Another voyage with the Cyclos

So on Friday we set off to go to Annecy for a short séjour with the Cycle Club. We left at 8.30, and drove via Lyon airport to drop off Friend Alison, who was going over to Liverpool to visit her mum. Her plane wasn’t until the afternoon, but this way it meant nobody else had to schlepp over to Lyon to take her to the airport. She had about 5 hours to wait, by the time we dropped her off, but she was well prepared with books and other amusements.

We met everyone at a service station for a picnic lunch, then drove the final hour to reach the holiday village. The cyclists got changed, and set off for their ride, the walkers set off for their walk, and I borrowed Louis & Odette’s room (our rooms weren’t yet ready, and L&O had stayed there the night before) for a snooze and a sit down, as I felt very tired. Later on in the afternoon, I had a stroll around the grounds, and discovered, to my disappointment, that the masseur wasn’t available that weekend, and the Spa wasn’t free.  There went my plans!

Never mind! Mr FD got back from his ride, a bit disappointed too, as his ongoing sinus problem meant that he hadn’t ridden too well. He also suffered from the heat; being a big lad, he finds it hard cycling in anything much hotter than 24°. It made us both think a little harder about how we need to change our eating habits. Then we went for a beer!!! Wry smile.

There was a deadly serious boules competition going on between some members of the party:

What an amazing backdrop

Serious discussion about which boule is nearest the cochon

After the match was finished, we trouped in for dinner – which was okay, but nothing special. Salad & cold meat buffet to start, folowed by tepid brochettes (very chewy meat), merguez, ratatouille, and new potatoes (again tepid). Cheese and then “industrial” puddings – certainly nothing home made. It was edible, but that’s about all you could say about it!

After dinner there was a meeting about tomorrow’s activities, and then we took some time to enjoy the evening sunshine, and take in the glorious view (and I don’t mean me!!)

Saturday was the day that I had planned to meet up with Chomeuse and her family, but due to familial reasons she had had to cancel at the beginning of the week. That was a disappointment, but it meant I could join in with the other activities, which otherwise I would have missed. Mr FD was still feeling a bit rough, and as the temperatures were due to be higher than yesterday, and the ride longer, he felt unsure about riding. He finally decided to be a non-rider for today, so he and I struck out on our own a little.

In the morning, we drove up to the Col du Forclaz, 1157 metres up above Lake Annecy, from where there were some amazing views.

 

It’s a favourite launch spot for paragliders too; here’s the take off point:

There were some rather lovely wood carvings there too. Here I am, sharing space with an eagle:

and here is a carving of a marmotte:

After this we drove on to La Clusaz, where we met some of our party for a drink in the sunshine. La Clusaz is more of a winter ski resort, as you could tell from the number of ski rental shops, bars, and après-ski snack bars. But in summer it is a very pretty village.

The plan was to meet everyone at the Col des Aravis (1487 m) for a picnic, so off we set, passing some of our cyclists en route.

This was the view from our picnic spot, looking towards the Massif of Mont Blanc:

This was lunch

a fairly uninspiring offering from the holiday village – a bit of salad, a ham sandwich, some crisps, a manky apple and some plain biscuits. Mr FD had been so unimpressed, he decided to buy himself a “proper” sandwich, and we supplemented our meal with a mini quiche and a raspberry tart each. That made it more enjoyable! And the view helped!

At the Col there was a little chapel which I popped into – dedicated to Saint Anne, the patron saint of travellers, or so the notice said.

 

Around the shops and restaurants, the Col was heaving – cyclists photographing themselves, thrilled to have cycled up so far, motorcyclists buzzing past, visitors and tourists all wandering round…but inside the little chapel it was peaceful and calm. I took a few breaths and relaxed…I was getting a bit tired by now, but the little pause refreshed me.

Mr FD and I decided to go back to La Clusaz and take the télécabine up to the mountain top of Beauregarde.

When we got to the top, Mr FD went for a walk while I sat, admired the view and did a very bad little painting (which I’m not showing you).

 

It was lovely, and the views really were spectacular. My poor photography skills do not capture their beauty. I sat in the warmth of the sunshine, listening to the clanging of the bells around the necks of a flock of goats, smelling the sweetness of the meadow flowers. It was a beautiful moment.

