Expat Life

Scotch Whisky Tasting with G&G Wealth at Diageo’s High Spirit Bar

November 9, 2018

Whisky — or Whiskey, depending on how you spell it and what region of the world it’s made in — can be a very confusing thing indeed. There are so many different styles and flavors, blends, single malts, single barrels, small batch, corn, rye, Irish, Scottish, Tennessee; it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. So how does one go about getting a grasp on this caramel spirit? Why by being invited to a Scotch whisky tasting of course! And I was lucky enough to be invited to one by Duncan Graham from G&G Wealth located here in Budapest.

Our Host

Andrew and I were fortunate to meet Duncan shortly after arriving in Budapest last December. We attended a Christmas event for the Irish Hungarian Business Circle of which Duncan is the Vice -President. Duncan is also the President of the St. Andrew’s Association Hungary and throws the best black-tie charity events in Budapest!  In fact, the St. Andrew’s Ball is coming up on the 1st of December – and you definitely don’t want to miss the St Patrick’s Day Ball on March 16th, 2019.

Duncan Graham

Duncan Graham (right) also arranged a charity tombola for the night, but unfortunately, I didn’t win anything. Peter Dobránszky, President of the Hungarian Rugby Association (left).

The Event

This packed house Scotch Whisky tasting was held at Diageo’s High Spirits Bar in downtown Budapest.  The program included short presentations on four excellent Scotch whiskies.  And let’s face it, good whisky can be really expensive, so this was a fabulous way for a novice like me to try them out. I got to try them without having to buy the entire bottle and risk disappointment.  The whiskies were also accompanied by some delicious hors d’oeuvres including one of my favourites – haggis.

The Whisky

After some very entertaining and informative introductions, I was able to taste the whisky.  In my case, I only “really” liked one of them. And that was the Glenkinchie 12 year old presented by Patrick McMenamin.  However, I also enjoyed the Cardhu 12 year old presented by Tim O’Sullivan.

The Clynelish 14 year old, presented by His Excellency Iain Lindsay, was a bit too complex for my liking.   And the Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve, presented by Csaba Gulas (Diageo), was much too strong for me. I’m not sure I have enough life left in me to get a taste for that one…

Patrick McMenamin (left) with my husband, Andrew.

His Excellency Iain Lindsay OBE, British Ambassador to Hungary (left) and Pat Kelly, Irish Ambassador to Hungary (right)

The Night

Andrew and I were thrilled to see so many familiar faces and be able to enjoy this night with good friends. Thank you again to Duncan for making this night so special.  I look forward to seeing you all again at the St. Andrew’s Ball.  And this year, I’ll know exactly what whisky to drink 😉

If you want to see video from the St. Patrick’s Day Gala this past year, you can check it out on my YouTube channel. The ball portion starts at minute 15:41 if you want to skip directly to it.

 


G&G Wealth Limited is a planning company dedicated to helping expatriates, foreign nationals and international workers invest, grow and protect their wealth –  no matter where they reside in the world.

A big thanks to the Sponsors – Diageo, Chris Clarke of Clarke and White, Global Reach, Edward Quinlan , Mannheim Patricia from Red Catering and Peter Dobránszky from the Hungarian Rugby Association.

Expat Life

Frida Kahlo: A Life of Suffering, Love and Passion in Budapest

September 23, 2018
44LettersFridaKahlo

While some people dismiss museums and art galleries as boring places to spend an evening, I have visited many times over the years. While studying at The Royal Conservatory of Music, The Royal Ontario Museum was just next door and offered discounts to students on Friday nights. In my 30s, I attended frequently with my sister, Kriszta and my friend, Allison. Even Andrew and I spent one of our first dates on a Friday evening at the ROM. And now here in Budapest, we find ourselves at the Hungarian National Gallery’s Frida Kahlo exhibition. Frida Kahlo is surely one the most iconic female artists of the twentieth century.

FridaAndrew

“Viva Mexico” Night

Last Saturday evening the Gallery hosted the “Viva Mexico” event. The event was in celebration of the “Día de la Independencia”. Not only did we get to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit, but we sampled Mexican food and entertainment.  Those of you who know us well, know that we are especially fond of Mexico.  Andrew and I have visited there at least once a year over the past decade. However, unsurprisingly, the food on offer was nowhere near authentic – I think the nachos had that gross plastic cheese on them. Of course, if you are my sister, that is your favourite kind of nacho cheese 😉  However, the music was a completely different story…

The Mariachis

I LOVE mariachis.  Honestly, this was the main reason we went to this particular event. I love the instruments. I love the harmonies. I love their outfits. I love it all.

