An epic adventure
Cast of characters:
Amazing Budapest, Czech Republic
The red dress dies.
Of all the places we’ve visited and incidents we’ve been involved in during our many Girl’s Trips, none is more infamous that the Red Dress Incident. It will forever go down in history as an epic tale of gut-wrenching proportions.
Ok that may be a slight exaggeration.
Let me tell the story and you be the judge.
First of all, you need to know that our Girl’s Trips are rarely oriented around tourism. We have been to some of the most amazing cities and been surrounded by incredible historic landmarks, but our purpose is always clear: we are there to see each other. People may think this is shallow at worst and unfortunate at best, to travel so far and not visit the iconic museums, art galleries, castles and monuments.
We do that on many many trips, just not on these trips. In fact, we often end up immersed in the local culture and history inadvertently anyway, possibly more so than normal tourists. But our goal is crystal clear and has never changed – these trips are for us – to share a moment together, talk, vent, support, connect and share. Oh, and shop. Well, and eat, of course. Ok you might as well throw a couple drinks or cappuccinos in there too.
For friends who live thousands of miles away from each other, our friendship would have faded into a misty memory had we not started these trips several years ago. Connecting with each other is the purpose.
Sylvie is in charge of reserving an apartment or hotel, finding a local coffee shop, and two or three special restaurants.
Lisa provides the entertainment. No, not herself physically…. Well, hold that thought. She is actually often quite entertaining. But what I meant was that she finds entertaining places for us to go. Sometimes, “entertainment” rhymes with “bizarre” or even borders on “dangerously strange” but so far we have always survived and a great time was had by all. (The bar in Berlin where the band was introduced as “Shitface” deserves particular mention.)
Always, some strange new adventure occurs.
And so we come to the story of Budapest and the Red Dress Incident.
We landed in Budapest a bit late – we were all jet-lagged (they both mock my jet-lag claims).
We taxi in from the airport, drop off our bags and hit the streets, eager to explore this amazing city. We happen to walk by a very interesting boutique, and, through the fog of our jet-lagged eyes, spot an amazing red dress on a mannequin in the window. It is truly a thing of beauty.
We enter. It’s the type of place that looks slightly stark and bare, which usually means “designer.” Exciting!
The solitary salesclerk greets us coldly. Sylvie asks about the red dress, and is whisked off to a change room to try it on. Lisa is wandering around looking through the racks (to be clear, there are very few clothing racks, it’s a very bare store. Very designer.)
I am looking at the clothes, and see a blouse that has potential. I look at the price. It is, of course, in Hungarian Forints. We had just quickly discussed the currency on the taxi ride from the airport a moment ago, and my foggy jet-lagged brain is trying to do the math. There are too many digits in this number to make sense, and I keep staring at the tag. If this blouse is 202,000 forints, that’s about what, 100 Canadian dollars? A bit expensive.. No wait, that’s not right… The wheels are slowly turning… Let me look it up… I discretely take out my phone and do a quick online conversion. The cold truth hits me. The blouse is marked down, on sale, for only 1,000 Canadian dollars.
I double check my numbers.
No, I’m right, this is an insanely expensive store. A bead of sweat appears on my forehead. How much was that red dress Sylvie is trying on? I think it had even more zeros…
Meanwhile in the changing room, the following scene is playing out.
Sylvie has put on the dress. It looks fabulous – although most dresses do look fabulous on Sylvie as a general rule. She is admiring herself in the mirror, and considering the possibility of already making her first purchase so soon in the trip. I know, it may seem strange, but it’s better if you make more purchases later in the trip, it feels like we put in more work. But this dress is truly fabulous. She sighs, and checks the price tag again.
There are too many digits in this number to make sense, and she keep staring at the tag. If this dress is 2,005,000 forints, that’s about what, 450 Canadian dollars? Pretty expensive.. No wait, that’s not right…. The wheels are slowly turning… She thinks again about the information she had looked up about Budapest and remembers the correct conversion. The dress is over 9,800 Canadian dollars.
She double checks her numbers.
No, she’s right, this is an insanely expensive store. A bead of sweat appears on her forehead.
Stay calm, she whispers to herself. Take the dress off, pretend it didn’t fit quite right, grab Nicole and Lisa, and get the hell out of here.
She starts to unzip the dress.
The zipper stops halfway. She tries to pull it back up. Nope. Back down. Nope. It’s now stuck. Ok, stay calm. Maybe she can pull it over her head?
