Eighty Hours in Reykjavík

We took a long weekend in Reykjavík for Leona’s 30th birthday.

Friday
The flight was crazy early so got to the airport for 6am. Going through security we noticed that the flight was delayed for over two hours. Alas the only thing to do was get some breakfast then have some beer! We got some vouchers because of the delay and was told that the delay had been reduced to one hour, which wasn’t so bad. Tried to sleep on the flight but didn’t have much joy!

Having been warned that drink was crazy expensive in Iceland (and Reykjavík only having something like two off licences) we elected to buy some booze in duty free at arrivals (à la Oslo). Got some tasty beer (some pale ale and pilsner) and also some Eglis jólabjór which,I didn’t realise, was a  Cola-esque malt beer – popular at Christmas time. One or two was okay, but more than that was sickeningly sweet.

We found our bus to Reykjavik – I couldn’t remember our stop (the Airbnb was near Hotel Leifur Eiriksson) then my I remembered it sounds a bit like Sven Goran Eriksson so i just said Eriksson – the bus driver gave me a green transfer ticket. After about an hour we arrived at a bus station in Reykjavik and we split into mini-buses which corresponded with our transfer ticket. To cut a long story short – we were on the wrong bus, taking us to a hotel at the far end of town. The driver was kind enough to drop us off at the right place.

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Our drop off point was across the road from Hallgrímskirkja, which was about two minutes from our Airbnb. We had agreed to meet the host at a coffee shop, across the road, called Reykjavik Roasters. This was the first time I’d used Airbnb myself, therefore making it my first Airbnb awkward meeting. Thankfully Heba, the host, was quite friendly and recommended some places to eat, told us were convenience stores were etc. Also she was quite flexible with check out times!

It was lunchtime, so we ventured out to get food and explore a bit of Reykjavik before it got dark (a few hours later!). We hadn’t got far until we found a burger place called Chuck Norris Grill. The burger was nice and I had a tasty beer so all was good.

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After lunch we walked down to Sun Voyager sculpture and had a look. Then walked on the footpath along the sea and got really cold! We retreated back to Laugavegur and found a cafe called Kaffi Brennslan to warm up in and get a coffee.

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We decided to go to a shop for a few bits and pieces. I spotted another Malt beer, but it had a picture of Santa on it so decided to get it (turned out it was nicer than the Jolabjor). We had only eaten a few hours previously but felt it was a good idea to eat something before we went on the Northern Lights tour. We just got a frozen pizza to eat in the apartment.

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Seeing we had an hour to kill before the Northern Lights tour so we went to Cafe Babalu for a warm beverage. We only wanted to go there because we heard about the Star Wars toilets. The place was dead on – though there was some English lad talking to his made and kept making eye contact with me which freaked me out!

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We waited out side Hotel Leifur Eiriksson for our bus, a mini bus arrived and drove us to a car park outside Reykjavik where we got onto a bigger bus. Sadly this bigger bus was pretty much full but we found some free seats at the back. Worse still there were four wankers, from England, sitting in front of us. Within seconds I was annoyed I didn’t bring a) earphones and b) beer to get through the bus trip!

The bus trip was dark for the most part, so couldn’t really see look outside. Though we drove past a artificially lit green house.. that was really bright… and pretty cool. We also saw a grave yard were the headstones were lit up. The tour guide was trying her best to keep us amused in the dark bus by giving facts about the Northern Lights, telling Icelandic folk stories, singing Icelandic Christmas songs etc etc but the English one’s in front of us kept interrupting and being general bellends. Thankfully we got some rest bite when the bus stopped for a piss break at a restaurant/shop then we headed out to the site where we would try and see the lights.

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We walked up to a viewing point (not realising it’s beside a giant crater!). There was not much aurora action going on for a while but the guide was trying to be optimistic. Then she pointed to the sky and said there was a wee bit. It wasn’t strong enough to see with the naked eye so I tried to take photos with a long exposure. However, like an idiot I forgot that I would need a tripod, or something similar. I tried to improvise by using fence posts/Leona’s head. The camera was able to pick up some colour in the sky but it wasn’t enough so the guide said that if we emailed the tour company we could get another tour free! We were served some hot chocolate and got on the bus back to Reykjavik.

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I fell asleep on the bus but an hour or so into the trip back the tour guide woke us up saying she should see the aurora from the bus. The bus parked at a stop off the road. I was able to get a decent shot of the lights from the bus with on a few second exposure. Some of us got off the bus to take photos. Still without a tripod, I just tried to hold the camera really still but it was so cold I was shaking a lot! Still managed to get some shots.

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As I was no longer asleep I had to enjoy the musings of the moron’s in the next row. To be fair, only three of them were dickheads, one managed to sleep through the whole tour!

We got back to Reykjavik in the wee hours and was glad to get to sleep!