We left to go back to the holiday village, as Mr FD wanted to do a short, flat ride along the Piste Cyclable that ran alongside the lake. He got changed, and psyched up, but was thoroughly pissed off to find that whoever had the key to the garage where the bikes were stored had not left it at reception, but walked off with it. So he couldn’t get to his bike. Not a Happy Chappy at all. We avoided each other for an hour or so, while he calmed down…

Dinner was better than last night:  salad starter, followed by tartiflette, or quenelles de brochet (I had tartiflette), cheese and industrial desserts – but this evening there was also fruit, so I had a peach & some grapes. I was feeling really tired by now – it had been a long day – so an early night was in order. Just before I went to bed, I wandered to the edge of the property to deposit the remains of our lunch in the long grass “for the creatures of the forest”, only to be caught out by a man walking his elderly dog, who gave me some very suspicious looks as I tossed hunks of bread into the undergrowth. Oh well, Les Anglais do some strange things!

On Sunday morning, most of the cyclists were going to do a tour of the lake, but Mr FD had always planned not to do this, because of the changing facilities. As we have to vacate rooms by 10 am, and they would return after this, it had been negotiated that 3 or 4 rooms would be available for showers. But that would mean lots of people showering/ changing in the same room at the same time, which is not Mr FD’s idea of fun, so he almost always opts out of the Sunday morning rides on voyages. Instead he went with the walkers to visit a spectacular waterfall.

I stayed around the holiday village, reading, painting (an even worse picture!), chatting with an interesting American woman who runs writing courses, and going out for a short (1 km) walk. I felt relaxed and enjoyed my morning.

Lunch was the usual salad buffet, with a daube de boeuf, and boiled potatoes in a chive/yoghurt sauce. Cheese and more industrial desserts followed. I tried a piece of lemon meringue pie, but it was overly sweet, so I didn’t finish it. Mr FD wanted to leave immediately after lunch, but we had driven here with two other people who wanted to visit the beach, so I persuaded him to wait until 3 o’clock before leaving. I wanted to walk to the beach too, so I set off before the others, being a slower walker, and Mr FD followed me. Unfortunately, I thought I knew the way, but didn’t so we ended up going the wrong way – however, we found a very peaceful little spot at the water’s edge, which, finally, I think was nicer than a crowded beach would have been!

 

From our vantage spot we could see cormorants perched on the breakwater, and coots bobbing their way through the reed beds; there were birds calling and the sound of the water lapping against the bank. Much more peaceful than a municipal beach!

By the time I staggered back to the holiday village my pedometer told me I’d walked another two kilometres, making it a record three kilometres in a day! No wonder I was knackered! Vincent and Marylyn had found their way to the beach, but were at the car dead on 3 o’clock, as demanded by Mr FD, so we left on time, keeping our driver happy! We were home by 6.30, and were greeted, rather desultorily, by the cats. “Oh, you’re back, are you?”

 

 

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Back home again…

Hello dear readers – I’m sorry I didn’t blog more while I was away, but a mixture of being busy, being tired, and slow wifi meant I couldn’t be bothered. Sorry! That sounds rude, but isn’t meant to be.

We had a lovely time, and I did quite a lot of things, but I have found that this time I’ve been more tired than expected.

So, I left you on Sunday evening…we’d been to the Provençal market in the morning:

a flower stall

a cheese stall

There were lots of fruit stands, selling the most delicious looking strawberries, of which we meant to buy some later in the stay, but sadly we forgot! Never mind… In the afternoon, Mr FD rode, and I stayed in the holiday village. I spent a happy hour painting this little picture of the view across to the sea:

Dinner was perfectly acceptable – it’s not haute cuisine, by any means, but there’s certainly plenty of food, which suited the cyclist and walking groups who were there this week. There was watercress soup, which was nice, and then I chose chicken in a cream sauce, with pasta and veggies. A bit of cheese, and a small portion of gateau. You can help yourself to as much as you wish, so you can imagine that the hungry cyclists certainly went back for seconds! After a short group meting and a tisane, we went back to our room to watch an episode of The Bridge.

On Monday, I decided to spend the whole day at the Botanical Gardens in Rayol, about 40 minutes drive from La Londe. I wanted to go by myself, so I could take my time, pause when I wanted to, and not have to worry about other people. I hada lovely day!

I arrived at about 10.30, and paid my 11€ entry fee. The view from the first terrace was a delight!

