Friday, June 27, 2014

Visitors: The Zalewski's Round 2

Actual date of this event: 1-10 May

As it was my parents second time visiting us in London (first was last August), they didn't have much they wanted to do during their visit, so I didn't make many plans. I was expecting a relaxing week... during which I would get caught up on blogs (that didn't happen one bit). I also expected a tube strike to occur throughout most of the week. Fortunately, the tube strike was canceled just a few days prior! A week of relaxation didn't last for long though...

Thursday, May 1
Mom and dad arrived bright and early around 8:00am. I met them at the airport, and brought them back home. Dad went for his usual jog and mom took a nap. In the afternoon, we all went to the grocery store and ran some errands, just to get them up and moving so they could fall asleep that evening. Luke had a pub night for work so he didn't get home until later. The three of us watched Frozen since I had never seen it (meanwhile mom watches it like everyday <sigh>). We had curry for dinner then went to bed some early since we had an early morning the next day.

Friday, May 2 to Monday, May 5
All four of us made our way to Krakow, Poland for a long weekend. Read about it here.

Tuesday, May 6
After a long weekend, we had a relaxing morning, but when lunch rolled around, mom and dad wanted fish & chips. I proposed taking the bus to Kingston, so we could eat on the water as it was a nice day. Unfortunately, all of the pubs and restaurants were out of fish due to the bank holiday the day before. I literally don't understand how that happens. But anyway, we resorted to normal food which was still good. We hit up the pub before going back home where I made Shrimp Etouffee for dinner.

Wednesday, May 7
Since we struck out on fish & chips on Tuesday, we decided to go to an actual chippie assuming they would for sure have fish in stock. We went to Camden to try Poppie's which I had been wanting to try for a long long time. It was good, but definitely not as good as Stonehaven's (Scotland) fish and chips. Afterward, we took a walk around Camden Lock & Stables Market. As we were on the way home, dad wanted to make another pub stop, so we got off at Charing Cross for The Sherlock Holmes. After enough drinks, we headed home where I made us some Chicken & Chorizo Chilli for dinner.

Thursday, May 8
It was a pretty crappy day! It rained a good bit in the morning, but we still went out anyway. Mom really enjoyed Borough Market last time, so we headed there for lunch. She got fish & chips, again, while dad got Raclette on potatoes, and I got a Duck Confit sandwich. After a brownie and cookie, we walked along the river in light rain until we got to Tower Bridge. Oddly, we saw a cruise ship docked right next to the HMS Belfast. London is pretty far away from the coast for a ship to dock! Anyway, we crossed the bridge, and stopped at The Minories for a drink. We had a deadline for the evening as we had plans to go see Cats. Cats.Was.Weird. Great dancing for sure, but I wasn't so much of a fan of the actual show.

Friday, May 9
It was finally time for us to fulfill dad's initial request: Golabki! Last time he visited, we went to a little Polish cafe at Ravenscourt Park, and it had the closest golabki to his mom's (my grandma) that he has had. Even during our time in Krakow, he still preferred this cafe's golabki, but not more than grandma's :-) The three of us ventured back to Lowiczanka for lunch. We checked out a few Polish markets - I was on the hunt for the polish sausage that is the closest thing to andouille in the UK, but still no luck! Then, we headed to Buckingham Palace because dad wanted to check out the tulips that I had seen two weeks before, but their time had already expired :-( Our timing just wasn't right because next we went to check out the Queen's Rose Garden in Regents Park, but that was a work in progress. The weather was all right, so we sat for a bit and walked for a bit. We were due for a pub stop, so we did that then went back to Wimbledon. For dinner, Luke and I took them to our favorite Indian restaurant near us, Cocum. We had a few drinks at the pub afterward before heading home.

Saturday, May 10
Three of us (take a guess at who was missing from the group) woke up early and went to the airport to drop off the parentals. We said our good byes, and they were whisked back to Houston.

It was great to have my folks come visit again! I'm sure it was a bit different than the first time they visited as it was spring this time. Next time, they need to come around Christmas time! I promise, Christmas in London is fun fun fun!!! Anyway, thanks for visiting mom and dad!!

