I won't bore you with the same, recycled prefix to the majority of my recent posts. But let's just say that I am an idiot who takes on more than she can handle and that I haven't even had time to do my PhD work lately.
Back in January, Michele and I took a trip to Budapest.
It was an attempt to take advantage of a Ryanair flight sale (which backfired horrifically when a miscommunication between Michele and I resulted in me having a one-way ticket and only realising this a few days before having to fly home... cue very expensive last-minute ticket purchase).
We arrived in Budapest on a wintry afternoon in early January. The sunlight filtered through the land from a low sun and bathed everything in a soft, pale light. As we left the plane, the freshness of the air was a cool breath on our skin before the imposing chill began to slowly soak through our many layers. We bundled onto a bus which rattled and jerked down the motorway and we watched in amusement and horror as one motorist reversed back up the motorway after having missed his turn-off. Madness.
We were staying with Krisco Apartments and our little studio was the most wonderful base to explore from. With a very central location (close to the synagogue and the famous ruin pubs) the rooms had been recently refurbished and were wonderfully warm and cosy - that shower and that duvet were the most welcoming duo to return to after days exploring the city in the coldest temperatures I'd ever experienced!
Once we had dumped our bags and had an odd lunch in a half-convenience-store, half-cafe a few doors down, we began to explore Budapest.
And pretty much immediately ducked into the Szent István Bazilika to seek some respite from the cold!
The bazilika was still decorated for Christmas and we were lucky enough to visit whilst a choir rehearsed.
Whilst our main aim had been to hide from the rather harsh temperatures outside, we were quite simply awestruck by the interior of the bazilika.
I can't quite convey the sheer scale of the structure with these photos (partly due to me having only brought a fixed lens to use on Michele's camera - yup, still no camera of my own and apparently no camera sense either!) The ceiling soared above us in elaborately decorated arches and domes and the overall impression was of a building that somehow managed to contain a greater space than it appeared to from the outside.
Back outside, the cold was waiting.
And when we reached the Danube, we saw that the river was partially frozen over.
Yep, that's right it was that cold.
To make matters worse, I had been a very clever person and neglected to bring gloves. I have terrible circulation as it is and gloves don't typically keep my hands warm. Nevertheless, this was the holiday during which I realised that whilst gloves may not keep my hands warm, they at least keep them from contracting localised hypothermia (if such a thing exists).
Just as I was discovering the extent to which my extremities can feel the cold, Michele was discovering the hypnotic powers of watching ice crush against the pillars of the Chain Bridge. I am not even kidding, I think we spent a good hour out of our two-and-a-half days in Budapest standing on various bridges and watching sheets of ice collide with the stone columns that penetrated the icy waters. I'll concede that it was an enchantingly beautiful spectacle to behold; in the darkness, the great slabs of ice resembled huge pieces of marble, veined as they were with cracks and frost.
Of course, the longer we stood there, the colder we got. Also, the longer we stood there (in those incredibly photogenic surroundings), the more photos I tried to take - although without gloves this need began to border on masochism.
Take it from me guys - no matter how ineffectual gloves/hats etc. have been in the past, make sure you bloody well take them when travelling in Budapest in January.
As we left the river and headed for a wander around the Parliament area, we soon realised that we were losing the ability to control the lower halves of our faces. Or at least I was - you know when you've eaten too much ice cream and your mouth goes numb? It was like that but for my entire face. I could barely speak.
We decided that coffee was most definitely in order (it was only 5pm and seemed a little too early for dinner - ah to be officially in the midst of springtime, when such darkness at 5pm seems a distant memory!) and happily came across Cafe Liberté, possibly the most Pinterest-perfect restaurant in the whole of Budapest.
One mocha (and then various types of alcohol) later and I was a much warmer and very happy bunny. The incredibly friendly staff also provided us with some free pastries to go with our drinks - a lovely, chocolatey breakfast right before dinner!
It should also be noted that I was wearing two tops, a thick polo-neck jumper, a suede jacket, a big wool coat, a scarf and earmuffs and I was still the coldest I have ever been whilst out and about on those streets. When visiting Budapest in winter, take as many layers as you can possibly fit in your luggage!
We left Cafe Liberté to brave the cold once more in an attempt to see more of Budapest's streets. We didn't have much of a plan and just wanted to get a feel of the place (which can pretty much be summed up by: it's beautiful but damn this is cold!)
Having warmed my hands in the lovely Cafe Liberté there was no way I was going to bring them out of my pockets and turn them to ice once more so the camera remained firmly shut away in my bag until dinnertime. We dined at Két Szerecsen, a restaurant I'd seen pop up in a few bloggers' guides to Budapest.
Inside, it had a marvellously cosy bistro feel. Our table was on a little platform tucked between the bar and the window - perfect for people watching!
I had beetroot risotto with grilled goats cheese and it was so, so good. I'm a bit of a tough one to impress when it comes to risotto, thanks to Michele having taught me how to make one like an Italian and due to extensive experience with the stuff (the default veggie option these days always seems to be a risotto!) But this was delicious - the rich, sweet earthiness of the beetroot was very happily married with the salty, creamy goats cheese. Yum!
For dessert I had cottage cheese balls with cinnamon cream - I wasn't expecting them to be warm and they were ever so slightly too savoury but it was an interesting experience nonetheless!
And with that, we rushed out into the icy air and hurried back to the embrace of our duvet, ready for packing as many adventures as was feasibly possible into our first full day in Budapest the next morning!