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

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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.

engine blow up

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.

Budapest – Day 1 / Pitlane Visit

I woke up in Hungary on the train, about an hour outside Budapest. It was still unbelievably warm. The conductor who took our order last night knocked on our door and brought us our breakfast (Coffee, croissant, orange juice). I was really thirsty so drank the OJ, then finished off the horrible warm sparkling water too! We looked out the window as we gradually came into Budapest.

We arrived in Budapest train station and had to figure out how to get to the hotel. In hindsight we should have went out the front and got on the Metro, but we ended up going out a side door and hadn’t a clue where we were! We consulted a map and thankfully walked in the right direction. We only had to walk one and a bit kilometers, but it felt like 10 miles. It was only 9am but the heat was unreal!

We got to Blaha Lujza tér. I knew the hotel was nearby but didn’t fancy carrying the bags into the underpass unless I knew which exit to take, less I take the wrong exit and have to go back down again with the heavy bags. So I abandoned Leona and went underground. My foresight paid off as I did take the wrong exit but eventually found the right one and the hotel. I returned for Leona and the bags and ventured on!

We were about 4 or 5 hours before check in but I was hot, sweaty and tired so we decided to try our luck to see if they would let us check in early – or at least let us dump our bags there! We got to the check in desk and was greeted by Norbert. Norbert quickly told us that we could check in there and then! If I wasn’t so sweaty I’d have given Norbert a big hug! We went to our room, got showered and dressed. I instantly felt better!

Soon it was lunchtime so we ventured out of our air conditioned hotel room into the midday sun. We went back to Blaha Lujza tér and decided to venture onto the Metro. Like the rest of Europe, the Metro had automatic ticket machines with a button that displays in English, so we knew what we were doing. That didn’t stop a homeless man trying to wade in with his ticket machine opinions by shouting and poking the touch screen. I used my arm to guide him back and I knew there were some cops nearby so I wasn’t too concerned if things got rowdy, but Leona didn’t so she was a bit concerned. He seemed to get more annoyed when our change got spat out of the machine and he didn’t receive any for his ‘no fucking help what so ever’. So he shouted some more in Hungarian and slapped his own face repeatedly. There were only so many times you can say “I don’t fucking understand what you are saying!” and “Go Away!” but eventually he went away, and we got on the Metro to Deák Ferenc tér.

Once we got off at Deák Ferenc tér we walked around to find some lunch. We found a ‘Hard Rock Cafe’ (Leona reckons she has never been to one before – she has, in Dublin – and wanted to try it.) but apparently there was no food because the kitchen had no power or something. That was our first of three attempts to eat there that week! We walked on down the street and we were soon ‘guilted into eating in a place we were just reading the menus outside of’. It was called Casablanca. There wasn’t much choice. I had carbonara, Leona had bolegnase. Mine was nice. Leona’s wasn’t.

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We then proceeded to walk about and see Budapest but it was so warm! We made it to the Elizabeth Bridge, walked along the river and then to Elizabeth Square.It was far too warm to do anything! Leona made the suggestion to go to the baths and sitting in water, in this heat, seemed like an excellent idea so we went back to the hotel to get some swimming gear.

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Headed back onto the metro and took the yellow line to Széchenyi fürdő. We walked around the park and went into the baths. After some confusion (possibly going into wrong entrance) we managed to get our entry wristbands. After more confusion (we had asked for a shared cabin changing room but didn’t get one) so we split and went into the normal changing rooms. After we split I realised that Leona had my towel, but luckily I was able to hire one (and a swimming hat – which wasn’t necessarily needed in the end).

I met up with Leona again and we hung out in the baths for a bit. There were three there – the first one was warm, the second one was really warm and the third one (in the middle) was really cold! The first one also had a seated area in the middle with another area outside it where people just walked around in circles, eventually speeding up. I have no idea why, but had a go. It was a laugh.

We were in the baths for an hour and a bit. We went back to get changed. My only problem with the baths was when the changing room window was open (which it was) you could see in from the street. Hopefully no one outside saw my junk.

Once we left the baths we walked around the park some more. We came across an outside burger place (called BRGR) and got something to eat. In more confusion I ordered fries but received something like crisps, but apparently other people got real fries so I don’t know what I did wrong.