Saturday
We grabbed a quick breakfast, from a bakery Heba recommended, called Braud & Co. We got some pastries, pan au chocolat/croissants and the like, with some coffee and ate it in the flat.

Our pickup was at a different hotel, but was about the same distance away as the night before. Again, a minibus picked us up. This time we were taken to the bus station to get on the bigger bus to the Blue Lagoon.

The Blue Lagoon was great! I walked outside in my trunks and it was very, very cold. I quickly scuttled into the water and it was nice and warm! Leona then joined me and we bobbed over to the bar and I had a tasty cold beer, in the warm water. What’s not to like?

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… maybe the facemasks? We bobbed over to the place with the facemask cream and obviously I got it in my eyes… more than once! We bobbed about in the water for about 90 minutes and enjoyed a few more beers. We even talked to some nice English people (who were going to Belfast on New Years Eve) and some nice Americans.

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After all that bobbing about, we got changed, and went to the cafe where I had some more tasty beer and some sushi. We then checked out the gift shop and jumped on the bus back to Reykjavik. We stopped off at Kaffibrenn, again, to have a wee beverage before going back to the flat to drop our stuff and get ready for dinner!

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We tried to find somewhere but most places were busy – we eventually stopped in a bar called Boston – they did wings, fired chicken and nachos etc therefore as good a place as any to eat. We stayed there for a few drinks. I quite liked the place.

Sunday
We had breakfast in Reykjavik Roasters, which was across the street from our Airbnb, and had coffee and some pastries. It was a nice wee coffee shop. We were sat beside the turntable and was asked by staff to change the side of the record. I didn’t dare as my big stupid hands would probably have caused the needle to scratch the record.

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Looking something more to eat, we went for a walk and ended up in Kaffi Brennan again  where we split a waffle with bacon! Then we made our way back to Hotel Leifur Eiriksson for our bus pick up. We spun around town picking up other people but thankfully we didn’t have to swap buses. Our bus picked us up at 12 and it got dark at around 4, therefore this was the “express tour”.

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After a bit of driving we got to Þingvellir – where you can see the gap between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Also it holds the site of the first Icelandic parliament. Sadly we only got to spend 25 minutes there (because of the express tour). Then we were back on the bus again!

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We drove a bit more until we got to the Geyser – which was very impressive! We got a bit more time here so watched the geyser for a while. Then we headed down to the cafe/shop place and grabbed a hot chocolate for the road.

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Our last stop was the Gullfoss waterfall. It was also quite impressive! Annoyingly there were morons disrespecting the small chain and climbing over for a photo – some idiot nearly dropped their camera over the cliff. We climbed a lot of steps to get another view of the falls. We then had a look in the gift shop before heading on.

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It was dusk when we left the falls, and our last stop on the tour was Kerið. I didn’t realise until then, that was where we were on the Aurora Borealis tour. I also didn’t realise how close the crater was on the Friday night! It was quite dark at this point but I could just about make out the crater!

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We headed back to Reykjavik and went for some food. We ended up in the Lebowski Bar for a really tasty burger and an obligatory White Russian (note: I think The Big Lebowski is a shite film, but I agree with The Dude’s White Russian policy!). We then headed on to a bar around the corner, called Bar Annanas, for one and then headed back to the flat to have a few of the airport beers. At around ten o’clock I got a hankering for some chips so ran across the road to the shop/fast food place but the chef did a no show that night. I was raging and had to make do with a chocolate bar!15492541_10157720615705012_6559110646862538074_n

Monday
For breakfast we went to a cafe at the bottom of the street called Durum – I had the Breakfast Special – it was tasty! We we going to go to the Saga museum so had to plan our route. We originally thinking of getting a bus but thought it was just as handy to walk, and would see a we bit more of Reykjavik before we went home. Thankfully the rain held off until we got there!

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The Saga museum was interesting, giving a condensed history of Iceland but with waxworks! Once done with the tour you can try on viking gear and armour, even chain mail (which is heavier than I thought!). We walked into the place in/beside it  for a coffee, not realising it was a proper restaurant. It seemed quite classy! We didn’t get food but it smelt amazing!

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We, instead, went to eat in Dirty Burger & Ribswhere I had (quelle suprise) a burger and ribs. Good stuff! Afterwards we walked to Lake Tjornin to have a look then decided to go up the Hallgrimskirkja tower.

We queued to get a ticket. Got in the lift. Got to the top. It was then I realised that you probably could have just went up with out a ticket – not that it is the type of thing I do. You could see pretty much all of the city!

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We had to return to the flat to tidy up the flat/put rubbish in the bin etc, then I went to Reykjavik Roasters to get a coffee for the road, where I was served by a guy who is originally from a town 10 miles from my house. Small world etc.

I’d have loved a few more days in Reykjavik as I feel there was more to be done!

