When I interviewed for my job earlier in the year, during the very first phone interview it was mentioned that I would be traveling for this position. Actually, more than that, I would be in a "global client facing role." Um.. it's me you guys, I'm from North Carolina. I'm that girl who's worked in non-profits since forever. When I got the job they said I would go to Budapest... honestly... I had to google it (It's in Hungary, just FYI).
In accepting the position, from day one, I was busy. Busy planning the weekly or even 3 events a week schedule of conferences. So busy I didn't have time to think about, let alone plan anything for my trip to Budapest. All I knew was that I'd be putting on a conference there. Lucky for me, putting on conferences is what I know how to do best. I've done event planning for over a decade... stick me in a room with some people and I'll get everyone organized. And happy. And make sure their belly's are full.
So when it was time for me to actually travel abroad to Budapest I honestly didn't know what to expect. I knew nothing about the food, language or culture. Something about it being in Eastern Europe but to be honest, I only even looked at it on a map the week before. Sometimes having super low expectations is the best, because you can't be let down. And I for sure was not let down traveling to Budapest. It's actually one of the top 10 cities in Europe to visit, right up there with London, Venice, Paris... you get the idea. Budapest is awesome. And I recommend everyone going there. Yup, it's that awesome.
I am breaking up this post into three parts. There will be the hotel, the food, and the fashion. Yes, me Leah the non-fashionista scored big on shopping over there. Not cheap stuff either. After I get these three posts out, I'll do a travel post. Like you know, how to pack, what to pack, and what luggage / packing style actually works (yes, I made a $300 investment in one piece of fancy luggage that was a dud. Live and learn). And I probably owe it to you all to give a little bit more of a 'How Leah Got to Be an International Event Planner" post. I get questions about it all the time. It's pretty much every girl (or guy)'s dream job, right?
But first... back to Budapest. The post today will be about the hotels where I stayed. I don't know about you, but for me the hotel makes or brakes a trip. It's where you rest your head, relax, unwind.
The Kempinski Hotel was my first hotel experience in Budapest. I arrived before my conference began and there was not room at the host hotel so I stayed next door. I'm a self-admitted hotel snob and was actually super thrilled to get to stay at multiple hotels while in Budapest. The first night I was in a suite overlooking the Fashion Avenue area of Budapest. The Kempinski hotel chain is NIICCEEE! It was a super fabulous hotel and they thought of every detail.
Check this out - you go into your room and you have to put your key card into that little slot inside the room for the lights to turn on (ok this was new to me, but apparently this is the norm in fancy hotels). Well as soon as the key was in the little holder this soft classical music would come on and appropriate lighting for that time of day would come on. There was even music in the bathroom! Of course it was all marble and a zillion mirrors and huge tub with jets and more exciting stuff I of course didn't take pictures of because I was too busy. But trust me when I say it was crazy nice and I had a super nice suite overlooking their Fashion Ave.
I wouldn't go as far as to say it's like Park Ave in NYC. I mean there was high-end shopping, but it's a very touristy area so no need to dress up to go to any of the stores. And they speak okay english over there. Most people spoke Hungarian (duh I was in Hungary), and the other language they all seemed to know (except me) was French. But I was fine, I didn't run into any issues, and I just smiled and pointed and usually got what I needed.
The money over there is the HUF or hungarian forent. I had exchanged my dollars for euros and forents in DC during my layover, but really all I used was my credit card and it was fine. SOmetimes they would even show me the exchange rate in dollars.
Anyway, this is the street view below my window at Kempinski. It was under a huge umbrella when I hung out with some coworkers, but we'll get to that in a moment....
So as I mentioned, I work for a global company aka there are people all over the world who work with me. It was really cool getting to meet so many of them at this conference, because I had only emailed them or had conference calls where I would try to figure out their accents (Czech? German? British? Dutch?) We all met and it was really cool! I hadn't showered in 2 days (crazy overnight flights), and I looked a mess, but they didn't seem to care and were all sooo kind!