I sat there for a few minutes, basking inthe warm sunshine (despite being well covered!) and then wandered off through the gardens. There weren’t a huge number of flowers out, but there were lots of greenery. It’s a large area, divided into different gardens, with plants from different  areas of the world with arid/ dry/ Mediterranean climates. So there’s a South American garden, an Australian garden, a Canary Islands garden…etc

I walked up to the Pergola, and then sat for about 30 minutes, finishing off a zentangle that I’d started a while back. I left it on the seat, weighted down by a pebble, with a note saying “If you’d like this drawing, then please take it…” I don’t know if anyone did.

The view across the sea from where I was sitting was lovely too, so I spent a while just looking, and admiring. Then the wander continued, past flower beds

.

and wood anenomes

Down a shady path to discover a charmingly rustic building beside a waterfall

and then down towards the sea…

This was the view from the little terrace where I sat to read and to eat my lunch. There were seats, and a little house, which had originally been a fishing shack. With the waves lapping on the tiny beach, and the warmth of the sun, I felt quite soporific. The picnic had been provided by the holiday village – I’d already left the tub of lentil salad back in our room, as I hadn’t fancied that, but the rest was OK : a roll, some dried ham, a piece of camembert (which had become very runny in the heat), a bag of crisps, a banana, a cereal bar and a couple of biscuits. After about an hour and a half I set off again to wend my way back upwards… pausng again and again to take in the views

                          

At the top of the climb is this rather impressive house from the 1930s, due for renovation

and along to the North American garden with its impressive cacti

I sat just below this garden to paint another little picture of the view, which gave me another opportunity to rest

Time to head for home, so I slowly meandered back along the paths, taking a photo of this slightly odd plant:

I had a really enjoyable, relaxing day, and would recommend these beautiful gardens to anyone. It was particularly enjoyable because, early inthe season, there weren’t that many people. I can imagine that in the height of summer with crowds of visitors, it might be less pleasant, but no less beautiful!

I got home, and, as the cyclists hadn’t arrived, I went down to the bar for a gin-and-tonic. Then when Mr FD arrived, with some of the others I had a very nice Grimbergen “Printemps” beer.

Dinner was less impressive – it was “Italian” night (although I’m not sure any Italians would have agreed!) – vegetable soup (not even minestrone!), followed by a very mediocre Spaghetti Bolognaise, or cheese tortellini, or a seafood sauce to go with pasta. I didn’t really enjoy anything that I had, sadly. The desserts were either a Tiramisu gateau, or a strawberry gateau – which actually tasted like trifle-as-a-cake! That was nice!

Another meeting, a tisane, and then back to the room to watch another episode of The Bridge, before bed. I was tired, but content, having done just under 3.5 km of walking around the gardens.

I think I’ll tell you about Tuesday another time!

Down South

We arrived yesterday at about 2.00 after a reasonable journey – everyone had arranged to meet up for lunch at a particular service station, whee there’s quite a nice picnic area. I’d made “healthy flapjack” and a raspberry cake to share. I was happy with the cake in particular because I’d adapted a recipe. It is near enough this one however, mine had 150g flour, and no ground almonds. And, instead of rhubarb, and one of the eggs I used two pots of a rather unpleasant peach compote that I’d tried and really didn’t like. It worked – a bit dense but very nice.

After we’d arrived most of the cyclists went off on a ride, but Mr FD decided to stay with me, so we + Paul, an elderly husband who cannot cycle anymore, after having a heart problem two years ago, we went for a drive. In fact we drove up the road where Paul had had his problem – as we got nearer to the Col (and it was a long way up!) he pointed out the spot where he’d almost collapsed. Luckily for him, a driver stopped to ask him if he was OK, and took him to hospital. We had a pleasant drive, and stopped for an ice cream, but were disappointed by the flavours on offer and finally decided not to have one!

In the evening, we had our meal – there is a very good choice of food here. I had asparagus soup, followed by delicious roast beef, gratin dauphinoise, and green beans, then cheese and a slice of coconut tart. After dinner there was a short meeting and then we went back to our room to watch an episode of The Bridge, which Mr FD had downloaded.

As we walked back through the village we were happy to hear the Scops owl which we remembered from our last stay here. However, it made its noise all night! It’s quite a distinctive sound and in the middle of the night, we were slightly less thrilled!

This morning Mr FD & I visited the Provençal market, and also had a walk along the nearest beach – it’s the furthest I’ve walked this week, so I feel a bit tired. Also, I’m having problems with my feet hurting. I’m not sure if this is as a result of chemo – I was told to expect pins-and-needles, but nobody mentioned just sore feet, but I can’t think of any other reason why my feet should be hurting. It’s not like I’ve walked very far!!

