Darker experiences in Budapest

Our final full day in Budapest we visited a couple of museums. First of which was the House of Terror, a museum dedicated to various historical terror regimes, illustrating the decades of Nazi and Communist suppression.

The building was once the headquarters for the secret police of both the Nazi and Communist governments. The words ‘Terror’ protrude from the building so that when the sun shines on them, it symbolises the terror that was inflicted on Hungarians.

_DSC0301 _DSC0302 _DSC0303

You can’t take photographs but it’s a must-see if you’re in the city. Some of the videos are quite distressing to watch and the prison cells in the basement are a real eye-opener. The design of the museum and music played in each of the rooms adds to the experience too.

You could easily spend the entire day there however as it was our final full day we wanted to make sure we saw as much of the city as we could. We took the tram (this time with a ticket) to the food market where we picked up some souvenirs and checked out what the locals were eating.

_DSC0306 _DSC0307 _DSC0308 _DSC0309 _DSC0310 _DSC0311

Instead of having anything from the food market, we opted for a small cafe selling Kurtoskalacs – Hungary’s oldest pastry.

_DSC0312 _DSC0314

They are cooked over an open fire and are similar to a pretzel, perhaps not as doughie with a crispy outer shell. You can have several different toppings like walnuts, almonds, cinnamon or go simple with vanilla.

Better yet, on the Thursday after Shrove Tuesday Hungarians regard this as ‘Fat Thursday’ and offer 50% off at a lot of restaurants. My kind of country!

_DSC0315 _DSC0316

The next exhibition was a completely new experience for all of us. The city houses an exhibition dedicated to the blind called the Invisible Exhibition.

_DSC0265

For one hour you are able to experience what it is like to live without one of your most vital senses, your sight.

You are guided by a blind person through several rooms in complete darkness, there are smells and noises in each of the rooms so you have to rely on your other senses to make your way through. Using voices and feeling the surroundings help guide you through but the feeling of vulnerability is exposed.

The concept completely takes you by surprise and is only a brief taste of how a blind person lives. It can feel a little claustrophobic at times but when you step back into the light, you can’t help but appreciate the gift of sight.

_DSC0317

Our last night in Budapest deserved another nice meal so we returned to the hotel and all did some Googling on where to go. Rob won the race and found a winner that was within walking distance.

_DSC0318 _DSC0320 _DSC0322 _DSC0323 _DSC0324

Food and drink in Budapest was amazingly cheap, even in the fancier places. My meal on the last night cost just over 1990 huf (£4), the cocktails that you’d usually pay £7 for were only 1300 huf (£3).

_DSC0325 _DSC0326 _DSC0330 _DSC0332 _DSC0334 _DSC0336 _DSC0337 _DSC0339 _DSC0340 _DSC0341_DSC0342

An exceptional meal that came to under £100 in total. With several courses, alcohol flowing you can’t argue with that. If Hungary can do it, why can’t the UK?

We did a bit of shopping on the morning of our last day in Budapest before flying home. The boys found the perfect clothes shop for when the metabolisms finally come to a halt.

_DSC0343

Thanks for a great trip Rob. Where are you taking us next year?

‘My house in Budapest’…

…is the first line of the song titled ‘Budapest’ by George Ezra. It is also the same line my brother, Rob used as a clue on Christmas Day for the family to guess where he had decided to take us all. Buying Birthday and Christmas presents can often slip Rob’s mind but last Christmas he came up trumps.

Rob regards Budapest as one of his favourite cities to visit. He has been twice before so you’d think this would make him pretty familiar with how the city works but more on that later!

We arrived in Budapest late Tuesday afternoon, picked up at the airport and taken to our hotel. We were situated smack in the centre and blown away with Bob’s choice.

_DSC0152 _DSC0134 _DSC0153 _DSC0125 _DSC0126

After almost missing our flight back in London it was nice to finally relax. We freshened up and headed straight to the bar for some cocktails.

