Travelers we Meet: Laura McCann

This is the mother of all reviews about Finding Romania Travel Guide. Not to say that the others are not so great. Of course they are, and each feedback we get is equally important. But I wanted to share with you this particular review because the person who wrote it took the time and really explained everything that happened while she was traveling with Finding Romania Travel Guide.

Grab a glass of wine, or something to eat, and let me introduce you to Laura McCann:

“Nothing had prepared me for the beauty of Romania. If you read the guide books, they provide a good history and basic picture as a starting point but they fail to capture the heart of the place.

Bucharest is an unmissable city but if it wasn’t Finding Romania taking us on a tour on our arrival, I think we’d have missed out on so many of the tiny details that make this capital great. I had expected to see a very grey place, filled with concrete blocks but it is in fact one of the greenest cities I’ve visited and it’s tree filled streets are an eclectic mix of stunning architecture, ornate places of worship and almost hidden works of art.

After a wonderful first night in Bucharest city we were collected from our hotel by our hosts, Andrei and Dorin. I can’t use the word “guides” as they very quickly feel like friends and made the trip more special than we ever could have hoped. As we headed out of the city on to the smaller roads, Andrei and Dorin told us about the life of the people who lived there, what changes they’d gone through since the 1980’s and how things had been before.

Sometimes you will be on a tour and you can tell the information from your guide is all rehearsed. They’ve said it a million times and you instantly forget it. That’s not the case when you book a tour with Finding Romania Travel Guide. Andrei and Dorin talk from personal experience and they’ve obviously gone out of there way to learn as much as possible beyond their own knowledge. I’m saying this because you can ask them anything along the way and they will always have an interesting fact or a funny story.

The Princely court at Targoviste was our first stop and ancient site with an imposing sun tower with great views over the town. It is remarkably quiet for a tourist attraction, which really helps you imagine how life might have been all those years ago. We were lucky enough to have great weather and could see far in to the distance from the tower roof. We were even more lucky to have Andrei and Dorin there to point out what everything was, so we could see exactly where we would be heading on the next leg of our journey.

The journey to Bran was breathtaking. Sweeping mountain roads offering stunning views of luscious valleys and picturesque villages, few places can still offer this kind of unspoiled scenery. Then from nowhere, a huge concrete plant, a stark reminder of the past but far from being a blot on the landscape this becomes another reference point for yet more stories about the country’s fairly recent history. It is an engineering wonder, maybe as not as traditionally pleasing to the eye but it has a story and illustrates a past time perfectly.

Bran Castle is tourist attraction, so it obviously has more visitors than many other lesser known places in the region but don’t let that put you off. Our hosts took us away from the usual tourist filled restaurants and treated us to lunch with a gorgeous view not only with Bran Castle but also with the surroundings of Transylvanian Mountains.

After lunch we visited Bran Castle. It’s one of the only royal homes I’ve visited that actually feels smaller on the inside. Reading about Queen Mary and her varied life, it is easy to imagine her over there, walking around the cozy castle and it’s all presented in such a way that you too feel at home too. If you’re expecting a Gothic residence fit for a vampire, you won’t find it at Bran Castle, but if you want charming interiors, gorgeous views and a clear history of the place, this is a lovely place to visit in Romania.

From Bran we moved on to Brasov. After a day of quaint villages and winding trails, entering this place felt like arriving in a big city. But in reality, it’s a small town with a palatial main piazza and of course, it is also the home of the famous and imposing Gothic Black Church. We had a lovely room at the best hotel in Brasov, as arranged and booked for us the Finding Romania Travel Guide. After checking in, I went for a swim in the lovely underground hotel pool and had plenty of time to relax before another heading out with our romanian guides, for a walk around The Black Church. Brasov has no shortage of places to eat and drink, it’s a smart town and the people are all very welcoming and eating and drinking there is a casual affair.

We were lucky enough to visit Romania during Oktoberfest celebrations, so we were able to take full advantage of the town’s beer and food options whilst they were all gathered in one location before moving on to another bar in the city. Andrei and Dorin were great company and we shared lots of stories and laughter in to the night.

After a great breakfast at our hotel we then set off for Poenari Castle. Andrei and Dorin warned us about the 1480 steps up to this castle but is really not as bad as it sounds. The steps are in the shade and the path is very even with handrails. Even if you do find the trip to the summit a struggle, you are very well rewarded with incredible views when you reach the top of Poenari Castle. With such an amazing vista before you, it’s easy to forget that this place was once home to the infamous “Vlad the Impaler”, even if there are a couple of impaled mannequins by the entrance to prompt your memory.

As with some of the more well known places in Romania, there are tourists but really not that many, we were certainly the only English people, so it was great to have Andrei on hand to talk us through things because there’s not information at the top and no staff to ask questions. Plus he has climbed the steps up there so many times, he deserves some kind of medal.

We were again treated to lunch, this time at the only restaurant near the castle but despite having a captive audience with no other dining options, the food was really good and very well received after our climb.

The journey back was as beautiful as the way there but after a late night and early start, I spent most of the time snoozing on the back seat. Thankfully, I don’t think Andrei and Dorin minded.

I’d asked if it was possible to drive back in to Bucharest via The People’s Palace. Andrei and Dorin agreed without hesitation, they really do aim to please on every level. The Palace is an odd place. I had read about it but as same as always, Andrei and Dorin had there own stories, some facts, some local myths, some personal accounts. I was glad I saw it and even more glad we posed for a group selfie there, a lovely memory in front of a place that was never meant to serve as a backdrop for such a free and happy moment.

We then checked into our hotel, said our goodbyes to Dorin and had a final drink with Andrei, who very sensibly had a coke whilst we made the most of the local drinks and reasonable prices. Dinner at a local place recommended by Andrei was rounded off with a night cap at The Hilton were the two lovely female bar staff welcomed warmly.

The next morning, Finding Romania once again went above and beyond our expectations and picked us up for our very early flight home. It was a bitter sweet goodbye as I felt like I’d fallen in love with the country and was so sad to be leaving but I knew having met such wonderful people there, I’d definitely be back to visit Romania.

Romania country is one of the most surprising, interesting and remarkably beautiful places I’ve every visited. However, there is no doubt in my mind that booking a tour with Finding Romania is what made my Romania trip so unforgettable. They are professional, friendly, welcoming, knowledgeable and just genuinely lovely people that go out of their way to make every moment memorable. If you want to find the true Romania, this is in my mind the only way to do it.”

Whoa, that was really something wasn’t it? Laura, we are waiting for you to come back soon and check out some other great places for you to visit. Until then, I will way this, probably for the 100th time: It has been an absolute blast to meet you. And thank you for these wonderful words. See you soon!

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