We have spent the past couple of weeks here at our Europe base in Budapest and have had the most sensational time (with a quick weekend getaway to Vienna last weekend).
Today (20 Aug) is St Stephen’s Day in Hungary and it’s a public holiday. Hungarians today celebrate the foundation of the Hungarian state (roughly about 1000 years ago). Countless programs await both locals and tourists all day round and we are all looking forward to the fantastic fireworks display over the Danube tonight. We are now settled in the family apartment in Budapest and truly living like locals. It’s so lovely to have my Aunt and Uncle here (thanks Jude and Phil for visiting) and have loved spending time with them over the past couple of days. Nat’s mum Vera left a few days ago and again was so wonderful to spend time together and learn more from her about this lively city. Our home is situated on the ‘Buda’ side of the city (‘Pest’ is on the other side of the Danube), it’s only a quick 10 min tram ride to the centre of town (on Pest). It’s raining today so a perfect time for me to sit down and mention a few highlights about our recent stay in Rome. Vienna will be updated in my next post as I don’t want to make it too long!
I always love visiting Rome. It truly is one European city that I have always felt so comfortable and full of interesting things to see and experience. We arrived in Rome from Florence via train and jumped into a taxi to our base for a few days, The First Art Hotel Roma www.thefirsthotel.com (part of the Preferred Hotel Group of Hotels). Just a short walk from the Piazza del Popolo, Via del Corso, and the The Spanish Steps, in the heart of the city, we were very happy with this location. Full of interesting art (which changes every few weeks) and attentive staff, I highly recommend this property to families (great interconnecting rooms) and couples travelling to Rome for a short or extended stay. The coffee and/or Prosecco on arrival was such a nice touch and Dario at check in was more than obliging to assist with restaurant recommendations and fun activities for kids in Rome.
Our first day in Roma started with a great walking tour I had pre-booked with a great family business company called ‘Walks Inside Rome’ www.walksinsiderome.com who specialise in tours focusing on art, history and food. No surprise here given I keep on mentioning food through this blog. While on this topic, I would like to state that this isn’t a food blog but given that food is such a vital part of making our trip successful, you will find I mention it quite a bit throughout! OK, back to Rome. This informative tour which took us around the lovely piazza’s, fountains and general tourist sites that were in walking distance of our hotel location. Our lovely and happy guide ‘Sara’ met us at the hotel and walked us down to Piazza del Popolo, along the Via del Corso, The Spanish Steps, Pantheon and ended up at a restaurant where we had the interesting task of making our own pizzas for lunch. Once again, a great activity for the kids (and big kids) and a great way to soak up the local culture. Upon completion of the pizza making, we sat down and ate our master pieces and made our way back to the hotel for a siesta and refuel for a casual night enjoying Rome and it’s countless gelato stops.
We particularly loved the Trastevere area of Rome during our stay and spent quite a bit of time here. Located adjacent to the Tiber River, this district (to the West of the city) from the Latin words “Trans Tiberim”: beyond the Tiber River. Today, Trastevere is one of the centres of Roman night life; rich in pubs, restaurants and clubs. During the summer months they set up markets, kids games, outside movie screenings and restaurants along The Tiber at night which was so much fun (hint: take mossie spray). We had dinner one night at a fantastic ‘ristorante’ called Taverna Trilussa www.tavernatrilussa.it in this area and I can honestly say it’s one of the best Italian meals I have ever digested. My pasta was served in the pan it was cooked in! Highly recommended when in Rome.
**I also just found the details of a great restaurant in Florence called Trattoria La Casalinga www.trattorialacasalinga.it which we also enjoyed. Local and well priced home made food and only two bridges down from the Ponte Vecchio, make sure you visit this joint during your next visit**
We also spent quite a bit of time wondering around the Jewish area of Rome. Located across from the Trastevere on the East banks of the Tiber near the Roman Ruins, it was great to walk around and spend a couple of hours at The Synagogue of Rome and soak up its rich history and stories. The resilience and strength of Roman Jews over time is extraordinary one that I wasn’t overly familiar with.
Fact: It’s amazing that due to the three hundred plus years of isolation from the rest of the city, the Jews of the Roman Ghetto developed their own dialogue, known as Giudeo-romanesco, which differs from the dialect of the rest of the city in its preservation of 16th-century dialectical forms and its liberal use of romanised Hebrew words. Extraordinary.
I have mentioned Travelcall’s Viator site in a previous post and I used it once again to book the most fantastic kid friendly tour in Rome. It truly was a highlight and so glad that we took the time to plan and lock it in. Created by a childhood education specialist, our ‘Skip the Line’ Colosseum and Roman Ruins tour was designed with kids in mind, our interactive and expert guide ‘Francesca’ made it so educational and fun for us. There are few historical sites in the world that ignite the imagination quite like the Colosseum. Once a ‘playground’ for gladiators and lions, there is a certain magic that hangs in the air here. Francesca focused on the stories and anecdotes that brought the Colosseum to life rather than just facts and figures. Using props, visual aids and re-enactments, she engaged everyone and even handed out prizes to the best ‘gladiators’ at the end of the tour. Our son was in his element and completely in awe as he has a fondness for weaponry (especially swords). This is not inherited from his father. Are you surprised? Although focused on the kids, the tour was suitable for the whole family. The Skip the Line Access gave us direct entry which was a bonus as the summer crowds were huge. 10/10 Travelcall Viator Site! As mentioned above, see earlier post for the link. You won’t regret it. Trust me.
That’s enough for this post and will write soon re Vienna. I have decided to leave my thoughts re Budapest to the end of our trip and perhaps may even be the last post before we leave Europe early October as I have so much to write. It really feels like home here. Off to London and Spain tomorrow so stay tuned. #budapestmakesmehappy