Rainy Pest and very rainy Buda.m

image imageOur one and only ” must do” here was to find Elfinbein, wizard duvet-makers, as mentioned on Trip Advisor.

It was a 35 mins walk in the drizzle but we found them and realised, that compared to Prague, this is a proper city.  That’s to say it’s large enough not to feel swamped by tourists……we saw none on our walk.

Like their namesakes Elfinbein are located in a subterranean world. You ring a bell and descend very narrow wooden stairs to a cellar to be greeted by Tomasz in perfect english.  He and his parents make comforters, pillows, and now, down slippers.  The down is of 3 qualities and is unimaginably soft and compressable.  It’s stuffed into the duvets etc by hand and sewn with old Singer sewing machines.  Trip Advisor has brought them free advertising and many more customers so one gets the feeling they are now making a much better living from this tiny factory than they used to.

Despite the low production levels and high quality materials their prices are very reasonable-unless you buy the royal range of pure white, 100%  down.  We bought 2duvets, a light  weight and a medium which can be tied together for winter if necessary.  Plus 2 pillows.  They will be delivered to Fordingbridge next week-for free.

By the time we left it was raining steadily.  We decided to get on a hop on hop off bus and try the restaurant recommended by Daniel for lunch.  We found it easily from his directions and it’s the real deal- delicate Magyar cooking at very reasonable prices.  Bob was a happy bunny all round!  We’ve booked to go back tomorrow night and the waiter made a note that I would be having roast pumpkin soup as they’d sold out today.

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imageSome street sightsimageimageimageHand made brushes .imageimage image image imageHeroes’ Square

The cityscape is far more grandiose than Prague, befitting the once joint capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire.  Public buildings  are huge and mostly only date from the 19 th century when the city was rebuilt on Parisian and Viennese lines so it does not have the older, smaller more human-scale buildings of Prague.  It also seems a good deal shabbier round the edges!  But it feels real, not just existing as a tourist destination.

We jumped back on the bus after lunch and did the whole circuit…..we’re hoping for better weather tmorrow to  visit Buda, across rhe river, and explore the castle district.  It was too wet to take any pictures this afternoon.

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Time travelling train.

Or that’s what it felt like.  Why did 7 hours pass so quickly?  On a plane I would have been cramped and bored but, despite the countryside being fairly uninteresting, the time passed very pleasantly.  Mind you, having WiFi til it disapeared at Bratislava was an unexpected bonus.

We were in an open carriage, half-full, with a table between us-chosen as we’d been expecting to travel with Olly and Christopher of course.  The train was new and this trip in first class cost £28!

On arrival at Budapest we had to search to find the taxi ramp.  Once again we asked for a price first and were quoted about 50% more than expected but, once again, decided we had no choice.  At least the driver was friendly, correcting my pronunciation of place names and joking about the traffic.

The style of the flat, on a street famous for its numerous eateries, is best descrbed as faded elegance- lots of space, very high ceilings but a bit shabby and with pretty basic furniture.  However, it’s clean, quiet, warm, safe and with a comfy bed and lots of hot water.

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It’s owned by an Irish guy and one of his friends let us in.  He gave us a recommendation for a restaurant and organised a driver to take us to the airport on Sat so everything was very easy.

We ate at the Soul Cafe, as pre booked by Olly.  It’s very close by and we had a very good meal- the meat was especially memorable.

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A boat trip

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A small canal

A small canal

Smetana who sat by the river and it inspired him to compose My Nation

Smetana who sat by the river and it inspired him to compose My Nation

imageThe river Vltava flows through Prague and has many bridges.  It now has a weir to control water from a dam upstream to prevent massive flooding and to stop the river freezing.  It is only 1-4 ms deep.  Our trip in an old wooden river boat did not go far but it was a pleasant interlude.

We’d intended going to the Municipal house guided tour to see the Art Nouveau salons and concert hall but we went back to the flat for a sandwich, I went for a nap- as I’d had a rotten night- and I slept for almost 3 hours!

So our last day here was short.  Off to Budapest on the 9.42 train tomorrow morning.

Mocha and Muchal

Another day of wandering but today was sunny, if cold.  At 10 am the  Old Town Square was already busy with

Wood burning rotisserie

Wood burning rotisserie

entertainers and hot food sellers.imageK

We chose another lane off Old Town Square and just roamed aimlessly.  We did get away from the crowds at times.

We happened upon the police hosing the street and house fronts in a street which was decked with swastika flags which was pretty unnerving.  I can only hope   a film was being shot.imageSwatzika flags.

