Armchair Travel Blog

Adventures from Paris onwards circa 2012

Month: July, 2012

Lake Velence

Somehow I really have become incredibly stressed, as if there was not enough time to do anything, and that this vacation has become somewhat of work, instead of a pleasure cruise. This is not to say that I am not having a hell of a time, indeed I am, but that there seem to be less days to do things comfortably than there are things to do. And I hate to be rushed, so I panic, and the whole thing seems a little bit of a vicious circle. Breathe, right? Breathe.

Anyhow, the point is that later this week, we plan to take a four day trip into Lake Balaton. Personally, I think that it will offer a good opportunity to get out of the city as well as seeing what the rest of Hungary entails. Tomorrow should be the day that we buy the Sziget festival tickets, although at some 65 dollars a pop, it is far from cheap. If the weather is nice enough (or even if it isn’t) we should head into the Széchenyi baths.

Checking the weather for the Balaton just now however casts some doubt as to what we are facing. I know it is a common fact that meteorologists normally cannot predict past their own noses, but angry red thunderstorms on Google might make a person think twice. Which really is a pity because there isn’t much more that I wanted to do this week outside of a good swimming and camping in Lake Balaton.

Besides, as one of my oft quoted movies said once, “Well, a little rain never hurt any body” (Yeah but a lot can kill you)

Jumanji for those that hadn’t guess it.

I guess that it’s just as well that now the hot water decided to run out on us, and that tomorrow the gas man comes. It seems that it’s always something, and if it’s not my brother – who had somewhat of an “interesting” if not unforgettable Monday night – then certainly it will be the gas. We’re still roughly dealing with the consequences of my brothers actions, but it seems that for the moment all is well.

And seeing how I’m so adverse to cold showers, I’m wondering if I can hold out long enough to have it fixed before showering. (Somehow I doubt it.)

Yet the past weekend was marvelous and smooth sailing as there was nothing to worry about, no where to be, and simply enjoy the company of one R who had come to visit both me and the city. It was then that I found the one place in Hungary that serves bagels and I am itching to know where they buy theirs – if they don’t make them on the spot – because it’s something that I am sorely missing from home. Toasted bagels (sesame) with cream cheese.

On Sunday a family friend, one of my fathers oldest childhood friends, invited the four of us out to a family bar-b-q. We drove out to Lake Velence and had the food already waiting for us. I hadn’t seen his son in about ten years so imagine my surprise when I’m greeted by a 17 year old boy who’s taller than my brother and who can grow a better moustache to boot. He laughed at my astonishment, and I said that he would make a very good basketball or volleyball player.

Lunch was a lovely affair, if conversation not a little bit stilted for the reasons that they didn’t speak much English, no one apart from myself spoke Hungarian, and that we hadn’t seen them in years, so we weren’t sure where to begin.

The moment passed however, and with fully fed stomachs we took the bikes out, and even though they didn’t fit perfectly, there were more than enough, and went for a leisure ride around the town toward the football field where we would spend the next few hours under a warm sun playing a 2 v 3 football match. R was a little bit more than thrilled as she is a bit of a football fanatic, the goof, and we even managed to get my sister in the game, playing goal keep with ill-kept shoes and bouncing in enthusiasm when we resoundingly kicked the boys’ butts. (Maybe they were playing easy with us).

We had lost the ball in the lake when we had parked the bikes on a quick pit stop, but it didn’t stop Gabor from shimming out of his pants and jumping into the lake to retrive it. It was so hot that in a matter of minutes he had dried off again. We looked on in amused-shock that he just jumped in, no qualms.

When evening fell it was time for Gabor to bust out his piano and guitar skills and while we traded the fly swatter between people and trying out chord configurations. Ok it was just me fiddling with the guitar, and then a lot of Beatles songs from Gabor. There was a lot of fake lemon beer to go around and it was all quite merry.

I don’t remember much from the ride back aside from falling asleep on R’s shoulder counting the highway signs and the next thing we were in front of the flat saying our goodbyes promising to meet again soon.

While we were unable to get tickets to the circus today, as we had massively underestimated the queues to buy tickets, we did spend the afternoon in the city park and then walking down to the Belvaros – or the swankiest part of town. Consequently also one of the most touristy. Although there is something to be said for the 24 hr palascinta (crepe) (pancake) place right on that strand. Between you and me however, I think I make a meaner crepe, and should you be invited to my house for dinner, I will be happy to prove it.