We had lunch – cold buffet of crudités, and salads, followed by fish, pasta, mixed vegetables, and a tiny piece of milles feuilles (which was all I wanted!) – and now the cyclists have gone out. As for me, this afternoon, I’m staying in the holiday village, drawing, blogging, sleeping, reading…not exerting myself. It seems the most sensible option.

I have some photos, but the WIFI is very slow, so I’ll upload them when I get home. You’ll just have to imagine it.

I came, I saw, I had a MAGNIFICENT time!!

All week we had been watching the weather in the UK – the “Beast from the East” causing chaos, with drivers stranded, airports shut down, villages cut off…but all the time, the little north west corner of the British Isles seemed to miss the worst of the weather. Then Storm Emma started romping up the west side of the UK…but veered over to Ireland just before reaching the top of Wales.

We had to get up early, at 5.00 am to drive over to Lyon, but I’d actually woken at 2.30 and not got back to sleep. I was actually much perkier than I’d imagined I’d be. We set out to Lyon airport hoping that the plane would not be cancelled. It wasn’t even delayed!!

Wearing a double surgical mask and latex gloves, to protect from infection – as these days were the days when my white blood cell count would be at its lowest, and I would be most vulnerable to infection – I cut a slightly pathetic picture. We comandeered a wheelchair at the airport and Mr FD pushed me through. I’m very glad, as it was quite a trek to get to the correct terminal. We went through security (surprisingly there was no queue at all) – I caused some problems as I explained about the stent for chemo, and they wanted to see proof of this. It was in my handbag, which had already gone through the scanner, so people were running aroud to fetch it. Then I had to be scanned with a hand held scanner rather than go through the walk-through scanner. It all took a bit longer than usual, but we had plenty of time. As I was in a wheelchair we were allowed through passport control ahead of others (huzzah!) and soon got settled on the plane. I plugged in my earphones and listened to a podcast for the flight. At Manchester we waited until everyone had left the plane, and then climbed the steps into the terminal building. As I entered the bhuilding I slipped on some very wet rubbery matting, and fell down: luckily I went quite slowly, and nothing was hurt, but the cabin crew and pilot who were just behind were very helpful and sympathetic.  Also luckily, a wheelchair had been left at the top of the steps and we were encouraged to use it – which meant priority going through border control!! Although we’d been so slow there weren’t many people left waiting anyway. Then we took the time to organise a wheelchair for the return journey, at Manchester airport. Later on, Mr FD contacted Lyon to organise assistance at that end too.

Mum had said she’d pay for car hire, so we went andpicked up the car, then drove to mum’s, in Liverpool. We had lunch, and then my sister arrived from Leicester (not held up by snow at all), and my brother from Stokesley (near Middlesborough) Despite the fact there was still a lot of snow on the east side of the country, he had encountered no problems with the trains getting over. It was lovely seeing them all! We sat and chatted all afternoon, as I had to take it easy, while Wonderful Mr FD went on a mission to buy, and then put in place, a new toilet seat for mum. We had dinner and then, as I’d been awake so early, suddenly fatigue hit me. I was in bed and asleep byabout 9.30, I think!

On Friday evening, we had hastily arranged a meet-up for lunch with my nephew Conor (Judy’s son) and my niece Rose (Mike’s daughter), her husband and baby, over in Manchester. So after relaxing all morning, while everyone else went out shopping for a disabled friend of mum’s, or taking things to the tip, or buying supplies of logs, we all set out for lunch.

Here we are at Croma Pizza, passing Billy the Baby round the table – except not to my end, as I had to stay away from babies (hotbeds of infection, apparently. And Billy was quite snuffly).

There were some, let’s say less traditional pizzas on the menu, but I decided to have

Baked garlic mushrooms, served with (quite a lot of) rocket and a slice of olive bread

Then I chose another starter for a main course, which was a chorizo and Bury black pudding bruschetta, with a goats’ cheese and beetroot side salad. It was very nice.

and with it, I drank a delicious Manchester craft beer, called “Manchester Skyline”

For dessert I chose a “Banoffi Mess” – basically Eton Mess, but made with bananas, meringue, ginger biscuits and cream, with toffee sauce. It was a bit of a disappointment – masses of cream, big chunks of meringue, two slices of banana and one crumb of ginger biscuit. It let down what was an excellent meal, and although I did mention it to the waiter no more was said about it.

