Gellért Hill and The Biggest Pizza | Budapest 2017

Hello again,

When me and Cem went to Budapest, one of the places we really wanted to visit was Gellért Hill. It’s essentially a 235 m high hill overlooking the River Danube. The bottom of the hill starts next to the Elisabeth Bridge, which we crossed to get to it.

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It only took us about 20 minutes to walk to the very top, which was a bit of a mission seeing as it had been snowing for two days by this point. Walking up stairs that are covered in ice and snow isn’t easy at all.

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The sun was also starting to set so we tried to get to the top as quickly as possible so we wouldn’t have to walk back down when it was pitch black. Still, I doubt the view would have been as pretty if we’d have gone before the sunset.

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This statue sits about half way up the hill. I didn’t know anything about it before we visited but I had a little look online and read that the man holding a cross is Gürz Elyas, a holy man from the Bektashi order whose shrine and grave on top of the hill was a place of pilgrimage in the 17th century.

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Luckily by the time we got to the top of the hill, the sun hadn’t finished setting so we could walk back down without slipping over. However, Cem nearly fell down the stairs at least 7 times. He didn’t manage to fall over completely though, which is an improvement on our previous ice skating adventure…

As you can see, it was well worth the steep walk.

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As a reward for walking so far throughout the day, we decided to order pizza instead of going out for dinner. I’m not a huge fan of pizza so I just got a standard size one and only managed to eat 2 or 3 slices. You can probably guess that the rather large looking pizza is Cem’s. He didn’t finish it which I was quite relieved about. Surely no normal man can eat a pizza of that size…

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As always, thanks for reading!

Let me know if you’d be interested in visiting Budapest…

Ways you can reach me:

Bye for now,

Courteney x

The Longest Walk Ever | Budapest 2017

Hello again,

On one of our days in Budapest, we worked out that we walked around 12 miles. To some people that may not be a lot but it definitely is when you’re in a country as cold as Hungary.

We set off fairly early because we knew we wanted to see a lot of things throughout the day. The mains things that I wanted to see were the Hungarian Parliament Building, St Stephen’s Basilica and the Dohány Street Synagogue. So, anything that we saw along the way was a bonus.

Our hotel was on Margaret Island on the Danube River. The Parliament Building, Országház, was the closest to where we were staying so we thought it would be the best place to start. It’s near enough impossible to get a photo of the whole building unless you’re stood at the other side of the river, as you’ll see later on in the post. I don’t know how else to describe it over than it was overwhelmingly tall and looked like something out of a fairytale.

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Across the road is the Néprajzi Múzeum, which translates as the Ethnographic Museum. We didn’t go in but I thought it was well worth taking a picture of at least. I read that the museum is the home to pieces from everyday Hungarian like pre-World War II so it would probably be worth having a look if we ever visit again.

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As you know, the thing on our list was St Stephen’s Basilica so after we wandered around the grounds of the Parliament Building, we went on our way to find it. On the way we found the Statue of Imre Nagy, which actually faces the Parliament Building. I hadn’t heard of it before we saw it but I checked online to find out what is was. Imre Nagy was the Prime Minister of Hungary on two occasions and ended up being a symbol of freedom.

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Another short walk later and we came to St Stephen’s Basilica, after walking through Szabadság tér. We had to stop for a while so Cem could watch some kids play football and I could look at the memorial.

There was a lot of work going on around St Stephen’s Basilica. It looked like people were either putting together or dismantling a stage. After we’d have a look at, we decided we needed a cake and hot chocolate break in Starbucks. I remember my fingers were freezing even though I was wearing the thickest gloves in the world.

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The final place that I desperately wanted to visit was the Dohány Street Synagogue. Before we went to Budapest, I’d read about it online and found out that it’s the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. The building is also attached to the Jewish Museum. We went in and had a look until in started to get darker and colder and we thought it was best to head back to our hotel and to the spa.

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We probably took the longest possible route home. We walked down to Erzsébet híd, Elisabeth Bridge, to cross the river. We probably could have tackled Gellért Hill it wasn’t getting dark but we decided that it was best to leave that for another day. We started to walk back up the other side of the river and we moaned and moaned about how cold it was and how much our legs were aching. We carried on and got the see the Budavári Palota and Parliament Building light up so I’d say it was definitely worth it…

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As always, thanks for reading!

