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moving abroad

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, 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 🙂

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.

And don’t miss a single post.  Subscribe in the “EMAIL ALERT SIGN UP” box to the right  (or below on mobile) to be notified of each new post.

Thanks for reading!

Budapest Expat Tips

The “Living with No Dryer” Laundry Survival Guide

March 25, 2018
laundry survival guide

Moving away to Europe is the first time that many people discover that not everyone has a dryer. Practically all classical apartments in Budapest come with washing machines – but not all have dryers. And while our washing machine is much smaller than we had in Canada, we’ve adjusted our loads according.  But living with no dryer is much more frustrating.

If you want to see more about our daily life, watch our latest video now live on our YouTube Channel.

Crunchy Towels are No Bueno

Seriously, nothing is worse than a line-dried towel.  They are disgustingly crunchy.  I hate crunchy.  Who wants to fiercely exfoliate your body on a chilly winter morning? You want to be wrapped up in warm, soft, caress like a cuddly bunny. You do not want to feel like you’ve been scraped by a sidewalk after falling off your bike.

As a child I remember my mother occasionally line drying on a summer’s day – I hated those towels too. I would always dig down to the bottom of the pile in the linen closet in hopes of finding something softer.

This may work fine for clothes, but not for my towels.

Things I’ve Tried for Fluffy Towels

Like any normal person, I searched Google for “how to get fluffy towels with no dryer”.  I found a bunch of suggestions:

  1. Add vinegar in the final rinse
  2. Wash towels at 40 degrees
  3. Use half the detergent amount
  4. Don’t use fabric softener
  5. Do use fabric softener
  6. Only do a very small load
  7. Shake towels vigorously before hanging to dry

Bottom line: none of these really worked.  I still continued to have crispy towels – only now they smelled slightly pickled.

The Solution

The solution is shocking obvious  – use a dryer!  This means a trip to to local coin laundry. For us this is the Wash Point Kávézó & Mosoda. Located near Kálvin Ter in District 9, this is the best one I have ever been to.  Ok, so, maybe I haven’t actually been to a lot of coin laundry places, but this place is awesome.

We continue to wash and line dry our clothes at home, but we always take towels and linens to Wash Point.

Wash Point Kávézó & Mosoda

As the name implies, this is not just a laundromat, but a coffee house too. You can find the coffee house at street level and the laundry in the basement. Watch your towels spin around while sipping on a latte and enjoying a sandwich.

The surroundings are impeccably clean and comfortable. They have free wi-fi, a kid’s corner and cool music videos playing on a TV. Additionally, they are open every day of the year from 7 am until midnight.  We tend to go in the mornings around 10am and always find machines to use.

How Much for Laundry Softness?

Each load – a wash or a dry – costs 1000 HUF (about $5 CDN). You can pay by card or cash. All instructions are in Hungarian and English.  The best part? You don’t need to worry about bringing detergent – its automatically dispensed in the wash.

If you live around this area, I highly recommend Wash Point for a enjoyable experience whilst performing boring laundry chores.

How about you? Any other tips or tricks for me to try?  Do you know of a great laundry service perhaps? Do you iron your sheets (asking for a friend)?

Let me know in the comments below!

Snuggly yours,

Anikó

Budapest Expat Tips

Tourist Alert: What Not to Wear in Budapest, Hungary

March 3, 2018
What not to wear in Budapest

Budapest is an amazing city. Everywhere you look you’ll find amazing architecture, museums, hotels, bars, nooks, and crannies. And while there are many cultural differences between North America and Hungary, the way people dress is one of them. So unless you want to be immediately identified as a tourist, here is a short list of what not to wear in Budapest, Hungary.

Tourist Alert

Please note that these are my personal observations after 3 months of living in Budapest.  I have absolutely done ALL of the things listed below (as I’m sure some of you have too). You (and I) may even continue to do so in the future. Guess what?  If that’s what you want, go ahead and be the best tourist you can be! But for those of you who want to blend in a little more with your European surroundings  – keep reading.

