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Without any street lights and with so little noise at night in the village, in Rich’s words, we “slept like little puppies”. It’s a delight (and for me at least a rarity) to wake up feeling refreshed. Instead of car horns and dustbin lorries to bring us round, we hear horses clip clopping down the cobbles. Admittedly the cockerel from the house opposite did start crowing at 6.55am, and Rich is confident that in a few days we’ll be calling him “cock-head”, but otherwise it’s a haven. This is slow travel at its best. Here we have the opportunity to really sample village life, without necessarily feeling like voyeurs.

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The kitchen and dining area is lovely and cool even on very hot days like today, and our breakfast of salami, Nicu’s sheep’s cheese, gherkins, yoghurt and peach juice went down a  treat. To make the most of the sunshine we drove a few minutes down the road to the town of Saliste to visit the market. It reminded me so much of the indoor markets in South Wales! For £1 we came away with a watermelon and 4 big red sweet peppers, and after locking our booty in Lulu we took a walk along the shallow river which runs through town. Lined with lawns, flower displays and sculptures it really is very pretty, and with several banks, a few mini-markets, an internet cafe and cafe bars, Saliste has a lot to offer.

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After leaving Saliste we drove past Vale in the other direction and stopped at Sibiel so that we could reccy the start of a walk we’re planning for tomorrow. Sibiel is much smaller than both Saliste and Vale but the locals are very friendly – several stopped to check that we weren’t lost. We’re certainly being made to feel very welcome.

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Back at Casa Nicu we attract the attention of the village dogs as soon as we park up and are not allowed through the gate without providing the obligatory tummy tickles, after which they crawl beneath Lulu in search of shade. Nicu’s adorable son has very quickly learned to say “hello” in English and keeps shouting it whenever he sees us. I’m determined to teach him to say “I’m a cheeky monkey” before the week is out 🙂

We lunched in the courtyard on smoked mackerel and a tasty red pepper and leftover pasta salad, and managed to have quite a long conversation about how little lettuce we’ve seen in Romania so far! Plenty of cabbage aye, but no salad greens. Maybe they just don’t eat them, or its a staple grown in their gardens so the supermarkets just don’t bother.

After lunch we decided to explore our home turf. Vale is much bigger that it initially seems, but many of the houses are in quite a dilapidated state, whilst others look as if they’ve been locked up tight and are used only as weekend or holiday homes whilst their owners work away. The best drinking water in the village comes from a spring on the outskirts and the locals bring their cars down to fill a boot full of plastic bottles. It makes perfect sense – why pay for the bottled stuff when you have the source on your doorstep? We sheepishly filled our one bottle and ambled home for a nap. Rich pointed out that the fuse boxes are on the outside of each house rather than the inside, and from this deduces that Romanian children must be much better behaved than he was as he’d probably have made it a mission to cut everyone’s wires!

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The lightening struck at 6.30pm on the dot. Fortunately I was already awake and we delighted in watching the spectacle from the kitchen window, made all the more exciting by the power then cutting out, albeit only for a few moments. Whilst Rich prepared dinner, I tried to make as neat a job as possible of cutting the watermelon into sections, but there’s no denying that it’s going to feed the two of us for at least a week. I’ve not eaten watermelon since I was a child and it feels like a real treat. How come I’ve forgotten how delicious it is? And given the numbers we’ve seen, do any of those imported into the UK come from Romania?

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As the rain intensifies the village ‘high street’ turns into a stream. I wonder what it’s like here in the thick of winter? A few drenched horses, carts and passengers hurry up the hill, looking up at the cottage as they pass, their heads no doubt turned more by the smell of Rich’s pork and slow cooked cabbage, than by the fact that there’s a Welsh woman sitting at the window staring at them. I hope the village doggies all have somewhere dry to shelter. I seem to be thinking about dogs a lot since I learnt that Romanians were forced to abandon their pets when they were herded into blocks of flats by Nicolae Ceaușescu. That alone must have broken many hearts.

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