Friday, 14 November 2014

Warsaw - Capital of Poland


My roommate and I found flights from London to Warsaw for £19 (£35 inc luggage) and we thought 'why not?'  Booked. Hostel booked.

A couple weeks later we remembered we need to get home somehow.  We had already discussed going to Krakow but flights from there, while still cheap, were expensive. We had a look at Skyscanner and saw that there were cheap flights out of Gdansk. 

We looked at the map, saw the Poland was about the size of Victoria and decided it wouldn't be that hard to get from Krakow to Gdansk. Another flight booked. 


So in the last week of October we packed our bag full of heavy winter gear - the weather report said it would get down to zero! brr!

We arrived into Warsaw around 4pm, got on the local bus that took us to the train station and that took us to downtown Warsaw.
The hostel we stayed at (TripAdvisor reviews here) did give us amazing directions but it was dark and a bit creepy, deserted looking when we emerged from the station. We flagged down a taxi and arrived at our hostel 5 minutes later. 

After settling in our room, our receptionist gave us directions to the closest restaurant serving gluten free food. Before leaving I had printed out a 'Coeliac Restaurant card' in Polish (this website has cards in almost every langauge) which spelled out what I can and can't eat.

La Cantina is an amazing Mediterranean restaurant and almost every dish comes gluten free! You can tell the difference as the chefs stick in little Bez Glutenu flags in the GF dishes.

I opted for a creamed sauce pizza and Cara went for a delicious sounding pizza - she got GF so we could go halfsies.

 

The food was so filling! Although we were stuffed from our mains, there is ALWAYS room for Creme Brulee!


We only had 2 nights in Warsaw so we were determined to make the most of our one full day. We found a free walking tour company (here) and did the Old Town Walking Tour with Blaise. Our tour guide had a lot of information on both the history of Warsaw and local legends.

During World War II around 90% of Warsaw was bombed and destroyed. After the war and during the Communist regime a lot of the buildings were restored and today it looks almost as if the city was untouched. 

market square
   
Warsaw has a rich history and is the home of a few famous people - Pope John Paul II and Marie Curie both hail from here. 

Marie Curie Museum
Marie Curie is the only woman who has received a Nobel Prize in two different categories - chemistry and physics. 
 
Narrowest house in Warsaw
Many would have heard the story of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but during World War II (1944) there was another Warsaw Uprising that involved all Poles. The Polish Resistance Home Army attempted to drive Nazi Germany out of Warsaw. The Uprising lasted for 63 days, with little outside support. The uprising ultimately failed and resulted in a massive loss of life through injury and mass executions.


A memorial showing the Polish Home Army using the sewer system to escape the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. 


The Old Town walking tour went for approximately 2.5 hours. The same company also offered a Jewish Walking Tour so Cara and I went of to lunch to wait out the 2 hours in between.

Blaise was our guide once again for our second tour.

The raised bit in the middle shows the walls of the Jewish Ghetto in 1940. 

Over the war years and with subsequent executions, rampant diseases and mass transportations, the ghetto got smaller and smaller.

As the ghetto was completely destroyed by the Nazis after liquidation, the boundary is now marked by pavers.


Our tour took us through what was the ghetto, which is now residential buildings, and ended at the Umschlagplatz memorial. 


This memorial stands where the Jewish people were gathered to be deported to the Treblinka Extermination Camp. On some days as many as 10,000 Jews were deported.



Warsaw is a vibrant city with a rich history and delicious food!. The 2 nights we spent there were definitely not enough and I would love to go back at some stage and explore the rest of the city. 




Thursday, 13 November 2014

Dinner at Work - Zimbo-Italiano Veg Dish

Last night we had another culinary delight that tickled the tastebuds!

The amazing thing about food is that you can start your dish with one thing in mind (in this case the spicy tastes of Zimbabwe) and with just the additions of a few spices it can go in a completely different direction! Straight to Italy!


