.Despite our Polish heritage we have never been to Warsaw, but as we were flying Lot air we decided to extend our stop over for a couple of nights. The first thing that struck us is space. There are few high rises and the streets are wide and open. We stayed at the Hotel Bristol, a grand old dame which has housed many famous people in the past such as Picasso and Sophia Loren. It is an elegant place right next door to the Presidential Palace, spacious rooms, very comfortable bed and the best breakfast of the whole holiday. After a long flight from Tokyo we were too tired to do much so strolled into the old town and had a very light meal in an Italian restaurant,,Trattoria Rucola, a busy place with nice food. All the streets round the Old Town had been blocked off and pedestrianized ready for May Day the following day. May 1st is always a workers holiday here. In the morning we set off through empty streets all round the Old Town and it's squares. Many vendors were setting up their stalls anticipating the crowds later in the day. We noticed huge numbers of police and
police vans so we wondered if they were expecting trouble. There are lots of little shops in the area particularly selling amber and lots of restaurants and bars. After exploring all the streets and having a beer outside in the sun we set off down to the river and across the long bridge to a Cathedral on the other side. Lovely building on the outside but surprisingly plain on the inside. The Zoo is on this side but I don't like zoos so we walked back via a park and over the bridge again. It is a long walk with not that much to see but nice to see the river. Back in the Old Town we stopped for lunch outside at Restauracja Kamienne Schodki. This was our first real Polish cuisine. We shared herring which itself was lovely but unfortunately messed up by the addition of lemon sour cream and cranberry and apple sauce! I then had a mushroom soup and Stefan had a tripe soup which was good. By now the crowds were filling the Squares and streets . We saw the march which was apparently organised by the Far Right and was against the EU. Lots of
speeches from loud speakers which of course were totally unintelligible and a march of people all carrying the Polish flag. The parade was totally lined by police but it passed through without incident. In the evening the crowds were still there but thanks to the stopping of traffic it was easy to walk along. A lot of the restaurants were full with people queuing. You only have to read the menu to feel full in this place. They are heavy meals with emphasis on meat but also with added stuff we don't like such as sour cream, loads of potatoes, sauerkraut etc. Eventually we found Literatka, which was empty inside but had beautiful furnishings and for once nice music playing in the background. The waiter Matthias was very friendly and helpful. We had a lovely window seat so could watch the people coming and going. We tried the herring again but asked for them only with onion, one portion to share was more than enough and we couldn't finish it. Stefan then had a nice mushroom and noodle soup and I tried the BBQ ribs with sweet potato fries and broccoli with almond. It was a lovely meal but again
a huge portion which I couldn't finish. The wine was lovely and the price very reasonable so we stayed there for the evening before walking back to the hotel. On our last morning we walked down to the Castle of King Stanislaw August. We couldn't get through the main gate as it was barricaded off by soldiers waiting for some dignitary to arrive. Once you have located the rather obscure ticket office the tour round the castle which looks more like a palace is straight forward. It is probably the best art gallery and there are a few Rembrandts, Canalettos and some Dutch still lifes as well as ornate throne rooms. Allow one and a half hours at least to go round. Outside the TV cameras and crowds were focussing on some lady doing a walk about and handing out national flags. That was the end of our short Polish stay. The city is very nice but we do not really take to Polish food unfortunately.
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