We capped the night watching the reboot of Spiderman, this time “The Amazing Spiderman”, and although I had my reservations about the film it was surprisingly gentle for an action flick – if not a little gun happy, but such are American films – and quite good fun, even as they tweaked the story a little here and there. Certainly kept it fresh for both my siblings and myself.

Still then Thursday bleeds into Friday with the Széchenyi baths and then the Nagycircusz, and then lake Balaton. Then it’s the Sziget festival and almost time to leave after one more pop into Szentendre.

I am in the midst of finalizing my student loans for the impending law school year, as well as getting the required paperwork in order.

Transcripts and all that.


Praha (Prague); but Magyar goulash reigns supreme

I know that perhaps I haven’t quite updated this blog as often as I would have liked in the last couple of days, but that might have something simply to do with the fact that there is not much that goes on during the day. Blended together, we get lumped into a whole lot of nothing for the most part. And I wouldn’t want to bore you with infinite details about how I napped, ate, washed clothes, went food shopping, ad nauseum.
    But I do know that today I went to buy the month passes for the BKV (transport system) and that the date of expiry is one day after we leave for London. Which means that there are now roughly 30 days left in Budapest. If you had asked me where did my time go, I’m not sure I could easily say. Certainly a week in the country will grind time to almost nothing, but somehow these slow days are starting to add up. And there is still so much to do and see!
    Luckily enough, I bring with today’s post something about (yet) another country and another city. At the start of the week I gathered my kids (siblings) up and took the ten hour train ride from Budapest straight into the heart of the Czech Republic and Prague.
    Getting there was an ordeal in and of itself, because while we left on the 16th, the train tickets we sold for the 15th. And while no one had much bothered to look at our train tickets, certainly the one man at our couchette car would come back our ticket in hand minutes before the train would pull out of the station and say that there was no way we were allowed for the sleeper. Only if we procured 30 MORE Euros would he allow us to stay, otherwise we would have to be bumped into the non-sleepers. Of course yelling at him telling him the lady made a mistake was to no avail because he only spoke Polish. Not being one to be extorted for 30Euros I told him to shove off in not so polite words and grabbing our backpacks went into the non-sleeper.
    Now this in and of itself would have been terrible enough, if not for the fact that after our strange Canadian compartment partner left for Bratislava to see his girlfriend, we had barely nodded off before another ticket checker saw that we were supposed to be in the sleeper and so kicked us our of our private non-sleeper to try again with the sleeper checker. Of course this devolved into somewhat of a 2 car argument between the two checkers and myself at 2 in the morning, but saying he was sold out, we had yet again to find another sleeper car, and all of them were occupied, and quite smelly.
    We chose well however, because within 20 minutes of us choosing a non-sleeper, the two men left, and we were left to ourselves. Pulling the seats as far down as they could go was some sort of comfortable, but my brother had accidentally kicked the thermostat control in the room to freezing, and so we spent the duration of the ride curled up and shivering. It was a train ride from hell, so to speak. And because I did not but a round trip ticket (although upon further reading it doesn’t seem to have mattered if I had booked in advance or not) to LEAVE Prauge was about 100 Euros MORE expensive than coming into it. I was not happy at being jipped.
    When we arrived at 06:30 in Prague, and it was raining. It’s what we call a good start. The hotel would not let us check our rooms until 13hrs and so collapsing of tiredness (and perhaps a Starbucks coffee to start the engines) we may our way into the city center where we found a free walking tour of many of the historic places and sights in Prague.
    Our guide for the next three hour tour, Karel, was a Czech Native and had majored in Drama Psychology (yeah, I don’t get it either) and so I would arguably say that we had the best tour out of all the possible ones, because he would spice up the tour with whistles, jokes, and various other sound effects. It is my understanding that the free tours give generally the same tour of the Clock Tower, Wenceslas Square, The Cubist House, The Opera House, the Kafka Statue, the three great (and strange architecturally) synagogues, and finish up with a view of the Castle from the other side of Prague. And even though it was raining on and off, it was perhaps the best tour I’d ever been on. And I learnt more than I thought I would have, even though I’m not too good with remembering the names of specific individuals.
