A romantic tale of wedding rings

Our wedding rings hand made in Playa Santiago, La Gomera

We really didn’t want our wedding rings to be something ordinary that anyone could buy, instead we wanted something unique, something that reflected our character. So the story which unfolded around how we came to find them, just couldn’t have been better.

It was March 2013 and the wedding was now just three months away, nothing we’d seen in any jewellers in England had even come close. And in March, in an effort to get a bit of a tan ahead of the big day, we headed off to the Canary Islands and in particular to the lovely little island of La Gomera. After one night in the port town and a quick tour of the island, we ended up at the southern end in the small coastal town of Playa Santiago, and found a room above a small bar right opposite the beach. Perfect.

On the penultimate day of our time there we wandered to the far end of the beach where there were some craft workshops and artists’ studios. And here, nestled amongst these ramshackle buildings, was a guy working in gold. We explained what we wanted, he sketched some ideas. We couldn’t believe our luck.

However there was a problem. Our ferry away from the island was the next day, giving the guy (we really should have remembered his name), precious little time to make two rings to his intricate design. His only option was to start work immediately and work right through the night.

When we returned the following day, he was asleep under blankets in a corner of his workshop, his girlfriend keeping watch over the place. He’d done it though; our rings were ready, and were perfect. And we had precisely what we wanted: unique, bespoke rings with a story to tell, symbolic in so many ways.

Mountain walks on La Gomera, Canary Islands
Mountains in La Gomera

Landmarks of Budapest

Heroes synagogue, Budapest, Hungary
Heroes Synagogue

These quickfire 3-day city breaks are so good but of course by definition time is limited and you do have to move at pace to fit as much in as possible.

And we haven’t done bad, though you can’t do everything. After our orientation walk on Saturday, soaking up the sights, Day 2, Sunday, consisted of an energetic hill climb, walks around Buda and the Royal Palace, plus the spa visit, which is a “must do” in Budapest. We kept on top of time constraints with good patronage of the public transport systems.

St Stephens Basilica, Budapest, Hungary
St Stephens Basilica

And then today our final day we saw the interior of two of the city’s landmark buildings, the Heroes Synagogue and St Stephen’s Basilica, plus a visit to the imposing Parliament building set in its wonderful square. Good food day, too!

Parliament building, Budapest, Hungary
Parliament building

And so our latest quick city break is complete and that countdown to our next trip starts again.

Bars and spas of Budapest

Liberty monument Budapest, Hungary
Liberty monument

When it comes to city views, Budapest offers more than most, with countless classical Baroque spires, the domes of the basilica and the colossal parliament building all on the Pest side alone. On the other side of the river stands Buda, high above the city with its magnificent palace and Castle Hill looking down across the city. Dissecting all of this is the Danube itself, cutting a wide silver swathe between the two. It’s a spectacular city, although a little hidden by mist today.

Fisherman’s bastion, Budapest
Fisherman’s bastion

Actually the royal palace really did always look across the city, having been originally constructed to enable the city rulers to keep the populace at bay and quell any thoughts of uprising and revolt.

Budapest’s other historical attraction and claim to fame are of course its hot water spas, there are several giant versions of varying character around the city. We visited the largest of them today, Széchenyi, and enjoyed the unusual experience of bathing outdoors with a water temperature of 29 and an air temperature of 5 degrees, and wallowing indoors in waters up to 38 degrees. The indulgent massage we experienced afterwards was pretty good, too.

Széchenyi Spa Budapest, Hungary
Széchenyi

These days, Budapest is equally renowned for its status as a stag destination, and even on a cold Sunday night in February the bars of the Jewish quarter are again busy with revellers. Drinkers on tour. Like us.

The Ruin Bars of Budapest

Szimpla Kertmozi ruin bar Budapest
Szimpla Kertmozi

The history of these places, although very recent, is extremely cool. Ransacking of the Jewish quarter by the Nazis, followed by four decades of Communist rule, had left Budapest with a large number of derelict and decaying buildings, in varying states of disrepair. During the early 2000s, with many city dwellers on the breadline, these derelict buildings became makeshift bars, a place where people with little money could congregate and enjoy cheap booze. Characterised by bare walls, graffiti, and mismatched furniture as they grabbed what they could, these ramshackle places quickly grew into social hubs and their numbers began to increase.

Szimpla Kertmozi ruin bar Budapest
Inside Szimpla Kertmozi

Ruin bars became a kind of genre of their own, and, twenty odd years on, have a place in Budapest’s culture. Some have grown into big rambling establishments, some are intentional copies of the originals, but the semi open air feel – tarpaulins instead of roofs, crumbling brick walls – of the ruin bars is all part of a great atmosphere.

Szimpla Kertmozi ruin bar Budapest

Our first experience of Szimpla Kertmozi, the original ruin bar, and the rest of our first day, is now posted on the journal. Go to the Cities section of the main menu and select Budapest.

Budapest – first few hours

Magnificent view of the Hungarian Parliament building Building Budapest

So we’re here in Budapest, although a short flight delay and big bus queues meant it was almost 2pm by the time we were out exploring. However even in just a few hours this wonderful and majestic city has made an impression.

Our home is in Pest, close to the Jewish quarter, across the wide Danube from beautiful Buda. So many wonderful vistas, so many majestic buildings. We’ve already taken in many sights, already walked miles. Then, as we left Buda and walked back across the Chain Bridge, darkness started to fall and floodlights lit the buildings on both sides of the river. Beautiful views in every direction.

And now we’re in our first ruin bar. You don’t know what a ruin bar is? We’ll tell you later.

Darkness falling In Budapest

Travel countdown

Top 10 Budapest

31 hours 45 minutes 18 seconds

Does everyone do this, or is it just us? Counting down the days, and even hours, to the next trip, building up the excitement- does everyone do that? Marking off the days, the hours, is for us all part of it. So in about 32 hours we’re off on our next trip, to Budapest, our latest Saturday to Monday lightning city break.

Quick city breaks are a different kind of travel, a kind of snapshot of life, with limited chance to see everything and only a small window of time in which to absorb the culture. Our way tends to be to have an outline plan for getting around to see as much as possible, and set off to see all of it. Trouble is, sticking to the plan is hard, especially when you spot a bar stool with your name on it, or a restaurant that says “come in….”. But then, isn’t that the essence of travel, to seize every moment and say “why not?” instead of “not yet”.

It’s amazing how much you can get the feel of a city in a few short days. And, in a way, these quickfire breaks have taught us something for when we start our world trip. That lesson is: leave somewhere while you still love it.

Let’s see how much we love Budapest…