Sunday, October 26, 2008

Back to Reality

Hello world! I have been out of touch for three weeks due to a jam packed schedule and traveling to Ireland, England and Budapest. My boyfriend, Brian, from America, flew out to Hungary on the 13th and came to visit Reagan and me in Szerencs for a week. He was nice enough to visit all of my classes and to perform his musical talents for the classes. The kids went crazy for him. They crowded around him every single time they saw him in the hallway and demanded his autograph. It was great. I am sure when classes resume after our fall holiday that they will still be talking nonstop about my celebrity boyfriend from America!

After being in Szerencs for a week, we boarded the train to Budapest and headed to the airport. We were on our way to Ireland to spend three days exploring the green hills and the city of Dublin. Ireland as predicted, was amazing. The weather was decent... rainy at some points and chilly, but it is autumn after all. While Brian recovered from some of his jet lag and slept in, Reagan and I went on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of Dublin. I know some people are not a fan of these tours, but I love them. I think it is the easiest and most efficient way to take in a new city, especially in a new country.

We hopped off at the Guinness Storehouse, which is the original Guinness brewing site. It is an amazing tour, so if you are ever in Dublin I highly recommend it. The grounds of Guinness are enormous. They even have their own hospital! The interior of Guinness is very, very cool. You get to go to a tasting laboratory and sample the brew of the day, and then at the end of the tour you are on the top level where there is this great open area and a huge round bar. There you get a pint (for the adults) and a soda for the kids. Amazing!

Next up... a tour of the Museum of Modern Art and then the Kilmainham Gaol, which is one of the largest unoccupied prisons in Ireland. It has a very tragic history and it was amazing to see the horrid conditions that prisoners were forced to endure. Brian met up with us again at this point. After the Gaol we sat on the rest of the tour to see Trinity College, St. Stephen's Green, Dublin Castle, Dublinia, St. Patrick's Cathedral and a handful of other historic sites.

After the tour we went to see a Blues Brother revival show. It was a great ending to our first full day in Dublin. The show was quite funny and Reagan is now a big, big fan of the Blues Brothers. She is chomping at the bit to watch the movie.

The following day we went on another bus tour... this time a half day tour to the countryside of Bray. We wound along the coast and up into the hills of Ireland and ended at our destination point, the Powerscourt Estate and the Gardens, ( This was by far the most amazing garden that I have ever been to. Fountains, statues, Japanese gardens, a pet cemetery, rose gardens, fish ponds, and beautiful hills as the backdrop. Just look at the pictures! Ireland really is green!

That night we went to a traditional Irish pub for Irish grub, music and dancing. The dinner unfortunately sounded and looked better than it tasted, but the music was lively and the pub was as Irish as could be. Next stop.... London!

In the morning we got up and repacked our bags to head back to the Dublin airport. We took a short one hour flight across the water to England. We were going to spend two days in London before heading on to our next destination. We arrived at Gatwick, which unfortunately was not located as close to London as I thought it was. We sat on a bus for over an hour before we got to the tube station, where we had another 30 minute ride to our bed and breakfast. There we were greeted at the door by our friendly host, Daisy, who showed us to our rooms. The rooms were quite pleasant and clean, and Daisy was very accommodating.

After dropping off our suitcases we took the tube back into the main part of London to grab dinner and to take in a few sites. When we emerged from the underground we took in the grand sight of Big Ben lit against the night sky. It was lightly raining (in true London style), and it was pure magic. We just stood there laughing in the rain taking in this famous and wonderful sight. It was perfect. Then we set off across the river Thames to see the London Eye. If you have never heard of the London Eye, you should certainly google it.

This is such a fun attraction to visit. It is the biggest, most amazing ferris wheel that I have ever seen. Instead of being in cars, you are in capsules that hold 25 people and a full rotation of the wheel takes 30 minutes. You can stand or sit and get a 360 degree view of London. We did it at night which made it even more special. You could see Big Ben, London Bridge and numerous other landmarks.

After the Eye we went to dinner at a super cute restaurant around the block where we dined on soup, steak and amazing dessert. Then it was back to the b&b for some much needed shut eye.

