Sunday, July 17, 2016

June is bustin' out all over ...

1 June 2016, Bethesda MD USA, Graduation Day
Today’s the big day — Franciszka’s was graduated from high school.  Mike and Jan were here from Atlanta, Kim came in from New York, Tomek, Inga, Antonia and I were all there to watch her.  
Graduate with sister and mom

The speaker was José Andrés, a chef who lives in Bethesda and owns a Jaleo restaurant there.  That’s about all any of us knew.  Then he started to speak, and it was clear why he was such a great choice:  He talked about the forces of exclusion and inclusion.  He said even when you can't hear or like him understand all of the words, you an tell by the behavior of a crowd whether the speaker is an included or an excluder.  Those listening to an excluder exhibit anger and other negative emotions while those hearing the words of inclusion seem happy.  

An immigrant from Spain, he talked about arriving in New York City with virtually nothing but what he saw as a world of opportunities.  "American included me from the very beginning," he said.  An award-winning chef credited with introducing the concept of small plates to the US (per Wikipedia), throughout the speech he always referred to himself as a cook.  A successful entrepreneur of Jaleo restaurants and many others around the US, he is also a social entrepreneur who helped start LA Kitchen to reduce food waste, provide job training and improve access to nutritional food.  And he started a project in Haiti not only to feed people but to teach cooking skills.  "The more people I could include, the happier I was," he said.

2 June, Somewhere over the Atlantic
Syncopation, coordination, just plain good luck … I left DC as the sun rose to fly back to MSP.  Wonderful friend Janet picked me up for a short respite at their house — shower, reorganizing suitcases, printing boarding passes, double checking everything.  Then she drove me back to MSP for the flight to AMS and onward to Poland.  We got to MSP early in expectation of the dreaded long wait at TSA — only I zipped right through.  Plenty of time to walk around, eat lunch, use facilities.  Now to watch “Concussion,” a film that I’ve been wanting to see but missed at theater.

3 June, Sandomierz, Poland
“Concussion” was excellent, and I also enjoyed “Joy.”  Those plus a bit of Kindle reading saw me through the long night.  Transfer through Amsterdam went smoothly as did the flight to Warsaw.  Piotr, the driver from Sandomierz, was waiting for me, and I nodded off during the three-hour trip.  Steve and his wife Kim are driving up from Kraków tomorrow, and we’ll all go to Marcin’s wedding.  For now, I’m going to sleep.

5 June
You’ll never be fed so much, dance so much, enjoy yourself so much as you will at a Polish wedding.  They are the greatest fun on earth.  Steve, Kim and I finally called it quits at 2 am and returned to the hotel.  The church ceremony was at 4 pm on Saturday, then a short drive to the reception in Dwikozy and the eating/drinking/dancing began.  Four different meals were served PLUS all the food on a central buffet table AND on the table where we sat.  I refused the second and third servings so as not to waste food.  All the leftovers were going to Hala’s; apparently in Poland food is the contribution of the bridegroom’s family.  The bride’s provides booze and beverages. The only time the vodka stopped flowing was when your glass was upside down to indicate no refill.  I had three shots all evening plus a couple of glasses of wine with no appreciable effects today.  All that food and dancing helped.  Sober drivers were provided for everyone as there’s still no-tolerance for drunk driving (or even with the smell of booze on your breath).

One of the things I’ve always loved about Poland is that the men, old or young, actually dance, slow or fast, and rarely do they need prodding.  The dance floor was busy all evening.  Marta, Hala’s daughter, took a short video of me and her aunt doing the twist and wants me to add it to this.  Zobaczymy.

8 June, Puławy, Poland
Recovered from the wedding.  Steve and Kim returned to Kraków for a few days, and I came to Puławy to spend some time with our friend and translator, Ewa.  She recruited me to speak to her English classes again.  One group down today, another on Thursday morning before we leave for Sandomierz.  I have to admit, it’s fun.  I’d taken photos of odd signs, and we discussed what the signs meant to the students as well as the intent of the sign maker.  One of the signs was from the Communist era — something that ended before these kids were even born.

