Wednesday Write-Up: Life of Luxury

This week has been awesome! We have caught up with most of our old friends. We have explored parts of the area that I never had before. We have also moved into a high rise apartment in Banqiao, Taiwan for the next 16 days until our long term apartment is available. Banqiao  is a 5 minute metro ride into Taipei City and is much bigger and flashier than it was when we lived here 5 years ago. We rented our small studio apartment on airbnb.com and are quite happy with the location and amenities.

We are on the 39th floor with an amazing view, have access to a lap pool and children’s pool (which we still haven’t used because they require you to wear swim caps… unfortunately, that was not something we packed for this trip), and even get boot-legged newly released movies available on our lovely 45 inch flat screen free of charge. It has been a little like living a life of luxury, in a very small cozy room.

I never thought I would say this, but I have been loving the food. Back when we lived here before, it was all I could do to not constantly complain about the horrible, oily, food. Chad and I often paid exorbitant prices to have “American” food because of our dislike of most of the Taiwanese food. Or at least, that is how I remembered it.

I was sitting here pondering earlier this evening, at how my tastes have changed since I was last here. Those things that I once found delicious, like cheese dan bing, and beef noodle bowls, have not been what I have remembered them as. I have steered away from them for the most part and have been eating other local favorites that I still love, such as shabu shabu (also known as hot pot), dumplings of all types, boba tea, and all the wonderful fresh fruit that I have been unable to enjoy since leaving sunny California. My stomach has been full and happy here in this big city that we used to call home.

It does feel like home here too, we have settled into Taiwan as though we had never left, but with a new perspective and way of living that makes it so that we actually do things. Chad and I are realizing the things that we missed here because we were hungover or on our way to our next hang over. Zoë has opened the door for us to really explore our old stomping grounds and see Taipei in the day time! Not that Chad and I were drunks or anything like that, it was just a different time and we had different priorities.

Zoë has also changed another part of Taiwan for us that I was slightly dreading. The looks of fear, condescension, and down right hatred are not pointed in these Wàiguórén (mandarin for foreigners) anymore. This time in Taiwan is completely different, now when we enter a place of business or walk down the street, locals do not run to the other side of the street or stare at us blankly, they come up and engage us. They want to meet and talk to Zoë! So far everyone has been extremely polite and she has not had anyone poke her or slap her (as I hear may happen, it is kind of like cheek pinching in the states), they just want to say hello and occasionally take her picture. Zoë is loving the attention and now goes up to all the local children she meets along our walks to say “nice to meet you” and “Nǐ hǎo” (mandarin for hello). It really is so cute. Because of Zoē I feel welcome here, which I was not expecting! She is our little ambassador of good will.

It is great to be back in Taipei, Taiwan. I look forward to traveling more around the island and being able to write about our adventures. Until then… Zàijiàn!

Travel Days Better Left Forgotten

It was our last day in Athens, Greece. We had left our island paradise of Drios, Paros Island, the day before so we could make our flight the next day to Taipei, Taiwan. We were prepared, or so we thought.

It started out as a good day, the sun was shining, we were excited to go do some last minute shopping before we had to be at the airport for a very long flight, with a couple of connections.

We ate a yummy “American” buffet style breakfast at our hotel and headed to the Monastiraki Flea Market area to buy whatever caught our eyes. We had plenty of time… we didn’t have to be at the airport until later in the day.

We shopped around a bit, stopped and had a lovely caffeinated beverage from Starbucks (have I mentioned my love of Starbucks before?), and ended up purchasing some small things to remind us of our time in Greece. We had a great time. We finished up our meandering and decided to catch a taxi back to our hotel, hoping that Zoë would take a nap while we finished packing our bags.

It was in the taxi ride home that all hell broke loose for us. Chad and I thought that our flight left at 4:30 pm and we had to be at the airport at 2:30 pm. I felt a twinge of unease and had Chad check our flight times on his phone… good thing we did that, because our flight left at 2:30 pm. We had to be at the airport by 12:45 pm. It was 12:00 pm and we were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic.

Remaining calm, Chad and I discussed how we would have to pack quickly and get in a taxi right away and hopefully we would still make our flight. I started checking my purse, making sure that I had both our phones safely tucked away, and that I had all the diapers and other things I needed to make it through the long (24 hour) traveling day ahead of us.

That is when I realized that my iPhone 5 was not in my purse. Zoë’s was still there, but mine…GONE!

It suddenly dawned on me that I had left my phone in the Starbucks’ restroom. Talk about a horrible nauseous feeling in the pit of one’s stomach, I think I had that times a hundred. I was flabbergasted that I had done such a thing! I was embarrassed and chagrined at myself.

