Out and About in Budapest...

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To state again, I was pleasantly surprised by just how cool (not talking temp here, though cool is stating it mildly...cold) Budapest really was. One of the days we spent across the Chain Bridge on the Buda side.  We got to see the changing of the guard, wandered the streets, cautiously walked through underground tunnels which had creepy looking mannequins and Dracula's tomb (not really, but still spooky), had great food, a stunning small church where we were able to warm up for a bit, stopped at a cool looking bar and had warm drinks in the glow of the red lights, walked in the cold rain, and just flat out enjoyed the whole day! 
Another amazing day was spent checking out Hero's Square, ice skating and another incredible lunch.  This was the girls first time ever on ice.  (Matt's second, I believe)  The hardest part was that there were no barriers to hold on to as you skated around.  Thankfully, there was a little kid area (and beginner area) where the girls and Matt took some lessons.  The girls spent A LOT of time on their bums, but they really had a great time.  Mommy just spent time taking pix.  ;)  
One night we went to see a traditional Hungarian dance.  The girls loved the dancing part, but weren't really thrilled when it was just the orchestra performing.  Matt and I enjoyed the whole thing.
Near the end of our trip, we ventured out on the coldest day yet.  It was so cold (ok, I live in Saudi, so give me a break here) I had to put sunglasses on to protect my eyes from the cold air instead of the sun. We had Lily wrapped up like the kid from A Christmas Story.  ;)  We headed over the bridge and to a small island (mommy shivering all the way) where we found a park (and thankfully some mulled wine)...the girls had a blast, but when the mulled wine was gone, it was time to head back!  
We ate at three fantastic sushi restaurants including the famous Nobu.  I don't think I can ever get enough sushi.
It seemed that no matter where we went in the city, we found beautiful places to visit and incredible restaurants to eat.  We'd go back again for sure!

on the Buda side...we chose to walk up...and some pix from the tunnels

cool coffee shop

underground and a beautiful church

        walking in the rain...a great restaurant and you can get a gas mask if you need one!

so much fun!

Hungarian dancing and sushi!  And some incredible open face sandwiches from a local deli

Hero's Square, the museum, and another killer food joint

freezing our butt's off in the park!!  :)


Budapest at Christmas & New Year's

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We initally wanted to go to Prague or Vienna, but with sticker prices coming in at $250-$300 per night for rentals we had to rethink our plans.  A friend mentioned Budapest.  I said, where??  Isn't that like Eastern Europe??  My hubby on the other hand went bonkers.  So, I started my research and was I ever surprised.  Not only is it a beautiful city, but my god was it reasonable!!  We scored a beautiful two story apartment for 1000 Euro..for 2 weeks!  Including Christmas and New Year's.  Yeah, that pretty much sold me.  
I couldn't wait to get there.  The Christmas markets, decorations, snow (well, for a day).  It was all I wanted for Christmas.  On the advice of yet another friend, we booked a Christmas morning brunch at the Four Seasons.  It was incredible.  The food, the mimosas, the food, the mimosas.  
Speaking of food...there wasn't a single restaurant that we ate at that we didn't like.  From traditional Hungarian food to sushi.  Home runs every time.  We had an absolute blast.  
So, in this post I just wanted to focus on the Christmas stuff.  I'll post more about being out and about in Budapest.  The markets were flat out awesome.  I couldn't get over the booths that were preparing food.  And all the cute little handmade gifts.  The absolute best find were the rolls and rolls of Poppyseed rolls.  It didn't even occur to me that I would find them there.  Why is it such a big deal?  Well its a special treat that I only ever got at Christmas when we visited my grandparents in Ohio.  (which was maybe every other year...increasing to much longer stints away.)  Its not always easy to find the ingredients you need to make them, so it's not something we ever got very often.  These rolls scream Christmas to me and best of all, it made me feel connected to my family.  So, yeah...happy me.
We had a huge scare on Christmas Eve though.  It's tradition in our family to get dressed up and have a huge Christmas Eve dinner.  That day we were just wandering through the markets getting last minute stocking stuffers for Santa to put in the girls' stockings.  At 2:30p, they started to shut down.  And....cue panic.  Oh my god!  We don't have ANY food for dinner and most importantly wine!!!  Matt and I sot off in separate directions.  He hunted down wine and I went scrambling for food.  (some how we managed to keep the kids with us)  I wasn't the only one.  The large booth in the pictures below (with the yellow lighting) was still open and people were barking out orders.  I scored some killer looking pork and a couple of sauerkraut dishes.  But, hubby wasn't having any luck with wine...so I darted into a bar (dragging Lily) and asked the bartender if he would sell me a couple of bottles.  What a nice man, he did.  In about 20 minutes we managed to salvage Christmas Eve dinner.  It wasn't what I had hoped to make, but hell, I was just happy we had food!  
Christmas morning arrived and Santa had found us in Budapest.  The tree wasn't overloaded with gifts, but the girls were happy with what they received.  Then it was off to brunch.  Everything was really lovely.  We even got to Skype family and they watched the girls open some gifts.  Happy day.
For New Years, well, we could have hung out in the square and partied with all the people, but instead, we put the kids to bed early, watched sports bloopers on TV and totally missed the midnight mark.  Ah, but we had champagne.  Not a total loss.  :)
All in all, it will definitely be a memorable Christmas and New Years.     
Christmas Market

The Four Seasons Hotel and the one day of snow

Inside the Four Seasons

 Christmas Eve, Morning and my beloved poppyseed roll

Christmas Market

around town


Yanbu Flower Festival 2013

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Its that time of year again.  The lovely flower festival was in Yanbu.  Just as beautiful as last year and we really had a great time.
I went first with my students as a class field trip along with the other second grade, first grade and third grade classes.  They had a blast (of course they'd have fun anywhere that wasn't in school, right?)  We went early in the morning and had the place to ourselves...for a bit.  Then a bunch of Saudi boys schools showed up, and well, we didn't stay much longer.  All the students got a flower to take home with them...talk about a bunch of grinning faces!  
Next, I went with my family.  We went in the early evening and stayed just long enough to see the lights come on.  I had promised the girls we would buy them something...little did I know it would be two more chickens!!  (we now have a grand total of 7)  These little dyed baby chicks just stole my heart.  I couldn't help it...just too cute!  
I really loved the huge flower festival sign they had out front this year.  Really cool looking.  We just had fun wandering around looking at all the booths.  We weren't hassled at all this year (though I did have a hat on)  Had a bite to eat, bought a couple of plants, and well, that was that.  Still I'm always glad when we attend these things.  Its fun to be out and part of the community.  :)

One of the other classes from the field trip

aerial shots courtesy of the landscape department of the Royal Commission

the girls with a mosaic photo of the King.

a mix of fresh flower and real flowers were used.  

not only were there baby chicks, but also ducks, rabbits, fish, birds, mice and hamsters!  

Our new additions....Rosie and Paddy  :)

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