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Oslo

We went to Oslo for a long weekend. We nearly didn’t make the flight due to the motorway being closed then some idiot nearly crashing into me. However, after a mad rush through the airport we made it to the gate with 10 minutes to spare. Annoyingly the flight was delayed by 45 minutes so we didn’t need to rush!

We landed in a snowy Oslo and after we went through passport control they had sneakily made us walk through a duty free shop before we passed customs. I got myself some tasty Norwegian bottles and a six pack of Aass (mainly due to it’s funny name). Once done with booze shopping we found a bus that took us to a train-station and waited in the snow.

The train journey to Oslo was about an hour, but the train was nice. We arrived in Central Station and walked to the hotel in the snow. Our hotel wasn’t too far away, but the walk in the snow was tough. We checked in, made it to our room, freshened up/drank a can of Aass. We then went for a walk in the snow to get our bearings and get some food!

Snowy view from room

Snowy view from room

It was late by the time dinner was finished, so had a another wee walk to get our bearings before we went back to the hotel, drank some beers and decided what to do the next day in snowy Oslo.

Saturday
When we woke up all the snow was gone!

No Snow!!

No Snow!!

We knew food was dear in Oslo so made the most of our free hotel breakfast. After breakfast we walked to central station to find the tourist information place and get the Oslo Pass – it was 620NOK each for a 72 hour pass, and meant we got unlimited public transport use and free entry to a few places.

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We jumped on a tram but had to get off soon because of road works, ended up walking down towards the Nobel Peace building and jumped on a #30 bus towards the Viking Museum.

Nobel Building

Nobel Building

It was usually 80NOK in – but we got in free because of the Oslo pass. Which is just as well as there wasn’t that big – just one big room so to speak. Still, what they had looked good.

Viking Museum

Viking Museum

We jumped onto another #30 bus and got off beside a couple of museums. First one we went into was the Fram museum – which was quite good. Once again we got in free with our Oslo Pass (100NOK usually) but there was alot to see and do!

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We sat outside for a bit to get some air before going into the Maritime Museum. Usually 80NOK – we got in free with our Oslo pass. If you really like boats and what not you’d love the museum … I’m quite indifferent to boats. After a few hours of going to museums we were quite museumed out, so we gave the Kon-Tiki Museum a miss – we jumped onto the next #30 bus back into town.

Once back in town we decided to get a bite to eat. We had seen good reviews for Freddy Feuego’s burrito place online, and it was also recommended by a friend of a friend so we jumped on a tram and headed there. We found the place and it had a lucha theme that was pretty cool. I had a beef burrito. Asked for the hot salsa and the server recommended I try it before getting it. He gave me a nacho with salsa and it blew my head off!! However, I couldn’t give up now so coughed and sheepishly said “sure, it’ll be fine when it’s all mixed together”. I was right – but it was still hot! Leona had a chicken burrito with mild salsa. After I finished mine, I had half of hers to use a cooling agent!

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A guy from Dublin was working there (possibly the owner?) and served us some much needed water. We were chatting for a few minutes about burritos, Boojum and what not. Nice lad!

We explored that area and went to find a tram, but instead of waiting we found a bar called Qadis and had a few drinks. It had a good selection of beer – I even had some Sierra Nevada stout which was bloody delicious!! After a few drinks we got the tram back towards our hotel.

We freshened up and then headed out again. There was a bar around the corner called The Dubliner which we were going to go for one or two and then get dinner. It was busy and couldn’t get a seat but noticed a bar next door called ‘The Whiskey Bar’ (which was part of the same complex) and found a seat in there. It had a good selection of beer and I got into that bad habit of trying beer I haven’t had before. We didn’t go for dinner in the end and stayed where we were!

Whiskey bottles

Whiskey bottles

I was going to have a cheeky whiskey before we went back to the hotel (due to the name of the bar!) but I’m glad I didn’t (I was blocked)!

Sunday
Awoke with a bit of a hangover. Managed to get up before breakfast finished and we went to find a Starbucks so Leona can pick up some Mugs for her collection. We knew there was one in Oslo City but when we got there we realised it was closed on a Sunday! We had to Google another one and noticed there was another 400m away so walked there and I had a sugary Caramel Macchiato to try and stem my hangover!

We got a tram back to Oslo City and jumped on a T-Bane to Tøyen so we could go to the Munch Museum. Free with the Oslo pass, it was usually 100NOK in. It was very heavy security wise – i.e. bags had to be left in lockers and you were x-rayed / had to go through a metal detector before you went in. Though it’s also understandable bearing in mind previous form.

There was an exhibition called Mapplethorpe + Munch on when we were there where they would compare the two. Portraits and the like. Then it moved onto nudes and such, fair enough (there was a lot of ‘Thomas’),  and a wee bit of x-rated stuff. I’m as liberal minded as the next guy but an anal fisting photograph on a Sunday morning, when hungover, was an unexpected shock!

