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Bucharest’s Historic Casa Capsa

Sitting, working away on my balcony – I started to feel a little peckish so decided to get dressed and go out for dinner… literally across the road – to the historic Casa Capsa…

Whereas most places in Europe have designated hours for dinner, here in Bucharest many restaurants open from lunch, right through the evening without closing – fabulous for a girl like me who loves to have an early supper or dinner!

According to Wikipedia:  Casa Capșa is a historic restaurant in Bucharest, Romania, first established in 1852. … Capșa is not only associated with its exquisite pastry products, but also for a hectic literary life of yore… a welcoming place for Romanian writers where they could meet, talk and…associate.”

Again from Wikipedia:

In 1852, Anton and Vasile Capșa founded the first confectionery shop on Calea Victoriei, somewhat north of the present Casa Capșa, which was founded by their younger brother Grigore Capșa (1841-1902) in 1868.[1][2] Anton and Vasile had financed Grigore through four years of courses at the renowned Boissier in Paris, where he turned down an opportunity to become the supplier for the French Imperial Court.[3] The French-inspired confectionery of Casa Capșa soon established a continent-wide reputation. The business expanded in 1881 to a full-service restaurant, at a time when quality restaurants along Western European lines were still quite a rarity in Romania.[1][2]

In December 1916, during World War I, following the Battle of Bucharest and the occupation of the city by the Central Powers, the restaurant was requisitioned by troops of the Kingdom of Bulgaria‘s army. Reportedly, these left the place in a deplorable condition for an extended period of time.[4] Casa Capșa invented the all-chocolate Joffre cake in honor of a visit to Romania by Joseph Joffre after the war, and they were the first to introduce ice cream to the country.[2]

Interior of Casa Capșa

The coffee house, established 1891, was an important literary and artistic gathering place, but never turned a profit, “because the writers and artists who went there usually ordered mineral water and coffee and made them last for hours on end.” In contrast to the elegant restaurant and confectioner, the coffee house had simple, uncovered wooden tables. Tudor Arghezi referred to it as an “Academy”; one could make a literary reputation by reading one’s texts there. Actors also were among the regulars: at the time the Romanian National Theatre was nearly across the street, adjacent to the Terasa Oteteleșanu, now the site of the Palatul Telefoanelor.

When the Romanian Communist Party took power in 1948, they closed Casa Capșa. The restaurant operated during most of the communist era as the “Bucharest Restaurant”, regaining the Capșa name in 1984. It was at the Capșa that the poet Nicolae Labiș stood up in November 1956 and loudly recited Mihai Eminescu’s banned patriotic poem “Doina”; a few weeks later, after spending some time at the Capșa, Labiș was fatally hit by a tram, just a short distance away.

The In Your Pocket guide series describes it as having been “…the chosen venue for the beautiful people at the turn of the [19th] century…”  and sitting here listening to a Romanian-sounding Tom Jones-ish singer filling the air, I can certainly relate…  I felt ever so elegant and lovely…

My choice this evening – Moldavian Stew with Polenta and Poached Egg…  Delicious!  (it was more delicious than it looks in this photo!)

…and I rarely do dessert, but I told the waiter I felt like chocolate, and nuts, and berries, and vanilla ice-cream…  so they created this especially for me!

Oh, and while this may seem to be a photo of something old and tattered – it is just the opposite…  This photo shows that the marble columns are real and not some mere painted fake…

I LOVED my evening here sooooo much, (and one cannot beat the price!), that I think I will be back most nights for dinner until I leave…

There is something ever so lovely about dressing for dinner and going to somewhere elegant – especially when it is LITERALLY across the road!

~ Bella

A Cocktail of Cultures and Language

I am writing this while sitting at a Chinese/Thai restaurant near home here in Lido di Ostia.

When I awoke this morning after my huuuuuuge day yesterday exploring Rome, I was ravenously hungry and decided, rather than face the massssses of people at the various markets (that are delightfully all within two blocks of home), to come here for some fresh-tasting  Thai food for an early lunch (I slept through breakfast, LOL!).

Actually, as an aside, as much as it is lovely to go to market on Saturday morning and buy my fresh fruits, vegetables, meats etc, I really don’t enjoy crowds (I wanted to pay everyone yesterday to leave Rome for the day so I could explore without the masses!) so while I may do the occasional market day while I am here (still here another two months), I have found my alternative-to-the-markets places to do my shopping.

So, back to the restaurant…  When I walked in, I was greeted by a little Asian lady who showed me to my table – with French serenades playing in the background!

Quite a cocktail of cultures and languages.  While I have occasionally found Chinese and Thai in the same restaurant, I have not had the waitress speaking another language and the sound system playing yet another!  🙂  I love it!   🙂

I am doing my best to only use Italian while I am here – my Italian is veeeery limited, but I figure the only way to improve it is to use it…

So far so good and I was seated and managed to understand and correctly respond to all initial questions.

Then, when she came back to take my order, I asked (in the best Italian I could muster) if they could do chicken (pollo) with one particular dish instead of beef (manzo)?  Her response to this and all subsequent questions was, “si, si” followed by a long and very fast diatribe in Italian and although I asked her to slow down (lentamente) she continued at the speed of light in Italian and finished with, “bene, si?”