We quickly discussed what I should do. Chad checked on line and it showed that my phone had not moved from the Starbucks, so we decided that I should take the taxi we were in back to the Starbucks, get my phone (hopefully) and he would stay at the hotel, pack, and check out of our room. Zoë had fallen asleep in my lap, so I took her with me. It was 12:06 pm.

After being stuck in traffic for 15 minutes, we arrived at the Starbucks, I ran into the bathroom with my still sleeping toddler in my arms… no phone. I ran and asked the employees of Starbucks… no phone. I asked to use their phone, just to call and let Chad know I was safe and realized that I did not know his greek phone number. I ran back to the taxi. It was 12:25 pm.

I was stressed. I was disappointed in myself, and most of all I was worried that we would miss our flight because of my stupidity. I was stuck in traffic again. It was at a stand still. I remembered that I had our hotel’s business card, I would just call Chad there. I asked the taxi driver if I could use his cell phone only to be told, “it’s for me to use, not you.” I started crying… yep, I am a big baby. It was 12:35pm.

The taxi wasn’t moving, so I asked the driver where the closest metro station was, it was right up at the corner, so I threw the fare at him and started running for the metro. Zoë was amazingly still asleep. I ran in, bought my ticket, just missed the train. I saw a women holding a cell phone, explained to her my situation (while crying… so embarrassing) and she let me call Chad at the hotel. I explained to him what had happened and that I would be there as soon as I could.

Z finally woke up and sweetly looked me in the eyes, while holding my face in her hands and said, “Hi Momma”. It was exactly what I needed to get over losing my phone… I had everything I needed in life, my wonderful daughter and husband. I could replace my phone. I finally calmed down and stopped crying. It was 12:45 pm.

I had to switch trains once, but arrived at the hotel (running from the station) about 10 minutes later. Chad was waiting with the taxi and we hopped in. Chad was so kind and understanding, Z was happy and excited to see her daddy. We were on our way and prayed that we would not miss our flight.

Our taxi driver knew that we were running very late and broke every speed limit to get us there quickly. He was pretty much the awesomest taxi driver ever. We arrived at the airport at 1:10 pm, checked into our flight and breathed a sigh of relief. We had made it.

Looking back I probably should have not gone back looking for the phone, but you know what they say about hindsight… it always makes you feel like a lousy loser who makes silly decisions… wait maybe that’s not right.

Our first flight to stopped in Abu Dhabi and ended in Hong Kong, where we had scheduled another flight to Taipei separately. Everything was great until Abu Dhabi, where the flight was delayed for two hours, then they boarded us only to tell us that the flight was delayed another 2 hours. But they were great and took good care of us, not only that but the flight was almost empty, so we had a row of 4 seats all to ourselves and Zoë was able to sleep laying down the whole flight. It was awesome, we were all rested and happy when we arrived in Hong Kong.

We went to go check into our flight to Taipei, which was leaving in one hour. They asked a questions, which seemed silly at the time and we answered truthfully, did we have a flight back out of Taiwan? No, we didn’t. They said that we could not go to Taiwan then, we had to have a flight out. I just thought…really? More to add to this crazy travel time?! We were lucky and a wonderful lady booked us on a later flight that day and emailed Taipei and got special permission to let us go and if we were stopped at immigration on the way in, we would have to buy a flight out of Taipei within 90 days before we could enter the country. We were ok with that, we had been to Taiwan before and had never had that issue.

We got on our later flight and an hour and a half later, we set foot on Taiwan soil. We had no issues at the immigration desk, and exited the airport at the same time as some Taiwanese heartthrob and had news cameras and girls screaming as we walked by. Z of course thought that it was for her and shouted “Yay!” as she saw them. Any stress I had that was left over from our travels melted away at that moment.

We had had a couple of trying travel days, but there was so much good, too. I am so thankful to be back in Taipei. I am so thankful that Zoë was excellent the whole time we were running around. I am so thankful that I have a husband that wanted to take this adventure on with me. I am so thankful that we made it safely and that I am back on the island that we used to call home. I am thankful that our awesome friends, Alan, Heidi, and Stella have opened up their home to us these past few days. I am thankful for black milk tea with boba. I am just really damn thankful.

Phone… what phone? I have everything I need right here.

Wednesday Write-Up: A Quick Note

We landed in Taipei, Taiwan last night and I am feeling like I am home again. Getting here was rough (more on that in my Friday post), but we are here safe and sound. It feels so good to be here. We are currently staying with some very generous and hospitable friends for the next couple of days and we are about to head out to a night market for dinner with them (I can hardly contain my excitement… a NIGHT MARKET! Street Food… YAY!). Hence the reason that this post today is so short.  More on Friday… xoxoxo

My Own Greek Island Paradise

I have found my Greek Island. Admittedly, there are many other people here, locals and tourists alike, but I have decided that I want Paros to be my Greek island.

