Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Where To Stay in Krakow, Poland!

Hello LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers!

Happy February!  January flew by!  I have been traveling a lot for work which means less time for LilyOnTheLam posts.  I am thinking of taking a blog writing break until the summer, so if you don't see any recent updates you will know why!

As I have been working several times in Europe lately, I have made it my mission to knock off a few European countries off my bucket list.  I have been to most of the Western European countries - so in the last several months I was able to cross off Hungary, Austria, Slovakia and now POLAND off my list of countries to see.

I have always wanted to check out Poland - as I am half-Polish, but I was scared because I didn't speak the language.   However after spending time in Hungary and Slovakia (not to mention Russia), I have found that I do just fine in countries where I cannot speak (or even read - as it is the case in Russia) the language.  And a GIGANTIC reminder to myself not to let fear stand in the way of anything you want to do.  I am so glad I finally was able to go to Poland and I hope to see Warsaw soon.

I had a long weekend, so I hopped over to Krakow, Poland to check out the scene.  I chose Krakow because it has a vibrant old city center and is a very walkable city.  

I stayed at the Sheraton Krakow Hotel which I HIGHLY recommend.  It is next to Wawel Castle (pronounced Vah-vull) and the swan-laden Vistula (Polish: Wisla) River.  

Side shot of Wawel Castle and the Vistula River in the morning

Chess pieces in front of the Vistula River with Wawel Castle in the background

Seriously, am I being mooned by swans?

It is in walking distance of the main market square, the fire-breathing dragon statue, the aforementioned Castle, as well as many good shops, restaurants and seventeen million 24 hour alcohol stores.  Which are labeled "Alkohole" which makes me think of the words "alcohol" and "asshole" mashed together!   

Don't be a mobster or an alkohole!

This statue is supposed to breathe fire every 10-15 minutes, but it was COLD
when I was there so I just bought a postcard of it breathing fire instead!

The Sheraton's location is fantastic - and when I arrived in my club level room, I found two delightful surprises.... the best darn looking fruit plate....

and a toy that I thought was a Krakow-dile but turns out it is a dragon!

This toy from the Sheraton may have stowed away in my luggage back to America
People in Krakow love their dragons.  There are bones hanging next to Wawel Castle that are supposed to be dragon bones to ward off bad luck to the city - however supposedly one of the bones is from a whale.  Regardless of where the bones came from, the city was not destroyed in World War II so maybe the bones are good luck after all!

The Sheraton has an amazing breakfast buffet ... that fit my pro-starch, pro-carb political stance.  The breakfast buffet had TWO KINDS OF POTATO SALAD.  It might as well have been called "Welcome Home, Carb Lovin' Lily Buffet."  And who could say no to an abundant supply of champagne flutes filled with fruit, yogurt, bran flakes and pumpkin seeds?  Not this gal!  

I was humbled to visit Auschwitz at the 70th anniversary of when the Nazis started to evacuate the concentration camp (a week later was the 70th anniversary of the camp's liberation - a much more positive date).  I had visited the memorials at Dachau concentration camp when I was 19 years old.  

I went on a walking tour of the city and for those who love the movie Schindler's List, there are many places in Krakow that are in the movie.  

I had a lot of fun adventures in Krakow and hopefully one day I'll get caught up on my blog posts!  But in all seriousness, I am in the middle of packing for my next trip!  

If you are ever looking for a beautiful place to visit with warm people and good pierogi - check out Krakow, Poland and the Sheraton Krakow!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The World Is Your Oyster

Hello LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers:

Well I am planning my next big international adventure, so check back in a few weeks to see where I end up next. 

The other day I posted a very short blurb referencing an old post I wrote about "Thoughts having power."  I didn't have time to write more on this theme (hence the reference back to an older blog post.)  What I should have written about was that both positive and negative things running through my head have suddenly materialized into reality after I had the thought.  Not to sound too witchy or crazy, but at times in my life I have thought about someone or something and they just appear within 24 hours of the thought being thrown out in the universe.  I guess it's like The Secret or Law of Attraction ... I guess, I've never read anything on either.

Now I will say that this phenomenon usually is really a Murphy's Law jinx.  I will think of someone who is horrible and then BAM! the next day I will run into them.  I'd prefer if my thoughts could make winning lottery numbers and not arseholes appear in my life.  

BUT with the bad always comes some good and as I said above, recently both positive thoughts as well as negative thoughts have been manifesting themselves.

Since I didn't have time/energy to write about this fully in my previous blog post, the universe threw me another curve ball as a reminder that I should have written the post in the first place.

