Saturday, January 30 I walked to the Lipscani district (Old Town). In the Middle Ages this was the most important commercial center in Bucharest. The district was planned to be destroyed during the communist times but this never happened. As of 2008, the city started renovating the district but they ran into a dilemma; after digging up the streets the ruins from the old buildings were discovered and this fact gave the city council 2 options: first one, to preserve the ruins and turn them into an historic site (which requires a lot of money for maintenance) and second option is to simply pave the streets and move on. The Bucharest mayor’s office cannot make a decision and some streets are left all dug up until… no one really knows when.
The district is now very popular when it comes to night life. Some websites claim it hosts over 60 cafes pubs and restaurants (as of early 2009), I would say this number must be closer to 100.
Well, after walking for a while I went to have an espresso atGrand Café Van Gogh on Str. Smardan. This Dutch owned café must be one of the best in town. Beautiful interior, big long windows, friendly staff, reasonably priced coffee, food and alcohol make it a great place for any time of the day.
I will surely be back to Lipscani to check out some of its popular pubs and restaurants… Later on that night I went to Silence pub with Bogdan and his friends; two Vlads and Dan. This small and kind of hidden bar is right next to Piata Romana, besides alcohol and coffe you could also enjoy Turkish Shisha. Beer is rather cheap, 0.5L of Beck’s costs under 5 Lei (less than $2) and the atmosphere is very nice.
A little past midnight I made it to Deja-Vu cocktail bar, I guess I can call it the “usual” place for me. It’s conveniently located just a few blocks away from my building, the cocktails are great and both barmen; Sergei and Ivan make sure that preparing a cocktail looks like a show or a ritual of some sort, very entertaining… I had quite a few drinks, some were on the house and at 5:30 when I was getting ready to leave, Sergei surprised me by bringing a plate of fresh, hot and very tasty ciorbă and some bread. That night (morning) I went home pretty tipsy, well fed and happy
On Sunday I woke up pretty late, since I went to bed at about 7am. Ruxi called at 3pm and told me Radu and her were going for lunch or maybe a drink and asked me if I wanted to join them – of course I did. Radu suggested that we should go for some “mititei” also referred to as “mici”. I already knew what mici was since I have quite a few Romanian friends in Montreal but for those who don’t know; ” Mititei or mici (Romanian for little or small ones) is a traditional Romanian dish, grilled minced-meat rolls made from beef (usually mixed with mutton and pork), which contain garlic, black pepper, thyme, coriander, anise, savory and sometimes a touch of paprika.” (thank you, Wikipedia).
There were a lot of people so it took about 30-40 minutes until we got the food; mici, fried potatoes and pui la jar – chicken grilled with garlic and other spices. Beer, of course goes very well with mici so we had the local Ursus.
Sunday, January 17th was a pretty calm day. When I woke up, in the afternoon, I decided to go check out Unirii Square, actually the Unirea Shopping Center. It’s one of the first (if not first) modern mall in the country, over 250 shops are spread through 4 floors… I did not like the way it’s organized, however if you are looking for clothing, gifts, cosmetics, cellphones – you cn probably find what you need at Unirea. The metro stations right in front of the center is called Piata Unirii. I walked there from Piata Romana, where I am staying then I got a call from Bogdan who told me we were going to a pub, so I went home by metro to save some time.
I think it was after 9 when I met Bogdan at the Victory Square (Piata Victoriei metro station). We walked for a few blocks and made it to the pub called “Sailors”. Pretty cool place, it has 2 floors of sitting area and in the basement you can play darts. The beer is well priced, 6 Lei (about $2) per 0.5L (I think that’s what it was) of Beck’s… Some of Bogdan’s friends were there some came later. By the end of the night there was Bogdan, Sebi (whom I keep calling Stefi), Sebi’s girlfriend Georgiana, Theodora, Ionica (another Bogdan), Alex a.k.a Pizdinu (I will not translate his nickname -but those who know, know) and me. The party ended a bit after midnight because most people have a job to go to in the morning. Georgiana being the most sober one drove Sebi, Bogdan and me home… I love how Touareg handles winter weather :
When I got home I did not want to go to bed… so I decided to go get a drink at a bar. Since I live downtown I figured there should be many bars near me. After walking for about five minutes I spotted a place called “Deja-Vu” so I went in. The bar had a Russian theme going on (posters from communist times), the music was ok and there were 2 very good looking and almost naked girls dancing on the bar… I got a Jack & Coke (how American of me).
I met both barmen for the night, Sergei and Ivan – I spoke Russian to them. They told me the place is indeed a Russian bar/club and is a known cocktail bar. The cocktails are very overpriced; 24 Lei ($8) for the Jack’n’Coke. It’s a normal price for Canada but for Bucharest it is very expensive, Sergei confirmed it, he told me they are one of the most expensive places in town. Beer, however is not as expensive, 10 Lei ($3.5) for a glass of Heineken on draft. Sergei also offered me a drink on the house. I can’t remember the name but it was made out of Vodka, melon and garlic – I liked it.
