Krakow

Not the first choice of a spring vacation/holiday. I headed to Poland and everyone else was going to warm climates. I’m ok with that. I’ve wanted to visit Krakow since I was a kid. There was a classic book called The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric Kelly.  (And without giving away the whole book, you can still stand in the market square every day and hear the trumpet…)

So, cheap flight on Ryanair (ugh) and hotel booked via Expedia. Tourist card (picked up at the airport rather than pre-ordered) for €30/120zl. I was prepared for lots of rain so I tried to pack the best I could.  The train from airport to central Krakow 9zl (machine takes cash or card). DO get a ticket as they come by and check every ticket, every train, daily!

I stayed at Hotel Legend, off sw. Gertrudy. It’s approximately 15min from the station (if you aren’t hauling luggage and actually know where you’re going). Lovely little hotel located at the far end of the old city near Wawel Castle. Would certainly stay again! The breakfast was amazing and that helped me save money as I generally didn’t need to eat lunch. Staff at the hotel was beyond friendly and helpful. They could arrange tours or guides if you needed, and most spoke excellent English. I had a basic room and it was more than comfortable for my 4 night/5 day stay. My room did face the main street, which also has a tram line that runs on it, so be warned of noise if you’re a sensitive sleeper.

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Scenes from Krakow.

Day trip to the salt mines nearby was very nice, and I opted for it on 3 May (Constitution Day – a national holiday akin to 4th of July in the US) as every other tourist attraction and most everything else in the city was closed! It was easy to take the bus there and the bus fare was covered by my tourist card! Tours of the mine are done in English and to be allowed photos was 10zl extra. Cost = 99zl = 23€ = $26 = £20 (approx)

I attended a concert at Sts Peter and Paul church for only 60zl (£12). Most churches offer evening concerts and this was amazing – featuring Vivaldi and Chopin. The only downside was that 14th century churches are super cold at night and generally don’t have heat. Sometimes it was hard to focus as I was SO cold! But the acoustics were beyond amazing – better than some symphonies I’ve attended.

Meals on average ran about 25zl. And don’t miss out on the pretzels sold by the corner vendors for 1.60zl! Flavours are poppy seed, sesame seed, or (asiago) cheese. And one day, it rained so hard, I grabbed a couple pretzels and ran to the Starbucks to hide out for a bit. Give me my overpriced tea, but I’ll sit and eat my outside vendor food.

Starbucks, Costa, and Cafe Nero are familiar sights in the city as well as McDonald’s. McDonald’s IS. EVERYWHERE. EVERYWHERE. Yes, I ate there once, when I was rushing to the concert at the church because I lost track of time walking around.

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For fun, get a QR scanner app for your phone. There are park benches dotted around town with information to promote literacy! Scan the QR code, learn about the person (ignoring my ad-filled QR app):

And while the Schindler factory museum was fascinating (and very crowded with group tours, it was a tad annoying at times), there were a few photos I took that I don’t think need to be shared online as there’s enough hate, right? I posted one on Instagram so pop over there if you want to take a look. My favourite though was the Galicia Jewish Heritage Museum – the photography was amazing and poignant.

Fitbit stats = over 100k steps for the week and 25,000 or so on the day I went to the salt mines. Lots of thick stone steps and belltowers – my legs hurt!

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Preparing for Spring (and Mom)

It supposedly felt like spring today in parts of the country. Rumour had it there was bright sunshine in London. Trapped out in the shire, it was slightly overcast here, felt a bit damp, and was breezy. Maybe it would rain? The temperature would have easily reached the ever elusive 15c without the breeze. Needless to say, there are things in the shire springing about – which gives the dogs plenty to smell on their walks. There definitely were crocus – yellow crocus – attempting to peek out!

But now that February is basically gone, March is here and Mother’s Day is right around the corner (word to the wise, in the US, it’s in May and generally always fell right around my mom’s birthday, which often led to us forgetting one day or the other). Weirdly, I’ll type or write “mom” but when addressing her say “ma” – I think it’s a New York thing. English friends say “mum” and Irish friends say “mam.” Dialects…

So, I’m opting for a theme. Emma Bridgewater. Not the taste of everyone for sure, but my mom will love it because it’s pottery and crafts, and definitely English! Waitrose offers an exclusive pitcher with flowers for £68 delivered. Done. They also have a wide range of other flowers and plants at varying prices – and I’ve used them before to send flowers down to Cornwall which arrived on time and just as I selected.

