Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cade's New Ride

Little plastic 3 wheeled motos are a Budapest must have for kids. The kids here ride them all over - if mom walks to the store, many of the kids ride their motos. You see them everywhere. We were introduced to them the first week we were here. Cade tried one out and promptly fell over and busted his lip, so we didn't get one. Now, motorcycles are one of his favorite things. He points them out wherever we go. We were at the park last week and there were many motos there. Cade was quite upset when he had to leave them and cried all the way home. I decided it was time to get a moto! I took him the next day and let him pick it out. He rode it all over the store and I literally picked up the whole thing with him on it to let the cashier scan it. He is so happy and loves his new ride!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Milan Day 5 - Coming Home

We had a super early flight back to Budapest last Tuesday morning. At the last minute, we decided to change hotels for the last night in order to sleep at the airport hotel and not have to get up at 3:30 am. Good choice. Long line at Lufthansa, but at least this time there was a line. An airport employee spotted the stroller and whisked us away to our own personal check in counter...nice!!! Maybe there is a benefit to dragging the kids across Europe!

We enjoyed a smooth flight and were actually glad to be back in Hungary. Strangely enough, we were happy to hear Hungarian again. Something about saying koszonom and bocsanot feels like home.

Normally, coming home from vacation pretty much throws you back into reality. There is laundry to do, groceries to buy, and suitcases to put away. We have improved, but in the past there were times our suitcases remained unemptied for embarrassingly long periods of time. Before we moved in October, we discovered a suitcase in the closet that had been left untouched since a trip in July! Oops!!

Coming home from this trip was quite different. A few months ago, after I had a minor breakdown about not even being able to clean right because I can't read the directions on cleaning products, we hired the best housekeeper in the world. She comes two days a week and solved all my cleaning woes. I cannot complain about laundry anymore, either. She does ALL our laundry, folds it with military precision, and puts it all away. She also does all the ironing. It is rather fabulous. This time, coming back from vacation was a continuation of the vacation. She had gone to the grocery store for me and stocked the fridge. She came over once we were home and did all the laundry from the trip and put it all away. The ultimate was when I opened my dresser drawers and found she had taken everything out and refolded everything perfectly!! It was the perfect ending to a great vacation!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Milan - Day 4

Our last day in Milan was planned as a day to hit the last few highlights and do some shopping. First stop - a quick trip to the Sforzesco Castle.
From there, we headed to Corso Buenos Aires for some souvenir shopping. Our finds? Larry got some silk ties, Chelsea and Cade got a toy, and for me? Black beans. I love black beans and I haven't found them in Budapest (without paying a $4 a can!). I found a bag of dried beans in the grocery store in Milan and that was my exciting souvenir.

We followed up our shopping with some window shopping on Monte Napoleone. Chelsea was the navigator....
It was fun to look at the crazy expensive clothes and wonder who buys them.
Chelsea found the ultimate princess dress....
We finished up the day with yummy pizza....

and enjoyed the sunshine!
The next morning brought a super early flight home. Ciao, Milan!
(Why is it underlining everything????)

Milan Day 3 - Lake Como

Day 3 was a rainy day. We planned to go to Lake Como, so we stuck to the plan. We caught an early train - super cheap at 4 euros each, and headed out. The kids had fun on the hour train ride. We arrived in Como and unfortunately, the rain and cold followed us there.

We went ahead and took a nice boat ride around the lake. It was fun to see all the amazing villas! No Clooney sightings, though!

Cade slept through most of it.

We enjoyed coffee and pastries at a cute little cafe ....
Lots of yummy stuff to choose from!

We walked around the main streets and visited the Duomo of Como....

A rare moment - empty backpack and empty stroller!

After visiting a few shops, we decided to call it a day and head back to Milan. Maybe we'll visit again on a sunny day!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Milan Day 2 - Duomo and Carnival

We began day 2 in Milan back here...
We toured a bit more inside, and then headed up to the roof. They allow you to walk all over the roof! The kids loved this, of course. I was hoping they would not be the first to fall off, and we managed to make it through with everyone in one piece.

It was amazing to see the intricacies that were built into every inch of this place.

The kids just wanted to run up and down each section. Lots of fun!

Here we are on the very top.
Chelsea is wanting to run/slide down each side and I have a death grip on Cade's hand to keep him from running and tumbling down. I am ready to be done with the roof!!!

