Monday, 21 October 2013

Budapest, Bristol and buddies

The last 10 days or so have been a bit of a whirlwind of traveling, socializing and photography.  It's been great, if rather tiring!

It's always exciting to do things for the first time, and there have been many "firsts" for us recently:  first visit to Hungary; first time in Budapest; first 'cruise' on the Danube; first taste of 'unicum" and first time meeting up with more virtual friends, as well as the pleasure of reunions with those we've met in the flesh before!

Where to start?  Well, a while back some of our photography friends were talking online about meeting up in Budapest in October.  At the time, we had no idea whether or not we could make it.  However, when Steve's condition was confirmed as stable in September we thought it might be fun to join the party.  When we met our friend Giuseppe in London shortly after Steve's assessment, he convinced us that we should join him in Budapest, along with others known only to us at that time by their names and images.   

It was an amazing gathering of virtual friends from all over the world.  As well as Giuseppe from Italy, we met Ralph from Switzerland, Isa from Germany, Carolyn and Gerry from California, Gustavo and Carmen from Mexico, Budi from Indonesia, and Agnes who lives in Budapest and co-ordinated the meet up.  We were the UK contingent, along with Jenny from Windsor.  We are almost neighbours in England, but it took the trip to Budapest to bring us together!  And here we all are, having a feast on our first night to celebrate this wonderful occasion.  Thank you Budi for sharing the photo!  

Our five days in Budapest involved lots of eating and drinking with the group, including our introduction to unicum (a herbal digestive liqueur, which is the perfect finish to a tasty meal!) 

Although we were meeting most people for the first time face-to-face, it felt like we were good friends from the start - how special is that?  We would love to see you all again, where ever and when ever the next meet up is organised, subject of course to Steve's health.  In the meantime, if any of our photography buddies are reading this post, we have a guest room and would be delighted to welcome you to Oxford if your travels bring you to the UK!  

In between all the socialising, we managed to fit in some sight seeing - lots of walking; riding the trams, buses and metro, the funicular railway and the public transport boat service to see Budapest from the Danube.  

We enjoyed spending time in the Szimpla Bar, one of Budapest's "ruinpubs" where the Sunday Farmers market was in full swing; 

Szimpla ruin pub
then on for a stroll through downtown Pest enjoying the street entertainers and free "doggy hugs" on the way, ending up at the Danube; 

Tired after giving strangers lots of free "doggy hugs'

Street musician, Budapest

Street artist, Budapest
Relaxing by the Danube
We managed to fit in an early evening visit to the Palace of the Arts before meeting up with the group for another meal out.  After saying a fond farewell to most of our friends, we walked along the river past the illuminated parliament building, to aid the digestive system on our way back to the flat in Pest which was our base during the trip.

Palace of the Arts,  evening
Parliament building by night

No visit to Budapest is complete without a trip to the Castle and Fisherman's Bastion on the hilly Buda side of the river, so that's what we did the next day

Fisherman's Bastion, Buda
lunch at Buda Castle

On the Danube river bus
before hopping on the river bus to Margaret Island to rest our weary feet as we watched the dancing fountains before meeting up with Agnes for our penultimate evening meal.

We were back on the boat the next morning to revisit the "whale", the Palace of the Arts, the National Theatre and the ziggurat building, which you can walk up to get fine views over this arts complex, before returning to our holiday flat to get ready to meet up with Agnes, who kindly invited us to dinner in her own home.  What better way to spend our last evening in Budapest?  Thank you Agnes for making it special!

The "whale" CET building which will house events, bars and restaurants when it's finished

Foyer of the Palace of the Arts

Staircase, Palace of the Arts

Ziggurat building, the gallery of the National Theatre
Outdoor activity was somewhat curtailed the following day as the equivalent of a month's rain fell in one after a quick trip to Heroes Square, and a look around the Art Nouveau Paris Department Store, we headed off the the National Gallery to see an exhibition of Robert Capa's vintage photos in the dry.

The huge atrium at the Paris department store
Luckily for us, we had arranged for our host Nora to look after our bags and drop us off at the airport in the evening, ready for the flight home. Better late than never, we finally got to sample goulash soup at the airport before boarding the plane for the return trip, eventually getting home in the early hours of the following morning.

Less than 48 hours later and we were traveling again, this time to Bristol for an overnight stay with son Jack so that we could take part on the "24 hours in Bristol" photo shoot. More walking about.....Oh, our aching feet!  But a good opportunity to enjoy some of Bristol's amazing graffiti and the harbourside area by day and by night.  

Wall art, Stokes Croft

Millennium Square, Bristol Harbourside
Millennium Square by night
We were back home by lunchtime yesterday, ready to welcome our afternoon guests for tea. We got to know Doug and Diane and their daughters when they rented the house next door to us back in 1998, while Doug was visiting from the States to do some academic work at the University.  We have kept in touch ever since.  We were delighted when they managed to fit in a flying visit to Oxford before returning to California today after a holiday in Europe.  In one of those wonderful coincidences, it turns out that Doug and Diane live around 30 miles from Carolyn and Gerry, two of our new American friends that we had met in Budapest. Small world!

One of our fellow bloggers, Tess, mentioned today how you learn to plan three months at a time when you are a meso sufferer, and how much you can pack into that time window. With trips to Budapest and Bristol and meet ups with so many buddies, it feels like we have crammed a month into a week!  However, it's good to be home and we need some time to catch up with the everyday stuff and news from the other meso warriors....not to mention all those photos to look at and process!  

Big hugs to all our friends, especially those on chemo, waiting to start chemo, waiting for the results of chemo, or just having a tough time.  We have been very lucky in recent months. Our thoughts are with those of you who have not been so fortunate.  xx

1 comment:

  1. I went to budapest at the time the Berlin wall came down, which was an incredible time to be there. I thought it was a fabulous city, was great to be reminded of what a great place it was, funnily enough always meant to go back but was worried it had been taken over by stag parties. Great to hear you had such a good time