A Travellerspoint blog

Bucharest, Romania

sunny

I landed at the airport in Bucharest, Romania and after going through customs, I made my way to the local bus to my hotel. The guidebook said the bus cost two Euros and I had brought some Euro coins from a previous trip. Unfortunately, the woman would not take the Euro coin (apparently they do not accept Euro coins, but will take paper currency). I tried to pay with my credit card but she said she needed a pin number. Fortunately, a young woman overheard what was going on and offered to exchange Romanian Lei for my Euro coin. And she gave me exactly what is the exchange rate at any bank. I couldn't thank her enough. I quickly got on the bus and we headed to downtown Bucharest which took about 45 minutes. I was very surprised to see many expensive cars on the roads such as BMW's, Land Rovers, and Audis. We drove by the US Embassy, and there were military police with visible automatic machine guns. I asume it was in response to the assault on the US Consulate in Benghazi.

Finally we arrived at my stop at Piata Unirii, and I saw the Europa Royale Hotel just two blocks from the bus stop, just as I had estimated by doing a street view on Google maps. I checked in to a beautiful modern room with a view of the city and a shopping mall with H&M, Pull & Bear, and Zara. After getting settled, and feeling relieved to have finally made it, I went downstairs for dinner in the hotel restaurant. It was a beautiful room and the service was very attentive, and the food was delicious. I had a glass of Romanian wine, a large salad, grilled chicken breast served on a hot stone that continues to cook the chicken, french fries, and grilled vegetables. It was the best meal I have had in Romania.

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Next day I went downstairs for breakfast...a standard European buffet...meats, cheeses, rolls, eggs, etc. A young German man who teaches at Bucharest University sat at my table and we had a nice conversation. Then I checked with the front desk and they were able to make a reservation for me at 12:00 to take a tour of the colossal Palace of Parliament originally built by Ceausescu in the 1980s. It is the second largest government building after the Pentagon. I was lucky to get in because it was closed the day before for a conference of the prime ministers of the European Union. After arriving, you have to surrender your passport and go through heavy security. It was amazing! It is decorated with marble, gold leaf, and 4,500 chandeliers, the largest of which weighs 1.5 tons. After we left each room, the tour guide shut off the lights because they estimate that the electric bill costs 500,000 Euros a month!!

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After the tour I walked down Bulevardul Unirii and stopped at a McCafe for a cafe frappe. Below is a view from the balcony of the Palace of Parliament.

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I walked through the historic quarter known as Lipscani which is a maze of streets and old buildings and houses, some of which are very rundown, but is being regentrified with cafes and clubs. I visited the Old Court Church, the oldest church in Bucharest, dating from 1546. It was beautiful inside.

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Then I walked to Piata Universitati, one of the key sites of the 1989 revolution. There are many memorials along the way including stone crosses in the road island to those killed at Christmas 1989 and in June 1990. West of the square is Bucharest University. I continued on to Piata Revolutiei where in 1989 Ceausescu was forced to flee after days of fighting, the crowds surrounding the Communist Party Headquarters, where Ceausescu made his famous speech on the balcony in 1989.

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There are two memorials there dedicated to those who died in the revolution.

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And the Library of the University of Bucharest.

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I walked down Calea Victoriei and ended back at the historic quarter and stopped in at the Stavropoleos Church. After dealing with the traffic and construction noises, I opened the door to another world. This small, intimate church was dark except for a few candles, and the nuns were singing Byzantine chants. A small moment that I will never forget. I had some Hungarian goulash and salad at a restaurant in Lipscani and went back to my room.

Posted by lcostet 16:45 Archived in Romania

York & Last Day in London

We said goodbye to Aileen at our B&B and got the train to York. We came into town on a very busy weekend with no reservation, and were lucky enough to secure a room through the Tourist Information Center. We got some dinner and a pint at another Wetherspoons location, and walked through the medieval walled city of York to the massive cathedral called "The Minster."

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On our second day in York we went back to "The Minster" and visited the inside after the church service was over. Then we joined a great two and a half hour tour of York led by a local volunteer. It was a very enlightening and informative tour which included stops at the Monastery ruins, the Roman and medieval walls and bars, Roman sarcophagi, the Minster, and the Shambles, which is the most visited street in all of Europe.

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Had a delicious dinner and boarded the train next day for London Heathrow. After checking in our room at the Premier Inn near Heathrow Airport, we decided to take the train back into central London for one last look, coming full circle back to where we started four weeks earlier. We walked the streets, had dinner, said our goodbyes to Big Ben, and took the train back to our hotel for our last night of a great vacation!

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Posted by lcostet 17:00 Archived in England

Ghosts of Edinburgh

We got a bus to the Ocean Terminal and toured the ship the Britannia, which took the Royal Family all over the world for forty years until it was decommissioned. The ship was somewhat dated and modest by today's standards, but still very impressive. Queen Elizabeth entertained Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, President Eisenhower, and Boris Yeltsin on board to name a few.

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Back in the city center, we walked the Royal Mile, and through the New Town, occasionally hearing the sound of a bagpipe played by a street performer in full dress.

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After dinner, we went on a ghost tour at 10:00 pm called the "City of the Dead" which took us to the underground vaults of the city of Edinburgh where the poorest of the poor lived in squalor. Then it was a visit to the reputedly haunted Greyfriar's Cemetery, and the locked and gated section called "Covenanters' Prison" which consists of enclosed vaults. Greyfriars also has two low ironwork cages, called mortsafes. These were installed to protect the buried bodies from resurrection men who supplied Edinburgh Medical College with corpses for dissection.

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According to local legend, one such restless spirit is George Mackenzie, buried there in 1691. The "Mackenzie Poltergeist" is said to cause bruising, bites, and cuts on those who come into contact with it, and many visitors have reported feeling strange sensations. It was certainly creepy, and when I attempted to take a flash photo, Jason said he saw a ghost and we bolted out of there!

Posted by lcostet 13:15 Archived in Scotland

Edinburgh Day 1

We got some breakfast and checked out of our hotel and walked a few blacks to the B&B I had reserved ahead

for two nights. Aileen, the owner of Victorian Townhouse was so welcoming and such a terrific lady. The room,

decorated in an African-inspired decor, was fantastic. It was the best of our trip. We went out and

walked up the very long hill to Edinburgh Castle, and toured the castle, which included the crown jewels of

Scotland...not as spectacular as England's crown jewels.

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The One O'Clock Gun is fired every day at precisely 13:00.

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Then we walked along the Royal Mile, stopping in St. Giles Church.

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We made our way along Princes St. stopping in some stores, and up to the New Town where

we found a great restaurant called Wetherspoons.

Posted by lcostet 21:22 Archived in Scotland

St. Andrews Day 2

It was another beautiful warm sunny day in St. Andrews. We had the B&B's award-winning porridge for breakfast and checked out. We walked the Scores Road along the water, stopping to see the remains of the Cathedral and monastery, and the St. Andrews University quad.

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We got to the St. Andrews golf course and decided to walk the pathway along the course toward the water. After walking about seven holes and not spotting any celebrities, we decided to head back. As we were walking along we came upon a group of golfers that were teeing off within feet of where we were. It was Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia, and Huey Lewis! We couldn't believe we just happened to come upon them just as we were almost back to the beginning of the course. I snapped a few photos, and took some video of them. It made our day to see Michael Douglas, one of my favorite movie stars!

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We got back to the car and headed to Edinburgh. We returned our rental car and got the bus into the city center, and walked a sort distance to our hotel. Later, we got some dinner at a pub in the Grassmarket area of Edinbugh.

Posted by lcostet 21:02 Archived in Scotland

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