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August 30, 2006

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                        Budapest - NYC - L.A. - CT

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Hello from the good ol’ U-S-of-A! Before we get started I would like to say our heart and prayers go out to all of those involved in this week’s Comair - Delta Airlines Flight 5191 crash in Lexington, KY. It is really disturbing when a plane goes down anywhere, but it really hits home when it’s an American carrier on U.S. soil. At times like these the fear of flying pops into our heads, but we have to remind ourselves that air travel is much safer than car. You have a 1 in 11,000,000 chance of being involved in a plane crash. Your chances of being killed in an automobile accident are 1 in 5,000. That’s scary! Back to our newsletter: Last week (here’s the link to the archives) we left off in Budapest, Hungary; this week we travel back to the States. First stop: New York City. Then Los Angeles for an Emmy party. And the third – you just have to scroll down to find out. If you’re down for racking up some serious frequent flier miles, jump on board. We’re off to the greatest land on earth: America!

I kept hearing that Budapest has two airports, and that travelers should make sure to find out which one they’re flying out of (or into) to make sure they know the right one. It sounded like they were miles apart, but they’re not. Whoever told me must have been on crack, because there is only one Budapest international airport -- with three connecting terminals. The first, Ferihegy 1, is for budget airlines. The second, Ferihegy 2A, is for all Malév Hungarian Airlines flights. The last is Ferihegy 2B, for foreign airlines. When I arrived at 2A after a 25-minute, 4,500 HUF = $21 USD) taxi ride from the city, I was almost two hours early. There was no line to check in at either the Malév counter or security. NOTE: This was before the U.K. security scare.

I flew Malév because they had the cheapest last-minute one-way ticket I could find -- and a non-stop flight. (Delta Airlines has the other nonstop to the U.S.). Malév flies a 767 on this route. The coach seats did not have much legroom, but I was able to use my laptop – though it was a tight squeeze. The service wasn’t very good, even though the flight attendants were friendly – they just didn’t come around too often. They served one hot meal and a cold sandwich on the 4,360-mile, 9 hour and 20 minute flight.

We arrived in New York at Terminal 8 -- one of American Airlines’ terminals. It was a long, depressing walk to customs. One passenger, rushing like everyone else, said to her husband, "It’s a shame foreigners have to be welcomed to the greatest country of all by this dilapidated building." I couldn’t have agreed more. Come on, people! Spend a few dollars to put some fresh paint on the wall and get a new carpet, so visitors and returning citizens can feel good. Walking down the long, dark aisle made me feel like I was on death row. Seriously, I have arrived at much nicer terminals in third world countries! It was embarrassing -- and not only that, but baggage claim was the worst I have ever seen. Period! The building had a low ceiling; it was dark, old and filthy, and completely packed with tired, hot, confused travelers. There was no communication; everyone went from one claim to another, and bags took over an hour to come out. Note: This was not Malev’s problem. I’m not sure who was to blame, but I’m guessing American.

I was on the East Coast for two days. I spent the first one in New York City. I had lunch with a friend who lives across the street from Regis and Kelly’s studio. As we walked out of his place, a small crowd gathered around. My buddy told me to see which star was signing autographs. Like a monkey, I did. It was Kevin Smith from "Clerks." I never thought much of him, but after watching and talking with him for a few minutes, I realized he’s a really nice guy. He made sure to sign autographs and take pictures with everyone. I also visited some friends at PJ, Inc., a PR firm in lower Manhattan.

Later that evening my brother and our friend David (David's new book came out a few days ago) of ours discovered a great New York City restaurant. Shocker, huh? Just kidding -- it’s not too difficult to find good food in New York, but this was something new for me. The place was called Beyoglu, and we chose it because it looked good from across the street. It was packed with patrons, while other nearby restaurants had only a few customers. It was still early -- 6:30 p.m. -- for dinner in NYC, so we got a table without waiting. When I sat down and saw the menu I thought, "Oh no – this place is Greek!" (I’m not a big fan of Greek food -- at least, I think I’m not). The pretty waitress was within earshot. She corrected me: "No, it’s Turkish!" I don’t know if there is a big difference between the two, but I saw a few interesting and appealing dishes. One, Mercimek Kofte, was made of finely ground lentil and cracked wheat, spiced with hot red peppers. I’m so happy that I kept an open mind, and didn’t get up to leave. This restaurant turned out to be a real gem. Everyone’s food was so good, including the shepherd’s salad, chicken breast, Turkish coffee, orange sorbet, and the best baklava ever! Well, this might have been my first time actually having baklava, but this light fluffy phyllo dough-filled pastry with pistachios and honey won’t be my last. Neither will my visit to Beyoglu. Beyoglu, 1431 3rd Ave. (cross street: 81st St.); tel.: 212-650-0850. Click here to see the menu.