A quick... Munch.. ahahaha

A quick… Munch.. ahahaha

I think we took a wrong turn and ended up back in the lobby, and the queue through security was really long at this point, so I didn’t see all of the Munch collection, which was a shame. I had another coffee, and a cookie, to keep the hangover under control!

After the Munch museum we jump on the T-Bane back into town and then got back on to the #30 bus to the Folk Museum. Normally 125NOK, but we got in with our Oslo pass. It was mainly outside and the rain was heavy so that was grim. I also slipped on ice and landed on my back which was painful. After we were done in the rain I got a slice of savoury pie to cheer me up.

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We headed back to the hotel to get freshened up, drink airport purchased prosseco and decide where we wanted to go to dinner. After much deliberation googling we decided on a place called O‘Learys. It was great and very tasty! After dinner we walked down to the Hard Rock Cafe down the street and contemplated watching the Super Bowl, but we were on GMT+1 so couldn’t be bothered staying up so went back to the hotel an hour or so before it started.

Monday

After breakfast we went down to the docks to go on a fjord cruise, sadly it started raining heavily and got I saturated. It was miserable and I was in no mood for fjords. After a while we gave up and went into the cabin to drink hot chocolate and warm up. I didn’t get to see much fjord action. We then returned to the hotel to shower/prevent hypothermia.

Miserable in the rain!

Miserable in the rain!

After showering and preventing hypothermia we got changed into some ‘ski’ gear (I just had trousers) we packed so we could go Tobogganing. First we got some lunch in a Scandinavian burger chain called Max Burger – which was bloody tasty! – and got the metro from Storinget which was right outside! We jumped on Line 1 all the way to the end and got off at Frognerseteren.

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As we climbed the mountain the snow got heavier, which was crazy as we were only a few miles outside Oslo. We reached the metro station and had to go downhill again, which was dodgy in the snow, and found a place were we could hire sledges. Something like 250NOK, which was okay and they threw in helmets and goggles for free!

We eventually managed to find the start line. Leona volunteered me to go first, so I did. I instinctively steered with my feet which inevitably got my socks wet! You picked up some speed, which at the time felt very fast, but when I watched it back on the Go Pro it seemed very tame. Though at times you got perilously close to the edge, where at one side would be a drop, the other side wall!

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Some times the course leveled out or had some bumps so the sled ground to a halt. So when that happened I would wait on Leona to catch up, then we would take off again.

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Go Pro injury

At one point I was gaining a bit of speed as the snow was wetter. I tried to take off a bit of speed/take a corner by digging my heel into the snow but the slush went up my trouser leg, I then hit a bump, got a few inches of air and landed in a particularly slushy puddle and got very cold and wet.

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Leona coming down the hill

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Leona crashing into a wall.. seconds later

When I got to the bottom of the run I fell and landed on my knee, it didn’t seem to bad at the time so we got the train back up the mountain for another run. It was getting dark so after that run we returned the toboggans – we regretted not blowing off the fjords and doing this all day! There were still people using the course after we left (it was pitch black at this point!). My knee was a bit sore by this point.

We returned to the hotel for another shower/change of clothes. Then headed to town to pick up some presents, obligatory Mug for my mother, Fridge magnet for my granny etc then got some Pizza. We had some beers in the hotel and an early night as we had to get up early for the train to the airport.

(The next morning my knee was killing me!!)

Edinbrrrrrrrr

At the end of November, I spent 48hrs in Edinburgh. I saw the Castle, went to the Christmas market, tasted Whiskey, drink a lot of beer (including a yummy chilli stout!) and even tried haggis (it’s like a stodgy white pudding). Despite the rain and the cold Edinburgh was great – I came home with a nifty hip flask!

At the airport

At the airport

At the Christmas market

At the Christmas market

Way better than Belfast's

Way better than Belfast’s

On the ferris wheel

On the ferris wheel

View from ferris wheel

View from ferris wheel

In the old town

In the old town

At the whiskey museum

At the whiskey museum

At a whiskey tasting

At a whiskey tasting

Budapest bits and pieces

Monday

The day after the Grand Prix we weren’t sure what to do with ourselves, we went for old reliable: A hop-on/hop-off bus tour. It was a shame that practically everyone who was in town for the Grand Prix had the same idea.

We found someone selling tickets, we wanted to buy tickets, but they still insisted on giving us reasons to buy tickets. “There’s a river cruise”, “You get these [unofficial] Ferrari branded [fake] Beats earphones”, yeah, yeah, just sell us the tickets please! Note: the fake beats earphones were even more terrible than I expected.

We arrived at the ‘hop on’ stop to join dozens of irate English people, gurning that they couldn’t get one a bus! Buses were full and no one was ‘hopping off’ at that stop. They had ordered more buses to come to keep with demand, but they continued to gurn at anyone who’d listen. I stood back and laughed at them!

Lunch

Lunch

We eventually got on a bus and just did a lap of the route (as it had started raining heavily) and eventually we got back to where we started. We ‘hopped off’ to find somewhere for lunch and tried to decide where we wanted to go.

