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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Music & Travels: Patrick James, Australia

Oh music! Mucis means magic. Music has the power to take you anywhere you want to go. Music has the power to make you feel better. Music has to power to move people. While traveling, music makes you connect, makes you discover, makes you travel.

As my first post about 'Music & Travel' I'm bringing Patrick James to you all. My story with Patrick was short and brief as a lightning, but not sure why I couldn't let Patrick James' music go while I was traveling around Australia.

Here's the scenario. Sydney, NSW, Australia. It was my first day in Sydney and my first day in Australia. I landed at Kingsford Smith airport, I took the train and not sure how, I arrived to 'The Rocks', Sydney old town where my hostel for a few days was located. It was dark, it was late, but I was fully awake and something was calling me. I knew that from the rooftop of my hostel there was a great view of Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, but that was too easy for me. My first time with Sydney highlights had to be face to face. So I did. I walked around 'The Rocks' without a destination until the path brought me there, to the image I waited for years!

After my first sleep 'down under', I had to go back. I kept thinking while I was having breakfast that I was wasting time, like the Opera House, the Harbour or the Bridge were about to be set apart until next century. So I ran off and while I was walking and walking around the harbour, something took my full attention. A guitar was calling and bringing me to Patrick James, an Aussie who has been taking his first steps in music industry. This young Melbournian plays from bars, but if he can't find a place where to play his guitar, he just goes around 'The Rocks' to delight the walkers attending to the Sunday market.

Patrick James doesn't look for tips, he just wants you to enjoy his music. That's why in his guitar case he only needs 7$ and you to take his record home, the same one he produced and recorded himself, with no help from big companies or labels.

Even he only has few songs of his own, he's working hard to release his full composed album, with songs inspired by 'Noah and the Whales' or James Vincent McMorrow. And here is one of my favorite songs, a song that became the soundtrack of my trip around Australia.

If you enjoyed, follow Patrick on Twitter (@PatrickJamesMus) to find out where he'll be playing next, of if you are lucky enough, take a walk around Sydney Harbour and find him and his guitar.

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Wizz Air. Hungarian low cost, pink and purple airplanes and €78 million loss

As I told you, a few days ago I went to Budapest and its airport, Budapest Ferihegy International Aiport (BUD) where I discovered Wizz Air, a Polish-Hungarian low cost airline with their HQ located in Vecsés, a small town near Budapest airport.

Wizz Air was born in 2003, thanks to some American investors, but it wasn't until May 2004 when they started their flights and their operations, just 19 days after Poland and Hungary joined the European Union.

So, May 19, 2004, only three months after its creation, József Váradi (former Malev Airlines CEO) and the American investors boarded the maiden flight from Katowice, a village few miles out of Krakow to Budapest, in Hungary.

Wizz Air first operations didn't even leave Eastern Europe, and were held to connect eastern countries like Hungary, Ukraine or Romania. After a few months and a great success, Eastern Europe wasn't enough and they had the need to expand their operations and their flights all around the European Union like Spain, France, Germany or Italy. That's why their motto is 'we can all fly now', because after only one year, they carried over 1.4 million passengers across Europe.

With a fleet of 45 A320 airplanes (and 70 on the way) connecting Europe thanks to their 250 routes. It looks like that is not enough for them because they are looking for new destinations like Girona (GRO), where you can fly from Kiev and Bucharest, with two and three weekly flights. But not everything is in Europe. The low cost airline is performing an expansion acquiring new routes and airplanes, already flying to Dubai, Tel Aviv, Baku or Kutaisi, in Georgia.

Apparently, all this expansion means that the airline is doing great in terms of profit. Being a private company, they don't really need to report earnings nor expenses, but after a few years of operations, in late 2009 it was reported that Wizz Air had a €32 million delay on payments. Also, after five years the losses of Wizz Air were about €78 million. Three years after that, in late 2012, the company reported no losses or debts at all, and they were starting to have benefits with record profits in that year.

Sadly, Wizz Air works almost like Ryanair, which means they lower the plane ticket prices because the can, and they can because they fly from secondary airports at the worst times, the reduce of passenger extras, like printing boarding passes, checking bags or in-flight entertainment, all of that to reduce costs and fees. On the other hand, the security is Wizz Air first priority and that's why their new airplanes and internal security protocols make Wizz Air the low cost airline with better international knowledge around Europe.