There are 227 inhabited islands belonging to Greece, and over 1400 islands in all. So when Chad and I were trying to decide what island we wanted to visit, it made for a difficult decision. We made it by looking at how long it took to get there from Athens by ferry, cost of accommodations, types of beaches, entertainment options, and of course recommendations from other travelers and friends.

Two islands had been visited and loved by different friends of ours, Santorini and Paros. After we researched both of these islands with our parameters, we decided on Paros. Paros is only a 4 hour ferry ride from Athens, it has many different beautiful beaches on the island, most of them easily reached by foot or bus, we found an inexpensive and beautiful apartment hostel on Airbnb, called Betty Apartments, and the entertainment options were beaches and tavernas. It was exactly what we wanted. We didn’t want clubs and shopping, we just wanted to relax and let Zoë play at the beach.

Upon arriving at Parikia, Paros by ferry we took a taxi to our apartment in Drios (also spelled Dryos), on the other side of the island. Drios is a small village which houses less than 10 tavernas/restaurants, a couple of markets (including one organic market) and two wonderful beaches within walking distance, Drios Beach and Golden Beach. It also has a playground at their small school (now closed for summer) which Zoë has enjoyed on several occasions. Drios does not have any ATM machines, but almost everyone takes credit cards, so you don’t have to worry too much about needing cash very often.

Drios is an hour bus ride away from Parikia (the capital of Paros) and about a 45 minute bus ride from Nassou (the only other larger town on the island). We have visited both of those towns and I feel we have been so blessed that we chose to stay in Drios as it fits what we wanted perfectly.

Our days consists of getting up, having brunch around 10 or 11 am at Taverna Agkyra (or Anchor Tavern in English) right by our apartment, heading to one of the close beaches after Z’s nap and then usually having eating dinner at the Taverna Agkyra again.

Taverna Agkrya Our home away from home

Taverna Agkrya
Our home away from home

We have fallen in love with the taverna and the people that run it as if it was their own home kitchen. Especially Margarita and her husband, Kotsiopoulos (or Bobbies), who have shown us wonderful hospitality and fed us excellent Greek food. I am not usually a creature of habit when it comes to restaurants, I like to try new places and dishes, but this taverna keeps me coming back every day and most often twice a day. We have tried other restaurants in Drios, they are all good and the people are helpful and kind, but no one compares to their flavorful food and the feeling that you are friends at Taverna Agkyra. My favorite dish so far has to be the Moussaka, a casserole of potatoes, ground meat, eggplant and a thick layer of cheese all served in a ceramic pot hot from the oven. It’s rich and wonderfully filling, and I am sure very low-calorie (it’s all how you think of it right!?). I have to say that Chad and Zoë and myself have spent probably as much time in our favorite taverna as we have the beach. Hooray for wonderful food and company!

Chad and Zoë at Drios Beach

Chad and Zoë at Drios Beach

Anyways, this wonderful relaxing and dreamy part of our trip is coming to an end on Monday as we head on to our next destination. On Tuesday evening we will be in Taipei, Taiwan. I know that this will be the toughest place to say good-bye to, even more than Lisbon. But I really do feel that I have made some new friends here and I look forward to coming back to my Greek island of Paros again. I don’t think I could stay away from this paradise for long. Hopefully I can rope my family into meeting us here for a wonderful vacation.

If you are looking for a Greek island stay that is all about beaches, sun, food, and relaxing, come to Drios, Paros. Stay at Betty Apartments and eat at Taverna Agkyra. You will be happy that you did!

Wednesday Write-Up: A Visitor! Opa!

After we left Athens, we took a four hour ferry ride to the island of Paros in the Cyclades. We are now settled in a wonderful little apartment just a 5 minute walk from the beach! We found our apartment on airbnb.com and have fallen in love with it. It is called Betty Apartments, and Betty has been an amazing hostess. For one thing, she does our laundry! She also cleans our room everyday! It has been a real vacation so far for us. We have had very busy days consisting of brunch, nap-time (for Zoë, although there have been times I wished it was mine), time at the beach, dinner and then some relaxation after Zoë’s asleep. Chad works in the mornings and while Zoë naps and I do my writing or cleaning then too. This life is amazing! This trip is amazing, and I feel so very blessed to be here. God is good!

