Sensational Baby Boomers

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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Friday, 8 February 2019

WARDROBE CLEAR OUT





I've known for a very long time that I have way too many clothes, and since leaving my "corporate" jobs, I no longer wear the same kinds of outfits as I did.  So when Anne H told me she had become hooked on watching Marie Kondo, the Japanese de-cluttering expert, I also took a little peak!

While some of her techniques are a little twee (I don't thank my clothes when I throw them out!) I do agree that if some things "give me joy" (ie I love wearing them, love the colour or they have sentimental attachments) then I will keep them, but going forwards I do know that I don't attend corporate hospitality nights at the ballet or business dinners any more, so I don't need those kinds of outfits.



I have too many items of clothing to put on the bed, as Marie Kondo makes her clients do - I would never see my bed again, the pile would go up to the ceiling - so I started to do one wardrobe at a time (I have 10) starting with coats and jackets.

I also have clothes in sizes ranging from a UK size 10 (that was a long time ago!) to a size 22 (fortunately I've lost weight since then!) but I have kept most of them even though I know I will never wear them again.




I have to admit that the session did not go as planned.  For our photo shoot, I picked out a couple of things to keep and a couple of things which I knew I would get rid of - but actually it did not work out the way I thought it would.

I love the slouchy red jacket - in fact I love most things which are red, so this is a keeper.  It wasn't expensive - in fact it was one of those impulse buys online from a company I had never heard of, so wasn't expecting it to be very good quality.  However, it is wool and although it has only 3/4 sleeves, it is quite dressy and easy to wear.




However, I had it in mind to keep the tweed jacket bought a few years ago in Debenhams from the Rocha.JohnRocha range.  I had worn it for work and always felt it was a useful piece.  However, looking at the photographs taken by Anne, we both decided it had to go!! It is too big, there is too much going on - a fussy neckline, peplum bottom, pockets, and it's double breasted - which makes me look even more dumpy than I am.

I think I have realised that I can look in the mirror and feel I look ok, but then look at myself in a photograph and I look completely different in the item. How weird is that?



The pink jacket, I wasn't sure about until I put it on. This is a boxy-shape linen Jaegar jacket, and I suppose I bought it for the label since I never particularly shopped there and don't own many Jaegar pieces.  I know it's the wrong season to wear it, but it didn't feel right, and I don't think the style does me any favours, so that's going!



Finally, the pink Wallis coat has been in the back of the wardrobe for years, and I thought it was probably not going to make the cut.  However, once I put it on and saw the photographs, I was pleasantly surprised.

It isn't a heavy Winter coat, but will be perfect for Spring as it's comfortable to wear and hopefully looks ok either with dark colours or even white or cream for lighter days.



In all of the photos I am wearing black tailored trousers from M&S (similar here), and the lace blouses - one black and one off-white are from Kaleidoscope.  Mock-crock boots from Faith years ago - similar ones here.


I'm still working my way through the wardrobes but I do have a pile of clothes now for the charity shop and I've put quite a bit of the better stuff on eBay.

Next up will be shoes  - of which I have more than a couple of hundred pairs (42 pairs of flip flops...)
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Friday, 11 January 2019

A LOOK BACK AT OUR 2018 TRAVELS



We both love travelling - sometimes together, sometimes with our respective families, and sometimes with other friends, so for the New Year we have just had a little planning get together to see where 2019 will take us. 

But first, we thought it would be a great idea to have a look at where we went last year - some of which were on our respective bucket lists - which means we can now cross them off and move on! And we have already identified where we would like to travel to next.

First up Anne C visited Iceland in January with her daughter Louise, whose birthday she celebrated in Reykjavik while they were there.  It was on Anne's bucket list to see the Northern Lights, though sadly despite going out on four occasions, they didn't appear - a huge disappointment for her.

Having said that, they had a fabulous time, visiting the stunning waterfalls at Gullfoss, taking a dip in the geothermal springs of the Blue Lagoon, whale watching, appreciating the beautiful yet simplistic and oddly shaped church of Hallgrimskirkja, and seeing the boiling geysers at Blaskogabuggo. To note from the photo that specialist clothing was required because it was so cold!

For anyone interested in learning more about that trip, more details can be found here and here.

And to the other side of the world and a completely different eco-system, Anne H flew to Costa Rica in Central America with another long-term friend. Their escorted touring holiday took them through stunning rainforests, across amazing countryside, to beautiful hotels with golden beaches, up volcanoes and alongside lakes and eco-systems.  

It was a country of real contrasts, from the flora and fauna, the animals and the terrain, through from Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast, into the cloud forest of Monteverde to the beautiful beaches on the Pacific coast .Truly a holiday of a lifetime! More details about this trip here and here. And of course Anne had her own specialist clothing - but of a different kind!



