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.

15232342_10157650869580012_2958721566799542120_n

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.

15268080_10157650868645012_7506817356355957765_n

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.

img_8463

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.

15421001_10157720606310012_6768093801384351644_n

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!

15267566_10157650868815012_5861641513790695769_n

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.

15193682_10157650868855012_5216162601643513854_n

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.

15268036_10157650868980012_3997194335271451696_n

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.

15178074_10157650869030012_4520845457128585845_n 15193425_10157650869135012_6629557113442275237_n

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?

15492089_10157720608205012_9049493187861588668_n

… 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.

15380682_10157720610855012_2702193066492105111_n

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!

15284066_10154760074583615_5698277976998345386_n

15220245_10154760074488615_6954864176444268697_n

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.

img_8475

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”.

15356535_10157720613275012_6540463119264680752_n

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!

img_8523

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.

15400546_10157720615710012_2022105881634434928_n

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.

15202618_10157650871265012_8645169095965155458_n

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!

15380567_10157720615760012_8467527241872277294_n

 

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!

15338780_10157720615970012_9223310035148686926_n

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!

15350529_10157720616240012_6533319051435538143_n

15203169_10157650871575012_535060305344650273_n

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!

img_8556

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!

Praha

I was in Prague for a weekend – a stag weekend, if you will – but thankfully we aren’t you’re average cliched banter wankers – and if we were, I’m sure we were being ironic. This was before the EU referendum and sterling went to shit….

Transfers

img_7513

We did get a limo, not ironically, from the airport – sure why not! It was only about £75 for 6 of us. We got an Uber on the way back to the airport – it was cheaper than a limo (299KR or about £10).

img_7528

we stayed (near) here

Accommodation

We got an Airbnb – located a few minutes from the main square. The place was a palace and only £60 each – though we were warned that the neighbour was a wanker so we had to go in, and leave, two people at a time – memories of Canada there

“Stag” activities!

img_7832-1Unlike the cliched stag activities – like paintball and what not – we went to an escape room. It was good fun! Yes, we are dorks.. and what?

Food

img_7547

img_7559

Drink

img_7627Beer was nice and cheap, usually Pilsner Urquell or Staropramen – about 30-60KR depending where you went (about £1-£2!!!). We went to an Irish bar to watch a match and wrote it off as a “dear hole” because beer was slightly over £2 (!) – Someone went to the shop to buy beers and equated it to 30p a bottle!!

We visited many bars but honorary mentions to Harleys and Chapeau Rouge because we ended up there a few times.

We also got a fish bowl – but the less said about that the better

img_7577

Culture

img_7544-1

Unlike other city breaks – I didn’t go to any museums or anything.. because I was with the lawwwwddddsss.. oi! oi! Nor did I use the metro – which is sad – because I love a good rapid transport system!

Misc Sightseeing

We saw some sites when walking around.

img_7539

img_7548-2

The less famous Prague clock

img_7543-2

a bin

a bin

All in all Prague was good – though we didn’t venture too far out of the Old Town – I’d go back for a non stag holiday… or another stag.. or both…

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.

DSC_0980

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!

DSC_0014

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!

img_6744

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.

img_6752

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.

img_6772

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!

img_6763

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.

img_6769

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.

img_6764

Leona coming down the hill

img_6765

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!!)

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.

dsc_0517

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

dsc_0527

We didn’t go on the Funicular though.

dsc_0551

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

dsc_0555

dsc_0557

dsc_0569

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!

dsc_0596

dsc_0597

dsc_0644

dsc_0650

dsc_0686

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!

11035735_10153553526703615_4896278024221258407_n

11855618_10155773669170012_2382577965161630163_n

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 

11828659_10153553526173615_1332700954485762521_n

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

11822849_10153553525613615_2353718456972529791_ndsc_0732

dsc_0742

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

11825804_10153525214703615_6772992417801466293_n

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!

dsc_0374

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.

dsc_0413

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.

dsc_0447

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!

dsc_0468

dsc_0472

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!!

dsc_0480

dsc_0510

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!

dsc_0956

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.

img_5596

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.

dsc_0961 dsc_0995

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!

img_5603

dsc_1012

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).

dsc_0051

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.

img_5607

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

dsc_0217

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!

dsc_0267

img_5616 img_5617

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.

img_5618

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.

dsc_0821

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.

dsc_0824

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!!

                  * * * *

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.

dsc_0853

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!)

dsc_0870

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!

img_5580

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.

dsc_0875

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

dsc_0935

dsc_0938

dsc_0942

dsc_0946

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.

img_5590

img_5604

img_5594

Darkness!

Darkness!

Another early night was needed!