It was after seven by the time we finished our food so decided to go back to the hotel, have a few beers in the bar and get an early night. In the hotel bar a big bottle of Soproni was something like 600 Foront – about £1.50 which, for a hotel, was amazing! After a few beers we went to sleep after such a long day!!

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After a nice long sleep in an air conditioned room we were fighting fit for the day ahead. Today we had to go to the track to collect our tickets and go to for a Pit Lane walk. We have been to two of these before (Barcelona and Monza) and have learnt to gave ourselves plenty of time to get there.

We left the hotel at about lunchtime and got “breakfast” in the near by Burger King. We then went to Blaha Lujza tér. We had to get the metro to Örs vezér tere (the last stop on the Red line/line 2) and get a Suburban Train service to a either one of two stops near the track. Leona had read online that you could buy all in one tickets on the metro. She went to an information desk and asked for Hungaroring. In a moment of mistranslation, the cashier tried to tell her that it was “tomorrow and not today”, but what I think she meant was they weren’t doing tickets until the Friday.

We just decided to jump on the Metro to the end of the line and take it from there. We got 24hr Travel passes (at 1650FT each) and got on the metro. We traveled to the end of the line to the rather nice and modern Metro station. We followed the signs for Line 8 and crossed the road to the not so nice and modern BHÉV station. We asked at the ticket desk and they said we had to get extension tickets to go get on the train. These cost 250FT each way.

The train soon arrived so we got onto the old, slow, warm, bumpy train, but we were with many F1 fans too. We weren’t sure what stop to get off though. We had two choices Szilasliget or Mogyoród, both similar distances to the track. We decided to essentially follow the crowd. Sure enough lots of people got out at Szilasliget and we followed them.

This was then the start of a long and horrible walk to the track. The walk was roughly 4km which isn’t that bad, but it was early afternoon so the heat was awful. We had the foresight to bring plenty of water but it was warm too. The first kilometre and a bit was all uphill and the paths were rough which was tough on your feet. Once at the top of the hill we were on the flats and the road was a bit better. After some more walking we had ended up at the wall of the circuit, sadly it was behind the last corner when we had to be at Turn 1. Thankfully (we thought) it was cooler than earlier and a wee bit of occasional cloud cover. In the distance it was very cloudy and Leona said she saw a flash in the distance.

We picked up our tickets beside the petrol station..,

We picked up our tickets beside the petrol station..,

After our long and horrible walk we arrived at the circuit and collected our tickets. Unlike other times we didn’t get a lanyard, maybe CVC wanted a few more pennies. We then decided to get a cold beverage in a bar outside the circuit… sure we deserved it!

An ad hoc lightning rod

An ad hoc lightning rod

It was approaching 4 o’clock so we approached the main gate. I was starting to get concerned as it was considerably cloudy and cooler than earlier, also the wind was picking up. Sure enough we started to hear rumbles of thunder, which started getting louder, and seeing lightning strikes in the distance. The gates didn’t open until four and sure enough the crowd was slow in getting in with stewards checking one ticket at a time.

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The thunder was getting louder and lightning strikes getting closer but we managed to make it in after 15 minutes or so. We got in the gates and walked towards the pitlane, but within minutes of us getting in the rain started to pour down and it was heavy! Luckily we were right beside the main granstand and noticed a gap in the fence. We ran through it and waited in the grandstand (with many others) hoping for the rain to subside. Sadly it got heavier (we found out afterwards the stewards just started letting people in when the rain hit, couldn’t blame them!)

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We sat for an hour in the grandstand as people kept walking down the pit straight. Some people were carrying big flags on flagpoles, or as I saw them, giant lightning rods! The scariest thing was when lightning struck on the grounds of the circuit. I don’t know exactly where it was but I heard the crack and saw the bright light hitting behind the pit building. It was impressive at the same time as I’d never seen lightning strike up close. That was close enough though!

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I tried to take some photos from the grandstand and lost my lens cap 😦 .

a little sunshine after the rain

a little sunshine after the rain

Soon the torrential rain turned to drizzle and then the drizzle stopped so Leona and I ventured to the pit straight. The entrance to pit straight was at the top where the Pit Exit is and to get to the pit lane we had to go in through an opening at the bottom of the straight (towards normal pit entry). This lead to a few issues. One being that the entry was quite small and this lead to a bottle neck. Another issue was that the drivers were doing their signing session beside the entrance. Therefore people would hang out at the entrance adding to the bottleneck.