_DSC0136 _DSC0133 _DSC0132 _DSC0128

We then went in search of a place to eat. The hotel was surrounded by restaurants however it took some wandering to find a place that would take 7 people. Eventually we stumbled upon an Italian restaurant that was willing to feed all of us.

_DSC0137 _DSC0138 _DSC0140 _DSC0141 _DSC0148 _DSC0149 _DSC0150

After an exhausting day travelling, once we’d finished up dinner we returned to our hotel and recharged the batteries for a day of sightseeing.

The following morning we filled up on the hotel breakfast and decided as the sun was shining we would tick off some of the famous landmarks. Rob explained the best way to get around the city was via the tram – better yet, he insisted you didn’t even have to pay. No one checked the tickets so it was safe to just jump on and off. Too good to be true, you say? Probably.

On our first tram journey we passed the Parliament building so instead of heading straight to our destination we jumped off and got a closer look.

_DSC0154 _DSC0156photo 1

Yes I own a selfie stick. I’m not ashamed.

We got back on the tram in the direction of Castle Hill. Within about 30 seconds of sitting down I get a tap on the shoulder from a large hungarian man asking to see my ticket. To cut a long story short we ended up getting fined over £150 for not having a ticket.

So if you don’t take anything away from this blog, at least remember if you go to Budapest, you do have to pay for the tram. Moral of the story don’t listen to Rob.

After the initials grumbles of being slightly poorer we carried on our touring however this time on foot.

_DSC0163 _DSC0166 _DSC0173 _DSC0180 _DSC0182 _DSC0185

We walked across the Chain Bridge right up to the top of Castle Hill to see the Royal Palace.

_DSC0189 _DSC0194 _DSC0196 _DSC0198 _DSC0200 _DSC0207 _DSC0216 _DSC0218 _DSC0220

A little further on we also came across the Matthias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion – offering the best views of the city.

_DSC0225 _DSC0227 _DSC0230 _DSC0236 _DSC0242 _DSC0248 _DSC0249 photo 1 _DSC0253 _DSC0258 _DSC0262 _DSC0263

Later that afternoon we decided to hit one of Budapest’s Spas. We visited the Szechenyi Baths, one of Europe’s largest spas right in the city centre.

_DSC0272

They have three large pools outside, the one in the centre is for doing lengths, the other two have fountains and mini jacuzzi sections. The one has a small pool in the middle that people swim around in creating a whirlpool, which was a lot of fun.

_DSC0273

It was perfect way to end a day of city exploring however areas were slightly run down and were in need of some TLC. Alan and I couldn’t help but compare it to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland – which in comparison is on a completely different level.

When we returned to the hotel we asked to be booked into a restaurant that served traditional hungarian food. A quick shower, change of outfit and we were off out again. This time to do one of my favourite activities, eating.

A restaurant that has the quote, ‘There is no love sincerer than the love of food’ on the wall has my stamp of approval before I’ve even tried their menu. We were even treated to some beautiful live music whilst we ate.

_DSC0278 _DSC0280 _DSC0281 _DSC0282 _DSC0293

The flavours and the marrying up of ingredients was a lot different, however the food was incredible. We all finally got to try some authentic beef goulash too.

_DSC0289 _DSC0290 _DSC0291 _DSC0292 _DSC0294 _DSC0295 _DSC0297 _DSC0300

One of the more expensive meals of the trip but in no way compares to what we would have had to pay in the UK for a similar standard.

Part 2 coming up!

All you need is love, and a cat

IMG_1845

My blog is essentially an online diary where I can share the fun things I get up to – the holidays, the days out, the nice food. All a snap shot of my life that help break up the everyday routine.

I tend to keep my blog quite lighthearted and carefree but if I’m going to share significant parts of my life then they can’t all come with the happy endings.

One of the most treasured things in my life was my cat. It almost seems ridiculous how attached we get to our pets, but at the same time when they’ve been a part of your life for such a long time it’s hard to imagine life without them. Nearly 15 years ago my cat Bonnie came into my life and immediately stole a large chunk of my heart.

