I Taste Spring

I miss traveling. I miss the rush of the airport, the excitement of getting my passport stamped, of exploring new places and reacquainting myself with old haunts.

Most of all, I miss the beautiful, wonderful people in those countries. I miss them a lot.

When I came across this writerly musing of mine, I decided to share it. Because even though I wrote it while standing on the cusp of autumn, and even though it’s about one specific country I longed to see again (Croatia), it was inspired by my heart to travel during a time, a season, when I simply couldn’t. Just like now.

I taste spring.

Weird, isn’t it? Being that fall is right around the corner? Maybe it’s the humidity, kissing my skin as a cool breeze rustles my hair. Maybe it’s this milky-looking sky with its soft gray clouds that whisper promises of rain to come.

Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I just want it to be spring so badly that my imagination has overloaded my senses and tricked me into believing I’m in a different season. Because that’s what I want more than anything: for it to be May, for my bag to be packed, and for my heart to be pounding to the roar of a jet engine.

My tongue is thick with the sweet tang of travel. I long for the anticipation of departure…and arrival. I crave the rush I’ll get when I behold the Adriatic Sea with my own eyes, rather than through a computer screen. I ache to experience – to feel – the buzz of Diocletian’s Palace while I dance to the melody of Slavic voices around me.

I taste spring. I’m hungry for it, and it’s not coming fast enough.

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 Рthis 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….

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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.)
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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.

Review of CROWDSOURCING PARIS

I love all things travel, esp when it involves Paris. This book CROWDSOURCING PARIS follows a cautious writer as he accomplishes 12 adventures his followers have chosen for him to do while in the City of Light. I love the way the author JH Bunting weaves a little French history into his storytelling, & there are gems throughout that make me laugh out loud, along with moments that cause me to marvel at his vulnerability.

“Paris ruins you, makes you vain, makes you drink expensive bits of coffee in tiny cups, makes you talk about yourself. Hypothesis: Perhaps I was vain before Paris. I just didn’t have as much to brag about.” Wow! Haven’t we all been there? These places bring out another side of us sometimes, for better or worse.

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I love checking out crowdsourced projects. I love seeing what’s being offered for our investment, and I adore that we have this means of making people’s dreams come true. This is how the author got to Paris, and the adventures he accomplishes (akin to bold dares in some instances) are hilarious and even cringe-worthy (in a good way!). It’s neat to see the author overcome fear, hesitation, & ultimately himself. I’ve had profound revelations as I’ve read through this, one in particular about overcoming fear and how the fear may never fully leave but that you have to choose to step past it.

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Crowdsourcing Paris is a quick read, & it’s so good, a must-have for anyone who’s been to Paris or who wants to go. Visit this link and see for yourself. Or click the CROWDSOURCING PARIS book below:

Crowdsourcing-Paris-Mockup

This is Bolivia

Bolivia’s tough. It’s a landlocked country, and most of it sits at about 4000 meters above sea level (that’s 12,000 feet, or 2.5 miles). Do you know how hard it is to breathe at that altitude? I didn’t!

Allow me to paint a picture.

Uyuni is where I resided for a month while in Bolivia. It’s in the Potosi department in the south, and it sits on the cusp of Salar de Uyuni (the largest salt flats in the world).

This is a desert region, barren — like being on the moon or in a dusty old ghost town (except this place is populated.

The temperature in Uyuni is hard to describe. The sun will scorch your skin during the day, but because the altitude is so high, the weather is not particularly hot. Rather, the sun can still feel warm on you, but the air is still cold. I actually ended up getting THE WORST sun blisters all over my mouth when I was there. Why? Because I didn’t put on sunblock at 10:00 in the morning. YES. I said¬†ten in the morning.¬†

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That’s not a trick of the light. My face is red, and the sunblisters showed up the very next day en force!

As far as the temperature, it vacillated by about 60 degrees between night and day. Between that and the lack of rain, the altitude, the dusty desert air, several of us got sick.

The housing situation wasn’t the easiest, either, with seven of us sharing the toilet with the house owner and her husband, plus the two families living in the back of the property. The toilet, of course, didn’t flush (we had to pour water to flush it manually).¬†That’s pretty common throughout Latin America. Also, no toilet seats (fair warning!).

To take showers, it was either walk a mile to the public restrooms/showers or take a bucket shower at home (time-consuming and not easy to accomplish while sharing a single outhouse with so many people).

Despite these circumstances, I actually LOVED Uyuni. Bolivia was my favorite country of the three I visited in South America (Peru and Ecuador being the other two), and a ton of backpackers and tourists go through there to see the salt flats.

Here are some other reasons I loved Bolivia:

The people! I love the people! The government isn’t a big fans of Americans (or any non-communist nation, really), but the people are warm and welcoming.

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Our friend took us out for breakfast in Uyuni

The weather was always sunny while I was there, every single day (I went in March, which is their autumn).

You can find some gems for eating, and there are a lot of great tours on the salt flats — be sure to stop by Hotel Tonito and Minuteman Pizza when you’re in Uyuni!

The landscape is incredible, especially out on the salt flat. It really is like being on the moon or on some other world.

When the altitude got to be too much, they have te¬†that helps. And it’s good with honey, yum.

One word: salchipapas. These are fries with either bits of hotdog or another meat, usually with a fried egg. It’s street food and makes a great snack.¬†¬†

The country has two capitals (sort of): La Paz and Sucre. One is the executive and legislative seats of their government, the other is the constitutional capital. But still. Kinda cool, huh? And I can tell you firsthand, La Paz is a really neat place with MASSIVE mountains around the city.

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All right, so even though I felt like¬†this¬†some of the time while I was in Bolivia…

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Sam just keepin’ real when we found out 10 of us were sharing 1 outhouse

And there might’ve been some of this…

There was also a lot of this

And in the end, I felt like¬†this, and I definitely want to go back…