho is an American stand-up comedian. His work can be heard nationwide several times weekly on XM Radio’s Channel 151, Laugh USA and Sirius Radio’s Blue Collar Radio channel 103, Pandora Radio’s PG Comedy Radio channel

 

Cho appeared on many television shows in the late-1980s and early-1990s, including ” The Arsenio Hall Show,” Bob Hope’s Young Comedians Special, MTV’s 1/2 Hour Comedy Hour and VH-1’s Stand-Up Spotlight. His other TV credits include guest roles on various sitcoms such as Designing Women, Lenny, The New WKRP in Cincinnati and a starring role in the TV movie Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation. In 1994, after he moved back to Tennessee, Cho got a call from NBC to host a revamped version of Friday Night Videos titled Friday Night. He commuted to L.A. weekly for two years. Most recently, he has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” He was also the keynote speaker for the 59th Annual Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner. Henry Cho recently earned his nickname, “Mr. Clean” for his always-clean comedy.

 

Liberty Hall will start the New Year 2016 off right, with the legendary Texas swing Band, “Asleep at the Wheel and its illustrious leader Ray Benson. Asleep at the Wheel will be in concert at Liberty Hall Saturday, Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. at 8 p.m. Liberty Hall is pleased to once again host Asleep at the Wheel, live in concert. Ray Benson founded Asleep at the Wheel in Paw Paw, West Virginia over 40 years ago. Now based in Austin, the band holds nine Grammy awards, 20 studio albums and 20 singles on the Billboard country charts with over 1.5 million records sold. “Still The King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys” marks the bands third full-length Bob Wills tribute album, following 1999’s Ride with Bob and 1993’s A Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills, with four Grammy awards and over 500,000 copies sold collectively.

 

Singer/guitarist Benson was born Ray Benson Seifert and grew up listening to a variety of music in Philadelphia, especially jazz.

Singer/guitarist Benson was born Ray Benson Seifert and grew up listening to a variety of music in Philadelphia, especially jazz.

 

Asleep at the Wheel has been presented with numerous awards such as the 16th Annual Mid-south Regional Emmy Award for the making of “A Ride With Bob”, the Darrel K. Royal Music Patron Award by The Texas Heritage Songwriters’ Association and an astounding nine Grammy Awards. In 2007, the Austin Chronicle recognized Asleep at the Wheel as Band of the Year, Best Country Band and inducted them into their Hall of Fame. Band member Ray Benson was inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame in 2002, was given the Texas Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996, and recognized as an Outstanding Producer by the National Academy of Recording Arts in 1988.

 

In reviving the freewheeling, eclectic sensibility of Western swing godfather Bob Wills, the Wheel have earned enthusiastic critical praise throughout their lengthy career; they have not only preserved classic sounds that had all but disappeared from country music, but have also been able to update the music, keeping it a living, breathing art form.

In reviving the freewheeling, eclectic sensibility of Western swing godfather Bob Wills, the Wheel have earned enthusiastic critical praise throughout their lengthy career; they have not only preserved classic sounds that had all but disappeared from country music, but have also been able to update the music, keeping it a living, breathing art form.

 

It’s not often you can see a band of this calendar in such an intimate setting. Tickets for the show are on sale now at www.LibertyTyler.com . For up to date info on all Liberty Hall events check Liberty Hall out on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Since the early '70s, Asleep at the Wheel have been the most important force in keeping the sound of Western swing alive.

Since the early ’70s, Asleep at the Wheel have been the most important force in keeping the sound of Western swing alive.

 

If you aren’t busy any of these weekends, I highly recommend you catch one of these shows, at the Liberty Hall in Tyler. I a!ssure you the show will be grand

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Amateur Traveler Episode 471 - Travel to Austin, Texas



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