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We hopped back onto a bus and headed to Buda Castle. Walked around, had a look, bought some souvenirs and had a beer. .

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We didn’t go on the Funicular though.

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dsc_0536dsc_0538dsc_0548Then we walked to the Fisherman’s Bastion – had another look around.

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We then walked back down the hill, over the bridge and went to find the dock for our boat tour. The boat tour was very, very cold, as we we went up the river it was daylight/dusk and when as we went back down it was proper dark. It was quite fortunate timing to get both!

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After the boat tour we tried to find some dinner.It was quite late at this point. We had our third attempt at going to the Hard Rock Café. We were told it would be an hour wait, and I looked perplexed at the empty tables. The waiter spotted my cynicism and told me it was an hour wait for food. Dead on. We went to an Italian place around the corner instead. It was nice.

After dinner we went to the Ice Bar which we thought was nearby. The ticket place was nearby. We walked in, got tickets and was told the Ice Bar proper, was “down the street”. Wasn’t really down the street, felt like a mile!

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Still, it was grand for what it was, standing in a freezer drinking cocktails. We were there about half an hour. After the ice bar we got the tram back to the hotel!

Tuesday

Monday was cold, but my last full day in Hungary was the first time it was “jeans weather” for a few weeks.

We headed to Vajdahunyad Castle, had a look and walked around City Park 

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We then headed to Hero’s Square but got side tracked by a Paddling Boat hire place before eventually making it!

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We tried to find some amusements but gave up and jumped back on the metro to Oktogon for dinner. Then Johnny Pumps for a few more beers on our last night

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One Budapest Regret: not going to Memento Park

Raceday!

We got up early enough so we could get to the track early! As Leona got ready I ran to a shop around the corner and got some stuff for lunch (bread, cheese … and cookies!). On the way back to the hotel I bumped into our Swedish taxi chums. There were off to the bar for a few beers.. at 8.30am! I knew they were not going until later but said if they wanted to share a taxi back, after the race, to meet in the same place as the day before.

Once back at the hotel and suitably breakfasted, we booked a taxi at the front desk. When it arrived we asked the taxi man, in an attempt to avoid a long ass walk, if he could leave us at the gate nearest our seats. He thought about it, we told him it was near the aquapark, had a look at the map at the back of our ticket, asked if it’s near a lake and then thought he actually could and went for it! It was another classic (scary) Budapest taxi ride, but to his credit he left us to the gate! He got told off by the cops for his troubles but it was early enough for him not to get a fine!

Check out the mark!

Check out the mark!

We arrived during the GP3 race. I noticed that the gravel trap in front of our seat so I asked the French lad beside me if there was an accident. In a stereotypical French accent he said “yes, at the start” and slapped his hands together to motion an accident.

Three Jenzers

Three Jenzers

I noticed our hotel buddies, Jenzer, were running together and finished in 7th, 8th and 9th – go on the lads! The race was won by an Italian and they played the Italian anthem!

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Can’t remember much from the GP2 race, but it was won by a Japanese lad, and therefore play the Japanese anthem too. I’d never heard it before, and the first few bars were really bassy and heavy! Bonkers! But I enjoyed it!

Porsche Chaos!

Porsche Chaos!

Porsche Supercup was up next and was good fun! Plenty of action in the corner in front of me. Sadly an Irish lad (Ryan Cullen) was taken out, but he did favourite one of my tweets a few days later, which was weird! Race was won by a German lad.

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Up next was the drivers parade with the “stick them on the back of a truck approach”. The truck passed us, we cheered and waved, they waved. It was all good. After the drivers parade Nelson Piquet drove Bernie Ecclestone around the track for no reason what so ever. I tried to boo Bernie as he passed but no one joined me.

Booo!

Booo-ernie!

We waited for the race to start as the grandstands started to fill up. Due to the difference of opinion between the back of the ticket and the signs beside the grandstand on of what what the grandstands were actually called there were a lot of people turning up to the wrong stand. The mustached man from Friday turned up and got angry. I asked to see his ticket, yep, wrong grandstand and he instantly cheered up, said sorry and left. But this happened so many times!

Dodgy looking clouds

Dodgy looking clouds

Sunday was a lot cooler than the previous days. It after 12 at this point and still very overcast – even a few rumours of rain – which after Thursday didn’t hope would happen as we weren’t covered! I felt wick wearing my sunglasses but I didn’t bring my normal ones so had to wear them!

I wasn’t looking forward to the next bit. Jules Bianchi had died the week before when we were in Paris. It was announced that week there would be a minute silence before the start of the race. It was soon approaching and we could see the drivers getting together on the big screen. It was then announced and everyone was silent, all that could be heard was the helicopter flying in the distance. One the screen there was an aerial shot of the drivers, shoulder to shoulder surrounding their helmets with Bianchi – well that nearly set me off.

