Sensational Baby Boomers

Sunday, 2 June 2019

A SHORT STAY ON THE RIVIERA

Anne H here, recently returned  from a lovely short break in the South of France, which is somewhere that I have never been to before, and was on the top of my bucket list.  A friend and I went for four nights staying at a lovely little apartment, booked through Booking.com called Colonna which, apart from being on the top floor with four punishing floors to climb, had every amenity and creature comfort. 

NICE 

We were based in the old town which is really pretty and full of fabulous bars, cafes and restaurants, many with impromptu musical performances in the evening.  It is really accessible for the promenade and the new town and all its amenities and travel links and has loads of sights to see within its narrow, pedestrian friendly streets. 


On arriving on the Monday afternoon we grabbed a quick snack in a local cafe before tackling the climb to Colline du Chateau to see the sun dropping over the red-tiled rooftops and blue Med.


The views were stunning and well worth the walk through beautiful gardens to the site on the top of the hill with wonderful waterfall and stunning vistas of the city on all sides.





From here we walked down the other side of the hill to the port, spying a Russian oligarchs super yacht - the first of many.   Then back to base for a quick brush up and wash before heading out to dinner at Restaurant Acchiardo which was a gem of a find and somewhere we frequented again during our stay.



The next morning we set off for a visit to the Cours Saleya Markets in the market square in the old town one street in from the the Mediterranean.  This particular day was the flower market - and what amazing blooms they displayed too! We grabbed a quick breakfast of coffee and croissant at one of the cafes lining the market before heading off to the Tourist Information office to find out about buses and trains that link Nice to other tourist spots along the coast with our sights firmly set on Cap Ferrat for lunch.



On our third day the weather took a turn for the worse and was very grey with rain forecast, so we started the morning on a bus with a trip to the Musee Matisse which was only a 15 min bus trip, and well worth the journey as there were gardens to walk and enjoy as well as the incredible artworks in the Musee.


 CAP FERRAT 



The easy bus ride to Cap Ferrat on our second day was perfectly timed for lunch by the harbour at a small Italian/French restaurant called Nonna where we enjoyed a relaxed lunch while watching the world go by.


We then took the walk around the peninsula following the path that hugs the coastline, taking in the stunning views and admiring the fabulous villas overlooking the sparkling sea.




ANTIBES 


On the afternoon of the third day we braved the train service to go to Antibes and wander the streets which were pleasantly quiet.  Sadly the Picasso museum was about to close so we were unable to go there but maybe that is for another time. We enjoyed a drink by the market and enjoyed a lovely dinner at a restaurant recommended by the waitress at the bar (who had originally hailed from Canada).




There was another super yacht to admire in the harbour as well - also Russian and purported to be one of the largest private yachts in the world.


EZE 

On the Thursday we took ourselves off by bus to visit Eze a village perched on the hill top with stunning panoramic views out to sea.  The oldest building dates back to the 1306 along with a tangle of gorgeous medieval streets house art galleries, cafes and shops.






Walking up through the village we arrived at the Jardin Botanique which is renowned for its succulents and not least the magnificent views. Quite a test for me as I have no head for heights, but I finally made it to the top with a little encouragement.  Given the beautiful weather the village was very busy and full of tourists, so finding quiet corners was a challenge.




 MONTE CARLO 

From Eze we shared a taxi down to the coast and picked up the train to take us to Monte Carlo and observe the high rolling lifestyle of this principality.


Of course you have to start at the Casino with a drink and snack at the Cafe de Paris which was not as ridiculously expensive as I thought it would be.  The city was preparing for the Grand Prix so some parts of the harbour area were off bounds.


So we made our way to the old town to see the Palace and take in the pretty streets that lead to it.



We both felt it had a strange almost Disneyesque feel - almost too pristine to be real.  But worth a visit and wander round.


Not least for views of yet more impressive yachts.














All in all we had an action packed four days but so enjoyable and blessed with some sunshine to. I can definitely recommend a visit to the Riviera - Monte Carlo didn't really appeal that much, but everywhere else we went was lovely, though we never ventured to Cannes, so think this is one to re-visit.