After we exploring the roof, we headed across the square to the famous Galleria of Milan. We grabbed lunch across from Prada at none other than McDonald's. Gotta keep the kids happy!We took our leftover french fries outside to feed the pigeons. They liked french fries!Chelsea demonstrating the art of pigeon feeding to Cade.
Cade preferred to eat the french fries and watch the pigeons.

We happened to be in Milan for the last day of Carnival. Everywhere we went, kids were dressed up in costumes. Chelsea saw a face painting place, but the lines were super long. Her rock start dad took the face painting upon himself.... I supplied some eye liner, lipstick and mascara.
He created a butterfly....
The square was packed with people, confetti, and silly string. We spent 1 euro for a bag of confetti and Chelsea was quite entertained while we waited for the parade to start.
We enjoyed the parade for awhile before paying a quick visit to the opera house (no pictures allowed, but it was beautiful!) and grabbing dinner. Finally, we headed back to the was a full day!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Milan - Day One!

We headed to the Budapest airport early Friday morning, ready for our trip to Italy. As I mentioned in the last post, we were planning to use only public transportation. My goal was to pack super light. I think we set a new record! We had only 2 small suitcases, plus a backpack, camera bag, diaper bag, and small carry on. So, still a lot of bags, but so much better than we usually do. I only took the boots I was other shoes. I'm pretty sure I deserve an award for that!

We got to the airport an hour and a half early. Plenty of time, so we thought. We walk in and find at least 100 people crammed around the Lufthansa check in area. It appeared there was no line nor system. Whoever could edge their way up to one of the 2 open ticket counters could check in. This could be a problem. We waited for about 30 minutes without much progress. At this point, the people in front of us saw the kids and said, "You should just go to the front." What?? We first said no, we felt bad, and they insisted that is what people do. Apparently, if you have small children you can go to the front and no one cares. So strange, but we finally did it and I am not sure we would have made the flight otherwise!

Lufthansa is great with kids. They gave each child a small toy when we got on the plane, then offered to move us to a whole empty row so Cade could have a seat. They even helped move all our junk.
Cade was a happy traveler.

It was a beautiful flight over the Alps.

We arrived in Milan, got our bags, and headed to the train platform. The airport is about 30 minutes outside the city. Our plan was to take a train into the city, and then get on the subway to the hotel. We got on the train with one minute to spare. All was well. The train ride was fast, and we got off and headed down to the subway. We got our tickets, but couldn't find where to get on. There were gates down everywhere. We roamed around for a bit and then I found some police officers. They didn't seem to speak much English, but I got out of them that the subway was closed. Seriously??? This was not in our plan!!! We wandered around for a few minutes, staring at maps and bus routes. The smart thing at this point would've been to get a taxi, but that takes all the fun out of it, right?

We walked a couple of blocks and got on a bus. We weren't really sure where it was going, but Larry thought it was the right direction. We got off and were close to a different subway line that appeared open. Hooray! We got on the subway and thought we were home free, until it only went one stop and the driver made some kind of announcement and everyone got off. So, we went back up to the street. We found another bus that would take us almost to our hotel, so we got on it. Only, at this point, it seemed buses weren't coming by very often. There were way too many people trying to get on. We crammed on there with our luggage and kids. By now, it had been about 2 hours since we got to Milan. We had lunch, but the kids were tired and cranky. They were both crying, and I was about to join them. Strangers begin offering food and I took it, trying to keep the peace. We weren't sure where to get off, so we just picked a stop and got off. Larry figured out where out we were - only a few blocks from the hotel. Finally, 3 hours after arriving in Milan, we made it to our room. Thank you, Lord!

At the hotel, we found out that there was a transportation strike, hence the shutdowns. There was going to be service between 3 and 6, so we decided to take advantage of that window of opportunity. We headed to the Duomo.

We came up out of the subway and stumbled upon some kind of car race.....
We watched for a bit before taking in the Duomo - isn't it amazing?
It took 600 years to build, and it is not surprising!.
There were signs saying no photos, but others were taking them, so we decided it was okay to take a few. See the red dot at the top of the picture above? A nail, purportedly from the crucifixion, is kept. A priest brings it out for 3 days each year. Chelsea was quite fascinated with this.
Our time was ticking away, so we left the Duomo with plans to come back on Saturday. We took a gelatto break before heading back to the hotel.

After a rocky start, day one ended well! Stay tuned for day 2....