Afterwards, Judy and mum went back to Liverpool, while Mike, Mr FD and I went to spend the afternoon with Rose, David and Billy.

Billy in his bouncy chair

I spent some of the time “resting my eyes” but it was lovely just chatting with them, and watching them play with Billy. I kept my mask and gloves on for the whole time, to avoid any infection. And then Mike, Mr FD & I set off for the Bill Bailey comedy gig – this was our Christmas present for Mike. We arrived quite early, but that was fine. I sat in my seat and “powered down” – that is to say, pulled my hat and hood over my eyes and just sat quietly with my eyes closed, relaxing and conserving energy.

Here we are, after my powering down, waiting for the show to start.

It was a very good show – Bill Bailey is a slightly surreal comic, but we thoroughly enjoyed the show. Here is a review of the show from The GuardianOurs was a little different, set in Manchester rather than Southend, but – ad libs aside – it was basically the same. We got home at about 11.30, and we went straight to bed.

On Sunday morning, mum went to church, but I decided it wasn’t worth expending more “spoons” than necessary, considering we had the Elbow gig in the evening. ( The “spoon theory” is a disability metaphor and neologism used to explain the reduced amount of energy available for activities of daily living and productive tasks that may result from disability or chronic illness. … A person who runs out of spoons has no choice but to rest until their spoons are replenished. from Wikipedia) So Judy, Mike & I looked at an old photo album, discussing who the various members of our family were, as Mike has spent quite a lot of time researching our family tree. Unfortunately, while we have great grandparents who were Irish, this is not enough to entitle us to an Irish passport. Mr FD played about with mum’s computer, organising our boiarding passes and assistance at Lyon airport for the journey home.

After lunch, Mr FD and I set off for the hotel in Manchester that we’d booked for Sunday night, about a mile away from Manchester Arena, where the gig was being held. For some reason, the Sat Nav didn’t want to work in Manchester city centre and we couldn’t find the hotel anywhere. We were just about to start a blazing row when Mr FD said “Look!” and there it was, in front of us. Getting to it was another kettle of fish, due to one way systems and taxi/bus lanes, so in the end we parked the car in a carpark and walked! Again, I saved my spoons, while Mr FD went to try to get the car to the hotel – another difficult time, but he finally made it.

We took the tram to Victoria Station, which is next door to the Arena, and Mr FD went to the Box Office, while I sat with a coffee in the station buffet. We grabbed a bite to eat at Greggs (I had a cheese and onion pasty.) and then headed to the Arena. You may remember the terrorist attack that took place in Manchester in May last year. I had imagined it taking place in a large plaza area outside the Arena, but when I saw how narrow the walkway and foyer area are, it is no surprise that the effects were so devastating. There was good security – only ticket holders being allowed up to the walkway, and then passing through X-ray machines at the entrance to the Arena itself.

Again, we were early, so I “powered down” until the support act, John Grant, came on. And then – huzzah! – the main event. Which was excellent! (Review from the Manchester Evening News)

Mr FD’s photo from during “Mirrorball”

 

After the show we left by a fairly quiet exit, and were lucky enough to be able to hail a taxi straight away. It was a 5/10 minute drive back to the hotel. We thought about going to the bar for a drink, buit they’d stopped serving – and really, that was a good thing, as I was dropping. Even though I was buzzing!!

The next day, we had a full Northern breakfast – sausage, bacon, fried bread, fried potatoes, mushrooms, tomato, black pudding, baked beans, fried egg (which I’m not allowed to have) – plus trimmings (toast-and-marmalade, juice, coffee) and then made our way to the airport, pausing at Asda for a few last minute purchases of the DVD of “Death of Stalin”, some magazines, Zantac indigestion tablets & Tiger Balm (cheaper in the UK!)

Mr FD wheeled me through the airport, on the pre-booked wheelchair, which gave us Fast Track through security and a designated seating area in the very crowded departure lounge. I bought some huge slabs of chocolate (CDM!)

Then we were given a heads-up to the departure gate, so we were there before everyone else, and a very nice gentleman then wheeled me to the plane, so we were in our seats and luggage stowed before the usual scrum. At Lyon, we waited until everyone had got off, then were met by a man with a wheelchair, who wheeled me swiftly through the terminal. When we reached the back of the queue for border control, a quick Excusez-moi! and we were fast tracked through Passport Control. Pausing only to pick up the hold luggage, the man insisted on wheeling me right to the car in the car park. And we headed home, arriving at 6.30 pm.