(Side note:  I live near a playground with the world's noisiest children.  As I type this I can hear what I assume is a small girl but maybe a bratty adult with a super high voice, screeching "ENTERTAIN US!  ENTERTAIN US!"  I don't think she's quoting a Nirvana song.  I live in a world where there are too many Veruca Salts and not enough Mother Teresas.  Although if I am to be brutally honest, I myself am the patron saint of the Veruca Salt camp.)

About a week or two ago, I was in a gift shop (a.k.a. "stuff I don't need but really want" shop).  One of the items in the shop was the cute book "I Could Pee On This ... and Other Poems By Cats."

If you are a frequent LilyOnTheLam.com reader, you will know that I am 900 years old and have 47,324 cats.  And no, I don't see this as a problem.  I also have an obsession with all things Hello Kitty and plan to create a church around the blessed teachings of Sanrio.com.  You might as well start calling me "Your Holiness" right now.  (Side Note: I was on the phone with British Airlines today and the very nice gentleman representative kept calling me "Mum" which I think he was just saying "Ma'am" versus calling me his Mommy.  However either way I was tickled and had to stifle a laugh.)

Being a 900 year old crazy cat lady, I will not admit how many times I have looked at "I Could Pee On This" in stores and almost bought it.  It's practically a medical necessity for someone like me.  But up until now, I have avoided using my precious cat food money to buy this adorable book of kitty wonderfulness.

So yesterday I find a small box from Amazon.com in my mailbox.  I open the box and there is "I Could Pee On This."  My heart dropped to my stomach.  What the heck?  Did I get drunk and go crazy with the "one click" button (the devil) on Amazon.com?  I would like to say I have never drunken shopped online before but I would be a big fat liar if I did.  But I generally have some memory of the shopping experience.  Standing with the book in my hand, I had absolutely no memory of ordering it.  Oh great, now I am not only a compulsive shopper but a blackout drunk too!  So many new "healthy" items to add to my resume!    

Then I saw in the box was a gift message from my father.  The book was a gift!  I let out a giant cheer (scaring several neighbors) that I was not a blackout drunk shopaholic (... well at least not yet)!  And then I had to chuckle that a week or so ago I was standing in front of this very book wishing to buy it myself and then voila it magically shows up in my mailbox.  It was like my blog post "A Miracle At Starbucks" - the universe provides!  Or in this case, my father and his generosity provides!

Of course, my gut reaction when these types of wishes come true is always "I should have wished for something BIGGER!"  I'm not only a crazy cat lady but a demanding one at that!  

I have been extremely blessed in my life and I try not to take anything for granted.  We are having a lot of changes at my work and it would be easy to be a Chicken Little running around declaring the end of the world, but why?  Life is good.  Sometimes it sucks, but overall it's pretty darn awesome.  

I am so excited for my next upcoming trip.  I'll be spending a very short time in a place I have always wanted to visit (tacking the trip on to the end of a work trip).  Whenever I accomplish a goal or satisfy a bucket list item, I get a Cheshire Cat high.  Or perhaps a Mad Hatter high!

Seize the day, LilyOnTheLam.com readers!  The world is your oyster and if you're lucky enough, someone awesome may just give you a book of cat poetry.  And THAT is something truly special!    

Monday, January 5, 2015

Thoughts Have Power, Part Two

Happy New Year, LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers!

At the beginning of this New Year 2015, I am reminded once again that thoughts have power - and if we think poorly we manifest poor events and if we think strong, healthy and mighty - good things come our way!  

Here is an oldie but a goodie from the LilyOnTheLam vault on Thoughts Having Power.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

Hello LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers:

Well, 2014 is almost over and 2015 is practically on our doorsteps.  I work for a company that had a long range vision plan for the year 2015, so for years everything was punctuated with a "In 2015" intense whisper.  

The seriousness behind how much we were supposed to accomplish and change "by 2015" was like a heavy weight bearing on our backs.  It was like we expected to have houses on Mars by then and God help the person who wasn't onboard to make the mission happen.  It was very much a "success OR ELSE" feeling to me.  And it gave "In 2015" this very weird, otherworldly aura.  

And now it's almost 2015, will a dreaded doomsday event occur?  Who knows?  I'm just happy to not have to hear the "terroristic inspiration" of how much we have to achieve by 2015.  Ladies and Gentlemen, 2015 is here.  Now let's live in it!  

I was recently in San Francisco, California - where I had briefly lived a million lifetimes ago.  If you read my previous post:  "A San Francisco State of Mind" you may recall on my last visit I was doing some walking down memory lane and inadvertent second hand smoking marijuana as I strolled down the Haight.  I was already in a mood of deep contemplation and examination as I had deja vu recalling the first time I had ever been to Haight-Ashbury a million lifetimes ago.

Not only was I thinking about life lessons from my youth, but l was also hungry.  (Story of my life.)  I walked past a restaurant called Sparrow Bar and Kitchen.  The song "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" started up in my head.  

