Tuesday, 17 October 2017

A Tale of Two (Polish) cities - Sep 2017

It’s September and so far I’ve actually managed to go somewhere every month. Wey hey! For this trip I took 3 flights over 3 days on my first visit to Poland.
My flight out was with Ryanair and there was the initial thought of ‘what happens if my flight is cancelled’ as it was during their ‘let’s cancel 50 flights a day so our staff can take holiday’ initiative. Thankfully my flight to Wroclaw wasn’t affected. I

flew LOT airlines to Warsaw (hadn’t heard of them til I was booking flights). They're a decent airline and give you a chocolate bar and a drink on the 50 minute flight. More than BA who I flew home with who have cut all complimentary drinks and snacks on their short hauls. Enough about flights.

Wroclaw is the largest city in western Poland and the fourth largest in the country.
I hadn’t planned much for this stop as I was only spending one day here. I started with a walk to and around the old town. Lovely buildings and cobbled streets.
My first purchase was an ice-cream cone. Mascarpone with honey and nuts. Absolutely amazing. My only regret is that I settled for one scoop. The first impression I got of this city unfortunately was how aggressive the beggars were. I was followed, poked repeatedly with a beggar’s cup and had a cup shoved so close to my face I had to turn my head swiftly to avoid a collision. There was more to follow in Warsaw.
The city was quiet during the day on a Tuesday as I wondered around. I passed a filming set which looked as though they were shooting a commercial but it may have been a film. From the old town I walked through market square to Slodowa Island. I usually prefer printed maps during my explorations but the one from the hotel wasn’t very good and I had to resort to Google map (praise God for the ability to use data plans freely in the EU). The walk was very pretty, scenic and most of it along the river once I left the city walls. The island was quiet which was to be expected at this time of the year but it had an unspoken beauty and was very peaceful.
I determined I’d walk to the musical fountain which was a further 46 mins walk from where I was. I had already been walking for 2 hours but thought my fitbit would thank me. The fountain was larger than I expected and dispiste it being too early for the lights and music I loved it. There was a small coffee van and seats for customers lined along one side of the fountain. 
Literally behind was the Japanese garden. I wasn’t able to spend as long here as I would have linked as I had set myself the challenge of walking back to the hotel. A further 50 minutes.
Dinner was in a restaurant where no one spoke English. It was kind of like a buffet where food was on display and you selected what you wanted, it was weighed and you paid by gram. I ended up with some cottage cheese like dumpling, fish and some interesting potatoes. The salad bar was a bit easier to understand and so was the dessert table where I had a very delicious coconut cheesecake. 
Warsaw is the capital of and largest city in Poland.
It rained virtually throughout my entire stay here. Despite the persistent rain I was determined to explore this city by foot. I walked the 46 mins from my hotel to the Old Town where I picked with a walking tour. A brief history of Poland and how it changed when the Germans and Russians invaded. here was the on going joke about how Krakow and Warsaw hated each other. What I found most interested about this tour was the slight inside into the Jewish way of life prior to the war.
By the end my trainers and socks were soaked through and so I defeatedly caught the bus. I had only the one pair of shoes so I resorted to blow drying them with the hair dryer so I’d have something to wear to dinner.
Dinner that night was at Zapiecek. I didn’t have a reservation and had to wait outside until a table became available. It’s a tiny restaurant but rated as one of the best in the area for traditional Polish food. I started with meat dumplings, followed by the pork knuckle and pork ribs.
The walking tour had me intrigued about Jewish history and so I walked (through the rain again) to the Museum of he history of Polish Jews. What I loved about this museum was that in it’s six rooms, only one concentrated on the war. The others showed how the Jews arrived in Poland, their lifestyles, beliefs and so much more. There was information about their exodus to Israel after the war and figured that’s why I had bumped not so many Israeli tourist here, more-so than any other country I’ve visited to date.
Another long walk on another rainy day meant that my trainers were now soaked through and unlike the previous day when I’d be able to dry them at the hotel, I was heading straight to the airport after my museum visit. There was no way i was going to bored a flight with wet feet so I purchased as part of very cheap, very fluorcent pair of shoes - and the socks to match.
One of the great things about credit cards being so widely accepted (and my Nationwide select credit card not charging commission) is that you don’t have to try to guess how much currency to change before you leave home and carry large amounts of foreign money with you. The downside to that though is that I been to some countries (Sweden) where I haven’t even seen their local currency. To combat this I try to change around £10 -£20 in local currency so I can see what the country’s money looks like. I got 40zlt for my £8.69. Turns out the only time I really needed it was to tip my walking tour guide and everywhere else took credit card.

