Location


Budapest, Hungary

"The number 2 is an important number in Budapest...", I heard this line several times on board the Hop On Hop Off bus while touring Budapest. The audio tour guide continues to explain that Budapest is made up of 2 halves, one part Buda, the rural part and the other half Pest, the more modern part, also, the metro in Budapest is the 2nd oldest in Europe after the subway in London, so on and so forth...Hence, the number 2 signifies a lot of important facts in Budapest. 

For me the number 2 signifies another thing. Two is the number of days that would be perfect to completely appreciate the rustic beauty and character of Budapest.  

What We Did


Hop On Hop Off, Walking Tour, Danube River Cruise, Bath !!!

The Hop On Hop Off Bus is always the first stop on all of our trips. We take this to familiarise ourselves with the area. It is also our chance to know how accessible are the tourist spots from our hotel. By knowing our bearings early, we get to feel more confident of being oriented with the place and less frightened with getting lost. Always a good way to start a trip. Cost: 5000 Hungarian Forint ( 17€ ), this includes the river cruise.

I always tell my wife and our friends that my main goal when visiting a new place is to feel the culture (food and people) and get a glimpse of how it is to live in their country. Photos with the landmarks come in second, but still is important (proof of visit, but never bragging rights -  too old for that). Free walking tours would get you both, the culture and the landmarks. I like this activity a lot. Through the walking tour, I get a shortcut course on the city and country. Aside from that, I can ask questions from the always, young and capable tourist guides. On this trip, our guide was Endre. He was very knowledgable about Budapest, frank, and very funny. We only availed of the half-day tour. But amidst the tight schedule, Endre managed to take us to landmarks that were rich with history and intrigue, and with a few Hungarian language lessons also, made it an excellent tour. We gave Endre a 15tip, but up to now, I think it was not enough. Excellent job Free Budapest Walking Tour Team !  Cost is free, but please do give these guys a break. Don't just tip them. Tip them a lot.


The best way to see the Danube River and the sites along it is  to ride on a River Cruise when it's dark and the Matthias Church, Szechenyi Chain Bridge, Buda Castle, and the Parliament are all lighted. The reflection of these lighted landmarks on the Danube is exquisite. Cost is incorporated with the 5000 Hungarian Forint you'll pay for the Hop On Hop Off Bus. Now that's affordable!

And last but not the least... Actually, it's the most perfect way to end a fun filled and busy trip to Budapest. The Szechenyi Bath and Spa Budapest. I won't explain why it's the most perfect way, you must expereince it yourself. Rustic and Lovely experience. Thank you Budapest.

Where We Stayed


Trendy Deluxe Apartments

Address : 
Kiraly utca 10., 06. Terézváros
Budapest, 1061
Hungary


How To Get There : 
1:45h plane ride from Geneva to Budapest Hungary via Easyjet and twenty (30) minutes taxi ride to Hotel


Contact Nos : 

+36306678006

Reference Website :
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g274887-d1490848-Reviews-Trendy_Deluxe_Apartments-Budapest_Central_Hungary.html

Cost for 3 nights : 

168 Euros (Rate at the time of our stay for room good for four (4). No breakfast)

Wifi : Yes
Wifi Speed : Fast enough to watch youtube videos.


Our Rating: Excellent

Where We Dined


Budavari Matyas Etterem

Address :  1014 Fortuna Street 4 Budapest Hungary

Cost : 3850 HUngarian Forint or 13.40 € (Total Cost for 3 dishes and a soup, Beef and Risoto, and a beer) .... I can live here!!!

Reference Website: http://www.budavarimatyasetterem.hu

Our Rating: Very Good Food. Affordable price. Although the waiter said they were renovating the place that's why the food was cheaper and we were seated at a temporary area. Nevertheless, if it's double on the price normally, it is still affordable considering the quality of food served to us.   

Wifi : I didn't ask...

Tips


On itineraries and activities 

Tips:
  • To enjoy 2 full days in Budapest, leave on Friday afternoon, enjoy Budapest on Saturday and Sunday, and leave on Monday morning. 
  • Give the Walking Tour Guides Big Tips. They deserve it.
  • Never miss going along the Danube River during the night. Beautiful view.
  • Make a taxi reservation rather than flagging one down along the street. 
  • Walk rather than taking the metro. Cheaper and the Budapest is not sa big to go around.
 
