Weekend Getaway

Wizyta w Warszawie

Date: 26 -28 June 2015

Modes of Travel: British Airways Heathrow Express

Cast of Characters: Dan, Bruce, Hannah and Brett

Hotel: Novotel Warszawa Centrum

Here we go another BA holiday inspired by price.    When our friend Hannah suggested going to Warsaw we were initially hesitant.  We had been to Warsaw in 2011 and it didn’t wow us as much as the other Polish cities we had visited.   However once she told us it was £125 per person including flights and hotel for two nights we were sold!

As a group we like to maximise our weekends so we all took a half day off work and met at Heathrow around 12:30pm on the Friday.   Check-in and security was uneventful and once through security we headed directly to the pub for our traditional pre-flight drink and some lunch.  The pub in Terminal 3 is nothing to rave about but it got the job done and we headed to the gate.   Once at the gate it was evident that it was “training day” because they had 13 people attempting to check passports and boarding passes before entering the seating area.   We had managed to time it just right so once we were through they started pre-boarding which we were all able to take advantage of due to Dan’s Silver status on BA.

Once on the plane it was very clear it was an extremely packed flight.  As always Dan had pre-booked our group the exit row and a window and aisle for us.   As luck would have it no one sat between us which gave us the opportunity to stretch out a little bit.   Unfortunately a man in the row behind us has the most horrendous body odor and that was all I could think about for the two hour flight.    Other than that the flight was uneventful.

Once we arrived in Warsaw we quickly made it through passport control and baggage claim.    Dan had pre-booked an airport transfer with MKG Travel (www.warsawshuttle.com) a company we used previously in Gdansk for 90 Zloty each way.   The distance between the airport and the city centre was amazingly short and even during rush hour on a Friday we were at the hotel within 20 min.    We chose to stay at the Novotel Centrum which is an Accor hotel.  We typically stay with them when we are traveling in Eastern Europe because you know what you are getting and we usually get points.    Just as we finished checking in it decided to start pouring.    We agreed to drop our bags off and meet back in the lobby in 10 min.

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Sadly no Minion view for us, but we could see it whilst waiting for the lift.

Fortunately for us during that 10 min break the rain had stopped.   We left the hotel in the direction of the old town with a mission of finding a place for a beverage to plan our night.    We didn’t have to go far before finding Kufle I Kapsle which was a Polish craft beer bar.   The beers were decent but it was a bit busy and we couldn’t find a comfortable place to sit so we quickly finished our beers and headed to the old town.   The walk to the old town took us about 45 min, due to a slight detour (ed note: and a hill, but who is complaining right), but we got there in the end.

When Dan and I had been to Warsaw before the old town was our favourite bit although it isn’t exactly old.   Warsaw was completely leveled during World War II so the old town was completely rebuilt in the 1950/60’s by the soviets.    While it isn’t necessarily the most authentic old town in Poland or in Europe it is still a pretty place to wander around and have drinks and dinner.

Once in the old town we quickly wandered from Castle Square to the Market Square where we went to Pub Leżaki for a drink while we decided what to do for dinner.     Dan and I had been to this pub on our first trip to Warsaw and while it isn’t the greatest place in the world it has a nice seating area in the market square.    While sipping our beverages in the market square we decided to go to a restaurant called The Mexican which is a Polish Mexican restaurant chain.   Dan and I had been to the ones in Poznan, Kraków, and Sopot previously.   The margaritas have always been great but after our last experience in Sopot we were a bit worried about the food.   Luckily The Mexican in Warsaw redeemed itself.   The portions were huge and more importantly the food was great.   After dinner we decided to get a lody (Polish soft serve ice cream) on the way back to the hotel. Due to lessons learned on the way to the old town we were able to cut the journey down to about 25 min by walking straight down Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street.

On Saturday morning we met in the hotel lobby at 10am so we could make the free walking tour put on by Orange Umbrella Tours at 11am.    We left the hotel and stopped by Carrefour for a quick snack and some water.   We were now experts and quickly made our way the Castle Square for the tour.   On the way we notice that several stages were being setup and banners for “Fashion Street” had appeared overnight on Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street.    The tour started promptly and the tour guide gave a very informative and insightful tour of the old town which ended with a shot of vodka and a traditional Polish drinking snack of bread covered in pork fat and a pickle.   As with all free tours the guide makes their money on tips so as a group we tipped 50 Zloty.

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After the tour we had already decided to go to the Warsaw Tortilla Factory for lunch.   Dan and I had discovered the restaurant on our first trip and wanted to go back.  We were a bit unsure of its location and received conflicting information from Google Maps and Apple Maps so it was decided that we would take a taxi there and then just wander back.    We found a taxi with little difficulty and he took us quite quickly to our destination, which turned out to be right by the hotel.   We had expected the journey to cost 50-60 Zloty but he wanted 210 Zloty.   However in the confusion of Polish to English we ended up paying the amount, instantly realising that it was way too much.

The restaurant is more of a bar/music venue so it wasn’t a tremendous surprise to find it pretty much empty.   We sat down and ordered our food as we were all starving after the walking tour. The server was friendly but the food took ages and was disappointingly average at best.

Once we finished our meal we decided it was best to head back to the hotel to freshen up.  Once at the hotel we agreed to meet back in the lobby at 6pm.

