It has been an eventful summer for our family, and in spite of recent spikes in Coronavirus cases in our little town of Pápa, we have remained safe, healthy, and active. At the beginning of the summer we took a dreamy catamaran boat trip around the Croatian islands (see blog here) and at the end of July we took a long tour through Slovenia to see and do all the things we have been meaning to while we are here (two-part blog post to come). In between these getaways we visited local swimming holes, had playdates with friends, ate some great food and gelato, saw fun animals, and got incredible news. Read on to see our summer fun lookbook and find out what the big news is!
It was fun to return to Lake Tata as we hadn’t been there in 2 years. The kids love the sandy bottom and shallow waters that make it easy to wade out and swim. This summer Didi learned how to dive, which is a big deal for her! Beau, who already was a decent diver, got really good at it, and Didi is very brave and loves to practice. Willow, on the other hand, just belly flops, but that doesn’t stop her! She won’t be far behind, that fearless little fireball! Speaking of Willow, she managed to gauge the height of the Tata swimming platform wrong and stood up underneath it, cutting open her head. Of course a head wound cut our time short, but the kids were great sports nevertheless.
‘Tis the season for sunflowers! We made sure to get in plenty of road time when the fields were in bloom so we could enjoy their sunny golden gleam. This is one of my favorite parts of living here, and it will certainly be missed! These are fields between Papa and Gyor (above) and between Tata and the Slovakian border (below right).
Ahh, Lake Balaton. We haven’t fallen in love like our Hungarian neighbors have, mostly because the beaches (or “strands”) are more like crowded, grassy parks that lead up to a concrete water’s edge, and we prefer the lakes of Maine – and now Slovenia. But when you need to cool off, this enormous, warm, shallow jewel of Hungary is a safe bet. The bottom is flat and sandy, so it’s quite comfortable to walk on, and it’s nice to not have to worry about the kids going out too far because it is shallow out as far as you can see! The water is murky due to the sandy bottom, but it is quite a comfortable swim. I wish it wasn’t so crowded – we had to work hard to be socially distanced – but otherwise it was a fun day!
Balaton Hills: Tacos and Ice Cream!
Near Szigliget is the famous Taco Truck our friends had been raving about for forever. We finally made it down to see what all the fuss was about and there is no question – these are the best tacos in Hungary! We devoured them so quickly I didn’t even have a chance to take a photo. I suppose we will have to go back and do just that! Although Szigliget has some of the best ice cream around too, we decided to try another place nearby we had heard was worth standing in line for. Kő Fagyi? is a great gelato shop with fantastic flavors and super friendly English speaking staff. It was popular, too, and located in Mindszentkálla, not far from the Sea of Stones. We parked on the street and walked up, noticing a really cool sensory playground the kids wanted to check out, but we were too late to go in after we finished our ice cream. I highly recommend “Kő Fagyi?” and can thank my friend Ashlyn of Middle World Adventures for another great recommendation!
Villa Kabala & Friesians
There is no question that my favorite restaurant in Hungary continues to be Villa Kabala, near Szigliget on the shores of Lake Balaton. However, until this summer I had only eaten meals there – not stayed overnight! With so many of our dear friends leaving and one about to pop with her first child, a girls’ getaway was in order! We had a great time eating delicious food and sharing lively conversations on our beautiful balcony. And of course we stopped to get ice cream at Szigligeti Fagylaltozo! I can’t get enough of their salted pistachio! On the way home from this decadent trip we stopped in to see a pair of incredible Friesian horses at a little farm outside of Somló. I had my eyes on these guys for a while now, and just managed to make contact with the farmer who owns them – the sweetest, most generous man – and he let us stay as long as we like, taking in their beauty. Later in the summer we made it back to Villa Kabala as a family for another yummy meal. I never leave without grabbing a bottle or two of their elderflower prosecco! Delish!
Two of our dearest family friends moved away this summer – back to the states and back to Norway – and we were so sad to see them leave. Both families had kids the same ages as ours which made it even harder to say goodbye. It was so nice to celebrate one of them at the big squadron party and the other with a going away dinner and game night at our home. Linda, Joe, Ella and Nora & Fosia, Kurt, Leon, Caspian and Amina are very special to us, and we know we will meet again! It has been very different around Pápa without you guys!
