Saturday, September 23, 2017

6 Days in Budapest

To avoid flying all the way back to Saudi by myself from summer vacation, we planned a stopover in Budapest for a few days. This time we traveled with our friends the Shenkirs, and both Travis and Josh met us in Frankfurt during our layover. One of the reasons we planned this trip at this time was our friends Linda and Yasser were going to be in Budapest. Linda is from Budapest and we were so excited to see her outside of Saudi!

This trip was off to a good start when our airline let me bring Max's car seat on board so we could make use of the empty seat in our row despite it being against airline policy.

So happy only a few hours to go until we see Daddy!
Even though I was "by myself", my friend Lauren and her two girls were across the aisle (she took the picture!) Having a friend makes traveling 1 million times easier, no exaggeration! Also I'm so proud of the girls for being good little fliers now. Flying means unlimited movies and boy do they love screen time without limits! Max also did fantastic and slept most of the way. It was a nighttime flight so the girls also fell asleep after watching a couple movies. Unfortunately a few seats in front of us was a baby in the dreaded 18 month -2 year age range. He cried a LOT, but thankfully it didn't bother us too much. I didn't mind at all because it wasn't my kid!

We landed at 6:30 am Frankfurt time and it took us over an hour to get from our gate, through security, customs, and finally through a couple terminals before we found Daddy.

Traveling buddies!!

Max was SO EXCITED to see Daddy. He would hug his neck, then lean back to look at him, then hug him, then lean back and look, over and over. Seriously one of the cutest things I've ever seen.
Next we took a short flight to Budapest. We were exhausted from traveling all night so the girls and I slept. I was holding Max and apparently Travis had to keep reaching over to save him from being dropped! So glad he was with us again!

Once in Budapest we exited the airport and found our transportation pretty quick. It was a 40 min drive to our AirBNB in the center of town. Those drivers had somewhere to be so they unloaded us quick and left us with a huge pile of luggage on the street while we tried to figure out how to get in the building.

Travis keeping watch

Trying to keep the kids from going too crazy on this narrow street while Josh and Lauren figure out how to get inside
Turns out our host had given us the wrong key code to get in the door, AND she wasn't available to meet us like she was supposed to. We were not happy with this, but thank goodness someone came out of the building and let us in. Strike 1 against this AirBNB.

There appeared to be some sort of excavation going on in the middle of the building's courtyard??

Surprise! Our apartment is on the third floor!

The husbands got a workout of a lifetime carrying 14 50 lb bags, two strollers, 8 backpacks, and 1 car seat up two flights of stairs... because there was no elevator!! Strike 2! While most people don't travel with this many bags, Lauren and I were transitioning from 2 months in the states to 10 months in Saudi... and when you leave the states you bring as much of America with you as possible!! 

Unfortunately for Travis and Josh there was no air conditioning at all (not even in the bedrooms!) so once the bags were up they had a hard time cooling down. Budapest was coming off one of its hottest weeks of the year so there was no relief inside our apartment. Strike 3. But they did buy plenty of beer at duty free so don't feel too sorry for them. 

After a cold shower we ventured out for our first Hungarian dinner. We found a fun restaurant with A/C and a piano player. Travis had the goulash with Spaetzle:

No one slept much the first night. Dealing with a 7 hour time difference was hard enough... add on no a/c and a very noisy street, and we were tired the next day! We had anticipated this and didn't have plans until 1:00. Travis and Josh ventured out and found iced coffee and croissants for all of us for breakfast. The kids had been up since about 2 am...

A movie being filmed on the street!

I don't typically have data whenever we're traveling but I can download directions before we leave the house on wifi. Looked simple enough for our first adventure in Budapest.

Sweet girls riding the metro!
We noticed the doors opened and closed pretty fast on the metro and Lucy was VERY concerned about getting on and off in time. She nearly pushed people over to get out--she was NOT getting stuck on that train alone or in the doors!!

We were meeting our friends Linda and Yasser and their kids for lunch at a restaurant in a park in Heroes square. This square had stautes of all the kings. The restaurant was actually closed for a wedding that was happening later in the day, but somehow Linda got a reservation for us! The food was delicious and we enjoyed the views of the lake. Budapest was hosting the World Synchronized Swimming championships and we could see the grandstand in the lake from our seats in the restaurant.

Max and his buddy Adam

Adam's big sister loves the babies!

It was also Elise's 7th birthday!

Claire and Ellie had a great time playing in the empty restaurant

After lunch Linda took us on a tour of the park. It was beautiful!