In the meantime, I have dropped the price tag for the blouse like it’s burning my fingers, and notice the salesman watching me. I smile at him innocently and attempt an extremely casual stroll over to the changing room, which probably looks like a mad dash by a crazily grinning woman.
In my most cool, calm and collected voice, I squeak at the closed curtain of the changing room, “Uh… Sylvie?…”
She, in her most cool, calm and collected voice, whispers semi- hysterically back at me, “Nic, can you help me in here with something?”
I enter the change room. I see Sylvie’s legs below a large red-dress-statue standing there with no head and it’s arms up in the air. It is wriggling around and it half-whispers, half-screams to me, “Help me get out of this thing, the zipper is stuck!” (I know you are skeptical about whether it’s possible to half-whisper and half-scream, but you don’t know Sylvie).
We perform an elaborate dance around the change room involving me trying to unzip while she continues to wiggle and finally, like a wild animal finally released from it’s cage, she is free! We are panting with exhaustion, I am holding the dress, Sylvie’s hair is wild.
I whisper, calmly, through my gasps for air, “This dress is insanely expensive. It’s like several thousand dollars. “
“I know!!!!” Sylvie takes a step away from me and the dress, and I suddenly feel like I’m left holding the hot potato. I very quickly get it back on it’s hanger, and we both take another step away from it, and stare at it in frightened awe.
Just then Lisa calls out, “So, how does it fit? Can I see?”
She has not figured out that we are clearly intruders in a store reserved for the rich and famous .
Sylvie and I stare at each other, panic flashing back and forth between us like lightning. It would be interesting to know what we would have done at this moment if there had been a window in the change room to escape from. I would like to think we would not have abandoned Lisa to her fate. But you know, she’s a survivor. She would have figured something out.
In any case, there is no window.
“Nope. Doesn’t fit. Not at all!” Sylvie cries out in a truly disappointed yet ecstatic sounding voice, and adds “Not even a bit!”
“Oh that’s too bad.” You can feel the disappointment in Lisa’s voice.
I am standing there with wide eyes, no longer able to move. I am actually quite useless in an emergency, it turns out.
Sylvie whips her own clothes back on in about 2.2 seconds, whisper/yells to me, “Let’s get out of here!” flings the curtain open to Lisa’s smiling face. She grabs her arm and I follow, and we aim for the door. Sylvie says something to the salesclerk – to this day I have no idea what, but probably something like, “Sorry it didn’t fit, well actually it fit wonderfully and I looked amazing but I would rather buy a pontoon boat.”
Before we make it out the door Lisa somehow breaks free of Sylvie’s vice-like grip and picks up a scarf that probably cost more than the down payment on my first home and innocently says, “Hey what about this Nic, this is a great colour on you!” And starts to try to wrap it around my neck. I jump away like the thing has scalded my skin and Lisa looks surprised. “Nope, not my colour, nope, nope,” I say cleverly.
“But you love turquoise, that’s the colour you always buy,” she says skeptically, and eyes me up and down. “In fact you’re wearing almost the exact same colour right now.”
“Oh, that’s a different shade of turquoise,” I say as my face grows hot under the continuous silent stare of the clerk, who has not moved from his stool. “I prefer a more blueish shade of turquoise and this one is more greenish.”
“Really??” Lisa looks at the scarf and tries to hold it next to my turquoise skirt. I hop away, directly behind Sylvie. Sylvie will protect me.
“Oh yes I can see that!” Sylvie says loudly, nodding quite eagerly while delicately taking the scarf out of Lisa’s hands and placing it gently back on the shelf. “This is absolutely a green turquoise and you look one hundred percent better in a blue turquoise.”
“Ok…” Lisa looks unconvinced but is finally starting to sense something is up. Which just means she thinks we are weirder than normal. “Anyway, I just wanted to look at those boots over there…”
She barely gets the last word out when Sylvie snaps, in her whisper/scream voice “Lisa! We’re leaving! We need to get out of here! Now!”
Now Lisa knows something is seriously up and looks wildly around the store for bombs or serial killers as we make a mad dash out the door.
We wait till we are safely around the corner to let Lisa in on what really happened, and decide that we must immediately repair to a restaurant for a fancy drink and some food to get over the close call.
And that is the scary story of the Red Dress Incident. I may have embellished a bit. And yet, it’s stuck pretty much like that in my memory.
For the record, the rest of the Budapest trip went by without any major shopping incidents. The only other strange thing that happened was that we almost didn’t make it out alive of the thermal baths but Lisa saved us by jumping over a barrier heroically. Of course, the whole situation was all her fault, but that’s a story for another blog…