Zoë hanging out on our back porch

Zoë hanging out on our back porch

Chad and Zoë walking back to our apartment

Chad and Zoë walking back to our apartment

We have been on the island now for 10 days. And as of two days ago, we now have a friend from Sonoma County staying with us! (We have tried harassing everyone to come and see us, but with the price of plane tickets these days…whew). Our friend, Nathan, has been traveling himself for the past half year or so. He was planning on being in Greece the same time as us, so, here he is! It has been so nice to see a familiar face thats not pixelated on skype or facetime. Both Chad and I have enjoyed having someone new to converse with, and hearing about his travels and what God is doing in his life. Hopefully, he is just as happy to be here as we are to have him here!

As it is whenever one has visitors, whether you are in your home or traveling, there are hiccoughs along the way, but the stories you will tell later about your time together will be even better because of them. For example, Zoë being over-tired at dinner last night and pushing her glass of water over so that Nathan had to make a quick dodge before getting deluged… well, that will be funny in the future right? And Chad getting the flu today and being bed-bound and unable to keep anything down except cola… we will laugh about that someday too.

God has impeccable timing for teaching us things that we didn’t realize that we needed to learn, and what I have learned in the past two days, is that I need to stop sweating the small things (I cringe at being so cliché…I’m sorry).

I need to see God blessing me with patience when Zoë screams as if I am water boarding her every time I have to wash her hair (we use tearless shampoo, the water’s a good temperature, I have tried every trick, she just hates washing her hair). I need to see that God is blessing me with a merciful attitude, when she accidentally punches me in the face while having a public melt-down. I need to see that everything around me, God has blessed to me. He has given me this opportunity to see the WORLD! I need to stop worrying about the small, insignificant things that will be forgotten or laughed at later and try laughing at them or forgetting them now.

How hard that is. When I have it down perfectly, I will let you all know. Until then, I will just keep trying and keep praying. God is good.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Athens in a Day

There are three places that Chad and I knew we wanted to go when we were planning this trip. Taiwan, Thailand, and Greece. Every other place we have gone has been because the circumstances were right, the flights were cheap, accommodations were plentiful, etc. I feel that God has opened certain doors for us and has shown us where he wants us to go in this way. When we were in Lisbon, figuring what to do next, Greece did not seem to be working out, we couldn’t find flights, places to stay, or even decide what we would want to see in Greece. We both really wanted to see Greece, but thought that maybe it just wasn’t in the cards for this time in Europe.

It wasn’t until two days before we were to leave Lisbon, and 13 days before we had no other place to go or stay, that Chad found a perfect flight to Athens, Greece online,. We booked our tickets and then worked to both agree on what we wanted to do in Greece. Then we found inexpensive and awesome places to stay. It worked out even though we had doubts, and now here we are in Greece! God is good!

We started our time in Greece in Athens. We had been told by many friends that an extended stay in Athens is not necessary, you can see everything you want to in one or two days. Our friends were right. We had a day and half in Greece and saw all the major sights and felt we were ready to move on to our next destination.

We stayed free at a Novotel Hotel in Athens using our miles from one of airline cards. We like to stay in places we find on airbnb.com, locally run guest houses, or hostels usually, but every so often, when you are on an extended trip, it is nice to stay in a place with a pool, room-service and a maid. It’s a fun change for a couple of days.

After researching for a bit, I found a perfect way to see the sights and entertain Zoë at the same time (I know, I almost couldn’t believe it myself… I actually found something on the internet without Chads help… I have to say I was pretty proud of myself). I found the Happy Train, a little red train that takes you to past the famous sights and to some shopping areas and such. It had mixed reviews, but was inexpensive at only 6 Euros each for adults. Zoë loves “choo choo’s” so I knew this would be a great way to see the touristy part of the city.

So, on our one full day in Athens we decided to take the Happy Train and get off at the Acropolis and see that up close.

We got up and had our free breakfast buffet at our hotel (seriously… accommodations that include free breakfasts are the best!) and then headed down to the metro. The metro was a bit confusing to use, as I didn’t see any maps in the stations. But with google maps we were able to figure out what line and direction we were supposed to go.

The Happy Train is about a 2 minute walk from the Monistaraki Square metro stop and is in the midst of the Monistaraki Flea Market. The flea market is filled with leather bag and shoe stores, souvenir shops, outdoor eateries, and other stores. We walked through it for a bit before hopping on the Happy Train. We also got some waters and snacks for the trip on the train as we had read that the sun (and pollution) in Athens can dehydrate you quickly.

