Picture it, the Internets, 2016. There were flight deals flying every which-a-way, and my friends were always talking about how they'd like to travel with me, and catch one of these deals. One of my friends, Lori, sent this Bucharest deal to a group chat we were apart of. It was a roundtrip flight for $260. There were four of us in the group chat, but only two of us bit. I purchased both our flights, and it was set. We'd leave the logistics for later, since we had over three months to plan.
Though our trip was to Bucharest, Google research informed us that the city was not that poppin', and we'd most likely want to fly elsewhere for a day trip. So, we set our eye on Istanbul, Turkey. Then, after it became crystal clear that the terrorists were over in Turkey having Yosemite Sam-like tantrums, we agreed that this was not the time to visit that country. Note: I don't think it's good practice to let fear deter you from traveling to your desired locations, but sometimes common sense is greater than "bravery." Be careful. We agreed to travel to Vienna, Austria, instead. It didn't seem like there was much to do there, either (and there wasn't), but at least we'd be seeing another country.
We flew out of Newark. I have never flown from EWR because I don't like traveling to New Jersey...for anything, but I sucked it up for such a good flight deal. To get to the airport, we caught a shuttle from Grand Central Station ($17) and it got us to the airport in around 50 minutes. As we were in line to have our passports scanned, the Delta agent made an announcement saying that they'd over-booked the flight, and if anyone is willing to take a later flight, they'd compensate us with vouchers. I immediately turned to Lori and told her to go up to the agent and check it out while I stayed in line! Note: Unless you have plans for as soon as you land on your flight, ALWAYS volunteer your seat and take the vouchers if possible.
The agent told us he would put us on a flight leaving three hours later, but still getting us to our final destination 10 minutes earlier than we were originally scheduled. On top of that, we would get $500 travel vouchers (each), and placed assigned us upgraded "extra leg room" seats. Win! To top it off, when we boarded our new flight and got settled in our seats, the flight attendant came up to us with two glasses of champagne and said, "I am not sure why...but I was told to take care of you guys! Enjoy!" I couldn't pull out my phone quick enough! "Oh, you damn RIGHT this bout to be on Snapchat!"
So, let's get to the trip...
After a quick layover in Paris, we landed at the Bucharest airport and hailed an Uber to take us to our hotel. "How did you have cellular service in order to use Uber?" Well, I'm glad you asked. I had cell service the whole trip because of my own personal hotspot. EVERYTHING is cheap in Bucharest! A 30-minute Uber ride to the Doubletree by Hilton Bucharest Unirii Square was 42 Romanian Leu, which is $10.50. When we got to the hotel, they decided to upgrade our room since I have Gold status with HHonors, so they gave us an "Apartment Suite." The room wasn't ready, so they gave us drink vouchers to wait at the bar until housekeeping finished the room. Then, when we finally got in the room, there was a knock at the door, and a member of the staff was holding a platter of macaroons for us. I personally think macaroons taste like pastel-colored trash, but I appreciated the sentiment. So far, we are impressed simply off the level of customer service we've experienced since being at the Newark Airport.
That evening, we were tired from a full day of travel. If you know me, you know I don't mind just chillin' out while abroad! I don't have to turn up! So, we just decided to head out and find some dinner. We hopped in an Uber and headed to Old Town Bucharest to find a place for some good food. We settled on one of the first places we saw, and that was Saray Restaurant, located on Lipscani Street. We were not disappointed at all. For a carafe of their house wine, we paid about 26 Romanian Leu, which is about $6.51! That filled about three glasses for each of us...and because we hadn't eaten a full meal in a while, we started acting up a bit. LOL! Anyway, for for the appetizers, we ordered the hummus and olives. It comes with fresh bread. For entrees, Lori ordered one of the grilled chicken dishes (she basic, lol), and I had some beef slices over a tomato puree (I'm only a little basic). Then, for dessert, I ordered baklava...because I order baklava everywhere. Everything was delicious!
