jeudi, mars 17, 2016

Budapest, day 4

The boys were tired walking and visiting Budapest. Each night, they slept later than usual at around 9 to 9.30pm. Yet every morning, they woke up at 7am. They had dark circles under their eyes but their bio clocks were precise. Seb would make them watch cartoons on his laptop while I tried to sleep a little more.

By 8.30am, we would be at the breakfast room. On this last day, we checked out at 10am and requested for a taxi to the airport for 2pm. We left our bags at the locker room and walked to the Parliament Building.

We decided to spend our last few hours in Budapest visiting the Parliament. We reserved our tickets for the one hour guided tour at 11am. We chose the tour in english and the boys were not too happy about it. They would prefer the french tour. The tour guide showed us a wing of the building and shared the history of this building. From 3m height above, real gold leaves were used to decorate the ceilings and the walls. A total of 40kg of pure gold were used.
The object below is a cigars holder. In the old days, during parliament sessions, the members of the parliament would smoke their cigars along the corridor. As no smoking was allowed in the hall, they would leave their cigars on these holders. If a speaker was interesting, the members would sit in for a long time. When they exited, their cigars would have burnt away. The Hungarian saying 'It was worth a havana' came from this illustration.   I found this site that explained the guided tour in details.

After the tour, we had lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant. Like the first restaurant we visited on our first day, coloring pencils and papers were offered to the boys so they were kept occupied while we waited for our food. The grilled vegetables were so good, we ordered a second portion. The pizzas were baked in a wood fired oven. 

Da Mario is a cosy restaurant and has a good ranking on TripAdvisor. It is really easy to find good food in Budapest.
We walked back to the hotel just in time with the taxi waiting for us. We bade farewell to the friendly hotel staff and had a smooth ride back to the airport. 

I spent the last of our Forint at the food court at the airport. The trip back home was smooth except that Air France did not have enough snacks. As we were sitting in the middle of the planes, by the time the front and back passengers were served, there was no more snack. It was the first time I experienced this but it was no big deal as the flight was a short one. I just find it amusing that the provision of snacks were not well calculated.

Once we reached France, we drove to pick up Handsome at the petsitter before heading home. It was the first time Handsome stayed with a petsitter and it went well. We reached home at 9pm.

Budapest is a family friendly city. We felt safe walking along the streets and the people we met were all friendly and positive. I highly recommend this city for a short getaway. 

samedi, mars 12, 2016

Budapest, day 3

On our third day, we walked along Andrassy Avenue to reach the Heroes' Square. This boulevard is like the Avenue de Champ Elysee in Paris, full of chic boutiques and restaurants.

We passed by the House of Terror and came upon this wall made of chains. There were information on big signboards telling stories during the communist period. 

We reached Heroes' Square and visited the nearby park where the boys had fun at the playground.

I took a photo of this bench as Mr Rubik is Hungarian. Rubik's Cube is from this country.
After the visit of the park with the famous Széchenyi Thermal Bath, we took the metro to the Central Market. Thermal baths are popular in Hungary but we decided to give it a miss as the boys were too young to enjoy it.
We had lunch at the Central Market on the second floor. There were a few food stalls and we chose to eat light. The first floor was selling fresh food and the second floor had souvenirs stalls. We also visited the basement. There was a supermarket and stalls selling fresh seafood and preserved vegetables. A souvenir shop hidden in the basement sold items much cheaper than those on the second floor. It did not have a lot of variety but I managed to get a fridge magnet for my mum at 30cents instead of 1€. 

With the many sausages hanging at stalls, I got some as gifts for friends.
After this visit, we took a boat ride along the Danube. Drinks were served onboard and we could listen to the commentary in our chosen language from the earphones provided.

It was a leisure ride and I felt we could have given this a miss since we had already visited most iconic places. It would be interesting if we had done this on our first day.
In the evening, we visited the pin ball museum. It is just a place with lots of pin ball machines ranging from vintage to modern ones. Seb played excessively when he was a teenager. He was as happy as a kid in this kingdom. The boys found a stool each so that they could reach the flipper buttons easily. They tried out many machines. I tried my luck on a few and the vintage ones were really interesting.  There were also a few first generation arcade games. I even forgot they existed. 

It was entertaining and when we left for dinner, the boys were disappointed. We had dinner at a food court in a mall called The West End. It looked exactly like the malls in Singapore.

After dinner, while walking back to the hotel, we passed by the most beautiful MacDonald in Budapest. It was the best MacDo I had even seen. Very classy. Seb bought a café there while I snapped away.
This ended our third day in Budapest. It was another long day.

mercredi, mars 09, 2016

Budapest, day 2

Though Hungary is part of Europe Union, it does not use Euro. I changed 100 Euro to 27000 Forint in France. In Budapest, there are money changers everywhere. The rates are all better than the one I had in France. I changed money 3 times in Budapest and the best deal was 100€ to 30500 Forint.