Normally, at football matches and the like, the end of the silence would be formally announced and applause, but there was silence then the Hungarian National anthem started playing. At the time I thought this was odd and I assume alot of other people did as during the first few bars the crowd around me started applauding and cheering for Jules. Since watching the race back, and with hindsight, I felt the anthem might of added something to the emotion of the occasion – it’s not very well known and was very sombre and subdued. At the end of the anthem the crowd applauded and cheered again and the big screen there was a lingering shot of Bianchi’s helmet sitting alone one the track – well that was me gone, I kept my sunglasses on and stayed quiet for a few minutes. Even looking back it gets me. It was a surreal experience to be part of F1 history.

A family had arrived just before the start of the race, there were loads of them and had a big flag! It was annoying! The formation lap started and the cars went passed and the ones in front started standing, waving their flag and some stood on their seats! The French lad beside me was getting visibly annoyed (in a French way! – he actually gave off to them after a few laps of these shenanigans! Fair play to him!).

The cars made it to the grid.. and the start was aborted! They came around again for another formation lap! They made it around again and started properly. We watched on the big screen as Vettel and Raikkionen made it 1-2 into the first corner! The grandstand cheered! Soon enough the cars were coming to our part of the circuit, as I watched the Ferraris go through the chicane there was an even bigger cheer from our grandstand when in my peripheral vision I noticed a Mercedes and watched it go over the gravel in front of me! The cheer got bigger as we realised it was Hamilton!

Took this, not realising Hamilton was about to go off!

Took this, not realising Hamilton was about to go off!

1-2!

1-2!

So, we sat in the grandstand and enjoyed a great race! Vettel and Kimi led comfortably and we watched Hamilton try and fight his way back and other battles. The pop of the night was after Vettel pitted and Kimi lead for a lap, our grandstand was so loud at that point!! Sadly it became apparent it wouldn’t end well for Kimi as he was slowing and I managed to hear team radio over the PA and heard something like “engine power”.

The race got tastier when Hulkenberg had an accident. A few English people around me got excited as they thought there would be a safety car and would allow Hamilton to catch the leaders.. how we laughed when they realised it was just a Virtual Safety Car… hahahah..oh, after a lap or two it was changed to a normal safety car and the English people got really excited!

Safety Car train

Safety Car train

The race restarted and the English people around us got very excited at the prospect of Hamilton fighting back through the field and he instantly crashes into Ricciardo, and the English people groaned. Looking back it’s hard not to laugh!

The race got very exciting towards the end. Sadly Kimi retired but the Red Bulls were chasing Vettel and Rosberg. Rosberg even picked up a puncture battling with Ricciardo!

Before the last lap the French lad said bye to me, and we fist bumped. Didn’t know his name, or talk to him much. But he was a sound lad!

Cool down lap

Cool down lap

So the race unexpectedly finished Vettel, Kvyat and Ricciardo! Alonso finished 5th!! It was a crazy fun race to watch! We stayed for the podium and noticed there were track invaders on the pit straight! Sadly we couldn’t see a way onto the track where we were so just watched on the big screen.

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We met with our Swedish chums (upset that Kimi retired) and went to wait on a taxi. It was a long (really long) wait as they had a domestic in the queue. I threw Leona under the bus and let her deal with it as I pretended not to be listening as I read tweets. They went to the side and were fine again though.

The previous day the man at the stand was advising not taking a taxi from the brand he represented but today he admitted no one was coming and take what you can get! We managed to get a cab and went back to Budapest with our Swedish chums as they asked us questions about the IRA (ffs!).

We dumped our stuff back in the hotel and went straight out for dinner! We tried, for a second time, to go to the Hard Rock cafe but there was a bit of a queue! We got talking to some English people who said “well done” to me because I was wearing a Ferrari T Shirt. They were aware that I didn’t work for Ferrari but still congratulated me. We talked about the race and they said they were sitting right in front of where Hulkenberg crashed!

We then went across the square to a restaurant called Cafe Paris! Another person came up to me to congratulate me (this was weird!) – he was from Liverpool – he was a Mercedes/Hamilton fan but was happy there was a good show to make it exciting!

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After dinner we had a walk along the river and enjoyed the sites all lit up. We had a relatively early night and enjoyed a lie in the next morning!!

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Budapest Qualifying

Was up early but feeling quite groggy because of the previous nights escapades. Due to the lack of ‘fried goods’ in the hotel to cure our hangover, I volunteered to go to the other side of the square for a McDonald’s breakfast. To my dismay McDonald’s was closed but luckily I found a Subway, with someone who spoke English, to get me some sort of bacon/egg/ketchup combo.

I got back to the hotel ate the breakfast and then went back across the square to get some water and some food to bring to the circuit. On the way back I met the Swedish couple (whose names I actually did get) having a smoke. They had booked the taxi so I went into the hotel to get Leona, but she was already in the lobby waiting on the coffee she ordered for me.. Yay!

