I left work on Friday with my bag packed for a surprise birthday trip. All I had been told was that the bus departed at 4pm and I would need my passport. Of course, I had a few guesses about the destination, but amongst all of the options available, I secretly hoped for Budapest.
My Favourite City
Budapest is one of my favourite cities in the world. I loved the city from the first moment I stepped off the train in Keleti Station way back in 2000. I’ve returned a few times since then (read about it here), loving it more and more each time. Of course, our secret destination was evident as soon as the bus pulled up, but that wasn’t the only surprise that my wonderful new man, Jonas, had in store.
Firstly, knowing I would be hungry after a busy day, he had packed a prosecco picnic for the journey. We toasted my birthday weekend watching a magnificent orange sun disappearing below the horizon.
Public transport in Budapest is cheap and efficient, so we reached the next big surprise quickly. He had booked a suite at the New York Palace, a grand hotel not far from the river. The room was enormous. I have never stayed in anything like it before, and I recommend it if you visit Budapest.
We swam in the hotel pool and relaxed in the sauna and steam rooms. There were a few other British guests, perhaps escaping Storm Ciara, or maybe enjoying Freedom of Movement in Europe while they still can.
A Perfect Evening
After a moonlit walk along the Chain Bridge, we went to For Sale Pub, a really quirky bar where guests can sign pieces of paper and hang them on the ceiling. It’s fascinating to read comments written in bars: often inane, sometimes thought-provoking, and occasionally achingly heartbreaking. The full range of the Human Experience written across scrappy pieces of paper for all the world to see. Atlas Obscura reviewed the bar if you want to read more. It was a quiet Friday night, although it was almost 1 am the place exuded a soulful ambience. The floor was strewn with straw and discarded peanut shells, whilst a male-female duet sang a range of familiar songs. Her voice sounded melodic alongside the soothing hum of his guitar.
Before going to the hotel, we planned to drop into Szimpla-Kert, which is one of my all-time favourite bars. However, the queue snaked far back down the road. After such a lovely evening we didn’t want a rowdy crowd, especially when we had such a beautiful hotel suite waiting for us.
Breakfast like a Princess
The next surprise was the following morning after I opened my birthday gifts. Knowing how I love hotel breakfasts, Jonas had picked the very best. We breakfasted like royalty under Murano chandeliers: sipping Törley, Hungary’s very own sparkling wine and serenaded by live piano music. It was the perfect start to my birthday.
No trip to Budapest is complete without taking some artistic selfies in Szimpla-Kert, a beautifully photogenic (a fancy way of saying Instagrammable) ruin bar. So, naturally, we called in to do just that.
It’s a shame we didn’t spend longer in Budapest, but I was going to my very own palace in Bratislava for my birthday party.
Thank you, 40, you were full of surprises, but 41 looks set to be magnificent!