No place like home

Planes, trains and traveling irons have all featured in the happy flurry of casting and Christmas as we steam towards the new year. There is much ado. The film may be fiction, but Hungarian history is alive in the locations we are discovering along the way. Doors are opening to a world made all the more fascinating by being able to touch it, we are talking to actors we previously thought out of reach, meeting stylists and cinematographers, and finding new friends along the way. A flash flight to New York in the midst of all this movie magic give me time with older ones, along with a moment to pause between the old world and the new, and the storage unit that lays between them.

It was a strange feeling to be back in NYC. When I emerged from the subway in Manhattan it seemed somehow surprising to find the city still there. This was at once reassuring and motivating. I journeyed only with cabin bags and at the last moment decided to take our very substantial German-made iron from the limbo of storage back to Budapest. I was of course X-rayed as I passed through security, and searched at both JFK and Paris airports. Officers commented quizzically on the iron but let me take it on board nevertheless. Not so lucky was my almost empty Jurlique moisturiser, confiscated because it was a 125 ml tube, and even though there was obviously only about 20 mls left, tubes of more than 100 mls cannot be taken on board. At a time where making my appearance wrinkle free is increasingly difficult, the iron will at least work where the moisurizer no longer can.

Meanwhile in the Buda hills, the cog wheel railway transported us back further in time, gearing up for the architectural treasures that waited at the end of the line. The first location has been empty for 25 years, having survived almost a hundred years of unhealthy screams – including those of a towering WW2 siren with a spectacular view over the city that fortunately no longer needs to be alarmed. Emboldened only with graffiti, the sanatorium is a shell, filled with ghostly stories but eager for new ones. By complete contrast and restored to perfection next door is the Writer’s Villa, a magnificent art deco retreat, where Rowan Atkinson and Jennifer Lawrence enjoyed end-of-movie celebrations in recent times, and where we were most graciously invited for lunch. Our absent Dutch host, Jaap Scholten, as part of his love story with Hungarian history, wrote in Comrade Baron about the vanishing world of the Transylvanian aristocracy. His first hand interviews with spirited octogenarians record an oral history that is largely unknown, but which made relevant the story of Aurora Borealis, a magnificent film we sought out at an equally spectacular art deco cinema in central Budapest. Are there enough superlatives to describe the richness that surrounds us here?!

Mud on our boots brought us back to earth. And to the brush shop on Dob Utca where handmade brushes of various strengths make quick work of a day stomping around the heights of Buda. Although the hills seem to have come to town with the profusion of Christmas trees clustering on the street corners. This week a special forest of netted and neat little trees like pixie caps were given out to pensioners at the local market. Mostly little old ladies, they grasped the tree by the angel end and dragged it down the street behind them, equally staunchly as those offering wreaths hand-crafted with pine cones, candles and everlasting flowers – and selling for almost nothing. ( Not to mention the smoked mozzarella tree decorations… ) I wanted to follow and make sure they kerflumped their prize all the way home. We don’t have a tree – not for any other reason than we have a house full of wreaths. Who can resist those little old ladies?

With only a couple of days before Christmas, the phone is charged in anticipation of calling everyone at home in Australia. We know that friends are well and happy at home in New York. And we will be pressed and brushed and surrounded by pine and presents here at home in Budapest. Merry Christmas, many thanks for a great year of sharing stories, and here’s to much joy in 2018!

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21 Responses to No place like home

  1. Janet Stevenson says:

    Wishing you well for the New Year.
    I love your thoughtful take on life, love and all the rest…
    You appreciation of all things new and all things old is just heartening.

    • Thank you Janet – and for your time in writing. Budapest is a magical place and I can’t believe my luck in being here. Yes, all things old and new – fantastic! All the best to you for 2018 and hope to have some stories to share…

  2. Mandy Buchanan says:

    A very merry Christmas to you both. Such adventures! I’ve enjoyed reading about your New York, (and now Budapest) discoveries for so long. All the very best for 2018. I look forward to reading what it brings for you.