Day two in London: We made a mad dash back into the city to reach Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. We got there promptly at 11, a full 30 minutes early for the "show". We watched the two guards that were stationed there march back and forth with military precision in their steps. The uniforms are great... black fuzzy tall hats and crisp uniforms. The palace and the statues in front of it are quite the sight to see. We started getting antsy when 11:30 came and went and all we saw were eight of the Queen's guards come by on horseback. Brian got on his phone and googled the schedule and we discovered in the fall that the changing of the guard only occurs on even days. We were there on an odd day. Bummer.
Not to worry! It was bus tour time! We went and bought our passes for a London tour bus and hopped aboard to take in the town. London is not quite as scenic as one would expect. The city is very dense and the streets are narrow in some places. The buildings seemed very crowded to me. I did however like the old apartment buildings with their brightly painted doors, and of course the typical historical buildings were all very majestic. It did not have the same charm for me that Budapest does though. Anyway, some of the sights we took in were: St. James Park, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, St. Paul's Cathedral, London Bridge and the Tower Bridge.

Our departure point from the bus tour was at the Tower of London. The Tower of London is a fortress that consists of a castle, prison, place of execution, arsenal, royal mint and jewel house. We saw where people were hung, a collection of the royal family's jewels, artifacts from the castle (amazing gold dishes that you could fit inside!), weapons and more Beefeater's guards. It was a massive structure. Quite impressive to say the least!
After the Tower we hopped onto a river cruise so that we could see more of the famous sights via water. On the River Thames is a huge battleship that has been turned into a naval museum. We went past the Tower Bridge, London Bridge, the Eye and numerous other sights. I have to stop and write about the London Bridge for a second. Were you aware that the London Bridge is not the bridge we all know and love with the amazing architecture that London is famous for? No. That is in fact called the Tower Bridge. The London Bridge is a plain brige with nothing on it. Just a flat bridge with a walkway. I know. It's shocking. Look it up!

After that we headed off to the main tourist area to get a bite to eat. We had dinner at a fairly swank seafood joint called, Fish. I ordered traditional fish and chips with mushy peas. Reg's had crab cakes and Brian ordered a tuna burger. Delish! Back to the b&b to pack, sleep, wake and catch the train back to the airport.

Travel, travel, travel. Tube, train, plane. The plane took us back to Dublin where we were to catch another flight to Budapest where we would wrap up our journey. Exhausting! We arrived in Budapest and found our way (via the metro) to our next hostel. Our host was a very charming man named Leslie, who basically handed over the keys to an entire flat and told us to enjoy. We will! It was late by this point so we decided to call it a night and head out in the morning.

October 23rd. This is a date with major significance in Hungary. It is their national holiday and it is apparently a day where Hungarians and skinheads gather in public places in Budapest and protest and demonstrate. There have been shootings in past years, so all quiet citizens of Hungary stay locked in their homes until the rioting has ended. Knowing this we decided to keep our adventures to the early part of the day and stay in safer neighborhoods at night.

We headed downtown to Parliament, which never ceases to amaze me. It is truly the most beautiful building I have ever seen. All of the roads were already being barricaded in anticipation for the riots that would happen that night, and hardly a soul was on the street. Nearly all businesses were shut for the day... including restaurants. We did luck out and find an amazing Italian place tucked away on a side street. Truly the best pizza in my life! The cappucino and chocolate cake was not half bad either!

After that it was time for yet another river cruise! We boarded a glass boat called the Danube Legend and got prepared to take in two hours of Danube sightseeing. The boat was roomy and full of people from all over the world. The people on the boat were the only people we really saw that day since the streets were empty! After the boat tour we walked across the bridge to hike up the "mountain" to see the Citadel. The Citadel, also known as Gellert Hill, is an long hike through woods to see various statues depicting moments in history. This is one of the most beautiful and striking historical sights in Budapest. The hike is well worth it. The view from the top of the hill allows you to see all of Budapest.

After hiking back down the mountain, night was falling and we decided to play it safe by not being in historical areas, as this is where the protestors were gathering. We headed instead to a nearby shopping center (stores were closed) to see a movie. What movie did we see? Why High School Musical 3 of course! Reagan was in heaven. Brian and I were glad to relax. Everyone was happy. After that we did a bit more sightseeing via a tram and then headed back to the hostel.

And this concludes our week long journey all over Europe! More adventures soon, as tomorrow morning we head off to Eger for the day with my friend Christie!

1 comment:

sjaroberts said...

Wow, I feel as if I was right along there with you. What great adventures you two are having. I am so exhausted from the journey that I just took with you (via the laptop) that I now need to go rest myself. We miss you both terribly, thank you for sharing!!