Ahhhhh Budapest… the city that positively glows! (part 2)

I left off on my previous post having just visited Buda Castle we took a walk around the cobblestone streets of Castle Hill, here is another place we could have spent so much more time and only skimmed the surface by not actually buying admission or taking tours of the various things to see here.  Next time…

A few of the things to see here aside from the Fisherman’s Bastion and the Matthias church are the Castle Labyrinth, a museum dedicated to Harry Houdini, the Hospital in the Rock and more.  I know the Matthias church and Fisherman’s Bastion are the big attractions here and what you always see in photos.  I know that you will be wondering why I don’t have photos, this tour was to see things that would not be covered with our AmaWaterways tour and their tour covers these things so this part of Budapest will be revisited.

 

 

Our next stop was Gellert Hill and the Liberty Statue that can be seen prominently up on top.  According to Gabriella the locals call it the bottle opener and generally find it a tacky remainder from the communist era…I searched all over for a liberty statue bottle opener, after learning this bit of trivia but was unsuccessful, I think someone could make a nice profit on those!  More stunning panoramas were to be found up here and in one of them we got our first glimpse of the AmaSonata, the ship we would be boarding tomorrow.

 

 

While at Gellert Hill we visited the Cave Church followed by the Gallert Baths, for a quick peek and to have a light lunch in their cafe.  The Baths are just beautiful and as I mentioned before I want to try one of them when we visit again.  The views of the Danube and Pest are beautiful here even at the base of Gellert Hill.

 

 

So it’s winter and the days are short, it probably looks like it is getting late but there are still a few hours left in the tour and a few more things to see.  We headed to see parliament,  there we saw the bullet holes from the 1956 uprising and witnessed a spectacular sunset.  Nearby, we also saw the  very beautiful monument to Imre Nagy, the Hungarian Prime Minister during the 1956 revolution against the Soviet Union that ended with him being executed for treason.  We also saw the US embassy (which is surrounded by ugly fences these days) and the Weeping Willow holocaust monument at the Dohany Street Synagogue.  I even got to get my photo with President Ronald Reagan, well sadly, just a bronze statue erected in his honor.

 

 

We also got to see the very controversial new memorial to the 1944 Nazi occupation of Hungary, many people (including our guide Gabriella) see it as falsely portraying Hungary as an innocent party to the holocaust, when they were allied with Germany during the war.

 

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On a more lighthearted note,  by now it is almost completely dark so we are heading back to the Pest side of the Danube to visit the Opera House, the Christmas Market at the Basilica and then a visit to a less touristy place, Gabriella’s favorite bookstore and a place she goes when she is not showing off her beautiful city.  The Opera House is just beautiful, ornate but with tile mosaic floors patterned after those found at the Roman ruins of Aquincum.

 

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Almost to the end of the day!  We parted ways with Gabriella until tomorrow, it was time for dinner at Rezkakas Bistro and some rest….well rest after a second visit to the Christmas markets, both at the basilica  and Vorosmarty Square and a walk along the Danube back to the Intercontinental.

Rezkakas Bistro is a short walk from the Intercontinental and had good food but it was pricey.

 

 

Budapest at night is breathtaking, the Christmas markets sparkle and the buildings along the Danube glow.

 

 

I will try to wrap up Budapest with one more post, we will see how that goes….

 

 

 

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Frontera Cocina at Disney Springs

Disney restaurants can be pretty hit or miss and with the inflated prices they charge, to me it is always a risk trying something new.  My friend Sheena and I decided to take the gamble and have our girl’s night out at a Disney Springs because we wanted to get in some shopping.  It was a last minute decision so available reservations were limited, out of the available options Frontera Cocina won out.

Frontera Cocina, a Chef Rick Bayless Mexican eatery,  opened June 27, 2016 and with me being an avid fan of just about all Latin food, I am surprised it took me this long to try it.