I also hosted the final Women’s Therapy Group here in Pápa, as we were saying goodbye to several members this summer and fall, and it was a good time to close the group for now. I’m filled with hope and gratitude as I think back on the strong, brave, beautiful women who came to share, connect, and grow. I will miss this safe space, but look forward to what lies ahead as we continue to support each other’s journeys from afar!
The girls set up their balcony in such a cozy way – I’m so proud of their creativity and ingenuity! We have had plenty of playdates and random visitors on bikes this summer to keep the kids entertained. There is never a dull moment!
Beau set up his tent at one point this summer and it was up for a couple of weeks – long enough for him to sleep out there a handful of times, including his first sleepover with a friend before he moved away. Beau is our little outdoorsman for sure!
Local Dining: Sayn
There’s a new restaurant in town, and it’s not like the others! Sayn is a vegetarian sandwich shop (no kidding!) and it is located right on the main square in Pápa. The meal we had was just ok, but there were no complaints from the kids who had all meat-alternative meals like “chicken” nuggets and a schnitzel-like “chicken” patty. The jury is still out on if I recommend it or not, but I like the idea and am willing to try it again!
I was out for a walk one day and passed the equestrian farm down the street and decided to stop a moment to watch the horses. I looked over and this adorable piggy was walking over to say hello! I couldn’t believe it! It was the cutest thing ever. So tame and so smart – it could’ve just run away or even across the road, but it didn’t! I’ll have to go back and say hi again sometime to my new friend.
We went up to Gyor for some shopping and the kids finally got to play at the pirate playground near City Hall. They were more interested in the sprinkler/water play side of the park but it was fun nonetheless. We also had another yummy meal at Palfy Etterem in the square and finally walked down the walking streets – it’s about time! It was a fun getaway in Gyor, with lots of mask wearing with our new masks.
Before he went away on a mission, daddy took the kids to Nagytevel lake nearby for a day of swimming, SUP, and playing in the sand. The kids love it there, and it was a great place to relax.
There were a couple of skin-related things I was excited for this summer, and one was the removal of a troublesome mole on my chest. It was nice to finally get up to Vienna to have it taken care of and enjoy a date day with my hubby – who is way more moly than me but didn’t need any removed this time! HA! Lucky! The roses were in full bloom in the rose garden across from the Rathaus, and the Film Festival was happening with extra pandemic precautions that turned out to be an awesome place to grab food. We had some terrific street food including Indian, Italian, and Asian! We also wouldn’t miss a chance to have Eggs Benedict at Landtmann’s Cafe – one of my faves!
The other skin-related thing I was excited for was tattoos! I needed an update to the tat on my back and the new tattoo on my side is my tribute to Maine (pine trees) and the Air Force (feather) that are two big parts of my life. Besides being beautiful work, these tattoos cost me about $100. I was inspired to get this when we decided a the beginning of the Pandemic to change our life plans completely. Instead of leaving the AF in the spring of 2021, moving back to Maine and joining the airlines (unrealistic now, and very risky for us), we decided to stay in the Air Force for the long haul, and it was a huge relief. To me, tattoos are beautiful ways to mark moments in time in the form of meaningful body art. I’m so happy with the way these turned out, just as I am thrilled about the way our lives are turning out. Yes, there was some disappointment in the loss of the vision for our future – one we shared for the last 12 years – and the kids were bummed at first, too. But there is also the spark of a new vision, one that is unfolding beautifully before our eyes, and one we are all very excited about!
After deciding we would be remaining a military family for the foreseeable future, we began playing the waiting game to find out where our next assignment would be. Given the uncertain world climate and general unpredictability of a pandemic, the added unknowns of “where to next” certainly made us anxious. To spare you the very long roller coaster story that was our summer, we found out we are moving to our very first choice next: BELGIUM!
We are so overjoyed to be able to continue our European adventures, this time in Western Europe! Beer, chocolate and waffles here we come! The kids are so excited to explore new places and meet new international friends. We have a few people to thank for helping make this dream a reality, but the bottom line is we got very very lucky and we are very very grateful!
And so, our time in Hungary is slowly coming to a close, but a new chapter in Belgium will soon begin! This has motivated us to get in a few last minute things here and postpone an anniversary trip to Amsterdam Derek and I had planned – it will be in our backyard in just a few months! We have lots of decisions to make in the meantime and all kinds of things to do before we move, but the knowing is invaluable. What a wild ride! I guess it’s time to re-think the name of this blog…