Like Hungarian Gypsy music, Mariachi music is also deemed a cultural heritage by UNESCO.  This mariachi band, Mariachi Sin Fronteras, is actually from Slovakia with the leader of the band originally from Oaxaca, Mexico. However, they are faithfully carrying on the traditions of mariachi rhythms of sones and huapangos. They were wonderful!

The Frida Kahlo Exhibit

This temporary exhibit features over thirty paintings and other works by the artist. The selection features the artist’s hallmark self-portraits, and also includes such major works as her very first canvas, painted in 1927. There are also paintings and portraits inspired by the other people and events in her life. The works are suffused with symbolism and offer a glimpse inside the evocative, yet physically and mentally tormented inner world of Frida Kahlo.

The exhibit is beautifully laid out and all descriptions are in both English and Hungarian. This makes it very easy for expats to enjoy fully – unlike some other exhibits that are only in Hungarian. The works on display are magnificent, vibrant and emotional.

The Hungarian Connection

Did you know that Frida had a Hungarian lover for over ten years? Me neither!  One of things on display is a love letter she wrote – in Hungarian – to Miklós Muray.  Miklós Muray was a Hungarian-born Jew who photographed Kahlo for over a decade in New York, Paris and Mexico City. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I encourage you to visit the exhibit yourself to learn more.

FRIDA KAHLO – Masterpieces from the Museo Dolores Olmedo, Mexico City 

The exhibit is open until November 4, 2018.

Entry is HUF 3200 and tickets can be bought online or at the Gallery.

Expat Life

Exploring Moroccan Handicraft Week in Budapest

September 16, 2018

Last week, Andrew and I were honoured to be invited to a reception and a Moroccan fashion show by The Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco, H.E. Mrs. Karima Kabbaj. This event was in celebration of Moroccan Handicraft Week. We have never been to Morocco, so we were thrilled to catch a glimpse of it here in Budapest.

The event is held outside on the grounds of the Vajdahunyad Castle in City Park.  And with the gorgeous weather we’ve had all summer, this is the perfect location to enjoy the week. The 10-day event hosts more than 30 artisans and artists. Most of the artists are still using their traditional methods to create goods.

Opening Night of Moroccan Handicraft Week

Andrew and I attended on opening night that started with a ribbon cutting ceremony and tour.  If you follow either one of us on Instagram, likely you watched it as part of our Instagram Stories. There were traditional dancers and loud drums to kick off the festivities, along with a ribbon cutting ceremony. We then set off to explore the various artisan’s booths and handicrafts. I particularly loved the wood carver.  His pieces were amazing and smelled so good!

It is so interesting to see how the incredible works were made.  The level of detail and time taken for each piece was breathtaking. Andrew and I both love the colours and shapes seen repeated throughout the different types of Moroccan handicrafts. You could even sample specialities of Moroccan cuisine, and take part in workshops of various Moroccan traditions.

 

Moroccan Handicraft Kaftan Fashion Show

After we finished our tour outside, we moved inside to watch a Kaftan Fashion Show.  I LOVED this show. Growing up, my mother had a green paisley kaftan that she would wear on Christmas Eve.  I remember it having rich green and purple colours and sparkling with gold jewels and sequins.  These dresses reminded me so vividly of that dress and how much I coveted it – even as a child.

I desperately want one. In fact, I would wear all of them.  I begged and pleaded with my husband, but unfortunately, they are slightly out of our budget. To me these dresses are the perfect blend of feminine glitter  – but  comfortable enough to allow you to eat dinner in them. 😉 Congratulations to Ms Sara Zerrouali for her incredible designs.

Moroccan Handicraft Week Closes Today

Sorry for not getting this post up sooner, but I definitely recommend you head to City Park today to go see it.  And if not this year, then put it on your calendar for next year!

The Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco, H.E. Mrs. Karima Kabbaj

——————–

This year’s Moroccan Handicraft Week opened September 7th and runs until today, September 16, at the Vajdahunyad Castle in Városliget, Budapest. The event aims to familiarize visitors with incredible Moroccan crafts, jewelry, pottery, oils, and furniture, and showcases the richness of Moroccan culture.

Many thanks again to to our friend, Zara, along with The Kingdom of Moroccoʼs Embassy in Hungary/ Le Maroc en Hongrie/ Marokkó Magyarországon.

Expat Life

Visiting Római Part (Roman Beach) on the Danube for the First Time

August 12, 2018

My husband and I both love discovering new places – and we aren’t afraid to get lost. So yesterday, early on a rainy Saturday morning, we set off to visit Római Part. This riverside area is located on the Danube in Budapest’s 3rd District, Obuda. In fact, its pretty much the only area in Budapest you can eat and drink right beside the water. Your only other options are the two small (and tourist) filled bars at the foot of the Chain Bridge (Pontoon and Raqpart).