We arrived about 15 minutes early for our reservation and were told, despite empty tables all around, that they do not seat reservations early, okay no problem we can get a little shopping in while we wait.  Upon returning, we were directed to the hostess to be seated. Looking around, there are shelves lined with vivid Oaxacan carvings and interesting tequila bottles.  The walls are brightly painted and the focal point is a beautiful tiled mosaic, the restaurant also features a semi-open kitchen and a full stand alone bar.

This restaurant gets very mixed reviews online but I am happy to report we had a great meal and experience.  We started with drinks (Sangria for me!) and an order of the chips and salsa, which for me are like crack, so I proceeded to nearly spoil my appetite on them. They were a heavier chip served with both smoky chipotle salsa and a salsa verde.

Dinner Menu

It took me forever to order the main dish because there were so many great options (red snapper, shrimp, carne asada…) on the menu. In the end my personal favorite Mexican meat dish, carnitas, was the winner and I was not disappointed, it was moist and had a great citrus flavor.  I should mention that they were very accommodating with substitutions, I hate beans and guacamole and was allowed to substitute the cotija cheese mashed potatoes and crema.  Sheena had an easier time, from the moment she saw the carne asada she was sure that was the right choice, she was not disappointed either.  I tried the carne asada and can confirm it had a great flavor, it was a bit overcooked for me, I prefer my beef cooked medium but Sheena likes a more well done steak so she was happy.  She thought the beans and plantains were great as well, I think I have mentioned that I loathe beans and while I do love sweet plantains, these were served topped with crema and cotija cheese, I also do not mix my sweet and salty foods so I did not try them.

Despite being so full I could just die at this point, I was with Sheena and if there is one thing I can say about her, the girl loves dessert!  Frontera Cocina doesn’t have your garden variety Mexican tres leches, which BTW is one of my favorite desserts, they step it up a notch and add one more leches to the mix for a cuatro leches cake.  Had. To. Have. It!  It also had coconut and lime zest added, the lime zest I wasn’t sure about for a tres (sorry cuatro!) leches cake but the subtle lime flavor added a unique twist and it tasted amazing!

Dessert Menu

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From reading other’s reviews, I cannot promise you will have the great experience we did but if they remain consistent to what we experienced, you will have a very enjoyable meal.

Also, they do provide discounts for Disney Annual Pass holders, Tables in Wonderland members and Disney cast members (lunch only.)

First visit to the 2017 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival

Visiting the multiple different festivals that are now held at Disney World’s EPCOT are one of our favorite things to do at the parks.  We always try to go as soon as they begin and make multiple visits throughout the festivals, to give ourselves plenty of opportunities to sample the different food and beverage offerings,We  without blowing our weekly budget.  Today was our first chance to go to this year’s Flower and Garden Festival and the weather cooperated, it was a gorgeous day to be at the parks!

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Today we tried two savory dishes, one dessert and a cider flight, all were excellent!  We usually pick up a festival guide and look through the menus to determine what we want to try for the day, then depending on how hungry (or not) we are we plot our course around the world showcase.  Today we arrived around lunch time and were starving!  I wanted to try the beef tenderloin tips, which are served at the new Northern Bloom booth located in Canada, with the strawberry tiramisu served at Primavera Kitchen in Italy.  My husband thought the pear cider brined corned beef, served at the Cider House booth in the UK was what he should try ( I also wanted the cider flight offered there) so we decided on a counterclockwise route.

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So we first stopped at the Northern Blossom booth for the beef tenderloin tips, which consisted of three pieces of tenderloin in a bordelaise sauce with carrots, mushrooms and pearl onions over mashed potatoes, the beef was tender despite being cooked well done and the sauce was tasty, overall a great dish.