The taxi arrived, and because I was the tallest, I sat in the front. I wish I hadn’t, because I got too good a view of scary Hungarian Driving. We arrived at the circuit quite quickly though and it only cost 7,000FT! Annoyingly, we were dropped off at the main entrance, beside Turn 1. We had two options and both involved a long walk! We split from our Swedish chums and we walked to the merchandise area because Leona wanted to get a T-Shirt.

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She got a Ferrari vest top thing, because she didn’t want to feel out of date with her Vettel Hat and because she bought some Official F1 ™ merchandise, from an official F1(tm) seller at the official F1(tm) Grand Prix ™ weekend ™, she was given two tickets to go on the F1 2015 Game Simulator (sorry, forgot the tm’s). She didn’t want to have a go so I took the opportunity. So we went to the game simulator and did a few laps in a race with, and was subsequently embarrassed by, five children. That’s not fair. I didn’t come last.. the very young children were worse than me.

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We had to walk some more. We couldn’t go along the natural flow of the circuit to our seats – we had to anticlockwise. We couldn’t even go along the perimeter of the track because of stupid grandstands in the way, so avoiding them added more walking. One positive was I got to see different views of the track – but the walking and the heat made me really sweaty again! Though I had the foresight to bring a change of t-shirt!

Change of T Shirt

Change of T Shirt

Anyway, we eventually arrived at the grandstand and it felt like a sense of achievement. Changed T-Shirt (to something F1 related) and watched Free Practice 3. Sat in our actual seats, so assumed the guy from yesterday was just a chancer! Can’t remember anything of note happening (unlike the day before). After the session we got some lunch and a sit in the grass. I tried a Paprika Hot Dog (a Hungarian favourite, apparently) and then some ice cream to cool off!

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We returned to our seats to watch qualifying. I was sat beside a French lad who cheered for Lotus (mainly Grosjean) and Alonso. He seemed dead on and had a decent length camera lens (jealous!). He was happy when Alonso got into Q2, but annoyed when his car broke down and he had to push it back to the pits (he might of said “Sacré Bleu”, maybe I made that up. Qualifying finished, Hamilton was pole, all the English people around me we happy enough. I was just thankful it wasn’t as hot as Friday (but it was still hot!).

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This lad’s flag flew off soon afterwards

We met us with our Swedish taxi buddies (who were on the grandstand beside us) at the bar/food stand. We pondered if we were going to walk back to the taxi stand from that morning or walk to get the bus to the train station, but it was all academic because we noticed a taxi rank outside our gate, so we just waited there for a taxi. It was a long wait though because it was  ‘exclusive’ to one taxi company, and it seemed they only had a limited number of cars doing runs into Budapest and back. As we got closer to the front of queue we noticed other companies pulling up and collecting people. The man ‘supervising’ the queue advised against us taking them because “they might overcharge” or something. Either way a taxi arrived and we made it back to Budapest. Once again the taxi was relatively cheap for the distance we covered (about 10,000FT).

Sunburn update

Sunburn update

After a wash and change of clothes we went for something to eat. We played it safe and traveled to Oktagon to go to TGI Fridays. I had ribs… topped with bacon!! That was amazing!

After dinner we got a train with the intention of exploring the Buda side of the city. The clouds were darkening and the wind was picking up. When we got of the tram we could hear thunder clapping and it was getting louder and louder. Having experienced the crazy rain on Thursday we decided to promptly get the tram back to somewhere near the hotel. While waiting at the tram another man started shouting at me in Hungarian with me having no idea what he was on about. I think he was giving off because I was foreign, I don’t know.

We got back to Blaha Lujza tér and found a bar called Jonny Pumps. They sold Dreher, so I drank some Dreher. They sold cocktails so Leona had Cocktails. We had a few drinks there as the thunder (and now lightning) was getting closer. Still no major rain shower thankfully!

After Jonny Pumps we called into a bar which was part of a hostel. Had a beer there before going to bed. I was getting very sleepy as the night before was catching up with me. They were showing a local Budapest derby. It was a terrible football match!

Friday Practice

We were up early! Yay! The plan was to get breakfast at the hotel, jump on Metro, switch to train and get to track all before Free Practice started at 10am. An ambitious task!

We went down to the food area and had some breakfast. I had some scrambled egg and ham thing. It wasn’t nice. I then played it safe with some cereal and coffee. There were lads in the breakfast area too wearing matching gear with “Jenzer” on it. A quick Google search informed me that Jenzer were an GP3 team! Staying in our hotel? How cool is that?! Now I have a GP3 team to care about!

Jumped on the metro and met a couple from London. Didn’t catch their names but they were nice. It was their first Grand Prix and were sitting on the main straight.

