It’s a bit pants being a light sleeper and a worrier at times. I hardly slept because of an irrational fear that someone might climb in through the bathroom window as we were staying on the ground floor. Well it’s not that irrational really when you’ve had someone dodgy climb through the first floor bathroom of your cottage window at 2am after having first scaled a drainpipe, but that’s a story for another day! Thinking that a nice hot shower would wake me up (whilst Rich snored away contentedly) I succeeded only in flooding the bathroom in cold water as there’s no cubicle or shower curtain, and a teeny weeny drain in the far corner. This is where the old flannel (and it is literally very old) comes in, and I kicked myself for forgetting the travel plug and one of the mini soaps we’ve collected from various hotel rooms. Still, we’re used to basic so I can’t complain. For the price we’re paying you sort of expect lights without bulbs in them, windows which don’t even shut let alone lock, and no soap.

The Pension is still very much locked up when we emerge from our room, but what a lovely surprise to find these two fluffy things waiting for us on the doorstep!

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The puppy is only a few weeks old, and sadly the only one from the litter to have survived, but it explains why mum seemed to be keeping watch last night. She obviously trusts us as she now lets us walk right past them, and even to pet her, but we don’t touch the little one in case we cause upset.

After a breakfast of omelette, smoked sausage, cheese triangles and caramel flavoured redbush tea (which I’m still trying to source now that we’re back in the UK) we say our goodbyes and pay our bill – £26 all in. No wonder tourists are flabbergasted by the prices when they come to the UK. I take the first driving shift and 90 mins later we stop for a comfort break in a mountain pension where the price of a coffee alone confirms that we got a bargain at Pension Forest Mirage.

We’re slowly getting used to Lulu’s lack of power and crispy gearbox, but still, the intention is there and we can’t deny that she’s giving her all. She certainly has lots of character! And at least it  means that we have plenty of time to see and avoid the potholes. Although they’re more like pot-caverns. And to give plenty of space to bulls walking down the middle of the road, little old ladies in their Sunday best walking down the middle of the road, horses and carts who’ve ignored the ‘no horses and carts’ signs, dogs, cats, and other drivers ignoring the ‘no overtaking’ signs. On hairpin bends.

Rich decides that we’ll take the scenic route through the Fagaras Mountains to avoid Brasov. There seems to be even less of a desire on the part of other drivers to consider the rules of the road on the minor roads, so much so that even his nerves are shredded by the time we stop for lunch at Pension Zaragoza, right next to a lido. Omelette, pickled cabbage, pickled cucumber and a coke each for a grand total of £9. Bargain. The receptionist spoke a little English and we taught her our word for pickled cucumber – gherkin sounds very cute when spoken with a Romanian accent!

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Even the supply stop at the Carrefour in Sibiu costs at least £30 less than we’d have paid in the UK. And I shop in Aldi! I have to take a tryptan for a bugger of a migraine which keeps trying to break through and so end up sitting in the car trying to nap whilst Rich peruses the aisles, but he does a sterling job and even manages to find gluten free pasta, crispbread and biccies. My diet won’t have to be as high protein as I’d imagined. Rich noted that he was the only man shopping solo for food. All of the other lone men had trollies full of beer. Rich has obviously been very well trained.

Relying on Werner’s directions as Dervla had been unable to locate the cottage on the ground, we arrive at Casa Nicu with no further ado. And it’s gorgeous. It’s slap bang in the middle of a village called Vale (pronounced valet) and the village high street is made of stone cobbles. There are chickens and cockerels in the garden of the house opposite, the cottage is extremely well equipped (more so than our house!), it’s cool and spacious, and Nicu – the administrator lives right next door. He’s left us some local sheep’s cheese as a gift, and offers to source local honey, milk and brandy when we’re ready.

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By 7.30pm we’re experiencing our first rain shower in the foothills of the Cindrel mountains. I love the smell of the earth after it’s rained and could sit for hours by the kitchen window just looking out and smelling the smells. A local shepherd herds his small flock up the high street, villagers collect fruitfall from a neighbour’s tree, and horses and carts clatter up and down the hill. It really does feel like we’ve traveled back in time. By 9.30pm the village is almost dark as there are only a few streetlights, and all we can hear are crickets. Time for bed.

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