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Europe at Christmas {Budapest~Day One}

On Saturday, December 19th, I had a 8:52 train from Vienna to Budapest, Hungary.  I got to the train station in time to grab an Egg McMuffin at McDonalds.  I was feeling more confident about the whole train situation.  First, even though I don't know German, it's easier to read and decipher than Czech since English is a Germanic language.  Second, I had done this the day before.  I knew how long I had to get on the train, what to expect, where my luggage went on the train, etc.

I found my train number, and a worker at the station who verified for me that I was looking at the correct train and platform number.  I got him to help me pull up the train "map" so that I could see where the first class car was located on the train.  I found the platform and was feeling pretty good about it, until the train destination was listed as "Beograd".  I knew that the cities are often not listed in English... Prague was Praha, Vienna was Wien, etc., but I was pretty sure that Budapest wasn't Beograd.  They had a wifi "hut" on the platform so I googled it... Beograd is Belgrade, Serbia.  I figured it was correct, but texted my mom that if I didn't show up in Hungary, to send the search party to Serbia.  I really wasn't concerned because I knew that I could look on the monitor on the train once I got on board and verify that there was a Budapest stop on down the tracks.

The train was running about 10 minutes late, and then they changed the platform (just the one across from the original, so no big deal), but the train to Beograd arrived, and I realized it was a whole different animal.  I hadn't booked the railjet train this time due to the travel times, so this was a different company.  This train was NOT the same as the one the day before.  There were individual "rooms" within the car that each seated 6 people.  I never figured out where my big bag was suppose to be, but I had the whole "room" to myself, so I just kept it with me.  There were no video monitors.  There were not even any announcements.  I mean, imagine what you think a train in 1980 communist Europe would be like....this was the train I was on.  I have no idea why I didn't take a photo of it, other than I was convinced I was headed to Serbia, but also so focused on looking out the window at each stop to make sure I wasn't missing my actual stop.

I did arrive at Budapest Keleti station at about 11:30.  I had arranged with my hotel to have one of their driver's meet me.  Keleti station also looked very sketchy, so I was very happy to have the driver waiting for me on the platform.  He whisked me away from the station in his Audi A6 to the Four Seasons Gresham Palace.  Originally I was booked to stay at the Le Meridien, but the short version is that the Ritz bought it, shut it down for renovations, and about a month before my trip, I ended up at the Four Seasons.  That was the greatest happy accident ever.

This is the hotel
The lady from reception greeted me at the car.  By name.  I felt like someone famous, and it was kinda awesome.

Here are pics I took of the lobby throughout the trip...


They had a fancy Christmas Market in the hotel lobby!  It was written up in Hungarian In Style Magazine.


They asked if I wanted to upgrade my room, and I initially declined, but they showed me my first room, and while it was nice, I was now curious about the upgrade, so they let me look at that room, and I just simply couldn't leave it.  It was on the top floor, right in the middle of the hotel, and the balcony had the most amazing view.  This is the view and why I couldn't leave it once I had seen it...
Buda Castle, the Chain Bridge, Matthias Church, and Fisherman's Bastion right there for me to admire.

Honestly, the extra money I spent to upgrade this room is probably the best money I've ever spent.  The only trouble was that I loved my room and never wanted to leave it!

The door to my room.  It was so fancy and it had a doorbell.  The bar area was to the left, and the bathroom was to the right.











After checking in, I went down to the Concierge.  I had been emailing them and they had set up a bus tour and a river cruise for me, so I needed to get my tickets.  I had lunch in the Bistro in the hotel, and then headed out to do a full loop on the Bus tour to get a feel for the city.  It was pretty chilly, but I wanted to sit up top in the open air portion.
Some pics from the bus...
Parliament Building
St. Stephen's
I totally screwed up because I didn't realize there were two "Chain Bridge" stops, so I only rode 1/2 of the bus tour and then hopped off.  I checked out the Chain Bridge before moving on...





I started walking back toward the hotel, and fell in a spectacular fashion.  I have no idea what happened.  I mean there were a ton of cracks and curbs and things my giant feet obviously managed to trip over, but I didn't even realize I was falling.  I was just splat out on the ground and wondering what the heck happened and whether I was still all in one piece.  (If you are keeping track... yes, that's a fall on each of my last 2 vacations)  After that, I had to go back to my room and tend to my injuries (2 bruised knees, 1 bloody knee, and a broken camera lens filter (thank goodness I had that filter on so it didn't crack my lens!).  

I then hobbled on up to St. Stephen's Basilica.  It was very close to the hotel as well.  The Basilica is beautiful and there is a Christmas market right outside.




Looking back at the market from the steps of the Basilica.  My hotel was down that pedestrian street that you see directly behind the tree.  It was only a couple of blocks away.






It is very hard to see, but inside this glass box is the mummified right hand of St. Stephen.
I walked around the St. Stephen's Christmas Market, and then headed back to the hotel and walked through their Christmas Market.  This is the entrance from the outside of the hotel to their market.
After putting my feet up for a bit, I got ready to go on my Danube River cruise I had booked, and  hung out on my balcony a bit.  I was captivated by this view.





It was a bit of a walk to the boat, and I was totally irritated when I go there because there were no outside seats because it was winter, and it was so HOT inside.  Thank God for European smokers!  They had a designated outdoor smoking spot at the back of the boat and that is where I stayed for almost the entire thing.  

Liberty Statue



Parliament









A shot of my hotel from the river.
After we docked, I walked back towards my hotel.  I liked this statue I passed along the way, and of course it made me miss my Lola pup.
Vigado Concert Hall
I headed back down to St. Stephen's and tried to decide what to eat for dinner.


I ended up at the BBQ truck.  You can take the girl out of Texas, but...

I also stopped in the hotel bistro and got two mini-desserts to go.  They were delicious!
I decided to take advantage of the bath salts, and have a soak in the tub to finish off my day...
with a cup of tea of course!

Stay tuned for Day 2 of Budapest!

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