I was lucky enough to be asked to shoot a wedding in Italy on the 1st September this year so decided to take a few days to myself - a massive work perk! As much as I’ve adored spending more time with the girls this Summer I didn’t hesitate to book a few days to have some time alone.Read More
Out of everywhere on our trip, I was most excited about Zermatt and Budapest. It was also where we finally caught up with David and Sylvie - a week was a long time without seeing her little smushy baby face and Viv and I were both so excited to catch up with them.
Vivienne and I arrived in Budapest first, about 4pm, and checked into our AirBnb which was really central and had a 24 hour shop across the road for us to stock up on crisps and beers for when Dav arrived. We met them off the bus from the airport in the evening and luckily Sylvie had slept for the entire flight and Dav wasn't too frazzled - I think he'd been anticipating how it would go but it ended up being pretty straightforward. We dumped our things, turned around and went straight out to dinner to catch up.
The next day we packed up the buggy and walked straight through the city to cross the river and climb up to a good vantage point to see the view. One of our favourite things to do in a new place is to explore by foot, and Budapest is quite sprawling but small enough to walk around from point to point too.. We walked up towards the Citadella, and hung out at the kids' park for a bit, then walked along the river towards Budapest Castle, where we got the funicular up to the top. The views over the city were amazing, so pretty and just what you'd imagine - the parliament buildings in particular look so iconic on the skyline.
From there we crossed back over the river, and there was a Spring festival happening, where we sat and ate some amazing Hungarian street food, had a few beers, and looked around the craft market. It was so colourful, and there was a park nearby with a sunken bar area - the girls hung out on the grass and we took it easy for the afternoon - all tired and needing to relax after travelling in the days before. We decided to take the rest of that first day easily, and hung out back at our accommodation before heading out for tapas on the night (which, it's worth mentioning, was so, so cheap and so good - about £35 for three of us including wine and beers..).
I was so glad that I booked Budapest for three nights, as it meant we had two and a half days to explore, and we could take it all at our own pace. We were really keen to go to a spa but we were a little limited in our options as some places were adult only, and some wouldn't allow babies. We eventually found one on Margaret Island - Palatinus Strand Baths - which had indoor and outdoor pools, thermal saunas and baths, hot and cold pools, a kids' pool.. it was perfect, and we spend a few hours there (I could have stayed there all day, but it's a little less relaxing with the kids!).
The walk back from Margaret Island into the centre was past the Parliament Buildings - even better close up - and we decided to head to the Jewish Quarter. Honestly, I immediately wanted to come back without the girls. The ruin bars are really something else.. So bizarre and amazing. Viv loved exploring them too, but with Sylvie being a toddler and kicking up a fuss we couldn't stay for long. The Jewish Quarter, with all it's bars and restaurants, is amazing, and you could easily kill half a day here wandering around. We stopped for some lunch, before talking a slow walk back, stopping to look at graffiti and take photos too.
We had a few hours to kill on our last day, and decided to head to Városliget Park, where there was plenty to explore and see. We stopped near the old ice skating rink for food, and let the kids blow off some steam at the play area ahead of our flight. It was such a pretty place, and had Castle Vajdahunyad Vára Castle, museums and a zoo as well as the famous Széchenyi Thermal Baths to visit too.
We all had the most wonderful time in Budapest, and loved exploring and being reunited, but I think by this point we were ready for some home comforts too - there's nowhere like your own bed, is there? The flight went well, Sylvie slept all the way home (thank goodness), and Dav drove us back from the airport while I slept (sorry for being shit company).
A few days after being home I was itching to head away again.. the travel bug/Wanderlust is real. I'm hoping to get away just me and the girls in the Summer for another adventure.. this really has been magical memory-making stuff.
Oh Vienna! We both loved Vienna; it was beautiful but gritty, our accommodation was amazing and finally we were out of Switzerland and back in a country with normal prices.. We stayed in Vienna for two nights, in a rooftop room that overlooked the city and the Naschmarkt, which is a huge area for food and market stalls.
We arrived mid-afternoon after spending the morning in Bratislava, checked in, and went straight back out to explore. We looked around the flea markets, and then headed further into the centre for a few hours to hunt out one of the Easter markets I'd read about.
The Easter markets are similar in set up to the Austrian and German Christmas markets, there are goods, food and drink stalls, some entertainment.. but for the Easter market there are also thousands (literally thousands) of hand-painted Easter eggs for sale. In Europe we noticed that people decorate with an Easter tree, and hang eggs off the branches. The eggs above are all real empty egg shells (as Vivienne discovered when she squeezed one..) but we picked up a few painted wooden ones as souvenirs too.
