13.2.18

A Week of Healthy Dinners on a Student Budget


Cooking for one is a struggle that all students know. Wasting food is painful, and it's tough to be creative when you can't splash out on fancy ingredients.

So what's a gal to do? Meal-plan, that's what. Oh, and go to Lidl.

This academic year, I've really taken to meal-planning. If I don't plan my meals, I just end up picking up whatever I feel like from the shops. Impromptu shopping is super dangerous because (and I can promise you this) you end up spending more money.

Now, I'm not a meal-prepper. I'm a meal-planner. This means I just write out what my meals will be for the next few days along with the ingredients I need, go to the shop to buy it, and try to avoid food shopping otherwise. Meal-preppers actually make their food in advance. I can't do that. Leftovers are one thing, but 3-day old cooked-chicken? Sorry but that's a no from me (Though I do understand why super-busy people do it).

8.2.18

A Short City Break in Kraków, Poland


Are you sick of me going on about Poland yet? Nope? Good, because we have one last stop on our trip to get through! After soaking in the old-world charm of Warsaw and hitting the slopes in Bialka, we had high expectations for the last leg of our trip in Kraków.

31.1.18

Skiing in Białka Tatrzańska, Poland


Skiing every January has become a bit of an annual tradition. So much so that this is my third year in a row doing it. I'm as surprised as you are, guys.

This girl is not coordinated nor will she ever be. I gave up contact sports and became a runner because, well, it's simple. Skiing? Not so much.

Now, I'm not the world's most talented skier yet. I've fallen on many occasions and I get nervous on steep slopes (and even steep ski lifts). That's why our choice to ski at Białka Tatrzańska while on our holiday in Poland was the best ski-related decision we ever made.

24.1.18

48 Hours in Warsaw, Poland



As these winter months drag on with one cold spell after another, a place like Poland may not be on your current travel bucket list. But it really should be.

You see, when the idea of going to Poland on holiday in January was first introduced to me, I too was a naysayer.

"It will be too cold."

"There won't be anything fun to do."

"Whatever happened to taking tropical vacations?" 

But I underestimated Poland. Oh boy, did I. Sure, there's something glamorous about coming back to University for the second semester all tan and sunkissed. But nothing will ever beat the glamour of being able to travel beyond your means without actually going over budget. 

Poland's affordability is but one of its fantastic merits as a holiday destination. And over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to take you on a journey (well, my journey) through Poland so you can see that this incredible country really does have lots to offer. This week, I'm starting off with the first leg of our journey: Warsaw, the capital of Poland. 

With just under 48 hours in this city, we truly aimed to make the most of our short time there. But before I delve into the nitty-gritty of our trip,  I thought it was worth mentioning that our flights to Warsaw (one-way on Ryanair) were only £9.99!

Day 1- Morning 


Ben and I arrived in Warsaw Modlin Airport around 12:30 PM on a Wednesday, immediately hopped onto the airport shuttle and touched down in the Warsaw city centre around 2:00 to check into our Airbnb. I am a huge advocate for Airbnb and have not once had a bad experience. I think it's such a fantastic way to stay in beautiful properties for not much money (and your money goes a long way in Poland).

Our Airbnb's interiors were beautifully white-washed and 100% instagrammable (definitely a bloggers dream to have this kind of lighting for flatlays!). We always look for properties on Airbnb that have at least a small kitchen. While we didn't end up doing any cooking while in Warsaw, it was nice to have access to the essentials like tea and coffee, while also having a place to store cold beer and cider.    


The apartment was located between the Old Town and the newer financial district. It was about a 30-40 minute walk to the Old Town from there, but, as you'll see, there's much more to Warsaw than just the Old Town. Ubers were cheap anyway, so this didn't put us off. Plus, I always enjoy being a bit far out from the touristy bits of the city (we were in the student district near a University) because there tends to be better food there.

Speaking of food, we settled our rumbling stomachs with a brilliant find (by moi, of course) just down the street from our apartment. Groole is a hip, student-friendly lunch (and dinner!) spot that serves jacket potatoes. Literally just jacket potatoes. Now, I'm not a big fan of baked potatoes but if I had them served to me with beetroot salad and feta, tomato, and olive yoghurt every time, I think I'd be a convert. I knew Ben would love this place because it was filling and cheap! And, like most people in Poland, the staff spoke perfect English. This was one thing I noticed about Poland right away (and it makes me slightly embarrassed for not being fluent in another language).