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Kicsi Beszelek Magyarul

In other words, I speak a little (very very very very little) Hungarian. But, very, very, very, very little is better than none! We have learned question words and can form some basic questions and sentences. I am sure they are not always grammatically correct, but we are making progress. I had 2 successes today! This morning I was at an unfamiliar metro (subway) station and couldn't find the right one. I went up to a security guy and said, "Hol van a harmas metro?" (Where is metro number 3?) He may have smirked, but he didn't laugh. He answered me, albeit in Hungarian, which I couldn't really understand. That is the next problem! But, he pointed in a general direction and I found it. This afternoon I needed to tell Chelsea's bus driver that she won't ride again until Wednesday. He didn't understand. I had to dig deep, because I don't know the days of the week very well yet, but I gave it a go - "Hetfo, Kedd, Szerda. Busz Szerda." Success again! It feels good to be able to communicate a little bit!!

Chelsea won't ride the bus until Wednesday because we are trading Hungarian for Italian and heading to Milan tomorrow! Why Milan? It had the cheapest airfare, so why not? It is our first trip to only use public transportation - no rent car. I am planning to pack in only 2 small suitcases for all 4 of us for 4 days.....can we do it? Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Splish, Splash

Our adventure of the day - a trip to the famous Budapest baths! We visited Szechenyi Furdo, one of the largest thermal baths in Europe. It was built in the early 1900's and is located in the heart of the city. Many doctors in Hungary prescribe trips to the baths to cure various ailments. We had heard it was a little tricky to figure the whole thing out, but we decided to take a chance. We are so glad we did!
We entered the opulent lobby and waited in line to purchase our tickets. You buy a ticket that includes a locker or a cabin (changing room). We chose a cabin so we could all stay together. The admission was a little pricey - about $50 for the four of us. You can also purchase all kinds of therapies, massages, etc. We were each issued watch type things with magnets in them. We scanned them and were ushered back into a maze of cabins. We scanned them again and a computer assigned us a cabin. We found our cabin and used the magnet to unlock it. High tech!

Our cabin was more like a small prison cell with air holes in the ceiling. We could barely all 4 stand in there, but somehow we managed to get everyone ready. We arrived in coats and sweatshirts and were changing into bathing suits! The bath complex is enormous. There are many indoor pools of varying temperatures. We were headed to the outdoor pools, even though it was in the 30's outside! We left our cabin and wound through a bunch of rooms and pools before we found a door to the outside. We stepped out to this.....

There are 3 outdoor pools. One is a relaxation pool, heated to 38 degrees Celsius. The second is a lap pool, and the third is the most fun pool. It includes a whirlpool and lots of jets, and is a little cooler. So, we headed to that one first. It was the perfect temperature and was lots of fun. The atmosphere was great with steam rising up from the pool as we swam. The whirlpool in the center of the pool was crazy powerful and Chelsea loved it. Cade hung onto Daddy and went along for the ride. After we had our fun there, we wanted to try out the hot pool. We froze as we walked to the next pool, but it felt so good once we got in. It was like a pretty hot bath, but surprisingly the kids didn't seem to mind the heat. Cade was perfectly relaxed and enjoying his daddy time.

Chess is a popular activity for the bathers. The beautiful scenery was only tainted by the large number of fat old men in speedos. There were even speedos for rent in case you forget yours!

We are thankful for another fun day and fun memories made!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Margaret and Another Market

Another Saturday - another adventure! We are enjoying visiting the different markets around the city. The crazy building above is Lehel Ter, a large indoor market in Pest that our Hungarian teacher recommended. The markets are quite overwhelming with stall after stall of vendors. We saw our share of pig feet and chicken feet, complete with toenails - who cooks chicken feet??? We did get some great fruits and veggies and some local honey. It is a good place to practice some basic Hungarian.

After leaving Lehel, we ventured out to Margaret Island. It is an island of green space in the middle of the Danube, especially popular during the warmer months. We had never been, so even though it was quite cold, we decided to explore a bit.
Cade was super snuggly in his stroller sleeping bag...who wouldn't love that?

Chelsea was quite excited to get a turn in the back pack.

We walked along the path and came across the ruins of this church from the 13th century.

Further along the path, we found the remains of a convent from the 13th century. The island was named after Margaret, the daughter of a king of Hungary. He promised God that if God would deliver Hungary from the Mongols, he would dedicate his child to the church. So, Margaret was sent to this convent at a young age.

It was a fun place to explore, and we only saw a bit of it. We look forward to visiting again this spring - it is supposed to be beautiful with lots of flowers. There are also pools, parks, and a petting zoo....all of which are closed in the winter. We will definitely make a return trip!