We grabbed some foot at the market including a caramel and custard waffle for Vivienne, I had a few glasses of wine and it really felt like Spring had arrived. We walked back as the light was disappearing to our accommodation, which was hosting a party to celebrate their 7-year anniversary. There was a band on in the bar, which also had games and pool tables, and we lay on a day bed under the stairs hanging out for a while before heading up to bed.
Next next day - our only full day in Vienna - was Easter Sunday! We got up early and headed out to Prater - a permanent fairground a little outside of the centre. We started by going on the huge ferris wheel which overlooks the entire city, then a rollercoaster (Viv's eyes were tightly shut the whole time!), looked around, then wandered back to the centre. We explored a little more before stopping for lunch. Viv and I had a deal that she would try some new foods while we were away, so she and I shared Goulash, Schnitzel and Sacher torte for lunch. We weren't far from the Easter markets ad couldn't resist popping back, Vivienne had some crazy chocolate-covered marshmallow thing, before hanging out and resting for a little while playing cards because it was getting pretty windy out there.
We also headed up to the museum quarter that day, but I think the past week or so and never really stopping was beginning to catch up with us and we were starting to flag.. At the same time everything around us started shutting early because it was Easter Sunday evening, and we were both happy to head back, play pool and have a bit of an earlier night (joking.. we watched more Fresh Prince..) Viv was pretty excited to be heading to Budapest the next day and finally see David and Sylvie again..
We had a few hours before we were due to get the train to Budapest the next day, so got a quick taxi over to Hunderwasser House and village - an area designed to promote living in sync with nature. You have to apply to live there, and can't live there for long. The idea is that you embrace it then move away to spread the gospel about living together with our natural environment.. We'd left suitcases at our accommodation, so slowly walked back, grabbed some brunch, and got ready to catch the train to Budapest!
It dawned on me, a few days into our trip, that I had a spare travel day on our Interrail passes. Our pass meant we could travel 5 days out of 15, and, with the night train having to be booked separately, we'd only planned to travel on four. I literally looked at a map on a train journey and thought "Hey! Bratislava is about an hour from Vienna, maybe we could pop over for a few hours when we get off the night train from Zurich?"
So that's what we did. We left our luggage in storage in Vienna train station, went for a quick coffee (it was 8am at this point which still feels early..) and got on the next train to Bratislava's central train station.
I'll admit, first impressions weren't great. I think Google Maps took us on a bit of a questionable route through an undesirable residential area which didn't help.. but we walked the half hour walk up towards Bratislava Castle, which is at the top of a hill meaning the views over the city are beautiful once you reach it.
We looked over the river, and down over the rooftops of the Old Town, before making our way back down into the city.
The Old Town area was the prettiest part of Bratislava that we saw - some of the buildings were beautiful and there were plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants once you reached Michael's Gate. Vivienne got a piece of Oreo cake to take away, which meant she loved Bratislava and it was a big tick in her travel diary.
I'm glad we visited but also glad we didn't stay there and make it a larger part of our trip - a lovely few hours out, but it wasn't long before I was itching to get back and start exploring Vienna.
Zurich was more of a pit-stop than somewhere on the trip that we were really excited about.. saying that, it was a wonderful city to wander in. We left our luggage in the train station after arriving at about midday, and set straight off to walk down the river and see the sights.
We walked uphill to find a park which overlooks the city called Lindenhof; it was sunny and full of people playing boules and chess, kids playing on the swings, couples sitting on the wall looking at the view and people going about their every day lives. We sat in the warmth and played cards, went on the swings, and took some photos of Zurich from above, before walking down into the Old Town to explore the narrow streets.
We took it easy and pottered down through until we reached the lake. I grabbed some food (currywurst!) from a stall there and we sat, people watched and looked out over the lake before deciding on a boat trip to kill some time and see a few other nearby places while we were there. We later wandered around what I think was the theatre/art quarter of Zurich on the other side of the River Limmat, but, to be honest, Vivienne was getting a bit tired at this point so we decided to walk back up slowly and find a good spot to eat, sort our luggage out and prepare for the night train - we were both *so* excited..
I admit, I get so nervous in train stations and airports and always turn up everywhere so, so much earlier than I need to.. I exceeded myself and we were in the station THREE HOURS before our train was due to leave. According to Google, at this point, it said our train had already left which didn't help..
Viv grabbed some hot take away pizza, I grabbed some dinner on the go, and we hung out waiting for our platform to be announced..
The NightJet was everything I'd hoped it would be - it pulled up and we found our cabin, a tiny little room with bunkbeds, a sink, a wardrobe and a welcome pack. We ordered our breakfast in advance and were told it would arrive with us at 6,15am (ouch).. we played cards too late and eventually settled down, ready to arrive in Vienna..