Ingredients
onion, sliced
tinned diced tomato
cabbage (darker the better), thinly sliced
garlic gloves, chopped
cinnamon
chilli powder
curry powder
fennel seeds
rosemary
oregano
olive oil

polenta
veg stock


Method
brown the onion with cinnamon
add garlic and stir
add the cabbage slices 
pour in the tinned tomatoes
add in the chilli powder, curry powder, fennel seeds, rosemary and oregano
stir, taste and adjust to your liking
add a touch of olive oil to bring it all together

In another pot add 2 cups of stock
pour in polenta WHILE stirring
constantly stir until thick
if it starts spitting at you, take of heat and continue stirring

once both are ready, serve and enjoy




** to have a more Zimbabwean tasting dish, leave out the fennel seeds, rosemary and oregano and replace with hemp seeds, garam masala and a touch more chilli powder




Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Dinner at Work - Smoky Carrot and Broccoli Soup


Soup has seemed to be the theme of the week with the colder weather coming in. 
Yesterday we had a bag of carrots and quarter head of broccoli in the fridge that need to be used. 

Solution: 


Smoky Carrot and Broccoli Soup

Ingredients
1 onion sliced
5 medium carrots
Spring onion
Quarter of a brocoli
2 cloves garlic
Veg stock

Cinnamon
Pepper
Dried chillis
Garic granules
Smoked paprika


Method:
fry onion with cinnamon until golden

add chopped carrots
add 1 litre of veg stock and chilli
add chopped spring onions and stalk of broccoli
put lid on and bring to the boil
add the paprika, garlic granules, salt and pepper 
taste and adjust
stir, and garlic cloves, then take of heat to blend
add the broccoli florets
 replace lid and back on heat for a few minutes to cook broccoli 

serve and eat



Dinner at Work - Not-Peanut-Butter and Spinach Curry with Basmati and Wild Rice

One of my main duties in my job as a live-in carer is cooking. 
Some of my clients are cool to sit back and let me work my magic and some others like to make kitchen magic with me! 


Since the end of August I have been paired with a guy in Norwich who is a wizz in the kitchen. 

Due to the fact that I absolutely loath peanut butter with a vengeance and he really wanted a peanut butter curry he thought of a way to still make the curry, but delete peanut butter from the process.


I give you.....

Not-Peanut-Butter and Spinach Curry
with basmati and wild rice

Ingredients:

                             Blender:
Pumpkin seeds
sunflower seeds
linseeds
fennel seeds
ground almonds
garlic cloves

olive oil
red wine vinegar
salt


Pot:
onion, sliced
veg stock
salt
spinach (we used 6 frozen cubes)
tomato, diced
hot curry powder
garlic granules
chilli powder
pepper
cinnamon
garam masala

Cooking is very much a trial and error process, so we tend to just play it by ear with the amounts used. 

Don't forget your rice!

Method:

Put all of the ingredients into the blender and blend. You may need to add a dash of water to get it into that 'paste' consistency.


In the pot fry the onion with a coating of cinnamon. 
Add in a cup and a half of veg stock (you will get steam burn if you're not careful!)
Add in the spinach and tomato
Add in the pepper, salt, chilli powder, curry powder, garam masala and garlic granules
Stir and adjust for your taste
Once the paste is consistent add it to the pot and stir. It will thicken out and look a bit like baby's poo thanks to the spinach.

While that is infusing together, get your rice on to boil. 

Once your happy with your rice and curry serve it up and enjoy!










Friday, 31 October 2014

A Harrowing Photo Essay: Auschwitz-Birkenau





Around an hour drive from Krakow lies the town of Oswiecim. During the years of 1940 and 1941 around 17,000 Polish residents were expelled from the area and 8 surrounding villages destroyed. 

All this so the Nazis could keep the existence of Auschwitz-Birkenau a secret.


Between September 1941 and January 1945 over 1.1 million people, including Jews, Roma and Sinti gypsies, Poles, Soviet POWS, homosexuals and Jehovah's Witnesses, were murdered. 


Work Will Set You Free






Left over cylinders of Zyklon B gas

While many victims were gassed, many prisoners died of starvation, forced labour, infectious diseases, executions and medical experiments. 





The Jewish victims were told that they were being transported to a resettlement. 
The plundered possessions included pots, pans, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, suitcases, clothing, eyeglasses, 


Artificial limbs




Victims of Auschwitz 


double electrified barbed wire fence with guard tower

hanging post



Birkenau

transport carriage

As many as 50 people were squeezed into an unventilated carriage like the one above, including their luggage. There was no food and water provided and only a bucket in the corner for waste. 
Many transports came from as far away as Norway in these conditions. 

Foundations and chimneys of blocks at Birkenau

bunks 3 high

Prisoners were 5 to a bunk with no mattress or blankets. It was unbearably cold in the winter with the bottom bunk getting flooded due to the leaky roof and turning into mud.