I have no idea what was so bene (good) but I figured, ‘when in Rome’ so replied, “si, bene.  Grazie!”  🙂

…and what arrived was exactly what I had attempted to explain in Italian – and it was sooooooo good that I ordered another portion to take home for tomorrow!

…and before you think I was getting rather carried away with an entire bottle of wine at lunch, they are both miniatures (kinda)… (and do not pay attention (yes, I know, by saying that you are paying attention) to the fact that my nails are in a dreadful state.  There was a nail salon just around the corner however they moved just before I arrived and it was only yesterday I discovered their new location – so I am essentially nail-less until I go and visit them – but the upside is that I do type faster with basically no nails and Bridgit, appreciates that!  Btw, speaking of Bridgit (who I finally – after weeks of leaving her there – managed to get out of the oil-covered water of the Loire Estuary and back on to dry land… (and if that doesn’t mean anything to you, they I suggest you read the first book!  LOL!), I am almost finished the second of the Quantum Lace book series – a whole month ahead of schedule!)

When the lovely lady returned to ask me if everything was ok and gave me my bill, I said I was paying with card and my understanding of her response surprised me.

She talked for what seemed like ages (in Italian and very fast, even for Italians!) and yet, I think I understood exactly what she was saying – and she wasn’t even making hand gestures to help in the explanation – she was just standing and talking very fast…

She said, the essence of “that’s ok – finish your wine and water – I will take your card at the front when you are leaving – you can pay your bill then – enjoy your food at home – stay and enjoy your wine – no need to hurry – take your time – si, bene?”

“Si, bene – grazie!” was my reply – and I felt molto bene for having understood!  At least, I am pretty sure I understood all that.  She may have been saying “we only take cash – get lost!”  🙂

I will publish this when I get home and give a postscript to let you know the answer…

STOP THE PRESSES:::

OK, so I am now home but before leaving the restaurant I met a fascinating woman who speaks FIVE languages (see, I told you this was a cultural cocktail of a post!) and who I think is the daughter of the lovely Asian woman who seated me.

We talked for ages (in English in case you are wondering) and have agreed to get together again soon.

It’s funny…  Just last night I was thinking that it is strange I have been here for a while and not made any new friends – and then, hey presto!

~ Bella

 

First Class Overnight Train from Vienna to Roma

Ostia, here I come!

My wonderful limousine company picked me up from the lovely hotel in which I stayed while in Vienna and deposited me at Wien Hauptbahnhof, more commonly known as Wien HBF – the main train station in Vienna.

…and btw, those of us old enough to know what it means to “spend a penny” will appreciate this…  One needs to exchange money for the convenience, however the penny now needs to be 50 cents!  Talk about inflation!  🙂

Now up to the platform to await my train… along with a gazillion teenagers.

According to Rail Europe, one’s carriage and room is clearly marked…  Me thinks the word “clearly” was lost in translation somewhere as the only indication of which carriage was which were small stickers on the inside window of the carriage doors… (so you can imagine the scrambling over one another that was occurring as everyone was attempting to find their allotaced conveyance) – and once on the correct carriage, my ticket said my room was number 11.  The only problem with that was that there were only eight rooms on the carriage…

Minor technicality I thought – only to have the steward tell me that 11 didn’t really mean 11 – it mean 1.  Of course, I should have known that (not!).

So, now safely curled up in room 11 or 1, we set off…  Auf wiedersehen, Wien!

In my room awaiting me were the newspaper (and a very cute baby giraffe on the cover!)…

…some slippers, a towel, and some goodies…

…coat-hangers…

…and a bottle of Prosecco!

After we were underway for about 20 minutes, the steward came by, took my breakfast order and made up my bed – that I have to say was VERY comfortable!

Once I found where everything was located and settled in, I curled up early and listened to the beginning of “The Shack” audio-book.  One of my clients told me how much she enjoyed the movie and I figure, unless I want to see it in the cinema in Italian, it will be some time before it comes out on-demand – so to the book I went.

Eventually, I turned everything off and curled up to a better-than-expected sleep.  I love trains (particularly steam trains, but I didn’t see any that went between Vienna and Rome so…) and I find something soothing in the sound and rocking…

 

That is, until 1:20AM when the train skidded (literally) to a halt, throwing me into the wall (thankfully I wasn’t facing the other direction or I would have ended up on the ground) and my bags skidding across the floor!

Almost immediately everything went silent – no motors, no sound of air conditioner…  Nothing.

I thought we might have hit a cow or something and as I opened the blind, was expecting to see black nothingness on the other side.

Instead, I saw what looked like some type of maintenance stop.

We were there for about 15 minutes before the motors and air conditioner etc restarted – and then another 5 minutes or so before we again started off…

No idea what happened, but we ended up arriving in Roma 20 minutes late so me thinks this was not a scheduled stop…

Morning breaks and I see out of my window scenes stereotypical of Italy…

…and then – breakfast in bed!