With my last 7zlt I purchased a few items from a bakery near the hotel. I had a sausage roll with was filled with ketchup and I disliked. A cheese filled bread pastry which was very sweet. A custard type cream filled donut which I thought wold be that great but was surprisingly good and a very light bread which was plain, but nice.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

A Day On The Lake (Lake District Aug 2017)

The good news is I made it to the Lake District! The bad news is a bad case of Vertigo (so says the doctor) attacked me a couple days prior and thus it wasn’t quite the adventure I had hoped.
I   settled for the exploration of one lake - Windermere. My initial plan was to do a boat cruise in conjunction with one of the four mile walks but as I had been warned to ‘take it easy’ and my dad wasn’t sure if he could do the entire walk, I decided we’d spend most of the day on the lake. We booked the Freedom of the Lakes pass allowing for any combination of boat tours (and a train ride) and commenced with a cruise from Ambleside to Lakeside. Lake Winderemere (which I later learned was a mere not a lake) is the largest in the Lake District. The boat stopped briefly at Bowness to pick up and drop off passengers before making its way to Lakeside. I noted if I did this lake again that was where I’d commence my journey as it was a lot livelier than Ambleside.

Once there, we embarked on a nostalgic steam train ride to Haverthwaite. There wasn’t a lot to do at Haverthwaite. It was great for children as there was a large adventure playground but I headed straight for the little cafe on the station platform. Nothing special but they do have a captive audience as it’s the only place to eat. I went for the beer sausage that came smothered in onions so much so that even I, an all time onion lover, couldn’t finish them (though to be fair they were rather soggy and even my dad commented on that fact). I took a trail when lead up a hill with an mazing view of the surrounding area.

On the trip back we stopped at Bowness for a wonder around and a rummage through the gift shops.  I braved the upstairs of the boat on the return journey. The wind had picked up and it was chilling but with it for the view. Was happy that after all these years I'd finally made it to the one place in England I'd always wanted to visit just disappointed I couldn't do more once there. But there'll be other opportunities, God willing.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Lovely Llanduduno (Aug 2017)

Lake District is still on the cards for later this month, but when the opportunity arose for an impromptu trip to Llandudno… well, you know me.
A return train ticket from London was an eye-watering £80 but preferable to driving.
My first stop was Conwy as I wanted to visit the Smallest House in Great Britain. Thankfully I wasn’t expecting too much and it was only a pound. People went in in their groups. I was alone so went in by myself which was just as well as it was small indeed. Disappointing as it was more 2 tiny rooms as opposed to and actual house.
The Conwy Castle offers amazing views for miles around. Still, no comparison to the castle I visited last month.  I spent far too long at the book and arts fair and had to restrain myself from purchasing the hardback collection of rulers of the ancient world volumes 1 - 5 Nero, Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Hannibal and Alexander the Great. Mostly as I’ve banned myself from purchasing books due to space but also they were large and heavy and I wouldn’t have been able to carry them.
When you see some old wooden stairs and decide to climb them without reading the info about where the stairs lead. I found myself up the Conwy Town Wall. Brave for me as it was very high up with only a tiny barrier blocking you from the steep fall. I took a couple of breaths, walked halfway, snapped a few photos so I could show I’d done it and left. If I hadn’t been alone I might have stayed longer but a racing heart so high up when by yourself is not the one. Though uncomfortable I had to admit the view was great.
The little seafront, though nothing special to look at, was lined with people. It was my intention to do a little boat cruise but the last one for the ay had been at 1.15pm and the next wasn’t until 11.15 the following morning, at which point I’d be exploring Great Ormey.
When it came time for a break I found a secluded bench on the bowling green with a spectacular view of the castle and sea. I sat for a while and read my novel, Atonement.

The hotel in Llandudno was a beautiful, new boutique hotel right opposite the promenade. It made for a scenic walk into the town centre in the evening for dinner. I could smell the fresh sea breeze all around me. I admired the bravery of those walking closer to the sea than I cared to get. Despite the bright, warm sunshine I knew the water had to be freezing cold. There were those walking their dogs - and praise God every dog was on a lead. I had heard something on the local news the previous night about fines for unleashed dogs which brought a contented smile to my face. 

Great Orme was beautiful beyond description and sadly my camera could hardly do it justice. It’s a limestone headland on the north coast of Wales.  I reached the summit via the vintage tram which took less than 20 minutes and wasn’t as steep and scary as I had anticipated. The Great Orme Tramway dates back to 1902 when it was built to make it easy for visitors to reach the top. Had time been on my side, I would have loved to have walked up as I saw a couple of people doing. There’s a visitor’s centre but it seems largely geared toward children. 
My favourite view was of the small church and cemetery with the tidy headstones and the sea in the background.  Lush, green landscape surrounded by bright blue sea and contrasting white, fluffy clouds. I was thankful the weather had held for another day as I read complaint after Facebook complaint from my London friends about the downpours and people having to put central heating on.
I decided not to brave the cable cars. Been there done that on enough holidays. 

I befriended (from a distance) a little lamb who had strayed from the rest of the flock. I nicknamed him Chops and offered him shelter, but I think he saw through my front and knew exactly what I had in mind.
Had time permitted I would have loved to have visited the Bronze Age Copper Mines. And I would love to return again as I’ve learned it has one of the longest toboggan runs.
Food. I wasn’t culinarily amazed by anything I ate on this trip. There was a particularly good sticky toffee pudding from my hotel which I had for lunch on the first day and then there was an interesting Indian meal. I had decided it would only be right to enjoy some authentic Welsh lamb but then I really fancied an Indian. So I thought I’d have the best of both world by ordering Welsh lamb Benghal Handi from an Indian restaurant.