We dream of islands in the sun. Exotic places where we can get away from it all. We spend hundreds if not thousands of whatevers getting there and then come home full of the experience. Too often, we forget that just down the road there might be somewhere just as interesting, somewhere that offers an opportunity to explore, to get away from it all, but because it’s so near, we don’t consider it travel. Travel seems to be measured by a physical distance rather than a metaphorical one, even if just ten minutes from home a whole new world awaits. Kányavári sziget is just an example.

I have a fondness for islands. For water. For bridges. And for quiet. And were I to ask any of you for your recommendation, that one place that has all that and more, I’d be reading for a week. There are myriad places around the world that would fit the bill but I’m fortunate to have all that and more within walking distance. Practically at the end of the garden.

Hungary is known for the Balaton, the Hungarian sea, the massive lake that is choc-a-bloc in the summer with Hungarians on holiday and tourists on vacation. And in the winter, it’s quiet. And it has water. But I’m not talking about the Balaton. I’m talking about the Kis-Balaton (the little Balaton), even farther to the south-west. It has its own island, Kányavári sziget and its own bridge.

Kányvári sziget

Wooden bridge on Kányvári sziget

Part of me is reluctant to do anything that might put this place on the tourist map but that’s me being selfish. It’s a gorgeous spot that I’ve written about many times. We went down there this evening, for a walk, to catch the sunset. We passed two couples fishing and a couple of lads trying their luck. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone catch anything, but it’s certainly not for want of trying. Perhaps though it’s the fishing that’s important, not the catching. We passed another couple out walking their dog and then two other friends scuffing through the leaves. It was quiet and peaceful, the only noise coming from the ducks and the geese.

Kányavári sziget sunset kis-balaton

viewing tower on Kányavári sziget

We climbed the 44 steps to the top of the tower and watched the sun go down. Beautiful. Peaceful. Rejuvenating. And it’s only down the road. Perhaps 2018 might be the year to go local, to explore more of Zala megye and the surrounding counties.

Sunset on kis-balaton Kányavári sziget

Wowed by the grandeur of Lillafüred, we continued on our way towards the town of Diósgyőr, now part of the northern Hungarian city of Miskolc. Himself had gotten wind of a castle-castle this time and since it was sort of on our way back to Budapest, we thought: Why not? Read more

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About six months ago, we got a present of an overnight stay in the treehouses of Nozsvaj in northern Hungary. The first available date that suited was the first Monday in September. That says something about how popular the place is. Read more

I went unprepared. I’d heard the bumf: biggest shopping mall in America, has its own amusement park … inside, would take 86 hours to spend just 10 minutes in each store. I didn’t believe it. I thought they were exaggerating. But Mall of America is all that, and more. Read more

We were on holidays in St Joseph’s Hotel in Fethard-on-Sea in Co. Wexford when Elvis Presley died. I didn’t realise what the big deal was until a Dublin girl of my age who I’d been hanging out with appeared one morning in tears. Elvis? Elvis who? Sadly, my musical literacy hasn’t improved much since. But when Laura Ingalls (Melissa Gilbert) and Almonzo Wilder (Dean Butler) were getting it together on the TV series Little House on the Prairie, that rocked my world. Read more

It’s strange going back to a place you haven’t seen in 25 years. There’s a weird sense of sameness and yet everything is so different. Size has been contorted by memory. Things seem smaller or bigger; farther or nearer. So it was in Longview, WA, on the banks of the Columbia River. Read more

There’s a metro stop in Budapest named Astoria. It’s right by the Astoria Hotel, a lovely French-Empire-style building that first opened to guests in March 1914. I wondered briefly if there was a connection between it and Astoria, OR, but sadly not. The hotel got its name because Mihály Gellér, the first General Manager of the hotel, had worked in the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Astoria, OR was named after America’s first millionaire, John Jacob Astor. No story there. Read more

“Wait, what was that? Did I hear something in the attic? There it is again. Oh wait, never mind. It was probably my imagination.” After giving the nod to Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis, how could I not look up The Fonz when in Milwaukee? Fonzie and his catchphrases were part of what made the TV show Happy Days last 11 seasons.

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That’s it. I’m converted. My preferred mode of transport in America is now the train. Yes, Amtrak has its detractors but I’m certainly not one of them. Read more

I’d be hard pushed to tell you where Minneapolis ends and St Paul begins. My geography and sense of place, never good at the best of times, totally let me down in the Twin Cities. Read more