Hungary, Budapest…Day 3

Saturday..Day 3 began as a cloudy and cold day…we had the usual delightful breakfast in the Club Lounge….then decided to Ride the Yellow Hop On and Hop Off bus….to see more of the city. About the Hop On Hop Off….there are actually 3 or 4 companies that call themselves Hop On Hop Off….and basically all of them are the same and three of the four wear the Red Coats….so it is a bit tricky to get the correct bus. And,   a couple of the lines have a covered top, which is critical in this cold weather. In any case, you can pick and choose the bus…and we chose one that did not have the cover…so we sat inside the bus. You don’t see as much, but much, much warmer.

The ride was fine and when we concluded we decided to take the small streetcar that runs along the River up to the Parliament Building. This is a must see building and is the one featured on may many of the ;publications. Magnificent building. We went down into the Visitor Center…sold out for Saturday and Sunday….and the best way to get a ticket is on the internet. Probably well worth it, and more after the Viking Tour on Monday.

Upon returning to the Hotel, we decided to go straight on to the Restaurant that had the small museum that Carrie had told us about. We got there and it was full…but did go downstairs into the museum…very interesting and well worth it. The restaurant was full of Viking Pre Trip folks, and the food looked like full meals, etc,,..and pretty expensive…so sent down to Costa Coffee again….and again, pretty much sold out…so went back to Perfetto, where we were the night before. It was also jammed, but the manager saw us and got us a seat…big lunch of salad, sspaghetti, and lasagna…mine was great.

We then returned to the hotel and on our way heard the demonstration and saw the police cars…later found out it was a political demonstration to cross the Chain Bridge…which is the main bridge…. a big crowd of people walking with flags, etc….woman’s voice over the loud speaker in English…but not much more.

Had a nap and at 5:45 PM went down to catch the bus at 6:15 for the night light bus tour….as we were going to take it up to the Matthias Church, for the concert……and it was gorgeous going up and seeing the lights…definitely recommended.

The Solti Concert Orchestra and Choir and Soloists was the best of the best, and the setting in Matthias Church is unmatched in the world. Definitely another MUST SEE. Absolutely  supurb musicians, with the concert master actually leading the orchestra on the first 3 numbers, which was a first for me. For me, the 90 minute program was perfect, as the quality of the musicians and the singers and soloists were the best that one could find anywhere. The magnificent church is probably perfect acoustically… you could hear every instrument and voice as is right next to you. The full house audience….probably 90% of them followers or the orchestra or patrons….would not quit at the end, with 3 “curtain” calls. Just a “once in a lifetime experience” for me.

We went next door to the Hilton for a “potty break” before heading back to the hotel using the taxi…10 minutes back and a good nights sleep.

Some observations…

  1. Budapest is a huge city that literally features its old and functional and beautiful buildings, and to see them lit up at night is a MUST.
  2. The River has allowed massive development on both sides, and both sides have these gorgeous buildings. Thinking of other cities in Europe, I cannot think of another one with this setting, with these magnificent buildings, palace, and parliament buildings being so prominent. London is a 2nd at this stage.
  3. The city just goes and goes, and the bus tour is a necessity….as traffic is very heavy and the road lanes run in all directions.
  4. The  attitude of the people is very friendly….there is evidence of policemen around…but a very, very safe feeling all of the time. A lot of English is spoken, so it is easy to get around……
  5. Today we are going to change plans and go to the Central Train station…then back to the hotel by about noon…get ready for the River Boat…and will leave the room about 4…that is the plan.

Should be another great day….


Budapest Day 2…

We started off the day with a leisurely breakfast in the Club Lounge….and got out on the street about 11…..heading to the Square to find the Blacksmith….and it was cold and sunny and cloudy, but dry. On the way to the square were many little Christmas Shops….and other various shops, so very active and busy…leading up to the Eye Tower…which is kind of in the middle of the downtown area of Pest. Budapest is actually the combination of two old cities, Buda and Pest….split by the Danube River….with Pest the flatter area on what would be the east side of the River….and the location for many of the older buildings, the government seat, etc. St Stephens Basilica is on this side, along with many of the other historic buildings.

We found the Blacksmith…and then walked over to catch the Hop On Hop Off to go to the Central Market, which is the indoor market that has all kinds of fruits and vegetables on the lower level and then food restaurants on the 2nd level, of which there are probably 25 or 30 places to eat with chairs crammed in around them. We were there at lunch, so extremely busy. We managed to find a couple of interesting shops that had local handmade items….so did some minor shopping before we bought some Gouda chees and bread and had a filling lunch sitting on one of the inside benches, like the locals.

WE then caught the yellow hop on back to the hotel area…took a break….then about 5 it started raining and we had planned to take the night Hop On as it was the Lights Tour on the bus. we left the hotel in plenty of time for the 20 minute walk along the river to Dock 8….but the further we walked the harder it rained….and finally we got to a congested area of walkers and traffic and found out that we had to go down to a lower level to catch the bus….as we found that there is actually a lower level road right along the river that cannot be seen from the upper road where the hotel is. Well, raining hard, hard to see, and a lot of foot and car traffic…and after we kept asking, we found that we had to go to the lower level for dock 8. There was a huge line of people all with umbrellas in a long line that was actually blocking the sidewalk…and finally found, after Audy asked someone in Spanish, “what was this line?”….only to find if was a line for the boat restaurant. We then found that Dock 8 was back down the dock area a bit, so off we went at a run walk….and apparently as we approached the bus area…the bus left and we missed……we waited a few moments…then gave up and headed back to the hotel…still hard rain.