I had to go back to L.A. to redo some voiceovers for the pilot TV show I shot back in May. It was my first time home in a while. As much as I love where I live (near the beach), after finishing a morning’s worth of work I wanted to head back to the East Coast. I prefer the East Coast in summertime -- maybe because the beach in L.A. is always crowded with tourists this time of year. But the real reasons are because the East Coast is where my roots are, and in the summer there is so much to do -- plus everyone is in a good mood (unless it’s terribly hot). I also wanted to go back because my cousins were having a mini -family reunion, and my dad was coming to town. Besides, I just received a copy of the finished TV pilot, and I was excited to show it to my dad and siblings. BTW: It came out great, and they all loved it. I know what you’re thinking: Of course they said they liked it; they’d never say anything else. But you don’t know my family and friends. They’re brutally honest, and if it sucked, I would never hear the end of it. Thank God it didn’t. Now we’re just waiting to see if a popular channel will pick up the show. Keep your fingers crossed!

All the last minute, coast-to-coast fares were pricing out in the low $400s. Instead of paying with cash, I logged into some of my frequent flier accounts. I checked American, Continental, Delta, USAir and United. Surprisingly, United -- which flies the Premium Service (called p.s.) between Los Angeles and San Francisco to JFK -- had a seat available for only 25,000 miles, and a $5 security fee. Unfortunately, on October 16 United will implement a $75 fee for travel ticketed six days or less prior to departure. There will be a $50 fee for travel ticketed 7-13 days prior to departure, but no fee for travel ticketed 14 days or more prior to departure. I think that rule stinks. It should either be eliminated, or switched around. It make no sense. If a seat is not sold within six days, chances are it will go out empty. Why not reward your loyal customers instead of gouging them?

This past Saturday night I attended Entertainment Weekly's 4th annual Pre-Emmy Party at Republic (tel.: 310 -289-6200) in West Hollywood. The indoor/outdoor restaurant/lounge was packed with Emmy nominees, presenters and attendees. There were so many celebs, they even had Lindsay Lohan as a guest DJ. My highlights were running into a bunch of friends and family) from both coasts. The coolest actor I met was Anthony Michael Hall (Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club ). He was so funny -- just like in his movies. I was sitting on the couch with a bunch of friends when he came up to me and said, "How do you have five beautiful women surrounding you?" I joked, "That’s how I roll." He laughed, stuck out his hand, and hung out with us for a while.

p.s. service began a couple of years ago. It’s designed for bicoastal business travelers who are willing to pay more. These flights can sometimes be triple the cost of United’s competitors, and frequent miles are rarely available for these routes. The planes are reconfigured 757s (single aisle planes). There are three classes of service, which is very unusual for a 757. A typical United 757 normally holds 182 passengers, but these planes are outfitted for only 110. First class has 12 leather-trimmed, lie-flat seats. Business has 26 spacious leather seats. Both classes come with individual handheld DVD players, with 10 entertainment choices and noise-reduction headsets. Economy’s 72 seats all offer United Economy Plus seating (5 inches more legroom than normal economy). The extra legroom is key for me. I really enjoy that all classes of service have electrical outlets, so passengers can power up their laptops or electrical devices the entire flight. Economy does not include a free meal service. It’s Buy On Board, with good choices of sandwiches, salads or snack boxes for $5. I had the chicken salad made by Trader Vic’s; it was a great value. For more info on

If you’re looking for an airline phone number or website, and an internet search gives you too many choices, log on to our recently redesigned page. You can find any airline website in the world, and the phone number. (If we missed one, please let us know).

Connecticut was great as usual this time of year. The weather was perfect. It was especially nice because all my siblings and my dad were in town. We took my niece and nephew to the beach and they wore me down. But as you will see next week, this was only the beginning of our family adventure. Instead of going back to L.A. as originally planned, I changed my ticket for no additional fee (a perk when using your miles). All of us (except my dad) hopped in the car for a very special trip to Nantucket.

Next week: Nantucket. Stay tuned.

Happy Travels,
Johnny Jet

*Please tell us what you think of this week's newsletter!

Pictures From

The Trip


Malév Airlines


Ferihegy Airport


Inside Ferihegy


Seats In Coach




BUD-JFK=4,360 miles


Kevin Smith


Women From PJ, Inc


Dinner at Beyoglu


Chicken at Beyoglu


Landing In L.A.


