Best buddies in Budapest
Updated: Jun 4, 2022
Since I last wrote when Tiger and I had returned from our Mexico trip in January, my life has turned upside down, back to front, and somehow righted itself again. I am now looking forward to a new job and a huge move the Lake District in Cumbria where I will take up the role of Director of External Relations for Windermere School. I am dealing with removal companies and just looking at the mess of our apartment trying to work out how the hell I got so much stuff in 3 years, how I get rid of half of it, and how we actually pack and move. So, as a result of all this thinking, together with an unrelenting pace of work at my current schools, this trip is happening on a wing and a prayer. Quite different to how I usually like to travel, as I just love all the planning. This time, at the time of departure, all we had was a flight, a car and a hotel for the first 3 nights. I have a vague itinerary, so we'll make it, but far less organised than usual!
Somehow, in the blur of last minute deadlines, I managed to book the bare minimum of this trip to Hungary, a country I have only visited once some 25 years ago with Robin. Back then, we stayed in a hostel in Budapest and I have memories of drinking in student bars! I am predicting this trip may be a little different....
On Saturday 28th May Gary dropped us off at Heathrow Terminal 3 so no taxi costs (yay!) but it now costs £5 to drop somebody off. You do need to remember to pay the charge in 24 hours which yours truly only just about remembered to do in the nick of time.
It was the start of the Half Term holidays and also the big Jubilee getaway for those of us Brits who were keen to jet away and maximise our annual leave entitlement. Sorry Queen Elizabeth, yes I am very pleased you have been on the throne for 70 years, primarily as the Royal Family is, in my view, a huge bonus for British tourism, but I am far more grateful for my additional Bank Holiday so Tiger and I could escape for longer.
I was a little nervous heading to Heathrow as I was reading online of travel chaos at many UK airports, Eastyjet cancelling 200 flights over Half Term, and mile long queues at the port of Dover. Still, at Heathrow where we were on BA0874 from Terminal 3 to Budapest, it was very busy (with long queues for the restaurants in the terminal) but manageable.
We had our trusty silver case on wheels which weighed in at 23kg, a box with the new Urban Kanga Travel Car Seat £139 from Amazon, yellow day pack, and the Yo-yo buggy all of which I can just about pull / lug along, so long as Tiger was willing to sit in the buggy until I had checked in our bigger luggage. The silver case and the box got checked in after a bit of a snake-like queue, leaving us with Tiger in the buggy (who will endure it as far as security, and then walk along holding it thereafter). The only thing I would mention is that there is no 'family check in' at Heathrow Terminal 3 versus Terminal 5 and there is therefore quite a big difference between the experience of traveling through the different Heathrow terminals with British Airways - go for T5 if you have any option!
When we reached the plane, the Yo-yo went in the overhead and, despite being 1 hour delayed, the 2.5h flight went really fast thanks to having various Disney films downloaded onto Tiger's ipad. I didn't even have to get the plasticine out this time! And as we have no more nappies in the day time at 3 years 4 months, life is a little easier. We did just have to contend with the very vocal toddler joy of "doing a poo" on an airplane and wanting to tell and and sundry about it though...!
Upon arrival, still at only 5.30pm Hungary time (1 hour ahead of the UK), we breezed through passport control being ushered straight to the front, the bags arrived, we pulled money out of the "money machine" air side and walked through to Terminal 2A and out to bus stop D where the Klass Wagen bus picked us up. I had booked a 'Hyundai i10 or similar' and ended up with a Corsa for £249.24. I should really have stuck to my guns but was tired, and got talked into paying £144.30 for full insurance cover despite the fact I have insurance to cover the excess. I am a little annoyed at myself that I fell for it, but will chalk it down to experience. Anyway the car was very small and suitable for what we need in Hungary and the new car seat was just perfect, I am so pleased I bought it. The timings were also good and I simply plugged my phone into the car (I had brought the cable and the magnetic iphone mount from home) and used the Waze app to drive to our hotel. The last bit of the drive seemed to lead us past early afternoon roadside hookers. Or maybe they were just going for a stroll. Either way, Tiger didn't notice!
When we checked into the Aquaworld Hotel, I did question my decision slightly as it was far from my authentic 'backpacking'-style choices but it has turned out to be just perfect for Tiger and, I thought, quite a bargain at only £233 for three nights which included the spa, Aquaworld entrance, room, breakfast, dinner and 3 hours a day in a kids club!
Day one (Saturday 28th May) we checked in around 7pm, quickly put our bags in the room and headed back downstairs for the buffet dinner where I had the delicious duck a l'orange. I really don't have much to compare it to, having only very rarely ever been in a family-style hotel, but it did seem very nice and certainly highly welcoming to families and children. We were too late to join, but there was also a kids disco almost as we arrived, which happens every Saturday night.
On Sunday 29th May, after filling up with breakfast (which again was perfect for kids even with baby food, potato smiley faces and sausages!), we stopped off in the lobby to meet "Bongo", the hotel's very own monkey character. Tiger was a little nervous but eventually I did get her to go up to have her photo taken.
We then headed into Aquaworld itself, which is free for hotel guests, and accessed via the spa behind Reception (there is a separate entrance for day visitors). Well, honestly, it was mental with so many people on a Sunday but also brilliant fun. We went in a kids pool and in a pool with a wave machine but there are 19 pools in total, some of which lead outside.
We met a lovely family with a 4 year old daughter, Chloe, and hung out with them for quite some time before having a quick lunch in the lobby (which was far quieter) and then went for a sleep.... Tiger was completely shattered! At 4pm or so, I woke her up and she went in to the Bongo Kids Club area where she stayed from about 4.30pm to 7pm and I got to go to the spa on my own and sit around the 'silent pool' (it wasn't silent on a Sunday!) and swim. I would really say that the kids club is worth its weight in gold for parents and I loved my private time. We had dinner together in the restaurant, and collapsed into bed!
The next day, Monday 30th May, I decided to basically re-run the day with the exception that we drove out to Lidl as we needed milk. It is just a mile away, and well worth stocking up from there. The hotel does have milk, but sometimes it's free (at dinner time) and other times not. Plus it is out of dispensers and far easier to have your own. We needed a coin for the big trolleys but Lidl have little kids trollies which Tiger had never seen before and was bowled over by them!
We met up again with the same family from the day before in the swimming pool and Tiger as near as damn it learned to swim, albeit with her floatation vest on and Chloe's armbands. It was brilliant to see! My afternoon whilst Tiger was at kids club was considerably quieter and relaxed and again very welcome.
Finally on Tuesday 31st May, after 3 rather blissful nights at Aquaworld (in as far as things can be blissful whilst parenting a 3 year old!) we finally checked out and drove into the Buda Castle district in central Budapest. It was a busy journey traffic wise. When I arrived at the Castle District I had to take a ticket, going through a barrier then out of another barrier. It was a bit confusing initially to know where to park (and I saw one car clamped!) but as I drove further/around it started to become clear that I could part anywhere the big blue P sign was shown. Eventually I found a place to park and walked up to meet Daniel, our lovely photographer. We were already late, so we whizzed around the Fisherman's Bastion for the photos. Daniel was wonderful and a complete professional. I had booked him on Airbnb Experiences for £88.32 (£45 per adult, £43 per child) for one hour and oh what beautiful photos!
Courtesy of photographer Daniel, here are some image of Fisherman's Bastion from yesteryear!
After our fabulous photoshoot, we had lunch at Jamie Oliver's Italian which was delicious!
Finally, with a very sleepy Tiger, we left Budapest (paying our ticket just before we drove out of the Castle District!) and headed over to Szentendre and onward to Eger.