    Prague just as a way of example, is where the word ‘defenestration’ comes from, as well as ‘bohemian’. There were two political defenestration’s, late in the 14th century. It was also here that the precursor to Copernicus and Martin Luther were found, well before their more commonly known, successors.
    The thing with Prague is that there is so much rich history dating back from the 11th century and that it is the most sterling example of what Eastern Europe was like, because it was the best preserved during World War II. Hitler wanted to retire to Prague and as such ordered the city not be bombed. For this very reason, Prague is at once an ancient old history with so many secrets and stories that the tour guides have committed to memory, and yet there is still a thriving culture and people speak more English in the city center than any tourist could ask for a glass of water.
    But for all the strange accents that the Czech language has, it doesn’t sound ugly or harsh to the ears, or not like some other languages. (Magyar and German are quick to come to mind). Of course our stay was not long enough to pick up much of anything, but I am an avid fan of body language and so I think they understood when I said thank you when we found a small corner cafe for breakfast or at the mini mart where the mystery of the water bottles began. (We lost those bottles of water not 10 minutes after purchasing them, and Christina swears she drank out of one, so I couldn’t have left it at the counter, but beyond that we don’t have a clue)
    Night would bring a beer garden and a sampling of the strong Czech beer. As well as an adorable conversation with the Korean hostelmate with we would share a room with, and we would talk about baseball. (How I love summer and the baseball it brings! The Bowie Baysoxs have my heart and I am sad that I will not be able to catch a game this summer, nor a moustache monday)
    They claim that they are the highest beer drinkers in the world, (but I have heard this claim before) and that there’s is the best beer, full stop. (I have also heard this claim before too)
    Nevertheless my brother and I would come to find the beer both strong and enjoyable, and even though Prague doesn’t seem to have too much of a nightlife, by the time we left around 00:30, there were still plenty of people in the pub.
    Perhaps the best part of the entire trip – and I know what your thinking and no, it wasn’t the train ride – was that a college friend of mine had come to Prague for this exact week. And when I saw her pictures on Facebook, without hesitation I wrote to her saying that we would too be in Prague and to please let us have dinner. Having not seen her in about two summers and then a reunion in Prague is hard to beat. Sitting down for a wonderful and lively conversation between siblings and parents and friends is also hard to beat.
    The heaviness of the ‘traditional’ Czech food stays in your belly long after the fact, and so walking downtown to see Prague by night, as well as some last minute photo opportunities, we tried to digest our food as well as whittle away the few hours that remained before we had to jump back onto the train to take us back into the city. It is also worth noting that Czech goulash is NOT Hungarian goulash, and I strongly prefer the latter.
    My brother bought yet another sizable flag – and I guess it serves as good decoration for the flat here, but I’ve not a clue how he will try and hang all of them up in what will be his walk-in closest of a bedroom in college.
    The train ride back into Budapest was perhaps more uncomfortable for this train was absolutely teeming with hippies and world travelers at the junctions between trains and not one compartment did not have at least 4 to 6 people in it. And so even if these seats did slide down into some sort of cradle like the other train – which they didn’t – we had to share the ride with 3 other Hungarian kids. Sleeping wasn’t too much of an option as the seats were as comfortable as airline seats.
    The long week is almost over, and with it brings perhaps a Sunday day-at-at-the-beach complete with barbeque and football and swimming, Ros into Budapest for an extended weekend (yay!), and then my brother’s friend who will stay just over a week with us. It is with him that I hope we can go to the Balaton with, and Czech (get it?) out the Hungarian resort lake towns. The weather shouldn’t be a problem, as it is sunny and lovely at no more than 33 degrees typically.
    Being that there is now a month to go between the end of this dream life – perhaps end of this blog’s life?- and the posting of this blog entry, I hope that the activities will keep us fairly busy and content and hopefully more blog posts to write about.

Left Turns Only

What a pain it was to get up at 4 in the morning to catch a flight at 6 30. I had thought that the airport would have been quiet, but the Budapest is as bustling and lively at 5 am, and so I am glad that I had left enough time to check in. 