Zoë loved the "Choo Choo" also known as the Happy Train

Zoë loved the “Choo Choo” also known as the Happy Train

The Happy Train takes one hour to go through all the sights, including the Acropolis, Plaka, Temple of Zeus, Thisseon, Ancient and Roman Market, Zappeion, Panathinaiko Stadium, Theatre of Herodes Atticus, Hadrian Arch, Monastiraki Square, and New Acropolis Museum. We were going to get off at the Acropolis right away, but decided to take the whole hour long trip and then have lunch and get back on the train up to the Acropolis then.

Most of the ruins are right near the Monastiraki square and you can walk around them and take pictures in them until 3 pm every day. It was interesting to see the marble columns in different states of decay amongst the trendy looking outdoor eateries and shops. The train moved slowly enough to get a few pictures in of each sight. Zoë had a blast on the train and I was glad that we decided to see the old structures that way. The only complaint I would have with the train was that the sound system was very hard to hear, and although the “tour guide” did speak in both Greek and English, we couldn’t hear anything she said. Also, I should have researched or bought a guide book telling about the places we were going to see on the ride, I regret not having more information about what we were seeing. The train was great, but it was up to the customer to know and learn about what they were seeing.

We ended up having a very long lunch at a restaurant in Monastiraki square, it was a bit touristy of a place (I am sorry that I didn’t even get the name, but most of the places to eat there offered the same things), but the food was tasty and they really loved having Zoë there.

The Greek people we have met so far, have loved playing and trying to entertain our little girl. She has been a conversation starter and ender, too. She lets us know when she wants us to be done talking, in the sweetest way possible of course. She is learning many lessons of politeness and kindness on this trip.

Anyways, back to the matter at hand, we hopped back on what we thought was the Happy Train, but later learned that there are many other companies that use the same kind of trains, on the same route, with the same stops. I think we were on the wrong train, but the driver didn’t even ask for our tickets. Like I said, it was the same route as the Happy Train, with apparently the same sound system as we still could not hear any of the announcements. We happily enjoyed our ride up to the base of the Acropolis though. We exited at that stop and made our way up the hill, excited to see the beautiful stone structures built as early as the 8th century BC.

Zoë and me on our way up the the top of the Acropolis

Zoë and me on our way up the the top of the Acropolis

We came upon a little touristy area near the entrance to the ancient gates leading to the Parthenon and noticed that we needed to buy tickets to enter. It was 12 euros per adult, but Zoë was free and they even had a free stroller storage area which was very nice. Strollers are not allowed and once we made it through the entrance, I realized quickly why. There were many stairs and slippery areas on the way up to the top of the acropolis. The marble steps were worn down by millions of feet traipsing over them for the past 2000 plus years.

The Acropolis is… well I cannot express how I felt walking up to the Parthenon and the Old Temple of Athena. I was awe-struck. I still cannot fathom how they were able to build such massive and impressive structures so long ago, and the fact that they are still standing for the most part…well I was (and am) just flabbergasted by it.

The Parthenon

The Parthenon

We walked around the outside of the buildings (you are not allowed to walk through them as they are being repaired, actually the parthenon was full of cranes and half of it is covered in scaffolding), took a bunch of pictures and read the plaques that gave a picture at what the buildings used to be. This is another area where I wished I had a guide book. I learned about Greek history in school, but seemed to have forgotten all of it. I had to research all the history after the fact. You can learn more about the history of the Acropolis here.

All Three of Us in Front of the Parthenon

All Three of Us in Front of the Parthenon

Old Temple of Athena-Built Originally in the 8th Century!

Old Temple of Athena-Built Originally in the 8th Century!

Zoë was Tuckered Out..Also the Huge Greek Flag in the Background

Zoë was Tuckered Out..Also the Huge Greek Flag in the Background

We left the Acropolis, took the train back and went back to our hotel. All-in-all it felt like a really busy day, but we saw everything we wanted to see in Athens with the Happy Train ride. I think it was a good choice.

Have you ever been to Athens? What did you think? What was the best way to see the sights?

Wednesday Write-Up: And It always Come Back to One Thing

Food. That’s right, I love food. While we have been traveling if I do not find some good cuisine, my desire to be in that place lessens. I am all about food. Although I would not call myself a foodie, as I do not need to have the most gourmet or delicately prepared fare. If it happens that the food I get is tasty, fresh, and keeps me going back for more, that is enough for me.

Budapest was difficult for me at first. The good food was not so easy to find. But sometimes the trouble and adventure of finding good food makes it all the more special when you do find it.

There were a few places that I wanted to recommend to you, and although they are not all classified as Hungarian food, they are places that I think you should try.

 ARRIBA TAQUERIA

Photo Courtesy of Arriba Taqueria Website

Photo Courtesy of Arriba Taqueria Website

I love mexican food, in fact in one of my earlier posts I talked about how I would miss my family and friends, but leaving Mexican food behind while we traveled, well that was too painful to think about. It sounds a little callous now as I look back, but for those of you that have had authentic California Mexican food, you understand, right?