Let me know if you have any travel recommendations…

Ways you can reach me:

Bye for now,

Courteney x

Ice Skating in City Park | Budapest 2017

Hello again,

One of the first places we visited in Budapest was City Park. We actually came here twice because there was so much to see. On one day, we looked at the museums and walked around the whole park to see what was there and on the other day, we went to Budapest Zoo and went ice skating in the evening.

There’s quite a few things to do in City Park so if we visited every single thing, we’d have spent our whole holiday there. City Park is home to Heroes’ Square, an amusement park, a circus, Széchenyi baths and Vajdahunyad Castle as well as the zoo and ice skating.

Heroes’ Square

Heroes’ Square sits between Kunsthalle Műcsarnok and Szépművészeti Múzeum, which are both art galleries. Although we didn’t go inside either of them because we were short on time, we still got to see the sun setting in the middle of it all, which was lovely all the same.

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Vajdahunyad Castle

Across from the ice skating rink, we saw this palace and thought we’d have a little look around. The photos don’t really do it justice, it was a lot taller and more stunning in person. Bizarrely, when we were walking around the castle grounds we saw a man dressed up as the grim reaper and loads of people were lining up to have pictures with him. Not sure what all that was about to be honest.

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Outside Vajdahunyad Castle a little bit of water had frozen over and some children were actually ice skating on it too. Cem made me walk on it with him and I was terrified that the ice was going to break and we were going to fall in the water, even though the water was probably a few inches deep. In the photo above you might notice Cem pointing and smiling. As I was taking that picture he was showing me that he wanted to go and walk on the ice. I’ve never seen someone so excited about a frozen puddle…

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Széchenyi Thermal Baths

We didn’t go in to the baths but we caught a glimpse of the inside and walked all the way around it. The building itself is huge and looks like a palace and the baths were also packed with people.

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Ice Skating

After the practise we had at Winter Wonderland, I was hoping that me and Cem wouldn’t fall over in front of all the ice skating pros, who pretty much skated like olympians compared to us. The more and more laps we did, the more faith I had in our ice skating abilities.

A few laps in, Cem must have tried dancing to the music that was playing but failed terribly and started to fall backwards. As I tried to stop him from falling, he fell forwards instead and used me to cushion his fall. He fell on me in front of everyone and as painful as it was, we could barely skate afterwards because we were laughing so much.

We definitely need a little more practise before our next ice skating adventure.

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We couldn’t believe how big the ice skating rink was or how many people came to skate either. Compared to how much we’ve paid to go ice skating in Winter Wonderland, skating here was incredibly cheap and definitely worth the money. Also, you don’t just get an hour slot. Once you’ve paid to go ice skating at 4pm when it opens for the evening, you can stay until 8pm when it closes. We ended up skating for about an hour and a half but if we so keen to rush back to our hotel and go into the spa we probably would’ve skated for ours.

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We ended up getting the taxi home because I felt like I was going to freeze to death if I walked back to our hotel again, which in fairness was over an hour’s walk away. It was worth it though because it meant we could sit in the spa for longer.

As always, thank you for reading!

Let me know where your favourite holiday was and what sort of things you did…

Ways you can reach me:

Bye for now,

Courteney x

Winning a Pug and Attempting Ice Skating | December 2016

Hello again,

This year me and Cem have probably spent a little too much time playing games and trying to win teddies at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. We’ve also been ice skating twice, so our time there definitely wasn’t wasted.

The first time we went ice skating it was raining and cold so I spent the whole hour shaking and trying not to slip over. My motivational for not slipping over was wanting to stay as dry as possible. Luckily, the second time we went there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and although it was still cold, it was an improvement from the first time.

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One of the best part of ice skating is probably watching over people fall over. I’m sure it’s not funny when it happens to you, but it’s nice to see peope laugh off their fall and get up and try again. Me and Cem didn’t fall over at all, seeing as we spent the entirity of each time clinging to each other for dear life. Also, if one of us was about to fall, the other one had to keep them on their feet. I will say that I had to save Cem a lot more than he had to save me, although he’ll probably say otherwise.