The name Római Part refers both to the riverside beach and the walking and cycling promenade that lies behind, stretching from the Barát-patak creek estuary in the north to the Aranhegyi-patak creek estuary in the south.

Római Part

Római Part is a riverside beach. It is located on an approximately 5 kilometers long stretch along the Danube in the city’s North-Western 3rd district.

But first, coffee…

Our first stop on Saturday morning was for coffee at our favourite place, Forest Cafe.  Forest Café is owned and wonderfully operated by Maxim Ferenczi. Its located at Papnövelde utca 2 – just across from the Good Spirit Whiskey Bar near Egyetem ter. Here, you will always find a friendly face and a great cup of coffee.  One of the best things for us, is that it is open early.  Strangely, we find so many coffee shops that are not open until 10am, where the Forest Cafe is always open by 7am on weekdays and 9am on Saturdays. They serve directly-traded Catalyst coffee, fresh baked goods and cakes. I highly recommend you visit him soon!

Maxim making our morning lattes.

A work of art. Almost too pretty to drink. Almost…

So lucky to have this just down the street from us. The perfect place to sit with a friend or with your book.

Getting to Római Part

The area is well connected to public transport. It is served by 3 local bus lines. It can also be reached by the suburban railway HÉV, via the stop Rómaifürdő. However, we opted to take the BKK (public transportation) ferry boat to Rómaifürdő  (line D12). We boarded the northbound 10:02am ferry at the Petofi Square stop near Elizabeth Bridge in the 5th district.

The Palace District and the Chain Bridge are a beautiful sites for anyone’s commute.

Taking the ferry, we were dropped off directly at the riverside promenade, rather than making the 20 minute walk from the HÉV station.  It also means you get to travel on the river surrounded by Budapest’s most beautiful landmarks. The entire ride took about one hour and fifteen minutes and cost us each 750 HUF (weekend and holiday price).

What to expect at Római Part

When you step off the boat, it feels like you are in cottage country – the big city no longer applies. Andrew and I felt like we were back in a village on Lake Balaton or up north in the Kawarthas of Ontario, Canada. Massive trees loom overhead keeping this riverside area shady and cool.  Everywhere you look you see families enjoying their weekend – and lots of happy dogs.

Along the promenade and riverside you will find at least 20 different bars, restaurants, and food trucks. Most of these venues open in spring and close only during wintertime, with some of them being open all year long.

Ordering our casual lunch of fried mushrooms and chips. However, the fried fish is definitely the most popular dish.

Két Rombusz

Our favourite discovery in this area was Ket Rombusz.  We were initially drawn in by the awesome latin music that played throughout this large spacious area. There are outdoor fire pits all around that anyone can use – FOR FREE.  They supply the wood, grill, stew pot and skewers. You supply your own food for the grill and buy drinks from their bar.  And if find yourself unprepared (like us), you can order cooked food from them directly.

The entrance with a sign that reads “outside drinks forbidden”. You can bring your own food – but not drinks.

I absolutely loved the vibe here.  It reminded me so much of summers I spent with my friends at the cottage. I could almost picture my sister and brother-in-law sitting across from us, while we drank and sang along to the music.

One of Két Rombusz’s most recognizable detail is the pair of double-decker buses that provide seating and the bar. This is place is an absolute treasure for those just wanting a chilled and relaxed summer afternoon. However, I suspect that on a holiday weekend you may need to book in advance.

Expats and Tourists in Római Part

Even thought I’m typically more of a champagne drinker than a beer drinker, I loved it here. And while its true you won’t find many expats or tourists here, that shouldn’t deter you from going.  In fact, that was one of the biggest draws for us. The locals were friendly and many vendors spoke English – at least enough to place your order.

Don’t miss this beautiful riverside promenade along one of the city’s last natural beaches. Enjoy the nature, sport venues, open air restaurants and bars. This is the perfect destination for families, couples, or individual travelers.

Next weekend is a long weekend here in Budapest, so if you don’t find us at the Gellert Baths, you’ll find us at Romai Part.

Oh, and it case you were wondering, we didn’t take Lucy with us this first time as we weren’t sure what to expect.  But she will definitely be joining us on the next adventure.