We arrived at the train station to try and get our extension tickets but was informed by the lady in the ticket kiosk that we didn’t need one now because it was the Grand Prix weekend. Okay then…

We waited on the train with the English ones and some Irish man came over to me because he heard my accent. Him and his friend come to the Grand Prix every year, and sit on the same seats. One of their sons went to university in Budapest so they know the city well. They were nice enough, though one was a bit, I don’t know, anti tourist trap. For example, the previous day he did a four hour bus journey to see some caves. Dead on. Leona would refer to him as Time Team in conversation (because he looked like someone who would be on Time Team!)

Anyway, they informed us that there was a bus at Mogyoród that would take us to the back of the circuit! Happy days. They also told the English couple that the best stop for them would be Szilasliget, because their grandstands were near each other so they stole our new buddies. Awh.

On the train the conductor came and checked our tickets. No problems for us, but the English couple had to get extension tickets because they had a 72hr pass from yesterday instead of the 24hr pass. It made no sense!  Anyway, we waved them off at Szilasliget and went on to Modyoród.

When we got off the train there was a bus and some taxis. We jumped on the bus and it left quite promptly. It still left us miles away from the circuit which was no use though and had a long enough walk. We should have got a taxi!

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We got to the perimeter wall of the circuit and for the third time we missed the start of the F1 weekend! At least I could see through cracks in the wall. We eventually got in and headed to our grandstand.

Finding our seats was a bit of a pain. First problem was the back of the tickets had swapped Bronze 1 and Bronze 2 compared to the website (we were in Bronze 1). When we got to the grandstands they were in the right order again and clearly labeled bit a big sign. The big signs didn’t stop people being stupid all weekend though.

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Another pain was that the rows were labeled in a silly way. The numbers were written on the ground beside the seats, but it wasn’t clear if that number was for the seats they were beside or the row behind them. This lead to alot of people (at one point myself included) to go to the bottom of the stand and count the rows.

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This confusion would lead to alot of “You’re in my seat”, “No, it’s my seat” nonsense. The first instance being when we tried to sit down. Some big moustached German fella told us we were supposed to be the row in front. He left after FP1 and we thought he was someone with a general ticket chancing his arm!

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Watched some practice and then went for a walk to try and get some photos. I learnt very quickly that I didn’t have a big enough lens. Boo! While taking photos I noticed the red flags and checked the screen to see Perez’s car upside down. During the red flag (after we knew Perez was okay) I went to get some beer for me and Leona – it was getting very hot! Beer was quite cheap at this track (only 800FT) and the draught beer was very hoppy and tasty (I can’t remember if it was Dreher or Soproni).

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We watched the rest of FP1 and GP2 practice. It was getting too hot, so afterward we tried to seek some shelter and get some lunch. Food was more expensive than beer, and wasn’t that nice. I had some chicken thing and wedges and Leona had some fries. This cost about 3500FT. We sat in the food tent to avoid the hot sun but it was still warm (my t-shirt was saturated with sweat). We then went outside again to have a lie down near a tree to keep cool and have a quick snooze.

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Back to our proper seats for FP2 – which I may add had a fantastic view. Not much happened during the session. Though at one point we could see smoke over the trees to our right and then noticed on the screen that Riccardo’s engine had blown.

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engine blow up

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After practice we walked to the final corner and caught the start of the GP3  qualifying. We watched it for a few minutes before we psyched ourselves up for the walk back to the train station. It was a miserable walk in the heat but we made it. I was drenched in sweat. I felt horrible. When we made it back to the hotel I ordered a bottle of coke from the bar with ice. It was the nicest and most refreshing thing I ever had in my life!

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After the necessary shower and change of clothes we left to to Oktogon  and get something to eat and go to a ruin bar. On the lift down a guy in the lift gave me a \m/ because I was wearing a Slayer T-Shirt. He was wearing a Kimi Raikkionen hat so I asked him if he was at practice. He said he wasn’t for ‘personal reasons’ but was planning to go the next day. He then asked if we fancied sharing a taxi with him and his wife to qualifying. He was told it would only cost 12000FT – split four ways it wouldn’t be so bad.

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We agreed and bumped into his wife outside. We found out that the ‘personal reasons’ were that she traveled to Budapest from Sweden to have major surgery two days before.. and were going to the Grand Prix that weekend.. Okay… But she recommended a Mexican place in Oktogon so we left them to it and had Mexican.

We jumped on the Tram and got off at Oktogon. The Mexican place was Arriba Taqueria. I had a burrito. It was okay but the chili cheese poppers were really good. Leona consulted the book and chose a ruin bar to go to. I ended up getting us lost and went to a bar call Instant instead. It was a cool wee bar. We stayed there for a few hours. I was on the Dreher but Leona had a few cocktails.

Once we left Leona wouldn’t let me lead the way because we had got lost before, but because of all the Mojitos she got us even more lost. We managed to find a tram stop and got the tram back to the hotel, where Leona pretended to do pull ups while bemused locals looked on.