Review of Craft

If you’re hungry, you might want to turn back. Seriously, the food pics below might just make your mouth water.


Craiova is a little city west of Bucharest. They have botanical gardens, a water park, and a huge green park designed by French architect Edouard Redont. There’s a jogging trail, a lake, a suspended bridge, a hippodrome, and a lot of great scenery for picture-taking. If you’re into shopping, Craiova has a modern mall, an open-air market, and plazas with shopping and restaurants. We even found an eclair shop!

We went to Craiova to visit friends and to serve with a ministry (I delivered toys and food to families in need, and we ended up visiting some Roma churches). It was a great experience, but there are some things you’ll need to know before you plan a trip there.

First, you’ll need to plan accordingly. We traveled to Craiova from Brasov (Transylvania) and realized there was no direct route by train. We had to pass through Bucharest, which was fine by us. They have Left Luggage at Gara de Nord, and the rail station is nearby to my Unchiul’s house. We were able to stop in and have an early dinner with him at Beijing Garden (BEST Chinese food I’ve ever had in my life) before our late afternoon train departed.

Overall, it was a very long day of traveling: 3 hours from Brasov to Bucharest, our 2-hour layover in Bucharest, then 4 more hours to Craiova.

TIP: Be sure to book a First Class ticket on the train, especially during the summer. The price doesn’t go up a whole lot, and the extra lei is worth it. The train to Craoiva is slow, can get very packed with commuters, and it can be very hot and stuffy. You’ll want that extra space to breathe, as well as for your belongings. And if you’re lucky, the air conditioning will work in the First Class cabin, but no guarantees. We’ve ridden First Class when the A/C works well, and other times where it works poorly – but it’s always worth a shot.

A lot happened in Craiova, and there will be some reviews coming shortly that — well, aren’t my usual, glowing reviews (sneak preview of those below). Even so, our experience was awesome and we love our friends there, so we will definitely go back.

One of the highlights of this trip was a restaurant called Craft. The food was phenomenal, the drinks were very unique, and the atmosphere was magnifique.

I ordered the pork steak with mashed potatoes and a side of butter pickles. This dish was fantastic! The cream sauce was buttery and offset the pork perfectly.

pork

Chris ordered the seafood pasta, which I was a little bit leery of because Craiova is nowhere near the sea. But I have to say, it tasted very fresh. His portion size was also substantial (not uncommon in Romania!), and his Romanian wine complemented the dish very well.

I was impressed by their presentation, the trendy feel of the menu, and the modern atmosphere. The waitstaff was excellent, too. We are accustomed to waiting a long time for our food when we’re in Romania (it’s not uncommon for staff to forget about us or mix up our order). HOWEVER, the waitstaff at Craft was incredible and the service was fast. We were in and out in about one hour.


Kay’s Score

number of Backpacks is based on a scale of 1 to 5

Food: 5 Backpacks – absolutely incredible; couldn’t have asked for better quality or flavor

Atmosphere: 4 Backpacks – would’ve been a 5, but I love bustling spaces for meals out (reader, keep in mind: we were there at an odd hour in the middle of the week)

Service: 5 Backpacks – fantastic service; very attentive waitstaff

Price: 4 Backpacks – the drinks were about average, but the food was lower than I was expecting (especially for what we got)

Overall Experience:  5 Backpacks – this was my overall experience, and I cannot wait to go back!


Sneak Preview

Here’s a sneak preview of some upcoming reviews I’ll be posting….

waterpark - filing complaint
Why are we filling out a complaint form at the water park? (Those are our friends speaking to the staff about a very, um – unexpected – incident I walked in on.)
20190605_213420
Sooo…Chris and I might’ve gotten scammed at this restaurant in the mall’s food court. I’ll explain what happened in the review.

Stay tuned for what should be some interesting reviews…

 

kay exploring
When Kay’s not writing, you might find her feeding homeless people, exploring ancient churches and basilicas, or aimlessly wandering around the cities she adores. She especially loves to wander around Bucharest at night, and she’ll never refuse a late-night stroll down Brasov’s Strada Republicii.

Review of Albert Bistro

I’ve been reminiscing over my photos from Romania. I miss it so much, and I decided I would get around to posting a few reviews. This may or may not have been a good idea, lol. I am now very hungry and longing to see those beautiful Carpathian Mountains.

Okay. Deep breath. Here we go.


There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of good food in Romania, especially Brasov. If ever we ventured into Centrul Vechi (the medieval part of the city), all we had to do was google places to eat near me. The search results always produced a plethora of highly rated restaurants.

Brasov. The Paris of Transylvania?

Maybe. If Paris were known for incredible Bavarian food, palinca (strong fruit liquor), and six-lei ($1.50 USD) glasses of rosé wine.

For real, though. Brasov is one of my favorite places in the world. I love it almost as much as Bucharest, if you can believe that (I love Bucharest a lot), and one big draw to Brasov (at least for me) is the wonderful food and drink.

Our tour guide, Diana Lupa, suggested we eat at a place called Albert Bistro. They have a lovely outdoor patio area, and the restaurant is down in a cellar. We stopped in during what appeared to be a slow lunchtime and made dinner reservations. They didn’t have availability for later that evening, so we made it for the following evening.

The following evening, we arrived and were very excited and hungry. To our chagrin, however, they didn’t have us listed for a reservation. Thankfully, they accepted us anyway. Good, I thought. Because this place is probably going to be-

I would have finished that sentence with “packed,” except that when we arrived there weren’t any other guests. At all. We were told there were only two reservation slots available for dinner that evening, but…where was everyone?

