I know I’ve been slacking… it’s been too long since the last post. But it’s been a crazy past few weeks filled with social outings, end of year/Christmas celebrations, planning our trip to Morocco next week and a 10 minute French presentation for my class that I was consumed by up until Tuesday.
Throughout all that, David and I managed to sneak in a little impromptu trip to Budapest with Amy, Nick and Skee during the first weekend of December.
Budapest was never really on the radar but when Amy said she was going, David and I happily tagged along.
We didn’t know what to expect and did minimal… actually no research. Travel-pro Amy did the heavy lifting and gave us some great suggestions, guiding us through the must-sees and dos of the city.
We flew in late Friday night and went straight to our Airbnb apartment. Cozy and within walking distance, it was a great find. Plus it was cheap.
The next morning, we went to My Little Melbourne cafe for breakfast. Leave it to the Aussies to create and run fabulous cafes (the same holds true in Paris where the best coffee comes from the local Australians). The most delicious cups of coffee and some tasty snacks filled us up. We did something we never do, since we always like discovering and trying new places: we went to the same place for breakfast three days in a row. For only a few euros each morning we filled up and fueled up for long days of walking. There was no point going anywhere else for coffee.
Budapest greeted us with rainy weather. We did not see a sliver of blue sky nor a ray of sunshine in three days. But that didn’t matter because it was still a great trip.
We found ourselves walking a lot and on the first day we clocked up to 21 kilometres of walking! (According to the iPhone6 health app.)
From our hotel, we went first to the Hungarian State Opera where we snagged tickets to the Nutcracker for the following evening. We walked all the way down Andrassy Avenue, admiring the eclectic mix of architecture, finishing off at City Park where we saw the biggest skating rink we’ve ever seen. We then walked all the back and stopped for lunch at a Dafke, a Jewish deli with the largest smoked meat sandwiches we’ve ever seen. Another great find and highly recommended. “Jewish is tasty!”
We then walked further south to Grand Market Hall, where we perused the various souvenir and food stands as well as the beautiful 18th century building, and met up with the gang. We all ventured out into the quickly falling nighttime (the sunset at 4pm!) and wandered around one of the many Christmas markets in the city. No visit to a Christmas market is complete without vin chaud (gluwein or mulled wine) and I’m not usually a big fan, but the stuff all throughout Budapest was delicious (and cheap!) That would be only our first of many cups of vin chaud.
Later that night, we headed over to see the Parliament Building and snap some night time photos from across the river. We then had a nice dinner at Menza where we filled up on traditional Hungarian dishes like goulash and garlic soup. The restaurant had a retro-70s feel and was lively and busy. Food was great, as was the price since a starter, two mains, a half bottle of wine and a cocktail each netted David and I under 50 euros. Amy had read about ruin bar which are old bombed out buildings re-purposed as bars and clubs. So we found our way to two of them that evening, the first one being pretty empty and uninteresting, and to the second that was haphazardly decorated with intriguing and unusual paraphernalia and packed with people. We had a number of good laughs that night.
The next morning after breakfast at our new favourite spot and some shopping down the main shopping strip of Fashion Street, we met the gang again at Sophie and Ben for lunch. We had some pretty incredible burgers at this American diner inspired but still classy place. The beef patties were gigantic and juicy. They served pulled pork as well. And David got them both between two homemade burger buns. And no better time to put on some bikinis and head to the traditional bath after that beer-belly inducing meal.
Off we went to spend a few hours in the traditional baths. Budapest is known for the multiple bath and we headed to City Park where the largest ones in Europe are found, Széchenyi Thermal Baths. The facility had 18 different pools, and by the end of the 3 hours, we sampled nearly all of them. The place was busy and of course, on a rainy, cold, overcast day, who wouldn’t want to sit in 30C pool with 60 other people. The most fun was a current pool that really whipped you around. Timing on how to get in and out of the pool was key. The most hilarious was when we spent about 5 minutes in a 70C dry sauna and then quickly hopped into a 20C pool. Our girly, high pitched yelps echoed between the porcelain covered walls much to our embarrassment. We immediately collapsed in girlish giggling which continued back in the pool while we people watched.
David and I hurried out of there to catch our show at the opera. I had never seen the Nutcracker and I can’t recall seeing a ballet, a least not in a very long time.
The night was about to start in grave disappointment as a lady with a tight mini skirt, matching blazer with 80’s shoulder padding and equally 80’s inspired hair that lifted a good 5 inches off her head, sat right in front of me. We even overhead the guy behind us exclaimed in English, “whoa, check out the hair.” I started thinking; this kind of shit always seems to happen to me. You can’t believe how relieved I was when a couple came searching for their seats… the very ones she and her friend were sitting in. I must have done something right to be on the receiving end of good karma.
The ballet was incredible. Music was beautiful as we all know and the dancing was just awe-inspiring. The setting was even more beautiful. The interior of the auditorium was gilded in gold and adorned with magnificent carvings. I dare say it’s a nicer than the auditorium in my favourite Parisian building the Opera Garnier. Overall, what a beautiful way to experience Budapest and all for only 30 euros each. That would be IMPOSSIBLE in Paris.
Since it was late after our show, David and I walked around in search of food and landed in one of the Christmas markets for sausage and vin chaud. We walked around the city some more that was all lit up and just sparkling.
Amy, Nick and Skee left the next morning and David and I still had a good half day to explore before catching out flight. We went to St Stephen’s Basilica and then back to the Parliament to see it during the day. We saw the guards doing their little ceremonial routine (one of them couldn’t seem to stop giggling).
We went to one more Christmas market to feast on Hungarian sausage. Sauerkraut and mustard and to grab some charcoal baked dough.
Before we knew it, the weekend was over. Our little trip was a success. I’ve come to learn that the key to a great vacation is good value for money that is affordable good food and fun friends to share it with. Budapest is quite the treasure; if there weren’t such other wonderful places to explore, I’d definitely go back.