Which in and of itself is a story because for one I did not know that I didn’t need to check in at the desk (I didn’t have any checked luggage) and that I could have gone straight through to security. But I had time, so I wasn’t pressed. And after about 25 minutes standing in the queue, and being the second person to be “checked in”, the security personnel of the airport all flood the area where we were standing, some even with dogs. They ask for a 30 meter perimeter and all check in up to that point ceases. And here I am thinking, “Great. Just great. I’m second in line and now they must have something go wrong?” It would be another 20 minutes before they would let us resume check in. I’m not sure what happened, and it could be because my Hungarian is kindergarten level at best, or because they wouldn’t say period, but it was a huge waste of time to stand about. Not that sitting at the gate would have been more productive, but I guess we sometimes need to learn the lessons with some difficulty. To my credit, when I flew back they did want to see my passport before allowing me to pass onto through security.

(This is also where they took my aloe vera, or I guess I had appropriated the aloe vera from a friend in Paris where we had all ended up sunburnt, it ended up in London by mistake because we all woke up hung over in Paris and it got stuffed into a bag, and I wanted to shuttle it back to Budapest. It became somewhat of a joke, the aloe vera, but I guess as it was born from headaches, it was just as well that it ended up in a bin somewhere)


Lucky for me my French training has prepared me for standing in queues and redundancy.


It was also probably a good thing that I had left enough time as I did because the airport truly was bustling at 5am.

The flight was exactly as expected, with small seats knees brushed up against, and a landing that gave me small heart attacks because it felt like the pilot was drunk. (I certainly hope he wasn’t) Knots in my neck and fatigue from travel. Although I had gone to bed early the night before knowing full well the day that was in store. Landing in Stansted; it’s about an hour away from central London by bus which I hopped on and by lunch time – for me – London is one hour behind Budapest – I had found a local cafe and settled in with a tall cup of coffee and a sandwich.

It was around one that I went to meet my host and good friend for the weekend, who would run ten minutes late – a little joke between me and her throughout the week – and since I had said I would bring the Budapest sun with me we camped out in a small city park eating sushi and watching the Wimbledon for her lunch break. Eventually she had to go back to work, but we promised to meet under Big Ben around 5. (Actually 5 10) While I had intended to spend the next three hours visiting bookstores and walking the streets of London, what actually happened was me curled up in a lawn chair jacket draped over as I nodded off watching Serena Williams win her quarter(?) or semi finals match.

Crossing the street is a daunting task in London, because even though everywhere on the street corners it tells you what direction you need to look, it’s counter instinct. And sitting on top of the double-decker buses as they make left turns (our equivalent of a right turn) is adrenaline pumping experience because you swear they are going to clip the other cars and they all drive in the WRONG DIRECTION. All this really means is that I simply wait for the light to turn green and make sure that there are other pedestrians crossing with me. It was however, a lot of fun to sit at the top front row of the bus and watch the traffic underneath. (I think it’s everybody’s favorite place as there seems to be somewhat of a dash for the coveted seats.)

There is so many propaganda for the Olympics now in about 2 weeks- and London is ramping up for the huge influx of people coming into the city. There are designated Olympics road lanes, and last-minute construction can still be spotted here and there. It surprises me at once how much London is a bustling cosmopolitan city, but then you can see these old buildings (pubs) next to the most modern ones, in the shade of the skyscrapers.

When Ros got off of work, she said that there would be a surprise in store of me, and as much as I like knowing where we were going, I trusted that it would be a good one. We crossed the sea of tourists and the Thames river onto the south side of London, drinking in beer gardens along the river watching people watch people until about 7 where we made our way to the globe theatre. Not the original globe theatre, but built exactly as it was, Shakespeare’s globe theatre is one of renowned world fame. The play for the evening was Henry V. Never having seen the movie nor read the play it was quite fun hearing them in their thick British accents and Shakespearean language with the big costumes. Ros had to translate for me most of the time however, because while I’m no ignorant to Shakespeare, the accents made it a little tough to understand everything. We did the theatre proper, and took the standing room only, and although there wasn’t any heckling, we did leave shortly after intermission because a 4 hour play is quite difficult on the knees. I’m interested now to read the play, and Ros was quite pleased at one of the lines when the English declare war on France.