Dirty Shoes or Trainers

Since we take public transportation practically everyday, we get to see a lot of footwear. Hungarian’s shoes are practically always polished to perfection.  Even in wintertime, you would have to look hard to find salt stains on a fellow passenger’s boots. Laces are also neat and clean – with shoes/boots completely tied up.

Now I am not saying that all Canadians have dirty shoes (as I am sure not all Hungarians have clean ones).  However, both my husband and I noticed this almost immediately.  It prompted us to get to the store to make sure we had some good polish on hand. There is definitely a higher level of respect for an individual’s personal appearance.

Furthermore, wearing trainers/running shoes is definitely a sign that you must be a tourist.  You will discover most Europeans wear stylish but comfortable shoes or a higher-end sneaker look.  You’ll likely only find running shoes being worn during an actual athletic activity.

 mens shoes

A more likely shoe to be seen in winter is something like this comfortable, but stylish, men’s shoe.

Running shoes

While these bright coloured trainers may be perfect for the gym or track, wearing on the street of Budapest simply screams tourist.

Colourful Winter Coats

When the temperatures drop, I’ve always liked to beat the gloom with a bold coloured coat.  I have a turquoise coat, a bright pink down vest and my husband has a cobalt blue coat.  Unfortunately, these are not looks you find regularly on adults on the streets of Budapest. Most Hungarians above the age of 12 wear black or darker colours. Lucky for us, we own more than one coat.

Note that this doesn’t always stop us from wearing our coats of many colours, but we make a conscious choice to do so. Sometimes, and in certain places, its simply best to fit in and look “Hungarian”.  Why be a target for tour operators and pickpockets when you don’t have to be?

Check out our latest video on YouTube to see when we blend in and when we don’t bother…

Tourist with bright coat

While we have protected his identity, this man is immediately recognizable as a tourist in this bright blue coat.

Baseball Caps

As someone who has spent the last ten summers of my life on a boat, both my husband and I own more then one baseball cap (even if I did rarely wear one).  Baseball caps are often a complete necessity when sailing to keep the sun out of your eyes without losing your sunglasses. On the contrary, you will find few adult Hungarians wearing these on the streets of Budapest.

If you do see this style of cap, its most likely to be devoid of any slogan or sports logo. I’m not really sure why baseball hats get no love?  You do see lots other styles of hats – bucket hats, pork pie hats, straw hats, and my husband’s personal favourite, the Trilby. Ps. This does to apply to ladies as well.

Tourists in Baseball caps

Wearing this hat is not only a sign that your are a tourist but a Times Square billboard sized sign that you are a tourist.

Sweatsuits, Tracksuits and Yoga Pants

I love my yoga pants.  Who doesn’t love their yoga pants?  They can be be both flattering and practical when they fit right.  In the past, I never hesitated from wearing them to the mall, out for coffee or grocery shopping.  On the other hand, please know that I never wore them to work or to a dinner party. Rarely do you see these anywhere on the streets of Budapest.  Sweats? Track suits? Leisure wear? Nope.  You won’t find any of those either. Again, this applies to both women and men.  Sorry boys!  Leave those baggy track suits at home.

yoga pants

Defying all North American logic, these two women are wearing yoga pants to actually do yoga – not to meet at Starbucks for a latte.

Other Tourist Giveaways

Of course clothing is just one part of the tourist puzzle.  Carrying selfie sticks, wearing backpacks, multiple cameras, staring at large maps, paying in Euros instead of forints, are all huge “tourist alert” giveaways.  Perhaps the most obvious – and the hardest to avoid – is speaking in English.

Selfie Stick

Perhaps the most obvious of tourist devices – the selfie stick. Not only that – but many popular spots simply ban the use of these nowadays.

In short, no matter how you dress or what language you speak, please don’t hesitate to come and visit this extremely safe and beautiful city that I now call home. Hungarians are fabulous and will fill you to the brim with the best food, wine, weather and entertainment.

What do you think screams tourist?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

Expat Life

Get Sore Feet with Expats on Margaret Island in Budapest

January 9, 2018
Margaret Island Bird

Unlike the majority of our friends and family back home, we are happily having a very mild winter here in Budapest.  We’ve been so lucky to be able to move around the city so easily and get settled into new life abroad without freezing or struggling with the snow. It’s also allowed for us to simply explore and discover this gorgeous city.  Yes, this means sore feet – especially mine – but we are happy and very grateful.

