As we handed the key to Julia she wiped away a tear. We left Valea Rece with heavy hearts, but amazing memories. Memories which helped me stay strong during the first driving shift of the day over a mountain pass. We swapped over at Mercurea Criuc and I have to commend Rich on his driving. The summer holidays started today and we managed to witness driving more dangerous than usual, which is saying a lot judging by our experiences thus far in Romania.

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We stopped for lunch at a motel very conveniently sited on a hairpin bend, and for a grand total of £8 dined on omelette, chips, tomato salad and a big bottle of carbonated water. It felt like everyone in Brasov was trying to escape and go north for the weekend. Fortunately we were going south, and Dervla even managed to find us a new stretch of motorway down towards Bucharest – the A3. So new in fact that only once we were on it did we realise that most of the exits were blocked – the exit roads simply hadn’t been built yet. Fortunately, as the panic was just starting to set in, the Snagov sign appeared, with a real, live exit road behind it. A drive through Bucharest on a Saturday during holiday season had been avoided. Phew!

We arrived at Pension Turistic Motanul Galanton to find the car park full of guests who’d paid to use the pool and bar area for the day. As we parked on the road a big 4×4 decided to try and find a space inside regardless, and then got stuck. People can be quite strange.

Our room was large with a king sized bed, a separate seating area, and an en-suite. The swimming pool was clean, cool and surprisingly quiet, until we remembered that lots of Romanians can’t swim. The hotel was our sort of quirky – painted in bright colours inside and out, and with lots of curios dotted around the building and gardens. For £26 a night including breakfast, it was an absolute bargain.

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Rich couldn’t resist humming the theme tune to this advert whilst we were sitting by the pool. It really did feel like we were living in that advert. No one cared that they didn’t have a model’s body – and rightly so. The men wore their Romanian flag speedos with pride, and the women were quite happy to let it all hang out from a two-piece. I even watched as one woman squeezed the top of her bikini dry whilst she was still wearing it, by performing a sort of milking action on her breasts, all the while continuing to conduct a conversation with two male friends. People watching is so productive sometimes. Mind you, with me in my prim black swimming costume and Rich in his Norwich City t-shirt, they probably thought that we were a bit odd.

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The day guests started to disappear early in the evening and when we came down for dinner, Romeo – the very nice man who’d checked us in, explained that there was a small wedding reception in the dining area that evening, but that we were more than welcome to join in the festivities! Apart from the wedding guests, we were the only others guests at the hotel that night, and whilst the chef prepared soup with pork meatballs; steak, chips and Greek salad, and an ice-cream Sundae for Rich (I don’t like ice cream – best not ask why as it’s to do with a weird food association involving David Bellamy), we talked at length with Romeo and his (much younger) girlfriend.

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Romeo also turned out to be the wedding entertainment! After we’d finished eating he invited us to stick around to hear him sing. I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting much, so was blown away when this beautiful, haunting voice mesmerised everyone. He sang three Romanian songs, including one he’d written himself, and we felt privileged to be a part of the celebration. Once he’d finished singing and playing the guitar he introduced us to his little white dog called Nero, who immediately took a shine to my lap. Everyone made us feel so welcome that it was hard to drag ourselves away, but we didn’t want to overstay that welcome, and didn’t want our last day in Romania to be a sleep deprived one, so we bid everyone goodnight, and left them to enjoy the dancing.

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