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bottleneck!

bottleneck!

We managed to get in and saw a few drivers walking to their sessions and gave them a wave. We ended up standing outside the FIA Weighbridge so had a look at some of the cars and then decided to walk towards the bottom of the pitlane. More congestion was caused because the entrance was beside all the “popular” teams so everyone hung about there. This meant massive congestion until we got passed Ferrari’s garage and had more room.

Squint and you'll see Vettel

Squint and you’ll see Vettel

Button

Button

Alonso

Alonso

Crowd!

Crowd!

Button Again

Button Again

We watched some pit stop practicing at Sauber and Manor and then it was chucking out time already. We were there three hours but didn’t see much. We left the circuit at turn one again and decided to walk to Mogyoród as that walk couldn’t be any worse than the other train station.

Corporate arse licking

Corporate arse licking

Bottas

Bottas

#JB17

#JB17

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Walk to Turn 1

Turn 1

Turn 1

We walked a bit but stopped for some chips and beer at one of the camping villages and noticed that they also had a strip club (!). This walk seemed to be all up hill too on country roads and it was getting dark quickly but managed to get to the train-station just after 9pm! This station was also grim! Soon a train arrived and we headed back to Budapest. It was after 10 before we got back.

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Darkness!

Darkness!

Another early night was needed!

Mun-Ich habe 36 Stunden drin

Our last few hours in Paris confirmed that the heatwave had ended! It was chucking it down! We as we were up crazy early, so early it was still dark! Walked to the metro station, in the dark and the rain, passing pubs and restaurants that were only closing up. Our train to Munich was at 7.25 and we were on the metro before 6. The train station was only a few stops away but we didn’t want to risk being late. Thankfully, unlike any other time we got it, the metro was quiet.

We got to the train station really early but at least we were able to get some breakfast at the station (croissant, coffee and an OJ) while waiting for the train to arrive and reading the destinations you can go to – annoyed that we live on a stupid island!

The train arrived and departed, so I looked out the window as we left Pairs, then the French countryside, while listening to podcasts. The train journey was pretty uneventful, except for German police getting on at Strasbourg and taking people off at the next stop.

We arrived at Stuttgart but only had 40 minutes until our connection. As Leona collects the Starbucks city mugs we spent most of that time trying to find a Starbucks in the train stations (Google said there was one!), then onto the neighboring streets. While she did that I decided to sit in the train station with our bags and the many pigeons. She returned mug-less but with some baguettes for next train.

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Stuttgart, we hardly knew ya

We got on the next train and I watched the German country side go by while listening to Podcasts. Sadly, this train wasn’t as quick as the previous one.

We arrived in Munich in the early afternoon. We were able to check in to our hotel and freshen up before cramming in all the Munich we could before our train to Budapest the next evening!

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First we headed towards Marienplatz and got a bit of lunch. I was only in Munich an hour and was able to tick off one of my objectives: Eat weisswurst. With my weisswurst came some salty pretzels and I also ordered a weissbier, which I’m not usually fussed on but since it is what you are supposed to drink with it, why not?

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The sausages were delicious but very rich and meaty! The only annoying thing was you have to remove the skin before eating it.

We walked around Marienplatz some more and then headed towards the English Gardens via Poets Garden. At the English garden there were a lot of people jumping into the river. It was a really hot day and I was tempted to jump in but I resisted and sat on the river bank with my feet in the water.

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We noticed the occasional surfboard flowing down the river so we walked further up the river and watched the surfers on the artificial wave. We then found a tiny bar. I ordered a radler (beer and lemonade) by accident but it was very refreshing in the heat! The bar also had a bottle deposit scheme, which meant we got €1 back when we returned our bottle.It keeps the gardens clean – so a good idea.

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We essentially got lost in the Gardens for a while, just walking though the park, finding other surfers and then, by accident, we found an outdoor beer and food hall! We ordered two 1L beers and Leona went to get some food. She came back with currywurst (already a favourite of mine) and some sauerkraut for me and she got some fried potato thing.