Well, imagine my surprise, excitement, and trepidation when we found a flyer for Arriba Taqueria in our place after we got settled that first night. It was like it was meant to be, for us to find and have mexican food again. After three long months of being burrito-free, I could lavish my palate again with yummy Mexican goodness.

They offered free delivery, from either of their locations (one on the Buda side by us, and the other on the Pest side), and also had online ordering. The online ordering was the so helpful! It was our first night in Hungary, we knew none of the language and we were both a bit daunted at trying to communicate over the phone at that moment. We placed our order and 20 minutes later, a gentleman on a scooter delivered the most authentic, fresh tasting mexican food we had had in months. The flavors were excellent and tasted just like the mexican food back home. Chad and I decided that the owner must be from California, because the food was spot on.

We went back to Arriba’s three or 4 more times before we left Budapest. Each time the food was spectacular, the service was wonderful (everyone that worked there spoke english!) and I left feeling happy and satisfied. I am so happy that we found this restaurant, because that was probably our last chance for Mexican food until we visit back home. Thank you Arriba!

RING CAFE
Photos of Ring Cafe and Burger Bar, Budapest
This photo of Ring Cafe and Burger Bar is courtesy of TripAdvisor

A good hamburger is not hard to find while traveling, but the hamburgers at Ring Cafe, were simply amazing! I had just a normal burger and was taking the tiniest bites to make the burger last longer, it was that good. The hamburger meat was seasoned and cooked perfectly, the home-made ciabatta buns were soft and flavorful, and the lettuce and tomatoes were fresh and crisp. If you are looking for a hamburger that will leave you wanting for more, try out the Ring Cafe on the Pest side of the city.

TRÓFEA GRILL
Photos of Trofea Grill Etterem, Budapest
This photo of Trofea Grill Etterem is courtesy of TripAdvisor
We found out about this buffet from one of those books that every city has, you know, the ones where restaurants pay to advertise to tourists (and most of them are a little iffy or over-priced). Chad noticed this buffet because it had an international fare, and also because it was all you can drink wine and beer (as well as the normal non-alcoholic beverages as well). The price was really reasonable for all they offered so we decided to check it out.

We arrived at one of the Trófea Grill locations (the one on the Buda side near the Margaret Bridge) and I was impressed with the cleanliness and design of the restaurant. I immediately went to load up my plate with what the buffet had to offer. The food was lovely and fresh, unlike many buffets I have been to. They had many choices of stews (which seem to be Hungary’s specialty), delicious side dishes, meats and seafood that they would grill up for you, and yummy deserts. Oh they also had salads, but I decided not to waste space on that stuff. The wine was pretty good as well. This restaurant’s food was very good. Also, for all you parents out there, it was a fantastic place to take a toddler. Zoë had a great time eating from her own plate, with food that we got that we knew that she would love. Toddlers want variety, too. She was great the whole time.

All-in-all this buffet was great. They did end up overcharging us somehow (I didn’t look closely enough at the tag and realized it a bit later that it just didn’t add up), but it was worth the extra for good food and relaxing times.

We ended up craving the buffet pretty much the rest of our time in Budapest, so on our last night in the city, we went to another one of their locations. The location we went to was out of the tourist area and was cheaper. Their service was excellent and the food was even more delicious than the other location. I even got to eat Foie Gras for the first time ever (it was wonderful, I can see why people rave about it). I honestly do not remember the address of the more “local” buffet, but it was about a 25 minute walk from the Széchenyi Thermal Bath and City Park.

Both times and locations, I was impressed with the food, the cleanliness and the service at Trófea Grill. I would definitely eat there again if we end up back in Budapest.

EDENI VEGAN RESTAURANT
Photos of Edeni Vegan Etterem, Budapest
This photo of Edeni Vegan Etterem is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Obviously, you can tell that I am not a vegetarian or vegan of any sort. I enjoy the freedom to eat animal products when I want to. I have found that much of the vegan and/or vegetartian food offered in restaurants tastes like cardboard, or a poor interpretation of food containing animal products. I enjoy vegan/vegetarian food that is so tasty that it makes you feel as though you are eating real food, not an imitation of something else.

Edeni Vegan Restaurant does just that. The flavors and spices in their food were perfect and left me so full, but craving more. The restaurant is set up cafeteria style, where you choose your dishes and they serve you massive portions of their savory fare. If they had not told me that their dishes were vegan, I would have never thought that they were. I really cannot express enough how good the food was. The restaurant was close to the river on the Buda side of Budapest, with lovely indoor and outdoor seating areas. The service was excellent and they spoke enough english to explain the dishes and serve us perfectly. We went twice and both times were extremely happy with our meals. Whether you consider yourself herbivores or carnivores, try the food at Edeni’s.