 

Location


Lisbon-Fatima-Nazare-Cascais, Portugal

Why didn't anyone tell us about Portugal?! This should be a first vacation destination for expatriates.   Primarily, because clothes and shoes are affordable and of good quality, 2nd, food is excellent and affordable, 3rd, there are so many sites to see, 4th, history is so rich-so interesting, 5th, the people are friendly, 6th, the tour guides are so friendly, polite, and passionate about their work, and they speak at least 3 languages and they speak English fluently!   Bravo Rota Monumental and to out tour guides, Luis and Veira, Job well done!... 7th, the tours are so affordable, 8th, they have a beach, 9th, they don't have snow in the winter (only up the mountains), 10th, the temperature when we went there was just around 12 degrees celsius....I can go on and on. We love this place. 

The next time any new expatriate would be assigned here in Switzerland and ask us where to go for their first major vacation, I would definitely answer Lisbon, Portugal. I foresee hesitation from the receiving end. An obvious answer would be "You should go to London..You should go to Paris...You should go to Rome.." Yeah, the top 3 most visited cities. For a tourist visiting for a week or a month that would be the right answer, but for someone expected to spend several seasons in Switzerland that wouldn't be my answer. 

Why Portugal should be a first destination? Primarily, because you need a set of new clothes for different seasons if your coming from the tropics and transferring to Switzerland. The shirts, pants and jackets we wear in the tropics would only be good until autumn. 


Winter is a different story - You need winter clothes and buying it in Portugal will save you a lot of money. One can buy a very nice trench for 50 Euros, exquisite scarfs for 12 Euros, a very good pair of leather shoes for 30 Euros, etc... One can buy his own winter wardrobe here for a fraction of the price in Switzerland or in France. A very good reason why this should be a first stop. Stop and stack.

Another reason would be food (not a reason for a first destination, but a good reason to visit) They're not only affordable, they also taste so good. Presented below are the restaurants we dined in. They're not high-end types , but just your average family restaurants.

One more reason to visit (forgive me, but I am not going to explain all the reasons why one should visit, but there are many...), are the tours. the walking tours, bus tours, and tourist bus tours we took were very affordable, convenient, relaxing, fuss-free, and affordable. 

The walking tour took us around the historical sites of the old Lisbon centre. Our guide was fluent in English, which was a plus. She shared with us so many historical facts, both well-known, and not so well-known, that our Spanish companions didn't even know (The Spanish and Portugese histories mostly are interrelated)

If there was one place we would love to explore again, This would be it.

Where We Stayed


Lisboa Central Park Hotel

Address : Avenue Sidonio Pais 4  Lisboa Portugal
How to Get There : One (1) hour plane ride from Madrid Spain to Lisbon Portugal via Easyjet and twenty (20) minutes taxi ride to Hotel
Contact Nos : +351 213502060
Website: http://www.lisboacentralparkhotel.com/Lisboa_Central_Park_Hotel_Home.html
Cost per night : 110 Euros (Rate at the time of our stay for room good for four (4). Breakfast included.
Wifi : Yes, average speed.
Wifi Speed: Fast enough for Facebook, not enough for Skype. Strong Signal near the room door/corridor side.
Our Rating: Good Value for Money

Where We Dined 1 of 2


O Saboroso Restaurante-Pastelaria

Address : Exact Address Not Acquired.
Address in Google Maps Link : https://maps.google.com/maps?client=safari&q=38.72775,-9.149251&oe=UTF-8&ie=UTF-8&ei=SLLuULmqJM2OswaP84GoAg&ved=0CAsQ_AUoAA
Contact Nos : Not acquired

Reservation Needed : No
Cost : 8.95 Euros (I ordered beef with fries and 1 bottle of water)
Website : Not Acquired
Wifi : None

Our Rating : Very Good

At first glance, the front and interior looks like an old ice cream shop, but the food here is good and the servings and price make it great. Yes, we are cheapskates and this find is a keeper. We liked it so much we ate there almost every night.

Where We Dined 2 of 2


Restaurante Bonjardim

Address : Travessa de Santo Antao 11 Lisboa Portugal
Website : http://goeatlisboa.com.pt/bonjardim-restaurant/
Reservation Needed : No
Cost : 10.40 Euros (One Order Piri-Piri Chicken good for 2), 4.60 Euros (One Order Cream Spinach)
Wifi : We did not ask

Our Rating : Good Very Tasty


We're from the Philippines and in our country we have more Chicken Barbecue joints than burger and fries joints. Our barbecue chickens range from saucy types to grilled and oven roasted from marinated to rubbed types. Grilled and roasted chickens are what we grew up with.  So finding out from our tourist guide that Lisbon has a very good Piri-Piri Chicken joint made us excited and a little bit half-focused on the tour. 

