Warsaw

It turned into a very unusual week and after Krakow, I had to dip up to Warsaw for two nights. Lots of running around to do (not the typical tourist activities), so I don’t have much to share except photos. I stayed at an Airbnb about a 10-15min walk straight (literally) from the train station (excellent Airbnb with a great host too). The train from Krakow to Warsaw cost 199zl ($54) for first class, and I think it was 129zl for standard – the whole journey took about 3 hours.

I’m going to gloss over the snow flurries that occurred right as I was arriving at my Airbnb after I took the picture of the arts and cultural building below (built in 1955 and now housing a variety of museums).

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Old Warsaw was destroyed during the war, with many of the buildings just shells of their former selves. The restoration work was amazing (see the header photo), with this part of the city being granted UNESCO world heritage status! (Between this, the salt mines outside Krakow, and old Krakow itself, I got 3 sites in 1 country!)

I wish I’d had more than 48hrs to spend in Warsaw – it is a city with lots of potential for a great vacation! (Ok, it snowed again a second time the night I arrived with big fat flakes.) It’s also a city filled with a mixture of period architecture, communist-era, and new, shiny modern – sometimes all on the same street. And from what I can tell, it is a huge, sprawling city with wide sweeping boulevards – fitting pedestrians, buses, trams, and cars throughout the city centre, lots of parks for recreational activities and relaxation, and amazing restaurants for a variety of cuisines and budgets (and like Krakow, McDonald’s everywhere). I need to go back (maybe when I’m better prepared for fluctuating weather)!

That being said, to head to the airport, I picked up bus 175 at the plaza between my Airbnb and the train station – it only cost 4.40zl ($1.15), took 30min, and dropped you off at the front doors of Chopin Airport! You can’t ask for easier than that, right?

Overall, go! Go to Poland! I was leery at first, but after one day there, between Krakow and Warsaw I was pleasantly surprised and you certainly will not be disappointed!

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Collecting Europe

Here are the results from my sugar sculpting workshop at the V&A this weekend. It was done in part with Tasha Marks of AVMCuriosities and Jon Beck of Scan the World. Sugar sculpture was quite the art form beginning in the 16th century and was a way to show off enormous wealth and prosperity. Elaborate sugar displays often featured architecture and design elements with the pastry chefs showing off design skills, as many carved their own exclusive hardwood moulds. For the workshop, Tasha and Jon spent time taking photographs of objects around the museum to turn into 3D printed moulds for us to use (and with an approximate cost of £0.20 each, it was much less expensive than making moulds by hand)!

The basic recipe:

  • 454g icing (powdered sugar)
  • 28g gum tragacanth
  • 61ml water (or rosewater)

Best Gift

Hopefully, everyone had a nice relaxing Christmas, Hannukah, and New Year?!?

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So the best Christmas gift I got was a membership to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London. While the museum is normally free for standing exhibits, they do charge a fee for special exhibits. As a member, I’ll be able to get to see all the special exhibits as part of my membership! I won’t lie – I really wanted a contributing membership, but a standard membership will work too.

If you’ve never been to the V&A, go! Go immediately! The easiest tube stop is High Street Kensington (Circle/District) and follow the signs, or it’s an easy walk from Knightsbridge (Piccadilly) if you take the exit for Harrods. They have an amazing collection of Medieval and Renaissance art and sculpture, including the entire front of a building that survived the London fire of 1666. They have amazing fashion through the ages (did you see the shoes exhibit last summer or Alexander McQueen?) as well as Middle Eastern art that will blow your mind!

This weekend, I’m headed down to see Opus Angelicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery which is on through 5 February.

 

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Seal Bag, about 1280, England (c) Westminster Abbey: photo courtesy V&A Museum website

 

City Techie – the results

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Here are (some of) the photos from the workshop I took at Apple Covent Garden store today! I learned a few new tips & tricks for the phone I never knew about previously – which came in handy. I was really impressed with the 4 gentlemen from Apple who guided about 10 of us around various locations near Covent Garden (and answered all our questions), and I got a tonne of pictures!

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On the ghost front, I learned there are lots that haunt the theatre district, including WWI soldiers, a man who was stabbed to death, severed heads, Charles Dickens’ old publishing warehouse, Diagon Allen (yep, like from Harry Potter), and so much more! It made for a very interesting time too, because our little group was out on a rather balmy Saturday with typical London scenes, tourists, the theatre crowds in the evening, AND all the Halloween craziness I never thought I’d see outside the US!

Extra bonus – the city walk tour/workshop is not a one-off! Apparently, Apple does these events at least twice a month and so does the shop on Regent Street; Cambridge is starting them too! The next one is a Charles Dickens theme on 2 November! (I sooooo wish I was able to go but I’m packing for a trip to the US!)

 

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London from the Waterloo Bridge at dusk

 

 

Day Trip

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This weekend, I took a drive up to Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds. This was my first trip to the Cotswolds and I was not disappointed! I picked it after seeing a friend’s posts on Instagram and was quite jealous of the stone houses and shops. Sporadic rain showers didn’t stop anyone from visiting on a lovely autumn day weekend. The town also lent itself to being very dog-friendly for walking. Most shops don’t allow pets, but there are plenty of places to sit and eat outside with your dog and plenty seemed to enjoy the fast-moving creek that ran through town! My 3 monsters were left at home as I don’t have a car that is big enough to fit them yet. The big attraction was the Model Village, a Grade II listed site, that is made in 1:9 scale to the village itself circa 1937. My parents and I loved it!

Living in the UK over two years now, I am utterly convinced there is so much to see in this country, I will never see everything (sadly)! On this trip, I didn’t visit any formal heritage sites visited, but I have English Heritage and National Trust memberships that have easily paid for themselves in just a few trips. Personally, I think they are great value for the money and you are contributing to help preserve some of the most beautiful architecture and historic sites in the world. Many sites near me are seasonal and are starting to close, so it gives me plenty of time to explore all sorts of other places around the country. Get out and see what’s around where you live!

Day Trip

Several weeks ago, I heard a quick blurb on a morning show about free things to do for the weekend. Loving anything free, I quickly looked up Heritage Open Days and learned about the hundreds of properties, including historic and cultural sites, free to the public 8-11 September! Game on! There were tons of properties near me – many of which I’d never heard of before. 10miles down the road, Old Warden in Bedfordshire had 3 properties managed by the Landmark Trust participating. Landmark Trust makes historic properties available for vacation/holiday rentals at, in my opinion, reasonable rates for long weekend and weekly rates! You just bring your own groceries if you decide to stay. And the bonus – many even allow pets! When you have dogs, it’s hard to find a hotel on vacation that will allow them, let alone some cool historic properties!

Photos (clockwise): Grounds of the Shuttleworth Estate heading up to Queen Anne’s Summerhouse; Queen Anne’s Summerhouse; Warden Abbey; Hare & Hounds Pub (great food with a resident lab); horse cemetery near Queen Anne’s Summerhouse.