Ambition really strikes when ordering plane tickets, and that ambition lead me to think it was a good idea to do a double red eye. First, from Rio to Lisbon, where I would spend a day, and then from Lisbon to Bucharest, where I’d stay for a while. I still think it’s a nice idea in theory – Lisbon is a great city to spend a day – but it definitely makes for a tiring trip.
I arrived in Lisbon very early in the morning and wouldn’t have to be back to the airport until late in the evening, giving me the full day to wander around. Enough time to have a couple pudding tarts and be on my way. I didn’t plan anything ambitious, just taking a trip down to the city center to hit up the places I liked before and relax by the water before heading to the mostly waterless Romania.
I didn’t really take pictures on this go. Just one of some street art to prove that I actually did stop in Lisbon.
There are surprisingly few work-from-your-computer cafes in Lisbon (that I’ve found in the center, at least), so I just went to familiar ground. I wandered through the tourist area, up to the castle, around the Santa Justa Lift, and had a coffee around there taking in the view (basically taking a nap).
I then went down to a cafe across from the market and had a fancy yogurt parfait and some coffee while I worked for a couple hours. Then to the market itself – Mercado Da Ribereira Nova, which is a very modern, covered market that is half food stalls and beer/wine and the other half more traditional food, flowers, and other odds and ends. After that, I walked the shoreline and chilled out having a coffee until it was time to go back to the airport.
There, I think I’ve written enough about Lisbon to justify spending a tired day there.
I spent my first couple nights in Bucharest at a hotel getting the lay of the land, then switched to an AirBnb where I stayed for a couple more weeks. I didn’t really love the city, especially the “old town” center, but there’s enough going on where I found little places to carve out some happiness.
M60 was only a few minutes walk from my apartment and become a frequent work spot for me. It was casual enough, busy but not so busy that I felt I was taking up too much space, open late, good wifi, plugs, and they had very good coffee and wine. Really checked all the boxes.
I’m surprised I didn’t take a picture of it, but one of the redeeming parts of the old town area was an absolutely beautiful Starbucks. Probably the nicest one I’ve seen. It was just massive, two floors, I could just hang out there and work for a long time. There was another one I went to a bit North of the old town that was frequented more by students and people working, which probably had a better “typical Starbucks” atmosphere, but it was a long walk.
I spent a couple days at Cowork Cafe, very nice staff, good coffee, reasonably priced, but in the end the “free” cafes were really good so I only came here a couple times.
Right down the street from the nice Starbucks was Cărturești Carusel, a rather pretty bookstore. Not as big as it looks though, and the English section was pretty limited. So I just wandered in a few times to be among the books for a few minutes.
The city has a relatively small old town area, because the communist regime decided to level most of it a few decades ago to make room for a big road and ugly apartment buildings. But, this section survived and has more of an old, french style. But the mix of soviet buildings and french architecture makes for an amusing juxtaposition. If it’s not all pretty, it’s at least interesting.
The old town sucks because it’s essentially a revitalization project focused on getting tourists. So it’s mostly Irish pubs and strip clubs. And it seems to have been a successful project, which doesn’t say much for the sophistication level of the average tourist headed to Bucharest. But if you want to have a stag/bachelor party, it seems like a pretty good place to do it.
The giant Parliament building is the heaviest building in the world, and the largest administrative building in the world (the Pentagon is bigger, but that’s partially military). People here like it because it’s a famous symbol for the city, but they also hate it because it’s very communist. Definitely cool looking though.
While I was here, they had a wine and food festival on the weekend. So the front was full of food trucks, and there was some wine and beer as well. I took a gander inside, and it’s a cool building.
Speaking of food, they definitely like meat here, but it’s a big city so there are lots of options. There’s always falafel and pizza. I’d also recommend Soup Up! – a soup and salad place close to where I was staying. A guy working there had spent some time living in North Dakota, of all places. Bucharest had pretty decent grocery stores, so I mostly cooked from home and worked.
I did a walking tour, which I thought was pretty good of me. Learning things, ya know? We wandered around a lot of old town, and I took a picture of a tiny, old monastery (that is still active). Everyone is Orthodox here – this one was called Stavropoleos Monastery.
Along with all that old French architecture, Bucharest also got its own Arcul de Triumf. It looks like the other one, and it’s very close to King Michael I Park, which is a massive park. So obviously I hung out there a couple times.
I had to walk all the way up here to get some dental pictures. They turned out nice, probably use them as headshots, or as pictures of me if I ever go missing. One of my molars cracked in half while I was in Argentina, and since the Argentinians are terrible at setting up appointments and responding to e-mails, it waited until Romania. So, I had to have that tooth pulled, which is never fun.
If you think hiking through a jungle or windsurfing is adventure travel, you haven’t had a Romanian woman staring down at you, screwdriver in one hand and pliers in another, yanking away while repeating “don’t worry, is normal, everything is ok?” The worst part of the whole thing is now any future girlfriend I have is going to need to be able to do a convincing Romanian accent. Which is basically a Russian accent but not quite as angry.
I should have taken more pictures of where I was actually staying – right by the Rebirth Monument, which basically looks like an impaled placenta. Popular area for skateboarders. And what people consider one of the ugliest buildings in the world, which is a small government building with the bottom half old brick and the top half ugly office building. But they’re ugly, so why take a picture, right?
Instead, have the colorful umbrella street, Pasajul Victoria.
What else. Bucharest has a lot of malls. Like the most mall space per capita, so that’s a fun fact. I bought some new clothes instead of doing laundry one day.
Overall, I didn’t love Bucharest, but it definitely has some good things going for it and redeeming qualities. I could have done a better job being a tourist – didn’t really do much as far as museums and cultural events. When I return to continue my dental work in a couple months, maybe I’ll do a better job with museums and park pictures.