Crematorium

Before the evacuation the Nazis attempted to blow up the crematorium to hide their crimes. 
After liberation buried notes were found from the Sonderkommando detailing the horrors of the gas chambers. 







The sheer size of the camps is unbelievable. Birkenau was set up for 100,000 prisoners and standing in front of the train entrance either side goes for kilometres.  

Camel Riding in Tunisia

On trying to find a suitable holiday destination with my boyfriend I had one request: I wanted to ride a camel in the desert.

Tunisia was a great choice because it ticked all of our boxes:

* All inclusive (blame the British boyfriend for this one)
* Cheap
* Somewhere I/we hadn't been before
* Somewhere we could ride a camel


On our first full day we booked our half day Camel Caravan with our Thomas Cook representative for the following Monday.

Monday dawned bright and hot! After an early breakfast we awaited our first steed - the bus. 

After a rocky start - thank you bus sickness! - we were in amongst the olive groves in the Tunisian desert. 

Our camel
                           
These camels didn't know how to sit down, so I had to place my left leg in the hands of the guide who basically just threw me over. It's a bit hard considering the camel is over 6 foot high! But, I got up there and then Dan had to get thrown up behind me.
Unfortunately I'm not all that good with heights either and with Dan wriggling around I was not feeling the safest! Finally he settled down and we were on our way!

                              


After about 10 minutes trying not to fall off we stopped to feed the steeds. 
Getting off the camel was worse than getting off! It was sooo high! Once I was back on the ground I felt much safer. 

Camels eat cactus due to the amount of water the plant can hold. We all lined up with a piece in between our teeth. 

  

After my experience on the camel I wasn't getting back on it! Luckily they had some horse drawn carriages that took us to our second stop of lunch. 

After our 45 minute rest we were back on our steeds heading home. This time I got to ride the donkey. Much more comfortable and a lot closer to the ground the donkey was a wee bit slow, but that lead to a nice relaxing amble through the olive groves. 




All in all, I'm glad that I got to fulfill something that was on my Bucket List, even if I didn't enjoy it.



Monday, 15 September 2014

Invictus Games 2014



INVICTUS
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul. 
William Ernest Henley

Last year Prince Harry visited Colorado for the Warrior Games. The Games gave him the idea to bring a similar idea to London and the Invictus Games were born.

The Invictus Games brings together injured and sick service personnel - current and veteran - from 14 countries whose Armed Forces have served together. The Games use the power of sport to support recovery, rehabilitation and spread awareness throughout the wider community about what our servicemen and women go through in serving their country.

The Games ran from 10 - 14 September and sports included Athletics, Archery, Swimming, Sitting Volleyball, Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Rugby, Indoor Rowing, Road Cycling and Powerlifting. 




On Saturday I went to the last session of Wheelchair Basketball. There were 6 teams participating: Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, USA, France and Denmark.

The first game was to determine 5th and 6th place between Australia and New Zealand. 
Followed by France v Denmark, then UK v USA. 

The confidence that the players displayed was amazing. Whenever anyone took a fall they would get straight back up and continued playing. 

Everybody played really well and the final scoreboard looked like:

6. Australia
5. New Zealand
4. France
3. Denmark
2. USA
1. United Kingdom



Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Afternoon Tea in Bath







Yesterday I went exploring in Bath and came across this sweet little gem over the Jane Austen Centre.

The Regency Tea Rooms come equipped with red walls, mahogany dining furniture and waitresses dressed up in the dress of that period.

It had an amazing atmosphere and where very knowledgeable about food allergies.
I was lucky enough that they had the "Ladie's Afternoon Tea" in a gluten free option. It's amazing to be able to eat a sandwich that you haven't made yourself!


The Tea Rooms have been awarded the 'Award for Excellence' twice by the Tea-Guild and also has a 'Certificate o Excellence' from TripAdvisor.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Edinburgh


Edinburgh has been a city on my must-visit ever since coming over to the UK (and possibly before that) and last week I finally got to go, and for a good cause too!

Last month I got a call for work asking if I would like to be a volunteer on a Back Up Course. 

A little about Back Up
The Back Up Trust is a charity that helps all those affecting by spinal injuries. It was first set up by James Bond stunt double and Freestyle Champion Mike Nemesvary in 1986 after he broke his neck.

