12:39 p.m. (I wrote this in the airport)
I wouldn't say that sitting around in airports is one of my favorite activities. It would probably be pretty low on my list. But arriving at the airport six hours before my flight saved me a lot of money, and only cost me a few hours of sleep. Which I sort of got back on the train.
I got up at 4:15 (more accurately, I woke up at 4:15 and got out of bed once I remembered why I had to, around 4:20) and showered, ate the rest of my perishable food, finished packing, and cleaned up the apartment. That's so that when I get back, I'll have a nice clean space to mess up while I unpack. Logical, no?
Anyway, I did have some things to do at the airport. But somehow it's a much more efficient place to do errands than Angers is! I went to the Air France ticket counter to buy tickets to Lisbon and back from Madrid (four-day self-designated spring break with Meghan and Jakob in a few weeks), which admittedly took quite a while. I was using the complicated reimbursement voucher they'd sent me (from when I went to Milan, and the flight was cancelled, replacement flight was late, I missed all the trains to Angers, and had to pay for a hotel... thanks for the memories, Air France!) and the woman wasn't quite sure how to deal with the voucher. She eventually got it all straightened out though. Then I went back to the train station, and bought train tickets to get to the airport and back home from the said Portgual/Spain trip. Then I went to the bathroom and the bookstore. Then I found a post office and mailed all of the plane and train tickets to myself so that I won't have to worry about them this week.
All of that happened in about an hour and a half. I was expecting it to take a lot longer.
Five hours to kill... if you think traveling is exciting or that "getting there is half the fun," allow me to prove you wrong. I bought a cheap pastry to earn me a comfy window-seat in a café, and sat and read for an hour. Ate the apples I'd brought with me. Updated my calendar to reflect the latest classes I'd added and dropped. Read some more. Walked around a bit. Read some more. Went and bought lunch. Read and ate lunch. Took some ibuprofen, since lunch came with dark chocolate cake which will give me a headache. Read some more. Decided to see if there was free wi-fi, and there's isn't. Decided to write blog material offline, which is what I'm doing now. In an hour, I will go and check in as slowly as possible, and go through security as slowly as possible, and then find new ways to kill time on the mysterious side of the airport where there are only passengers and no liquids.
Friday night: Kristen and I both arrived slightly late but safe and happy. First bone-cracking hugs in months, and then we took a taxi (easier option than a bus, metro, and tram) to the hostel. The taxi was less than 20 Euros for 45-minutes... incredibly cheap when we compare it to Ireland and France. Our hostel is charming: it's been open about two months, and is a brightly colored, cheerfully decorated place called HomePlus Hostel. Highly recommended if you ever go to Budapest, it really does feel homey! The owner recommended some places to see at night, so we walked for about two hours on a circuit that took us to the middle of a bridge over the Danube, a grocery store, Gustave Eiffel's train station, and near the opera house. We got a bit sidetracked there by some other theaters though, so we didn't actually see the opera house itself. Dinner, back at the hostel, was mysterious chips, bread that had spices (possibly anise and nutmeg?) in it, chocolate covered apple chips, cheese, and Mars bar flavored milk.
Here's the view over the Danube at night:
Saturday was a BUSY day. Wow. Kristen and I got up annoyingly early, and stopped at a bakery to buy breakfast before meeting Judit (my Hungarian friend who was in Angers last semester). She's not from Budapest, so we're being tourists together, but since she speaks Hungarian, understands how much Forints are worth (I miss the Euro, although everything is cheaper with the Forint!) and is a great navigator. The weather was absolutely beautiful, so we barely went indoors all day. We went shopping in downtown Budapest (DVDs and a Hungarian folk music CD, plus a present to mail home, and a misspelled postcard as a souvenir for me) and stopped in this cheerful yellow church:
I really like Budapest's architecture. There's a distinctive flavor to every European city, but I can't really put my finger on this one's yet. There is quite a mixture of eras, though: for example, the Parliment house is Gothic, but has a big dome on top à la Saint Paul's. Here's an intersection that's a good example of Budapest:
This is the window of Budapest's most famous porcelain shop:
We ate lunch at a traditional restaurant. I got mushroom soup and this pork dish, which is pork stuffed with sausage and cheese, which is then breaded and fried. It was really good, and very filling. Inexpensive, as well!
This is the Square of Heroes, where there are statues of Budapest's most important kings (starting with King Stephen in the year 1000) and some heroes on horses at the base of the pedestal. I taught Judit the word "plinth." I'm sure the word will come in handy at some point. (By the way, we've been speaking English. Judit is an English/physics major)
Near the square, which is in between the Hungarian National Art Museum and the Hungarian National History Museum, there's a castle-turned agricultural museum.
We went into the chapel and admired the architecture, and took pictures with the statue of Anonymus, one of Hungary's most prolific medieval writers. He was a priest who didn't want any credit for his work, and signed it all Anonymus. He was one of the first to do so. Here's a picture of Kristen getting his autograph:
At a snack bar, I got corn on the cob, the first corn I've eaten since August. It was delicious. Kristen got cotton candy, and we discussed various names for it in different kinds of English and other languages (candy floss in Ireland, cotton sugar in Hungarian, and dad's beard in French).
As we ate, we walked over to the thermal baths, which are beautiful. Hungary has been known for its thermal baths since it was part of the Roman Empire. Here's the inside of the dome:
Still in the general area of the museums, we sat down in a park to chat and watched the ducks, the dogs chasing the ducks, the children chasing the dogs, and the parents chasing the children. The ducks were charming:
After that we took the metro back downtown, and walked around a little bit before Judit set off for her friend's house. Kristen and I came back to the hostel to make pasta for dinner and watch a movie. Life in Budapest is good.
[If you want more text about what we did, check out Kristen's blog.]