After tour our morning tour around Lisbon, we immediately went to this restaurant. I was surprised to find out that customers didn't need to make reservations to be seated in this very famous restaurant. 

The chicken was excellent. Simple seasoned roasted chicken. Didn't taste like it was marinated just lightly seasoned.

Tips


On the places we visited, on the food we tasted, on the things we saw

  • Buy locally made shoes in Portugal. Look for the Made in Portugal mark on the shoes. Our tourist guide mentioned that the Portugese are very proud of their shoe workmanship.
  • Buy pastel from Pastel de Belem 
  • Take the walking tour to see the old Lisbon with insidelisbon.com.
  • Take the van tours to Fatima, Nazare, Sintra, and Cascais. Contact Rota Monumental.
  •  Explore Belem. We didn't get to visit the lighthouse up close and take a good picture of it. It looks very nice though from afar.
  • Shop
  • Shop
  • Shop
 
 

Location


Madrid-Avila-Segovia-Toledo, Spain

We spent our Christmas vacation in Madrid and it's neighbouring towns. This was our first time to spend Christmas outside of our home base and far from our relatives. It was more lovely than melancholy. Sometimes loneliness would set in  whenever we thought of our relatives and the festivities we missed. But since there were so many places to visit, so much history to absorb, and so many things to eat, we kept melancholy at bay.

We spent 8 days in Madrid and it's neighbouring towns. We arrived at lunch time on the 1st and left on the afternoon of the 8th day. We spent the first 2 days in Madrid and rode the Hop on Hop Off Bus, the 3rd in Avila and Segovia, the 4th day at the Sierra de Guadarrama and shopping (yes shopping is a sport and Spain is one of the grand slam courts...but later on that), the 5th day in Toledo, Madrid again on the 6th ,7th, and 8th with more shopping (some examples of Spanish brands are ZARA, Manolo Blahnik, Mango, Sfera, Springfield, Desigual).

Ok shopping. Man! This topic deserves it's own page in this website! But Briefly, for us living in Switzerland, the high cost of goods puts a brake on the spending urges. Fashion takes a backseat in our budget plan - Insurance and Tuition Fees are kings in this area, they come first. So for us, seeing clothes and shoes in Madrid with prices at a fraction of the prices here in Switzerland is like winning something. I'm not saying the lottery, I haven't won that. We just felt happy buying! And to keep us happy we stuck to the affordable brands.

Where We Stayed


Hotel Petit Palace

Address : Calle Vírgen de Los Peligros 2  Calle Alcala 23, 28013 Madrid, Spain
How to Get There : Two (2) hour plane ride from Geneva Switzerland to Madrid via easyjet
Contact Nos : +34 915321901
Website: http://www.hthoteles.com/es/hotel-petit-palace-alcala-torre-madrid/
Cost per night : 110 Euros (Rate at the time of our stay for room good for four (4)  )
Wifi : Yes, but not so reliable in the room. Fortunately, there are computers in the hotel lobby for guests to use which have decent signals.
Our Rating: Good Value for Money

Where We Dined 1 of 3


Casamaria

Address : Plaza Mayor 23 Madrid, Spain 
Contact Nos : 91 559 1007 
Cost : 12.90 Euros (For the Paella)
Website: http://www.casamariaplazamayor.es
Our Rating: Good 
Wifi : I didn't ask...

We ate Seafood Paella and Red Wine. The Paella was good, but the red wine was better. The red wine was local Spanish wine. Different from our red wines here in Lavaux. Very good. 

Where We Dined 2 of 3


Cafeteria, Restaurant

Address : Paseo Del Prado (Near this address: Paseo del Prado
28014 Madrid, Spain) / Coordinates and exact location on map below:

Contact Nos : Didn't get it
Cost : 20.00 Euros (Set Menu of Beef and Peppers/ Comes with Cheese and Tomatoes)
Reference Website: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/1b5dad/
Our Rating: Very Good Beef  
Wifi : I didn't ask...