Today I’m a little fatigued, but not too bad. I slept until about 8.30, when the nurse arrived for my weekly blood test. I wonder if it will show my white blood cells are down?

It was the most amazing weekend. Mr FD was a complete star throughout, looking after me, organising everything and allowing me to just rest and to enjoy myself. Even if I have caught an infection (and I was very careful, using hand sanitiser after every bathroom visit, in between bathroom visits, after touching stuff…Etc etc. Plus my double mask protection and latex gloves in crowds & public places) it was worth it!! It did me the most enormous amount of good.

And thank you all so much for your positive messages of support – they have been very much appreciated.

Budapest Jollies 5: Thursday morning.

We’d investigated a place where it was possible to leave your bags for a small fee, and so after breakfast we vacated the flat. We took various photos of the outside of the building (none of mine were very good, but you’ve seen the angel figure in my first post)

This was the view out of the flat window, looking down the street towards the Synagogue.

Having left the bags we took the tram to the covered market, where we wanted to buy a couple of last minute presents, and then the plan was to climb Gelert Hill to get views of the city. Unfortunately the clouds were so low that we couldn’t see the top of Gelert Hill, so that rather knocked that idea on the head.

Rather aimlessly, we walked along the river bank, admiring buildings across the river and chatting.

We found a shopping centre to explore (especially the toilets!) and then headed back to collect our bags, buy a sandwich and catch the express bus to the airport. Final shopping in the Duty Free to use up our HUFs and then we parted, Jane to go to Gatwick and me to Lyon.

My flight was fine, with all the connections home going smoothly. I was met at Roanne station by Mr FD.

It was a really enjoyable few days. I would definitely go back to Budapest and recommend the airbnb that we had. It was on Wesselényi Utca, but unfortunately doesn’t appear to be showing up on the site at the moment. It had a double bed and a fairly comfortable double sofa bed too. And generally, all mod-cons except a kettle and a corkscrew!

Budapest Jollies 4 : Wednesday

As the Dohany Street Great Synagogue was just at the bottom of the road, we felt that this was somewhere we really ought to visit. And today was the day.

We paid our pennies and were instructed to go in and wait by the British flag for an English speaking tour. Our tour guide was a slightly scary lady – very informative, but quite brusque. Other groups seemed to be having more fun than ours! Still, she gave us plenty of information about the building, but, of course, the focus was on the effect of the second world war on the Jewish population.

The figures she gave us were horribly huge: 1 in 4 Jews killed at Aushwitz were Hungarian, and 1 in 10 of all victims of the Holocaust were Hungarian – and the Nazis really only turned against the Hungarians in late 1944, as Hungary had, initially, sided with Germany. Between December 1944 and February 1945 a huge number of Jewish people were killed or deported. Our flat was in what had been part of the Jewish Ghetto.

This is my bad photo of the memorial tree. Each leaf contains the name of someone killed in the Holocaust. Here is another:

Somewhat sombrely we made our way to the Museum – which didn’t really hold our attention too much. For students of Jewish artefactys it might have been more interesting, but by then Jane was a little worried and distracted as she’d received a mystifying text from her bank. I volunteered to go and buy lunch, while she went back to the flat to try to solve the mystery.

After lunch (pizza and salad bought, slightly disconcertedly, from a Tesco Express shop) Jane felt content that her mysterious message had been satisfactorily dealt with, so we headed out to look at another memorial to Jews killed in WW2. This time, they were shot by the Hungarian Arrow Cross militia, a violently anti-Semitic group, rather than deported by the Nazis. Told to line up on the banks of the Danube and remove their shoes, these people – some 20,000 of them (Good God, how is it possible?) – were shot where they stood, and their bodies fell into the river. This wikipedia page gives a little more information.

The memorial is made up of 60  pairs of iron shoes, entitled “Shoes on the Danube Bank”.

I did feel intrusive taking photos, so in fact only took one:

It was a very sobering place. I felt uneasy at the number of people taking touristy shots, getting up close, focussing on one shoe, lying down to get a good view: it somehow didn’t feel right to be doing so. But, each to their own, I suppose…

We looked at the outside of the Parliament building, glowing in the late afternoon sun

and then headed off to find the Cat Café that had been recommended!