Ewa's students interview me to practice their English
 and test my knowledge
Speaking of signs, I noticed the traffic signals were dual purpose — the regular signals for autos and trucks and another for bicycles, easily identified by the bicycle on the lights. I walked all over Puławy and never once saw a cyclist run a red light.  Can’t say that about Minneapolis.
Bicycle traffic signal

A special treat this trip has been that Ewa’s daughter Olga has been cooking.  And she’s quite good.  She finds recipes on the Internet and tries them on us guinea pigs who, as a result, have been very well fed.

10 June, Sandomierz
Long day of visiting Center clients, meeting a Board candidate (one of our members has become a vice minister in the government so had to resign), and of course, eating and drinking.  Enough said.

On the way to Warsaw, we waited
while traffic was stopped because of this accident

12 June, Edinburgh, Scotland
Why, oh, why am I always on the 6 am flight to Amsterdam?  Driver brought Steve and me into Warsaw yesterday afternoon.  His flight to London was later in the morning.  He’s meeting Kim there to attend his sister’s wedding.  In AMS, I transferred to the EDI flight easily, got a bus to the city center and a taxi to the hotel although I was told it was a short walk.  Short, yes, but it was up a very steep hill to the Royal Mile, then down another to Grassmarket Square — all on cobblestone streets and dodging tourists as well as locals.

Looking from Grassmarket
to Edinburgh Castle

Love the hotel’s location.  I can see Edinburgh Castle and easily walk to the train station, which I did just to check it out.  Christopher and Jen arrive by train from London tomorrow afternoon.  Also I did a bit of shopping — got a new pair of Wellies (tall, rubber boots) that fit.  The ones I bought in Ayr last year are too short for my feet; walking any distance is painful.  The new ones require some heavy socks, which I also bought.  I walked back to the hotel in the them and by legs and back were okay.  And boots and socks were on sale.

13 June
An Uber driver cancelled out after accepting their call plus lots of London traffic resulted in Chris and Jen missing their train.  But someone at King’s Cross Station helped them rebook, and they arrived, weary but glad to be in Scotland.  We did a wander in the hotel’s area tonight, had pizza for dinner and now to bed.  

Oh, I picked up the car at the airport, a four-door Volvo, and with the help of my iPhone, found my way back to the hotel.  Let me just say that between narrow one-way streets, hills and such, this is not an easy city to drive any car in, but especially a full-sized one.

Chris & Jen at Edinburgh Castle

Tomorrow Chris and Jen visit the castle while I pack the car, then we head to St. Andrew’s for the day and Dundee for a couple of nights.  Unfortunately the forecast is for rain most of the week.  Argh!!!

14 June, Dundee, Scotland
We decided to take the scenic, non-highway route between Edinburgh and St. Andrew’s.  If it hadn’t been for the pouring rain, we might’ve enjoyed the scenery.  The rain and narrow, windy roads made the driving stressful but manageable.  Wandered around St. Andrew’s, bought a Scottish cow cover for my brother’s golf club, had coffee, then hit the road for Dundee.  Fairly easy drive.  The Tay Bridge reminded me of the Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore in Maryland, very long although Tay isn’t high.  Our hotel was on the harbor, literally two easy right turns off the bridge.  We stayed in for dinner since it was raining.  Tomorrow …

Oh, leaving the hotel, I followed the GPS which took us up a couple of steep two-way streets with parking on both sides, leaving room for one car.  Thankfully no one was coming the other way.  But at the top was a construction zone next to the University of Edinburgh and a no-right-turn sign.  GPS said turn right, so I did anyway.  No cops around.

15 June
Thankfully Chris didn't bring his
golf clubs or he'd've been playing
in the rain 
Lovely day despite the rain.  We drove over to St. Andrew’s, and while Chris got a shave and a hair cut, Jen and I wandered around.  I bought a pair of Clark’s summer walking trainers for days when it’s not pouring.  On sale and they’ll dry faster than my leather walking shoes.

About Chris and the shave.  He vowed to let his beard grow until the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team won Stanley Cup.  Thank God they did.  He was looking a bit scraggily to say the least.  The barber did a great job — hot towel shave (his first) and haircut.

