January 2012) (current server won't let me upload photos - will do so in Paris if poss)
So here I am, sitting on a vehicular ferry, waiting to cross from the White Cliffs of Dover to Calais.........to quote the captain of the ship “it’s a foul day outside”, and it’s pretty amazing that we’re even considering leaving the port. The winds were predicted to be around 80kmh and at the moment, the rain is going sideways.....when we entered the port, the weather was rated at “level 11” which is one point off having to close the port due to dangerous weather conditions..... Nice, eh? When we were sitting on solid land, our bus was swaying from side to side – it felt like we were on a suspension bridge with the usual practical joker swinging it was side to side...but it was just the wind buffeting the bus. The captain has just suggested that people don’t go onto the outer decks as they would most likely lose things overboard.......dare I suggest that it was a very British way of warning people that they would be washed overboard etc etc.
Hmmm, we’re now just starting our departure from
the harbour, and I’d love to tell you that I’m enjoying the view of the cliffs, but, well, um, I can’t see a thing.....it’s foggy, or rainy ....basically typical British weather, and there is almost no visibility....oh well, will just have to buy the postcard.........but boy oh boy, it’s rough.....now I understand why they don’t sell coffee in ceramic cups, but only in takeaway cardboard ones with lids.... Ooops, we just seemed to have hit something – perhaps we ran over a tugboat !!!! This is going to be fun........
Anyway, the fact that I’m on this boat means that I’ve already joined my second tour group and left the other one behind....time is racing by and in about 5 weeks I’ll be back in Brisvegas...yea, yippee, hoorah.....(spot the sarcasm).
The last few days of 2011 were filled by 3 days in Budapest. Many people had told me it was a beautiful and amazing city, but the photos I’d seen, didn’t do it any justice. I always thought it looked a bit dull and basically grey, but wow, it’s an awesome city. I loved it and so wish I had more time there. I’m
sure I could spend a week there, and be busy every single day exploring, but still feel that it was too soon to leave......I loved it.
We left Vienna in the morning and it was around 6 hours to Budapest......via a town called Esztergom where we stopped for lunch, and also visited a huge churched that overlooked the Danube and Slovakia – it was beautiful, yet really cold on top of the hill as it was drizzly and very windy. We arrived mid afternoon in Buda&Pest and after a quick stop at the hotel, picked up our local guide and headed to the Parliament building. I almost didn’t go as I was feeling tired, but am really glad that I did. It’s an amazing building, and huge, and if I remember the stats, it’s the third largest parliamentary building in the world..... I think they used 40kgs of gold leaf inside the main room......it shines like a crooked politician’s smile during a campaign trail.....
That night we went to a local winemaker’s restaurant and cellar for dinner. Hungarians love wine....so we were told, over and over......and I’m sure if they could, they’d serve it
for breakfast. His white and red wines were really good, and sadly, the girls I was sitting with at dinner kept pouring wine and I had a glass or two or three, too many.....which is to say that I probably had 4 glasses of wine, which for me is way too many....but in Hungarian terms, I’m probably considered a teetotaller... The food was also really good, so all in all it was a great night....good company, good food, good wine...
– we spent the morning doing a tour of Budapest – again I have to say, it’s such a beautiful city....there is so much history, so many gorgeous buildings to look at, interesting bridges, churches, the castle etc etc.....and it’s finally good to hear why it’s often referred to as Buda & Pest (one side of the river is Buda, the other side Pest and so now it’s called Budapest etc). People have told me that shopping is really cheap in Budapest, but I think it’s just as expensive as Prague and Vienna....not that I spent a lot of time shopping. In the afternoon, a group of us took an optional tour out of town to
a place that is either called St Andrew or Szerelem (I’m no longer sure....I heard it called both). Whichever name it’s known by, it’s a great little town and I loved exploring it. Food became a big part of the latter part of this tour, and this day was no different. We had lunch in a lovely restaurant.....started with the traditional Hungarian meal of Goulash Soup (we’re used to it as a stew at home, but it’s a soup up this way)...then turkey with a mushroom sauce and potato noodles......then a dessert which was supposed to be a cheesecake.....but I wasn’t so sure..... Once again, all shared with good company. There was also a really nice Christmas market and other shops there, so interesting to wander around, and many people supported the local economy....
That night, we headed to yet another restaurant for dinner and more eating to celebrate NYE... It was right in the centre of town and near the main square and also the Danube, so after a rather lacklustre meal (the only entertainment was a violinist – he looked like Danny Devito in his role in Big Fish – and a guitarist, and as
much as I love violin, they were rather sedate and boring, especially considering we were supposed to be celebrating the end of one year and the start of a new one), a group of us headed out into the square to be a part of the “festivities”. The festivities consisted of people selling all sorts of fireworks, to people that were at various levels of inebriation, and these said people in turn, lit them and threw them into the centre of the square.....it was fun to watch, but insanely dangerous at the same time.... Closer to midnight we headed down to the Danube with the idea that they would have a big fireworks display at midnight from the bridges...........ahhh, nup, seems like that’s not something they do up this way. Again, fireworks were set off by various individuals, but that was it... The other entertainment was provided by the funny costumes and silly wigs that people were wearing....but not much else. We actually didn’t care though, there was more life out there, than in the restaurant so we were all just happy to be there and watching the world go by... It was freezing though, and one of the girls
thought we’d be indoors all night, so she was wearing a short skirt and ballet shoes, with a light jacket......why anyone would bring that outfit to Europe mid-winter, I don’t know, but she’s young etc etc, and she did say that once her legs were frozen she no longer noticed the cold.....it was -4 degrees !!!
The benefit of such a cold night was that when we were heading out on Sunday morning (Jan 1st
), Budapest experienced its first snow of the season.....yeah, at last I’ve seen snow falling. It wasn’t heavy, and only lasted an hour or so, but finally I’ve been snowed on... We were so pleased and it really added a great atmosphere to the bus....there wasn’t enough snow for a snowball fight though...
That day we pretty much had a free day to explore the city – basically another day of looking at gorgeous buildings, eating more yummy food and drinking hot wine ...and sadly, the end of the trip. I really loved being back in Europe, and seeing different sights in Prague and Vienna, and then being fortunate enough to visit Budapest......it’s such an amazing place.
I flew to London first thing on the 2nd
January ready for my second tour around Europe.....nothing seemed to go right from the time I arrived in London.....so I don’t have a great impression of the city. I was glad to get on the ferry to leave the country, and as I said above, the weather was appalling when we were leaving, and we found out once we arrived in a Calais that they’d had to close the port once we left as the weather deteriorated even further (ie level 12 gale force winds)...so I’m glad I wasn’t there for longer....
And now for the second part of the European journey.......the second trip is basically a race around 6 or 7 countries in Europe, and just an overview or appetiser.....bring it on, am looking forward to it.
Hugs from Europe, Rob xx
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