Expat Life

Experiencing the Incredible Budapest Gypsy Symphony Orchestra

August 4, 2018
Budapest Gypsy Symphony Orchestra

A couple of days ago, on a hot evening, we settled into to our chairs in the courtyard of  the Vajdahunyad Castle to see something amazing.  My Aunt, husband and myself were there to see the 100 member Budapest Gypsy Symphony Orchestra. Andrew and I saw them perform once before on PBS television. We were exhilarated by the anticipation of seeing them perform live.

The Venue: Vajdahunyad Castle

Vajdahunyad Castle is a castle in City Park in the 14th District of Budapest. It was built in 1896 as part of the Millennial Exhibition which celebrated the 1,000 years of Hungary. Originally, it was made from paper and wood, but proved so popular, it was shortly rebuilt as a permanent stone structure.

The castle contains parts of buildings from various time periods and displays different architectural styles. The styles include Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque.

Vajdahunyad Castle

The castle contains a statue of Béla Lugosi – the Hungarian-American actor famous for portraying Count Dracula in the original 1931 film.

The concept of Vajdahunyad Castle Budapest was to blend the various architectural styles into one composite castle.

The oldest part of the Vajdahunyad Castle is the Romanesque style from the 11th – 13th century.

Vajdahunyad Castle Interior

The writer, Bram Stoker, pictured his Dracula living in the castle of Vajdahunyad.

The castle is surrounded by the water of the boating lake of the City Park (aka Varosliget). There are altogether four bridges leading to the Castle.

The beautiful building from where you can rent paddle boats in the summer or go skating in the winter.

The Budapest Gypsy Symphony Orchestra

The world famous Budapest Gypsy Symphony Orchestra was started 30 years ago and is a classical symphonic orchestra. Besides classical pieces of music – including those of Liszt, Bartók, Kodály, Hubay, Erkel, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Sarasate, and Strauss – they also play traditional Hungarian Gypsy music, Hungarian melodies and folk songs alike.

As of March 18, 2018, the Budapest Gypsy Symphony Orchestra is entitled to use the distinguished title of “Hungaricum”.

Hungaricum: a collective term indicating such a value, distinction and excellence which is regarded as a top achievement of Hungarians.

The Music

I can not even begin to describe how incredible these musicians are.  The passion they play with is absolutely infectious. Now to be fair, I did study classical music for most of my life – including the clarinet for over 12 years – so I naturally love this type of music.  I also grew up in a Hungarian household where this type of gypsy music was often played. I can’t help but be filled with happy memories of my childhood and Christmases at my grandparent’s house… However, even my husband thought the night was amazing. What he was especially surprised about, was the lack of music stands or the presence of a formal conductor.

http://www.100tagu.hu/en/budapest-gypsy-symphony-orchestra/

Traditional Gypsy style dictates that all music is played by memory.  In fact, I’m not entirely sure if all the Roma musicians can even read music. In the past, the music was passed down and learned by ear – not by reading sheets of music.  It is this that gives the music a particular style that is so unique.  There is much improvisation and featuring of soloists that bring a huge smile to every note. The sounds they are able to get from their instruments are nothing like you would hear in a traditional orchestra. I’m positive many a music teacher would faint from their technique!

Vajdahunyad Castle Summer Music Festival

This dazzling concert was the last in this year’s summer festival series. There were eight concerts this summer, but unfortunately, I only attended this one.  Next year, I hope to be able to see more. Tickets range from 3500-5500 HUF.  That’s less than $20 USD for these amazing performances in such a spectacular environment.

Just another fabulous reason to live (or visit) Budapest…

To see some of the Budapest Gypsy Symphony Orchestra yourself, click here.

Budapest Expat Tips, Expat Life

How to Spend the Best Summer Day at Gellert Baths

July 22, 2018

In case you haven’t been paying attention to my Instagram of late, Hungarians are famous for their bath culture. There are baths all around the country dating back thousands of years. Some of the most beautiful baths in the entire world can be found in Budapest. Our favourite is the Gellert Bath located inside the Gellert Hotel in the 11th District of Budapest.

The historic Gellert Hotel as seen by sitting on the pool deck.

A Brief History

The Romans were the first to take advantage of the thermal springs that were naturally occurring on the surface of the land. Romans built both public and private baths – they had approximately 15 baths in the vicinity of Budapest alone. However, the Hungarian bath culture really started flourishing during the Turkish era. The Turkish introduced Hungarians to to the concept of “wellness” treatments. Massages and the use of different creams and oils were an essential part of Turkish baths. You will continue to find these kinds of treatments available at the baths today.