Maybe next time we go we’ll learn how to skate as individuals.

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As well as ice skating, we probably played every game they had: shooting targets, hooking ducks, smashing plates and basketball. After maybe two attempts at a basketball game, You only had to one ball into the hoop to win the biggest prize, but the hoop was far away and an irregular shape and size – it was a lot harder than Cem makes it look.

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Cem’s prize was a huge pug! It may not be a real one, but it still has it’s rightful place in my tiny student room. It’s so big that all the way home people were touching it and laughing at it.

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Another highlight for me was getting to drink tastiest hot chocolate in the world. Most stands there seem to sell it. It’s simply a ‘Luxury Hot Chocolate’ which consists of Cadbury’s hot chocolate, whipped cream and a Flake. Heaven.

As always, thanks for reading.

Let me know if you’ve ever visited Winter Wonderland. If you have, what was your favourite thing about it?

Ways you can reach me:

Bye for now,

Courteney x

 

Paris | November 2016

Hello again,

So this year for my birthday, me and Cem went to Paris. For some people, a weekend away in Paris sounds like the most relaxed trip in the world. After all, what’s nicer than the thought of eating croissants for breakfast every day and milling around Parisian art galleries?

However, when me and Cem went to Paris, it wasn’t the smoothest of journeys.

Here’s what we got up to…

Saturday 26th November

For a start, we missed the Eurostar. We ended up running through Kings Cross even though check-in had already closed. Luckily we were able to get on the next train an hour later so the crisis was quickly resolved. I thought the journey would drag because I get really restless on trains but we played games and listened to music the whole way and just under 3 hours later, we were in Paris.

Our hotel was just under a 10 minute walk from the station which was really convenient. We found it easily which is good going for someone as bad with directions as I am. Luckily, Cem is a lot more map savvy than myself.

Our hotel room was lovely and the first thing I did was put the kettle on. I’m always one to take advantage of a free cup of tea. We spent the evening watching a French TV game show which was a lot funnier than it should have been seeing as we didn’t have any subtitles to go off. The show involved guessing who sang a song from a short clip that was played. We were very competitive seeing as we don’t know any French artists.

Sunday 27th November

Before we even got to Paris, we knew that we were going to walk everywhere. What’s the point in visiting a beautiful city and spending all of your time on the Metro?

We set off early after a big breakfast in search of the Eiffel Tower. The walk was supposed to take 1:15 but probably took a little longer because we kept stopping to look at things we found along the way.

After we walked past a lot expensive shops and restaurants, we eventually came to the Tuileries Garden, which was the home to a small Christmas market and a ferris wheel, which we named the Fake London Eye. In the picture it make the Eiffel Tower look really small, when in reality the ferris wheel is tiny.

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We walked along the Seine river and saw the National Assembly. This is where we crossed a bridge to get on the same side as the Eiffel Tower. We sort of abandoned our map at this point and just walked in the general direction of the tower.

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After a lot of walking and complaining about aching legs, we eventually made it to the Eiffel Tower. I’m going to be honest, I didn’t expect it to be as big at it is. The photos don’t really do it justice. It looked beautiful from every angle, especially when the sun was setting.

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We sat in front of it and had a rest before our big walk back. There was a small roller skating competition going on and they even stopped the traffic to let hundreds of people skate across the road. We didn’t stay for too long because it was getting cold and dark and we still had to walk back to the area we were staying in.

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Monday 28th November

We had to get up early so we could have breakfast and check out of our room. We ate a feast of bread, pain au chocolat, tea and orange juice and went on our way.

The first stop of the day was Canal Saint-Martin, which I’ve always wanted to visit. Conveniently, it was only a street or two away from our hotel so it wasn’t too laborious to locate or walk to. Although it was a freezing cold morning, it was still sunny all day.

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As if missing the train wasn’t dramatic enough, I’ll now tell you what happened at Sacré-Cœur – a building I couldn’t wait to visit. It took us about an hour to navigate through the streets of the more run-down side to Paris but eventually we found it. When we stood at the bottom I looked up at it and couldn’t quite comprehend how tall and beautiful it was, despite the area it was in. I couldn’t wait to walk to the top and see the view from the steps.

