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Expat Life, Personal Stories

Our Fun and Festive New Year’s Eve Celebration in Budapest

January 1, 2018
Baalbak New Years Eve

Andrew and I had our first fun and festive New Year’s Eve celebration in Budapest last night. We celebrated with two other couples at the Baalbek Lebanese Restaurant located inside the Buddha-Bar Hotel Klotild Palace. We ate an Arabic Style Gala dinner listening to live music and enjoyed the belly dancing show.

Our new friends kindly invited us to their gorgeous apartment near the Parliament for cocktails. After we spent some time drooling over their gorgeous apartment and Danube River view, we headed off to the Baalbek for dinner around 7pm.

Parliament Building

The Hungarian Parliament Building on New Year’s Eve.

Buddha Bar Hotel Entrance

Buddha Bar Hotel Entrance

Aniko Friends

New friends in Budapest. Such wonderful ladies!

Andrew enjoying the show

Andrew enjoying the show. It was a thrill to experience something out of the ordinary for New Year’s Eve.

The Klotild Palace

The Klotild Palace is built in a British neo-baroque, eclectic style in the 5th district of Budapest, at Ferenciek Square.  Princess Marie Clotilde, the wife of Archduke Joseph Karl had the palace built in the 1880s.  The building’s glass windows were made in the workshop of Miksa Róth, while the 48-meter-high towers are adorned with an enlarged replica of the archduke’s crown. It is the first building in Budapest to be fitted with an elevator. With various uses over the past century, the Buddha Bar Hotel was opened in 2012.

Buddha Bar Hotel

Klotild Palace near the Elizabeth Bridge in Budapest. Photo: Juhász Norbert

New Year’s Eve Dinner

Since it was my birthday celebration as well as New Year’s Eve, Andrew let me decide to where to go for dinner.  One of the reasons I picked Baalbek was because we had never experienced Lebanese food before.  It definitely wasn’t a typical New Year’s Eve dinner at the yacht club…

For our appetizers, we feasted on a gorgeous platter of hummus, moutabel (eggplant cream), beetroot, tabbouleh (parsley salad), kibbeh, grilled salty cheese and spicy lamb sausage. Not surprisingly, I ate every last bit of this offering, but my British husband skipped a few suspicious looking items.

Baalbek

Mezze

Incredible food at the Baalbek Lebanese Restaurant

Our second course was lentil Soup with sumac and scallop. Lentil soup is a tradition here in Hungary.  It is typically served on New Year’s Day and can be found at most restaurants. The traditional goes that if you eat lentils – a symbol of money coming your way for the coming year – abundance in all worldly goods will accompany you in the New Year. *fingers-crossed*

The main course was a choice of meat or fish and we both had beef tenderloin with potato gratin and green pepper sauce. It was followed by a coconut & rose water cake with raspberry sorbet.  I enjoyed the sorbet but strongly disliked the cake.  Luckily, Andrew loved it and ate mine too.

Coconut & Rose Water Cake with Raspberry Sorbet

Coconut & Rose Water Cake with Raspberry Sorbet

Happy New Year

Thanks to my husband, my family and my friends (old and new) for making 2017 a fabulous one! We are finally moved into our new apartment and our things will arrive from Canada in a couple of weeks. I am looking forward to more adventures in 2018.

What did you do for New Year’s Eve? Let me know in the comments below!

All the best from Budapest!

Moving Abroad, Personal Stories

What We Did for our First Christmas in Budapest

December 26, 2017
Family Christmas in Budapest

Today is December 26th and still an official holiday here in Budapest. Sadly, my parents flew back home to Toronto this morning. However, my sister and her husband are still here – woo hoo! Andrew and I are at home today and getting organized to move to our new apartment. It’s been a great couple of days, so I thought I would share what we did for our first Christmas in Budapest.

Hungarian Traditions

Christmas is celebrated a little differently here in Hungary compared to the typical Christmas in Canada.  Santa or “Mikulas” visits on December 6th and leaves chocolates and small presents in your boots.  Mikulas serves a similar purpose as the Western Santa Claus in that he keeps track of the good and bad deeds of children all over the world. This tradition is why you don’t see “Mall Santas” here at Christmas.  No photo op with Santa to be found (much to my husband’s distain).

Christmas Tree

Decadently decorated trees at the Gresham Palace Hotel – but few Santas to be found.

Christmas Eve is when families get together. It’s when the adults set up and decorate the Christmas tree and place the larger gifts underneath.  Even in Canada as a child, I had to wait until a heard a bell ring to tell me that the angels (or Baby Jesus) brought the tree and the gifts for me. There is much more of an emphasis on advent and other Christian traditions.

