We finally get a real vacation, not a three day weekend, not carting around a student on vacation with us (although with Dora it is always fun), but a real vacation! I absolutely unplugged during these three weeks off, plus we still have another full week to go! Although it is tainted knowing we all go back to school next week. I completely stopped thinking about any long term plans, or stress surrounding work and enjoyed the moments of not having to do anything at all! Now I must finish this post on our Expat Life for That’s Hamori before I start working again even if it is only preparations for next school year and reentry for the kids; who are now going into Grade 11 and 9 if you can believe it!
We started on Wednesday cleaning house and packing our bags for an early morning departure, but first Alfonz bought us four Ed Sheeran tickets for the Sziget Festival here in Budapest as a reward for all our hard work over the course of the last year! It was one of those years. Working weekends and evenings, trying to help as many students as we possibly could to learn English. We needed a chance to unwind, and seeing Jane and Mr. Sheeran up close and personal from the front row was exactly how to unplug from the hussle and bussle of everyday life. Angelina was determined to weezel her way through thousands of people until she reached her front row destination! We took the train in from Solymar so Alfonz and I could have a few beers, and from the station we walked onto the Island and the further miles and miles around watching local performers and eating some yummy food! We arrived around 15:00 and left just before midnight! We were present for the spectacular one man show, and I personally enjoyed every minute of Ed Sheeran as we know most of his songs. Alfonz had arranged for a taxi to pick us up just outside the perimeter of the island. The taxi driver was waiting for us as soon as we popped out from the crowds. We were home sleeping just after 12:30 and up by 6:00 heading towards southern France.
In the morning we showered and packed up the last of our things and we were on the road by 7:00 am heading towards Innsbruck, Austria to check out the Alps. This city was picturesque with stunning views, and pretty little colourful three storey walk-ups garding narrow winding streets. The walking paths were sprinkled with chairs and tables where tourists sat eating schnitzel, drinking coffee and taking in the beautiful summer’s day. We walked about 6 hours our first day after 6 hours of driving, but to explore this area is something very special indeed. Our hotel had breathtaking views of the valley below and the mountains around. Alfonz found a great local restaurant and we ate traditional foods.
The next day we rose early again, ate from the buffet breakfast and continued towards Geneva. I had never been there before, and the highway there was so spectacular, running between hills, mountains, sharp turns which carved the countryside. We arrived at about 15:00. Our apartment was right down town across from the famous fountain, ‘Le Jet d’Eau’ that spouts directly up from Lake Geneva at the end of a short pier. This city, or at least the tourist part, is constructed around this crystal clear blue/green lake that you can see right to the bottom of where fish swim. Swans happily live along its shores, and there is a walking path all the way around. We walked 6 hours again starting along the edge until we reached straight across the other side, where we entered the paid bathing area that shot out like a peninsula. Here we drank cold beers, bought from a corner store for a couple of bucks, as we sat and watched the locals enjoy the sun. In the restaurants a beer runs between 7-10€ each and we felt like locals not tourists!
A local told us about this Swiss chalet style restaurant to eat rotisserie chicken with all the fixings. It was full of locals, and absolutely fabulous, especially after 4 months of dieting; eating real food was an absolute treat! We walked back to our hotel arriving at about 11:00 and we all hit the sheets pretty hard after such a long day. The next morning we left this amazing city. It was starting to pour down as we said goodbye and saw it in the rearview mirror.
I read up on the local history and found an interesting tie to Hungary. The Empress of Bavaria married the Hungarian King at the end of the 19th century but interestingly enough, she fell in love with the people of Hungary the most and did many things to help Hungary succeed including influencing the partnership of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was a time when Hungary was at its best, had influence and power. However, she hated court life as she was brought up free with horses and sport and was often in conflict about how to raise her two daughters which was inevitably left to her mother-in-law. One of her daughters ended up dying. She retreated away from Austrian court where her husband and his family had to be, as the stress took a great toll on her, and she rested in Hungary. She was a restless energetic type that paid particular close attention to the way she looked, was extremely skinny, infamous for her fasting rituals and did sports for hours each day. She travelled a lot, and enjoyed her life away from court. In her later years she was said to have a strong connection with the first Hungarian prime minister Andrassy, who officially crowned France Joseph and Elizabeth King and Queen of Hungary. Sissy, as she was called, eventually had a male heir but he killed himself which put her over the edge. They did have one more child together, one she ends up raising. In her later years Sissy travelled and led a completely separate life to her husband, and was in Geneva alone when she was murdered by an anarchist by the name of Luigi Luchen as she boarded a ferry to take her across the lake. She returned to her hotel room with her wounds where she would die from her injury. She was 60 years old in 1898. They have a memorial statue for her in Geneva and in Hungary the entire country mourned the loss of their beloved queen.