During the Second World War, British soldiers would yell "fish!" to receive a response of "chips!" to identify a fellow soldier.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Krakow, Poland: Wieliczka Salt Mine

Actual date of this event: 4 May

One of my dad's requests for our time in Krakow was to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Wieliczka... I have typed that word plenty of times since I first saw it and still have to look it up and copy it. I am a terrible half-Polish(by blood). Anyway, I really didn't know what to expect of the tour, but I was really quite blown away by the experience. It was very cool!
The mine is located just outside of the city center, so we decided to take a taxi there rather than figure out public transport... we were being lazy. I picked up our tickets for the tourist route that I pre-purchased, and then we waited for our entrance time.
Wieliczka Salt Mine was on the first UNESCO World Heritage list in 1978.
The salt mine only allows you to visit in groups, so everyone has a certain time slot and a tour guide to go along with you. We each got a headset, so we could hear the guide even if we were in the back of the group. We started the tour by going down 380 stairs, 64 meters below ground. The stairway was very small, and it zig-zagged back and forth. Just this was a neat experience! I do have to say though that this tour was not a tour for the claustrophobic! (Note: I'm not calling anyone out, but he is a great photographer, except when it is dark. I apologize for the blurry pictures.)

The tour guide was very patient and waited at the bottom for everyone to arrive. It was a very good thing a guide was with us because we were taken through so many corridors, not even Luke The Navigator would have known the way out.

All of the sculptures were made out of salt. It was difficult to tell at first, but the guide would shine her flashlight on the salt and show that you could see through it.
 In some corridors, even the ground was made of salt. I felt like I was ruining a future good pot of cajun cooking while walking on the salt floor.
Since the salt mines are underground with no natural light, some of the corridors were painted white to give the impression that there is natural light. I wasn't convinced, but maybe after hours and hours of working in the mines, it helps.

Horses were a big part of mining, doing many big jobs. The last horse to leave Wieliczka was in 2002.
In several areas, salt was dripping from the ceiling. It was pretty neat to look at as some drips were about 15 inches long!

The most exquisite area of the whole mine was the Chapel of St. Kinga. The pictures don't look like much, but I promise this place was stunning! The entire thing - floor, ceiling, walls, sculptures, chandelier, everything - was made of salt. It was beautiful!

Masses are held in the chapel every Sunday, open to all visitors. The chapel is also used for weddings. Can you imagine getting married in a room of salt? How cool!

After the chapel, we continued our way, going farther underground. In the end, we descended a total of 135 meters and walked down 800 steps. It was quite a bit of walking, but it was great!

The lake is located at the 135 meter mark underground. It has about the same amount of salt as the Dead Sea. Years ago, a boating accident occurred in the lake and the men did not survive. A Memorial Of The Drowned Persons was placed here to commemorate the accident.
At the end of the tour, we were taken to the gift shop... of course... where the guide left us. A display showed all of the different kinds of salt and rock in the mine. We also had a chance to go to a museum, watch a film, and learn some more about the salt mine if we wanted.
To get out of the salt mine, we had to climb those 800 stairs back up! Just kidding! Just kidding! Just kidding!! But we did have to walk a really long way, I'm guessing it was close to a mile, to get to the elevator. The elevator was two levels and each level had a max capacity of 8 people. We had six people in our level, and I do not think two more people could have fit! It was really tight, and the ceiling was probably only about 6.5 feet tall, if that. It was really creepy! Like I said, this tour was not for the claustrophobic! In the end, it took us about 3 hours to go through the tour. It was a bit chilly underground, but we were prepared for it and had jackets with us. Thanks, Dad, for putting this on our Krakow list. It was fun!

Way back when, salt was more precious than gold as its preservation purposes were a life-saver.

Friday, June 20, 2014

#FBF: Five Years

The past five years have been more than great. More than fantastic. More than I could have ever expected. 
It is all due to my passionate, caring, hard-working, loving husband, and I can't imagine a life without him. 
Soppy love story? 
Happy Fiveversary, Luke!