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“Those Germans have a word for everything!”

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It was about 8 or 9 by the time we got out of the park so we got the U-Bahn back to Karlsplatz. The train had wood paneling on the inside. It was so amazingly retro! We got back to the hotel and had an early night due to the early start that morning! Sadly the room wasn’t air conditioned so I didn’t sleep well!

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Wood Paneled U-Bahn 

The next morning we had to check out by 11 so was up early enough. I asked the reception if they did held luggage (because we had 12 hours until our train) but she looked at me as if I had two heads. I’m pretty sure they did though. We hoped that the nearby train station did have some storage lockers. We looked around and finally found some, and more importantly, all our luggage would fit.

After breakfast (a muffin in a coffee shop) we decided to take one of those hop on/hop off bus tours as that would be the easiest way to see as much as Munich as possible within the limited time we had left.

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After driving about the city our first “hop off” was at Nymphenburg Palace. We spent about an hour there, just walking around and looking at things. It was all very nice. Having read about it on Wikipedia there now I realise there was a lot more to see, but I didn’t see it.

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It was another scorching day so we stopped for a cold drink and an ice cream before going back to ‘hop on’ the bus.

Our next ‘hop off’ was at the Olympic Park. I was tempted by the big tower (I’m a sucker for big tower).

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After the top of the tower we went to the bottom of the tower where there was a gift shop, buying a few trinkets for family and whatnot. This was about 4.30, so we decided to get some chips to share. We sat on a bench eating the chips and a swan (or goose, we aren’t sure) came up to us, chopping it’s beak. It was a terrifying noise so we gave it a chip to get rid of it, but it came back. It kept harassing us until all our chips were gone.

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To get away from the terror-bird we went on a little motorised train-thing-on-wheels tour of the park. It was like sitting in a greenhouse with a little flap on the side to let air it, but thankfully it wasn’t too long. Then we had to hop back on to the bus and head back to the city centre.

When we returned to the city centre we headed for a Starbucks for City mugs, obviously, but took the chance to get out of the heat, enjoy their air conditioning and have a frappachino. We checked a guide to see where we wanted to eat dinner. Leona spotted that there was a Mexican restaurant on the street the train station/our hotel was on and so it was decided we were having Mexican for dinner!

We walked up and down the street but couldn’t find this Mexican restaurant. The Mexican food dream was over so we walked about trying to find somewhere nice to eat but Leona remember she seen another Mexican place near to where we left the English Gardens. It was decided, we were getting the U-ban to Giselastraße and finding this Mexican food!

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The restaurant was called Don Luca and it was very nice. I had a chicken wrap and pork warp, covered in cheese and guacamole etc. I also had a few tasty Munich beers!

Post Mexican food we returned to Marienplatz to have a walk about in the dark. Everything was nice all lit up and there were cool buskers playing great music on the shop fronts. The shops were closed but the streets were still busy, a novelty for someone living in Belfast.

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We went back to the train station at about 10pm to collect our luggage. I then bought a stamp so Leona could send her folks a postcard and post it at the station. I was going to get some snacks but decided not to thinking there would be a dining car on the train. As we sat in the train station we sat looking at all the destinations we could go to, annoyed that we lived on a stupid island!

The train arrived, we got on and found our cabin. About ten minutes later the conductor came to us, took our tickets and asked if we wanted tea or coffee for breakfast. I asked about a dining cart but there wasn’t one! There was some bottled water in the cupboard above the sink. It was warm so I asked about air con. The conductor advised that some cool air would blow in the window when the train was moving… uh… The conductor left and I had a drink of the bottled water, it was warm and sparkling… uh, crap!

The train was late leaving, by about an hour. That hour was spent baking in the cabin wishing for the train to move. Once the train pulled away I decided to get undressed for bed. Despite the cool air blowing in, it was far too warm for anything else so I decided to sleep in my pants, but I couldn’t close the blinds when the window was open. Therefore our choice was privacy or cool air.

I chose cool air.

I couldn’t sleep so I listened to some podcasts while looking at the starry sky. I soon dosed off.

I woke up in Salzburg (not Strasbourg, duh!) train station where a conductor was walking past my window. He could probably have looked in and see me in my wags. I was too warm to care. Half the train was splitting off to Venice and after a very long time in Salzburg we left again. I looked out the window some more and dosed off.