Mum rescued Bonnie and her brother Bertie from the Cats Protection League when I was 11. I remember telling new friends at secondary school that we had just got two kittens. They were the cutest little balls of fluff I’d ever seen.

Bonnie was a little more outgoing than Bertie. It took him slightly longer to come out of his shell and fully embrace his new family. But soon enough he too was running around like a mad thing.

After an afternoon of play-fighting, all was forgiven and they’d fall asleep in each other’s arms.

That shy, weary Bertie soon became an explorer. He would hop over the fence and nose into other people’s gardens. When he was only three years old he managed to get around to the front of the house and sadly got run over. It was devastating but the light at the end of the tunnel was that we still had Bonnie.

Bon grew into the most beautiful and friendliest cat you could ever wish to meet. People who assumed they weren’t cat people, loved her and commented on her elegant looks. She was so gentle, not a mean bone in her body.

photo (4)_DSC0681

She was like a best friend. She’d seen me go through secondary school, through Uni, leave to move in with Alan only to come back 9 months later. I wanted her a part of so much more but I guess that’s selfish of me.

I imagined her around on my wedding day. I’d have to pick her up and give her a cuddle, whilst mum would be telling me off for potentially ruining my dress. We’d already discussed the fact she wouldn’t come as we both knew she’d upstage me.

DSC_1205

I was in two minds about publishing this post. Grieving is such a private thing but I wanted people to know how much Bon meant to me. I miss her so so much.

There are a million and one things I will miss about you Bonnie but here are just a handful:

I will miss being able to give you a hundred kisses a day – even when you didn’t really want one. It just made it extra cute when you bowed your head to let me.

Photo on 2012-01-20 at 21.33 #3Bon&I

I will miss the little milk chin you’d get when you drank a bowl of milk.

P1000704

I will miss how happy you were when the whole family arrived home and you’d come to greet us at the door.

That cat again_004

I will miss being able to confide in you, being able to tell you my biggest secrets, knowing you’d keep them safe.

photo (1)

I will miss how you would always find a way of getting on my lap. You especially enjoyed taking my attention away from the laptop.

laptop_bon

I will miss that even though we bought you plenty of toys, your favourite thing to play with was one of the potpourri balls.

That said potpourri ball provided not just you with entertainment but also us, when you learnt to play tennis with it. Albeit an incredibly lazy version.

I will miss our little conversations where I’d meow and you would meow back – I like to think we both understood each other.

_DSC0361DSC01265

I will miss the fact that you weren’t your average cat. You had your independence and occasionally sassy attitude, but you liked nothing more than to be where the whole family was.

DSC_1272 Robs 2007 Birthday_003 _MG_0072

I will miss seeing you every morning cuddled up next to Dad, in Mum and Dad’s bedroom – or better yet, lying on top of his hip making it impossible for him to move.

I will miss walking into the living room and seeing you slumped out across the radiator.

IMG_3571

I will miss listening out for your paws across the floorboards – they’d make a tip-tap noise that we all said made it sound as though you were just in your high heels.

P1000473

I will miss seeing you playing at the end of the garden and when we’d call your name you’d come running with your little belly swinging.

I will miss simply watching you sleep. The little noises you’d make when you were dreaming.

photo 4

I will miss seeing that little beauty spot on the end of your nose. When that appeared we all agreed it was your body’s way of struggling to contain how beautiful you were.

_MG_0444

I won’t miss the panic when we couldn’t find you, but I will miss the relief of eventually finding you in the most obscure places.

HIDING_bon

I will miss your cravings to be human. We’d all be sat around the table for dinner and you’d jump up into one of the seats and wait patiently for your portion.

table_bon

I will miss when you’d come to my bedroom in the middle of the night and poke my face with your paw to wake me up.

