Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Romanian Travel Guide 2014, part two

Welcome back to part two of my Romanian Travel Guide. Find part one here

Part two is definitely the most exciting of the two parts as I'm thinking about food!

Eating in Romania was definitely an experience with some real highs and lows. Starting the trip in Bucharest meant that we had access to all types of cuisine, in fact we started our first day in the capital with sushi - not exactly classic Romanian! However when we got the chance we opted to try some of the real cuisine.
When we left Bucharest and headed into Transylvania we started to experience more local food. Above is a Romanian meatball soup. The meatballs were in a clear broth which was slightly spiced. Although we ordered the soup as a starter it ended up being a meal in itself, especially with all that bread! A highlight - wish I could find/make soup as tasty as home!

But with all highlights come the low lights - check out this platter:
On first inspection you would be forgiven for thinking - 'what's the problem?' However let me tell you a secret; that plate contains both cubes of smoked fat and shredded tripe! It also contained a dirty tomato (could have done with a wash - still at least it looked organic) and four pieces of dried out pie. The cheese was okay-ish, though a couple of the pieces were extremely salty so hard to eat. Not my greatest food experience but still, it was definitely an experience...

Another low light:
Lamb, polenta and gherkin should be a winner right? What that picture doesn't tell you is what the texture of the lamb was like. Seriously tough, seriously gristly, seriously grim. Lucky for me I like polenta and gherkins or I would have spent the rest of the afternoon very hungry.

However my boyfriend fared better with his meal:
Romanian hunter's stew with polenta; much tastier and filling, the meat was pork and it nice and tender. The sauce was also flavoursome, plus there's an egg on top for that extra bit of protein! 

Sadly we didn't get pictures of all our meals, after a few very stodgy and heavy meals we moved back to lighter foods to ensure they didn't have to roll us back onto the flight! Food in Romania is interesting and sometimes very tasty however it's also better suited to the depths of winter when you are craving heavy, filling meals. Not ideal for Summer when you are trying to keep cool.

One final very exciting point to make:
Yes that is cheap booze that returned home with us! Alcohol is ridiculously cheap in Romania, bottles of wine could be bought for a £1 and spirits cost pence. We've been working through the bottle of plum brandy pictured recently...

Transylvania and driving: 

After our first couple of days in Bucharest we hired a car and drove into Transylvania. Along with the car hire we also paid extra for a sat nav. This saved us having to download expensive updates to our own sat nav for the Romanian road maps. Despite the fact that the guide books warned against driving in Romania we actually found it without too much incident (well there was a slight issue with a speeding warning but that's another story...)

There is one main motorway across Romania. Once you get off the main motorway roads are patchy (see picture above); however they are also quiet, shared with horses and carts and mostly feature stunning scenery so are really quite interesting to drive along.

We had a list of destinations for each day as part of our itinerary however we kept it loose enough that if we spotted an interesting village or landmark we could stop to take a look.

Places we visited in Transylvania included: Brasov, Sighisoara and Sibiu:

On our return journey back to Bucharest we also drove on the Transfăgărășan road, an amazing folly of a road which cuts through the Carpathian mountains. It's known as one of the best drives in the world and has featured on Top Gear here. We were absolutely terrified on the way up as the road wasn't officially open and the weather conditions were bad - thick fog with limited visibility. However we kept going and despite the conditions we made it to the summit just as the fog cleared. We were rewarded with brilliant sunshine on the return journey and had a sunny picnic overlooking a lake.
Not for the faint hearted but very exciting and a holiday highlight for me! After we finished on the Transfăgărășan we sadly had to make our way back to Bucharest and towards the end of the holiday. I loved Romania and would go back soon. I'd recommend it if you would like a (fairly) cheap holiday, that's a bit different, with stunning scenery! 

Let me know if you have been or would like to go? It would be interesting to know other people's thoughts.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Romanian Travel Guide 2014, part one

In June 2014 me and my boyfriend decided to travel over to Romania for a week's holiday. The trip was mainly inspired by cheap flights from Wizz Air and the fact it was somewhere neither of us had visited before. If I'm honest before we started to do our research I don't think I even realised Transylvania was in Romania! 

Here is part one of my little guide to having a great time in Romania.

Our itinerary consisted of:

One night staying at airport hotel
Two days in Bucharest
Four days touring Transylvania
Last day & night back in Bucharest

We used an itinerary we found in a travel guide which was actually for ten days touring so as we were condensing it into a week it really was a whistle stop tour!