We had decided to save the Old Town for the next day, so we hopped in an uber to the Warsaw Uprising Museum. Our first impression of Polish museums was a common theme throughout our trip- they are high tech and incredibly done. Even if you're not a "museum person" the technology and interaction at Polish museums will have you dashing from museum to museum to soak it in (especially in the bitterly cold temps).


This particular museum is a great primer to what is perhaps Warsaw's defining historical moment. During World War II, an underground resistance of civilians from Warsaw led an operation to liberate the city from German occupation. The Polish troops received little help from outside sources, and with their relatively small cohort put up an incredible fight for freedom. Despite their efforts, many lives were lost and the majority of the city was destroyed. However, the people of Warsaw who survived (and fled) returned to the city to help it rebuild. What you see today of Warsaw's Old Town is nearly an entire recreation of what it looked like before the war.

Day 1- Evening 


After feeling inspired at the Uprising Museum, we were itching to know more about Warsaw's history. But we left that until tomorrow when we would be guided around the city on a free walking tour. Instead, we headed back toward our apartment and to the Palace of Culture and Science. But we didn't go here for the museum- we went for the view! This enormous building, originally dedicated to Joseph Stalin, dominates Warsaw's skyline and serves as a multi-purpose space for theatre, concerts, films, art and the like. We bought tickets for viewing area and took an elevator to the top. The views of the financial district were stunning, especially with all the lights glittering at night.


After taking in the view, we snapped some photos and walked back toward the apartment, stopping to grab some Polish beer and cider along the way (FYI- Polish cider is amazing!). We contemplated where we would go for dinner, and after much deliberation, we decided on Sofra, a Turkish/Mediterranean restaurant nearby. While yes, we came to Poland to sample Polish food, we knew that there would be many opportunities to do so later in the trip and, after all, Warsaw is a growing "foodie city" so there's so much to try!


Ben ordered a very good bottle of red wine for the two of us to share (to the tune of about £13 if you can believe it) and I ordered a mezze platter for us to share. Babaganoush, tabouleh, tapenade, and garlic yoghurt paired with warm homemade bread was the perfect starter. I ordered mixed lamb and beef koftas that came with roasted vegetables and yoghurt dip- they were spicy and warming and paired perfectly with the zingy yoghurt. Ben ordered a main that had Mediterranean and Polish influences- beef wrapped in grape leaves with rice.


For dessert, we didn't share (ha) and Ben ordered a Pavolva and I indulged in a hazelnut-chocolate cake. Paired with complimentary Turkish tea (which reminded me of home), it was the ideal end to the meal. Even though Sofra was not a Polish restaurant, I would 100% recommend it. It was full of locals and, after all, you can only eat so many pierogies!



Day 2- Morning 


Our first proper morning we rushed out of the apartment (typical) and arrived in Warsaw's Old Town with just enough time for breakfast before our tour. Walking through an eerily quiet Warsaw on a Thursday morning, we set our sights on the Shabby Chic Cafe for a quick croissant and coffee.


If you've read any of my travel posts before, you'll know that I am a huge fan of Free Walking Tours. I mean, they're free, run by locals who know their stuff, and they're usually pretty low-key. The Walkative tour of Warsaw's Old Town gave us a thorough overview of the city's history, while our tour guide Bart added in some extra tidbits (like how walking around a particular fountain can bring you good luck!)


We covered all the bases- from the Palace to the Main Square to the Home of Marie Curie. Along with the history of Warsaw, what particularly caught my attention was the architecture. As I mentioned earlier, Warsaw's Old Town was entirely rebuilt after the uprising- so the architecture is pretty insane. I couldn't help but take too many photos. Also, it was bitterly cold during the tour but I was saved by Uniqlo's heat-tech tights! I found out later that they were much warmer on their own than a pair of jeans alone.