On the second day, after breakfast, we took the metro, a tram and then bus and then a small train to reach the Children's Railway. We wanted to try out the train ride run by children, driven by an adult, of course.
When the teenage train conductor came selling tickets, I only had a big bill. He told me to hold on and went to get an adult staff. I thought the adult was going to sell me the tickets. Instead, he gave me small notes to break down my big note. Then he left and I bought the tickets with the teenager. The boys enjoyed the ride a lot looking out at the hilly Buda and waving at the teenagers at each station.

After the ride, we headed back to Pest by tram and decided to try our luck at the number one restaurant in Budapest noted in Tripadvisor. We arrived at noon without reservation. The owner told us we could have a table of 4 if we finished by 1.30pm. I was delighted as I read in Tripadvisor that reservation was a must due to its popularity. 

The waiters were extremely friendly. The humble boss thanked us for finding our way there. The food was very good and the speakers were playing my favourite songs from Joe Dassin. We were given free entrées and free sorbet. The boys had chocolates to take away with. This place was not excessively expensive and it definitely lives up to its name "Comme chez soi" (just like home).  

We were seated not far from the open kitchen and the entrance. I could see many people got turned away. It pays to eat early.

After lunch, we took a digestive walk until the chain bridge and then walked across it to visit Buda. We came upon several statues in Budapest and they were all interesting creations.

In Buda, we visited the Fisherman's Bastion. From there, we had a great view of Pest and the Parliament building.

We went into St Matthias church and beautiful music was coming from the church organ played by a musican.

We strolled to Buda Castle and enjoyed the scenary. There were not many tourists and we were able to enjoy the peaceful environment in this area. We like this area a lot. Below is a typical post box. Isn't it cute?
We headed back to our hotel by tram and metro. The public transport were not crowded and some trams and metro trains were real vintage. They transported us back in time to the 60s. The boys loved to take the tram. 

For dinner, we had it late as we were still full from lunch. We settled at an Indian nearby our hotel. We arrived at 8pm and were told it was full. We were leaving when an Indian man at the table beside the entrance spoke to the waiter. The waiter then told us he had a table available for us. That Indian man had to be the boss. We ordered but could not finished our dinner. The boys found the food too spicy and they were dead tired. If you are looking for authentic Indian food in Budapest, you have to try Indigo.
Seb and I noticed that in Budapest, there were not many foreigners in the kitchens. This was so different from Paris. In Paris, almost all restaurants had Indians or Blacks as cooks. In Budapest, we saw only white cooks even in Asian and Indian restaurants. Kinda weird to see white europeans making sushis. Actually, there were few foreigners. The non-whites we saw were tourists.

mardi, mars 08, 2016

Budapest - day 1

We spent 4 days 3 nights at Budapest last weekend during the school holidays. We brought umbrellas as the weather was forecasted with showers during our trip. Thank God we did not have to use the umbrellas and it was not much colder than in Paris.

We took the flight at 7.15am and reached Budapest at 9.30am. We left home at 4.45am and the boys were motivated to get out of bed at this early hour for their vacation.

Budapest is actually made up of 2 districts divided by the river Danube. The hilly Buda and the flat Pest. We stayed at Star Inn which was centrally located at Pest. We checked into the hotel at 10.30am and started visiting after dropping the bags.

We walked towards the Parliment and then along the Danube towards the "Shoes on the Danube". The shoes are a memorial for the people who were shot and fell into the Danube by Arrow Cross Militiamen (Nazis) in 1944-45. As shoes were considered as luxury goods, the victims had to remove their shoes before being killed. There was a crowd at this site but everyone was silent and reflective.

We continued our walk and stopped for lunch at Hungarikum Bistro. I did my homework for this trip and found that this place was ranked 12 among 2000+ restaurant listed in Tripadvisor. As it was thursday noon, we got a table easily. We had typical Hungarian dishes. The boys shared a plate of breaded chicken cutlets with potatoes. There wasn't many choices on vegetables. We realised that the Hungarians ate more meat than vegetables. Still, Seb managed to find a vegetarian meal.

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel to take a nap. In the late afternoon, we visited Miniversum. A miniature museum showcasting Budapest and a few other famous cities. There were interactive buttons and the boys had a great time chasing after trains. On the wall were information and photos of life under the communist.  There were so many details that we spent almost 2 hours here.
For dinner, we had Asian food.
We slowly walked back to our hotel and ended our first day with a good night sleep.