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There were two entrances right at the bottom where we were standing. There were three flights of steep stairs after that too. As we started walking it became blatantly obvious that we’d have to walk past a group of men – con men if you will – seeing as there was a group of them surrounding each entrance. These are the money-grabbers that people warn you about when you go to Paris.

There’s so much to this story that I don’t even know where to begin.

We start walking up the first flight of stairs with the full intention of walking straight past these men. Neither of us were interested in whatever tat they would try and sell us. There are many people like this in Paris but none quite as rude as the ones I’m telling you about.

As we walked past them, two of them took hold of mine and Cem’s hands and started talking to us. Separately.

They started wrapping colourful pieces of cotton around each of our thumbs that eventually made a bracelet, that they would eventually expect us to buy. They kept telling us that “London people are happy people”.

We explained to them that neither of us wanted to buy a bracelet but of course, they didn’t see that as an option. The man making mine starting speaking to me in French. He told me that I needed to open my purse and pay him. I told him that I wouldn’t pay for it but my boyfriend would, knowing that if I opened my purse in front of him he probably would’ve drained it. He started shouting at me to open my purse and to pay for myself. I told him I had no money so he would leave me alone. He was really aggressive and wouldn’t let go of my hand whilst he was shouting it, but turned me around so Cem couldn’t see what he was doing.

Once Cem did see what was going on, the men quickly decided that I didn’t need to pay for the pitifully ugly bracelet that he’d tied around my wrist. Funny that.

Cem paid 5 euros for both bracelets, which is a bargain seeing as the man who made mine would’ve emptied my purse if I opened it in front of him

I’m not going to lie to you. The way that man spoke to me shook me up. Both of us were angry so we decided we’d sit on a bench until we felt like walking up to Sacré-Cœur. We only sat down for a couple of minutes and then started walking up the hill.

If there’s still not enough drama in this weekend for you, here’s a little more…

We got to the top of Sacré-Cœur and looked at the amazing view of all of the buildings that fill the Parisian streets. Then, we walked towards the building with the intention of going inside. As we got closer, I went to open my bag ready for the security check.

My bag was no longer on my shoulder.

We both panicked. I actually couldn’t move. Cem ran down to the bench to see if I’d left it there – it wasn’t there. Did those men manage to take it off of me while we were arguing? Or, was I so shaken that I left it on the bench and someone took it?

I should probably tell you what was in the bag: both of our passports, my driving licence, my uni ID, my bank card, my perfume, my phone charger, Cem’s keys and my keys. Everything that we needed to leave the country in 6 hours was in that bag, as well as my whole life.

Cem rang the police and told them what happened. They said they were on their way. 20 minutes passed. No police turned up. Cem rang again. Apparently, we needed to walk to the nearest police station.

Before we did that, we walked to the top of Sacré-Cœur again to see if by some form of miracle, someone had handed it in to security. Outside the building were three police officers. We explained everything that had happened in the past 15 minutes and after some begging, they took us to the police station.

By this point, we fully expected to be staying in Paris for another night. We didn’t have time to find the embassy and get temporary passports in time for our 9:13pm train home.

We got to the police station and waiting for me on the front desk was my bag, with everything in it.

We were so lucky that someone was kind enough to bring it to the police station, which was actually quite a long way from Sacré-Cœur. If the wrong person found it they could’ve easily stolen all of our means of getting home and all of my money too.

We couldn’t thank the police enough for being so helpful.

Afterwards, the police officers very kindly dropped us off at the next place we wanted to visit: the wall of love. It’s essentially a wall of artwork that has “I love you” written hundreds of times in different languages. As you can see, Cem found the Turkish one…

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After the wall, we walked to a cafe so we could sit and have a coffee and leave behind the stress of the past couple of hours.

While we were sat down, I realised that two things were missing from my bag: my phone charger and my Gucci perfume. Although it’s annoying that I no longer have my favourite perfume and I had to pay 20 euros for a new phone charger, they could’ve taken a lot more from me. I’m actually glad that whoever handed my bag in to the police now smells wonderful and has a fully charged phone.

