This is the latest in a series of travel photos inspired by #FriFotos on Twitter. The theme of this week’s Photo Friday is GOLD.
Before we boarded the River Adagio, Don and I spent a few days in Budapest on our own. It was great to have the time to walk around and do what we wanted before the group cruise ship tours kicked in (although there are exceptions, I have yet to find a bus tour that gives me as much insight into a city as simply walking around).
I’m not against tours overall, however. I love small walking tours or semi-private guides who really know what they are doing. And I experienced one of the best in Budapest through Context Travel. I’ve used the company before, to tour the Borghese Gallery in Rome, and more recently in Madrid. One of my writers, Natalie Pompilio, reviewed Context’s walking tours in Florence earlier this year and gave them a thumbs up.
Our 3 1/2 hour Budapest tour, led by Zsofia Kata Vincze, centered on the city’s Jewish Quarter, but encompassed much more. A professor at the Eötvös Lóránd University, she spoke knowledgeably on everything from the city’s complicated history under Fascism and Communism to Hungary’s current political situation to the origins of ruin pubs. I’ve gone on a lot of tours in my time – and she’s one of the best guides I’ve had. I came away feeling sorry for the people on our ship who have the same experience that we did.
At the end of our tour, Zsofia led us up Andrassy Avenue, where the city’s Opera and other grand Neo-Renaissance buildlings are located (it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site). She brought us inside one of them, the Grand Parisian Department Store (Párizsi Nagyáruház). The Art Noveau building now houses the Alexandra Bookcafe, which has a sumptuous coffee shop in the rear.
The walls and ceilings in the coffee shop are covered with gilded friezes and frescoes painted by Hungarian artist Karoly Lotz. It makes a grand stop for coffee, cake or a small lunch. We lingered inside for more than an hour, relaxing and enjoying our surroundings.
(While Context Travel comped my walking tour, my opinions are my own).