  3. Vicki says:

    Merry Christmas, and what a magical place to be for Christmas.
    I’m really enjoying your adventures in Budapest and fortunately for me I will be visiting there next August and will keep watching for your next blog.

  4. Chrissy H says:

    A tale of 2 cities & ironing out a small problem……what splendours & enriching experiences Gabrielle and just the gal to absorb them! Of course we are all waiting, ready to gasp when we finally are given an inkling of the actors being cast in that movie…joy and much love to you both soulmate- Chrissy H (We are off to Sydney & family for Christmas, from beautiful Hervey Bay, and 2 weeks later a cruise to Pacific Is x 14 days – life is good & still rich!) Happy Christmas Best 2018

    • Of course it is Chrissy – with you it could be no other way! Happy cruising – with lots of jazz I am sure – and we’ll see if we can get some cast announced before too long… Have fun!

  5. Marilyn Scanes says:

    Sounds wonderful, although it seems unreal here in Australia with the colder climates over there, while we endure the heat. Life is all about enjoying the differences offered. Hope you have a thoroughly enjoyable and very Merry Christmas and that the New Year continues the exciting times you are having in your new base and the film rolls on

  6. Bernadette says:

    Thanks for your fantastic messages on the exciting time you are having and reading about your adventures it’s always a joy to see your email pop up in the in box. Best wishes to you and Sean for a very happy Christmas and lots good times in 2018.
    Cheers. Bernadette. 🎄🍷

  7. John Wills says:

    The Fitzy finale,worthy of all before!Your words & pictures transport me from “droughts & flooding rains” to fantasyland! We have booked to leave for Malta on May One ( very appropriate to my current job),with much ado in April to prepare.Christmas in Budapest seems more than over the horizon,but it’s top of the “list”! Looking forward to your next instalment
    John Wills Melbourne (not Florida)

  8. Peter says:

    Dear Gabrielle, what a journey, back home to Budapest, with iron and the film progressing (?), whilst informing your readers about further intracies of your adopted city. Thank you and a Merry Christimas and joyous (and prosperous) New Year to you. Adelaide missses you!

  9. Irene R says:

    Thank you for your delightful descriptions of the world that surround you– for one who is unable to travel it is such an insight and a joy to see so much craft and generosity. Wishing you Christmas greetings of hope and renewal at this time and the New Year. Am so looking forward to news that that is interesting and bright, especially all the different types of Food!!!!

  10. Linley says:

    So exciting dear Gabrielle to be reading of your exciting life in Europe. Many thanks. It Ames me want to jump straight back on a plane. Even though we are enjoying warm weather in Melbourne at last. Merry Christmas,Happy New Year,Good Luck in 2018 and successful filming. Can’t wait to see this film when it releases,whatever it is. From Linley. Sent from my iPad


  11. Gail says:

    Have a good Christmas Gabe. love G

  12. MS@The Abbey says:

    Merry Christmas & Blessings for the year to come, from our kitchen to yours

  13. Amanda says:

    Enjoy the festive season and have a fab 2018. Cheers

  14. Annie Christophers says:

    I subscribed to your blog a couple of years ago but now I no longer receive your email updates. I can’t work out why and I miss them terribly. Any suggestions?

    • Hmmmm. I don’t know Annie – the email updates are supposed to happen automatically through the WordPress platform. But this is lovely of you to check in. I am wondering if the lack of updates is actually because I am not posting like I used to. The lack of updates could be because of the lack of stories! The film is consuming almost every minute of my day. But I promise to post a good story before the end of January. Please let me know if you do not receive an email by then. In the meanwhile, it is snowing here today in Budapest and with the bakeries closed, I have an apricot and date cake in the oven. Hope you are enjoying something cool on your side of the world….

      • Annie Christophers says:

        Thanks for replying. I realise you’re not posting as often as you used to, but I can’t remember the last time I got an email it’s been so long. But I’ll keep checking and let you know again if I don’t get an emai notification. I’m not sure what else I can do. We did a river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam last year and Budapest was one of our favourite places. Cheers.

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