The second stop on the itinerary was the Cider House, where we picked up the cider flight and the cider brined corned beef.  The cider flight had three samples; McKenzie’s Black Cherry, Florida’s Beer Company’s Caribe Blood Orange Tropical and Ciderboy’s Strawberry Magic.  The black cherry and the Strawberry were so good, some of the best I have had (I like my cider sweet so if you prefer dry these may not be for you) and the blood orange was good and fresh but not my favorite, to me it tasted like Fresca.  I might like my drinks sweet but I do not like things I consider to be savory dishes with any sweetness so I was leery to try my husbands corned beef, he convinced me to and wow, it was really good!  It only had a very slight hint of sweetness and was full of flavor, I recommend trying it.

Now on to procure the most important meal, the dessert!  I have never heard of a fruit tiramisu but I love tiramisu and strawberries so how could we go wrong?  I have to say, while not tasting very much like tiramisu, it was really, really good!

We spent the rest of the time checking out the displays and topiaries, I know I missed a few (the Chinese zodiac in particular) but you will find a lot of them below.

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Finally all of the menu boards for the food booths.  I hope to be sharing many more dishes with you over the next few months!

Ahhhhh Budapest… the city that positively glows! (part 1)

e20161204_071911Photo taken on our first morning in Budapest from our room at the Intercontinental.

We had arranged well in advance for two tours with Gabriella of Private tours Budapest, the first was a full day in Budapest with a van, the second (which I will elaborate on in another post) was a half day to the lovely town of Szentendre the morning of our embarkation on the AmaSonata.  The Budapest tour with Gabriella was to cover mainly things we would not see with Ama’s tour, that I will discuss in a later post.

I feel that I was too ambitious with my list of sites to visit, Budapest offers so much that you either need to spend a few days there or just pick a handful, of what you feel are the most important things, to see.  Gabriella was a terrific guide and did her best to accommodate our wishes but we ended up really seeing only the surface of things with not much detail, again this was my fault for being too ambitious…oh well, I guess this just means I will have to make another visit!

e20161204_083708You cannot beat this view!

After a somewhat expensive (but delicious!) breakfast at the hotel, we were met by Gabriella in the lobby of the Intercontinental and shown to the  van that would escort us around the city today.  From there we proceeded to our first stop, a visit one of the thermal baths that Budapest is so famous for, the Szechenyi thermal baths.  The drive through the Pest side of the city to reach Szechenyi took us past many beautiful buildings and structures such as Heroes Square.  We only took a look inside the baths and did not actually buy admission and go for a swim. We had initially planned to do this on our own but our time was so limited due to the flight delay and missing a half day that it just didn’t happen.  I also wanted to do the outdoor baths and maybe fear of going out in that kind of cold in a swimsuit played a part in the decision to save the baths for the next trip.

After visiting the thermal bath (next time I will get in!) we walked to Castle Vajdahunyad, a 19th century castle built for the Millennial exhibition to showcase Hungarian architecture of different historical periods, the grounds are very beautiful and it is here that you can find the statue Anonymous.  An added bonus was seeing the large outdoor skating rink that is it’s neighbor.

It was still morning and we had a very long list so once we were back onboard the van, we headed next to the House of Terror museum, which showcases the plight of the Hungarian people while under communist leadership and the atrocities that were bestowed upon them.  This is another of the stops where we merely scratched the surface as we did not have time to do the full admission tour of the museum. One thing I did learn at the House of Terror museum, besides the fact that people regularly disappeared in the middle of the night sometimes never to be seen again,  is that my birthday is a national holiday in Hungary (National Day) commemorating an uprising against the communists in 1956 and Hungary becoming a free republic in 1989.

Onward to our next stop,  did I mention that we had a lot of ground to cover?  We headed over the Danube to Buda (Budapest is actually one city formed from two, Buda and Pest) to visit Buda castle, try some Hungarian strudel (one of our group was brave enough to try the poppy seed strudel which, to be honest,  looked like mud) and watch the changing of the guards.  As with most of the landmarks on the Buda side, it came with stunning panoramic views over the Danube and Pest.

This seems like a good stopping point, I will pick up on the remainder of our day with Gabriella with my next blog post.  Stay Tuned!