Getting there:

We live in Greater Manchester so the easiest way for us to get to Romania was to drive to Doncaster/Sheffield Airport (AKA Robin Hood airport) which took about an hour. Flights go weekly to Henri Coanda  Airport (AKA Otopeni airport - what is with all these airports having two names??) which is just outside Bucharest. The Wizz Air flights we were on, arrived in Romania in the early hours of the morning. This meant arranging accommodation at the airport rather than figuring out transport at a silly hour of the day. Our 'casa' was basic but only 5 minutes walk which was a huge plus!

Motel Casa Romanesca:

Although basic this hotel was also super cheap (£25 for the night) and included breakfast (1 hard boiled egg, 4 slices of ham, 1 x tub of jam and a basket of bread - see picture above!). For a base it was convenient - we also heard rumours that it's a great place to sample traditional Romanian cuisine, so it's worth noting if you want authentic food.

Airport to Bucharest:

We opted for the bus into Bucharest, we managed to purchase tickets at the airport but then got caught out on the bus for fare dodging! Apparently we hadn't registered our card correctly on the bus despite the fact we swiped our card and pressed the button on the machine. It did feel a little bit like they were trying to catch us out to make a extra money on paying fines as we weren't the only tourists being targeted. Best to be aware of this if you are going & ensure your card is properly registered. Our fine was £5 each, so still cheaper than taxi!

Useful information about routes from the airport into Bucharest can be found here

There is also the option of a taxi (which we did on the return journey) though if you go down this route it's best if your hotel/accommodation can ring for you to get you the best deal. There is a train as well, though none of the guides recommend it as an option as it's quite a convoluted journey.


The Romania currency is the LEU (usually referred to LEI or RON to add to the confusion!) it's not the easiet currency to get hold of as most places only hold popular currencies such as dollars or euros. We ordered ours from M&S and they took about a week to arrive. More information can be found here


We visited in June and the weather was lovely; warm enough to wear sandals and summer wear but not too hot that you felt exhausted moving around. Due to the warm weather and the fact Romania is very mountainous we did experience a couple of epic storms, so waterproofs are useful to pack!


In total we spent three full days in Bucharest, not exactly time to get a exhaustive feel for the city but enough to see the main highlights and start to navigate our way round without problems. I thought I could manage a full week in the city - though my other half wasn't quite as convinced!

Key things we did whilst in Bucharest:

The Palace of the Parliament - possibly the biggest attraction in the city, this took up most of our first day. It is the second largest building in the world and the largest in Europe. It's slightly insane if I'm honest - we were booked on a tour by our hotel, I'm not sure how you book otherwise! The main reception area was chaotic. Coach loads of people wandering around, no organised queuing, no proper welcome desk, security guards patrolling and intimidating. However when we finally spoke to someone they ushered us to the front of the masses and onto an English tour. Not sure if this was something to do with our hotel booking us in or the fact an English tour was just leaving. It resulted in grumpy looks and mutterings from everyone else. 

The building is huge and very striking, our tour covered 1km and the guide told us that's only 5% of the building!  Be prepared for huge amounts of walking, which leads me onto:

National Museum of Contemporary Art - this is actually part of the Palace of the Parliament, but it's miles away! We weren't quite sure how to access this gallery once we'd finished our tour so we set off walking round the perimeter. It wasn't well signed so it was quite confusing; even when we got to it, the outside looked very scruffy and unfinished, we had to walk through large pools of water and broken paving. Inside it was fun to look round the art but did feel a little bit empty, there were only a few other people and hardly any staff. We had drinks on the terrace but sadly although it looked as though it might have been regenerated in the last few years it wasn't being well maintained.

The old town - this is your classic area filled with beautiful buildings, churches, museums and places to sit out and eat. Very touristy but when you are on holiday it's what you want! 

Lots of walking -  the best way to get a feel for anywhere, whilst out walking we stumbled across a free music festival taking place in one of the many parks. We stopped to watch 'Vunk' a premier Romanian pop rock band:

For an exhaustive list of things to do in Bucharest check out Romania's tourist information page here

To finish a few more Romania pics:

Coming soon in my Part Two Romanian Travel guide; food and touring Transylvania.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Manchester to Margate

As always it's took me ages to get round to blogging my thoughts on Margate. Looking in my diary it was February when I visited, so only two months ago! My trip to Margate came about due to my other half (Mike) flying out to Jordan from Gatwick. We spent a couple of days in London beforehand and then once I'd waved him off I decided not to head straight back to Manchester but to go home via Margate.

