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)!

Wednesday Write-Up: Falling In Love With Lisbon

I have decided that I need to write more than one post every week for a while. There is so much going on in our lives these days that I feel like my Friday blog post is just about the sights and not the substance of our lives. I want everyone to know how we are doing as well as what we are doing. And so, what I have decided to call my Wednesday Write-Ups, will continue until either our lives get boring (who knows… it could happen) or I just have nothing else to say.

Since my last post on Curacao’s beaches, we have traveled by plane to our new home for the next month or so. The flight, I should say flights, from Curacao to Lisbon, Portugal took a total of 24 hours. We had layovers, just long enough to run from one gate to the next, in Dusseldorf, Germany, Zurich, Switzerland, and Palma de Mallorca, Spain, before finally alighting in the charming and lively city of Lisbon.

Unfortunately, we left a part of ourselves in Zurich, we realized as we waited for our bags at the baggage claim area of Lisbon airport. All of our luggage and our stroller got left behind. It was frustrating to say the least, but we handled it well, and felt blessed to find out that they had already found our luggage at the aforementioned airport, and would deliver it to us the following day at our hostel. The problem was that we were stuck wearing stinky, dirty clothing, plus we had not brushed our teeth in more than 24 hours. I kept wondering why there seemed to three feet of open space around me as I walked about, and then I realized it was probably my putrid less than fresh breath and body odor. The moral of that story is that if you have a problem with personal space, you should just skip brushing your teeth and showering or applying deodorant for a couple of days.

I was wearing a skirt, tank top and flip flops. Zoë was wearing her favorite elephant pajamas. Chad was wearing shorts and light shirt. We walked out of the airport to a cold blustery spring day and took a taxi to the hostel that would be our home for the next 5 days. It actually felt really nice to not be carrying 100 pounds of luggage, Chad and I realized how great it would be that someone else would have to carry our bags to our new place. Yes, we were both trying to be positive, while suffering somewhat severely from jet lag and trying to talk to each other through our hands so as not to commit bad breath homicide.

We checked into our luxury hostel right in the thick of downtown and the tourist district, called Traveller’s House and they have it right: it is luxurious… which made my very natural odor seem even that more wretched. So we dropped off our carry-ons, tried to freshen up the best we could and headed to the nearest market, or mercado, to buy some much needed hygiene products. After getting everything we needed, we settled down for some dinner at an outdoor eatery almost right outside our hostel door. We shared some steak and fish with potatoes and rice, not the best food we have ever had, but a vast improvement over the food in Curacao. We were too tired to go get clothing for the next day at the H&M a block from the hostel (thats right! I am in H&M heaven! I have one a block from me thats 3 stories and another one about 10 blocks away that is 5 stories! Try not to be too jealous…I know it’s tough) and stumbled back to our room to finally brush our teeth. What a great feeling it was to have clean teeth.

We went back to our room and all three of us went to bed around 8pm and slept peacefully until 9 the next morning! I cannot tell you what an awesome thing that was! Chad and I had assumed that Zoë would be getting used to the time difference and would keep us up until the wee hours of the morning, or that she would wake up and want to play half way through the night. But no! She slept from 8pm to 9 am, the longest she has ever slept in her life without waking! And since then, she goes to sleep around eight every night and sleeps until at least 7 am. This time change seems to have agreed with her! Thank you God!

So far this week, we have walked around downtown Lisbon and tried different restaurants, they mostly serve the same fare (lots of seafood and steak… yummy!), but each one has its own slight differences and it’s fun to try them all. I have located two Starbucks in the area and have still been able to enjoy my Chai tea lattes. I know Chad is going to be chagrined with me for talking about Starbucks. He really likes to go to the local cafes, but he drinks Americanos (or as they call it here “American coffee”), which you can get anywhere, but it is difficult to find good chai tea lattes. And so I get a Starbucks every day sometimes, everyone has their guilty pleasures right?

Like Mother Like Daughter-Zoë Loves Her Starbucks

Like Mother Like Daughter-Zoë Loves Her Starbucks

The thing that I love about Lisbon is the architecture and the cobbled sidewalks and streets that make it known to me that I am away from home. I am in this amazing, colorful, old city. It blows my mind that I could live in a building built in the 18th century here, not just take a tour through one, but actually LIVE in one! Two things remind me of home, the hills of Lisbon remind me a lot of the hills of San Francisco. The weather here also reminds me of home. Hot and breezy during the day followed by cool evenings to clean the air and give you a chance to wear your light sweater and jeans.

The Architecture Here is Just Amazing!

The Architecture Here is Just Amazing!

On Thursday we move into a large studio apartment on Rua De Liverpool for the next month or so. The apartment has amazing views of the city as it is on the 4th floor (all stairs too, no elevator…my legs are gonna be gorgeous) and has a balcony overlooking the hills of Lisbon. I cannot wait to post pictures and tell you more about this city that already feels like (a new and exciting) home! I really am falling in love with Lisbon. I really am looking forward to sharing this journey with all of you! Talk to you on Friday.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. James 1:2