After a painful 3.30am start and a much needed loo stop at Reading services, we arrive at Heathrow Terminal 4 just after 6am and are able to check in for the Bucharest flight straight away. Amongst our fellow passengers are a few school groups going out for two weeks to help out at summer camps for children from the orphanages and local Romanian children’s charities. You tend not to hear about the orphanages much since Anneka Rice bought them to the worlds attention many years ago, but they still very much exist, albeit in a better state than they were.

On the plane we’re sat next to a lovely Romanian lady called Maddy who is flying back home for a week to see family. Maddy is terrified of flying! This at least means that our flight passes quickly as I spend it trying to keep her calm, making sure that she keeps dosing up on Rescue Remedy, and learning essential Romanian phrases such as “he is deaf” and “I can’t eat gluten”. I was surprised to actually receive a gluten free breakfast on Tarom Air as most airlines tend to conveniently ‘forget’. Although I did still have to palm off my bread roll to Rich. Maddy tells us that she wishes that she could extend her trip so that she can fly back with us, and that I’ve made her flight the flight not just bearable but enjoyable, so I have forgiven her for exclaiming “oh you’re pregnant” when we got off the plane and were walking towards the baggage area. No I’m not. My jeans are just very baggy. Last time someone said that I was two dress sizes larger so I try not to get too miffed. Maddy assures me that it’s because of the jeans and because both Rich and I seemed to be so good with the little people on the plane, and therefore she assumed that we were broody. I must remember not to play with children in future.

By 2pm we’re at the Sixt car hire depot being introduced to our little white Skoda. As she only has a 1 litre engine and has trouble going over 60mph we decide to call her Lulu. Lulu doesn’t so much drive as chug. But as soon as she’s introduced to Dervla they start getting on like a house on fire. Double trouble? Having been denied the driving experiences that so made our Chile trip Rich takes the first leg. There are a few ‘heart in mouth’ moments as other drivers practice loony manoeuvers in at attempt to outdo Dervla’s death wish, but so far Dervla is being as good as gold. In fact we doubt we’d have found our first night stop without her.

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Pension Forest Mirage used to be called the Agatha Christie Hostel. Before that it was apparently a training camp for communist spies. Hence the Agatha Christie thing. It literally is at the bottom of a dirt track, is not signposted and is next to the Wam Group plant which happens to have security guards patrolling it whilst wearing big batons. I screech to a halt outside so of course we attract their attention straight away, but as Dervla insists that we’ve just driven straight past the pension we quickly turn around and take another look. Lo and behold it is indeed tucked behind the trees.

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Whilst they have no record of our hostelbookers.com booking, and we’re not even sure that they’re open for the season yet, we eventually manage to get a room using mime and my attempts at speaking Romenglish to some chap who we can only guess was the remote owner, after being handed the phone by the live in receptionist and ordered to “speak” . Each of the Pension’s rooms are named after crime writers or famous fictional detectives, and there are photographs and paintings of some of them too. The one of Sherlock Holmes looks suspiciously like Robert Downey Junior. Ours is the Miss Marple room and it’s basic but large, has an ensuite and separate (orange) lounge area, and most importantly is cool and quiet. We’re the only guests and so after a nap we have an early dinner of chicken and chips. We don’t care that the bed and pillows are slightly lumpy and sleep well regardless.

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We seem to to be the after dinner entertainment for the Wam security guards and their dogs as they promptly appear when they can smell the fried chicken. We get the distinct impression that not many Brits stay here, especially ones wearing brain stem implants. The Pension dog is very timid but after a little while realises that we’re gentle souls too and lets us pass without her trembling or running away. Beer costs 80p a bottle so Rich is a happy bunny, and we’re both enjoying the peace and quiet.

We’re always amazed at how quickly you can get back into traveling mode and living out of a bag. We don’t miss the telly or internet. We’d much rather be sitting outside talking and ‘being’ on a warm evening like this, and both reiterate that we’ll have to be strict back home and only put the telly on for specific programmes that we absolutely can’t miss. That means ‘Top Gear’ for Rich and ‘The Returned’ for me. Fabulous viewing that latter one. Watch it if you don’t already. You’ll get used to the subtitles after a short while and won’t notice them.

We’re both a wee bit tired after today’s exertions and so after a little explore around the grounds, taking note of all the satellite dishes surrounding the Pension, and the barbed wire surrounding the Wam HQ’s opposite, we take ourselves off to bed, not quite believing that we’ve finally reached Romania.

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