December I reluctantly finished up my time in Vienna and journeyed forth to Budapest for a week before heading to Paris to celebrate Christmas. Each city seems to have it’s own charm and endearment…something I fall in love with and for me in Budapest that was their buildings. Lions and faces, statue’s, swirls and twirls, arches, windows and decorations of every imaginable kind. Old and discoloured, fading, crumbling and still you can see all of their magnificence while they wait patiently to be scrubbed clean or restored to their original glory. These beauties definitely warrant the time and energy and likely lots of money that would be involved in restoring them.
I walked much of the city as usual and when it got too cold, worked out how to use the transport system which was not too difficult. Their old trains are delightful and along with above ground rail etc from my experience efficient. My two main wants while I was in Budapest was simply to try out the thermal baths (delightful, I actually fell asleep for a while) and to check out the ruins pubs. These are literally pubs that have been set up in the ruins of old buildings. Initially popular with the student crowds they have become a big draw with the tourists. I went to one of the more popular ones with a fellow traveller I met at the hostel. The combination of derelict building, odd and assorted decoration and staging, open air or tarped roofs, music and general atmosphere made for a fun night.
Heroes Square with its kings and Archangel Gabriel up on the Column, Parliament, The Great Market hall, The Opera. Budapest like most cities has a couple of noteworthy churches of great beauty. With it being nearly Christmas the choir was practicing in one of them and for me that is the equivalent of snake charming. I would have been one of those kids that followed the Pied Piper and his beautiful music and so I whiled away much enjoyable time there just listening to the music and song. Definitely go and see what’s left of the old Royal Palace. Chain Bridge and the Lion Statues who guard it. Budapest has no lack of gorgeous sites. Gellert Hill with it’s Liberty Statue and the Citadel and fabulous views of the city also noteworthy.
Hiccups along the way:
The night before I was due to fly to Paris. One of my teeth starting playing up in a big way. The hostel helped me find an English speaking Dentist and luckily they could fit me straight in. Problem solved and averted right. Wrong ! A couple of days later in Paris I realised …. we hadn’t found the problem and so the hunt was on again for not only an English speaking Dentist but one that could fit me in 2 days before Christmas. There was zero chance this could or would wait so long story short… December I added to my list of firsts along with my first set of stitches last month..my first root canal on Christmas eve. Can’t say I’m a fan of those either really. After spending the better park of a week in Budapest and Paris messing around fixing my teeth and finding out what work was needed to completely fix the issue I was completely thrilled as December 25th rolled around thankfully mostly pain free now and I ticked off another life goal.
Life Goal tick off:
Christmas in Paris. Christmas Day in Paris dawned and I was beyond excited to be in Paris and getting to tick this off. I had a slow breakfast and then after lunch walked Paris into the evening checking out the decorations and lights I hadn’t had the chance to do up till then and…. it was divine. The animated Christmas windows of Galleries Lafayette. The Champs Elyse. The Christmas Markets. The River and the Eiffel Tower. The Arc de Triomphe. King George the fifth, one of my favourite streets in Paris.. home to amongst other places the Crazy Horse and some of the most outstanding hotels of excellence. I had discovered this Street back in March when I had gone to see Dita Von Teese’s Burlesque show as my late birthday present to myself and fallen in love with it immediately.
The Louvre was back on the agenda again this trip to see a bit more of that wondrous place. It’s been estimated that if you spent 100 days and looked at each piece of art for just 30 seconds you could see all of the Louvre. Sounds about right if not veering towards the slightly optimistic. It really is a wonderland of awe and joy. The Catacombs on what used to be the outskirts of Paris was another treasure I got to in Paris this time. With over 6 million bones it’s sheer size is mind boggling. The catacombs started with the relocation of the Cemetery of the Innocents which had after hundreds of years in use become a serious health risk and cause of infection to the people of the area directly surrounding it. Food and beverages went off within hours, disease etc and to avoid the living joining the the party at the Cemetery of the Innocents earlier than they’d like the cemetery was closed. Relocation began a little later very respectfully always at night preceded by priests in surplices singing the service for the dead along the route taken by the carts loaded with bones, which were covered by a black veil. When the Cemetery of the Innocents had been cleared the Ossuary as it is more correctly called continued to take the bones of other central Paris cemeteries’ for nearly 30 years. Housed in acres of disused lime quarries under the city that had to be reinforced and mapped due to their occasional collapse and consequent caving in of streets above it solved a couple of issues at once. The Catacombs has seen visits from Kings, Emperors..Napolean and his son took a look. It has played host to an orchestral concert which fittingly played to an audience of over a hundred people such tunes as Chopin’s Funeral March and the Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens. Centuries of fascinating history well worth a look.
January will be slow .. with no sight seeing planned but plenty of dental work to look forward to as it turns out (absolutely read that in the most sarcastic voice you have) Economics dictated that instead of heading where I had planned next – it was back to Budapest which it turns out has a roaring trade in foreigners dental work. Who knew. I was told that in passing conversation last time I was there never for a second thinking the information was gold I would soon be mining. It’s winter in Europe and while friends and family sweat it out back home in ridiculous temperatures I am thrilled beyond telling with these cooler climate places. Having been born and lived in Australia all my life and never having much of a tolerance for cold, I couldn’t be more surprised if someone punched me in the face at loving being in these cold places. To be fair though about as cold as it’s gotten is -7 quite mild compared to some places and everywhere is heated so it’s only when your outside that you’re really subjected to it. Rug up and don’t walk around outside for hours on end and you’re good really.
So that was it for December. New Years came and went… some plans were made., goals were thought about and then it was time to jump a flight back to beautiful Budapest.
Blogging Old School Egyptian style. (aka: “The Scribe” Louvre Paris)
Roll on January…