Thursday, April 4, 2013

Christmas in Budapest

After our really nice day of sightseeing Brian, Anne, Dayne and I were excited for our Christmas Eve dinner. We had booked at the 1 star Michelin Onyx Restaurant as they were putting on a special multi-coursed meal complete with wine pairings, many of them Hungarian.

The restaurant was absolutely beautiful. I wish I could adequately describe the richness of the wallpaper, decor, table settings, purse stools and chairs. Especially the chairs! Anne and I were seated in these massive black thrones, we felt like queens. It was a fantastic evening, starting off with glasses of Billecart Salmon Champagne, then being catered to by men in white linen gloves through seven courses of gorgeous dishes.  Some, like the goose liver torte with coffee gelee paired with a demi sec Tokaj, really were amazing.
Another stand out was the venison filet with truffle jus (even though it also had beets!)
We all rolled out full, happy and feeling festive! I'd absolutely recommend the restaurant to anyone looking for a Michelin experience in Budapest.

Dayne and I slept in on Christmas day and had a long lunch at the delicious and historical Central Cafe. The huge coffee shop attracts tourists and locals alike. They have delicious goulash and a drool worthy pastry case. We experienced it all.
After a relaxing walk around town to burn off some of that torte we headed back to our hotel to get ready for our Christmas night out. We were attending a chamber concert and then having dinner on a river cruise. 

The concert took place in the Danube Palace which was very old, small and a bit tatty (not the palace you see above, it was in one of the buildings to the side). But the music was great, the musicians were really having a good time and we loved putting titles to the music we'd heard for so long. Vivladi, Brahms, Strauss and Erkel were just some of the composers represented. 
After the concert we headed to the river and boarded one of the cruise boats. This is much more of a typical tourist thing than we normally do, but being Christmas and not having many choices we were looking forward to seeing all the magnificent buildings along the waterfront lit up. They were serving dinner also, which we weren't expecting much from, but it ended up being better than average. The views from the outside deck of the boat were just as incredible as we had hoped. It was a very twinkly, tasty and musical Christmas!

To wrap up our Christmas, the next day we had another wonderful lunch, this time at the Gerloczy Cafe. The cafe sits in a charming little square and is known for their delicious fresh baked bread, all warm right from the oven. Paired with the wild boar soup and a cucumber, sour cream salad, it was just enough to tie us over so we could spend the day soaking at the famed Szechenyi Bath House.

We arrived by metro, the tiny subway cars and stations seem hardly big enough for the population of the city. It was mid day and still light out as we entered the main door. We had read all the ins and outs about bath culture in Hungry and rented a shared changing room/locker in the coed area. It was almost impossible for us both to change out of our bulky jeans and sweaters and into swimsuits in the tiny compartment. Giggling we quickly went out and stepped into the first warm pool we saw. It was probably 34F outside! This pool was warm, not hot, and in the very center of it the water was an "adventure pool" moving in a fast circle, taking shrieking bathers with it as it flowed round and round. It was so fun! It's hard to describe but we took a "ride" in this over and over again.

Szechenyl has a total of 15 pools, some small, super hot baths, others large lap pools. Only 3 are outside and that is where we chose to stay. As the day turned to dusk and a slight drizzle fell, the glow from the pool lights and the steam rising all around seemed magical. We moved to a much hotter pool and just bobbed around soaking for hours.
Do not miss a trip to the baths while in Budapest! Take your own towel from your hotel, some flip flops and your suit. It's a relaxing and super enjoyable way to see how the locals live :)

We wrapped up our day with really amazing drinks at the Boutiq Bar, chatting with the bartender Akos who just happened to have spent some time living in north Seattle. Fantastic cocktails and a really interesting space (Anne & Brian have you finally gone?). And then dinner at the Callas Cafe which was good if you are in the area, but maybe a tad expensive.

We turned in a bit early as we had a full day coming up exploring the wine countryWe turned in a bit early as we had a full day coming up exploring the wine country!

All photos here!