BAMBI PRESSZÓ

Breakfast is important in our family. Well, not to Chad really, but it is to me. I am one of those people that has to eat pretty soon after I get up, otherwise my blood sugar plummets and I turn into a raving lunatic I can be a little cranky. Zoë seems to take after me and needs to eat pretty much as soon as she gets out of bed. Her first words in the morning are often “ice mean” (yogurt), “nana” (banana) or “baby cracker” (crackers). Poor Chad always has to appease the hungry women in his life and get up and going early if there is no food in the apartment.

Bambi Pressźo was a great option for breakfast, about a 10 minute walk from our apartment on the Buda side. The breakfasts were basic but good, the espresso was strong, and the prices were inexpensive.

The cafe had a spacious outdoor eating area and was very kid and dog friendly. There were kids and dogs walking around freely, having fun exploring. This made it a nice relaxing place for us. We could eat our breakfast while letting Z play. It was exactly the kind of cafe I imagined going to when we decided to travel in Europe. A relaxing place where we could start out our day slowly.

We would have gone there everyday probably, but with Chad working, we usually ended up eating breakfast at home. It was a great place though. I would highly recommend you try it out.

I wish I would have had more time and energy to try out more restaurants in Budapest. Seven days was just not enough to fully grasp and enjoy the varied cuisine on both sides of the Danube River. Are there other places that you would recommend it Budapest? I would love to hear all about them so I could try them next time we venture to this beautiful city.

Beautiful Budapest

Budapest, Hungary is an intensely beautiful and interesting city. The city consists of two sides of the Danube River, Buda and Pest, that are connected with eight very distinct bridges. We stayed in an apartment we found on airbnb.com on the Buda side. Buda is a more quiet and less touristy than the Pest side. Pest has streets lined with restaurants, shops, and museums. Buda is more suburban feeling, but does have some little aggregations of tourist restaurants by the river. Both sides are great, and have government buildings, castles, churches, and apartment buildings that are amazing architecturally.

Unfortunately, jet lag caught up with us when we arrived so we spent the first three days we were there resting and getting acclimated. It is really odd that we were so affected, as there was only an hour difference between Budapest and Lisbon, where we had been for the past month and a half. Our bodies thought we needed a break I guess.

Anyways, we were left with four days to see and do everything we wanted to. We started with our old stand-by, a sightseeing bus. This time we took the green sightseeing bus that included a guided bus tour of both sides of the city, a panoramic pink bus (we didn’t take that one, so I am not sure what it would have shown us) and a river boat trip to Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube River. The ticket was a 48 hour ticket, so we took the bus one day and then the boat trip the next day.

We somehow planned it just right , Z was happy the whole time, and we were able to ride the bus from the first stop to the very last. It was fascinating to see all the different architectural styles and monuments and especially the views from the Citadel on the top of the hill in Buda. It was well worth the 18 euros each that we paid for it all.

View of Budapest from the Citadel

View of Budapest from the Citadel

The next day we took the river boat trip to Margaret Island (which can also be reached by the bridge on the far left side of Buda, aptly named the Margaret Bridge). The island is one huge park, filled with playgrounds, eateries, a hostel or two, a water park, and a couple of baths. There are also ruins of some sort on the island but we didn’t get the time to go check them out. Margaret Island was one of Zoë’s favorite places for sure. I never see her so excited and happy as when she gets to play at parks.

 

Cotton Candy on Margaret Island

Cotton Candy on Margaret Island

One of the stops on the bus tour was the Szechenyi Baths and the adjacent City Park, Budapest Zoo, amusement park, and circus. We decided to visit the zoo the day after we went on the river cruise.

The Budapest Zoo was a ton of fun. It was our first time taking Zoë to a zoo and I am glad that this was her first one. The zoo is laid out by continent and has all the normal zoo animals, but has many different species in a habitat together. For example, the giraffes also had gazelles, a couple of different types of birds and some gnu’s (at least I think thats what they were, I didn’t see the sign on that pen). It made it feel more real and also that the animals might be happier as they are surrounded by animals they would be near in the wild.

There were a few neat things that were great for young’uns (or grown up young’uns). There was a petting zoo, which was about 30 goats of all sizes that you could feed, pet, and hang out in their pen with them. You could feed the camels and pet them, and you could also pet the prairies dogs and sloths. It was awesome to interact with these animals up close. They zoo was very clean and safe (all the dangerous animals were locked up in habitats behind thick glass and fences, etc.) and fun for all ages.