The Gellert Baths

This gorgeous bath complex was built between 1912 and 1918 in the Art Nouveau style. It was damaged during World War II, but then rebuilt, and finally remodelled again in 2008. Since its opening, it has only ever been closed for one day when a pipe burst. The complex includes thermal pools, saunas, steam rooms, plunge pools, an open-air swimming and wave, and an indoor swimming pool. Masseuse and spa services are also available.  That brings me to my first recommendation…

The wave pool at the Gellert Baths. Every hour on the hour during the afternoon, huge waves bring fun and refreshment to the bathers.

Getting a Massage at the Gellert

Since I have bunions on both of my feet, I often get a sore lower back and legs from having to adjust my gait.  So when I visit the baths, I often get a massage.  The massage “menu” varies in style and price, but I always get the 45 minute Thermal Massage for 12,000 forints ($43 USD).  No pretty perfumes or birds chirping, this massage means business.

However, if you have a woman masseuse, prepare yourself to strip down entirely right in front of them before your climb onto the bed.  I’m not particularly prudish, so this didn’t bother me, but it was a bit surprising.  On other occasions, when I have had a male masseuse, you keep your bathing suit (mostly) on and they work around it.  Either way, the massages are fantastic and an essential part of having the best day.

Just off the massage room areas you will find two gorgeous thermal bath areas. The thermal baths are to the left and right with showers straight ahead. (Photo: BathsBudapest.com)

Get There Early

I can’t recommend this highly enough.  While the outdoor area is quite large, it’s pretty much impossible to find a spot past 11:00 during the summer. Furthermore, if you want loungers with an umbrella, you definitely need to be there before 10:00 on a weekend.  The lounger chairs here are extremely comfortable and make relaxing easy.  There is no drink service at your chair, but there are two bars accessible from the pool deck  – and you can even bring your own.

My husband found us the perfect shaded spot to start off our relaxing day at the Gellert.

Bring your own Food and Drinks

So this may be slightly controversial, but I do thinks it helps to have the perfect day – and its thrifty too.  While the Gellert has two snack bars and a restaurant, the food is just okay.  It’s certainly not bad, but compared to the prices, its not really one of our favourite places to eat.  Therefore, we have taken to bringing our own little sandwiches, grapes, a couple cans of beer and whatever else we need to get through the day.  We still usually end up buying coffee (which is delicious there) and additional beverages when needed. Note: This is quite common with the locals, its not like sneaking food into a movie theatre. No need to feel weird.

Our bill for one pint of draft beer purchased at the bar. Quite expensive for Hungarian prices… $5.15 USD

Sit near the Musicians

Now I assume this only happens on the weekends, but do yourself a favour and find a lounger closer to the indoor area.  The Hungarian Folklore band that plays from noon until 3pm is AMAZING.  These five talented musicians play jazz standards, show-tunes, classical and Hungarian favourites.  I honestly can’t believe you don’t have to pay extra to hear them play. If you are a music lover, this is only another good reason to spend a day at the baths.

The incredible musicians a the Gellert. My husband is always requesting they play Acker Bilk… (sorry for my potato quality photo).

Enjoy the Wave Pool  – with Caution

The outdoor wave pool is open from April to October. This pool can be incredibly fun, but also a little dangerous if you don’t take care.  At the top of every hour, slightly bizarrely, the song “America” from West Side Story plays across the loudspeakers to let visitors know the waves are about to start. Once in the pool, a lifeguard manually bangs a cow bell that tells you to get prepared.

At first, the small tsunamis seem a little anticlimactic, but within minutes, you are being tossed around in high seas.  In fact, if you are quite close to the sides, you risk being taken completely under or slammed into the poolsides.  My own mother once had to rescue my father from this exact situation.  So for those that want less life-risking fun, stick to the middle in shallower depths.

Waves beginning their swirls and crashes around the pool. Hang on to your bathing suits and small children.

The Best Day

If you follow my advice, you can’t help but have tremendous fun.  You will be relaxed, well-nourished, cultured, sun-kissed and water-logged. All this for only 6200 forint per person ($22 USD)  – and that even includes a private changing cabin. Of course, if you go on a weekday or stay for a shorter period of time, you can get even lower pricing. Either way, the Gellert Baths are not to be missed.

You’ll find us there every second weekend all summer long….

To read more about what else we do in Budapest this summer, read this.

 

 

 

Expat Life, Personal Stories

Where have I been: Life Update

July 10, 2018

Where have I been? Life Update

I’m baaaaaccck…. In case you were wondering where I was hiding, I was taking some well-deserved family time while they were here visiting with us in Budapest.

Our first visitors were my parents and our family friend, Suzanne. And while I didn’t write any blog posts, I did post some videos up on our YouTube channel.

