Thursday, 28th August 2008 – Bucharest, Day 1
The Bucharest weekend had all sorts of things going for it this year, most notably the fact that the weather was a damn sight better than last year. At least this time we knew what we were in for – though I swear I will have a sign made up with the Romanian for “Yes, I’m blonde! Get over it!” printed on it in big letters if we go back next year. Outside of China I’ve never been stared at quite so hard or so often.
Anyway, that aside, we flew out of Heathrow again this year (there’s not an enormous amount of choice to get to Bucharest and the budget airlines all had stupid departure times/were from Stansted which is a bugger to get to for us, so BA it was. Which of course meant the new, shiny T5 and the slightly worrying sensation that we might never see our luggage again. With a sensibly timed flight we duly presented our already checked in selves at the fast bag drop, which we cleared in around 10 minutes, and we were soon through security as well and treating ourselves to an excellent – and fully deserved (well, we thought it was) – Champagne breakfast courtesy of Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food establishment which is a vast improvement on many airport establishments – well we had to go somewhere as Priority Pass lounges, who we usually rely on, don’t have any arrangements at T5 so far.
The Champagne was good, the fresh orange juice plentiful, and I drank my way through two pots of coffee to go with my Eggs Benedict Norvegienne and the basket of pastries. All very civilised, quiet and restful in fact and I’d certainly recommend it. Eventually we figured we’d better get on the plane and settled in for the not quite three hours, where BA pressed food on us as well. Figuring we’d be lucky to get anything else before dinner time we treated the second breakfast (Second breakfast! Do I look like a hobbit?) as lunch and I ended up with two bottles of Champagne after I ate my fresh fruit only to find the bowl it was in was coated with old food – some sort of creamy mousse thing by the look of it. I politely pointed it out and was rewarded for my troubles with a comment form to fill in, a questionnaire and two bottles of Pommery and as of yesterday a further online questionnaire if I wouldn’t mind. It could have been a lot worse.
We duly arrived in Bucharest on schedule, collected our bags, which had not vanished into the ether never to be seen again, and sauntered out for the cab ride to the hotel. Now either we’re over the shock of the Bucharest traffic after our first visit or the hotel’s regular driver has calmed down in the last 12 months, but it really wasn’t too bad. The hotel Prince Residence was as we remembered it and so we turned up the air conditioning – it was 33 C outside – and unpacked before wandering out in search of dinner with a detour to watch the demonstration “laps” up and down the Bulevardul Unirii that the GTs were scheduled to do at 7.30 that evening.
Despite Glyn’s somewhat gleeful take on the route (“There’s a tram stop at the end! There’ll be collisions!”, it proved to be quite uneventful although we were given the first of many demonstrations by something that might or might not have been one of the Superleague cars though no one seemed too sure.
It was all rather scenic though with the late evening sun bouncing off the fountains, and the cars trooping round with their headlights on.
It was also damn hot out there so it was a relief to make it to the St. George Restaurant for a Hungarian meal, most of which was either covered in breadcrumbs and fried or covered in cream sauce (or possibly both). I had the pancakes filled with mince and covered in a paprika-cream sauce:
Followed by veal coated in breadcrumbs and fried (see!):
And it was very good in a very rustic sort of way. And at least the gypsy musicians kept their distance this time; frankly it’s a bit off-putting when they insist on playing the violin right in your ear while you’re trying to eat. Of course we made the classic mistake – as we did last year – of eating too much of the bread, along with the soft cheese with paprika and the slices of pork they set out even before the starters arrived.
The upshot was that we all had to waddle back to the hotel, taking in the night-time floodlighting of the Presidential Palace on the way.