Municipal house. The finest Art Nouveau interior in europe

Municipal house. The finest Art Nouveau interior in europe

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Amazing ices.

The highlight of today was the Mucha museum.  I had one of his posters on the wall at uni- an advert for beer which epitomised Art Nouveau- but I knew nothing of his powerful oils, his designs for jewellery, furniture and other household goods or his political posters.  A feast for the eyes.

We had apple strudel and coffee at lunch time and made our way back to the flat via another new route.

Supper was in a local eaterie.  Bob’s duck was OK, my rabbit in a creamy mushroom sauce caused me problems during the night!  Neither was served with veg.  Am beginning to think Britain is the only Europen cuisine which does this routinely.

Bob was offered 3 local beers to try.  I had a very tasty lager.image image

Sights we missed last time

Ollie and Chris took off to see the Brandeburg Gate, Holocaust memorial, Checkpoint Charlie etc whilst we walked to the wall memorial.

The Death Zone

The Death Zone

image imageA life-sized photo of a goodbye as the border was erected.

Then we caught the underground to Alexanderplatz.  Noone checks your ticket at the station, there are no turnstyles but an inspector got on and took a dozen fare-dodgers off at the next stop.

We headed for Museum Island and and the Pergamon.  Normally there are huge queues here, as evidenced by the Disneyworld-style lanes and “2 hours from here” notices but we walked straight in.  This maybe as half the museum is closed for massive renovations.  We saw the huge Ishtar gate, the towering Roman market facade and beautiful objects, large and small from Assyria, Egypt, Syria and Persia.

Ishtar gate

Ishtar gate

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These pictures on no way do these things justice.

Podding to the plane

image imageWe’re off to Berlin, Prague and Budapest with Ollie and Chris…Bob and I drove up yesterday evening to the Thistle hotel, Term 5 , Heathrow as it offers cheap parking  with a night’s stay.

After a trying drive up- lots of traffic and extended roadworks- the hotel is as one might expect but, it has one unique feature: driverless pods to take you to the terminal!  Childishly we loved them!

Mile long corridor!

Mile long corridor!

 

 

Now waiting in Term 2 which has been completely revamped since our last visit.

Later: German Wings budget airline lrft 20 mins late but landed on time.  New plane and we were given a soft drink, a filled roll and a bottle of water.  Not the Ryanair experience!

Bob’s chosen an excellent hotel, the Intercity.  It’s right next to the Hauptbahnhof so really easyto travel all over the city, especially as a travel card is included in the price of our room.  Rooms are quiet and comfortable.

We ate out at an Italian restaurant, 10 mins from the hotel and rated 13 th out of several thousand in the city.  It is family- owned and excellent value for money.

Rain stops hairdresser

The first real rain for 18 months and the fords are over the road.  Quite a relief for local farmers and gardeners.  It’s still raining today and more forecast for tomorrow.  We’ll probably have to brave the unrepaired upper part of our road when we head out for Castel de Castels  on Friday for lunch with 8 friends.

Windy weather-everywhere

We’ve been buffeted for several days on our hilltop but luckily no damage to report.  Unlike elsewhere in the Comminidad.image imageimage

 

It seems the UK and even Bermuda are experiencing the same winds.  It was only 43 F on the island last night!

The end of next week it will be very cold here, perhaps with snow

 

Doughnut ambush!

Inspired by the successes of several friends we’ve adopted the 5/2 diet – although we’re taking every third day as a low cal day.  Well we were, until friends dropped in for coffee yesterday bearing 8 doughnuts..It would have been rude to decline so today will be the “fast”.

Blue skies every day have turned us into basking cabbages..mixed metaphor but apt.  It’s just too nice to be indoors doing chores, although Bob is watching a good deal of tennis.  Once the Aus Open is over I’m planning a few walks/excursions if the weather continues like this.  Weather reports from the UK and NYC underline our good fortune- we’re hot-tubbing every evening.imageFab photo of Mum at her 95thimage image image

Today in the valley.  Almond trees beginning to show colour.

Frio

First wet day for us here for months but it was well forecast so we were prepared with things to do.  We’ve had some frosts so tender plants are draped in fleece.  Happily the sun is back today.

image First dusting of snowimage

 

Breaking news:  our road is being repaired!!  Much to everyone’s surprise the money has been found.  Perhaps the May elections are a factor?  Fingers crossed they won’t be actually fixing the bit immediately where our private road joins the “lane” tomorrow as we have a lunch date.