You can watch my parents 50th wedding anniversary at Hilda by clicking here. My mother and I spent a facinating afternoon at the Kerepesi Cemetery and you can also watch a video about our week in the Hungarian countryside in a beautiful cottage on Lake Balaton, here.

Andrew and I also posted a separate video about our day spent wine tasting in the Badacsony wine region of Hungarian. If you feel like a bit of a laugh, you can watch that video here.

Andrew and I on a boat on Lake Balaton.

The day my parents left, was the day my sister and brother-in-law arrived. Luckily for them, they arrived right on time for the Red Bull Air Race. It was incredible!

A plane starting its race by going under the Chain Bridge.

My sister, myself and our friend, Melanie at Raqpart watching the Red Bull Air Race.

My sister and her husband on Margaret Island.

Unfortunately for them, the weather was the coolest weather we’ve had yet this summer. However, we had an awesome time. And yes, there will be video up soon on our channel about their time here with us.

Make sure to subscribe to our channel, because if I’m not posting content here, I’m likely posting it on YouTube instead.

Life Admin

Andrew and I also took some time to visit the doctor for our annual check up at a private medical clinic here in Budapest – First Med. Both of us are perfectly healthy – with the exception of my stupid bunions and Andrew’s current case of plantar fasciitis. We are sporting matching limps at the moment LOL

Finally, we attempted to sort out the rest of our plans for 2018. 2017 was a year full of change, travel and meeting new people but now we are beginning to settle into a more regular lifestyle.

Our apartment is nicely set up now and we have pretty much everything we need. We’re starting to become regulars at our favourite shops and restaurants. Even Lucy has made some friends (and apparently a mortal enemy with the Sheltie dog whom also lives in our building).

Lucy on the lookout for intruders on our terrace…

The Big News

The big news is that I have accepted a full-time job at a Hungarian company. In fact, I just started this past week. And while I was expecting to continue my self-employment here in Budapest, this amazing opportunity fell into my lap and I am thrilled to have found it.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for some, I am continuing to work in marketing with specific a focus on content marketing and asset management. My client list looks awesome and I can’t wait to get started! Stay tuned for more details soon…

Other news

Andrew and I are attending some really fun and interesting events over the next few weeks. We will be watching the England game on the big screen at the Marriott Hotel beside the Danube. We’re attending a friends “Pink and White” themed birthday party at her winery. Next up is the Formula One and we’ve been invited to be VIPs at the Opening Party (lucky us). Finally, we finish the month off with an invitation to a formal dinner with the Ambassador of the Moroccan Embassy.

Enjoying our gorgeous summer amongst the incredible architecture.

We will definitely be blogging or vlogging about them, so make sure you subscribe here and on YouTube to stay current with our adventures.

I also post regularly on Instagram if you want a more casual view of our daily life. You can click on the feed in the main page of this blog site to see my latest posts.

Thanks for reading!  I promise that more is coming soon 🙂

Expat Life

Learn to Cook Healthy and Plant-based with Chef Kamila

May 4, 2018

Nearly every Hungarian traditional dish is filled with meat, fat and carbs – and absolutely delicious.  But eating traditionally all the time is probably not the best for your heart – or your waistline.  The good news in 2018, is that Budapest has many vegetarian and vegan restaurants all over the city.  I’ve even mentioned one of my favourites, VegaCity, in a previous blog post. However, I wanted to learn to cook healthy and plant-based meals at home using local ingredients. Enter vegan Chef Kamila.

Who is Chef Kamila?

Chef Kamila is a friendly Polish expat living here in Budapest’s 11th District. She is certified as plant-based chef and is passionate about healthy living. Chef Kamila spent a year working in the top vegan restaurant in Budapest, Napfenyes, before opening her own school and catering company. Ps. I highly recommend Napfenyes in Ferenciak Tere.  They have excellent daily menus/lunch specials. Find out more on their Facebook page.

All classes take place in her clean, fresh and vegan home.  The kitchen has enough room for around ten people, as does the dining room. It is a very comfortable space – although you are standing for over two hours during the four hour class.  It may not be suitable for those with disabilities unless special arrangements could be made.

The home-based cooking school offers variety of classes, from knife skills to mother & daughter cooking and “Easy Vegan – how to start”. Photo: www.chefkamila.com

Healthy and Plant-based Meal Planning

Thanks to the Women of Budapest Facebook group, I got the opportunity to attend the “How to cook once & Feed yourself well for a week” workshop at a discounted rate. Now, for those of you who have known me for a while, know that I do love to meal prep for the week.  Nothing makes me happier than seeing all those little containers neatly stacked in my fridge, ready to be eaten.