We drove around so Chris could see the Old Course where foursomes were tee’d up in the rain, stopped at the clubhouse, did a bit of shopping and had lunch.  On the way home Chris noticed a cute village but the turn came up too quick.  I used the roundabout by the Tay Bridge to get to a riverside road and off we went on another adventure.  We drove along the river road for several kilometers.  Chris and Jen were continually flabbergasted at the narrow streets.  As often happens here, cars were parked on both sides leaving little more than one drivable lane.  But, as usually happens here, cars took turns pulling aside so others could pass. 

After a walkabout in one village and cup of hot coffee/tea, we went in search of dinner.  Of course it started to pour again.  Since I didn’t want to try to park in downtown Dundee, we drove some of the river highway on the city side of the Tay Bridge, passed the airport and a couple of restaurants.  After a bit of round-abouting, I was able to get to one where we finally ate.

16 June, Ayr 
Cross country adventure driving from Dundee to Ayr via Livingston mostly in the rain.  I was desperately in need of a bathroom break and the only place I could find was a giant outlet mall near Livingston.  We parked and hustled to the restrooms, then to get some coffee before continuing.  But first, it seemed, I had to prove Christopher right.

Chris often says, “You’re turning into Gramma, Aunt Suzi,” meaning I am doing or saying something reminiscent of my mother.  And of course he’s right, all the more so in Livingston today.  After using the restroom, we walked over to another building where the kids went for coffee while I went to change some money.  Not. I discovered that I didn’t have my purse (read: passport, driver’s license, credit cards, money).  Long story short, I’d left it in the ladies and some honest Scottish lass found it and turned it into the information desk, where I found it, totally in tact.  Heart no longer in my stomach, I met Chris and Jen and told them what had happened.

Aside:  Years ago my mother left her handbag, complete not only with money, credit cards and driver’s license, but also titles to the car and house, in a restroom near my brother’s in Peoria.  My sister had stopped to fill up before driving back to MN, and Mom made a pit stop.  An honest local turned it into the attendant, and my brother was able to retrieve it for her.

We arrived at Miller House, and it is the place where Sabrina and family stayed last year and the only B&B where I could find a long bed for Chris.  After getting settled, Jen and I went for a walk to the seaside and around town, then I got my coconut ice cream cone at Ronaldo’s Ice Cream Parlour.  Dinner tonight at my favorite Ayr restaurant, the Tree House.

On the ferry to Arran Island

One of the many golf courses we saw, this one
minus the rain!

Having fun at Alloway

18 June, Glasgow
Busy couple of days.  Saw a few golf courses, including Trump Turnberry, where we had high tea, Prestwick, and Royal Troon where the British Open will be soon held.  Went to Alloway so the kids could see the Robert Burns museum etc.  And did a quick stop in Mom’s hometown where we had tea.  Not really much to see there but Chris got a feel for where part of his genes came from.  Weather has been a bit better, far less rain and more sunshine.  Chris and Jen enjoyed their “full Scottish” breakfasts; said the host was quite a good cook.  Oh, and I’m apparently turning into my dad too.  When we stopped for gasoline, I was in such a hurry that I didn’t realize I’d walked into the men’s room until I exited the stall and faced a line of (thankfully not currently in use) urinals.  When my late son Peter was 10, he and my dad went to Budapest with my brother and his wife.  When they went to dinner, Pop left for the men’s room and accidentally went into the ladies.  After all, he said, the sign read “herr-en” (the other was “da-men”).   Pop told that story on himself many times.

We checked out of our B&Bs in Ayr, packed up and headed up the coast to Ardrossan.  It was a gorgeous sunny day with a bright blue sky and a few big white fluffy clouds.  We parked and took the ferry to Arran where we enjoyed walking and having lunch, then ferried back and took the freeway to Glasgow.  I’d made reservations at a small hotel not far from the train station. Chris and Jen have a mid morning train back to London tomorrow.  The hotel has a nearby parking garage that it uses but, I learned on arrival, it would not be possible to exit between 6 am and 2 pm tomorrow.  Streets in the neighborhood will be blocked off for a road race.  Thankfully I found a spot right in front of the hotel for free as it was after 6 pm on a Saturday; meters become operative again on Monday morning.  But tomorrow … I need to be in Edinburgh by 1 pm.