A peddling bar rode through singing innapropriate things... the children only tried to repeat a few times

This is Heroes' Square

These kids were so proud to be all the way up on the monument!

The support staff required :)


After touring the park we got back on the metro and headed for the chain bridge/castle area. Linda took us by St. Stephen's Basilica and we went to a gelato place that's famous for serving their gelato in the shape of a rose.

Beautiful view of Matthias Church by Fisherman's Bastion from the Chain bridge

It was really windy on the bridge!

Looking back on the Chain Bridge

0 km--The center of Budapest!

The girls were happy to stop walking and play around in this park for awhile

All she needed was a little stroller nap

We tried to walk into the castle complex but they were only letting in people who had a ticket for a concert that night. So (much to Lucy's dismay) we walked back across the chain bridge in search of a restaurant. We ended up at an Italian restaurant where they were able to seat all the kids in an enclosed area and the adults just across the way. We had walked over 5 miles that day and we were all hungry!!

The next day we had scheduled a tour to visit some Hungarian towns on the border of Slovakia and then a cruise down the Danube back to Budapest. Unfortunately the tour guide was not very entertaining and I kept nodding off. The countryside was beautiful though!
The famous parliament building as we whizzed past on the bus

Family picture in Slovakia! Looking across the Danube to the Hungarian town of Esztergom

A good picture of our whole crew!
Since I kept falling asleep, I don't remember exactly what order we did things in. We visited at least one town before this, and I think we went to lunch after our jaunt into Slovakia. We ate lunch at what I think was a neat restaurant up in the hillside with a beautiful view of the valley. Unfortunately the restaurant was packed so all we could see was each other.

Roman Ruins

The basilica in the town of Esztergom

Family selfie in front of the basilica

A kind tourist took pity on us taking a selfie and volunteered to take a picture for us

Ellie wasn't very impressed

We had a little time to explore this cute town and the kids were super excited to get ice cream

The chain bridge as seen from the Danube
I can't remember what we did for dinner that night.

We didn't have any specific plans for the next day, so we took it slow in the morning after another sleepless, loud, hot night. Travis and Josh had now made a daily habit of getting us iced coffee and croissants. One of the reasons our street was so loud was a famous Ruin Pub named Szimpla Kert was a few buildings away from our AirBNB. We heard they had good food so we thought it would be fun to take the kids there for lunch. A Ruin Bar is a building that was bombed out or let go to ruin over the years that has since been turned into an establishment. This one had anything and everything on the walls and was very eclectic. It also didn't have a roof.

Wish I had a picture of the decor! All I got was this graffiti wall! 

Turns out they weren't serving food yet so we decided to find somewhere else for lunch. We called one of the restaurants we had tried to go to our first night in Budapest but didn't have room for us, and they said it was no problem to seat us at this time. When we walked in, we were so excited to see we were dining with celebrities!!

Yes folks, that's Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher! We were sitting on the opposite end of the restaurant and my children were not behaving all that well so we were really nice and didn't bother them, even though we really wanted to! We were so excited that we didn't take hardly any other pictures during lunch! It was a really cute restaurant though called The Vintage Garden and we enjoyed our food.

The seafood platter at the Vintage Garden
After lunch we walked to the Budapest Eye. Similar to the London Eye but on a much smaller scale!

Being silly while we wait in line

Trying to figure out just how this thing works

Waving to the Shenkir girls!

Such a cool view!

We really enjoyed getting to see Budapest from up above!

After the ride we headed out for what was like a big produce and goods market. It was in a big domed building that was kind of like a train station. We bought sausages, fruit, and some other snacks to save for a picnic later in the week. We also had an opportunity to buy some souvenirs.

The market hall. Ellie nearly lost her life to that train! Josh pulled her off the street just in the nick of time. I don't think I realized that had happened when I took this picture!

 Tuesday we had lunch reservations at Fisherman's Bastion. Google Maps said it would take us 30 minutes to walk there, so we planned to leave 2 hours early. Because, 5 kids!!

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Only halfway across the bridge and Ellie can't walk anymore... so we stop and take a pic on the Danube!

The steeple of the church in the distance is our destination

I *think* this is the Hungarian Liberty Statue. 

Nice view of the Chain Bridge and Parliament as we walk 

We did arrive 30 minutes early so we didn't need the full two hours, haha! We thought we were going to take the funicular to the top but there was a long queue. We took an extended golf cart taxi thing instead because "the kids" weren't going to make it walking up the hill. (Ok maybe it was actually the moms who were tired of walking). This next series of pictures is all from lunch and places we stopped to enjoy the view.