About forty minutes later, we arrive in Rome…

…oh, and I don’t know if you can make them out, but there are beautiful vines all over the building in the background…

Now, this photo below is not what it seems…  It looks like the cars are waiting for that man to cross the road.  HARDLY!!!  Crossing the road here is like playing Frogger!  It just so happens, both vehicles were stopped to let people in/out/whatever…

…and yes, they are automatic weapons they are carrying…

My limo driver and I had a little difficulty finding each other – especially as he spoke very little English and I have yet to get a handle on Italian – but we eventually connected and then off we set for Ostia…

…driving through Rome, there are nuns everywhere!

Founded during ‘my time’ (LOL!), Ostia was established in 1884 next to the remains of Ostia Antica – the original port city of ancient Rome.

This, below, is a shot of where my apartment is – right in the heart of everything and literally 100 meters or so from the sea…

This is the view from the front door of my building – and I feel the bar next door will become one of my favourite spots… second only to my balcony here in the penthouse where I look forward to curling up for hours and writing…

Below is said balcony – currently devoid of furniture as there was a big storm recently so the owner put everything out of harm’s way – that is, after one of the tables literally blew off the roof!

View from my balcony…  It’s not massive, but I like it.

The bathroom has a spa-type feel…

Downstairs, literally around the corner is the local butcher…

This is a shot of the next-door bar from around the corner…

Turns out Saturday is marketS day – that is market plural…  You turn a corner – there is another market.  You walk a few hundred yards – another market!

From what I have seen thus far, Ostia is overall not what I would call a pretty place – it wears its challenges, grime, and litter very openly… but on the other hand, it is extremely vibrant – and there are pockets that are stunningly beautiful.

This is the market to which I am headed next Saturday to do my weekly vegetable shopping!  …and I couldn’t find anywhere near where I was in Vienna that had natural organic massage oil…  Hey presto!  …and my first transaction conducted entirely in Italian (as the stall holders did not speak a word of English).

Now, you might think this Mercedes is driving through the intersection – yes?  No – he is parked.

This little white zot is turning left, yes?  No – he is parked as well.

Perhaps the driver of this yellow thing is sitting there waiting for someone?  No – they are parked just like the ones further up the street.

…and yet another optical illusion that people give way at crossings…  The cars closest to me – parked.  The cars furthest away – parked.  The white on in the middle?  Stopped to let someone out.

…and finally, a lovely restaurant for lunch (even if they do have very uppity staff and are over-priced)… but since they are so close to home and so beautiful, I will probably be back…

Not sure what I ordered (LOL) but I know it was fish (that much I could translate) and it tasted like a cross between tuna and pork – with the consistency of swordfish.  It was delicious – or make that, delizioso!

…and now I am safely back in casa mia…

Wishing you a truly glorious weekend, my Friends!

~ Bella

Agatha Christie and Dartmoor Ponies

What do Agatha Christie and Dartmoor Ponies have in common?

Well, normally I would imagine the mystery writer and Dartmoor ponies would have very little in common, but yesterday they both featured in a family reunion of sorts…

As you may have read, I have been tracing my ancestry and some of my distant cousins decided ever so thoughtfully to get together and take me out touring for the day while I was still in Devon.  I felt so blessed and had a wonderful day!

After being collected in Torquay, our first stop was Agatha Christie’s house, “Greenway” on the River Dart.

(…and if you look carefully at the photos of my steam train and river cruise day, you will see a photo of the house taken from the river)

According to Wikipedia, the house was first mentioned in 1493 as “Greynway”, the crossing point of the Dart to Dittisham.

Below, my lovely extended family…

 

The painting below is of four-year-old Agatha…

This, below, was my favourite room…  The lovely library – and note the paintings around the top of the walls…

During the Second World War Greenway was requisitioned by the US Coastguard and one of the men stationed here, Lt Marshall Lee, painted a beautiful mural.

You can read more about the mural here:  https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greenway/features/greenway-library-frieze

My studious crew…

Some very straaaaange walking sticks…

We made a new friend while enjoying a cup of tea…

Then off exploring…

…and off exploring through several towns, including one of my favourites – Tavistock.

 

This below is a statue of Francis, 7th Duke of Bedford in front of the Magistrate’s Court, Tavistock.

 

Dartmoor Ponies…

…and delight upon delight…  We stopped for an ice-cream in the middle of a herd of wild Dartmoor Ponies!

When Agatha Christie and her husband bought Greenway in the 1930s, the population was over 25,000 – but alas, according to several sources, only around 800 ponies were known to be grazing the moor by 2004.  Thankfully, they have since been granted ‘Rare Breed Status’ and efforts are in place to ensure the continuation of this lovely creature that is native to Britain.

You can learn more about these beautiful animals here:  http://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/learningabout/lab-printableresources/lab-factsheetshome/lab-dartmoorponies

…then back to my cousin’s lovely home to chill before heading out again for dinner…

…to the delightful Artichoke Inn.  The Inn dates back to 1165 when it was used as a recruitment outpost for the crusades.

…a perfectly glorious way to end a perfectly glorious day!