19 June, Edinburgh International Airport
After a wander around Glasgow, a quick stop at the train station and dinner, I said good night and good bye to Chris and Jen.  I knew I’d have to leave before they got up.  And I did — at 6 am.  Following a recommendation of the hotel’s night manager, I took an alternative to the main Glasgow-Edinburgh motorway … and must’ve missed something.  I was getting way too close to Carlisle, two hours south of Edinburgh.  I pulled off the highway onto a smaller road and found a lay-by, turned on the phone and wended my way over small roads using the GPS … past Livingston … to the Edinburgh Airport.  My 70-minute drive had taken more than two hours, but even then, I was waaaaay early.  I had planned to check my bags and take the bus into town for a while.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible.  I walked around the airport, dragging my suitcase and two carry-on totes, stopping for breakfast, coffee, lunch, computer time, magazine/book browsing.  Put in a lot of steps.  Now I’m waiting for my flight to be called.

Dorota’s wonderful husband Jacek was waiting for me when I landed in Warsaw.  I’ll stay with them a week or so, then head to Sandomierz and perhaps Kraków if Inga decides to come to Poland.

26 June, Milanówek, Poland
The week has gone fast.  I finally visited the war museum, another well done high-tech exhibition.  It’s in an old electric power plant.  Lunch with Gina, then she came for dinner at Dorota’s one night.  I took Dorota, Jacek and Franio to our favorite middle eastern restaurant to celebrate Franio’s completing second grade.

Two days I was Franio’s nanny for part of the day.  One afternoon we played soccer at a nearby park — 45 minutes, then went for ice cream.  Another day we went to see “Angry Birds” at a nearby cinema, in Polish of course.  At home I watched Zootopia with him on DVD as well as the latest Star Wars, which I saw in English so had some idea what was going on.  While he’s still a bit shy about using his English skills, he does his best to grapple with my bad Polish.  

Now I’m in the suburbs with my friend Maryla, her husband Staś and son Tomek.  Almost as long as I’ve known them, they have been renovating this old manor house. It’s been too long since I’ve had time to come our here with them for a long weekend.  It’s as relaxing as my friends’ cabins in north woods of MN.  In fact, both Maryla and I fell asleep in our lounge chairs on the back patio this afternoon.  

Maryla & Stas' house is on walking tour
of manor houses in Milanówek
Lots more work has been completed since my last visit.  “My” bathroom is an elegant masterpiece complete with claw-footed tub.  Staś is a sculpture and perfectionist.  Speaking of which, he received a commission from the Sejm (like Congress) to do a relief of the head of the late President Kaczyński (not to be confused with his twin brother, the former prime minister).  I saw the well executed drawings, and Staś submitted a clay version for approval.  Now the two main political parties, PiS (the Kaczyńskis’ party) and PO (the opposition) are arguing over what verbiage will accompany the final marble piece.  Thankfully Staś was paid for his sample because I cannot imagine those two parties will ever agree on language.

26 June
After a perfect-weather Saturday and much of today, we’re now having a terrific thunder storm, lots of wind and rain.  Oops, there goes the power.  More later …

30 June, Białogóra, Poland, on the Baltic Sea
Dorota & Franio are ready to go
After talking to Hala, who said temps were close to 90F in Sandomierz, I decided to travel to the seashore with Dorota and Franio.  We drove up yesterday using the new motorways that EU money helped to build.  What a difference they make.  We’re staying in a guesthouse where Dorota’s rented before.  I’ll be here until Sunday, then take a train from Gdynia back to Warsaw.  

After we arrived yesterday, we walked over to the beach.  The infrastructure is incredible for such a small village, so small there’s no postoffice!  A wide asphalt rode for bicycles and “rickshaws” (bikes that push seats) — no cars — and a separate brick path for pedestrians lead to a boardwalk to the beach.  Today we rented me a bicycle … and I actually stayed upright, a bit shaky at first but I managed to get around.  

The fish here is fantastic.  I tried a local version of fish and chips that was out of this world — no heavy, oily breading, just a light coating.  And tonight I tried a baked fish in a leek sauce, equally delicious.  Food wise I’m in heaven.  


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