Friday was Ros’ birthday and in true fashion, I had promised to make crepes. In a somewhat sudden turn of events we wound up taking care of her little nephew and he would join us for the brunch watching Beauty and the Beast cuddling a teddy. An adorable kid if not a little quiet, (better than wailing), he looked so surprised when I opened the door, but warmed up to me at the promise of “pancakes” and a teddy. When her brother came to scoop him up, we made our way into the parks surrounding her neighborhood and towards the ponds. Swimming is somewhat of her birthday tradition. The view of London from the hill is unparalleled and it’s absolutely picturesque with tall grasses and a then-blue sky. The pond water was freezing at 16 degrees, but after a big breath, the easiest way is simply to jump in. I’ve swam in lakes before, but this one was lovely as it was a partially hidden pond with ducks and the water a murky green. I think with all the rain hitting there as of late, the water was colder than perhaps it could have been.

Walking back we got hit with the rain, a true summer rain, here in an instant and gone in the next. As we ran from tree to tree seeking shelter I found it funny as we had barely dried off from the pond, the muck still in between my toes.

Friday evening meant drinks with friends, a relatively low-key event as Saturday would bring Pride. Even being British couldn’t stop the raucous behavior, and although the food at the bar was woefully inedible, Murray did make it to the Wimbledon final (a first in many years) and the mood was lively and conversation spirited. We stayed until they kicked us from the pub and I was grateful that the pub was as close to the flat as it was.

While we had ~meant to get up at 10am on Saturday to catch the beginning of the parade, ultimately no one could be bothered until a more normal time. Breakfast was my first introduction into crumpets and as anyone who has talked to me in the last few days will tell you, I honestly believe they are the best kept British secret and a gift from the gods. With honey and butter, they are a perfect breakfast, although I also introduced Ros to a Lox bagel. (Her new favorite)

Still we were able to make it out of the flat and into London, and although it was pouring rain, the mood was festive in SoHo with thousands of people. For political blahblah reasons the police had pulled the “world” bit from Pride, but even as such there was many a flag flying and people of all shapes and sizes and colors in the streets drinking, chatting, and smoking. We made our way into a club and spent the majority of the night there, with a few hiccups of drama, but relatively unscathed.

Sunday and Monday was spent sleeping in, and out and about London, eating real milkshakes (not the French variety) and Chinese food that doesn’t have General Tso’s or Lo Mein. Watching the Wimbledon final to which Federer took (again) for a 7th consecutive win, while Murray was blubbering on the screen, “being a proper Brit”. It was wonderful getting to see a non-touristy London as well as hearing all the history of this place or that, because British is as British does. It certainly beat those with the giant cameras around their neck, although admittedly I have been them on plenty of an occasion.

Tuesday Ros had to (unfortunately) go back to work, and so I contented myself between lunch and post work with the free museums in London, at the National Gallery and a Charlie Chaplin-esque mime who was handing out free smiles. I didn’t get a chance to see the Portrait Gallery, however their collection of Monet and Pissarro was enough to keep me in that room for the better part of an hour.

Tuesday dinner meant vegetarian fajitas, and listening to 60s music; however it was tinted with the sadness that comes with saying goodbye.

My journey on Wednesday started at the crack of dawn (5am), and by 2pm Budapest time I had arrived back into my own flat, high off of the holiday that I had had, and pleased that I will get a chance to go back again.

And if by chance Ros reads this, I hope she knows where I am coming from when I say: thank you, goof.

I think this weekend might bring a weekend trip into Vienna or the very least a day trip and we might (probably) will return with my brother’s best friend for his visit into Budapest.

We still have one more trip up into Szentendre, Prague, the Balaton. Time seems to slip through our fingers, and I am worried for the fall and law school and stress of a different kind.


La Dolce Vita

Per my mother’s request, more on Italy.

(She’s more than right, one needs to take the time to commit to document such a wonderful place as Italy)

Or perhaps, more on the Amalfi coast and Rome, because those were without a doubt my two favorite cities. the Amalfi highway as treacherous of a higher to drive on, if the drive between Bologna to Florence hadn’t eked it out.  The roads could not have been more than 4 meters across, and on one side steep dynamite blasted hills, and on the other a daunting view of what it would mean to not pay perfect attention to the road. And then those on their vespas whipping about from small town to small town as if were nothing at all. I am fairly certain that my father’s knuckles were white and locked from gripping the wheel so hard. The view however, was unprecedented. And without match in what I can only believe to be the entire planet. Photos would not do the place justice, as the Mediterranean sea is a shade of blue so blue and so perfectly not-so-warm-not-so-cold that it is neigh irresistible to not want to swim in it.

