Friday, 28 September 2012

Heritage Days

For one weekend a year in September, you can see all sorts of things in Paris that you normally couldn't. It's the Journées du Patrimoine, the Heritage Days, when some notable closed-to-the-public spaces become public.


We headed over to the Palais du Luxembourg to see the Sénat. A pleasant surprise on the way there was that the Garden's Greenhouses were open as well.

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So many honeybees!


I always feel like the bees know the days for collecting are numbered this time of year.

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They do keep hives on the other side of the Garden. I'm sure that's why they have the most spectacular blooms.


The Sénat was a long wait to get in and packed with people.

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The palais du Luxembourg was built for Catherine de Medici and it was appropriately fit for a queen before being repurposed into the Senate.

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Thursday, 27 September 2012


Budapest had some gorgeous grand cafes, called Kávéház.

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They were a great place to grab breakfast, but really now. You came here for dessert.


A quirk: no one would serve us tap water anywhere, for no reason other than they could sell you a bottle.

We headed to Budapest Market to get caught up on spending our funny money. It's nice to go to a place where the US dollar is strong for once. I'm not a big shopper as far as stuff goes, but I do love shopping for spices and other specialty food items.


They had lots of tourist tchotchkes upstairs, but the lower level was a real food market.

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Hungarians do love a bit of spice. I took the opportunity to buy paprika in bulk. A 1lb bag of it cost about $7 US. It's going to be a long, cold winter here in Paris and I'm prepared to make all the paprikash I possibly can.

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What else to do after a long morning of shopping?


Oh hell yes. Széchenyi thermal baths!


Budapest has a thing for healing waters. An afternoon at the spa is pretty much essential to a visit here.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012


Taking the overnight train from Prague doesn't necessarily mean you'll get some sleep. All the lurching and stopping doesn't make for a very restful night in your bunk that is basically as wide and as tall as you are.

I found that it's nothing an early morning coffee and good Hungarian pastries couldn't overcome. Never underestimate the power of pastry.

One of the first things we noticed when we arrived was the hive activity of the local knitters.


Lots of yarn-bombing and cozied-up public spaces. Nice.


Budapest was completely razed by battles against the occupying Ottomans in the late 17th century, so it doesn't have the medieval architecture Prague has, or the high gothic architecture Paris has. It's a big, modern sprawling city along the Danube. It's much less pedestrian friendly than Prague as it is more of an actual working city and people live there, and the people generally zip along at a very New York pace.

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It's loud and a little dirty, but not without its charms. It was a little more difficult to get by here as there was very little English spoken, and Hungarian isn't a very easy language to pick up for your tourist needs.

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We took a walk up to Budapest Castle.

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The gorgeously restored Matthias Church, with the fun roof tiles added as a modern touch.

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The Fisherman's Bastion is a play on the old city walls.

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High above the city, we spotted a cloud that looked like a dragon!




The stunning Parliament building:

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The Chain Bridge, the oldest connection from the Buda to the Pest side of town.

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One thing Hungary had an advantage over the Czech Republic is that the wines here were good, drinkable, and fairly cheap for a good bottle. They also had much more interesting dining options as well and I didn't feel the need to run off to get curries for my daily vegetable.


I totally took advantage and tasted as many Tokajis as I possibly could. Hungarian desert wines have always held a special place in my heart. They were pricey and hard to find in New York, and absolutely impossible in the land of Sauternes. I ended up buying several bottles to pad up in my checked bag. They all made it home safely and are now my intoxicating souvenirs of travel.