In case you were wondering, the angels brought us a new flatscreen TV 😉

Our Family Christmas Eve

To celebrate our first Christmas in Budapest, I was lucky enough to have my family here from Toronto.  My mother, father, sister and brother-in-law made the journey arriving in the days before. In addition to my immediate family, we also hosted my Aunt (a Budapest resident) and our friend, Wes, from the travel blog, Feather and the Wind.

We decided to celebrate at my parent’s rented apartment so they didn’t have to be the ones to travel.  Like every city, its hard to get a taxi on Christmas Eve.

The Food

Rather than trying to sort out the pots and pans at an AirBnb, we decided to order dinner from one of our favourite downtown restaurants, Kiosk.  Early on December 24th, Andrew and I hopped on the Number 2 tram and went to pick up one whole turkey, one whole duck and all the holiday fixings.  The food was delicious.  I would highly recommend their services for the future.

We ate my mother’s deviled eggs and cabbage rolls as starters.  We ate tons of turkey and duck. We finished off our casual night with a shot of palinka and my Aunt’s traditional (and homemade) chestnut cake for dessert. A very happy and full bunch indeed!

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Day

Christmas Day in Budapest was GORGEOUS.  Full sun and twelve degrees.  We’ve had Christmases in Florida with similar weather! We wanted to have a family brunch at the Gundel Restaurant. The Gundel is located just beside City Park. Gundel is the restaurant where you can find traditional Hungarian dishes based on original recipes, served in an exceptional ambiance. For those of you reading from Toronto, it is a similar experience as going to the Old Mill for Christmas Lunch.

It was a fabulous day and I was so happy to be able to spend it with my family here in Budapest, Hungary.  Missed were my step-children who celebrated Christmas in Haliburton, Ontario and Calgary, Alberta respectively. Fingers crossed to seeing them here for the holidays sometime soon.

Moving Abroad, Personal Stories

Casting off the Lines: Saying Good-bye to our Yacht Club

November 5, 2017
Etobicoke Yacht Club

Saying good-bye to our yacht club was something I don’t think my husband or I ever expected to do.  I joined the club in 2005 and my husband joined in 2007.  It is where we met, fell in love and held our wedding reception in 2009. Practically all of our friends (and family) are members of the club and there has not been a party or event in the last decade we missed.  However last night, (with thanks to my sister), we found ourselves in the Great Hall saying good-bye to all the people we have shared our lives with. Over 40 people showed up on a rainy Saturday night to wish us well in our move to Budapest, Hungary.

sister

My sister and I outside the Grey Wolf Gazebo at the yacht club.

Our Life at Etobicoke Yacht Club

It was wonderful to see all of our friends in such a familiar environment one last time before we leave for Budapest.  My husband and are dedicated volunteers at the EYC and have in excess of 2200 hours in our “volunteer bank”. Andrew is a “Commodore’s Cup” winner, the club’s resident DJ and I served on the Board of Directors and was the lead singer in the club band, ‘The Members”. Doing these things allowed us to form that friendships that will have no boarders.  No matter how far we go, EYC will always be remembered as our “home”.

Commodores Ball

Andrew and I at the 2015 Commodore’s Ball

Of course time spent at the club, really means time spent on the water.  For us that water is Lake Ontario in Toronto, Canada. And while Andrew and I are “power boaters”, we often enjoyed sailing with our friends. Especially those times with my sister, her husband and our good friend “Cap’t Dave”. Sailing gives us the ability to chat, sing and laugh while enjoying the sunshine, the water, and the waves. It was also the preferred method of travel for our dog, Lucy. She hates the noise that power boat engines make. To read more about moving with a dog to Budapest, click here.

Sailing on Lake Ontario

Andrew enjoying another great day on Lake Ontario

Our Future on the Water

We sold our boat in September in preparation for our move  – we just can’t reconcile shipping it all the way to Hungary.  It was one of the saddest moments of our journey so far – as it meant we were really going. We are really going to move abroad! And in case you were wondering, there IS a place to sail and boat just about an hour from Budapest on Lake Balaton.  Lake Balaton is often called the “Hungarian Sea” due to its size and beauty.  Andrew and I are very excited to spend time there next season and who knows?  Maybe we will have a boat on the water again soon…

Lake Balaton

The Mediterranean-like microclimate around Lake Balaton also makes the region ideal for wine making. Just about perfect!