I’m sitting in the middle of Vörösmarty Ter (square) in Budapest, Hungary, drinking a good, hot Cortado – (known as a noisette in France) and a croissant. The espresso coffee is strong, with a little milk and foam and the pastry is delicious; the perfect balance of soft, buttery and flaky. The small French café, Gerbeaud, was recommended by both my friend Alia and her mom, so I figured it would definitely be worthwhile taking a bit of time here.

The terrace is sunny and the staff is friendly; the latter can be hit-and-miss in Budapest. The people are either still not used to post-communist customer service or they dislike tourists because of some other reason. (Alia suggested they’ve had unpleasant experiences with rude tourists and now we all bear the brunt of their displeasure.)

I’ve been wandering the wide streets since early morning. The restos were just getting set up, the small bistro tables and chairs being placed onto the Square. Several have “wifi zona” signs, to tempt the tourists (like me) who have the time to leisurely drink a seven dollar cappuccino, check emails and surf the web. Most locals pop into their neighbourhood tabac, have a quick dollar-fifty espresso at the counter, gossip with the bartender for a few minutes and head off to work or school.

The view of Buda across the river from Buda
The beautiful view of Buda from Pest

As I’ve been enjoying my coffee and croissant, the sun has been making its way across the square, bathing the tables in light and warmth. Luckily, all the cafes, like the Gerbeaud, have umbrellas to protect people (and electronic screens) from excess sunlight.

The square has the requisite water fountain; this particular one has lions with water shooting out of their mouths. As with most cities and towns in Europe, it’s the meeting place for tourists and locals alike. A tour guide is waving a sign for her gaggle to follow her while what looks like a frosh week group of young people set off across the square to commence who-knows-what mischief…

Stores have begun to open now. Everything can be found in the square or near it – from Rolex to H&M. Unfortunately, wifi is sketchy at best on the terrace. There are lots of free wifi spots that show up in my settings but none of them are actually able to connect.

It’s quite delightful people watching… the weather is still beautiful for mid-September. The Foldatti metro station gorges more people onto the square, most looking like they have important places to be. There is a good mixture of nicely dressed Budapesters (really, I looked it up) on their way to work or to the market and meandering late-season tourists, complete with fanny packs and cameras.

Back on my café terrace, I’m listening to a mixture of languages – French, English, Arabic. On the menu is a hint of what nationalities are most common here – the “Oslo” features smoked salmon and poached eggs. The “London” includes ham and cheese scrambled eggs with cherry tomatoes and cornichons (!?) and the “Rome” is simply a croissant or brioche with butter and jam.

Sadly, it’s time to move on now. I still can’t get connected and the Gerbeaud wifi is not showing up on my options (the waitress did tell me the signal might be stronger inside). And I have research to do on my next location – Sri Lanka, Japan or New Zealand… So, I guess (sigh!) I’m off to find the Starbucks where at least I know if the service isn’t going to be as friendly as home, the wifi signal will be consistent.

Our dog, Renko, was a Hungarian Vizsla. I only saw one during my time in Budapest but she was a beauty! However, Budapest is a very dog-friendly city, so I did meet many other dogs. My favourites were Fatso and Winnie:

Picture of Winnie the dog
Winnie, the owner of the rental flat.
Picture of Fatso
Fatso (also known as Fatty). My cab driver told me Fatty means Frank in Hungarian. I’m sceptical.

Early morning in Budapest

Group of people at the fountain

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