A Travellerspoint blog

Budapest

Petnehazy Club Hotel

sunny 28 °C

On arrival at Budapest airport we were met by a driver and transported to our next destination Petnehazy Club Hotel. This was accomodation that Brian had booked on the internet through our Timeshare organisation RCI. We knew that it was just out of Budapest but had no idea just where. It turned out to be just a delight. As promised it was a Club set in the rolling countryside just outside the city. Not only were we surrounded by hills and bush but we also had every facility at our disposal, indoor and outdoor swimming pool, restaurant and bar and to cap it all our delightful RCI rep Susanna was on hand to explain the transport systems and general organisation and to offer us a variety of sightseeing trips in Budapest and surrounds. Our room was basic but clean and comfortable with a small kitchenette which we hardly used as the meals were more exciting and very reasonably priced. The style of all the buildings was quite rustic, lots of wood and chalet type.
First day we took an organised boat trip down the Danube and around Margaret Is, a leisure island in the middle of Budapest accessible only by boat.
The tour was commentated so gave us an overview of the layout and interesting features on both sides 'Buda' and 'Pest', a very relaxed introduction to the city. Next day another tour, this time in a minibus with others from the resort. We got a close up of the sights that we had seen from the boat the previous day. First stop, a walk uphill to the square of St Matthias Church, strikingly white against the blue sky and beautifully ornate with stone carvings that looked like lacework. This square also had the ramparts and tower of the old castle, a great viewing platform to see over Budapest. The walk up was reminiscent of our walk up to Prague castle lined as it was with old colourful buildings, souvenir and craft shops at ground level. The old castle itself seemed to be in restoration so we didn't explore there. From there we joined the bus again and wound our way further uphill through the more wealthy suburbs to Gallert Hill. On top there is the citadel with a bronze statue of a woman holding a palm leaf high above her head commemorating the release of the city from the Nazis. There are other statues as well paying tribute to other eras of history. From there we crossed one of several bridges leading over to 'Pest' where we visited Parliament buildings set on the cliff just off the road in another Square. The building looked magnificent enough from the front but when we got around to the other side, it was even more so. An added bonus here was seeing the changing of the guards which happens everyday at 12 noon. Surprisingly after a very formal ceremony of precision marching, they marched to the front of the crowd and invited photographs. Also in the square were magnificent stone and bronze statues dedicated to various war heroes and several other very impressive buildings. We then drove into the middle of town to visit St Stephens Basilica, again an impressive building but even more so inside with its beautiful dome and many frescoes on the ceiling. Other features were the various shrines all dedicated to saints, St Martin and St Matthias and and all with a story but most interesting were the relics, the skull of St Martin and the piece de resistance, the hand of St Stephen housed in a separate chapel. Interesting but slightly bizarre !

Posted by Healey Bri_Avi 02:25 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

Last stop in Istanbul

Beyoglu

sunny 29 °C

Took a taxi to new accommodation in Beyoglu, not without difficulty. 'The Loft' was hidden in a side street and down some steep steps. Fortunately we had contact numbers and our hostess, Arsu was able to guide us. We finally got to this small boutique hotel hidden amongst the beautiful old buildings in the French quarter of Istanbul. Inside we were led up narrow winding stairs to the top floor where we had a spacious bedsit apartment. Very comfortable. Finding our feet we took a trip up Iskitlal Cad to access some money. It was all very nostalgic but we were rather uncomfortable regarding the pronounced police presence so hurried back to the safety of our little hidden street purchasing some basic food supplies on the way. We found out later that the Gay Pride celebrations. Were about to take place. Our street was very steep, terraced down to the street below and lined with restaurants. The waiters were always trying to entice you in and went out of their way to meet you. One of them had already found out a bit about us and on our way back he introduced us to another New Zealander who had just arrived. We sat down with her and had a yarn and before long were joined by her partner who had flown in from the UK. We finished up ordering a meal and spending a very pleasant few hours with them. Thanks James and Leyla. Next day we set out to find the French Street, leading us through narrow side streets out into the busy centre of Cihangir. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that the street we were on was the French street of our memories. We spent most of our evenings there, sometimes for a meal, often for just a drink and to soak up the balmy unique atmosphere. While at 'The Loft' we fitted in all our other bucket wishes for our visit to Turkey. A visit to Galata tower which we never managed while living there, several trips down Iskilal including a meal at the Divan hotel where we had once stayed, another visit to Ortakoy, back to Kanyon for a final meal with Ipek and family and a final trip to Zekeriakoy which included a meal at Uzunya, the beach that Brian and Wayne used to bike to. During this time too we learnt of the horrific bombing at Ataturk airport which set our nerves on edge. On our final day we travelled out to the Ramada hotel, a stones throw from the airport. All was quiet there and it seemed as if life had returned to normal. Our check in at the airport was chaotic because of the crowds but well ordered. Needless to say we were very pleased to get away safely and head to our next destination Budapest.