 'Despite being paralysed from the shoulders down, Mike was determined to get back to the life he enjoyed.  Back Up was initially set up to offer ski courses for those affected by spinal cord injury. Over the years, Back Up has expanded its services to challenge and empower people to get ‘back up’ to a place they were at before their accident.'   

The charity lead around 17 courses a year, ranging from ski-karting in Sweden, water ski-ing, multi-activity courses in Exmoor to Back to work courses and skills for independence.

Edinburgh
I got to go on the Edinburgh City Skills for over 50s, the first time this particular course has been run.

So after a long journey on the train up from London (4.5 hours) and getting lost I checked in to the hotel and we all gathered in the courtyard for introductions. We had 12 people on our course, and everybody has a different role. We had 2 Group Leaders - one wheelchair user and one able bodied, 2 wheelchair skills instructors, 3 buddies, 2 Personal Assistants and 3 participants. 

Our ice breaker was 2 Truths and a Lie.

Can you guess my lie?

* I can drink a glass of vinegar straight
* I played basketball for the state defence team without ever playing beforehand
* I've been travelling for the last 3 years

The course included a day of wheelchair skills. We were lucky enough to invade RBS headquarters on the outskirts of Edinburgh - it's like a town unto itself! Starbucks, Tesco Express even a flower shop!



As an able bodied person you don't realise how much you take for granted. Simple things like curbs or manoeuvering around objects, carrying a beverage, even a slight incline on a road are made that much harder for chair users. 
We had two great skills trainers on our course J and R who went through some tips on how to navigate obstacles, like flicking the front wheels up onto a curb at speed and then using the momentum to get the back wheels up.

Or having a friend that has a power chair ;-)




The next day we hit up The National Museum of Scotland. The museum is housed in a grand old building looked over by this bloke. 



I'm not sure who he is, but he definitely needs a bit of a bath!

The museum is amazingly huge! Set over 7 floors, the exhibits range from a Chinese Dynasty, the animal world, science, Changing Scotland and much more! You definitely need a whole day to prattle about.

One of the interactions is driving a F1 car. Which I did. And I failed dismally. Besides that one time when I crashed, i'm a great driver (if I do say so myself) and I stand by my judgement that the museum staff have buggered up the steering on this ride. 

My favourite bit of artwork/painting/photo was this one that I found in 'Common Causes'


Can you guess which photo is of the Australian Scottish Regiment?



In the afternoon we had a bit of a treasure hunt around the city. At one stage the clues sent us hurtling down a hill the wrong way - but there was free fudge!  Who knew a 'crag and tail' meant crossroads? Google sure didn't!!

There was a bit of controversy when we got back regarding the last clue. 
'Take the ramp down to Waverley Station and take a photo that includes every team member - must not be taken by another person. hint, head towards Left Luggage'

My team and I had no idea why we had to head to Left Luggage, but we got there and took our selfie that included all 3 team members and even the left Luggage sign. When we got back, the other teams were in uproar because we outselfied them. Well, we had different interpretations of the out of date clues. Apparently the clues were ridden before selfies were invented so you supposed to get a photo from the photo booth right next to Left Luggage. We still won though! WOOO!


Selfie at Left Luggage
                     

Sunday included a trip to the Castle. I love a good castle and Edinburgh is awesome, especially for the views over the city. 

We started at the bottom of the Royal Mile and had to go uphill on cobblestones, which isn't the most pleasant experience in a chair. You can buy a contraption called a Free Wheel that clips on to the footplate and lifts the small front castors off the ground and turns the chair into an all-terrain vehicle.  

As an AB (able bodied) if I see someone struggling, my first desire is to give help. Don't do it! Offer help but don't do anything until you've been specifically asked. The course was all about gaining the skills to be independent. One of the participants is over 70 and pushed himself up the Mile without any assistance! With anybody or anything, you never know if you don't try. 

Knowing when to ask for help is important as well. One way we assisted the chair users is by pulling them up steep inclines. This is done with a loop of rope or similar. Put it down on the ground, roll across one side and pull the rope up so that it's in between the castors and the back wheel and under the knees. If you're assisting it's much easier to pull than push too.



 Edinburgh Castle
There is a bit just in front of the drawbridge that is supposed to have spectacular views, but the Tattoo grandstands had already been set up, so we missed out on that unfortunately.

