Friday, May 19, 2023

Danube - Budapest before the cruise

Drew and I spent three nights in Budapest before it was time to board the cruise ship. To get there from Stuttgart, we thought it would be fun and the schedule was right to take the overnight train. Unfortunately, we were unable to purchase sleeper car tickets, so we resolved to make the best of the 6-person car.

At first, we had the whole car to ourselves, but a few stops in, we were joined by a group of 7 German young men going all the way to Budapest for a bachelor party! Oh boy. 
A few stops later though, we did a switch of cars and we again had the whole car to ourselves. We tried to get some sleep. 

It was difficult. 

We were extremely glad to arrive in Budapest 13 hours later, where we explored the city a bit, got a Thai massage to make up for the train contortions, and learned the public transit system 
Which was extremely easy. Budapest has the oldest subway system in Europe. The M1 line is over 100 years old, and the stations are quite beautiful as far as subway stations go. 

We bought an umbrella and ducked into a coffee shop (that did not allow sugar to be put in their coffee) to get our heads on

before we were able to check in to our Air BnB for some much needed rest.
The apartment we rented was huge and included a washing machine, for some essential laundry before we got on the boat. 

It was also located just across the street from an Irish pub. Yay for good beer!

Saturday the weather was supposed to be cloudy and cool with a small chance of rain, so we took a 40 minute train ride to Szentendre, 
billed as a cute town with shops and restaurants. Our plan was to walk around a bit, 
rent some mountain bikes or gravel bikes, and get out into the hills around town, but alas, there was no bike rental shop nearby so we just hiked 12 miles instead!
The route took us through an agricultural and residential area which seemed to have estates that were used as summer homes or the residence while tending the farm. It had lots of character.
And was very lush
After all that hiking we needed a a good meal before returning on the train to Budapest, where this time we were seated next to a bachelorette part. Budapest must be the place for pre wedding parties. 

Sunday was rainy and cold again, but lucky for us, our sunny and bright friends K&S arrived. First activity, Thermal Beer Spa at the famous Szechenyi Thermal Baths. The concept is a wellness soak in a hot tub filled with beer making ingredients in the mineral spring water. Bonus that the unlimited beer tap is within arms reach! Helps with the relaxation part of wellness.

The ticket includes all day in the Szenchenyi spa, which is like 200 years old
and was quite popular this day.

a perfect way to spend a cold rainy day. 
After the spa we walked around the park and saw Hero's Square and a cool castle.
And had the obligatory world donut.
( America does donuts better.)

Monday was boarding day, but we had half a day to kill so we checked out the Budapest market 
And hiked Buda Hill for a great view of the city.
Sampke the local treat, a chimney cake.

We were ready for the cruise to begin.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Danube+ family first

Before we started our big adventure in Budapest and beyond, we spent a few days visiting Drew's brother and his family outside of Stuttgart, Germany.

We got to see their incredible house with wine/bomb shelter caves underneath.

As you can see, this is Annie the French bulldog's home. She has a fine house. She is also hilarious and lovable, even if she did take a nap in my roller bag and drool on my new pants.

We went to a spring festival where I finally had a companion that would go on scary rides with me.

Fair food is universal.
Their beer gardens are classic. They tear these buildings down and pack them away after each festival. 

We enjoyed the beautiful town and ate some classic German food.
One of Stuttgarts biggest tourist attractions is the pig museum. Ok, not really, but for two pig lovers, it was! 

This place was truly strange. Each room was packed with pigs of a different theme. I will let the pictures do the talking. 
After the excitement of the pig museum, a walk around the beautiful town brought us back down to earth. 

It was wonderful to spend time with family we don't get to see very often.  We got to see C. perform her flute at a class recital!

The Germany Jordans are phenomenal hosts and we are so grateful to get to have spent a few days with them in their home town. 

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Scotland Day 15 and 16 and homeward bound

 Sunday was our last full day in Scotland. After breakfast and short but poignant goodbyes, we loaded on the ferry and drove almost straight through to Edinburgh.  We had just enough time to check out two other attractions.

 The Falkirk Wheel

Three shots of the Falkirk Wheel rotating to exchange boats from one canal to another.

The Falkirk Wheel is “an engineering marvel” built in 2003 to connect two large canals. It replaced 29 locks that had been decommissioned decades ago.  One rotation of the wheel lifts a boat up from the small lake at the end of one canal to the aerial portion at the end of the other canal. Quite cool to watch.

 The Kelpies

A few miles away, connected by paved paths alongside the lower canal are The Kelpies, metal sculptures of horseheads standing almost 90 feet high. One of the other wedding guests said he didn’t think The Kelpies were worth the short detour off the freeway. I completely disagree! They are really, really cool! 

We got lucky with the sun and clouds - made for beautiful pictures.

A close up showing the metal structure of the sculpture.


The mane.

The inside of one Kelpie

Look how huge they are!  That is me standing under the head.

I'm really glad we stopped to check out The Kelpies.

The Kelpies visit made for a beautiful evening to end our tour of Scotland.

 We checked in to our hotel by the airport for a little bit of rest before flying home the next day.

The hotel had tiny eclairs waiting for us. Coffee creamer cup for scale.

Cheers to you, Scotland!

Day 16 return

I had a 3 am wakeup call for my 6 am flight to Paris. Because of thick ground fog in Paris, we were not allowed to take off until 7:45 am, making my 70-minute connection in Paris unlikely. My personal travel agent husband was attempting to fly standby from Edinburgh to Newark, so I was on my own. Luckily, Delta held the Paris to SLC flight for me and several others and my checked luggage even made the connect.  By 3 pm I was back home and Drew followed 6 hours later. 

That wraps up a fantastic trip! My take-aways for our Scotland adventure: friendly people, easy to navigate, surprisingly good food (I had heard otherwise but never had a bad meal, even at the truck stop), beautiful rugged mountains covered by grass and moss, not very many people, interesting skies with always a pretty cloud to make for amazing photographs, rain of multiple types at all time of the day lasting from 5 minutes to 5 hours, OK mountain biking but not what we expected, game trails turned into hiking trails, quite affordable, and loads and loads of history on display. I am content to have visited by ancestors' homeland.  Goodbye, Scotland!