The atmosphere is nice, from what they told me the music is usually good (live DJ mixing mainstream house, much of it is Russian and Romanian house) and on Wednesdays they have live music from 11pm til 1am. I will be coming back to Deja-Vu You can check them out online: Deja-Vu Club
After my short stay in Paris I flew to Bucharest, the capital of Romania. Well, actually I had no clue the Boeing 737 actually flew to Lyon, France…don’t ask, some kind of collaboration between Air France and Tarom. Some people got off and within 15 minutes I was finally on my way to Bucharest.
At the passport control I wasn’t even asked about my purpose of visiting, the power of Canadian passport, eh! Of course my luggage did not arrive… that was expected. I filled out a lost luggage form and was told I should get it … eventually. Bogdan, a friend of a friend picked me up and drove me to the apartment I booked while in Paris. The initial apartment I booked was no longer available (some plumbing issues) so the agent offered me a 2 bedroom apartment instead (of a studio) for the same price. Smack downtown I have everything I need here; metro stop is about 1 minute walk away, great restaurants, nice clubs, cozy pubs, 24 hour groceries and so on.
View from my window:
I rented an apartment because (surprisingly) it is much cheaper than a hotel room, although the place is cleaned every 3 days, towels and bed sheets are changed as well. It was late, I just wanted to eat and go to bed. I found a currency exchange office right next to my building (most are open 24h) and changed some euros to Lei. I then bought some food at mini-market which is a block away from me and went to bed.
Friday Bogdan showed me around town… we walked for the most part. Went to the old town (where we’ll be heading tonight again only this time not to look at the historical part of town but rather get some drinks at a bar). We also walked to the monumental “Casa Poporului” or People’s House in English; the biggest building in Europe… those who watch Top Gear know what I am talking about
It’s incredibly big and beautiful. We tried to walk around it but gave up fast… it’s just too huge.
I went home, took a shower and headed out for a drink with some old friends (who were suppose to move to Montreal at some point). We went to an Italian restaurant “Trattoria” (how original, lol). It’s reasonably priced and Pizza is delicious… recommended! A little past midnight Ruxi and Radu went home and I met up with Bogdan. We went to Studio Martin, a known club in Bucharest, I really wanted to go because Ronski Speed was spinning that night. The show was great, the place is cool as well but we started getting a little too drunk and at 4:30am or so headed home… great night!
Well, here is the first post… it should have been here 2 days ago but I didn’t have my laptop charger because… let’s start from the beginning.
Seems like I will be traveling a lot in 2010, and by a lot I mean at least 8 months out of the year so I decided to start this blog; to keep my friends and family updated and to provide helpful tips to folks who will travel to sam destinations as me.
On January 12th I hoped on a plane in YUL (Montreal) with a final destination of Bucharest, Romania. At the airport I was told that my flight from Paris to Bucharest (layover) was canceled. No big deal, Air France made me another ticket for a plan that was schedule one hour after the original – which gives me an extra hour to visit Paris (my layover was 9 hours).
On January 13th I arrived to Charles de Gaulle airport at 7 am.
Cab fares seemed a little too expensive so I decided to take the train to town. The lady at the RER counter was very nice and welcoming, maybe because I spoke French however, she gave me a map and circled all the locations I should visit in Paris, she also explained how ticketing worked and advised me to purchase a full day unlimited pass for 18.70 euros instead of the 17 euro ticket which only gives me access to a round trip from the airport.
First stop – Saint-Michel Notre Dame. The train took about 45 minutes to reach the destination. To my surprise it was still dark outside eve though it was past 8am. First thing I saw was whole bunch of motorcycles and scooters driving on te streets… it surprised me only because it was snowing and there was at least 2cm of snow everywhere… a little slippery to ride a motorbike, no? I guess not for the French. I walked to the Cathedrale Notre-Dame and took some pictures from the outside. Yes, we have our own in Montreal but this was the real deal.
I walked around for an hour and decided to go see the Eiffel Tour. How big of a cliché? Being in Paris for the first time and only for half a day – I had to at least see it. I went down to the metro and took the C line and took the metro towards Chateau de Versailles. La Tour Eiffel was only a few stops away from Notre-Dame. I walked to it, hoping maybe I could go up. When I saw the never-ending line of tourists to the ticket counter – I thought that going u the tower was not important and I’ll get a chance to do it this summer… so I decided to take a few snaps and walk around the neighborhood.
After walking around and getting my feet wet and cold, I decided that Eiffel Tour took enough of my time so I headed back to Saint-Michel. The RER lady at the airport told me there were a lot of nice places if I was hungry. There were hundreds It’s called Quartier Latin and it’s a maze of coffee shops and restaurants. I found a place that seemed nice, it’s called “Le Depart”. I had a crêpe with cheese, ham and an egg and of course a coffee… an American coffee as they cal it. The price was reasonable (10 Euros) or maybe the price seemed fine only because restaurants near the Eiffel tower charged as much for a coffee and a croissant… anyways the food was good and I enjoyed their free WiFi while there.
I walked around some more and headed back to the airport. Although the weather was bad and I didn’t have much time, I enjoyed my short stay in Paris and can’t wait till I come back for more this summer.
I gotta run now, next post should be here later today… and hopefully before I go out to a club because unlike Montreal, Bucharest clubs ad bars are open until 5 am or longer 😀