Sunday, June 14, 2015

A weekend in Warsaw

On Friday, May 22, we went to Warsaw for the weekend.  Alicja had enrolled in a pharmaceutical seminar on Saturday to help fulfill her continuing education requirement.

The seminar was at the Sofitel Victoria near Old Town, but we booked a room at the Hilton Hotel and Convention Center.  We were taking the train and we decided to ride the new high-speed train - the Pendolino.  It has only been in service since December and bookings fill up fairly quickly.

We booked the train almost a month in advance.  It is possible to get tickets up to 30 days before travel.  No further out.  So, we went to the train station here and bought the tickets.  Because we booked so early, we got a super saver rate.  For round trip tickets, we paid 98 złotych per person.  About $26.70 each.  The train makes the trip in 2 hours and 26 minutes.  A normal train is about an hour longer and to drive would require about 5 hours.
The train was pretty nice.  All seating is reserved.  The seats are comfortable and each has an electrical outlet for electronic devices.  On the ride to Warsaw, we booked seats with a table.  There are four seats facing each other and there is a small table between them.  That was okay, but I found the legroom a bit cramped.  On the return trip, we booked regular seats and I found them much more to my liking.  The regular seats are like airline seats with a footrest and a tray table in the back of the seat in front.  But, of course, much more legroom than and airline.  And, more legroom than the table configuration.  Shortly after leaving, a server came by with a serving cart offering complimentary coffee, tea, water or juice.  No alcohol there.  But, the train has a dining/bar car where you can go to get a snack, a meal or a beer.  There are some tables for sitting while dining and some stand-up tables for those just having a quick snack or a beer.  You can also order at the counter and tell them your car and seat number and they will bring the food when it is ready.  But, no alcohol.  Beer can only be consumed in the bar car.  And, it is a bit pricey.   That’s just an observation since I did not let that stop me.  There is no WIFI on the train although they are saying they are working on that.  Overall, the ride was smooth and comfortable and a very relaxing way to get from point A to point B.  I didn’t take any pictures, but copied these to show what the train looks like.

Alicja worked Friday morning, so we left Malbork at 3:30 that afternoon.  We arrived in Warsaw about 5:30 p.m. and took a taxi to our hotel.  Upon check-in, the desk clerk gave us the upsell treatment about booking an “executive” room which included a higher floor, slightly nicer room and access to the Executive Club which provided food and beverages in the mornings and evenings.  Alicja first said no, but I took the bait and paid the extra.
The room was a king and was generally nice.  The bathroom had a tub and a large shower.  There a safe, iron and board, hair dryer and all the usual amenities including a teapot with teabags and instant coffee.  It also had a stocked mini-fridge which we did not use. 
Our room was on the 24th floor which is the 25th floor in the U.S.  In Europe, the do not count the ground floor as “1"; rather it is the “ground floor” and counts as zero.  The view from the room was not all that great, but that was of no consequence to us.

View from the room:

The “Executive Club” was on the ground floor.  As I mentioned, it included food and drinks morning and evening.  Evening service was from 6 to 8 p.m.  The food was in buffet form and consisted more of small portions than a real meal.  But, there was plenty of it.  There were usually two hot dishes plus cold-cuts, cheeses, nuts, fruits, etc.  And, there was coffee, tea, juices, water , beer, vodka, wine and whiskey.  This was all you could eat/drink for the time they were open for service.  I, of course, did my best to offset the cost of the room in food and beer.  The sign said that no alcoholic beverages were to be removed from the club, but each night I smuggled a couple of beers out in Alicja’s purse.  Breakfast was quite good.  It included scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage as hot items as well as the usual European breakfast fare such as cheeses, cold meats, fruits, etc.  We ate in the club area both evenings and both mornings and were quite happy with what was provided.

Saturday, Alicja went to her conference and left me to my own devices.  I wandered about the hotel, but mostly just vegged out in the room.  Her conference included lunch, so I was on my own for that, too.  I opted for a small sushi restaurant next to the hotel.  Nanaki Sushi.    It was quite good.   Alicja doesn’t like sushi, so we both were happy.  

After lunch, I took a taxi to the hotel where Alicja had her conference and we left together.  The conference was not finished, but she is like me (and every lawyer I have ever known) when it comes to sneaking out early from a seminar.

Anyway, we walked from the Sofitel to the Old Town area and wandered around there for a while.  Alicja shopped a bit and bought a necklace.  (Actually, I bought her a necklace.)  Then, we stopped at a restaurant for a break.  She had hot tea; I had a beer.  Plus, I had a kind of liqueur the Polish call a tincture.  This was cherry flavored and was called Wiśniówka.  Very good stuff.  Good enough that I ordered another one.  After that, we returned to the hotel for our executive club food and retired to the room.

Some pics from Old Town:

Sunday, we had our executive club breakfast and packed our stuff.  Our train didn’t leave until 3:30 p.m.  Alicja has some good friends who live in Warsaw.  They are Leszek Zdun and his wife, Joanna.  They are both actors and they are delightful people.  Joanna is appearing in a play in the national theater in Warsaw.  Leszek is an actor, director, producer and voice over actor in Warsaw.  Interestingly, he is on TV here now in a commercial for an insurance company.  When we were at their apartment, he told us the commercial was made in February, but due to the cold weather in Poland, they shot the commercial in South Africa.  Five days in warm weather for two days of working.  He said it was a pretty good gig.  I teased him that he was there on the beach in swim trunks while his wife was here in the cold of northern Europe working and taking care of the kids.  We all laughed.
We had lunch with them and we went walking in a large park in Warsaw.  The weather was nice, so there were many people out.  Leszak is a pretty well-known personality in Poland.  After a short time walking and talking in the park, he was approached by two young women who wanted their picture with him.  He kindly agreed and Joanna took the photo. Again, I did not take any photos myself, so I found some stock ones.


Leszek and I are walking and talking:

Some additional pictures from our walk through the park:

Soon, our time was up and our visit was over.  Leszak took us to the railway station and we caught our train back home.

All in all, it was an enjoyable weekend trip.

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