Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Saying Goodbye to Downton Abbey {no spoilers}

It's no secret that I love Downton Abbey, and my visit to Highclere Castle is one of my favorite days ever.  Each year, I watch the first few episodes as we get them aired to us on PBS, but as soon as the DVD comes out, I buy it and binge watch the remainder as soon as possible.

This year, I thought I would try to savor the last season, and watch as they aired.  Well, I managed to hold off for one week, and then on Monday, I purchased the DVD.  
I watched episodes 6-8 on Monday afternoon/evening, and then watched the final Christmas episode tonight.  I wanted to share some of my thoughts about the final episodes {but with NO SPOILERS}.
First, I think that they showed us all that is Downton in all of it's glory.  By that I mean, each character seemed to take us on along a path that is quintessentially "them"...We saw them each at a low, but also at a high.  From Daisy to Thomas, to Lady Crawley to the Dowager Countess, to Lady Mary to Lady Edith...each character took us on a journey over those last 4 episodes.
In addition to the characters, I also thought that the house and property itself is especially highlighted as we said goodbye in those 4 episodes.  They showed us vantage points they had never shown us before.  You get to see what it is like to drive up to the house.  Where you get a glimpse as you round a corner and look through the trees.  You get to see what the house looks like as you walk around the property.  You get to see what the vantage point is from the wildflower fields in the back of the house.

It's a magical place, and they bring that to the viewer in a way I've not noticed before.  I also thought that they did a similar job of showcasing the inside.  There are sweeping views of the staircase, there are up close shots of details in the great hall, they let the camera linger on the library, etc.




Episode 6, as you probably saw in the previews at the end of Sunday night's episode, involves the family opening Downton up for tours for a day.  It is a super funny episode.  You will love it.  This also gave them a great opportunity to really show the viewer the house in greater detail than before.

So again, without any spoilers, I will say that I found the ending to be quite satisfying, and I can't wait for everyone to watch so that I can discuss it with someone other than Lola dog!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Europe at Christmas {Budapest ~ Day Two}

Sunday, December 20th was my second day in Budapest, and the last day of my vacation.  I sat down on Saturday night to plot and plan my Sunday so I could maximize time on my last day.  I woke up on Sunday morning, and once again, Mother Nature had put a big old kink in my plans... it was the foggiest foggy day you could imagine.  I was pretty ticked off because weather has killed some of my vacation plans this year (cancelled boat trip around Acadia, Red Sox game...).

I regrouped and decided to go ride the tour bus around the second half.  I had a schedule and hurried down, skipping breakfast, so I could catch the correct bus.  Turns out the bus schedules are not really schedules at all I guess, so I ended up doing the full round on the bus.  I got to see lots, and almost froze to death sitting up on the upper (open) level of the bus for over 2 hours.

Gellert Hill and Statue of St. Gellert
Budapest Castle Hill Funicular
Buda Castle
Fisherman's Bastion


Matthias Church



A lot of the squares we drove by had Christmas Tree vendors


Hungarian Parliament from the Buda side of the Danube



This is Budapest-Nyugati Railway Terminal.  It just was a pretty building.
St. Stephen's Basilica (again)
Hungarian State Opera House
I liked the tree out front...

Hósök tere (Hero's Square)

This is the Keleti train station where I arrived the day before
I didn't take any pics the day I arrived, but shot a couple from the bus as we drove by
Somewhere around this point, I decided I was too cold to take pictures.  Which isn't really helpful now, but I saw some additional sights before hopping off at the Chain Bridge stop and walking back to the hotel.

I decided to go to have Sunday brunch at the hotel, but apparently you needed reservations, so I went to the hotel bar area and ordered lunch instead.  I just couldn't go back outside until I warmed up!

I had a yummy burger...
and a pretty great view of the hotel and the Christmas market.  Gresham Palace is actually on the "things to see in Budapest" lists you will find because of the Art Nouveau Architecture.
After lunch, I went back up to my room to get sufficiently attired to go back out in the cold.  It was the coldest day of the trip by far.
I headed out on foot toward Parliament












They had the guards posted around a flag pole
They started doing a little march around. 





