2012 is over! Hallelujah!! What started as the most miserable months of my life (maybe even worse than my time at Central) finished with a bang in London's Trafalgar Square with my sister, Helen. Now, I'm back at home dealing with the enormous let-down that comes after two weeks of Christmas vacation and Helen's returning to the States.
I had a wonderful visit with Helen. She arrived a few days before school ended and visited my classes for two days before Christmas break. Once school was finished, we spent a few days around my town, visiting the market in Debrecen, going to the spa, decorating for Christmas, making caramels, roasting a duck for Christmas dinner, visiting my vice-principal's house, and other assorted things around Szoboszlo. Although, I much prefer living in Budapest, it was nice to be able to show someone my little town.
The day after Christmas, we took the train to Budapest and spent a very rainy day walking around. We tried to go to the ice rink at City Park and the Christmas Market but both were closed due to the rain. We did make it to dinner at our family's favorite restaurant. At this point, things got crazy because I had to run home (3 hours each way on the train) to get my inhaler. Both of us had bad colds and I didn't want to risk 10 days without it. After I arrived back to Budapest, we barely made our flight to London and arrived exhausted.
Our original plan had been to visit Sarajevo because I enjoyed it so much over Fall break and I thought Helen would like it too. This fell apart when the Hungarian train system cut the direct route from BP to Sarajevo which would have made the trip twice as long. We scrambled at the last minute to find something else to do and decided to go to London and Dublin. It was a wonderful decision. There were plenty of bumps in the road as we had to find hostels and flights over New Year's but everything got sorted out in the end. I would NEVER stay at Heathrow Lodge again (I don't think our room had ever been cleaned... ick!) but we could afford it and made do.
Except for our hostel situation, London was fantastic. I can't wait for my next chance to go back! We got the London Pass which worked really well for us - included travel (important since we were staying about an hour from the city center) and was simpler than buying tickets everywhere we went. We saw Westminster Cathedral, Westminister Abbey, Buckingham Palace (the Queen was home), the Household Cavalry Museum, St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, The Tower of London, toured the National Theater backstage (disappointing because they didn't show the costume areas), toured the replica of the Globe Theater (I got to be a model in the costume demonstration... almost made up for the National Theater), got to see Tower Bridge raise and lower, watched New Year's fireworks from Trafalgar Square, Big Ben (not nearly as big as I expected), and probably a bunch that I'm forgetting.
Both Helen and I got very excited, and subsequently disappointed, over two different church services we hoped to attend on Sunday. Helen wanted to see/hear her favorite boy's choir singing Evensong at their home church but they were gone for Christmas break. I have been dying to attend an Anglican-use Catholic Mass since B16 established the Personal Ordinariates. Unfortunately, the one I found was also on Christmas break so we just went to a "regular" Mass. More things for us to look forward to for our next visits.
On New Year's Day, we flew from London to Dublin and spent a few days in a city very important to our family's history. My Dad remembers the math teachers' party at which my Mom met him in Wisconsin, but doesn't remember meeting her. He first remembers meeting her in a train station in Dublin when they were both there for a conference. Six to eight first dates later, there was finally a third, fourth, etc date and the rest is history. Neither of my parents could remember which train station but we visited both.
In Dublin, we went on a walking tour led by a local grad student who shared loads of info about the history of Ireland and Dublin. It was fascinating to hear, especially about the Catholic history of the country. We didn't see nearly as much in Dublin as in London, but I wasn't as interested in it as a city. It was nice to visit but I don't see myself back any time soon. One thing that shocked me was how expensive it was. I never would have expected it to be more expensive than London. One of our days we spent on a day trip/bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher and Galway. That was my favorite part of Ireland. It was so beautiful and our drivers/tour guides were very informative and entertaining.
The food in both places was fantastic! We ate so much cheddar cheese it's amazing we didn't turn orange. Living in a country that tends to have mostly bland cheese, I was in heaven. I also loved the fish and chips. I don't buy fish very often and tend to be picky but both places we got fish and chips were amazing. The fish was mild and creamy with a soft/crunchy shell (yes, I realize that doesn't make much sense). The chips were good too but I found the fish to be the real star of those meals. Our last night in Ireland, I had an amazing Steak and Guinness pie which I think I could eat almost everyday of my life. Although we were in London where Helen (at 17) could have legally drank, we didn't have much alcohol on the trip. I had a London's Best in the little pub next to our hostel in London and a Guinness in Dublin but wasn't impressed with either. I did really enjoy the Classic Pimm's that I had in London though.
We arrived back to Budapest on Saturday morning and spent the rest of the day visiting pastry shops and getting some last minute shopping done for Helen. She flew out this morning and I took the train back to Szoboszlo. School starts again tomorrow morning and I have massive amounts of laundry to do but I am choosing to enjoy my last night by doing a whole lot of nothing.
Pictures will be on FB and I may try to add some to this post later.
Happy New Year everyone!!