It was a lovely place, with plentiful cats

including one in the Ladies’ toilet that was just waiting for someone to come along and turn on the tap

     

TBH, it’s one of the nicest Cat Cafés that I’ve been to.

We then went back to the flat for a glass of wine, and then went to the Ruin Bar, that Jane’s son had recommended to us.

Ruin bars are all the rage in Budapest and have been around for 10 years since the founding of Szimpla Kert, the mecca of all ruin bars. These bars are built in Budapest’s old District VII neighborhood (the old Jewish quarter) in the ruins of abandoned buildings, stores, or lots. This neighborhood was left to decay after World War II, so it was a perfect place to develop an underground bar scene.

It was achingly hip, and we felt remarkably out of place, so decided not to stay. We instead went to have some street food – Goulash in a cob.

Which was okay. Not great, but okay. I spilt most of my beer over myself which was annoying.

Then a trot to the Christmas Market for a last Chimney Cake – here they are being cooked:

and then home again.

Last morning tomorrow…

Budapest Jollies 3: Tuesday

The weather had taken a turn for the worst – it was cold, dreek, and distinctly rainy. So we had a leisurely breakfast and took the tram down to the Market Hall, designed by Eiffel (of the Tower fame) We thought this would be a quick in-and-out, but oh no! Not for us inveterate browsers!

On the ground floor there were lots of fruit, meat, fish stalls, as one would expect in a market, but there was one alley of Paprika stalls, paprika being a Hungarian “thing”. We strolled up, noting that the prices became slightly cheaper the further you got from the entrance (though only by a few HUFs – about50 cents in euros). We chose what we’d be buying…at a later date. Then we went upstairs, where there were stall upon stall of Hungarian hand embroidered tablecloths, table runners, table mats…and pashminas, and scarves, and jewellery…Oh, look! Leather handbags! We spent the whole morning there, enjoying the bustle and the people.

   

We had lunch from one of the stalls – it was okay, but not great. I chose a stuffed aubergine, which was only lukish-warm when we received it. I thought about complaining but didn’t bother and it was only when I was halfway through that I thought about how important it is to reheat rice (with which the aubergine was stuffed) to piping heat. Too late now, I thought. Thankfully, there were no ill effects.

After, we walked across to the Buda side of the river to the Cave Church. It was an interesting place to visit, with a comprehensive audio guide. It was very peaceful, and good to sit where Christians had worshipped for hundreds of years – or so I thought! But again, this was a reasonably recent church build – although, to be fair, the caves themselves are a much older feature!

This is a statue of St Stephen, outside the cave church.

After this we went to the Gelert baths. Budapest is a spa town, with several public baths, many of which are quite opulent. Gelert baths are one of the most well-known, and were certainly the handiest. Reviews that we had read were mixed, but we decided to go here because of its convenient location.

The entrance hall was certainly very impressive (although my photos, sadly, are not!)

    

but when we (finally) found our way to the changing room, and then (even more finally) to the pool we were a little disappointed.

It was certainly more pleasant than the Municipal swimming pool in Crosby where we used to go as schoolgirls, but not quite as “art nouveau-ish” as we’d expected. Still, we swam in the big pool, and lolled in the 35° pool, then decided to brave the damp weather to go to the outside pool. It was a nasty trot through the drizzle  (bare feet!) but the pool was deliciously steamy, and we got chatting to a very pleasant Scottish lady who obviously loves Budapest and gave us some hints and tips. After about an hour, getting more wrinkled by the minute, we scampered back through the gloom to try to find the steam room. This we did, and there we found a little of what we’d been hoping for, in the slightly grubby, down-at-heel thermal pools

With further lolling in warm water (40°) we decided we’d had enough, and got out. We took the tram back to the flat and relaxed with a glass of wine and a chat. Then we ventured out to the Yiddish Italian restaurant that had been recommended to us. It was very good.

I chose a Jewish egg paté – basically chopped up hard boiled egg, with parsley. Pleasant enough. I took a photo but it was terrible. This article, that I discovered while looking for a photo, is quite interesting on the subject of the Jewish Egg paté. Next I chose goose leg, with spiced red cabbage and mashed potato.

It was delicious. Really yummy. And then we had traditional Jewish poppyseed cake, Flodni:

With a good bottle of Hungarian red shared between us, we felt very well fed! A short stroll home and some decision making about the following day: the stained glass museum that I’d hoped to visit was closed for filming, so we couldn’t go there, so we considered other possibilities.

Which you will hear about another time!