CALL ME MABEY

One Year Ago

One Year Ago

Exactly one year ago I was sitting in the Halifax airport waiting anxiously to begin my month-long European adventure. Even though I won’t be crossing the pond this summer, I think it’s time I started blogging again 🙂

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Anniversary weekend: Part 2

Stewart’s guest post:

On Sunday, Jenn and I went to the Benjamin Bridge winery &vineyard located in Wolfville, NS. We opted for the Masters Tasting which gave us a 3 hour tour and guided sampling of their entire product line lead by their wine master, Jean-Benoit Deslauriers.

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Surprisingly we were the first people to ever tour their new facility (apparently I stumbled upon that part of their website before it was supposed to be released to the public). This gave us a rare
opportunity to sample their entire line of Nova 7 wine from 2006-present. The 2006 being the prototype, never released commercially, and the 07 and 08 bottles are down to just a couple
cases stored in the family’s personal cellar. Same for their sparkling wine, such as the blanc de noirs (we selected that for our complementary take home bottle). So we’ll be one of only a few tours who get to see all of that.

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We also got to drive around in their “Gator”, basically a 2-seater ATV with a small dumper on the back. It allowed us to view their many acres of different grape varietals, and take a quick trip to see the Gaspereau river at the very bottom of their vineyard. It was interesting to see the grounds where something you enjoy is first grown. In the case of the sparkling wine, it will be 8+ years before we see the end results of the grapes we saw growing today.

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The best part for me was to hear how each wine was made, and in some cases there was a family story as with their Sauvigon Blanc. Although that grape is very hard to grow here, it was a favourite of the late co-founder and wife of the remaining co-founder, who still tends a couple acres in her memory for his family’s private reserve. Allowing us to sample a bottle was something very special.

During the tastings they provided a plate of local vegetables, cheese, meats, and bread. All fresh, and all awesome. All-in-all it was a great afternoon. Prior to the big Europe trip, Jenn and I had planned on doing this for our 10th year anniversary, so I’m glad we had the opportunity to still go.

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Anniversary weekend: Part 1

Stewart and I decided to stay in Halifax for a few days once I arrived back in Canada to belatedly celebrate our tenth anniversary. We got an upgrade to an elite suite at the Halifax Marriott Courtyard and spent Friday exploring the waterfront and most of the evening at Bishop’s Landing.

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Our favourite wine store, Bishop’s Cellar hosted an Olympic Wine tasting, where we enjoyed 8 diverse wine, from a NS rose sparkling to an inexpensive Australian full bodied Shiraz. We had additional drinks at The Bicycle Thief bar before our tasty and entertaining Teppanyaki at the Hamachi Steakhouse. We opted for the mixed grill including lobster and our chef was both talented and full of puns. See if you can spot the “standing ovation”.

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Anniversary weekend part 2 will be a guest post by Stewart, where we highlight our visit to the Benjamin Bridge winery.

Daytripping out of Budapest

On our last full day in Budapest, we were treated to a personal tour of the Danube bend. Daniel, our excellent guide, drove us 60 km north of Budapest to Esztergom, the former capital of Hungary from the 10th to 13th century. At the top of Castle hill we explored the neoclassical Basilica, which is the tallest building in Hungary and also the head of the nation’s Roman Catholic church. Impressive features include the pipe organ and relics of saint Marko Krizin and archbishop József Mindszenty.

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We then drove to Visegrád where I climbed over 300 steps to see the mountain castle. I got so warm that I melted the plastic nosepiece and frame of my sunglasses while they were on my face! The views of the Danube panorama were well worth it, across the river is Slovenia.

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Our last stop on the tour was Szentendre, (translated it is St. Andrew’s), a baroque city built on the medieval ruins. We took a nice walk throughout the shops and then walked the promenade along the river. We even stumbled upon a movie set where they were using cotton to make fake snow on rooftops and had decorated Christmas trees long that street.

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It was a hot day, but we really enjoyed the tour and would gladly recommend it to those visiting Budapest.