Margaret Island

Margaret Island is a 2.5km long island in the middle of the Danube in Budapest.  The island spans the area between the Margaret Bridge (south) and the Árpád Bridge (north). The island was called Insula leporum before being named after Saint Margaret (1242–1270) in the 14th century. Margaret was the daughter of Béla IV of Hungary, and she lived in the Dominican convent on the island. Today, the island is directly managed by the city and is a recreation area with athletic buildings, gardens, parks, pools, cafes, a hotel, a small zoo, running trails and more.

An arial view of Margaret Island

An arial view of Margaret Island.

A January Day

Yesterday, it was 12 degrees so we decided it was perfect weather to head to Margaret Island to walk with the dog.  Since Lucy no longer has a backyard, we really wanted a chance to let her run free on the grass like she loves to do on Hanlan’s Point on the Toronto Islands.  Our new apartment is in the 5th District in Budapest, so we hopped on the number 2 tram to take us to Margaret Bridge.  We got off at the end of the line and walked across Margaret Bridge to Margaret Island from there.

 

Once we arrived, we simply wandered around the island and enjoyed what we accidentally found.  We found lovely buildings, cafes, trees, open green spaces, sculptures and even ancient ruins.

The Knights of St. John settled on the island in the 12th century. Among the present historical monuments of the island are the 13th century ruins of a Franciscan church and a Dominican church and convent, as well as a church from the 12th century. The park was officially turned into a public park in the early 1900s.

Running Activities for Expats

If you are a runner, there is a monthly event and free timed 5k run around the island.  Find about more about it on their Facebook page. As you can see by the photo below there is a dedicated path for runners (the red one).  There is also a path specifically for “walkers” and then also paths for bikes and motorized vehicles all around the island.

Dedicated traffic lanes on Margaret Island

Dedicated traffic lanes on Margaret Island

Andrew and Lucy enjoying the sun.

Andrew and Lucy enjoying the sun.

Until next time…

There is so much to see and do, but we only spent a couple of hours.  We hope this wonderful weather streak continues and we have many more winter walks on the island.

The day was so beautiful, we decided to walk all the way home from the island and took some great photos in the winter sun.

 

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

Exploring the Christmas Markets in Budapest

December 19, 2017
Christmas Market Budapest

This past week has been crazy busy with organizing our new life, but when we take a break, we head out to go exploring the Christmas markets in Budapest. Luckily, there are several of them spread out around the city – both big and small.

The main Christmas markets are located on the “Pest” side of Budapest. One of these is located at Vörösmarty Square .  This includes lights, music, amazing food and drink stands, artists boutiques and other handcrafted goods.  All vendors are specially chosen for the high quality of their goods – and they are wonderful. There is a stage for live performances and Christmas lights are projected onto the facade of the iconic Café Gerbeaud. Established in 1858, Gerbeaud is Europe’s finest coffee house and pastry shop.

This Christmas market has been voted one of the Top 10 in all of Europe. To see some other great Christmas markets, click here.

Christmas Market Budapest

Vörösmarty Christmas Market at night. Our view from the St. Andrea Skybar looking at Gerbeaud.

Another huge tourist draw is the Christmas market located at St. Stephen’s Basilica.  This market features a spectacular 3D visual show projected on the front of the Basilica a few times every night. Andrew and I just LOVE watching it.  I’m sure he’s trying to figure out how he could do it himself at home for next Christmas 😉

In addition to the market booths, there is also a small skating rink for children under the huge Christmas tree located in the middle of the market. The sights, sounds and smells in this market are all delicious!

Basilica Christmas Market

The St. Stephen’s Basilica Christmas Market complete with skating rink.

Of course, we would be remiss not to tell you about our top three things to consume at any Budapest Christmas Markets.  1. Mulled Wine 2. Fried Potato Pancakes and 3. Marzipan Chocolate.  Okay, number 3 is really for Andrew as I personally find marzipan gross  – but Andrew can’t get enough of it!