I will miss how you’d hate the outdoors at winter, but as soon as we were all out there in the summer, you’d be rolling around in the sunshine.

photo (9)

But most of all I will miss knowing you’ll be there when I get home and I can scoop you up in my arms, and in that moment nothing else matters. You received a lot of love, but you returned it tenfold.

carry_bon

You were the best companion and the house now feels completely bare without your presence. I know in time it’ll get easier but at the moment it feels really, really hard.

I love you Bon xxx

Archery anyone?

Random, I hear you say. Perhaps. But I have my reasons.

I still remember my early school years well. Playing duck-duck-goose or British bulldog (when it was allowed), spin the bottle and making my first ever boyfriend cry because I broke things off. Tough life lessons back then.

Although shy I also remember getting told off a couple of times for silly things like when a friend and I ‘borrowed’ all the rubbers from everyone’s tables and kept them to ourselves. Or the time my friends fluffy hair scrunchie began to molt during reading time, which I obviously found hilarious so got sent to the back of the classroom.

We went on plenty of day trips during primary school but it wasn’t until the final year that the teachers finally gave our parents a full weeks break away from us.

When I started secondary school I recounted our week away to new friends, one girl told me her school took her class to France. We went to Wales.

It was called PGL – I can’t remember what that acronym stood for but we went with ‘Parents Get Lost’. It was a jam-packed week of adventure, outdoor activities and challenges I can’t even imagine doing today.

pgl2 pgl3pgl1

There were parts that I didn’t enjoy so much like abseiling and climbing Jacob’s ladder. Then there were the parts I loved like raft building, fencing, kayaking and archery.

But archery was the one that stood out the most. I have this distinct memory of being quite good and really enjoying it that I’ve mentioned a couple of times how I wouldn’t mind giving it another go.

So that’s what we did on Sunday.

We arrived promptly at Batsford Arboretum and met our instructor Neil. He gave us a quick yet detailed demonstration of how to use the bow before strapping our arms up and handing the reigns over to us.

archery-2archery-8archery-4

I started off really well, beating Alan’s score for the first three rounds and even managing to shoot into the inner yellow circle a couple of times.

There are several bows you have a go at, with the next one being slightly heavier. This is where I struggled.

archery-9 archery-10 archery-11

Pulling the string and bow further apart is a lot harder than it looks! You are pushing with your left hand and pulling with your right, all the way back to your jaw line.

Alan takes the mick out of my gangly arms and I think this is where they finally let me down. If you want something from the back of the sofa, I’m your girl. If you want an archer, I’ll probably do more harm than good.

I left the final bow to Alan as he managed to get pretty good.

archery-12 archery-13

A lot of fun and a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I probably have as many bruises as Katniss Everdeen got in The Hunger Games but I’ll leave the archery to her.

archery

You can find out about the Cotswold Archery here.

Lunching in Bourton on the Water

Commuting into Bristol everyday for work can be a bit of a slog. More recently I’ve been asking myself is it time to pack up my things, smuggle the cat beneath my coat and move there.

However I would miss being at the heart of the Cotswolds, with towns like Bourton, Stow and Broadway all being on the doorstep.

They are all so traditional that you feel as though you’re taking a step back in time and removing yourself from the modern world for at least an afternoon. My mum grew up in Stow on the Wold so we have visited there frequently and it never seems to change.

The day after my birthday I drove my mum, my friend Steph and I out to Bourton on the Water for a little wander and a bite to eat.

bourton-28bourton-21 bourton-20 bourton-27

We stopped at Bakery on the Water, a family run bakery and cafe.

bourton-8

The aroma of freshly baked bread carried us into the cafe and seated us right in the window. In the nick of time too, as once we arrived the whole town seemed to follow.

bourton-5 bourton-4 bourton-3

I love the idea of going to the local bakers and grabbing a loaf. Sometimes a slice of thick white bread and a dollop of butter is all you need.

bourton-6 bourton-7

After lunch we wrapped ourselves back up and meandered in and out of shops along the high street. There are some unique little boutique shops that offer the cat-lover in me the purrrfect knick-knacks.

bourton-16 bourton-15 bourton-14

Bourton is probably most well known for housing Brum the car at their Motor Museum. I met him when I was younger so gave it a miss this time around.

bourton-10 bourton-11

There is also a Perfumery, where you can make up your own scent. They have all the aromas for you to have a whiff at as you walk around the shop.

bourton-22 bourton-23 bourton-24 bourton-25

In the summer the town is full of people. They’re either sat in the pub gardens or along the river bank eating fish and chips, watching children play in the water.