The sea might also account for the size of the lemons we found in Sorrento. At first we thought them plastic, or perhaps simply a fluke, but Sorrento is as much the land of lemons as Florida the land of oranges, and their lemons grow large and yellow, and perhaps most delicious. The local are fond of selling a drink called ‘limoncello’ and while it is a little bit shocking to the palate, it leaves a clean after-taste and perhaps would mix well in some cocktails.

We however, opted for a beautiful ceramic pitcher – which I hope has found it’s way safely to the United States by now – blue as the Mediterranean and painted carefully with the Sorrento lemons.

The sea leaves salt in your hair that is difficult to wash out, and the sun beats down as we would wind along the natural curvature of the mountain climbing higher, higher in altitude and then the slow decent. We had quite an interesting moment where we were on what could only have been the last gasps of gasoline as we were tracing the coast line – 40 km never felt as long as it did just then – and asking locals where the one gas station was. I’m not sure what we would have done had our gasoline run out, because the shoulder of the lane was exactly 12cm. I’m not sure if there are other roads that a car can travel into the cities of the Amalfi coast, but as we were careful passing buses and the vespas that seemed to fly by with careless ease, I wonder if these cities are not really meant for those with a BMdoublepied (get it?) and perhaps a donkey.

And who and how the crazies were that decided that building houses up to the lip of the cliff was a good idea. Beautiful without a doubt, but I’m not entirely certain that I would like to be the one living there. It’s precarious, and although the view is unparalleled, I can’t say that I put too much faith in those mountains holding up eternally.

It was there too that I started to understand why the Italian football (that’s soccer to you folks back home) jerseys are blue. There has never been a bluer and clearer sky than in Italy, for it didn’t matter where in the boot we were, the sky was always the same crystal blue. I wonder if it rains at all in the summer time, or how the crops grow (lemons aside) because at least for the ten or so days that we were there, there wasn’t a cloud in sight. Great for those seeking a crispy tan, but I can’t imagine that farmers are too pleased for their crops.

In Rome you can barely go ten feet without running into some kind of Ancient Roman ruin, and there are fountains in every plaza – the Italians are fond of plazas – where the water runs cool and fresh on the same aqueducts that the ancients themselves used.

In the high heat the cats of the ruins are hiding somewhere, away from the noise of the tourists and the scald of the sun, but we were lucky enough to see a few of them as we came back from a night on the town, and the cats laying on the still warm pavement. Cats run the ruins, and they live in little colonies, and they are of every size, shape and color. The city of Rome loves their cats and dispatches vets to take care of these feral cats, and no one bothers them. It was such a special site and I can only imagine how many tunnels run underneath the city,  much like the tunnels beneath the Colosseum.

The panthenon is a thing of beauty. How the dome catches the light and how even with all of todays technology nothing comes close in mathematical perfection and balance. It’s no wonder that even when Rome was ransacked that they left the panthenon in one piece. What a wonderful marvel. Even though the roads are a nightmare to drive on with cobblestone, pedestrians lining the would-be sidewalk, and one way streets, when we parked the car Rome opened up on a whole better level.

The high heat is only for the tourists, and the protesters we saw lining the streets with their flags against the privatization of water but at night the youth and the youthful at heart come out to play eating their gelato – we ate so much gelato it is INSANE – and singing completely off key. (I cannot say we were not party to this)

I wish we would have had more time in Rome, not to do the super touristy things – as we met a daughter-mother combo we would later run into in Florence by happenstance, but to simply get a chance to further sink into the life of the modern Romans.

They seem the people who enjoy life and enjoy to play the most. The EuroCup Italy game had a huge draw and when they won their game the crowd was cheering and clapping (they got sorely spanked by Spain in the final 0-4) because such is the pride for the “national” sport.

Tomorrow I leave for London and the weather I hear is as dreary and rainy as ever. There is a reason, I suppose for why the stereotype exsists.

I will not however let the weather dampen my mood.

Happy Birthday To You~

Happy birthday to my poppa bear, who was born on one of the hottest days of the summer!

I know were entirely too far away and circumstances as of now have not allowed for an easy Skype session, but I hope that he wakes up and reads this first, to know that I am always thinking of him. Even if we cannot partake in what ever cookout cake champagne combination there might be at home.

Point is, I love you lots, and maybe we can a 5 minute phone call?