We ended up taking a walk to the Danube river (which was very close to overflowing onto the city streets) and had dinner at a lovely place right by the water. There were live musicians and we ordered just about everything on the menu. When the sun set, we found outself overlooking the palace in the photo above. It's actually where their royal family lives. Impressive stuff.
I will just tell you now I got zero sleep in Budapest. Not because I was jet lagged, but sorta. The deal is I had 7am meetings each day. Um.. 7am = 1am North Carolina time. Pretty much the time I was getting to sleep, it was time for me to wake up. I was fine, I mean I was downing coffee and the event kept me on my toes. But because this wasn't an actual vacation I didn't get to sleep in or enjoy my room as much as I could have.
Anyway, the next day I had a FABULOUS Breakfast at the hotel. I can't wait for the food post. Seriously. And omg can we just discuss the 'European Plan" for breakfast. That means they include this crazy huge and amazing breakfast with the room. No continental breakfast Holiday Inn continental breakfast crap. Like for real good breakfast stuff artfully displayed.
Anyway, sad news I had to check out of the amazing hotel and go to my host hotel for my conference. I got to check in and get everything ready for my conference at the Le Meridien directly next door. I thought the Kempinski was nice, right? UMMM the Le Meridien was REALLY nice, like same level fancyness. EXCEPT my suite in this hotel had a terrace overlooking castles and stuff! WHat?!?!?
I am the worst for not taking more pictures of the room. But here's the bathrobe in my room at Le Meridien. I mean of course there were two... and two sets of brand new slippers. But because they knew I was single-girl traveling it up, this is how it was set. So adorable, right? (and no, don't freak out, they knew I was the conference planner. Not like stalked my personal history. And no, BF wasn't there he had his own event in Pennsylvania so he couldn't go to Budapest with me).
Out the otherside of my terrace was what is called the Sziget Eye. It's like a mini London eye. You know, the Ferris wheel! I was bummed I never got to ride on it. I set it up so come attendees could go, but you know, I was there to work and didn't have time for any fun stuff.
So back to my bathroom (because I kept taking pictures in there lol) I had a fancy bathtub, steam shower, and this cool detachable shower thing in the bathtub too. I was trying to have relaxation time however the metro was like 8 floors below me in the bottom of the hotel so every 5 minutes that thing would go by and of course shake all the stone everything.
Oh! And next to the toilet was another one of these detatchable shower things. I was like hum, maybe this is if you want to hook it up to the shower. Then I realized... it was a BIDET! Yup, you know, one of those things to was out your undercarriage as they say. and NO I didn't use it lol.
SO I get a grade F- on taking hotel photos. Seriously... send me to Budapest and I take the most random/not showing anything photos. Oh well, good news is I kept it professional, and that was what I was there to do. I did like this thing in the picture above. It was like these weird butterflies on this tree. You pick out your favorite one and it says stuff about you. Sorta like a horoscope/personality indicator deal.
Here's one of the few photos I took of the bedroom area of my suite. Something is seriously wrong with me... I mean I had maid service. Yet I still left crap EVERYWHERE. There's like 3 pairs of shoes on the floor, some bags, an ipad on the bed, a backpack (ruck sack as they say in Europe) on the bed, etc. Oh well, it was a nice room, you can just take my word for it.
On the last morning I had a 4:15am wake up call and I was honestly shocked to look out my window and see that it was already light out! crazy super north sunlight all the time place!
And yes, they had the name of the hotel in the window like etched, facing me in my room. I guess so I wouldn't accidentally walk out? That's St. Stephen's cathedral with the crane and the building thing in the front was actually a stage. Trust me when I say there was music there all night everynight. I mean not a problem because I wasn't sleeping anyway. And hard to tell but there were skateboard ramps all throughout the park. Sorta different than what we are used to in the US but still really cool.
Ok tomorrow... the food!!!!!