We decided to go on to the restaurant that we had planned to go to after the bus ride (that did not happen)…..and followed good directions to the restaurant, which was a 20 minute walk from the hotel…..where we stopped for a few moments while I took off my soaked T shoes for my other shoes…then off we went.

Found the restaurant and as we walked in were told it was “closed for a private Christmas party”.  Well, makes sense, as it is a nice restaurant, so decided to come back on Saturday….

Walked back down to the corner and the Costa Coffee, which usually has good food….got off all of the wet coats,etc….and Audy went up to the counter only to find that almost all of the “food” was gone… it was late in the day.

Back on to the street and went about a block and saw a good looking Italian restaurant that was full…so went in and ordered a pizza and salad that was made right in front of you….a very fun looking place with a lot of young and old….and a great setting. The manager came up and greeted us…very nice place.  We really had good food…..all great.

Well, just as we were finishing we noticed that some of the lights went out in the back of the restaurant and the long and short was that they lost power in the back of the restaurant…and could no longer cook food….and it kind of threw all into panic, which is understood.

We really enjoyed watching the “goings on”…and for about 30 minutes watched people come and go, and leave….and finally asked for our bill…and our waiter, who was a bit “rattled” to start with as Audy had both a bottle of water and a bottle of ginger…..asked me if card or cash…I said card, and off he went. After about 15 minutes, and talking with the very nice manager about what was going on….and our thinking that with the power off they could not process the credit card….we offered to pay in cash….although we found we did not have enough Hungarian Founts… then knew we had some Euros…etc….well, the waiter had never priced from the menu…so this became quite a humorous exercise, to say the least. Long and short…we ended up paying with the card, as all of their billing is on the internet…but a very fun and funny evening.

Back to the hotel in the rain…a good nights sleep and Day 3 is suppose to be rain, and snow, and clearing, and cold. We shall see….with Matthias Church orchestra concert tonight.

More to come.

Europe December 2017..Daily blog post

We left the ATL Airport on schedule (after the phone incident) heading for Amsterdam…an 8 hour flight away. The A300 was great and Audy enjoyed her first class seat. I sat next to a very interesting retired AF nurse….who’s husband and daughter are currently working in Abu Dhabi….and we had a very enjoyable conversation.  Delta served us a great dinner…and the flight went quickly.

We landed in Amsterdam in the early morning and then taxied, and taxied, and taxied for probably 20 minutes….finally arriving at the gate. The Schipol Airport is modern, massive, and super busy….struck both of us as one of the larges airports we have seen. Makes sense in that it is kind of the gateway to Europe. We walked a bit then started towards the gate…had to go through a customs check, which was fast and pleasant…then on to the D61 gate…and then we saw the Aspire Lounge and went in there and relaxed for the hour time….very nice with snacks, etc.

We boarded the KLM flight to Budapest…full flight and arrived on time….busy buy easy airport and got the luggage and met the shuttle service man and off for the 30 minute ride to the Budapest Intercontinental Hotel. We checked in and the girl said we have to go to the Club level…..and we did and a very nice personal check in with the concierge….and the Club Intercontinental is the exclusive Club for the upgraded rooms. Very nice greeting, etc…..and we directed to our room on the 7th floor.

We slept for about 2 hours…then went to the lounge area for some food…and at 6:30 PM left for the St Stephens Basilica Organ Concert. We walked a few blocks and then started to see the Christmas market area with many shops along the pedestrian only street…..and then at the end of the 4 blocks was the lighted tower of St Stephens… on all of this…and then as we walked towards the Basilica we saw and heard the beginning of the light show…got it all on video.

We went into the Church to check out the tickets etc…then went on in to the Sanctuary to admire this massive impressive Church…certainly a showplace for Budapest and a “must” to see for all that visit. We had some extra time so walked down the adjoining street as all of the stores are lit up nicely for Christmas. Very impressive…very safe feeling…very cold at 38 degrees….and a lot of families out walking to see the sights. Very nice.

The concert itself featured the organist, one of the finest in the country, along with a very fine flutist and a male bass-baritone. The concert was GREAT…and lasted about 90 minutes…but, and this is a big but….the organist surpassed any organist we have ever heard, and this is saying something. He was as fast on the keyboard as we had ever seen…and then his feet were moving non-stop. How we thought of William…..a thousand times….as this man was by far the best we had ever seen or heard…and he believed in big volumes. For me, it was one of the “chills run up your back” experiences…..just truly outstanding…and the full house crowd would not let him finish…so we stood in the back for the final number. Audy did get a program, but we are sure he is on YouTube. Clearly a once in a lifetime concert experience for us….

only downside…cold, cold, and cold inside. we sat with coats and gloves….but well worth it. Took our time back to the hotel….great 8 hours of sleep, and now off to breakfast in the Lounge and then the market and the Hop On Hop Off…suppose to rain this afternoon…maybe some snow. We shall see.  A GREAT DAY to begin our trip.