However, perhaps obviously, I don’t have access to the same stores and/or food I had in Toronto, Canada. My meal prep meals just aren’t working out the way they did in the past.  I also have much easier access to local fresh fruits and veggies all year long compared to Toronto. This vegan cooking course promises to turn inexpensive, healthy and local ingredients into 9 different meals taking less than 10 minutes to make. All it takes is about 90 minutes prep, once a week. Perfect!

The Workshop

As promised, we were taught how to prepare and cook everything we needed for a one week meal plan.  Afterwards, we got to taste every single dish, so I can tell you they were all very tasty!  Included in the price of the workshop, is an eBook with recipes, meal plans and local shopping recommendations – so you can easily recreate again at home.

By visiting the website, you can see the variety of courses and events Chef Kamila offers and use the online calendar to book. There are also opportunities for catered dining experiences.

New (to me) Tips from Chef Kamila

  • You don’t need a ton of fancy gadgets to make good food
  • Keep your rice noodles in water in the fridge for easy stir-fry
  • How to chop veggies for best results in different recipes
  • Use boiled water from your kettle when making soup
  • You can eat plant-based or be a vegan without being smug 😉

Whether you are a vegetarian, vegan or just want to decrease your animal product consumption, I highly recommend Chef Kamila’s workshop as a great way to get started.  It was a fun day and I met some really lovely women from all over the world.  And while I won’t be adopting 100% plant-based diet anytime soon, I am thrilled to have more healthy recipes in my own personal repetoire.

General

5 Things you Probably Didn’t Know About Hungary

April 27, 2018

Hungary was established in the late 9th century making it one of the oldest countries in Europe. It’s current boarders were created after World War One with Hungary losing over 71% of its land. After World War Two, it became a state of the Soviet Union from 1947 to 1989.

However, Hungary is now known for providing a high standard of living with universal healthcare and tuition-free university. Hungary also boasts the highest Nobel Prize winners per capita. Plus, in 1974, we invented the Rubik’s Cube!

Here are 5 more things you probably didn’t know about Hungary.

Hungary Fact 1:

You can only name your baby from a pre-approved list.  This is usually to protect the child from an offensive or embarrassing name. If the intended name is not on the list, the parents need to apply for approval. There are currently over 4000 names on the approved list.  And yes, Anikó is on it 🙂

An excerpt from the April 2018 approved name list.

Hungary Fact 2:

Hungarians don’t clink beer glasses or bottles.  During the revolution of 1848, Hungarian Generals were executed in Austria. Their deaths were celebrated with clinking glasses.  Therefore, to honour their memory, Hungarians promised to not clink glasses for the next 150 years.  And even though that time has passed, you still don’t see too many older Hungarians “clinking”.

Many Hungarians don’t clink beer glasses.

Hungary Fact 3:

We are one of the top competing countries in the summer Olympics. We have won more metals than any other country to host the games.  The sport we have the most metals in is fencing.

Fencing is the top medal-producing sport. Ask my friend, Allison about it 🙂

Hungarian athletes have won a total of 491 medals at the Summer Games and 7 medals at the Winter Games. We first participated at the Olympic Games at the inaugural 1896 Games, and have sent athletes to compete in most Summer Olympic Games and every Winter Olympic Games since then.

Hungary Fact 4:

The Holy Crown of Hungary was kept in Fort Knox.  The Crown of Saint Stephen dates back to the year 1000, when Stephen, a devout Christian and the patron saint of Hungary, became King and Pope Sylvester II gave him the crown as a gift. From the twelfth century onward, the Crown of Saint Stephen was used in the coronations of some fifty kings.

At the end of World War II, the Hungarian crown jewels, along with the Crown, were eventually given to the United States Army by the Hungarian Crown Guard to keep them out of the hands of the Soviet Union. The Crown was kept at Fort Knox, Kentucky alongside the bulk of America’s gold reserves and other priceless historical items.

An image of the Holy Crown of Hungary also known as the Crown of Saint Stephen, is the coronation crown in the Kingdom of Hungary. Photo: kcharnick.

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter made the somewhat controversial decision to give the crown back to Hungary based on evidence that it had improved its human rights record and allowed for travel of its citizens.

Hungary Fact 5:

34 years after his death, Elvis Presley was named an official citizen of Budapest, Hungary.  Along with this honorary citizenship there is a park in his name. Elvis is popular here due to his support of the 1956 Hungarian revolution, which aimed to overthrow the country’s Soviet government.

The sign for Elvis Presley Park located in the second district of Budapest.

