Grand Hotel & Margaret Island
The day before our train ride to Budapest I had not only the mental anticipation about visiting a new place, but also a literal physical tingling excitement about the impending travel adventure. The day before our trip was also my 34th birthday, so perhaps I was feeling a bit of aging electric energy.
All the better than to be heading to a therapeutic spa city!
I now think that what I was feeling was an impending sense of how sensory the arrival would be- even from the beginning steps in the city at what I feel must be one of Budapest’s grimier train stations. The husband and I buckled down and checked official sources (such as the official tourist info within the train station) to determine what the “real rate” for a taxi ride to our hotel should be. I am not used to bargaining or bartering, but recognize that sometimes, in some cities, you just gotta know your stuff.
So we got the “honest rate” for a taxi ride to our destination from the tourist office- about 3000-3500 FT. Lo and behold, we find the taxi area and the first taxi guy to offer us a ride quotes the rate of “5000 FT” for our destination. The hub and I shake our head. “Not so much.” He goes down in price. We offer “3500 FT.” He disagrees. We nod and start to walk away and he calls us back, begrudgingly accepting.
We gave a nice and decent tip upon arrival. :) Fair rate, fair tip. Fair bartering.
Lesson. When in Budapest, look for “real” taxis (i.e. they tend to have signs on their car) and haggle your price before you get in. That is, of course, unless you are just lucky and hop in with a cab driver who just gives you the real rate upfront.
We arrived at our hotel destination thoroughly ready for some R & R after several hours on the train.
I originally had us booked at a chic little hotel in Pest, but for whatever reason decided to shift gears and move us to a hotel on the lush and verdant Margaret Island. The hub and I are both fans of historic hotels, so the Danube Grand Hotel was a likely choice. Something to harken back to “golden days” as well as appealing in that it was set apart from both Buda and Pest, so I knew that when we headed to the hotel to retire for the evening, we would really be tucking in for some relaxation. And with a full spa accessible to all guests, a lovely restaurant and a social bar, the place had all the goods for a meaningful and relaxing stay.
Outdoor dining area of the Danube Grand Hotel.
First night dinner. Being serenaded by the in house Gypsy band. Lilting, invigorating and mesmerizing music. And great group of musicians.
First night. Taking a walk up the riverside to view the city by night.
First morning. Meandering through the rich flora and fauna of Margaret Island on our way to take the tram to Pest.
(The island has a few beer gardens and a water park too. Very hot spot recreational and enjoyment zone for locals & travellers alike)
Quirky, old fashioned symbols throughout the hotel.
Enjoying the view of the evening swimmers off the coast of Margaret Island.
Margaret Island as viewed from the hills of Buda