Well 6pm came quite quickly and we met in the lobby.  We decided to walk towards the river and then walk to the old town for dinner.    The walk to the river wasn’t a pretty affair and apart from the old town Warsaw isn’t a pretty city.   Once at the river we walked through a park and then along the river.   One thing that was nice to see was that across the river there were several beaches and bars that the locals were taking advantage of.     Our walk took us near the university library where Red Bull was hosting a basketball competition.   We watched the warm ups and had a few Red Bulls (summer edition was awesome and did not even taste like Rd Bull) while listening to the music.    Once the tournament started we continued our walk to the old town.

Our walk ended at the bottle of the Castle Square, which unfortunately meant we had about 100 meters of stairs to climb to the top.   Once at the top it was an interesting sight.    There had been a colour run earlier in the day so there were quite a few colourful people looking worse for wear as well as 20-30 dressed up military gear and another 20-30 dressed as zombies.    We decided to head to a craft beer bar Hannah had read about on Trip Advisor and that we had seen the day before called Same Fusy.   We walked along the old (new) city wall to our destination.  The bar was fairly busy but we managed to find a place near the bar.   The beer selection was immense and seemed to cater to almost any taste.     While enjoying our first beer we had the opportunity to see the food coming out of the kitchen.    The burgers and pizzas looked amazing. Fortunately for us a table opened up at the front of the bar so we decided to get a pizza and eat dinner there rather than heading out.

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The pizza was AMAZING and possibly one of the best pizzas I/we have ever had.
After dinner we walked down the street to another local ice cream shop where Hannah and Brett got waffles with whipped cream and Dan and I got ice cream.   We decided on a leisurely walk back to the hotel down the “Fashion Street” to see what they had done.    During the day they had managed to install several tents and a stage with a catwalk.   Overall it was quite impressive how much they had done in such a short space of time.    As many of you know we collect Starbucks mugs when we travel.   However on our last trip to Warsaw I don’t believe Starbucks had opened yet so we stopped off in the way and purchased a Poland and a Warsaw mug for the collection.   As we approached the hotel the Palace of Culture and Science was illuminated in rainbow colours for Pride   I was able to take an obstructed photo with my phone but before I was able to take another they had turned off the lights.

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We met in the hotel lobby at 10:30am on the Sunday since this was our last day and we wanted to leave our bags.  Once we had checked out we walked over towards the central station to the adjacent shopping mall.   The mall is quite nice by anyone’s standards and was virtually empty. We made our rounds and discovered a Bath and Bodyworks!  I know this may not seem like much to our friends in the U.S. but they don’t have them in the U.K. and I love their hand sanitizer.      So after spending just over 100 Zloty on hand sanitizer we continue our wander around the mall.     As it turned out my purchase of hand sanitizer ended up being the only purchase for the group.

IMG_2243An old friend!

We left the mall and headed to lunch but since our flight didn’t leave until 6:15pm we were not in a huge rush so we took the long way around the Palace of Culture and Science on our way to Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street for lunch.    The “Fashion Street” event was just staring to get underway and many of the cafes near the catwalk were packed.    We decided to continue our journey further down the street and settled on an Italian place called Pizza Eataliano.   From the moment we sat down it was clear our servers English wasn’t that great (ed note, to be fair our polish is non existent) but we muddled thorough ordering and we all felt pretty confident.   That was until the mains came except one.  In the end we worked it out and the remaining main dish came out after everyone else had finished eating.  Overall the food was decent and hit the spot but nothing to rave about.

On our first night Hannah had spotted a cafe called Cheesecake Corner and we had planned on going back since.   Since lunch didn’t take that long even with the issues we had the opportunity to try this place out.  It had a nice seating area on the street and several varieties of cheesecake as well as other desserts.    Each of the desserts looked absolutely stunning.  We had a raspberry pavlova, New York cheesecake, a mini forest fruits cheesecake as well as a mini mango cheese cake.   Brett of course had to be difficult and get chocolate ice cream.   Overall the desserts were not the best I have had but given the price I wouldn’t complain and would recommend stopping by if you were around.

After the cheesecake we decided to walk in a different direction to kill some time as we still had two hours before the taxi was suppose to pick us up.    We ended up walking south past the road our hotel was on in the area with all the embassies.  After a few rounds of “name that country” we decided to head back to our hotel early and chill out in the lobby.

As luck would have it our taxi driver arrived about 20 min early and was the same driver that picked us up (same thing in Gdansk as well).   The journey to airport took about 10 min which meant we arrived at the airport about 45 min before check-in opened.   Once check-in opened we went through security.   It was a refreshing experience for there to be no line but it was clear they still took security very seriously.

Once on the other side of security we had the mission of spending our remaining Zloty and what is better thing to buy in Poland than vodka.   Dan took Brett into the lounge as his guest while Hannah and I waited by the gate and wrote our Trip Advisor reviews and discussed our upcoming trip to Stuttgart in August.

Boarding was fairly smooth again by taking advantage of Dan’s silver status.   Once on the plane I wrapped up my posting of Bilbao and wrote this lovely posting all before leaving continental Europe’s airspace!

In closing while Dan and I were not that impressed with Warsaw on our last trip it has certainly moved up in our estimation after this trip and I would recommend a short visit.     Poland is a great country with amazing cities, long history, good beer, great vodka and it is cheap.   Visit Poland!

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