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Friday, 10 May 2019

A BUDGET TRIP TO BUDAPEST


Anne C here.  I first visited Budapest nearly 35 years ago when it was still very much an Eastern bloc country with limited resources and little investment.  How times have changed!  Hungary's capital is now as vibrant a European city as many others in the West, though what sets it apart is the stunning architecture, its historical legacy and the majestic River Danube.

The visit was a Christmas gift from my bargain-hunting daughter, who manged to get us two return flights from the UK and four nights in a central hotel for under £200. She managed this by booking as soon as the budget easyJet flights were announced, and bagging a very cheap room at the Easy Hotel in the Oktogan.  I mention the latter specifically because although the hotel was about as basic as they come, it had everything we needed - a bed, a teeny bathroom and just about enough space for hanging clothes for four nights (no toiletries, breakfast, food, or room service, and cleaning was extra!) It was about the size of a ferry cabin, but since we spent all of our time sightseeing, it was perfect for our needs.



The first thing we normally do in a new city is find the hop-on-hop-off bus, which takes various routes until you get your bearings and a feel for the place.  Having been before, I wanted to check out the Matyas Church in the Buda part of the city, which dominates Budapest from the hill opposite Parliament.  I had previously been impressed by the stunning facade of the Holiday Inn next to the church, which had fabulous mirrored panels so the church was beautifully reflected.  Sadly it is no longer there - the hotel is now just rendered and very ordinary looking.

However that cannot be said for the rest of the cities of Buda and Pest.  The view from behind the church is stunning, looking down on the Danube and in particular, showing the Parliament building in all its glory (See close up first picture and looking down on the building from the castle area).


We visited in early May so the flowers were in bloom and the sun was shining, showing off the fabulous architecture to its best advantage.  We visited St Stephen's Basilica, which is absolutely stunning.  It took more than 50 years to build and represents the shape of the Greek cross, with the dome of the building matching the height of the nearby Parliament buildings. The Basilica houses the mummified right forearm of St Stephen, and bizarrely, on St Stephen's Day (August 20th), the arm is taken from its resting place and paraded around the streets.



No visit to Budapest would be complete without a riverboat trip on the Danube - and we managed to do this twice, once for an evening cruise, and another daytime trip.  Without doubt the evening cruise was stunning - we bought tickets from the hop-on-hop-off company - which also included dinner.  My gluten intolerant daughter was a little apprehensive about the food, but it was delicious, including both traditional Hungarian dishes of goulash soup and stuffed cabbage, to salads, chicken in paprika and a spicy pork dish, with three free drinks included.


There are plenty of places to eat and drink in the city, from international chains to local independent restaurants serving traditional Hungarian fare, though I particularly shunned the lamb's liver in its fat in favour of a delicious schnitzel!

The Hungarian Parliament building was the largest in the world when it was completed in 1902, and features a domed roof, beautiful frescoes and an impressive main staircase.  We visited both during the day and at night when it was beautifully lit - as was the rest of the city, giving it a magical feel.



However, Hungary does have a chequered history - much of which I will not have room to mention, but we did visit the poignant Shoes on the Danube memorial to the 20,000 Jewish men, women and children who were shot by the right wing fascist Arrow Cross Militiamen during WW11 and whose bodies were thrown into the Danube.  The memorial, featuring model shoes was unveiled in 2005 and was conceived by film director Can Togay and created by scupltor Gyula Pauer.


Since we were so close to Austria, we decided to jump on a train and visit Vienna for the day during our trip.  Budapest is as close to Vienna as we in Yorkshire are as close to London, so just a couple of hours on the train.  Rocking up to the ticket office on the day for us to visit London would normally incur a charge of around £150 each depending on the time of day, so we were pleasantly surprised to find it cost the equivalent of around £40 each.

The day however, was a bit of a disaster! It poured with rain so badly that we were completely soaked to the skin, so spent most of the day on the ever-popular hop-on-hop-off bus.  Actually, Austrian and Hungarian history is intrinsically linked through marriages, wars and conflicts, so we got to hear some of the history from the opposing side!