We were early. That’s what I told myself. But as the evening unfolded, only one other guest arrived. This was very confusing for me. It was like they were severely limiting their reservations.

That was okay by me, because the food was INCREDIBLE. They had decent prices on drinks, too. We had the Romanian red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot), and Chris had a beer. The music was good – hard rock and heavy metal songs covered acoustically and sung by a female vocalist in a jazzy style. This plus the avant-garde artwork/decor made for a chill but also unique atmosphere, which I loved.

I had the beef filet (perfect with the red wine). Our friend Jacque had a curry chicken dish. Chris had pasta. All-in-all with aperifs, dinner, wines, and digestifs, Chris and I spent about fifty USD for both of us (that’s including tip). It’s more than we normally pay when we travel (you know me – give me mici and a bere, and I’m good!), but we got a lot for what we paid. And the food truly was delicious.

By the way, no other guests showed up. It seemed that our table and the table across the restaurant were the two reservations I mentioned.

FYI for anyone on a budget: the pasta dishes fell in the 20-something lei range, but the main dishes were significantly more (35-50 lei). I believe the food is worth it (a real treat after a long day). But if you aren’t able to make reservations or if you need something for a shoestring budget, you’ll want to check out some of the other places around Strada Republicii.


Kay’s Score

number of Backpacks is based on a scale of 1 to 5

Food: 4 Backpacks – delicious

Atmosphere: 4 Backpacks – would’ve been a 5, but the lacking crowd diminished the atmosphere for me

Service: 3 Backpacks – was a slow considering there wasn’t really anyone else there, and the waitstaff rarely checked on us (this is pretty common in Romania, though)

Price: 3 Backpacks – was a little more than I expected, but it would’ve been more back home

Overall Experience: 4 Backpacks

dancing bucharest
Overall, worth dancing a little jig.

When Kay’s not writing, you might find her cruising around the streets of Bucharest in Ubers that may or may not be legal. She loves eating mici, dancing with elderly Romanian chaps, and…did she mention the mici? She’s a Texas gal whose heart never left Romania after that very first visit.

Highlights from Paris (VIDEO)

Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive. I spend less when I’m in Paris than I do at home by following these simple tips.

Money-Saving Tips

  • Shopping at local markets
  • Traveling during the off-peak seasons (we usually go to Paris in the fall)
  • Eating in instead of dining out
  • Using money-saving apps like THE FORK when I do eat out
  • Buying wine at the grocery store and having a glass with meals in (water with meals out)
  • Splitting a larger plate with my husband
  • Staying in arrondissements that aren’t heavily touristed (I love the 13th in the southern part of the city – lots of locals, hardly any tourists)
  • Taking advantage of public transportation
  • Walking whenever and wherever I can – this is good for my pocketbook and my waistline 😉
  • Go to museums that are a free, or go the first Sunday of the month when many are free
  • Download a street art map online and walk around, searching for the artwork by famous street artists like Banksy and Invader
  • Don’t rent a car IF you can keep from it (some places outside the city require it). Gas can be expensive in other countries. In Paris, petrol was about 1.60 euros per LITER (there are about 4.5 liters in one gallon)
  • Here are a few of my favorite supermarkets in Paris: Carrefour, Franprix, Monoprix, Auchan.
  • In Romania: Mega Image, Carrefour, Profi

 

20181129_181310
This spread cost about 20 euros at Franprix and lasted my husband and I for two meals: salad, cold cuts, dehydrated meat, dessert, chocolates, and two bottles of wine.

Here’s how I save money on the big stuff (flights, accommodations, transportation)….

Getting there

I love traveling on miles. My husband and I are Skymiles members, and we use our miles whenever we can. We also have the Delta American Express credit card, which gives us tons of benefits (discounted entry to Delta lounges, free checked bags, extra miles on all purchases, priority boarding, etc.).

Tip: If you have extra Skymiles to spare, you can use them for premium drinks in Delta lounges.

20181128_082059
I’ve found flights to CDG (Charles De Gaulle) from JFK (New York City) for under $300 or about 22,000 miles. Out of EWR (Newark) – around $400 or 38,000.

Accommodations

We love staying with locals in Airbnbs. You can also save money by using miles to book hotels – 10,000 miles from American Airlines got us one night at a boutique hotel in Montmarte, Paris. We also used points from our Bank of America travel card to pay for our Airbnb, so our accommodations.

Tip: Always check reviews on Airbnbs. Nothing is a guarantee, but Superhosts have the title because they have an excellent reputation and lots of positive reviews. We’ve had some fantastic experiences and have met some wonderful people by staying in Airbnbs.

20181128_150508_HDR
View from our Airbnb in Gentilly in the 13th

Transportation

Occasionally, we take cabs when traveling overseas. This is much more doable in Romania, where the exchange rate is better, although you still get the occasional cabbie who tries to overcharge. We prefer Uber if and when we can, if we do have to take a cab.

Tip: Lyft doesn’t operate everywhere Uber does. Be sure to check ahead of time if you’re expecting to take Lyft.

We love taking the Metro and RER in Paris, which is a lot less expensive than cabs. There’s a tram that goes around the outside of the city, and it’s easy to navigate. There are also buses, including buses that will take you direct to Orly and CDG airports.

Tip: These airport buses are cheaper than taking the Metro and RER (the airports are pretty far away from the city, especially Charles De Gaulle), but the buses take a little longer (expect 60-90 minute transit time).

20191202_120835_HDR
Metro Station on the Right Bank

Here’s a video with highlights from our last two trips. Enjoy!