Hungarian Potato Pancakes

A Hungarian Potato Pancake. We like to top ours with sour cream and shredded cheese. Yum!

Thanks for reading!  Andrew and I are popping out for another glass of mulled wine…

 

 

Moving Abroad, Personal Stories

6 Interesting Things we Discovered after our First Ten Days in Budapest

December 1, 2017
Anikó & Andrew

Life here in Budapest is certainly very different than in Toronto – but that is exactly what we hoped for.  We’ve managed really well so far, but here are 6 interesting things we discovered after our first ten days in Budapest.

1. Cursive

There is widespread use of cursive writing on a variety of signs, shops and personal notes.  While this may not seem strange to anyone over 35, this would be tricky for anyone under 30 in North America to decipher. Shortly after I married my husband and became a step-mother in 2009, I was shocked to learn they no longer teach cursive in the Canadian public school system.  When I left notes for my step-kids, I had to ensure to PRINT them for comprehension.  When they visit, I will have to put them to the test 😉

2. Public Transport

During my very first trip to Budapest, I learned the public transport was inexpensive and easy to use. However, now that we’ve been using for more than just to visit tourist hot spots, we’ve ascertained how really amazing it is!  Using the BKK (Budapesti Közlekedési Központ) you can get anywhere in Budapest.  In fact, you will often have two or three choices of routes to get there. Compared to the TTC (Toronto Transit Authority), it is nothing short of miraculous. The BKK app I mentioned in this post, makes it almost impossible to get lost. We have been to OBI, IKEA, doctor and veterinarian offices, 3 major shopping malls, Christmas Markets, live music venues, restaurants, parks and more.  Nothing has taken us more then 30 minutes from door to door!

Kalvin Ter Metro Station in the 9th District

One the entrances to the Kálvin Tér Metro Station in the 9th District

3. Manners

In these first few days, we immediately took notice that the general population in Budapest is a LOT more polite than our typical experiences in and around the GTA (Greater Toronto Area).  Upon entering the veterinarian’s office in downtown Budapest, each and every person sitting waiting greeted us with a “Good Day”, and wished us the same on the way out. This also happens in smaller bars and restaurants. On our way to IKEA, a teenaged boy got up and out of the way for me on the subway which both nicely surprised me and made me feel suddenly (and sadly) old.

4. Sunday Closures

Our first ten days in Budapest have included one weekend and you should know that Budapest shuts down on a Sunday. Like Toronto did until the late 1980’s, Hungarians still take “a day of rest” fairly seriously.  Sure, you can find the tourists spots open, but you better be prepared with your groceries and the essential items by Saturday afternoon.  I have to admit, it is quite lovely having an day off from going to the mall to buy more crap we don’t need and having dedicated time for people to spend with their families. Hungarians value their own lives, and the quality of those lives, very, very highly.

The Egyetemi Templom - a baroque style catholic church

Egyetemi Templom – a baroque style Catholic Church located in the 5th District

5. A Notary is not always required

We’ve been signing a lot of legal paperwork over the past week.  In Canada, some of this would have required the services of a notary, but in Hungary they seem to simply gather more personal information.  For each important document we’ve signed we have added our birthdate, place of birth and mother’s maiden name.  Its interesting seeing how much this system is used, but I do suppose it is a unique identifier. I mean, we all know there could be another Anikó here – but not one with the same birthday AND mother!

6. Just enough Hungarian makes me dangerous

One last thing we’ve discovered is that I speak Hungarian much better than originally thought. In fact, I can speak my simple sentences so well that many have assumed I am fluent (instead of having a long way to go). Last night, after greeting the waiter and asking for a table in Hungarian, I was presented with the Hungarian only menu while Andrew was given an English one.  I was still going strong with my skills until it came to the soup of day.  I only understood… “blah, blah, blah, bacon”. Embassed I didn’t understand more, I simply agreed to have the soup.  In fact, I ordered one for myself and one for Andrew.

We still aren’t entirely sure what we ate at Input, but it was “nagyon finom” (very tasty)…