Feeding the Camels Photo By Jennifer Mitchell

Feeding the Camels
(c) andthreetogo
Meeting a Sloth  Photo By Jennifer Mitchell

Meeting a Sloth
(c) andthreetogo

We wanted to go to one of the famous Budapest baths the next day, but upon further research we realized that the baths are off limits to little ones under the age of 14. And the regular heated pools that some of the baths have especially for children are only for potty-trained kids. Yes, Zoë is two years old and still in diapers. (She doesn’t seem interested in changing that and neither do I at this point. Diapers are just too easy while traveling). So, anyways, no baths for us. We will have to return to Budapest for those when Z is diaper free.

We spent the following day at City Park  on the Pest side since we could not visit the baths. The park is immaculate and is a huge 1 kilometer square. It houses a man-made lake that in the winter is an ice rink. In the summer, they rent out boats so you can paddle around and enjoy the nature (or restaurants really) surrounding it. The lake is also bordered by The Vajdahunyad Castle, that was built in the late 1800’s and is made up of “castles” of many different architectural styles throughout it, such as renaissance, turkish, etc. After we paddled a canoe around the lake for a half hour, we headed to the castle to check it out.

 

Zoë's Favorite Thing To Do, Play in the Sand at the Park Photo By Jennifer Mitchell

Zoë’s Favorite Thing To Do, Play in the Sand at the Park
(c) andthreetogo

 

Now, honestly, after seeing a few castles, they start to mold together in ones mind. Not that I do not appreciate the beauty and wonder of any specific castle, but I feel like I have seen a lot in the last three months. It was nice to see many different types of castle all in one place.

The park is massive and has many restaurants and playgrounds and kiosks selling everything from toys to bathing suits. It was a great last day in Budapest.

I know that I told you in my previous post that I would let you know about my favorite places to eat in Budapest (just one small hint, they include a mexican restaurant!), but it would just make this post too long. I will tell you all about them in my Wednesday Write-Up. It will be a food filled post! Until then my hungry friends (no pun intended, I promise!)…szia!

Wednesday Write-Up: So the Days Float Through My Eyes

Well, here it’s Wednesday again, and we are leaving for another country tomorrow. The last 8 days felt slow, but went so fast. I am just starting to acclimate and love the amazing city of Budapest, Hungary.

It is interesting that none of us three had been affected by the time changes very much or culture changes either for that matter until we arrived here. We had very few issues in Lisbon, a bit more in Disneyland Paris, and many more here in Budapest it felt like. It felt like a daunting task to be here and now I am sad to leave as it feels as though I have just let the realness of the city in.

There were a couple of reasons that it was hard to get used to being here. The first was the jet lag. For some reason, all of a sudden, the time changes caught up with all of us and the hour difference in time from Lisbon, set us back a couple of days. All three of us struggled with exhaustion, crankiness and headaches the first three days we were here. It was really a bummer, we thought that our mutant powers made us invincible to jet lag.

Secondly, it was the language. Hungarian is…well…a really foreign language. There is no connection to any other words that I know unless they are words that we all have transferred from another culture, such as buffet or manicure. But it took me this whole week just to master saying köszönöm, which means thank you. Its a tough language to understand and speak, I wish I had had more time to practice.

Third, the food here was just okay. We did find some great restaurants, such as a bavarian place, a vegan place, and a buffet that were really good. But these were all not really hungarian places and I am not much of a soup person so I didn’t even venture to try the Hungarian Goulash (I know…shame on me). I will write more in my Friday post about the wonderful restaurants that we did find and love.

Fourth, and last, the prices here are much higher than we expected. Mind you we have been blinded by the wonderful cost of living in Portugal, so it is probably not as bad as say, Paris or London, but it was a bit more expensive for the things we love than we had planned. For example, in Lisbon I paid 20 Euros for an exciting new haircut and here I just had to pay 32 Euros for a trim. (I chopped off all my hair and now sport a pixie cut..who would have thought I could have pulled it off?! But I love it!). Also the food costs her are significantly more than I am used to, about 30-40 euros a meal. It really isn’t that bad, I know, but my stupid expectations get me every time.

My New Haircut and Zoë on the Chain Bridge in Budapest

My New Haircut and Zoë on the Chain Bridge in Budapest

Now, after I have said all these things, I want to tell you that I love Budapest, I love the architecture, the weather has actually been sunny for 4 out of 8 days we have been here, and the people are very helpful and friendly. I want to come back and experience some more. Until next time Budapest… viszontlátásra (good-bye)!