I woke up in Hungary!

Ninjas in Paris

I was in Paris a few weeks ago, in the first stop of a multi-city holiday! We arrived when most of Europe was in the middle of a heatwave – so walking around and doing stuff in mid-30° heat wasn’t fun – but the rest of Paris was!

Eiffel Tower
Yeah, the Eiffel Tower was class. You see it loads on TV or movies, so you might think there is no need to bother with it, but it wasn’t until I seen it up close that it blew me away! As well, we ended up keep coming back to it or seeing it on the sky line at various times so you couldn’t get away from it.

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The first time we saw it was on the first evening we were in Paris. To take a break from the heat we had a sit by the river (just outside Musée d’Orsay), then walked along the river for a bit occasionally stopping for water or a beer in one of the riverside bars.

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Soon enough we realised that were were heading in that direction so decided to “get the tower out of the way” and have a look at it. As we walked closer you could so the top of the tower poking above buildings and then all of a sudden it was there and it was quite impressive. We walked underneath but decided not to go up as the queues were very long. We sat on the grass for a bit, politely declining the offer of buying wine/beer/champagne being sold from a bucket.

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We swung by it the next evening at about 10pm to see it all lit up. The only problem was it didn’t get properly dark until 11pm. Though it still looked pretty good for the “light show” and by half ten it was dark enough for the lit up tower to look amazing. We watched this from Trocadéro as it got darker it seemed a bit more seedy, for example, the selfie stick sellers turned into Cup and Ball scammers – but it was safe enough, you just had to keep your wits about you.

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We eventually decided to give going up the tower a try on the Saturday. We tried to get tickets online before we went to Paris but they were completely booked up (apparently the tour companies block buy them!). We also tried to go early in the morning to beat crowds but we kept sleeping in. We swung by in the evening and judged the queue to be moderate enough to join it. We were queuing for about thirty minutes before we got to the ticket booth (not too bad).

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When we got to the booth there was a sign saying that they weren’t selling tickets to the top, but an annoying American in front of me asked and apparently you could buy a ticket to the top from the second floor and wait. We went into the “leg” of the tower and got the lift to the second floor. We seen the queue for the top of the tower and decided we couldn’t be bothered with that! The view from the second floor was still pretty good though!

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We hung out at the second floor for a bit and, instead of waiting on the lift, decided to walk down the stairs to the first floor. Some of the views from the staircases were pretty cool! On the second floor we looked about some more, stood on the glass floor and then sat in a patio bar area for a bit. I then visited the gift shop and bought a tacky Eiffel Tower bottle of brandy, which would look neat in my globe drinks cabinet! 

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Anyway, the Tower looks great and I took loads and loads of photos of it in various angles, mostly in B&W.

Metro
I love a good underground system. Paris’ wasn’t the best I’d been to though, as it was always packed, some stations smelt of piss and some areas didn’t seem to have a stop! But the public transport is still better than Belfast so that’s something!

Sacré-Cœur
When we first arrived in Paris we went to have a look at Sacré-Cœur. One reason was it’s proximity to our hotel but also because Leona loves funiculars. We got the funicular to the top and had a look about. The whole place was was quite nice with a good view of Paris. We didn’t go in though because.. you know. At this point the heat was pretty bad so I don’t think we could have fully enjoyed it.

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There’s a grassy park area in front of the church. We visited it on our last day. I was quite hungover that day so I couldn’t fully enjoy it!

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Food
Food was brilliant! Highlights include getting savoury crepe for the first time (with cheese, eggs and ham! it was amazing!)

We also had brunch one day. It consisted of orange juice and hot drink (I got hot chocolate), with a croissant, crepe, baguette and omelette.. all for €11. Oh, I have had a croissant before, and thought they were a bit.. meh, but this croissant was amazing! Apparently this particular area is famous for good baking.

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I had macaroons for the first time in Paris. They were very tasty!

One evening I had a burger that was translated as Horse Burger. I didn’t know so I ordered it. The description (in English) said it had beef in it. Leona didn’t tell me it was called Horse Burger until the next day – but either way it was still delicious.

I don’t I had a bad meal in Paris. There was this one place that forgot about us so it took an hour to get our food. I was pretty angry at this but couldn’t fault the burger.