Once inside the inner castle walls, the ground kind of flattens out a bit and to the right are the battlements and canons. We saw the canon that they shoot off every day at 1pm except Sundays. We went on a Sunday so we missed out but we got to see the gorgeous views.



Sunday afternoon was spent just like the Scottish do - Whisky!
I'm not a big fan of Scotch so the best thing about that was the free glass you get ;-)

Monday morning we headed down to Holyrood to go to Dynamic Earth. I love interactive stuff so this place was amazing! The floor shook, there was 'snow' dropped on us and a AI who answered the  most stupidest questions. 
The exhibit takes you through a series of rooms depicting the universe, from the Big Bang, right up until today. The rooms changed temperature from warm (volcanic era) to really cold (ice age) which I thought was great. 

I was lucky enough to grab a kiss off this handsome fella:

                                                           

Monday afternoon was free time, then we all came together for one last dinner. This one was participant's choice and we headed to Cafe Andaluz on George Street for Spanish Tapas. They were amazing! The staff were attentive, the food was delicious and the company was great. 

Tuesday morning was farewell unfortunately. I had booked my train for the afternoon so I caught up with an old friend for lunch. I got to try the Scottish National Dish of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties. 



It was delicious! Haggis tastes just like the insides of a meat pie, only a bit more peppery. 



My 5 days in Edinburgh were amazing. I got to see nearly everything I wanted, spent time with some quality people and learnt a lot that I can hopefully apply to my job. 

Back Up is always looking for volunteers and support. If you are interested contact the team through the website: http://www.backuptrust.org.uk/about-us/volunteering 

This was my first course but hopefully it won't be my last!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

British Summer Time Festival


On the 3rd July the British Summer Time Festival kicked of in Hyde Park. The festival goes over 7 days and features a variety of amazing musical talent.

As the Tuesday previous was payday, me and my roommate decided it would be worth it to splash our cash on tickets to the Sunday and relive our childhood with Backstreet Boys and Five!

Thanks to amazing friends of my boyfriend's I also got to go on the opening night (for the low ticketed price of £2.50) and see Jake Bugg and Arcade Fire. Even though I had no idea who they were they were pretty damn good live. Although young Jake could up his game on the interaction front. Not once did he even talk to the crowd.

As I mentioned, I haven't heard any of Arcade Fire's songs, so judging by the name I thought they might be a bit of a rock band. Turns out they're more country/mellow style. 

The festival itself offered many attractions besides the music. There were many food stalls - a lot even offering gluten free options - as well as rides like a ferris wheel and this swing chair thing.


One way to judge a festival is by the toilets. British Summer Time delivered! It was like the Ritz of portaloos, although the toilet paper needed to be stocked up more often. 


The facades of the bars looked a cross between a scene from a wild west movie and the colours of Cinque Terre in Italy.


Sunday turned out to be a lovely day, if a bit Melbourne-like in weather (4 seasons in one day). Brenna, Cara and I had a look-see around before plonking ourselves down in front of one of the big screens showing the main stage - we were fully prepared with Cara's picnic rug. 

The first act on the main stage was Diversity. For those back home, they are pretty much the British version of Justice Crew.



The next act was another one I had never heard of - Scouting For Girls


The third final act was The Vamps, one of Cara's favourite bands. They had some pretty good tunes that were easy to sing along to.



In between sets the festival had Carnival. This consisted of people dressed up in costumes and dancing to Caribbean music.








About 6pm Bree and I set off to find out where 5 were playing. There are about 5 different stages set up in the festival and unfortunately the one we wanted was closed for the day! Even more upsetting - Five had cancelled!

Luckily Cara had stayed at our spot and we were in a great place to view The Backstreet Boys when they came on the main stage half hour later.

As they started playing, the crowd came from way back to rush to the front of the stage. Everybody was on their feet dancing and singing. (Please mind the singing - I am a wee bit tone deaf!)

video


About halfway into their set the heavens opened and we got absolutely saturated with rain. Clothes plastered to your body saturated. Even with an umbrella. 
Didn't stop everybody from rocking out to their favourite hits from the 90s.




After the Backstreet Boys had played their last song (back streets back, alright!) we decided to pack it in and miss out on McBusted. I just wanted a nice steaming hot shower and some dry clothes.


It was an amazing day out with some good friends and well worth the £54.95 the tickets set us back.