Presley saluted the uprising in January 1957, during his last appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Then 22, the singer performed Peace in the Valley, a gospel standard, as a tribute to the Hungarians’ plight. At the singer’s request, Sullivan solicited the TV audience to donate to Hungarian relief efforts – raising about 25m Swiss francs.

The more you know 😉

 

 

 

Expat Life

Five Spring Highlights from the Month of March

April 3, 2018

I can’t believe we’re already into April! It feels like the last month just flew by. Spring (and winter) finally arrived in Budapest with chilly and wet weather throughout the month. However, overall, it has been a great month. I’ve made good headway with some business projects and have even managed to book a trip to one of my “must-visit” destinations.

I’ve developed an almost daily habit of listening to my Hungarian lessons and other podcasts. My current favourites are Quirks & Quarks (the latest discoveries in science, technology and medicine),  Sword & Scale  (a true crime podcast), and the Global News Podcast from the BBC.

Spring has finally sprung in Budapest, Hungary. Flowers or “virágok” in Hungarian 😉

A gorgeous Magnolia tree soon to be in bloom.

March also meant our first delivery from Amazon Germany. That order included the first 3 books from the Norwegian thriller series by Jo Nesbo – so good!  I also played (just a little bit of) Far Cry 5. Thanks to our friends, Feather and the Wind, for loaning us their PlayStation while they travel around Mexico. If you haven’t seen their gorgeous videos, filmed in both popular and remote locations in Mexico, you must watch them on YouTube here.

Campeche, Mexico.

Wes and Fel, in San Francisco de Campeche, Mexico. A UNESCO world heritage site because of the well-preserved (and colourful) architecture.

Fel enjoying the beautiful Lagoon of Seven Colours in Bacalar, Mexico.

1. Visitors

This month we confirmed our first visitors of the year.  Starting in May and spreading out until July, we’ll have family and friends coming to enjoy this incredible city.  For some guests, it will be the first time in the city, so it will be fun to visit some of the most touristy places that we have already started to ignore.

One of the lions guarding the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. And yes, contrary to urban legend, they do have tongues.

The popular World War I centenary exhibition at Budapest’s Varkert Bazar.

2. The Spring Festival

Starting at the end of March and continuing until April 22 is the 38th Budapest Spring Festival. This festival includes food, drink and the arts. There are events in classical music, opera, jazz, world music, dance, contemporary circus, theatre and the visual arts. Venues are littered throughout the city. There is definitely something for everyone at every age.

Lucy at one of the Spring Festival venues patiently waiting for her latte and cake.

A Kürtőskalács vendor (or chimney cake as it’s called in English) featuring my life motto.

Delicious Hungarian cuisine – although not really know for its green vegetables.

3. Easter

For the first time, Easter was a 3 day holiday here in Hungary. Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are all official holidays making this Easter a 4 day weekend.  Unfortunately, for us much of it was rainy.  However, we managed to have an excellent Easter Brunch at the Budapest Marriott with one of our new friends.

Leaving our friends and support network behind is one of the greatest challenges of an international relocation. However, it makes space for new fabulous people to enter our lives. Thanks to Shannon for sharing the day with us!

Part of my lovely buffet lunch that included traditional Easter Ham, eggs, and potato salad.

Giant Easter eggs on the banks of the Danube River.

4. Travel

This past month we booked two trips.  The first trip we booked is to the countryside of Hungary. We are going to a village called Balatongyörök. Balatongyörök is located on the north shore of Lake Balaton, not far from Keszthely. While there, we will also visit Lake Heviz. Lake Hévíz is the world’s largest biologically-active natural thermal lake. The lake is rich in sulphur and minerals and completely replenishes itself every 72 hours.

Our second trip is to the beautiful Algarve region of Portugal. Andrew has been missing palm trees and the ocean, so when a friend invited us to stay, we jumped at the chance. Unfortunately for Lucy, she will miss out on this trip.  However, I’m sure she’ll enjoy her own mini-vacation here in Budapest with my Aunt.

5. The St. Patricks Day Gala Dinner

OMG was this night a blast!  Hands-down one of the best events we’ve been to (or hosted). We enjoyed incredible entertainment and food all thanks to the Irish Hungarian Business Circle.  If you want to see what I mean, watch our Vlog that features this amazing night.

Andrew and I with the Irish Ambassador to Hungary, Ambassador Pat Kelly and his wife.

Last month was definitely wintery, but April has brought the warm weather.  Today it will be 19 degrees out, so I’m going to end this here and get outside.

What are your spring travel plans?  Any recommendations for more places I should visit here in Hungary this summer? Let me know in the comments below.

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Thanks for reading!