May 26, 2016: Our Day in Bucharest

Today is our one, big day to be tourists in Bucharest so we are dedicating the day to seeing the city.  First thing this morning while everyone was just getting up, Liesl and I set out on a search to see if we could locate some breakfast options.  We walked around the area where our hostel is and also checked out the playground situation.  There is a really nice playground right across the street from the hostel that we think that Luciana is going to really like.  We also found another playground down the street that was smaller but had nice swings for Liesl as swings are her favourite thing at playgrounds at this age.  She just loves getting to swing.

We walked back and reported that we had found nowhere that had breakfast nearby except for the bar that is in our driveway.  We asked at the desk about that and they said that they had breakfast, so we went there.

Breakfast ended up being pretty good.  Lots of fruits and veggies and fried eggs.  Americans are really missing the boat with fresh veggies with breakfast, Europeans get this right much of the time.  Tomatoes and cucumbers are really common breakfast foods over here.  And if you have tomatoes or bell peppers and a good, salty cheese, which they always have here, you have an awesome combination.  A bite of each together is just delicious.  And so healthy.  We lingered for a while at breakfast.

Breakfast in Bucharest

After breakfast we took the girls to the playground across the street and let them play for a while.  We did several travel videos while we were there as well.  Even the girls did some and Luciana has gotten into doing her own YouTube channel, too.  Adorable.

Liesl Manning the Shop at the Playground in Bucharest

After we had time on the playground and had had breakfast it was getting late and we needed to get to the Parliament House to be able to do the tour as the place closes at five and the last tour goes at four and it is some distance away.  We grabbed and taxi and headed across town.  The ride was maybe ten minutes.

At the Parliament House things were a little confusing.  It is not clear how you go in and there is no obvious entrance.  I guess that they just assume that you will arrive on a tour bus and lack even a sign as to where to go in!  We got in, probably around three or three thirty, and once inside it was a mob of people and very confusing there, as well.

We eventually got our tickets, but decided not to pay the extra fee to be allowed to take pictures once inside as the inside of the building will only be so interesting.  We had quite a bit of time to kill until our tour which was going to be the English one at four o’clock, so we had some time to kill.  You must get a tour for this attraction, it is illegal to go around the building unescorted.  So only official government tour guides may take you.

With our spare time we were able to go to the art exhibit which was open in the Parliament House and Luciana especially enjoyed the chance to see a small art museum.  She loves art and had a great time and was hoping that we would be able to come back.

The tour took an hour and a half and was pretty good.  The building, the second largest in the world by square footage and the third largest by volume, is really something and quite recent in comparison to the other giant buildings in its category and the largest government (non-military) in use building anywhere.  I would say that the tour is worth it, it is not so expensive and the “profits” all go towards maintaining the building, which costs a fortune just to keep lit.

Dominica, Liesl and Luciana at the Parliament House in Bucharest

At the end of the tour we were taken out onto one of the balconies and got some seriously impressive views that were well worth it.  Here we were outside so allowed to take some pictures, which we did.

Bucharest from Parliament House

We continued across the street from Parliament House to a park and gardens there that looked interesting (the opposite direction from the way that the picture above was taken) and almost immediately discovered an epic playground that is one of the best that we have ever found.  So that was our afternoon plans right there.

The girls had a great time on the huge playground.  Tons of kids and so much to do.  It was a great find and worth going to with kids even if you skip the parliament tour!  We were very impressed and we made a couple of videos there, as well.

We could not stay as long as we wanted on the playground because we needed to get dinner and I had after dinner plans to meet up with a friend in town.

We took a taxi back to the hostel, and got hit with one of those tourists fake taxi rate scams; word to the wise, when in a city like Bucharest and you are venturing into tourist areas bring the phone number of a real taxi agency with you, it’s worth it.  We only got scammed to the tune of twenty dollars, so it wasn’t tragic, just foolish and annoying.  But a twenty cent phone call would have fixed that, gotten money to a legitimate taxi driver and been far easier, in reality, as finding a taxi where we were was a challenge (and hence why they got us.)

We walked to dinner at Nonna Mia, a fancy Italian place right across from our hostel.  We knew that the girls were not up for any more walking (nor were we, I had to carry Luciana a lot around the parliament building, especially on the stairs) and this was really close and looked good.

Nonna Mia worked out perfectly.  Simple and the food was quite good.  We were happy with it and very glad to be able to just walk home afterwards.

Gabriel, my friend from Axigen, came to the restaurant and picked me up there and we went to the old town for drinks.  Gabriel had not had dinner so we found a place across the intersection from Xclusive where I had eaten last night and he had dinner while I had a few cocktails.  It was a nice evening.

I got home pretty early, maybe just after ten, and worked for a bit before heading off to sleep.  This is the end of our mini trip to Bucharest.  Tomorrow we are heading off to Gara de Nord again and will be taking the train south to Tarnovo, Bulgaria.  Bulgaria is our thirty first country for Dominica and me, and the twenty ninth for Liesl and Luciana.  And Bulgaria wraps up the Balkans for us, with this we will have visited every country in the Balkans by any definition – geographic, geopolitical, socio-economic, peninsular, etc.  Even those that are technically kind of on the peninsula but not considered Balkan like Greece and Turkey.