Viking River Cruise - - Day Two, Sat 10/10/15
A quick note about my blog setup before I get started: I just changed my settings so now I can receive comments. So please, comment away!
I woke up at 5 AM, after seven hours of sleep - - that's typical for me. And since I had been awake for such a long time the day before, I think I might be in good shape in terms of converting to the time difference. I grabbed my laptop and headed downstairs to write in my blog. I got a Skype call from Richard, calling at 11 PM in New York, the night before. What a wonderful surprise, but unfortunately I wasn't able to get it to work so he could hear me. It might have been that I was speaking so quietly. I was, after all, in the middle of the lobby of the hotel, at 5 AM. We'll try it another time.
I had one particular worry going into this trip. My mom and I are sharing a room in the hotel, and of course on the ship. I typically wear just a T-shirt to bed, but I'll be wearing a pair of boxer briefs during the trip. But here's my concern, which I'll illustrate using a story about Mrs. Vreeland.
Diana Vreeland is a hero of mine, she was editor of Vogue in the sixties. Richard got me a marvelous biography of her for Christmas a few years ago. I thought I'd heard every Vreeland story, having read her memoir five or six times, but there were a few undiscovered gems in this book. My favorite was a story about her and Richard Avedon doing a photo shoot with the great ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev. She and Avedon showed up at the studio at the time they had discussed, there were a few people milling around, they told Avedon that Nureyev was in the dressing room. They waited, and Nureyev came out, naked. That cleared the room. I don't know if this is what Vreeland and Avedon had in mind, but they rolled with it.
Nureyev started dancing, and Avedon took pictures. But there was a problem when they started. As Vreeland said, in telling the story, "You know how men are in the mornings. He was like THAT. But we pretended nothing was amiss, and Avedon took lots of wonderful photos while we were waiting for it to go down. But let me tell you, it was MARVELOUS to look at."
So that's what I was afraid of on this trip - - getting out of bed in my boxer briefs, in the state of "how men are in the mornings." But so far it hasn't been an issue, Mom's been asleep and I have no worries.
Mom got up at about 8 and we had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Breakfast is my favorite meal, I could eat it six times a day. Everything you could want in this joint: eggs, cheese, meat, coffee, juice, fruit, pastries.
We packed, Mom read my first two blog posts (and caught a few typos), we checked out of the hotel and took a cab to meet the ship.
We were met by our Program Director more or less as we stepped out of the cab, a tall charming British guy named Lee. He brought over two guys to take our bags, and told us what to do and where to go on boarding the ship. We sat in the lounge and had a welcome cocktail (orange juice and grenadine) while we waited for them to finish with our room. That took about 20 minutes, and a cute Filipino woman named Melissa came over to us and took us down to our room. She told us about the safe, showed us where all the light switches are, etc. She was showing us through the bathroom and she said, tentatively:
MELISSA: You are mother and...?
ME: Yes, mother and son.
MELISSA: Then let me show you something in the bathroom.
She flipped a switch in the bathroom, which flipped the glass wall between the bathroom and the bedroom from opaque to transparent. So you could see the person in the shower as you sit in the bedroom.
MELISSA: [giggles] We have this for the honeymooners.
Needless to say, my mother and I will NOT be using that feature!
We were on our own, Viking had no plans for us that day, so we checked off the three must-do things on our list for Budapest: the Shoes of the Danube, St. Stephen's Basilica, and the Budapest Opera House.
The Shoes of the Danube is a memorial to sixty Jews who were shot by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in 1945. They were lined up along the Danube, told to take off their shoes, and shot. Their bodies fell into the river. Sculptor Gyula Pauer made sixty pairs of shoes (in 1940s styles) out of bronze and lined them up along the edge of the river. It's the kind of memorial I like best: a quiet one that really makes you think.
We walked over to St. Stephen's Basilica. Dale told me that St. Stephen's actual hand was at this Basilica, so of course I had to check that out. Unfortunately there was a wedding going on, so we couldn't see the hand. Let alone touch it. The interior was beautiful, though.
I don't know anything about opera in Budapest, but it was nearby, so why not. They have tours five or six times a day, but I wasn't that interested. Mom was shocked that they wouldn't have the opera house open so you could just go in and look at it - - I told her that's how they're able to charge money for tours. She thought she'd be sneaky and peek through a doorway on the ground floor. It was the cloak room.
We walked back to the ship. Mom said, "My dogs are barkin'." She wasn't hungry, so I had lunch alone. A little break from each other now and then is a good thing, yes? I had a small buffalo mozzarella sandwich, some rigatoni in tomato sauce, and some kidney bean and corn salad. When did I have corn?
Mom and I watched all kinds of Viking videos in our room, little tidbits about their destinations, visits in the kitchen, jerking sodas, etc. Then up for a start-of-cruise presentation by Lee and other members of the senior staff. A little too shticky for my taste, but not too bad. Then to dinner. A lovely dining room - - the whole ship is elegantly decorated, very chic. We sat at a table for six and thought we'd sit with whoever came and sat next to us. We were lucky, we were joined by a charming retired couple from Boston. They had worked at Polaroid for years most of their careers, I didn't have the heart to ask if things had gone belly up at Polaroid. They're now working as consultants and tacked this one-week cruise onto a one-week symposium they're going to in Darmstadt. I would be very happy to share another meal with them, they were great.
But what did we eat, you ask? Mom: first course the Hungarian farmer's plate, which was salami, other meats, pickles, and a special spicy Hungarian cream cheese - - entree a New York strip with mashed potatoes and green beans - - dessert a mousse made with Tokay, with strawberry sauce on the side. Me: first course a salad made with lettuce, baked pears, and bleu cheese - - entree a jambalaya made with quinoa, tomatoes, and root vegetables - - dessert a Dobos cake (a chocolate and vanilla layer cake). Everything delicious, and we each had a glass of Hungarian red wine.
We finally started moving, so we had a brief trip up to the sun deck for commentary on the sights going by. It was eye-opening to see how many of the guests are in groups, and it seems their primary purpose is to drink.