Sunday, February 11, 2007

Third Day’s not the charm

Saturday in Budapest, we thought we’d see the city alive and bustling. We thought wrong. It was mostly quiet.

We began our day wandering through the architecture of the neighborhood between our hotel and Parliament (Lyle hadn’t been on the Protestor tour the day before). We cam across a few government buildings including the American Embassy. I had the big Nikon with the BIG lens so I could get details on buildings. As I focused on the US embassy to get the bas-relief sculpture near the top of the building. Then along came two Hungarian security guards shouting at me. “No photos! No photos!” Not wanting to go to jail, I stopped and apologized. You know, the international hands up, camera down, sorry, sorry, sorry... But man, did it piss me off. What I wanted to do was say, “Okay, never mind, get out of my way. I’ll just go in. AMERICAN.” while I point to myself and hold out my passport. Yeah, that’s how this country seems to raise us to behave. Instead, I just went further away and took whatever I wanted. Yeah, that’s also how this county raises us to behave.

American Embasy in Budapest.

Then we started out in search of the ever elusive shopping like a local! We took off towards what we were told was a department store just out of the city center called “Kika”. After much searching and tram riding (an unintentional march du oiseau) we found the blessed Kika. It was a poor mans version of Ikea. Such a disappointment. We toured quickly and exited within half an hour.
Kika - It's no Ikea...

Lyle literally gasped, "Oh my GAWD, look at that! LOOK AT THAT!"

Robb was the master of our map and he and Lyle set us off in our next direction. A gracious dead end down near the railroad tracks that seemed to have a hobo camp. We tuned around.

We caught the tram and exited on the back side of a park. Now to be fair, I was cranky. I was still quite gimpy and all this walking, walking, walking was bringing me down. I know, it’s the journey not the destination, but right about now I needed a destination. Blessedly, we arrived at the back side of Vajdahunyad Castle. It was built around the 1900’s to show every single style of buildings you can see in Hungary. It feels a bit like a theme park (probably because that was the original intention).

From there it was out to Heroes square and then a quick subway ride back towards out hotel. We took the metro line that runs under Andrássy út. The Budapest subway dates back to 1896. In the 80’s and 90’s, this line had major reconstructions. Out of its 11 stations, eight are original. The stations recall the time of the millennium, including the floor, the benches, the wooden windows and the lighting. Every station is like a little museum. There is a Millennium Underground Museum in the Deák Square right in front of our hotel. The fascinating part of this line is how close it is to the street. You only descend one flight of stairs, about 8 feet, and voila! You are waiting for a train. You can still see daylight up the stairs.

My heroes in Hero Square.

At the end of the line (scant 3 blocks from our hotel) was a pastry and coffee house called Gerbaud. It has been making cakes, coffees and chocolates by hand since it was established in 1858. Lewis, Lyle and Robb got the hot chocolate, I had the coffee. Everyone had cake. Was it any good? Should you believe the hype? We would be back tomorrow!

Three hot chocolates, one cappuccino and four cakes!

We returned to our hotel in time for a quick tour of the spa and fitness facilities. Um, I guess we just we actually just did spa. It is so nice to come in from the bitter frigid cold and go steep yourself in a hot jacuzzi and steam room. It gives you some of that moisture back and finally, for the first time in hours, you are WARM.
Ready for Spa time...
Oh my word, Robb's robe is SHORT!

After spa time, we gussied up and headed out for dinner to Menza. Food was great. I can recommend it. But the oddest thing about it was we sat in the non-smoking section, up on the mezzanine, where all the smoke from below floats up towards and lingers. Brilliant.

Following dinner, Lyle and Lewis went in the hotel and Robb and I took off on a photo at night jag. We didn’t need to go too far to grab some amazing night photos and to be fair, it was still too cold to much further.

We headed back to the hotel where I came home to find Lyle win his underwear laying on the heated bathroom floor. “It’s like a giant heating pad for my back!”

Work the runway!