The lyrics from the song "His Eye Is On The Sparrow": "I sing because I'm happy.  I sing because I'm free, for His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me" always moves me very deeply.  I felt like this was some sort of sign.  

I was receiving a lot of spiritual nourishment (and second hand pot smoke) on my meditative walk along The Haight.  Now this restaurant seemed like it was tailor-made for a more basic nourishment.

The restaurant is adorable with a wall of reading material that has both David Chang's Lucky Peach magazine as well as a "Little Miss Trouble" kids' book.  (I have the "Little Miss Bossy" t-shirt, so even though I am 900 years old I still cater to my child self.)

The Sparrow Bar and Kitchen has soju cocktails.  Their "Blood Orange and Thyme Paloma" screamed "drink me!"  I am a sucker for herbs in my drink.  Give me a fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and vodka with a salted rim and a big old piece of fresh rosemary and I am in heaven!

I don't want to be cheesy and say "You could really taste the thyme!" in this blood orange and thyme paloma.  BUT YOU COULD REALLY TASTE THE THYME!  It was delicious and I had to physically restrain myself from ordering another.

Also can I just take a moment to give a big cheer to the San Francisco attitude?  Like Portland, Oregon, there seems to be a generally relaxed air in the citizens.  Which I am not sure why because the traffic and continued need to drive cars up steep hills always stresses me out, but the locals seem to be mellow.  (Although maybe that aforementioned pot smoke may be the reason ...)  

When I entered The Sparrow Bar and Kitchen, I asked the hostess if she had a table near an outlet.  I know this isn't Starbucks, it's a lovely restaurant.  BUT my phone was dead and I needed to summon an Uber to take me to the airport.  (I heart Uber!)  The hostess didn't even blink and instead said very nicely "I have one right over here for you."  In most any other city, I would have received a heavy sigh, an eye roll and a haughty look of disdain.  God bless you, San Francisco.

I found all of the service at The Sparrow Bar and Kitchen to be top notch.  So thank you not only to the hostess but the bartender and my server as well!

I had finished an intense meeting earlier in the day.  It was spiritually uplifting but still emotionally taxing.  And not to use food as a drug, but this really felt like a time for ... BACON.

The Sparrow Bar and Kitchen serves bacon-wrapped Scotch eggs on a bed of frisee with a sauce Cheron (which is basically Hollandaise with more lemon, some tomato paste and thyme.)  I love a good Scotch egg and I love anything wrapped in bacon, so I had to order it.

Now most Scotch eggs are horrifically overcooked.  A traditional Scotch egg is a hard boiled egg, wrapped in sausage then dredged in bread crumbs and deep-fried.  But The Sparrow Bar and Kitchen's Scotch egg was perfectly cooked.  Look at the gorgeous deep yellow center.  It was lovely.  The sauce Cheron had a nice piquant flavor although frankly the egg was so good on its own; it didn't need a sauce.

To continue with my bacon theme, I saw a "Dirty BLT" on the menu:  candied bacon, goat cheese, peppercorn-spiced remoulade and romaine lettuce on Ciabatta served with hand cut Kennebec fries.

Candied bacon?

Goat cheese?


Kennebec fries?

It's like The Sparrow had his eye on my stomach and created this sandwich just for me.

The Ciabatta roll was the best ciabatta bread I have ever had in my life.  I could have put my shoe between the Ciabatta roll and loved every bite.  

To be fair the candied bacon just tasted like regular bacon to me, but with the goat cheese and the remoulade the sandwich has this custardy, velvety, smoky awesomeness that made me a very happy camper.

The sandwich was very hearty.  After the bacon-wrapped Scotch egg, I could only eat 1/2 the sandwich.  The other half I devoured several hours later on a plane back to Tampa Bay.  It held up well!  (Thank you, world's best Ciabatta!)

The Kennebec fries were delicious, but I couldn't eat all of them.  I need a San Francisco Kennebec fries buddy!  I wonder if they have a section for "Seeking Pal to Eat Part of my Potatoes" on Craigslist?

The Sparrow Bar and Kitchen were top notch in my book.  The decor is lovely.  The atmosphere is hip but laid-back.  The service is incredibly friendly, fast and responsive.  The cocktails and food were amazing.  Win - win - win.  A great lunch in the Haight-Ashbury area.  If you are in San Francisco, I highly recommend you check it out.

Eating at The Sparrow Bar and Kitchen made me feel the same way I do when I hear Jennifer Holliday singing "His Eye Is On the Sparrow" - happy and uplifted!

As your 2014 comes to a close, I hope you are at peace and filled with joy ... and maybe filled with some bacon too!  Thanks for reading!