Hello Internet Peoples! I hope that you’re happy and content this fine eve!
I’ve been very lucky in that, during my Year Abroad, I’ve had the chance to travel a lot. And by that I mean, a LOT a lot. Throughout our 2 week Easter break we had before my time in France came to an end, I made the most of the opportunity, and went on a crazy, 14 day adventure. The French have this verb profiter, which doesn’t have a proper translation into English, but means something along the lines of “make the most of” (but ten times stronger). So I did just that, and I’ve decided to share my adventures with you lovely people! However, as I mentioned in my monthly update, I am going to split this into four, separate posts, because in 14 days, I covered a LOT of ground…
Paris -> Budapest -> Barcelona -> Stockholm -> Oslo -> Paris
Crazy, right?! Therefore, once a week for the next four weeks, I’ll have a new post for you about a different city that I visited. All of them were incredibly unique and special in their own way; I don’t know if I even have the words to convey just how amazing they were, but hey, I can only try! Allons-y!
Monday 4th April, aka Day One!: Our journey starts in smelly old Compiègne at about 6am, with me trying to cram a very odd mixture of things into my little green carry on suitcase. I’ll bet there aren’t many of you who’ve been on a holiday which required both bikinis and thermal underwear! Bekah (language assistant extraordinaire and all around lovely human) and I set off at 7am to get to Beauvais airport, and after a mild kerfuffle with the ticket machines, a kinder bueno breakfast, and a two-hour wait, we made it there for about 12. An hour later, we hopped on our RyanAir flight, which herkily-jerkily bounced us all the way to Budapest!
When we’d begun to descend, my eyes were transfixed on the beautiful buildings and parks we could see from above. It wasn’t at all what I expected- in fact, I didn’t even know where Budapest was on the map. It sounds incredibly idiotic looking back, but I was expecting camels, drug lords and scary gangsters with knives on beaches. Geography was never my strong point, guys. You’re reading a post written by someone who thought Quebec was in Iran until about two years ago (and I’m doing my degree in French)…
ANYWAY, stepping off the plane, we were astounded by the huge, shiny yellow ball of fire in the sky. ACTUAL SUNSHINE! When I signed up for my Year Abroad, I had kind of pictured sunbathing between classes in my adorable, seaside apartment in the south of France. Instead, I was running between buildings in the miserable, pouring rain- not so dissimilar to my homestead here on the north coast. Seeing the haze of the sunshine gushing and blushing in a cloudless, blue sky made my soul soar.
We hopped on a bus, and then the metro, and found ourselves right in the centre of it all. I felt beautifully lost in the midst of a hundred trams and cool, young people, striding comfortably through the wide streets, drinks in their hands. It was about 6pm and the air was deliciously balmy, and I was inwardly freaking out because everyone was wearing dresses or shorts. Eeeeek!
Our hostel, the Wombats City Hostel, was 3 minutes from the central metro station, on a narrow street of bright eateries and enviable energy. New York might be the city which never sleeps, but Budapest is clearly trying to catch up. Honestly, we had no idea how much we’d lucked out when we chose Wombats- we just liked the name a lot, and at €9 per night, you couldn’t really get much better. The staff were so friendly, the hostel was cosy and colourful, and the rooms were clean. What more could you want?
After meeting 2 of the friendliest Canadians (stereotypes, I know. They even agreed when I said they should change the country name to Canadia!), we realised that all of our travelling had left us deflated and ravenous, so we dragged our heavy bones to a pizza shop just outside the hostel. It was really cool, because you could buy pizza by the slice- the GINORMOUS slice, at that. Pizza is always a good choice.
DAY 2: After the most delicious (and most importantly, FREE) breakfast buffet at our hostel, swimsuits under our dresses and maps under arms, we navigated our way to one of the many outdoor baths. Being educators is incredibly tiring, and so relaxing in outdoor thermal spas where the water in the pools is the same, stark blue as the cloudless sky,is a must. I cannot begin to tell you how glamorous and excited I felt to be prancing around with a bikini under my dress- it came in very handy, too, seeing as my dress kept blowing up with the gentle gusts of wind. Everyone knows it’s cool to “do a Marilyn” if it’s your bikini bottoms people are seeing, not your space cat pants…
We spent 3 hours in those baths, and it was honestly the best way to relax. There were baths, pools, a sauna, and ice bath, and various other things to try. I’d always wanted to go on a “bikini” holiday, and so I felt like I was floating around in a watery paradise.
I only had one issue with the experience; obviously, there’s a lot of chlorine in those pools, but for the life of me, I never found a shower area… except for one, solitary shower, just outside the sauna. So in the end, in my desperation to get cleaned off, I ended up washing myself in front of a group of old, sweaty Hungarians. Lovely.
After the spa, I thought the day couldn’t get much better, but THEN, we went to Margaret Island (aka the island between the two cities of Buda and Pest). By this stage, it was 2pm, 25 degrees, and the city was a pretty picture words could never describe. The island had little pedal bikes, petting zoos, abandoned monasteries, and we spent hours strolling around, absorbing the delicious energy and magic of the place.
