Two weeks of Christmas holidays, four countries, snow, beach, pastries galore, castles, cocktails and rendez-vous with my favourite people. Thank you Lord for landing me in Europe!
Christmas in Budapest – gulash, snow and icy toes!
While Western Europe sweltered in unprecedented December double digits, Naomi and I got our taste of a real white Christmas…not too much white so as to ruin my boots, but enough white to encourage childish snowball making along the Danube. The Christmas markets were everything I had dreamed of; a committee hand picks the artisan stalls to ensure that only the best are present. And I also approved of their choice of food stalls…the doughnut towers were warming on the hands, the cabbage and sausages were plentiful but the rooster testicles unfortunately remained untasted (yes roosters have testicles…we googled it).
We explored everything, with regular stops in random stores to warm our icy toes. We rode on Europe’s oldest underground train, ate a traditional Transylvanian meal for Christmas Eve, went to mass in the extravagant Basilica, ate three courses of strudel for Christmas and relaxed in the Turkish baths in 2°C. We took a day trip to nearby Szentendre, a fairytale like village full of marzipan and dreams!
We also witnessed a tourist-swindling crime at the top of a mountain and got stalked down the hill by a shady character…it wouldn’t be Eastern Europe without some dodginess! But overall we felt very privileged by how easy everything was, including speaking English…Budapest was simple and beautiful.
Munich and Nuremberg – land of meats
And on to Bavaria. After a 10 hour overnight bus we felt we had thoroughly earned our pork lunch and litre of beer with Kristyn and Arnold at the Hofbrauhaus. I actually felt like I could speak German after that beer. Like really. A short trip down to Nuremberg and we were welcomed into the loving home of the Bachmeiers where we did not want for anything, especially not meat, cheese, fluffy cat cuddles or high speed car rides on the autobahn. We had a wonderful tour of Nuremberg where we visited the cathedral, the castle, the Bratwurst house, Albrecht Durer’s house and a magnificent coffee lounge. I am seriously considering Mrs Bachmeier’s suggestion that I should come back once monthly to teach her English in exchange for food!
2013…A minuit, sous la pluie, aux Champs Élycées!
Back to France in time for us to not see any fireworks aux Champs Élycées …I am still unaware if there are never fireworks there or if some catastrophe befell them that night. However our four hour bar crawl towards the Champs Élycées beforehand definitely made us happy enough to see in 2013 in the rain. Fortunately for Naomi, I learnt all the words to Aux Champs Élycées so that she didn’t have to wander through Paris without the required soundtrack.
I have been to Paris before but this trip was my favourite…we took our time to se promenade all over the city…pausing regularly for croissants, crepes and Ladurée pastries. We walked from Rue Mofftard to the Eiffel Tower, from St Germain to the Opera…and all over Montmatre. Our trip was made even more delightful with special guest appearances from Cel, Carla and Catherine, Sarah and Uncle Pete and Jennine. Paris was the place to be! We witnessed the amazing, camp, fantastic, burlesque spectacle of the Lido (the boobs! the horses! the ice skating! the acrobatics!); Naomi was well introduced to the age old tradition of French customer service (or not); and we also consumed as much duck as possible. I have discovered duck holds special boob increasing properties…potentially thigh increasing as well, but that’s just a minor concern!
A final trip to beautiful Spain to catch up with mama on her holiday. I did not give much thought to Barcelona before arriving, being simply excited to see mum and have a bit of jamon…but the second I arrived in Catalunya I was hooked! Soaking up the 18°C sunshine, the tapas lining every bar top, the beautiful stretch of beaches and the towering palm trees, I definitely felt a sense of inner peace and an “I could live here forever” sensation. The first night I did a Paella and Sangria cooking class – yum! We were walked through the Boqueria Markets by our chef to select fresh seafood. Then we ate tapas and sangria as he cooked a giant paella in front of us. I was disappointed in the gastronomic stamina of my fellow class mates…seriously, one glass of the unlimited sangria? No seconds of the paella? Frankly, it was disgusting how little they indulged. Where are my eating buddies when I need them!?
My beautiful Mum and I visited all the bizarre and incredible Gaudi spots of Barcelona, including Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. We (I) ate copious amounts of paella, including my new favourite Arroz Negro (paella coloured with squid ink). And we witnessed the Epiphany parade for the Three Kings – bigger than Christmas in Spain and a real treat! I can’t wait to go back in summer and soak up some more Spanish sunshine and visit the Picasso and Dali galleries.
Sometimes I’m so fortunate I disgust even myself! What an awesome, Eurotrip Christmas. As I grumbled about leaving Barcelona and having to ‘go home’ and ‘back to work’, I remembered that I live in one of the cutest towns in France and basically just talk about kangaroos for 12 hours a week for work. Ahhh time to drown my sorrows in a canelé and an espresso 😉
A la +!