I also got a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in McDonalds. Did you know in France it’s called a Royale with Cheese

Drink
Beer was very expensive! About €8.50 for 500ml if you’re lucky. Special mention to a pub called James Hetfeelds though because theyhad pints of Brooklyn Beer for €6 and White Russians for €5. It was here where a woman argued with me for burping and the reason I was too hungover to enjoy the gardens.

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Louvre
The Louvre was another one of those places we expected a long ass queue. Even when we got there a sign said to expect an hour long wait. We were in within ten minutes. The longest wait was for getting tickets but there were automated machines that no one was using so we used them and were sorted quite quickly.

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That’s not to say it wasn’t busy. The place was crammed! First we went in through the Denon wing. Had a look at paintings. Seen the Mona Lisa which was quite cool, apart from the crowd of morons surrounding it and taking photos (which I don’t see the point of – I was going to take a photo of the crowd though to illustrate it.. but … didn’t). It was also protected by glass so the light would shine on it… that bugs me when watching TV so looking, you know, the world’s most famous painting it’s a bit irksome.

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We checked out one floor of the Denon and then headed to Richelieu. That’s when we got lost for a bit. When we found our way we headed to the Sully wing and checked out the Venus de Milo. In total we were there for about four hours and didn’t cover half the stuff there. You could easily spend a could of days there to take it all in.

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Arc de Troimphe
Went to the Arc on our first full day. There were two choices to get to the actual Arc i) cross the road and probably die ii) use the underpass. We went with the latter. At the end of the underpass they sneakily added the ticket office – I think you can just skip it if you want to just have a look at the Arc but if you want to go to the top you need to pay. We paid.

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Once at the bottom of the Arc you need to climb lots and lots of stairs, two hundred and something apparently. Thankfully we were in a dark,cool(er than outside) Arc and not outside in the hot sun, but it was still tough going.

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We got to a floor where there is an exhibition about the Arc and a WW1 monument. There was also a tap to fill your water bottles but we foolishly forgot our bottles! We then proceeded to the top which meant more stairs – but thankfully not as many!

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The view from the top was pretty spectacular with a good view of the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Élysées.

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We endured the stairs back down (thankfully, not as bad as the way up) and had a look at the bottom of the Arc. Within minutes a policeman chased us away and told us to evacuate so didn’t get to see the bottom. We never found out why were were evacuated.

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Tethered Balloon
We read about the tethered balloon online and were keen to go on it. We got the Metro to Balard – which was at the end of the #8 line and seemed like miles away but in reality was quite close.

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From the metro station we walked to Parc André Citroën. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon so the park was busy with sunbathers and kids playing in the fountains. It was quite easy to spot the balloon as it was really (really) high up.

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It was straight forward to get tickets and we weren’t waiting long until we were on the balloon. The view from the top was amazing though the height was a tad unsettling, especially if you looked directly down! The balloon felt a bit bumpy, even on a sunny day with little breeze, and when the cable started to pull us back down it scared the crap out of me. We were only up for 15-20 minutes but it didn’t even feel that long. All in all it was still really good.

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Seine
We took a river tour one day and it was very good – despite a sudden rain shower.

A cool thing in Paris was the amount of out door bars along the river. One evening we had a few beers and drank beside the river. There were loads of people there with there own bottles of wine, picnics etc and it was a pretty cool atmosphere. I imagined if we had something similar in Belfast and soon realised that some skeet would probably throw someone in the river and we don’t deserve nice things!

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Honorable mentions
One day we randomly came across a concert, it was free in so we walked through to get to the other side of the square. They were shite so we didn’t stay and headed towards Notre Dame. It was quite impressive to look at but we didn’t go in because … y’know?

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During the hot air balloon Leona noticed the mini Statue of Liberty, so afterwards we walked along river towards the island it was on. Had a look and then walked along the river some more until we ended up at the Eiffel Tower (This was when we decided to go up).

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There was also a chocolate “museum” which was more of a big shop with chocolate statues. It was near Sacré-Cœur and we went into it when I was really hungover. We picked up some chocolates and macaroons for the next day’s train journey.

All in all Paris was great despite the heat! There was so much stuff we didn’t get to do so I would love to go back.