There are museums a-plenty in Vienna, from those specialising in art, to science and technology to military history. Since Mozart was Austrian, there are also museums and concerts dedicated to classical music.  We stopped off briefly at the Military Museum (I'm the daughter of a serviceman who died in the service of his country) where we saw the actual car in which Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian/Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie the Duchess of Hohenberg, were assassinated, which sparked a chain of events leading to WW1.

Mostly however, we just wanted a hot drink and to dry out!

It is worth noting that a form of bubonic plague decimated the population of Vienna in 1679 - part of the great plague which swept through Europe (including London) at the time. Memorials have also been erected to commemorate those who died, and which brought the city to its knees.


The photograph above is of St Charles' church, which was later commissioned by Emperor Karl VI and built in the 18th Century, dedicated to his namesake Karl Borromaus (Charles Borromeo), who was revered as a healer of plague victims.

Back in Budapest, we spent our last day on a daytime Danube cruise, a wander around the city centre, taking in the sights for the last time (and indulging in the ice cream cornets sculpted into the shape of a rose!)



There are so many statues in Buda and Pest that I lost count of who they all were!  This fellow Imre Kalman, was a famous Hungarian composer and could be found sitting outside the Operetta Theatre, so I had to stop and have a photo with him!

You will note from the background that the building opposite is currently under renovation, and this is true of a huge part of Pest.  There is a tremendous amount of building and also of renovating many of the old properties including a number of outdoor squares where history tells us of specific group gatherings, but most I think will end up being home to restaurants and alfresco dining.


I was particularly interested in seeing Heroes Square, which I remember I had visited previously on a very dark and miserable day back in the 1980s.  This time the sun was shining and the atmosphere seemed much lighter.


Budapest is famous for its healing thermal waters and spas. A visit to the citadel, or fortress, in Buda is the highest point of the city, but also is close to the water supply and thermal springs - the hottest of which can reach around 27 degrees centigrade.  Bathing in the waters is a legacy from the Turkish occupation, but is still popular today. Visitors interested in visiting one of the thermal springs may find this guide useful, although it wasn't on our agenda.

Gellert Hill, close to many of the spas, is names after Gellert, a holy martyr bishop who was put in a barrel and thrown down the hill in 1046 for trying to bring Christianity to the pagans.  Local superstition existed for many years that the hill was haunted. At the foot of the hill, however, is the traditional art deco Gellert Hotel which also houses on of the most famous of thermal spas.

Tourism is now huge in Budapest with tourists from around the globe - we heard and saw so many different nationalities while we were there - including a lovely couple from Tennessee we met on the little funicular railway up to the castle area, so a complete change from my previous visit when tourism was virtually non-existent. 

The currency is forints, but credit cards are widely taken, and some places also take euros.

It is impossible to relate all the history and things to do in one small blog, but if you're planning to go, do buy a good guide book as it is such a lovely city and well worth a visit!
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Friday, 15 February 2019

IT'S A COATIGAN SORT OUT


I am so pleased to say I haven't got the same number of wardrobes to clear out as the other Anne as I do try to keep on top of it and assess what I have and haven't worn on a year by year basis. It is still surprising however how much you can accumulate whilst still telling yourself you really haven't bought that much.


I have discovered I seem to have a large number of coatigans that I really haven't been wearing.  I think the idea of them is fabulous and they should be such a brilliant transitional piece, but I really don't seem to reach for them at any time.  The one above is from COS and as a more weighty piece it has had a bit more wear.  Now I re-look at it, I think it is a bit too shapeless and really needs to hit the charity pile.


This one is also from COS and although lightweight and much more of an oversized cardigan than a coatigan I have still not got much wear out of it.  This might be one to try and sell as it is still looking pretty good.  COS have similar one in grey on their website at the moment, but I will resist.


And last but not least is the keeper, this heavy weight cardigan from Boden which I like for its structure and colour.  Lets see if I start to wear it more this spring - otherwise it is for next winters cull.


Boden do some nice knitwear and well worth a look if you like colour.... obviously not for me then!



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