After all of that chaos, we decided to take a long evening walk to finish off our time in Paris. Although it was bitterly cold, it was worth seeing the Pyramid du Louvre and the Eiffel Tower light up at night.

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This is where our sight seeing came to an end. We found some dinner, collected our bag from our hotel, headed for the Eurostar and back to London we went…

Despite all the chaos that happened while we were out there, we had a really lovely time!

As always, thanks for reading.

I wanted to write a post like this so I can look back in years to come and read about all of the fun things I’ve done.

Ways you can reach me:

Bye for now,

Courteney x

My Birthday | November 2016

Hello again,

This year my birthday started off a little different. At about 12:30am (so it’s only just my birthday here) I went to the toilet because I was about to go to bed. I didn’t take my room key fob with me because the rooms don’t lock by themselves.

When I tried to get back into my room, it was locked. I didn’t even have my phone with me or my slippers on either. I went downstairs to ask the security guard if he could let me in and he told me that the people from reception hadn’t left him the master key so he was unable to open my room. After about an hour of me standing in my kitchen watching an episode of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares from 2013, he found some sort of emergency door unlocking device that eventually opened my door.

What a way to start the day.

During the day, I had to go to uni from 2pm until 5pm before I could spend an evening free of assignments and uni related stress.

Me and Cem went for dinner at Frankie and Benny’s. I had spaghetti and meatballs and it was heavenly. I was also too full to move afterwards and I didn’t even eat all of it.

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Straight after we ate, we went to play TopGolf. We’re both highly competitive so we both thought we were going to win. I’m usually the loser of golf but today I had a feeling that today I was going to win.

As you can see, I was well on my way to victory. At one point I scored 13 which is unheard of in our games – we’re not the best golfers…

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In the end we ended up drawing. I would’ve won but one of the balls I scored four with didn’t end up counting. I usually lose so I’ll take a tie over that. However, I spent a good 10 minutes sulking over the ball that never counted.

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All in all I had a really chilled out birthday. I loved reading all of the birthday wishes that everyone sent me and I really enjoyed opening my cards. My cards will probably still be pinned to my notice board for the next few months, they look a lot nicer than the ‘to do’ lists and uni reminders that I have to stare at every day.

As always, thank you for reading.

…and thank you to anyone who wish me a happy brithday – I had a lovely day.

Ways you can reach me:

Bye for now,

Courteney x

Oxford Street Christmas Lights | November 2016

Hello again,

Since I moved to London last year I’ve been waiting to see the Oxford Street Christmas lights being switched on. I didn’t make it last year so I was really looking forward to going this year. Honestly, I’ve been counting down for weeks.

On Sunday me and Cem went to see the lights being switched on by Craig David. We could just about see on a screen near where we were standing that there were performances from Louisa Johnson and The Vamps. I wasn’t too fussed about either of these performances seeing asI’m not a fan. Sadiq Khan made an appearance though, as you can just about see from the screen we were stood next to.

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Although the lights were supposed to be turned on by 6:15pm we waited a good 45 minutes to see them, but they didn’t disappoint once they were finally turned on. However, we did stand shaking in the cold because neither of use thought to bring a hat or gloves. In our defence, we didn’t think we were going to be stood still for that long. We joined in with the 10 second countdown and watched the street light up above our heads.

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We were stood right outside Oxford Circus tube station because we thought we were going to be late so didn’t want to spend ages trying to find a good spot to see the lights when we could see quite well from where we were already standing. There was a lot of pushing and shoving involved from people who were determined to get the first pictures of the lights but we could still see them all perfectly.
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After looking at the before and after photos of the lights, Oxford Street just doesn’t look right when they’re turned off. I didn’t realise just how much of a different a few lights could make to a street.

When the crowd started to disperse I decided I really wanted to try one of the Costa Christmas drinks. Having seen the queues of people also lining up to try the drinks, I decided to leave it for another day…

UPDATE: I tried the Lindt hot chocolate today and it was amazing.

As always, thanks for reading!

Let me know if you’ve been to see the Oxford Street lights and tell me what you think of them…

Ways you can reach me:

Bye for now,

Courteney x