I originally wanted to get married on July 11th (7-11, easy to remember), but there was a Swingers Convention in New Orleans that day, so we decided we didn't want to join in on that party.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Krakow, Poland

Actual date of this event: 2-5 May

Poland had been on my bucket list for a long while. You see, I am half Polish. Well, at least my blood is. Also, Poland has cheap beer and cheap food. Score! Who better to ask to join in on the trip than the person who taught me to scope out the cheap beer and cheap food? My dad, the man whose blood is 100% Polish! Him and my mom joined Luke and I in London on Thursday, May 1st, and then we all made the journey to Krakow on Friday for three nights. The plan was for us to spend one day visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau and another day visiting Wieliczka Salt Mine. In the late afternoons and evenings, we wandered around Krakow, taking in the beautiful architecture.
On Friday, the trip didn't start off super well when our two hour stop in Warsaw was cut down to 30 minutes due to us having non-EU passports. I won't go into specifics, but it was the.most.ridiculous. passport control line I have ever encountered. We were all very very irritated. Luke kept his cool though, and I am so very proud of him for it! Anyway, we arrived in Krakow, were whisked away by our driver that we pre-arranged with our AirBnB, and taken to our apartment we booked.
We expected the weather to be cooler over the weekend, but it was much cooler than we expected. We were all forced to wear jackets and the baldies needed hats. Anyway, our first order of business was go to the grocery store to get some things for a few days. Second business was a pre-sightseeing beer. Then it was time to hit the town starting in the main areas of the Old Town. 
{Planty - a large park that encloses the Old Town}

{St. Mary's Basilica}
{Town Hall Tower}
{Sukiennice - a market hall}
For dinner we went to Chimera Restaurant, which was really expensive for Poland, but still much cheaper than the UK. After dinner, we walked around a bit more. We stumbled upon on a performance by the main square, which was a really neat experience! We attempted to walk with some beers, but a police officer told us we would get fined for drinking on the streets. Thankfully, he decided to just give us a warning :-)

We had a big day on Saturday as we visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, which I will talk about in another post.
After the tour of the concentration camp, we explored the southern part of Old Town around Wawel Castle.

Then we walked north on Grodzka back toward Old Town. We saw several churches along the way. Krakow has some b-e-a-utiful churches, but you gotta go inside to see it.

After walking through the market hall, since it was closed the night before, we wandered to Barbakan, but the weather was turning for the worst. We snapped some quick pictures, then were in search for a place to stop for drinks.

{above: St. Florian's Gate}
{above: Barbakan}
{above: other side of St. Florian's Gate}
We chose a cute little restaurant for dinner, Chłopskie Jadło, which had some yummy golabki, but I especially enjoyed my żurek (sour rye) soup.
We had another big day on Sunday (BTW, when I say "big day", I mean that we had to wake up early) since we scheduled a tour of the Wieliczka Salt Mine. It was a really neat experience, much better than I was expecting. I'll talk about that in another post :-)
After our tour, we were pretty hungry, so we had our taxi drop us at our lunch spot of Pod Baranem. It was good, but dad wasn't a big fan of the mushroom sauce on the golabki. Surprisingly, I liked it! Since the sun was shining, Luke, dad and I decided to go back into the Old Town for better pictures while mom went back to the apartment to rest. Krakow isn't that big, but somehow the three of us managed to walk another 5 miles! Our legs were feeling it though since we had been standing/walking underground at the salt mine all morning. We got some nice pictures though!

{Luke likes to take pictures of me blowing dandelions... or at least I like to think he does}

{slightly disturbing}

{interior of St. Mary's Basilica}

{Wawel Castle}
After sitting for a few minutes back at the apartment, all four of us ventured south (but still north of the river) to the Jewish quarter for dinner and drinks. The area is much less touristy, and not as nice, but it was still a great area.

We chose to eat dinner at Nova Restaurant which was recommended by our apartment. It wasn't traditional Polish unfortunately, but still very good. Afterward, we found a very casual bar to have liters of beer, wine for Judy, but she was trooper and pretended to have a liter.
On Monday morning, we got to sleep in a bit since our flight wasn't until noon. We were all very pleased with the trip, and really enjoyed Krakow. It is a beautiful city with friendly people, but nothing beats the cheap food and cheap beer! I would love to make my way to Warsaw someday, but man-oh-man, I can't get over that passport control. Anyway, ending on a positive note, it was a great weekend, and I am glad we all got to explore Krakow together!

Find out what else we did in Krakow here.

Pope John Paul II was from a town near Krakow, Wadowice. He moved to the city to study in 1938, and during his time as Pope, he kept a home in Krakow.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...