First, my apologies. To my mother, who is my number one fan and looks forward to these blog posts because I'm terrible at calling. And to Jackie, my dear Orcas Island friend, who wonders if I've fallen off the face to the earth. It's been a Spring of many changes and discombobulations. But without further excuses, let me take you back a month and tell you about the now-determinedly-annual girl's trip to Budapest.
So even though last year we came back from Berlin with bad headaches and aching livers, my mates H & E agreed to take a trip with me again. Something about me booking the flights and the flat and then asking for money...the Brits are really too polite to say no sometimes.
Budapest is marvellous. Especially when the sun is shining, which it did for us all three days. Sometimes we would simply sit on a park bench, soak up the Vitamin D, and admire the grandeur of the pre-war buildings in a city that was, unlike London, spared of World War bombing raids. It helps to arrive in a new place and be struck with multiple magic moments within the first few hours. Our Air B&B flat was spacious, in a Jewish quarter building with a central courtyard n the Pest side of the river. If you squinted, you could almost see kids in wool caps and grandmothers in aprons going about their 1930's lives.
As we wandered the neighborhood we discovered these places called 'Ruin Pubs', restaurants and bars set up in derelict spaces between buildings. Some of them were open air, some had light-letting plexiglass roofing. They all had a feel of rustic, aka dilapidated, comfiness. The food was kosher and big on tabouleh and paprika. The pilsners were cheap and refreshingly cold and carbonated (as opposed to English brew, which I have still not taken to).
Certainly the highlight of the trip was a visit to one of the public bath houses. We went to Szechenyi Thermal Baths, situated in the center of a spacious park and looking like a miniature Russian Hermitage. I had forgotten to pack a swimsuit and since this wasn't Scandinavia, I was obliged to rent a utilitarian one piece. This made me feel like a throwback to Communist sensibilities when most of the other women were in bikinis. We started in the outdoor pool, warm and not the least bit sulfer smelling. The Hungarians keep everything tidy and polite so, even though you could drink a beer in your lounge chair, you couldn't get it anywhere near the pool.
Inside were grand rooms containing pools at varying temperatures. I was happiest in the 34 degree water but E found the 18 degree plunge pool and she was hooked. This is a woman who loves an open water swim, so she was as happy as a starfish in the ocean with the water up to her neck and turning blue. H and I found it more trying, a special kind of torture, but endured in a spirit of friendship. After four hours, we languidly walked back to our neighborhood and had a final meal of hummus and roasted veggies at Mazel Tov before catching a cab to the airport.
These trips are really special to me. The hardest part about living abroad is not having a well-established community of people and family around. We're coming up on three years in England and I'm beginning to feel now that I've been blessed with some wonderful friends. And even though our length of stay here is uncertain, I'm grateful for what I've found on this side of the Atlantic. Come fall, however, if the option is to come back to President Trump, well, these annual mom getaways might continue into the next decade.