Posted by Healey Bri_Avi 01:30 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Sisli, Istanbul

More favourite haunts

sunny 29 °C

June 22nd - moved to Regno Hotel, Sisli, a boutique hotel in the middle of a bustling business and residential area. Here we got a taste of the sights, sounds and smells of everyday life - street vendors, the many faces of theTurkish people, chaotic traffic. On one of our forays to access the metro, we witnessed a motorbike crash at an intersection, little wonder at the speed they travel and the risks taken. In this case both drivers were up on their feet if not quite as fit as they had been. Here too, we began to use the metro and city bus service via the Istanbulkart. Our first trip was to Ortakoy a favourite spot on the Bosphorus by the 1st bridge to the Asian side. It is characterised by a waterfront, a mosque and numerous little shops and market stalls selling everything from clothing, jewellery, souvenirs and of course a wide variety of restaurants and eating stalls. An interesting place to while away a few hours. Next day, we headed down to Taksim Square, down Iskitlal Cad and across the bridge to Eminonu. Here we picked up a municipal ferryboat to travel up the Bosphorus stopping at various pick up points on both the Asian and European side. At the Black Sea entrance, the boat stopped for 2 hours allowing us time to explore the fishing village of Anadolu Kavagi at the foot of a hill where an old castle is situated and of course, indulge in an Efes beer and a shrimp hotpot with salad before our return journey. During this time we met again with Ipek and Ilker and two of their friends at another fish restaurant, also on the Bosphorus but between Sariyer and Tarabya to celebrate Ilker's birthday. Great times.

Posted by Healey Bri_Avi 06:20 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Levent, Istanbul

Favourite haunts

sunny 28 °C

June 19th - moved to Levent Hotel. Levent is the area where we linked with the metro to travel further afield when we lived here. It is also where our favourite shopping malls, Metro City and Later on Kanyon are located so we were interested to see how they looked now. Metro City continues to be a more functional mall with supermarkets and less upmarket shops. Kanyon is more upmarket, an architectural delight with curved floors around a central entry level with water features and restaurants and open to the sky above. This was to be the shopping experience of our trip. Our first excursion was to Maslak, another area we liked to shop but a disappointment here as it no longer is the Maslak we knew having been redeveloped into a hotel and business area, however we did discover a new Mall, Istinye Park, very upmarket with all the big names - Armani, Gucci etc - just for looking! We spent a lot of time browsing the shops in Kanyon and Metro City and made a few purchases limited somewhat by having to now carry them around in our suitcases. A highlight during this part of our stay was a meal with Suzan, Sibel, Nurcan, Ekmel and Janet all former teaching colleagues. Great friends, great memories !

Posted by Healey Bri_Avi 06:00 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Istanbul, Turkey

Memories

sunny 30 °C

June 16th - arrived in Istanbul and met at airport by a driver arranged by our hosts Ipek and Ilker Saltioglu. Stayed with them at Ajarlar, Sariyer for first few days. Wonderful hosts, took us on tour to visit past haunts - Yuzyil Isil School, now Aci where we taught, Zekeriakoy, the suburb we lived in and Kilyos the nearest beach area we used to visit. There is huge change in this area with the 3rd bridge being build over the Bosphorus to connect to the Asian side - the roading has been developed and it is built up almost all the way to Kilyos with businesses and restaurants. Zekeriakoy has matured with 2 supermarkets now, the trees and green areas have grown and it is much busier. Highlights of our time here- afternoon tea with Melis, a former teaching colleague at her home, a BBQ evening at our hosts home with Ipek's parents, a meal at Big Chefs with Ipek, Melis, Berrin and Nuray, all former teaching colleagues, another evening meal with Ipek and Ilker at Kilyos and a trip to Izmit to visit Ilker's family. Great times, great hosts !

Posted by Healey Bri_Avi 05:33 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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