Today was mainly about relaxing and moving on ... but only to the other side of the river. We'd packed last night as we had to vacate the cabin by 9am, leaving our luggage outside with their black labels indicating independent transfers, as opposed to a variety of other colours depending on their owners' departure times. Some had left for the airport as early as 3 in the morning, so we were a depleted number for our last breakfast.
We still had the use of the ship's public spaces until our short hop to the hotel in the early afternoon, so after a short walk outside we sat in the cool of the lounge catching up on writing and reading, and chatting to other later leavers and the crew. Lunch was on offer to welcome the early new arrivals and we were able to partake too. The equivalent meal at the opposite end of our trip felt like well over a week ago, so many places had been experienced.
Then a final goodbye and we were off to the Hilton in Buda, where our room was the size of about three cabins and with no chance of another hotel being moored up right alongside blocking the view. It was somewhat controversial locally, being a modern hotel built directly onto the ruins of the old castle, but the shapes, colouring and roof slopes were in keeping, with mirrored glass windows which gave stunning reflections of Fisherman’s Bastion and St Matthias.
In any event, it was a great place for a restful afternoon, prior to our first mealtime location decision in a week. Rather than staying in the Castle District, we ventured back into the city centre, sussing out the local public transport: the number 16 bus, a functional soviet style dumpy vehicle whose shock absorbers, had it ever had any, were long defunct. The automotive equivalent of a mountain goat, it was certainly a change from the luxury of Viking’s coaches but with much more character, and anyway it wasn’t far. We had a great meal at a modern restaurant called Terminal, then took in a classical concert – string orchestra and soprano, performing a varied programme of short pieces – at St Stephen’s Basilica. The domes and golden mosaics of this impressive building bore a passing resemblance to St Mark’s in Venice, and so did the soaring temperature, but unfortunately there was so much marble that the acoustic was very echoey. The guest violinist Gabora Gyula was excellent though, especially in Massenet’s Meditation from Thais. Piling out into the warmth of the evening, the place was humming with activity. Rarely have I seen such a concentration of eating and drinking places, and they all seemed to be pretty full. A nice cool beer went down very well, then back on the number 16 followed by a good night’s sleep and a lie-in.