Day 2- Afternoon 


To warm up after the tour, we headed to Gosciniec Polskie Pierogi for a pan of hot, fried pierogi and a cup of soup. I ordered the meat-filled dumplings and a cup of beetroot soup while Ben had the cheese and bacon ones with noodle soup. While these weren't the best pierogi we had on the trip (that award goes to a little spot in Krakow), they really filled us up for a great price and were a great introduction to the dish.

After lunch. we made our way to the clock tower to take in the view of the Old Town. I think the photo speaks for itself!


We couldn't get enough of the museums in Warsaw, so after lunch, we made a beeline for the Jewish Museum. This museum was, once again, incredibly thorough, high-tech, and interactive! But instead of detailing a singular event in Polish history, this museum went through the entire history of Jews in Warsaw. It took us about an hour and a half to get through it, and I believe that was only one exhibit.


Day 2- Evening

We had big plans for our last evening in Warsaw. We had heard that the views from the top of the Marriott at the Sky Bar were incredible. Plus, they had a happy hour deal (2-for-1 cocktails) from 6 until 7. Thinking this would be the perfect start to our final night in Warsaw, and a good place to have a drink before a fancy dinner, we got dressed up and headed to the Marriott. A conference had just let out, so there was a literal queue for the elevator. We waited patiently, made it to the top floor, and the woman at the top informed us that the bar was closed for a private party.

Despite our disappointment, we had a fantastic interaction with another woman who also wanted to have a drink there. After she had spoken to the hostess in Polish, she turned around to us in perfect English (with a New York accent, no less) and said disdainfully "They do not know how to do business here. They could have let us in! This would never happen in New York." After chatting away with her, we found out that she had grown up in Warsaw, but had lived in NYC for the past 40 years. Our one regret of the trip? Not having a drink with her at the downstairs bar.


Instead, we desperately searched for another bar, and after being turned away for not having a booking at one, we found a tiny bar off of the Old Town main square that made phenomenal cocktails. Klar Cocktail Bar ended up being our saving grace that night. I had a ridiculously girly pink cocktail while Ben had a sour. While we were there, we overheard an English man trying to sell his craft gin to the bar staff (we're serial eavesdroppers).

For our final dinner in Warsaw, I had made a reservation at one of the top restaurants in town, Stolica. White linen dining is common in Warsaw and while this can be seen as old-fashioned, Stolica's food is anything but. I opted for a gin and tonic instead of wine, while Ben stuck with beer. There was even a live pianist playing anything from jazz standards to classical music (of Warsaw's native Chopin, of course).


For my starter, I enjoyed a delicate goat cheese parfait with blackcurrant jelly, poached pears, ham, and strawberries. I personally love fruit in savory dishes, so this starter had my name on it! Ben had a really gorgeous plate of veal neck with crispy bacon, poached eggs, and spinach (sounds like a play on breakfast, to me!) Both dishes had the finesse of fine-dining without the pricetag!


What to have for the main course was not an easy choice. Stolica's menu is so diverse and tempting that it took me a good few minutes to decide! Should I go "classic" Polish and have the stuffed cabbage rolls? Or more classic with the leg of lamb? In the end, I settled on the duck breast. This dish was classically French with perfectly portioned its potato gratin, but had a Polish twist through the addition of beets! Ben ordered the pistachio crusted pork loin which also had Polish influences with the spinach dumplings and cabbage mousse. 


For dessert, I went for my usual chocolate cake and Ben went for a traditional apple pie (opposites attract and all, right?). Unfortunately, our cakes weren't nearly as good as the ones we had the night before, but it was good to have a sweet treat to end the night!


Warsaw in a nutshell 

Sadly, we had to bid Warsaw goodbye the following morning to head to the slopes outside of Krakow. I wouldn't hesitate to return to Warsaw again if only to sample its ever-growing gastronomic scene! Not only is Warsaw a budget-friendly travel destination, but there's far more to it than pierogies and bleak weather. Warsaw has a fascinating history that, when combined with its masterfully curated museums, is recounted in a way that inspires. Through its history, food, and people, Warsaw has taught me that even in the face of tragedy, hope can rebuild and reignite a city and a culture that deserves to be celebrated.  

Stay tuned for more Poland travel posts! Skiing in Białka and touring Krakow are yet to come!    
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