As I keep traveling, I'll keep bringing some travels for you to squeeze. Travel safe and SQUEEZE THEM!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Budapest II. Hungarian travel tips, kings with no crown and saving a few florins

In the second and last post about my 'Hungarian Getaway', I'll give you the answers to all the mysteries of the Hungarian recent History. As I told you few days ago, Hungarian's are gigantic, huge, enormous. They are giants brought from a far place and left in Europe, to let us know that if they want, they could conquer and rule the world. But Hungarians are lovely people that would never do that to us.

And I discovered why they are that big, and it is very simple: beds. In every other country, we are spoiled and we like to sleep tugged under some blankets, like we were floating on clouds, like angels were singing to calm our senses, like Morfeo was our guardian... But in Hungary don't know what that is, they like to sleep over wood boards that they call 'beds', and that make them big and strong and gives them that Soviet touch that scares me that much.

For visitors, sleeping on wood boards sounds hard, that is why they let us sleep over thin mats, like the ones we use to do yoga or going to the beach. And as days (and nights) go by, your back hurts more and your sleep hours are less. That's a good way to squeeze the city even more.


Since I was an expert on Budapest's metro, the morning started with a visit to the Parliament, the biggest and tallest building in Hugary. Being that tall and big, it's (almost) always under renovation, on the outside or the inside. That's why finding the entrance for the tour through the construction site could be quite difficult.

Hungary Travel Tip 2: At few places in the world you’ll find more ticket-checking. Everywhere, metro, buses, trams… Almost every station has a checker who very rudely will ask for your ticket. If you don’t have it or you haven’t validate it, you’ll have a huge travel changing, between 10.000 and 20.000HUF fine (33-67€). Playing dumb doesn’t work, the checkers don’t speak a word of English, but they won’t let you get away without that fine.


Built on the Pest bank of the Danube, the Hungarian Parliament and its guard, protect Saint Stephen Sacred Crown, the crown of Hungary’s first King. According to Hungarian tradition, every legitim king has to be crowned with the sacred crown. John II and Joseph II probably didn’t know about that, that is why the only kings to be named king without that crown, had several mishaps and accidents during their reigns. John II died without offspring and had to abdicate. Joseph II died away from Hungary while the nobles started their revolution.

But leaving Hungarian History behind, which I only learn the basics during my visit to the Parliament, a short metro ride away we find Városliget, the Budapest city park, which hides the best of Budapest, including Szecheny Spa (which I never learned to pronounce).
Known as ‘Yellow Bath’, has three heated pools at 24º, 30º and 37ªC from where you can see the sunrise or sunset, surrounded by statues and domes that show the splendor or Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Hungary Travel Tip 3: If you fancy a relaxing swim in Budapest, Szechenyi Bath should be your choice. The price varies depending on the bath time and weekday. To save up some florins, the best choice is going on a weekday later than 7pm, saving around 300-500HUF (1-1.8€). If you choose to go later than 7pm you could also enjoy a beautiful sunset inside heated waters.

Still in Városliget, the Hungarian Central Park, Vajdahunyad Castle, converted into Agriculture museum on the lakeshore with the same name. Depending on the time you visit the city, you could row o ice skate over the lake.
Last but not least, before ending this Hungarian Getaway, I’m gonna give you guys a piece of advice that I would have loved to receive before traveling to Hungary. At first, I thought it was something about me, maybe I wasn’t being nice enough, maybe I had to start every sentence with a ‘Hello’ in Hungarian, maybe put on my biggest smile… but nothing worked, and here’s why.

Hungary Travel Tip 4: Don’t worry if you feel ignored or even disowned, in Hungary don’t have the occidental concept of liking everyone. If they don’t know you, they won't make and effort to please you, they may not even look at you. don’t take it personal, it is not about you, there’s nothing you can do to avoid it. They are just like that, unintentionally.
Now I have to say goodbye, but I’ll be back with much more. Until then, squeeze them!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Budapest. Enemies, the time machine and huge Hungarians.

This story started a few years ago. Even though XprimeViajes didn't exist and we weren't squeezing travels at all, this story started in Prague, In the Czech Republic. And it started because since then, every time I spoke about this city, everyone asked me: which one did you like more, Prague or Budapest?

Both cities, separated for more than 500 kilometer seem to be enemies brought apart by Austria and the Slovak Republic. These enemies, long time ago were besties, closest friends living under the same Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which used to link Central and Eastern Europe under one ruler. That is why Prague and Budapest are usually compared in a popularity contest that Prague always wins, probably because of all its bridges, castles and Jewish tradition.