Where We Dined 3 of 3


Lastress BBB

Address : Plaza Mayor 13 Segovia, Spain 
Contact Nos : See Reference Website Below
Cost : Est. 20 Euros (Set meal of Cochinillo and French Fries and Salad with Cochinillo)
Reference Website: http://www.yelp.com/biz/bar-las-tres-bbb-restaurante-segovia
Our Rating: Very Good Cochinillo 
Wifi : I didn't ask...


Tips


On the places we visited, on the food we tasted, on the things we saw

  • Buy shoes and buy the ones Made in Spain, the Spanish are very proud of their shoe craftsmanship. In my opinion, they're very stylish and look very sturdy. I bought a pair of casual shoes. So far they feel great.
  • If you get the chance to take a picture of the ceiling paintings of Luca Giordano inside the basilicas, take photos. For me, they loook more breathtaking than the paintings of the great artist Michelangelo.
  • There are lots of restaurants in and around Plaza Mayor in Madrid and Segovia. Do not dare miss eating the Cochinillo.
  • Stay in Madrid, but DO tour the towns around it especially Segovia and Toledo (other towns are farther and require overnight stays). We always went on tour with Jullia Tour. Their tours are very nice - http://www.juliatravel.com/en/home.html
 
 

Location


Lyon, France

What a fitting way to start this blog! Our first post is about lights. Most of us know light as a symbol of hope, renewal, rebirth, safety, clarity, goal - all positive attributes. Last December 8, 2012, we went to Lyon France to watch the Festival of Lights. It's an annual event of the city which has its origins way back in the 17th century to commemorate the day the Lyon was consecrated to the Virgin Mary.  Before it was just candles on the windows of the houses. Now it has evolved into a spectacle of all forms of Light, from mere Christmas lights to magnificient artistic lighted installations to lasers and outstanding high definition outdoor projected movies
We went on the evening of the 8th of December, the culmination of the festival. There were so many people in the streets leading to the city squares where the light installations were on display and the light shows were shown. We just watched one light show. Minutes before the show started, the roads leading to the square were closed to control the people coming in to watch. The show we watched lasted around 10 minutes (View Video at Right) . The roads were opened after the show, and closed again before the next show started - Still the same show. We loved it.

Where We Stayed


Premiere Classe Hotels

Address : 12 Chemin de Montribloud, Tassin-la-Demi-Lune, France
How to Get There : 2:30 hours drive from Vevey Switzerland via Geneva to Lyon, France
Contact Nos : 0892707288
Website: http://www.premiere-classe-lyon-ouest-tassin.fr/en/index.aspx
Cost per night : 60 Euros (Rate at the time of our stay)
Wifi : Yes
Our Rating: Good Value for Money


Our room was small. When we arrived, we got one double room thinking that the four of us (2 Adults 2 Kids) would fit only to get another after viewing the first room. The size explains the price. Fortunately, what the room lacked, the comfort of the bed  and the WIFI speed compensated. 

Where We Dined 


Restaurant Le Vieux 

Address : 44r Saint Jean 69005 Lyon France
Contact Nos : 04 78424889
Cost : 22 Euros (For my Festival Menu - inclusive of salad, main course, dessert)
Reference Website: http://www.lyonresto.com/restaurant-Lyon/restaurant-Le-Vieux-Lyon-Lyon/restaurant-Le-Vieux-Lyon-Lyon-7489.html
Our Rating: Good Value for Money
Wifi : No


We ate in Restaurant Le Vieux, a Bouchon. A Bouchon is type of restaurant that serves traditional dishes of Lyon. It was our first taste of traditional Lyonnaise dishes. The dishes I ordered were all delicious. Though, I'm not a chef nor a credible critique, but I'm pretty confident with my tastes in food.

I Tasted :
Salade de Lentilles et Cervelas - Salad of Lentils and Sausages
Pave de Boeuf Sauce Poivre Vert - Beef Slab of Steak with Green Peppercorns
Fomage Blanc a la Creme - White Cheese with Cream
Mousse au Chocolat - Chocolate Mousse

Tips


On the event, where we stayed, and where we dined

  • Streets leading to the squares where light shows were shown were crowded. If your bringing your kids, make sure to keep them away from the streets with packed crowds.
  • It is normal for Bouchon restaurants to have cues or long lines during lunch times. Do not be turned-off, fall in line, it's worth the wait.