From Parliament, I walked to Freedom Square or Liberty Square.  They have a Ronald Reagan statue...
and Soviet monument.  It is one of the only Soviet monuments that remain in Budapest.  The rest have been transferred outside of the city to Momento Park (which sadly, I didn't have time to go to).

I walked back toward the hotel since it was starting to get dark by that point (3:30 sunset is a bummer).  You can see that the fog really just hung around all day long.

I walked from the hotel toward Vörösmarty Square and the Christmas market there.

This is at another square before Vörösmarty.  This is called the Charity Tree.  It's made of wood logs, and you can pay to go inside the tree.  Once it is dismantled, they give the firewood to the needy.


This is Fashion Street in Budapest, and the Christmas lights there were shoes, purses, and other accessories.



Market stalls lined the whole center of fashion street too as it leads to Vörösmarty Square.
Vörösmarty market was quite pretty, but apparently I found it difficult to get great pics.  There was this big tree...

and decorative lights hung from all of the trees in the square



Large Advent Wreath


From Vörösmarty I walked back toward St. Stephens Basilica


Lots of interesting food and drink.  I'll be honest, at some point on the first day, I saw a sign that was translated to read "Horse Meat Sausage", and I was out.  I was scared I would be fed something I didn't want to eat, plus cold, so I decided to opt for room service for dinner.  I did get a hot drink to enjoy as I walked around.



There is a small ice skating rink around the tree...
Once I got back to the hotel, I was arranging my transport to the airport and realized that my flight had been bumped up an hour since I had booked my ticket.  So instead of an 8:20 a.m. flight on the 21st, I had a 7:15 flight.  Hello 5:00 checkout time!  UGH!  So I ordered room service and packed my bags....
Pretty fancy room service though.  They wheeled a whole table in for me, and it even had a decoration on it.
I had purchased some strudel at the market that I brought back for desert.
The Four Seasons does a nightly turndown service.  In addition to removing the throw pillows, turning down the bed, etc., they fill your ice bucket with ice and leave bottles of water on the bedside tables.  On the last night, they left these cookies too.
Here are some of my purchases from Budapest.  I got this felt heart ornament for myself and got my mom a similar star.
I also got this painted egg ornament
These are secret boxes that they make and sell in Hungary.  You have to know the secret to opening it, or you'd never get it open.  
I really wanted to buy a Herend teapot, but wasn't really sure I should be spending $400 on a teapot.  And I sure didn't want to be responsible for carrying that kind of item home.  When I got to the store on Sunday, they were already closed, so I took that as a sign.  

I really wanted to go to the Great Market Hall to shop, but had a big planning fail when I didn't notice until Saturday night that they were closed on Sunday.

Budapest was a great place to visit.  I really loved it.  I think the Four Seasons and my room balcony made it more special and was a great way to wrap up the trip.  

The next morning I left the hotel at 5:00 and made my way to the airport.  I had to fly from Budapest to London, where I had a super long layover (over 5 hours).  Here is the pic I took as we flew over Central London.  You can see the Shard sticking up there and then to the right and slightly down, Tower Bridge crossing the Thames.

I had to go through more security than you can imagine at Heathrow, which seemed odd because I flew into the exact same terminal that I was flying out of, but once I had done that, I had plenty of time to check out all the airport had to offer.  All things considered, Heathrow isn't a bad place to be stuck for a long time.  Lots of shopping and even carolers....
The weather was an issue for the flight home, so we had to go up through Scotland, across Iceland, Greenland, way up into Canada, down Hudson Bay, Wisconsin, South Dakota, etc...  There was a lot of frozen "Titanic looking" water along the way...


Thanks for following along as I recapped my trip!  It was a lot of fun and I saw some amazing places.

 

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