Friday, 28 September
Breakfast in the hotel’s buffet – you couldn’t want more selections. I had scrambled eggs, tomatoes, sour cream – then tried small spoonfuls of Hungarian specialties: a crisp pickled cabbage slaw, something like taziki, sausages of several varieties, a chili relish, a homemade cottage cheese. There were breads of all kinds, cereals, fruits, coffees, teas and juices.Jo Anne slept late (jet lag) but got up just in time to eat before the dining room closed.
Isabella came to the hotel and took Jo Anne to the ” Hop on hop off” tour bus stop, to start a Budapest city tour. The nice thing is that its good for 24 hours, so she planned to visit more places tomorrow.
Isabella and I strolled along the Danube – Budapest’s architecture is really beautiful, and reminds me so much of Paris, France. We came to the Marriott hotel (located between the Chain Bridge and the Erzsebet Bridge), and decided to have lunch. I began with a warm wild mushroom salad followed by parmesan veal scaloppine. Don’t know why my veal never turns out that tender or crisp!
Jo Anne rejoined us after her tour and ate too, then we went back to the Mercure City Center and took a nap for a couple of hours. The rest of the afternoon was spent journaling.
Isabella had invited us to dinner again (she is an outstanding cook), so I took her a bottle of wine from Vac, and even got to stir the polenta!
See us waiting patiently?
The satisfying meal and conversation lasted ’til almost 10:00, ending with coffee and an outrageous selection of pastries!
We discussed today’s calorie intake … with three full meals, and pledged that tomorrow (Saturday) would be much lighter!
Saturday, 29 September
Breakfast after a “wake up” call from the concierge at 7am. Remember “eat lighter” was going to be the day’s motto! I tried the coffees dispenser and selected “cappuccino” with an added splash of “expresso” for body …. perfect! I passed up the sausages (tried all of them yesterday anyway) and stuck to scrambled eggs + tomatoes + sour cream. That was the first course. I thought “calcium is good for my bones” so had a bowl of really rich yogurt topped with diced apples, fresh pineapple, and dried banana chips. That yogurt was great!
I opened the iPad to write after Jo Anne left to go to the bus tour, and a lady behind me with another tablet thing asked how I’d been able to login in to the hotel’s service. I tried to help, but am not the brightest bulb in the box, so suggested she visit reception and they would connect her (like they did me). When I looked at her screen I saw that it was in Spanish (ah, a language I could use!) and began speaking with her, although her English was perfect. She introduced me to her husband, and outlined their planned travels. I wondered whether or not two strangers / travelers in the States would connect in the same way, and really think so … it’s not just a charming European thing.
Next stop, Isabella’s. She was having a light breakfast herself, and refused my “no I just ate” comments by sneaking up with scones, jam and coffee. I shared with her those hilarious “Henri, le chat noir” videos, as both have had “tuxedo” (black and white) cats. Then we made plans to visit the Russian Orthodox Church, which as it turns out owns Isabella’s building.
First though, we walked to the oldest church in Budapest, the City Center Parish Church to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, parts of which date from the 1300s, including frescos only rediscovered in 2010 that had been painted over to protect them from the invading Turks. In the plaza just outside the church were remnants of ancient Rome’s occupation in the form of an underground foundation. The Russian church was full of icons and gilt that recalled those seen in Nice, France. Just as we left, Jo Anne arrived from the bus tour and a visit to the huge, three storey Central Market. We went up to Isabella’s, had some wine, looked at all the photos we’d taken so far, then sat down to another fine dinner! I’m sure I’ll need some new clothes soon, because the ones I brought from home won’t fit much longer!
Back at the hotel on the way upstairs, we met the couple from breakfast. They had sent the photo I took of them to their children, and even extended an invitation to come to Lima, Peru! What an awesome opportunity – to see Macchu Picchu and the Nazca lines! I am always amazed at the power of a smile.
Sunday, 30 September
Happy birthday cousin Lee Pekary & in memory of “Ebbie” who shared it.
Our last day in Budapest. I went to breakfast at 9:10 while Jo Anne was just about ready. Glad I did as the elevators were really slow and full when they finally came, and the dining room had no more tables available. I walked in just to get a coffee, saw the couple from Peru, and next to them was a table for two – perfect. No other takers in sight!
First thing on the agenda was to book a hotel in Paris. Our “villa” in Uzès turned out not as was expected (water leaks, musty, tiny hard to navigate stairs), so Penny and Jamie decided to change. But that meant we couldn’t arrive until October 3 (not the 1st) – so we had two days/nights to rearrange! Well, we tried hotels in Paris with no luck (not inexpensive, not even first class). Who knew there was some sort of car exposition starting this week? So we tried hotels in Nimes. It took over two hours to decide between four, then two choices! Finally Le Cheval Blanc was the one … And wouldn’t you know, it was the same place I’d stayed a couple of times with my student tours?
Next hurdle … reserving seats on the TGV from Charles de Gaulle to the station at Nimes. We (I) did not want to stop over in Lyon, so chose a non-stop leaving Paris at about 4:00, arriving in Nimes at 8:00-ish. SLOW Internet connection made the process take a long time, but it finally ended and I received the confirmation number.
Lea had arrived during that period in order to spend time with us for the last time until next Spring in Virginia. I’d planned on taking her to lunch, but before we knew it, it was too late, so supper it was. Isabella chose a real Chinese restaurant across town. I had all new tastes for me: ramen seafood stir fry, then steamed dumplings (both meat and vegetable kinds). The dumplings were like little soft pillows filled with goodness. There were no leftovers!
Said “Goodbye” to Lea as she went to the metro then trained back to Vac, and returned to the hotel. Isabella ordered us a taxi for 8:00 before she went home. We arranged a wake-up call for 6:00, and planned to have breakfast at 7:00, leaving plenty of time to get to the lobby before the taxi arrived. Next step … pack, check under the beds and the closets, take that final steamy bath, do some of those torture physical therapy exercises (followed by a make shift ice bag), and hit the hay!
France … on y va!