Our first joint trip of 2018 was to celebrate Anne H's birthday with a visit to Bruges in Belgium - a beautiful city which Anne C had already visited - which certainly helps since you know the best parts to see.  This time we took an overnight ferry with P&O from Hull - part of the experience as that was such a leisurely journey - to Zeebrugge and then finished our journey with a short coach ride.

Of course Belgium is famous for its delicious chocolate, which we enjoyed at every opportunity, but the buildings are also stunning.  We stayed overnight in the fabulous Academie Hotel, and spent our two days visiting museums - the Diamond Museum and St John's Hospital Museum, to name a couple (but there are loads more) and generally walking around the picturesque streets.  We did avoid the Belfry of Bruges Tower, from the famous scene in the movie "In Bruges" starring the rather gorgeous Colin Farrell, because we are both scared of heights, and believe me the stairs to the top of the tower are very scary!



Anne C went off again with her daughter in April, this time to the Big Apple in the US.  There's quite a story behind this visit, which she will talk about later in the year, but suffice to say that it was rather more of a business visit than a holiday.  However, when in New York, you can't just sit in the hotel, so she managed to take in the very moving 9/11 Museum, a wander around ChinaTown and Times Square, and a trip up the Rockefella Centre (less scary because you go up in a lift and can't hang out through the windows!



Anne C is a bit of a sun-worshipper, which necessitates frequent trips to Greece.  Her first visit of 2018 was to the island of Thassos with hubby Peter and two friends, although the weather was a disappointment (unusually for June - floods and torrential rain). She also holidayed there the previous year, and information on that trip can be found here and here.  Her second Greek holiday was back to the stunning island of Santorini, where she and her family have been holidaying for almost 20 years, which she has written about extensively here and here.



Meanwhile Anne H returns year after year to Tropea in Italy, where she has family.  Incidentally, both of us have previously visited the other's regular holiday destinations - Anne C has been to Tropea and Anne H has been to Santorini).

Last year, Anne H took her daughter and other family members for a girly holiday and a bigger family reunion.  See here and here for more information about Tropea from previous visits.

Then Anne H was off again - this time with her blogger daughter Lizzy to Club Med La Plantation d'Albion on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.  This was an opportunity to enjoy an all-inclusive break, take in the stunning scenery and marvel at the colonial plantation houses.  But for them it was an opportunity to catch up, unwind and chill, so their most strenuous activities involved reading and visiting the hotel spa!



But we don't just hop on a plane every time we go away.  We have a beautiful country of our own, and probably as we get older we may well ditch overseas holidays and opt for staycations in the UK.  This year we managed a couple of mini getaways together, to Liverpool and London, while Anne H went to Bristol with an old schoolfriend.



Both of us have previously done business in Liverpool during our working lives, but we wanted to experience a different side of the city, and the touring exhibition of the Terracotta Army from China gave us the excuse for a couple of days there.

We also took in a visit to The Cavern Club made famous by The Beatles, took pictures of us with the statues of John Lennon and Cilla Black, and climbed aboard the Ferry Across the Mersey - that of Gerry and the Pacemakers' famous footballing anthem.

In August, for Anne C's birthday, we headed for London for a more relaxing visit to Anne H's blogger daughter Lizzy (who is also Anne C's god-daughter) in Notting Hill, where we mooched around the shops and headed up west for lunch and another mooch around Covent Garden.



Our final trip of 2018 was our annual Christmas outing - not actually a holiday - which was to the beautiful Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.



Phew! Until writing it all down we hadn't realised how many trips we had taken between us, but it hasn't deterred us from planning our 2019 trips.  Anne C is  flying off to Budapest in the Spring - which was a Christmas gift from her daughter, and will be returning to Santorini with hubby again later in the summer.

Anne H is heading north of the border to Scotland with her Costa Rica friend for a touring holiday taking in the stunning Highlands and some of the cities within our own shores. She will also be making her annual visits to family in Tropea as usual.

So what of our joint trips this year?  We haven't got anything booked yet but have been looking at a riverboat cruise in Venice and another big trip in 2020 - hopefully a cruise to Hawaii no less!

* All our trips are self-funded, but if any travel companies would like to collaborate, please let us know!


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Friday, 4 January 2019

2018 BLOOPERS




The end of the year is always a good time to share some of our blooper photos - those pictures which should never really see the light of day!  But we're not proud and it's always fun to look back on those shots which should have made the cutting room floor.



Go on Anne, just bare your teeth!




Not to be outdone, the other Anne can bare her teeth too - and pull a face at the same time!


Is there anything down there???


Surprise! 


Strictly.... here I come - never mind the white bra showing though...


What's that on the floor????


Just listen to me when I'm talking to you!


Words fail me!


Hurry up I'm getting wet!


Playing aeroplanes amongst the dead flowers!


Just singing in the rain!


Good grief!


I can't get this jacket off!


Happy New Year - here's to a healthy, happy and peaceful 2019!



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