An hours’ walking later, we meandered through the streets on the Pest side, and came upon a little donut shop- CORRECTION, a donut library. Where you eat donuts, and read books. How amazing is that? We saw parliament for the first time, and then retreated to the hostel for a quick snooze before indulging in one of the best burritos I’ve ever eaten in my entire life, in a very bright but rather empty Mexican place. Still no Boojum, but hey…
DAY THREE: Another perfect breakfast in our wee tummies, we got stuck into the third day of our adventures. We visited St Stephen’s cathedral, which was stunning, and we followed this up by walking to the markets. A sweet American girl from our hostel had told us about something called “chimney cake”, which we found cooking at one of the little stalls in the market square. I felt like I was eating a plaster cast, but in a really sugary, delicious way.
At this point, we realised that we’d done loads of things on the Pest side, but nothing on the Buda half, and so we decided to join a free walking tour to learn a little bit more.Our guide, Monika, was an absolute angel, and taught (and walked!) us a heck of a lot in two hours. The Buda side of the city was stunning, glorious, fabulous- just really any positive adjective, although I don’t know if they could really do it justice. The sun was beating down hard on the colourful tiles of the buildings, and I could not believe my little sunglasses-covered-eyes, that such beauty existed in our world.
Like any good students, we needed our afternoon nap, and so after a drink with a view (pictured below), and a funicular ride later, we popped off back to the hostel for a snooze. On our way back, however, we did something that every tourist must do in Budapest- we got rose-shaped ice cream! It was so beautiful, I didn’t want to eat it- but then I did. Delicious art work!
For dinner that night, we were craving what is known in Northern Ireland as a “big dirty feed” (food that is greasy, stodgy, and in vast quantities). We headed off to a burger bar on a street just off from the Cathedral, which was insanely gooooood! At this point we thought right, let’s have a look at parliament, then head back for an early night. But when you’re young, wild and free, and you find yourself in Budapest, who has time for that?! We’re in our early 20’s, NOT our early 70’s (although I did think I could use a good pee, and fast). Instead, we decided to hit up some of the ruin bars, which are famous in Budapest.
Across from the Wombat is a row of bars, pubs and clubs of all sorts. We had cocktails in several of these establishments, broke a glass, and even joined in with some karaoke, but just before we could embarrass ourselves by belting out Sweet Child o Mine, Bekah suggested we get pizza instead. And twas the best decision we ever did make.
DAY 4: Despite the alcohol consumption of the previous evening, I was up, bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to start the next day. We quickly headed off to the Buda side of the city again, where we visited the massive museum. It was here that I died a slight death on the marble steps, so I let Bekah stroll around and soak up the art work, while I felt very sleepy and horrendous on the steps.
A few days before, Bekah and I had been discussing our mutual love of paddle boats. So when we found ourselves in a huge park, with a lake and FLIPPING PADDLE CARS, we were so excited! I lounged about in our car in my bikini, laughing manically at how wonderful everything was.
We had lunch in a burger shack, which was again, fantastic, and then we visited the zoo, which was probably the coolest zoo I’ll ever see in my life. In some sections, the animals run around free, and they can come up to you and you can pet them, which was really cute! I took an adorable picture of this interaction…
So cute right?
That evening, we had something very special planned. For the longest time, I’d been in touch with a fellow language assistant, Kate (aka Porkpie!), who lived reeeeeally close to us- but despite the short distance, we’d never actually met up. So when we realised we were going to be in Budapest at the same time, we knew it was a sign that we HAD to see each other! Bekah and myself spent our last night in a ruin bar with Kate and her lovely Spanish friend, talking about life in France, in French, while in Budapest. (Are you with me?)
The world is a weird, wonderful and small place.
DAY 5: The last day! We were both so sad to be leaving the gorgeous city, and our pain was reflected in the weather- it actually started raining! Our original plan was to spend our last day at the baths, then go to the markets, before catching our plane to the next destination. However, things didn’t go to plan…
When we made it to the baths, my card got rejected. Multiple times. So I rang my bank, all the way back in N.I, thinking that my card had been blocked for using it on holiday, but oh no, it wasn’t quite so simple. It turns out the PIN was locked. “What does that even mean!!?!” I wailed down the phone. The nice man reassured me that all I had to do was find a bank machine with PIN services.
Cue me walking around Budapest for 2 hours alone, failing to find such a thing.
Cue me crying in the middle of a street in the bustling city centre, whilst on the phone to a very apologetic lady from the South of Ireland.
But these things happen, I guess. There was nothing I could do at this point, until midnight, when the card would give me “more chances” to unlock it.
In the meantime, I dried my wee eyes, and found Bekah, and together, we went to try some Hungarian street food at the markets. I decided to pass on the rooster balls, and opted for some delicious chicken instead. I inhaled the whole plate, as well as two cups of mulled wine.
With heavy hearts, we trudged to the airport. As much as we were excited to move on to our next destination, we were so sad to say goodbye to Beautapest. The airport itself was very cool, though. I enjoyed it until I realised that although I had thoroughly enjoyed Hungarian street food, the feelings were NOT mutual. So instead of buying up all of the make up in the duty free, instead, I spent my last hour and a half in Budapest on the throne, messaging my mother for help and advice.
“Oh dear. Jus stay near toilet til plane comes. Luv u wee woman. xxx”
Will Amber’s bank card ever work again? Will she make it off the toilet in time for her flight? Tune in next week to find out!