After dinner, we took some time to walk through Old Town, and at that moment, we realized Bucharest ain't as dry as we suspected. People were OUT THERE partying. We passed quite a few bars and restaurants. However, we're washed up, so we kept it pushing until we got to the end of the street, and ordered a car to take us back to the hotel.
On Day 2, we woke up and had a great complimentary breakfast at the hotel, and then packed up and headed to the airport, for our morning flight to Vienna.
Vienna, to me, was kinda...bleh. We checked in at the Hilton Garden Inn, and then headed to City Center to walk around. Before jumping on one of the Hop On-Hop Off tour busses, we went to a cafe for some wine. I will say this...I'm not quick to call "racial discrimination," but it seemed like the servers in Vienna kept giving us the cold shoulder, in comparison with the other customers. We had to literally wave down the server every time we needed something. Also...we only saw one other person of color during our whole trip. We should have dapped her up, but at the moment, we were hungry, so we kept it pushing.
Anyway, we had a couple glasses of Wiener Gemischter Satz, which is a wine Lori said the Internet suggested we have in Vienna, and took a night tour on the Big Bus. After the tour, we walked around in City Center for a while, and had dinner. The Indian spot we went to for dinner, is not worth mentioning. However, we went to Zanoni & Zanoni for dessert, and that place was great! Lori got another glass of the wine we had earlier (because she's a low key lush) and a lemon tart, and I just got a cappuccino with my favorite dessert....tiramisu. Neither one of us was disappointed! This restaurant is pretty big, and there's seating on the outside as well as inside. The menu is one of those overwhelming 32-page joints...much like the Cheesecake Factory.
Photos from Vienna, Austria
On Day 3, we headed back to Bucharest for the day we had both been waiting for. The day that made all the other days unimportant...a day we both needed, seeing as we live in New York City, and are always on the run! Our flight landed and we went right the the Grand Hotel Continental (highly recommended) to check in, and drop our things off. Then, we walked in the sweltering heat for about a mile to see the Palace of the Parliament. After snapping a couple pictures, we were like, "Okay, enough! Time to head to the Therme Bucaresti!!!"
We took an Uber (it was about a 30 minute ride, and still only $10-12). Check-in was simple. There are three different areas to this huge day spa - The Elysium, the Galaxy, and the Palm. We opted for access to all three, and paid about 106 lei, which is like $26 USD. Pro-Tip: Bring flip flops and a towel, although you can rent a towel there. Also, try to get there early so you can get a good lounge chair. While, you're at it, book a massage then, as they sell out super quickly. We changed and immediately went to get settled and in the water. Of course, when we got in the water, the first thing we did was swim over to the bar, and get a couple drinks. Again, Lori's a lush, lol.
We spent most of our time in the Palm. That's where the main pool is. Since all of the massages were booked for the day, we went over to the Elysium to get one of the automated water massages. We didn't really visit the water slides in the Galaxy, because that's where all the kids were, and we didn't want to have to get arrested for kicking people's babies in the face whilst abroad. We did not feel like being bothered. However, we did mosey on over there for some chicken, though. Yes...our chicken levels were low, so we re-upped. We then went back to our lounge chairs and took a much needed nap, while the sun set. When we woke up, we got a whole different view of the place! It looked awesome!
If you can, spend all day at the Therme. There's a lot to do, and everything you need is right there in the spa. We left around 9PM.
Did I mention how the Grand Hotel Continental was my favorite hotel? Check out these photos!
It was great to have a quick getaway, and even better that I had a travel partner that didn't mind hopping on and off flights each day of the trip. Pro-tip: If you plan on plane-hopping like we did, it would behoove you to only travel with a carryon. Both cities were okay, but I am not hype about revisiting either one of them. If anything, I'd love an extended layover in Bucharest, just so I can visit the Therme again. It's actually only a 5-10 minute ride from the airport, so it'd work out perfectly.
Disclaimer: I'm just as much of a lush as I claim Lori is, but I put this here because I figure you won't read this far.