I was interested in Margate mainly to see it's new gallery; the Turner Contemporary. A few years ago I went on holiday to Bilbao in Spain, a city completely rejuvenated by arrival of the Guggenheim Gallery. I wanted to see if The Turner Contemporary had done the same for Margate. Also out of interest I'd never been to Kent so I thought it might be nice to touch on the outskirts via the train journey.

Getting to Margate from London felt fairly exciting, I opted for the high speed train called the Javelin which had it's own platform at St Pancras (I had to stop myself from taking a picture of it!). It took 90 minutes to Margate and passed through fairly interesting countryside. Though the main thing that stood out for me was the rising water levels. The day I travelled to Margate was right in the middle of the recent floods and every stream, river or pond I passed was bursting its banks or overflowing.

On arrival at Margate I got to see the famous 'Dreamland' signage - a nod to the town's tourist heyday, when people flocked to Margate on the train to visit the seaside fun. Dreamland itself was a funfair and amusement centre dating way back to the 1880s. It closed its doors for good at the start of the 2000s. It's now fell into disrepair. When I was reading about its history, it sounded like there was small visitors centre still open but I couldn't find it!

I had booked myself in for an overnight stay in Margate as I wanted the full day there before heading home (Margate - Manchester takes around five hours with changeovers). I stayed at the Reading Rooms which was amazing. It was a little bit more than I would normally spend (though I did get a mid week discount) and had sheer bathroom luxury...check these pictures out:


After I'd checked in I went to visit the Turner Contemporary. The building itself is very striking:

And it has stunning views of the coast:

But once inside I did struggle to comprehend the tiny size of it, I had eaten in the cafe, looked round the shop and seen the exhibition in around 1.5 hours! Okay for a small local gallery but not for one that is hoping to revive a whole town! I personally like galleries that feel like you'd need a lifetime to work through the collections and wander round finding hidden gems.
If I lived in Margate I'd be very happy that the Turner Contemporary had arrived and would probably call in on my lunch break (or to eat my lunch there) but I'm not sure I'd regularly make the journey from say, London - Margate to visit! A little bit disappointing if I'm honest.
After my short visit to the Turner Contemporary I was left a bit at a loose end. The weather was atrocious. I did plan to do a coastal walk with my free time and go to the next village, but unfortunately it was so wild my umbrella snapped and I had to give up. I was drowned. I ended up looking round the town (sorry to say it was a little bit depressing on a rainy day) and sitting in a seafront cafe watching the rain and wondering whether it would be safe to venture out again!
There are other attractions such as the Shell Grotto but as I was visiting during winter season, none of these were open.  
As I also had the evening I decided to keep up with the cultural activities and went to see a production of 'The Seagull' by a company called Resort Studios. It was very enjoyable, though it did take place in a freezing cold garage, heated only by industrial gas heaters so I was chilled to the bone when it ended. Quite a bizarre experience but I decided that my whole Margate trip felt a little bit strange so I just embraced it!
As this has turned into an epic blog post I may as well end with one more picture...


Monday, 3 February 2014

Latest Additions

Today saw me finally sorting out my Christmas beauty presents and recent sale purchases. Along with these items I also managed to get a couple of recent freebies...

Christmas basket:

Lots and lots of lovely items for me to start using throughout this year, I reckon I won't need to buy anything now until 2015! Products I am most looking forward to using are the Origins items as I've never tried them before. I am also keen to start using the Trilogy moisturisers as I've previously has the rosehip oil and it helped my skin greatly.

You Beauty Advent Calendar 2013:

My plan this year was to hangfire buying the You Beauty Advent Calendar as I'd been stung last year; buying it full price only to find it went half price before Christmas. However to my surprise a friend bought it me as a joint Birthday and Christmas present which was amazing. To add to the fun I saved it until January so I had something to open each day of the new year. I've popped everything in a box for the next week or so which means I can continue to look at all the nice things!


I get Martin's Money Saving Expert email each week and like to check for any beauty freebies. This was an excellent one available last week, all you had to do was 'like' the L'Occitane Facebook page, enter your details and you were sent a code to redeem a pack of three handcreams. I've been working in the centre of Manchester recently so it was no problem to nip out on my lunchbreak and pick them up!

Manuka Doctor set of three items. Again I discovered this offer via a blog, only £2.50 postage for the three items, it is still available at this link.
Sale items:

I think Superdrug are currently discontinuing the Andrea Fullerton range. I picked up these two items for 50p and 40p each. I then got 10% student discount off them too!
 Finally I added this Pukka facial serum to my stash for only £7! RRP £32. A nice little bargain from TKMaxx. Thanks TK's!
Have you got any bargains recently?
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