The ultimate way to relax

We decided early on in our planning for Budapest that we wanted to set aside one full day for relaxation. For me it was one of the best days of the trip. Of the many baths in Budapest we chose Gellért Thermal Baths. These baths were built in the art nouveau style in 1918, yet references can be found to healing waters on this site dating back to the 13th century. The thermal baths get their mineral rich water from the hot springs under the Gellért hill.

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The indoor effervescent swimming pool is cooler at 26°C while the indoor and outdoor thermal pools are 36 and 38°C. There is also an outdoor wave pool and sauna with cold dip. The grounds are beautiful, filled with lounge chairs for sunbathing. We spent over 6 hours and felt relaxed and refreshed upon our exit.

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Later that night, completely by chance we stumbled upon the most amazing sushi restaurant. Nobu Budapest is owned by celebrity chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa, who is known for blending traditional Japanese dishes with Peruvian ingredients. We were very lucky they had a table available and before the meal ended we decided to make reservations for the following night. It was expensive, but it ranks in the top 3 of the best meals I’ve ever had.

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Hopping on and off in Budapest

We bought a 2 day pass for the giraffe line hop on hop off busses in Budapest. It was affordable and it also included a Danube river cruise. An added bonus was the free wifi because the Internet connection at our flat was not working on the first day. We caught the bus on Andrassy ut and took the red line all the way around. The most amazing view was from the Citadella, a former fortress that sits on the top of Gellert hill. The liberty statue looks down from here on the Daunbe, close to the Elizabeth Bridge.

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We got off the bus after a complete loop at the opening to City Park at the beautiful Heroes’ Square. The Hungarian version of the Voice was filming at the Palace of Arts on this square. The Millennium Memorial is situated in the middle of the square, complete with statues of the leaders of the seven tribes that founded Hungary in the 9th century.

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We walked back along Andrassy ut and had lunch at a cafe. We then took a tour of the Hungarian State Opera House. Not quite as lavish as the one in Paris, but beautiful all the same. The iron curtain on the stage is very impressive and was installed as an important fire safety element in the theatre.

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That evening we cruised on the Daube river. It was a warm night, and I left most of the picture taking to Alison as it was a long day. It was a beautiful way to wrap up another amazing day of sightseeing.

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Beautiful Budapest

After having rain showers follow us through most of our travels, we have finally found the sun in Budapest. Temperatures are in the high 20s to low 30s and I’m applying sunscreen hourly. Our flat is located close to the opera house and the famous Andrássy Avenue, where we found great shopping and restaurants. The Veuve Cliquot terrace at Callas restaurant was the perfect place to spend an afternoon relaxing.

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Our first evening we decided to take a walk down by the Danube river, see the Chain bridge and Parliament building. The sun was just starting to set and the light was beautiful. We walked across to the Buda side of city and then strolled back to the terrace at the Sofitel hotel for mojitos and a late supper. Sitting there chatting away, Anne spotted us and came to join us for the evening.

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The next few blog entires will be all about our bus tour, our relaxing day the the baths and our day trip outside of Budapest.

Adventures with ampelmann in Berlin

Apologies for the delay in this post, our flat in Budapest is without wifi for the current time, so while this was written a few days ago, I’m only able to post it now from our hop on hop off bus tour in Budapest.

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I’ve been having a hard time processing everything I’ve experienced in Berlin. It’s the place that’s surprised me most on our travels. On a historic level it’s huge and I wanted to understand where I was visiting. The memorials and museums are numerous and I was understandably moved at both the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe Information Centre and the Museum at Checkpoint Charlie.

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We also wanted to experience the fun side of Berlin; the shops, restaurants and bars that have only existed in our lifetime. We had great meals and amazing drinks and enjoyed sitting on terraces and laughing together. I’ll cherish that memory of Berlin too.

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It rained on and off for the 3 days we were in Berlin and because we had to be so “stop and go” with our plans, that’s where the blog title comes from. Amplemann is the name of the figure on their crosswalk lights. It got to be quite the joke with us and when we found the Amplemann souvenir store, we went to town 🙂
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We also had a running joke about when I crossed the line where the Berlin wall used to be (it’s marked with cobblestones and in many cases metal plates with the dates), it would start to rain. I’m surprised by the quality of my pictures from the east gallery and the stelae of the Murdered Jews of Europe Memorial as the rain was coming down in buckets at those points in time.