Our visit was a little quieter.

bourton-12 bourton-13 bourton-17 bourton-18 bourton-19

Mum bought a bag of toffee from the local sweet shop and we made our way back home. I was driving so Mum and Steph still had that adventure in store.

My kind of birthday

So I turned 26 years old on the 26th January. I finally reached the age where I match my date of birth, not a particularly exciting reference considering I am now closer to 30 than I am 20.

I’ll try not to linger on that thought for much longer as it’s a little depressing, especially as I’m now no longer considered a ‘Young person’ according to Network rail.

Even if in my head I still feel like a 16 year old I managed to enjoy a very civilised and grown up birthday.

In the morning I was treated to breakfast in bed, in the form of homemade pancakes along with a invitation to a Spa day with Alan. What better way to make my aging body feel young again.

_DSC0054

The spa in question was Malvern Spa, surprisingly enough, in Malvern. We were both booked in for a full body massage in the morning so we headed off early to make the most of the day.

_DSC0058 _DSC0057 _DSC0061

We had a little time before the massage to take a dip in the pool, which was lovely and warm with part of it outside. There were also two types of steam rooms and saunas, a gym, a relaxation room and plenty of jacuzzis.

_DSC0076

Our spa day also included a light lunch and as it was my birthday, a complimentary glass of prosecco.

_DSC0071 _DSC0072

By the time we left I felt both relaxed and energised, ready for an evening of food and drink. I’d made hints, I would say subtle but they were pretty much ‘can you take me to No 131 for my birthday?’ To my delight, he listened and that was where we were heading.

We stopped off at All Bar One in Montpellier for a quick drink. The place has been re-decorated and they now offer table service. Not entirely sure if that’s the case on a Friday and Saturday night when you can barely move.

_DSC0125 _DSC0126

No 131 along the Promenade used to be offices but has now been converted into this grand Restaurant/Hotel/Bar and is the place to be seen in Cheltenham.

_DSC0128 _DSC0130

You’re welcomed into the lobby area, where your coat is taken and shown through to the right where the bar and restaurant is. On the left there is a huge room, that basically looks like an enormous living room – full of comfy sofas to sink into and coffee tables. Perfect for retiring to after your meal.

We were seated next to the window. If we hadn’t been I may have forgot we were even in Cheltenham.

The decor is classic meets modern. The mixture of grand lighting and modern pieces of art create a unique surrounding. The candles add a sense of intimacy and privacy to your table.

_DSC0133 _DSC0134 _DSC0148 _DSC0149 _DSC0158 _DSC0205

The staff are attentive, always making sure your wine glass is topped up but tend to leave you alone to just enjoy your evening.

We delved into the menu and wine list. The menu is varied with plenty to choose from and you could simply get lost in the array of drinks on offer.

_DSC0137 _DSC0139 _DSC0146

Once our orders had been taken I was treated to a complimentary glass of fizz as it was my birthday. I could get used to surprise bubbles appearing before my eyes.

_DSC0144_DSC0187

For starters I ordered the cheese souffle and Alan went for crab gratin. My souffle was incredibly light and fluffy with a rich creamy sauce with mushrooms and thyme. Alan’s crab was layered with breadcrumbs, a great mixture of textures.

_DSC0167 _DSC0168

For mains we both opted for the 10oz rump steak, with duck fat fries, winter veg and a peppercorn sauce.

_DSC0189 _DSC0198 _DSC0201

The steaks were cooked perfectly and full of flavour. The winter veg was lovely and sweet, and the fries were a little too moreish.