So in Geneva when we arrived, I put the Hungarian chocolates into the refrigerator and ended up forgetting them there! 80€ worth of yummy treats for our Capestang friends. I was so upset. We were already in France eating lunch when Alfonz remembered! I started to tear up. I was so upset at myself for leaving them. How stupid!
Next was home to our little French village of Capestang. But first we were stuck in traffic and ended up arriving an hour outside of projections.
Once in Capestang we did so many things. Every morning at 7:30 for 1-1.5 hours we walked through the vineyards with Mal and Shayne. We went to markets, visited friends, drank Rosè, and ate seafood. It was wonderful and restful.
We also went to the Beziers Feria where we danced and drank wine; so many young drunk people were there that the roads were sticky from spilled beer! Made it hard to dance, so I danced without moving my stuck feet! This is just one of the many roads shut down for the party!
One morning we headed to Gruissan to buy some salt from the farms and spent the day on the white sand beach. This makes a great gift! The Narbonne markets were also a treat, we bought market bags and beach towels. We took in the French culture and saw all the things that were for sale. We spent time on the square in Capestang saying hello to old friends and enjoying village life that was once our own. A quick beer here, a morning coffee there…
After a lovely time with friends, French food, markets, shopping, walking, laughing, and simply enjoying our vacation; it was time to head back towards Budapest. We packed up the van, said our goodbyes and left for Genova (Genoa) Italy.
We decided to stay close to the highway in Genova, Italy for a quick getaway out of the city. We wanted to get into Slovenia as fast as we could to enjoy two glorious days on the beach! We stayed at Novotel. I know cheesy, but it wasn’t so bad. The buffet breakfast was ok, but the service was great. The pool a little small for the size of the hotel, our room was ok, but the price was terrific! The plan was to give the kids the room key and leave them swimming at the hotel as we took a nice long walk around the area alone. Romantic plans, but right out of the shoot it was a no go. The area is a little dodgy on the street near the port, and right after that thought, the phone rang. The water is too cold and there are too many people, they complained, so we headed back to get the kids, I grabbed my backpack and front desk called a cab to take us into the city centre, where the harbour lays. The four of us headed on another 4 hour walking adventure. Angelina and I have been waiting for an opportunity to eat some fresh Italian pasta and we found The Pasta Street restaurant off the beaten track, on a little walking street in the heart of the area. Although I do not think that this port city is very safe (I got the feeling that there were shady characters about) I did enjoy the views around the aquarium, and we nipped into a cafe for a pint, did some window shopping, and enjoyed our time in Genova. Probably not going back though.
Then we drove through the rest of Italy along the beautiful Riviera with stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea below! We stopped a few times to take pictures. When we finally reached Izola, one town before the famous Piran, we found our lovely apartment, unpacked and headed straight for the beach. We arrived at about 15:00. Angelina managed to fall down the stairs at a party in Capestang while we were at the Feria, and she was having problems walking. She was able to come for a nice dinner at Gust’s, another well known local hangout. Here we ate traditional Slovenian/Italian cuisine full of seafood. The Mediterranean diet is definitely the best! Everything is so fresh, simple and not too filling.
The second day Angelina decided she would stay home with instant noodles and Netflix to rest her foot. Daniel, Alfonz and I walked all the way until the end of the cliffs, about 2 hours, and then back to find some lunch. Napa had thick crust pizza (first time since Canada!!) and delicious Bolognese spaghetti! We went home to check on Angelina and took the kids swimming in the warm Med waters. It was so nice, and not too many tourists. The beach is not sand but little smooth rocks. It was quiet with mostly young families. Oh and loads of Hungarians. I think we have found our new favorite travel spot and just 5 hours away from home!
The little sliver of Slovenia is about 50 kilometres long, it is part of the Istrian peninsula. The region comprises the towns of Koper and Piran with Portorož, and the municipality of Izola where we stayed. It is a seaside tourist destination, with a vibrant multiethnic Slovenian and Italian heritage. Although small, they sure have made the best of it. Piran is over the ridge and far busier, but we decided not to go. It gives us another reason to come back! The area is also more reasonably priced than the Italian or French Rivieras, and said to be better priced than Croatia as well, although I have not been there yet. The best judge of price is beer, which runs 1-2€, not 5€ as in Italy or France. Dinner and lunch were between 30-70€ for family of four here, where as along the southern parts the price can easily be doubled.
Now we are home, everything is sorted, unpacked and cleaned. Still one more week before we are back to school. We are heading into the countryside to visit my cousins one day for sure, and a little more R&R. I plan to go to the baths one more time, and buy a few more things to get the kids ready for back to school.
May all our students and parents have an easy return to school.