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Happily the rain would stop within 15-20 minutes and we would be on our way again. The other factor that we’ve encountered is the large amount of construction going on in Europe. Whether it is restoring historic properties (like the Kaiser Wilhelm church, whose exterior was completely covered up), digging new metro lines, building sites and temporary walkways were very commonplace on our travels.
Budapest is the last stop on the trip. We are looking forward to warmer temperatures and further adventures.

A wharf, a statue and the order of the elephant

My absolute favourite spot in Copenhagen was Nyhavn, the colourful wharf that is a flurry of activity. Lined with restaurants, outdoor cafes, hotels and shops, it was busy both day and night and was the perfect spot to people watch. We spent time in this section of the city every day of our visit and it was the canal port of our boat tour. Even Danish author Hans Christian Andersen made his home here. At the end of Nyhavn is the Royal Danish Playhouse, from which there are great views of the Royal Danish Oprah House across the river.

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Further along the waterfront, we came across the Copenhagen International Sand Sculpture Festival. The sculptures were great and hard to believe they were just held together with water.

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The most recognizable sculpture in Copenhagen though, is the Little Mermaid. The 1913 sculpture sits at the edge of the harbour, modeled after the prima ballerina Ellen Price and the sculptor’s wife, Eline Eriksen. Droves of tour buses and countless canal boats visit this site each day.

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Another treat was visiting Amalienborg Palace and Rosenborg Castle. Amalienborg Palace is the winter one of the Danish royal family and even though we didn’t get a glimpse of Queen Margrethe II, we did enjoy the grounds and witnessed the changing of the Royal Life Guards.

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Rosenborg is a 17th century renaissance castle that was used a summer residence until the 19th century. It currently houses a museum of the Danish royal regalia, including the crown jewels and memorabilia of the Order of the Elephant, the highest order of Denmark, dating back to the 16th century. It was amazing to see so many decorative elephants used throughout the castle.

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Our final stop in Copenhagen was to a bakery for danishes!!! A tasty treat before we headed back to the apartment. Sadly Andrew flew back to Brussels for work this morning but Alison and I are continuing our adventures this week in Berlin.

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Nothing is rotten in the state of Denmark

Our flight to Copenhagen on Friday was very early and since we couldn’t check into our apartment until 4:15pm, most of that day was spent in cafes and on park benches as we still had to carry our luggage. After a well needed nap in the flat, we found a grocery store and picked up supplies for supper and our breakfasts. The champagne was in celebration of my 10 year anniversary with Stewart, and even though we were not together, we had a Skype chat later that night and we will celebrate when I get home at the end of the month.

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We decided to go on a hop on hop off bus tour the next day. It took a little over an hour to make the complete loop and gave you a sense of the neighborhoods in this beautiful city. Afterwards we walked down Strøget, the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe. It is a real mix of high end stores, mid range and North American stores along with cafes, fast food outlets and souvenir shops. We went into sephora in Illum and had a great lunch at the Royal Cafe.

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The Royal Cafe is in a courtyard tucked away just off of Strøget and where they serve smushies, small Danish open faced sandwiches. Everything is served on porcelain from Royal Copenhagen, which has its own shop next door. I bought a blue and white tea cup as a souvenir.

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We walked through Christianshavn, which is very reminiscent of Amsterdam. We stopped at the Church of our Saviour to see the tower and then headed on into Vesterbro, along H. C. Andersen Blvd.

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Supper that night was amazing. On the recommendation of one of Andrew’s friends we got reservations at Nam Nam, the Singapore eatery opened by Danish celebrity chef Claus Meyer, who also co-owns Noma, voted the best restaurant in the world.

It’s only been open for 6 weeks and it is a foodie dream. Prices are very reasonable and they encourage you to share the dishes. We had pepper crayfish, shrimp spring rolls and flying cheese, followed by beef rendang, free range pork BBQ and onion rack of lamb. The drinks were so good too, a mango mixed drink followed by the best mojito ever made.

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As you can see we’re having a great time in Copenhagen. Next post will feature our boat tour and my favourite area, Nyhavn.

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