Riding the golf cart!

Ok this was actually from day 1 at the park behind Heroes Square.

Just another lunch at a famous landmark for expat kids! What a life!

Sweet sisters!

Unfortunately it was another hot day so walking around was kind of unpleasant. We made our way back to the AirBNB via funicular, and we also stopped at a children's museum along the way.

The funicular ride lasted all of 15 seconds and this was the view from the second car.

The view was much better from the front car! And this shows why we didn't want to walk up the hill!
This musuem, called Miniversum, was a like the biggest model train set you've ever seen. It took up multiple rooms and had just about every kind of architecture and transportation you can imagine.
There were buttons to make things move and light up.

Even this Star Wars thing was there!
There was also a display on communism and I learned a lot about Hungary's role which I had never considered before. Did you know that people from east and west Germany would come to Hungary to see each other?

The kids favorite part was this great playroom at the back of the museum.

We stayed in here for over an hour! 

Even Max enjoyed it!

That evening we had made arrangements for a babysitter to come. After we finally made it back to our place, Lauren and I went down the street to a sandwich shop we'd passed many times. We decided to look it up after noticing it was ALWAYS BUSY and discovered it was in the top restaurant on Trip Advisor for "Cheap Eats"! It took about 10 minutes to get our sandwiches, and we were lucky because the line was short. I don't remember what we ordered but it was delicious and a well deserved rating!

The babysitter was a grandmotherly type and didn't seem to speak much (or any?) English. We put the kids to bed before she arrived so all she really had to do was hold Max if we woke up. She must have done a great job because all the kids were sound asleep when we got back!

We went back to Szimpla Kert to see what it was like at night without kids, and it was completely different! I was glad we had previously went in the daytime because you couldn't really see all the eclectic decor at night.

Enjoying a night on the town!
At one point we decided to leave to check out the other ruin bars in the area, but we didn't find anything notable and kind of regretted leaving. By this point there was a huge line out the door and we weren't patient enough to wait in it to go back in... and we'd already given up our seats! So we went to the food truck place and got ice cream and those cinnamon role things you get in Eastern Europe. And more drinks.

We almost bought a shirt! This is a better pic of the eclectic decor! Although we are very familiar with turkish lamps so this room was less strange than most.

Thought our biking friends would appreciate this little shop near our place

Ice cream being frozen with nitrogen

Of course since we had kids who would be up by 6 we couldn't stay out too late, but it was fun (and felt so freeing!) to leave without them for a few hours.

For our last day in Budapest we had plans to visit Margaret Island. Lauren and I convinced Travis and Josh that no, the kids were not going to be able to do 1.5 mile hike there and back and be outside all after walking around all day for 5 days, so we hired some taxis to get us there.

Max LOVED his first peach!

Riding the bicycle cart through the park!

Enjoying our picnic!

More fun exploring ruins
After our picnic we went to the Bath on the island. We chose this one because we had read it was a good one for kids, and had we known how much fun it was we probably would have tried to schedule another visit during the week! We certainly saved the best for last!

This bath house had lots of pools (maybe 10?) in it's complex. Some kid friendly ones, some adult only pools, a wave pool, a big pool with what appeared to be an original lazy river, and more lounging pools. Each pool was surrounded by a small "moat" that you had to step in to wash your feet off before getting in to the pool. While the water in the pools was the perfect temperature, the foot wash water was frigid!!

After several hours at the pool (and oh how we wish we could have stayed longer!) we decided we needed to keep moving to make sure we could get dinner, get home, and pack up since we were leaving the next morning.

We found a really fun dancing fountain as we were leaving the park that we just happened to catch at the right time! I tried to post a video but for some reason YouTube thinks the music was copyrighted.

Ellie was mesmerized!
And so was Max!

Too cute not to share

On the way home we happened across one of our favorite restaurants of the trip. Maybe we were just really hungry after spending all day in the park, but it felt authentic, the wine was cheap, and the food was delicious! Now it really was time to leave. We were still pretty far from home so we attempted to ride a tram back.

The tram was really easy and the kids enjoyed it too! If we find ourselves in Budapest again I would definitely use this mode of transportation more!

Overall we really enjoyed Budapest! It was a fun, vibrant city and there was so much more to explore than what we had time for! I really hope to return someday! Although next time I would stay on a different street. Perhaps a hotel with A/C.