Continuing the Emma Bridgewater theme, I decided to book a day and take my mom/mum/mam up for a factory tour. But even better – they offer a full “factory experience” day where you not only get a tour but have a nice tea and lunch, decorate some pottery and receive a discount on any pottery purchased that day! £30 per person isn’t bad at all considering a mug normally costs £20 and lunch is around £10 at a pub or anywhere out so… easy peasy! Bear in mind, I only live a short 2.5hr drive away, so depending on where you live in the country, your drive could be a bit longer and may involve a hotel stay, but if you planned with your mom/mum/mam or family, or group of friends, it may be a great day out! We’ve never been up to Stoke-on-Trent where all the pottery factories were located so this should be fun, right?

**All the photos in the above collage were taken from Emma Bridgewater’s Instagram page and the copyrights respectfully belong to them!**

 

This post was not sponsored in any way by Waitrose or Emma Bridgewater, but simply products I like and event I will be participating in. That being said, I’ll post pictures and updates for you to see after the fact!

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)

This Weekend

So, a few weeks ago, I waxed lyrical about my new membership to the V&A museum. Woot! I decided to add my dad to my membership for a small fee so he can go to the museum whenever he wants too since he’s retired. We had a very productive, and educational, one-hour tour of museum highlights for the “members only.”

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This weekend, I am going to a free workshop on sugar sculpture as part of the Collecting Europe exhibit/event:

“Renaissance sugar sculpture and 3D printing are combined in this one-off workshop. You’ll learn about the history of sugar sculpture with food historian and artist Tasha Marks, have a chance to make your own 17th-century sugar paste, and cast a sugar centerpiece using one of the 3D printed moulds from Alabaster Ruins. Alongside this taste of history, My Mini Factory will showcase some of their 3D print technology, culminating in a guided tour of the museum where you’ll visit the works that were transformed into AVM Curiosities’ installation, Alabaster Ruins.”

You know how much I like anything free! Stay tuned next week and I’ll let you know how it went!

V&A Follow Up

So, I did get to see Opus Angelicum this weekend. It was amazing. I am absolutely amazed people were able to create such things by hand in crap candle light. No pictures were allowed in the exhibit, but with my phone and ridiculously low lighting, they would’ve just been a dark shadowy mess.

Today, the haute couture fashion houses today are the only ones who use such techniques on a regular basis. And after seeing all the embroidered copes in the exhibit, if you go upstairs to the 4th floor, there is an embroidered cope from the 1800s in the British rooms which looks so basic and pedestrian compared to those in the 1400s!

Here are a few pictures to tide you over from the Cast Courts (all the plaster casts made in the 1800s of other famous works of art) and the British rooms upstairs. There is some video on my Instagram stories of the Cast Courts too (@cindipatter).

The other exhibit I saw since I got in free (woot!) was Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear. Surprisingly, it was more popular than the embroidery, but what do I know? I wouldn’t have necessarily gone to see this if I didn’t have a membership, but it was interesting nonetheless. Also, corsets look painful despite making your clothes look amazing.

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Corset, cotton, whalebone, about 1890. (From the signage in the exhibit, this gave the wearer a 47cm waist!) Photo courtesy and (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The other (tiny) perk of being a museum member – free coat check! I was totally prepared to pay (it was only £1 per item) but hey, save £2 and didn’t have to carry around my heavy coat and shopping bag while there! About half way through my time there, I realised how cold it was in the museum and contemplated retrieving my coat anyway.

And finally, rather than having my tea and lunch in the main dining area (which has great cakes, scones, sandwiches, and hot food at reasonable prices), I had mine in the Member’s Room. The Member’s Room is tucked away in a corner of the 4th floor and almost hidden, but is a nice quiet space when the museum is busy. The food choices are a bit more limited too, but still a varied selection of cakes and scones for your tea and coffee.

 

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