As you may know, I don't like unsolved mysteries. I'm very curious and I like to know the answers to the big enigmas of the History. And this time, I had to unravel this mystery on my own and find the answer to the eternal question: Do you like better Prague or Budapest?

If we speak about Budapest, we must talk about WizzAir, the Hungarian Ryanair. WizzAir is a low cost company that connects Budapest with several cities around Europe and Asia, like Baku in Azerbaijan, Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates or Tel Aviv, in Israel. WizzAir and Ryanair fight for the daily flights from Madrid to Budapest, and they took me to Hungary's biggest airport, Ferenc Liszt Budapest International Airport (BUD).

Your first thought when you land may be same as mine: what was this plane? A time machine? Haircuts, clothing, taxis, roads... it all seems to be taken from an 80's movie. Everything but the airport terminal, a modern and brand new airport set in two floors with a large waiting area and free WiFi for you to enjoy.

After trying hard and juggling with my Hungarian, I managed to get a ticket to the city center for 510HUF, around 1,7€ for a combined ticket for the bus and metro.

Here's my first 'Hungarian Travel Tip': Even you won't find it written anywhere, to get to the city center you will need two single tickets of 350HUF each. If you buy a combined ticket which allows you to use the metro and selected bus lines, you'll save 160HUF and you'll do the exact same trip. You can find the ticket machine outside the main terminal. If this one doesn't work (which apparently happens all the times), you can buy the ticket at the magazine store inside the terminal building,

A 20 minutes bus ride to the closest metro station, and a few stops metro ride take you to Budapest's city center. When you leave the metro, you have the same feeling, a time travel brings you to Budapest's IXX Century splendor with imperial buildings, large avenues that lead you to the neuralgic center of the city, ' The Chain Bridge'.

'The Chain Bridge' was built for over ten years to, in 1849, bring Buda and Pest together, both separated by the Danube. During Hungarian cold winters, the river was crossed on foot or horse-carts, but with spring warm weather and the ice meltdown, both cities were split apart until next winter. That's why, following Prague's example with 'Charle's Bridge', they decided to construct a semi-suspended bridge, inspired on Hammersmith London Bridge over the Thames.

But not everything was joy for the Chain Bridge. During World War II, Germans dynamited this and all the bridges between both riverbanks of Budapest. while Sovietic tropes were taking over the city. Finally, in 1949, one hundred years after first bridge inauguration, the new bridge was finished and all Hungarians were happy.

As days went by, a new question came to my mind. I kept wondering , what do they eat? When you land and you cross paths with your first Hungarian, you think that not everyone can be that big. As soon as you reach the city, you think that is just a coincidence, two huge Hungarians in one day. When you spot the third one, you think someone is kidding you. But no, that's how big they are, and you keep seeing it, everywhere! And that's how, with my Spanish high, I felt small.

But not everything is about sizes. Hungary and Budapest have much more to offer, and it'll all come shortly with a second post about the city. For now on, I say goodbye giving a thought to all the questions that kept coming to my mind while I was in Budapest. Until then, happy travels and squeeze them!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Emirates. Hello Tomorrow!

Just a few days before starting a new trip lots of miles away from home, a TV commercial came to my mind. One that I watched while I was planning all my traveling. The commercial was from Emirates Airlines and it really sums up what the 'travel attitude' means.

The campaign, dubbed as Hello World, shows a set of videos where some travelers tour around the globe for business, leisure or family matters. From Dubai to Milan, passing by Rio de Janeiro, Guangzhou, New York or somewhere in Australia, finishing in India

The commercial says 'the more of our world we see, the richer we become'. Opening new routes and destinations every season, Emirates is the best passport to ling Europe and Asia. Through the bright and shiny terminal three of Dubai International Airport (DBX) and their 168 airplanes, connect the United Arab Emirates with cities as far away as Houston, Los Angeles or Sao Paulo. The Best Airlines Award winner in 2011, with very competitive prices, flight frequencies and destinations made Emirates the airline to keep and eye on for the next few years, not only on your way to the Middle East, but anywhere you with to go via Dubai's privileged location in between Europe, Asia and Africa.

For the ones that are loving the song, I'll tell you that the publicity agency wanted a song that could convey the meaning of traveling and sharing cultures, motto that Emirates Airlines took as its own. That's why they chose Spencer & Antfood song, called Trek.

Going back to the commercial, I'm heading out, flying with Emirates by the way, hoping to come back richer than I left. As Emirates and the commercial says: Hello, Tomorrow.