Date of trip: July 2014
Romania is located in the south-east of Europe and Chris and I spent a short but crazy weekend in Bucharest, its capital city. The main purpose of the trip was to see a British musician called Chicane who was gigging over there at the time but as neither of us had been to Bucharest the idea was to max out the short amount of time we had available and to do some sightseeing too.
Sightseeing!! Who am I kidding? Hell no – this is the tale of a mad drunken dash over to Bucharest where most of the sights were of delicious food and alcoholic beverages! Oh and the concert 🙂
Our little escapade began when our alarm went off at 02:30 am! Yes 02:30 which gave us enough time to get ready and drive the 45 minutes or so to Stansted airport in time for our crack of dawn flight. It was still dark when we arrived in pouring rain, parked in the mid-stay car park and patiently waited for the transit bus to take us to the terminal building.
Even at 5 am, Stansted Airport was packed – a complete heaving mass of people! In fact, probably the busiest I had ever seen it! After queuing for our standard Starbucks coffee and snack followed by a quick browse in the shops we made our way across to the gate to board our Ryanair flight.
We were not sitting together as we had opted for Ryanair generated seating which (unlike EasyJet) didn’t seat us together. About an hour into the flight a friendly Romanian woman offered to swap with Chris so we could sit together but the couple next to him were both asleep so we didn’t bother!
The 3 hour flight went quickly and before we knew it we were landing in Bucharest thankfully into bright sunshine. Bucharest is 2 hours ahead of the UK which meant we arrived at 11:30 am.
We went through immigration and stepped outside the airport where we took a taxi straight to the hotel I had booked previously. The taxi took around 20 min and cost 50 lei (or around £10) which we thought was pretty good value!
We checked into the 5* Athenee Palace Hilton hotel which was quite a treat for us! Prices were low in Bucharest and at the time this was only about £60 for the one night. The helpful hotel receptionist kindly let us have our room early and had given us a quiet room on the top (7th) floor.
Having left our backpacks in our lovely comfortable room we obtained a map from the reception and set off to explore the highlights of Bucharest. However we didn’t venture too far as we were peckish so the first stop was an outside bar with green foliage that offered plenty of shade. We relaxed in the attractive courtyard as we shared a tasty pizza with a glass of red wine each. The pizza was large and perfect for two with the total cost of lunch being 20 euros (about £18 at the then exchange rate).
By early afternoon the sun was hot at around 28 degrees as we walked the short distance towards the old town pausing to take the odd photo along the way.
We found a covered alley way with lots of bars and cafés inside where we had a drink. Sticking with the alcohol theme (we’re on a mini holiday, right?) I had a Baileys frappe and Chris had a beer. We sat amidst a strange yellow tinge due to the yellow glass in the ceiling! There was no air-conditioning but the cafe had a mist spraying mechanism from the top of its canopy which we soon discovered these are a feature of many of the bars and restaurants.
We continued sauntering around the old town to look for sights. Having packed very lightly and minimalistically for our mini-trip neither of us had any sun cream so we tried to stay out of the sun where possible. We found it necessary to sit in the shade in another outside bar and indulge in a small jug of sangria each 😉
At around 5 pm we returned to the hotel to have a nap and chill for a bit, before showering and getting ready for a long evening!
Feeling suitably revived we left the hotel just after 8 pm and stepped outside into the sultry evening heat. We headed back to the old town which was vibrant with people sitting outside relaxing in bars and cafés.
We stumbled upon quite a large traditional Romanian restaurant called ‘Caru’ cu bere‘ (The Soul of Bucharest) and decided that it would be good to experience some Romanian food and culture for the evening. The restaurant had a lively atmosphere with the staff dressed in traditional costume and the menus were like newspapers!
We had a great table outside where we were able to appreciate the delightful warm evening. Of course, us Brits love to make the most of outside dining when we can and luckily we were still able to enjoy the traditional music and some of the dancing which was taking place inside.
Following a little nibble of garlic bread, then a starter I polished off a local dish of pan fried chicken with sautéed vegetables and washed down with some fabulous house red. The vegetables were a bit sparse and there were no chips however I enjoyed the chicken (back at a time before my preference now for vegan and vegetarian food).
Feeling relaxed and I guess a tad merry we left the restaurant just after 10 pm. We took a taxi to Carol Parc where the Chicane concert was taking place. Carol Parc is a large public park in central Bucharest which hosts a range of exhibitions and events from time to time.
The journey was only 15 lei (£3) and the friendly driver took us straight to the correct entrance. By now it was dark but we walked around for a bit before the support band started, then went into the venue proper.
It felt weird and surreal to be ambling around in a park on a lovely warm night in Bucharest in the dark at 11 pm listening to raucous blaring music! There were a few bars around including a cocktail bar so we had a mojito each. The drinks contained a generous measure of rum and with the mint, lime and soda tasted deliciously refreshing!
We went to the seating area where we had a good view of the stage. The music was fast and lively electro Euro type music so while not my kind of thing the experience and atmosphere was great.
After a while we got another cocktail (tequila sunrise this time) and stayed in our seats. The support act went on for ages…
Eventually Chicane came on at around 1:30 am. After a while we left the seats and stood near the front. I had never listened to Chicane music before then (this was a Chris idea) but it was a kind of electro dance music. Most music is pretty fab when loud and live! We eventually left the concert at about 3 am, completely exhausted!
We got a taxi back and finally fell into bed at 3:30 am!
Ahhh Sunday morning… after a short sleep we got up, showered and (admittedly feeling a bit rubbish and slightly hung over) went for breakfast in the hotel. The breakfast was amazing and yes noteworthy! All very fresh and very well presented with an excellent choice. Probably the second best breakfast I’ve had (after the fabulous Casa Del Mar in Langkawi – now that breakfast would take some beating!)
After breakfast we collected our backpacks, checked out and took a taxi back to the airport. This time the cost was only 30 lei (£6) but we didn’t feel we had been ripped off with it being £10 the previous day as that was still very good compared with the London prices we were used to!
We got to the airport and went straight through immigration (with our pre-printed boarding passes back in the day before a mobile app) and into the departure lounge. Having a browse and thinking I was getting a bargain in this wallet-friendly country I brought a large bottle of my favourite Coco Mademoiselle for 84 euros (£73 then).
The flight departed more or less on time and we had better seating as we were in C and D meaning we were next to each other but across the aisle! Again the 3 hour flight passed fairly quickly and arrived back into Stansted at 12:50.
D’oh… Got back to Stansted and found I could have brought the same perfume for £62 in the last chance duty free shop 😦
We never usually drink that much booze, ummmm honest! Looking back the volume and variety in those 24 hours is pretty shocking and we are much more sensible these days! But I remember this mini adventure with fondness and a certain degree of inspiration. Back then we didn’t realise how fortunate we were that we had freedom to nip off to a European country, without taking any time from work, without it being expensive and literally just to indulge in a bit of fun, frivolity and shameless intoxication! We’re looking forward to when we might have the opportunity to do this again sometime and make a few more memories!