At noon the next day we met for coffee at the New York Café in the New York Palace Hotel, whose interior is nothing short of breathtaking. Keith challenged Adrian (Mourby), the novelist and travel writer of our group, to describe what we saw in only three words. He did it: “Gilt Without Remorse.”
We moved on to the Hungarian National Museum which was founded 200 years ago, and whose Greek columns reminded me of the Lincoln Memorial. Part of the permanent exhibition represents the history of the country from its conquest to the present day, with items depicting life for the royal family, the formation of the church in the country, information about the first monasteries, etc. Definitely a wealth of culture rests within these walls, to be mined in depth in the future.
A late lunch followed at Borssó Bistro, near the heart of the newly-renovated downtown district. The name of the restaurant means “pepper and salt” and we found it offered appropriately tasty plates, notably the duck salad.
Keith and I peeled off from the others for a few hours and strolled touristy Váci street, a few blocks east of the Danube. Stores bursting with over-priced embroidered blouses, T-shirts and trinkets, evoked images of shopkeepers peddling junk on Broadway in New York City. It was the only place we felt uncomfortable since arriving in Hungary, and visions of pickpocketers danced in our heads. An espresso at Coffee Heaven, a local chain, and we were gone.
At six we arrived at the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, where Kate and Adrian had graciously invited us to visit. Before ascending in the elevator to their room, we stopped to admire the one-of-a-kind crystal chandelier in the lobby.
Part of our bond with Jan and Terry was that they had brought their teddy bears on the Orient Express, just as we had. While we enjoyed adult beverages and snacks on the 17th floor of the Gresham (waving out the window, below) our Frampton and Amelia, with the Vincent’s Oscar and Strawberry, browsed Kate and Adrian’s bound photo book of the journey.
Afterwards a walk to St. Stephen’s Basilica provided us with a photo op and several choices for dinner on and off the plaza. We opted for Mo, where the wine was passable, service slow, food fair. Good thing our company was four star.
Later we walked back with Jan and Terry to their hotel where the doorman called a cab for us to return to Villa Korall. Once there, I grabbed Carson and his carrier, while Keith got his money out and the driver unloaded the stroller, which had my handbag attached, from the trunk. Off with the car. Where is my bag? A call to the Intercontinental’s front desk ensued, who called the cab company, and immediately the driver returned with my purse which had rolled into a corner of the trunk. Once again I thought what would have happened if I’d been in New York. I was very glad indeed I was in Budapest.