My Cousins


More Relatives


Emmy Party


JJ and Friends


Anthony Michael Hall




Rowayton, CT


My Dad


My Siblings and Family Friend Laura



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  • Loved your Budapest trip report and photos. I've been researching a trip there for several years and you've made the city come alive for me. I think you are the greatest! Martha G (An Admirer from Arizona)
  • Saw your piece on Budapest on Frommer this morning. My wife and I lived there for 2 years and loved it. You captured the city and made us want to go back. Great job. Sandy Jacobson - Oakland CA
  • Ashamedly, I hardly ever look at your pictures. But this weeks' photos blew me away. I also just returned from a 17 day trek thru Hungary (and Romania), and as I watched your video, I felt like I was being stalked! From the first shot from the Marriott balcony (coulda been the same room I stayed in - I have balcony shots that look identical) to the Basilica in Estergom (amazing, but who puts a skull in full view? lol), I was mesmerized. Thanks so much for sharing your views of this beautiful region. Next time, you have to find your way to Eger, east of Budapest. Great town, great wines! Thanks - Wendy LaBarge - Pittsford, NY
  • I'm so excited to have this information. I'm leaving in September for a vacation week in Budapest, Vienna and Prague. I will take all of this information with me as a guide. Thanks a million!! Marcy Schackne - Boca Raton, FL
  • Wonderful expression of Budapest. We were there in June this year and I saw many of the sites you mention (except the Galaxy). I wish I had seen your review before we went. There were many sites still to see. We spent 2 days and things were beautiful. You were fortunate to attend a ceremony in St. Stephen's Church. Sandy P – Louisiana
  • I enjoyed the Vienna excursion. Just started checking out johnny jet. My husband and I will be leaving for Austria and Switzerland in September. Do you have anything in your archives on Salzburg, Innsbruck, St. Moritz, Zermatt, Berne, or Lucerne? Let me know if you do and I will check them out. Thanks. Summer Devlin - Cocoa, Florida. REPLY: Thanks for the email. I was in Zermatt last year for my brother’s wedding. Here’s the link. Have fun! SUMMER’S REPLY Thanks for the information on Zermatt. I wasn't that excited about it until now because I didn't know much about it. But just seeing Johnny's 2 minute video - how beautiful the area is - has convinced me that I will surely enjoy this little city. Thanks, again.
  • I loved reading about Budapest. We were just there last October. I was surprised you didn't go to Gundel's, the fanciest and best restaurant in Budapest. It was truly fabulous!!! It was really great seeing the scenery you did on a "clear" day. Ours was very overcast the whole time we were there. Yes, St. Stephens is just awesome and nothing else. Mimi Sorkin -
  • I thoroughly enjoyed your article on Budapest. It has the flavor and style of a friend writing about his experiences to another friend--unpolished but wonderfully informative. I should mention that a number of years ago I almost got caught in the same scam as you did. The menus were on the table and I, merely by chance, picked one up. Keep up the good work. Rich - Media, PA
  • It was delightful! I felt that I was among you, and all of the guests. My son, and I were in Budapest about three years ago, and had no idea that there were thieves about, at least they didn't bother us. I must say that you kept me mighty busy in clicking onto all of the highlighted words. However, if I hadn't done that, I couldn't have felt that I was also at the wedding. Great article! P.S. I have indeed, been a fan of Johnny Jet’s from the beginning. As my Grandmother would've said, "He's a nice looking young feller too." Diane B. - Rome, NY
  • I loved this week’s Budapest trip! Best Wishes to all! I stayed at the Budapest Marriott four years ago and was very happy with the hotel. I loved their side-walk cafe restaurant, watching the world go by. One of our highlights was visiting the Jewish synagogue where Tony Curtis helped organize and pay for a memorial to those who were massacred. Very beautiful, with so many names. I hope you didn’t miss it. I look forward to your next entry. Connie – Carmel, CA
  • Tremendous! I’ve always hoped to travel to Eastern Europe someday and check out the architecture of the cities. You’re a lucky man to do what you do. But I know that you created those opportunities for yourself, too. By the way, your friend’s account about getting scammed at the bar should be required reading. It was also very well written. Bob S – Pittsburgh.
  • I really enjoyed your 2 minute video of Buda-Pest. OK...I read the other stuff first, which makes the video understandable. Keep up the good thoughts. Although...some of your pictures could be a bit better. I understand they're just "snaps" of the moment, but...there are good quality shots and 'just shots'. Think about it. Thanks TG- Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Another great "family" outing - this time in Budapest. I always feel like I'm part of your family along on another adventure. This week, I was concerned due to the scam that the city would not have good memories. How wrong I was! The pictures, especially the wedding of Mike and Henrietta was gorgeous. What a wonderful setting! The picture of Mike in his Tux with Henrietta in the background in her wedding dress belongs of the cover of Vogue magazine! Geof O'Connor - San Diego
  • The Budapest newsletter was terrific, especially the video. I'm printing the text to take with me. Thanks so much!! PS I leave for Budapest soon. Thanks again. Jack Mayers - Beaufort, SC.
  • I work with Henrietta and got to see all of the fantastic photos and videos from the wedding. Reading your newsletter was great, it brought it all to life. Love the site, I will pass it on to all my friends! I love all the links, I didn't have to go searching the internet for the info you have there - its a real time saver. I found so much useful information. Keep up the great work JohnnyJet! Velma Chardon - Bronx, NY
  • The report and video were incredible. Our grandparents came from Hungary and it was so interesting to see the places in the video. We have been to Vienna, Austria with our sons, but have always planned to go back to the birthplace of our grandparents. This video helped a lot. P.S. My husband Ron and myself have traveled to all the states and all the continents with the exception of Antartica. Jeanne & Ron - Irwin, PA.

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