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Day 8: All Things Budapest – Cafes and Opera

It’s now Friday, and if we were in California, we’d be among those who’d be braving the shopping events we once knew as Black Friday. Well, the thrill of Black Friday has succumbed to the power that is now known as Gray Thursday. Heavily discounted shopping has swept a lot of consumers away from the Thanksgiving dinner table in order to avail of the doorbusters on Gray Thursday. For this year, I only had a couple of items that I had in mind, and prior to flying to Europe, I had already enlisted my brother’s assistance in getting my item/s for me. Ethan has been charged to make sure his Tito Jit was reminded.

Started our day in Buda – The National Gallery

Yesterday, we explored the Castle District located right above our hotel. We decided to start our day on the Buda side, and we took a bus towards National Gallery. We were able to hit 3 birds with one stone here by viewing the green Chain Bridge, riding the Funicular (a mountainside cable train ride), and the National Gallery. The grounds of the National Gallery allowed us to view the highlights of the other side, the Pest side. It was quite expansive, there were military guards and lots of tourists who visited the area.

Gellert Hill
After leaving the National Gallery, we decided to take another bus that took us further down on the Buda side. This time we went to Gellert. Budapest is known for its therapeutic thermal baths, and we wanted to check it out. Maybe we will give it a try before we leave on Sunday.

St Stephen’s Basilica
From Gellert, we went to Deak Ferenc Ter, rested for a bit at Costa Coffee, and then we made our way to St. Stephen’s Basilica, a huge church in Budapest. It’s huge! It was towering over the buildings nearby.

 It’s no wonder that it’s one of the tallest buildings in Budapest at 315 ft.

Right after we left the basilica, we walked around the local street fair and had a traditional fondi and the thickest hot chocolate ever!

Boscolo Budapest – New York Cafe

Since we are in Europe, we wanted to do as many “local” things. So when I saw the words “New York Cafe” as a must-see cafe in Budapest, I ignored it. I mean, we’ve been to New York, and in my mind, what was the big deal about going to a cafe with a New York name attached to it? Since we were in the area, and had time to kill, fine! We took a tram towards the Boscolo Hotel. First of all, that should’ve given me a clue. The Boscolo group of Hotels are no ordinary hotels. They are part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. How did I know this? We’ve stayed in Boscolo Milano – a five-star hotel in Milan. The one in Milan was trendy. But when we got to the Boscolo Budapest, it was like walking in to the old Renaissance period.  It was museum of a hotel. New York Cafe was accessible right outside. According the Hungarian travel website, It was a popular place among writers and editors, in fact, the most influential newspapers were edited here, upstairs in the gallery. After World War II, the once famous café fell into disrepair and it served as a sporting goods shop. Although the café reopened in 1954, under the name of Hungária, it wasn’t until 2006 that the New York Café was restored to its original splendor.”

We were seated and ordered, what else? Goulash and a dessert platter. The food was great, but it was all about the ambiance, the piano player, the beauty that is old European!

Our first opera, Madame Butterfly
Most of our friends know that we’re no strangers when it comes to watching live theatre. Whether it’s a show on Broadway, or a touring cast that travelled to Southern California, and even most recently, a show over in London’s West End, if we could make it, we would be there and watch. The weeks leading up to our Europe trip, I didn’t get a chance to book any shows in Budapest or Prague. It wasn’t until Thursday when we decided to get tickets to the State Opera House.

I checked their website. We had to make a choice, The Nutcracker or Madame Butterfly. We’ve never seen The Nutcracker but decided to hold off, and we chose Madame Butterfly instead. We bought orchestra box seats.

We’ve never seen an opera. All I could think of was all these singers and their big voices, their vibrato resonating in my ears. We were also a bit skeptical since we weren’t sure if there would be subtitles in English. Well, we got our answers. This was our takeaway from our first experience watching an opera:

a. Three Acts, instead of two, meaning there were 2 intermissions
b. No set changes
c. No big theatrical effects
d. Subtitles were in English, and I assume that the other language was Hungarian

It was an amazing experience. As much as I had an idea what the story was about, I have to give credit to the subtitles. That helped a LOT!!! The cast was stellar. There were no huge sound systems or speakers, it was pure sound magic. Nancy and I sat in Box 7, left side of the orchestra. We had a perfect view of the stage there were no scenes missed. The box had a capacity for six. As luck would have it, we were in a box with other Americans from Kentucky and Cupertino. Because of the 3 separate acts, the show that started at 7pm ended at 10:20pm. This will not be our last opera. I’m looking forward to going to another one in the future perhaps in LA or NY.

Hungary post-show

Since it was already 10:20pm, all we wanted to do was to make it back to our hotel. But we were a bit Hungary, and decided to find something closer to our hotel. Nancy suggested we try Doner’s Kebab Express located right next to the Metro station close to our hotel. For under $6, we were able to order 2 kebabs which also included a soda for each of us. It was a perfect way to end our long day and evening in Beautypest, Budapest. Good night!

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