With the alcohol fully flowing, things began to get out of hand. For a start we ordered dessert, even though we were both full and I decided to play up to the camera – much to Alan’s embarrassment.

_DSC0204 _DSC0171 _DSC0178

I only got serious when the desserts arrived. A pineapple tarte tatin with coconut ice cream for me and a hot chocolate orange pudding for Alan.

_DSC0214 _DSC0216

Amazing food all round, some of the best I’ve had in a long time. So good in fact, it wasn’t long before I settled into a food coma. I can’t wait to go back!

_DSC0212

The best day full of relaxation and tasty food. If that wasn’t enough I even received some presents including a GoPro, a cookbook, smellies, monies and perfume.

A little late to the party but I’ve also become hooked on The Walking Dead, especially a certain character with a bow and arrow. I was chuffed when I opened this gift.

_DSC0124

But the day couldn’t have ended any better with a cuddle from this little madam.

_DSC0220

Curry Corner, Cheltenham

_DSC0010

You may be wondering how I’m keeping up with my new year’s resolution of eating well with all these trips to restaurants and pubs.

There has to be a happy medium you see, to stick to the one resolution of blogging more it means I have to make sacrifices to another resolution of eating healthier. I am still attempting to eat less and gym more, so far so good although I did cave to a pack of Minstrels last night.

At least I’m not doing as bad as Alan. Being a chocoholic he committed himself to a year without chocolate. Last night he helped me finished my Minstrels, ending his pledge in under two weeks. I couldn’t be more pleased, now he can remove all sweet treats from my fingertips!

After having a break from eating Indian food, we seem to be making a habit of it more recently. We’ve been trying out some corkers too having been to Bhoomi just after Christmas and then last week we visited Curry Corner, well known for having been praised by the one and only Gordon Ramsay. We found out they’ve also been given the thumbs up from Rick Stein, Kate Moss, Michael Palin and Sir Richard Branson.

We were out for my sister’s 24th birthday so the whole family were involved. I ended up taking 164 photographs some how, don’t worry I’ll only share the best ones with you guys.

Curry Corner is just on the edge of the centre of town. It’s in a relatively odd place, situated between houses in the area known as Fairview in Cheltenham. If you need more guidance, it’s basically around the corner from the Banksy piece.

We arrived fashionably late, what seems like a tradition in my family and settled in the warm and rich surroundings. The bar was most impressive, striking, heavy-set wood encasing a mixture of spirits and beers.

_DSC0878 _DSC0877_DSC0886 _DSC0887 _DSC0891 _DSC0892 _DSC0895 _DSC0901 _DSC0881

There is a wide variety of starters and mains to choose from which seems to send us all into a mild panic, wanting to make the right decision but also making sure we don’t all order the same thing so we can all try a bit of each others. We eventually made up our minds, adding poppadoms as a starter-starter to help soak up the already flowing alcohol.

_DSC0904 _DSC0905

The service was splendid, the staff are really friendly and take pride in serving up some delicious food – just take a look at our starters.

_DSC0919 _DSC0920 _DSC0921 _DSC0922

The last image doesn’t look the most appetising but enveloped inside that omelette is one tasty bit of lamb.

Once we’d experienced the starters we were hungry for more, luckily it wasn’t long before the mains arrived. Covering our table with delicious aromers, fluffy piles of rice and rich orange colours.

_DSC0925 _DSC0926 _DSC0927 _DSC0929 _DSC0930 _DSC0931_DSC0944 _DSC0951 _DSC0963

If we weren’t enjoying ourselves enough, once the dishes had been taken away we were treated to a chocolate truffle and a mango bellini.

_DSC0974 _DSC0976 _DSC0978

We were then offered a hot towel to wash our hands, whilst Mum and the brother polished off the last of the vino.

_DSC0980 _DSC0981 _DSC0982_DSC0986 _DSC0996 _DSC0994

Curry Corner offer exceptional fresh Indian food, friendly staff and some nice touches to end your evening on a high. We will be back.