Restauracja Stylowa is anything but a “stylish restaurant,” but it’s the only place to grab a bit in the suburban district of Nowa Huta, just outside Krakow, Poland. I think the owners had opened the place in the 1980s, closed it, and reopened it for our group in 2008 – the interior matched something that might be found on the set of Dallas. Intricately cut mirrored panels, lavender and mint green painted walls, plastic tablecloths, plastic ferns and gaudy gold lame curtains evoked within me a time when Communist big wigs sat around and tried to figure out how they could hold their precious government together in the midst of revolution.
We are the only ones in the place. Our waiter speaks no English. We speak no Polish, but Czech is very similar, and we get by. They don’t have enough food for all of us, so only some people can get pirogis, only some people can get salad. Argentinian steak is listed on the menu, but I doubt it is even available, much less actually from Argentina.
Our waiter places a statue of Vladimir Lenin in the middle of our table. “If you rub his head, he will bring you good luck.” Sort of like a skinnier, more volatile version of Buddha, I suppose. I rub his head furiously while downing my glass of beer. Why not? I need all the luck I can get. In two month’s time, I return to the United States, to an unknown future.
Lenin, hear me out on this.
These are architectural favorites of mine from around the world. Enjoy!
St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh. This is a beautiful house of worship, inside and out. Even if you aren’t religious, a trip to St. Giles is worth taking a peek inside to see this very different side of Scottish culture.
The Eiffel Tower, Paris. Call me cliche, but this is one of my most favorite parts of Paris. I don’t care if the French hate it, I love the undulating curves of the tower, and how it rises above everything else in the city. Wherever I am I can always find my way back as long as I can see the Eiffel Tower.
Sgraffito in the Czech Republic. Sgraffito is an old form of graffiti, where a building was painted solid and the shapes would be etched or “scratched” off. You can find this sort of art, dating back to the Renaissance, all across the country. It’s the coolest thing.
The Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest. This is such a romantic spot, especially when covered in snow. I was there in the dead of winter and barely anyone else was around me, so it felt like the entire place was my own.
Modern vs vintage architecture, Vienna. Vienna is a super interesting place – it’s a mix of Habsburg architecture and modern design, as evidence by this photo. It’s like you’re stepping back in time, but with modern conveniences.
The Marival Residences and Spa, Puerto Vallarta. This all-inclusive resort will trump any all-inclusives I stay at ever again. Gorgeous layout, suite-style room, and amazing views. Whoever designed this property truly knew what he/she was doing.
Graffiti accents around Reykjavik. I love the architecture of Iceland – it’s so unique and they add surprising elements, like these graffiti elements. Sequins, broken glass, and spray paint lighten up what can otherwise be a gray city.
I’d never been to Harlem until Dana had decided to bunk there during an improv festival in New York City. We were volunteering there, and my shift was at 7:00am. I decided to stay the night with her because waking up and taking the train at 6:30am is a lot easier than waking up at 5:00am to catch a train from Long Island at 6:00am that would probably get me there late anyway.
Harlem is a place where people say you’ll get stabbed for looking at the sidewalk too long. This is white-person speak for “multi-ethnic.” At first I was hesitant to head beyond Columbia University, but then I thought to myself “Honestly, this is New York City, not a slum. There are lights and people everywhere. If I keep my wits about me, I should be fine.”
And it was true – everything was fine. I found Dana’s guesthouse right near the subway, and I was pleasantly surprised – it was an old, turn-of-the-century Brownstone divided into several rooms. Her own lodging had a little kitchenette and a bathroom, and luxurious furnishings, including a settee and a chandelier. I wanted to stay for longer just so that I could take advantage of the spiral staircase, whose stained-class skylight was something to look up to.
In Puerto Vallarta, the horizon goes as far as the eye can see. From ziplining in the Sierra Madre mountains, to jet skiing on the beach, there is always something further to look out at. That’s also the way it felt to vacation in Mexico – always something more to discover, always somewhere new to go, someone new to talk to.
I’m not really one for passive, relaxing vacations. Trips where I’m involved in a lot of things, up from morning until midnight, with itineraries and arrangements made in advance – that’s how I like to travel. Squeeze in as much as I can because who knows when I’ll be back? But vacationing in Puerto Vallarta was different. It felt nice to kick back and lie on the beach with as much alcohol as I wanted. I loved swimming in our private plunge pool and admiring the Mexican landscape. I felt like I was in another world…
Our resort included excursions as well. We took advantage of the sunset cruise out of the harbor. It was a nice, intimate group and the sailing was so much fun. We drank margaritas at sunset and posed for photos. The Bay of Banderas is absolutely stunning and we felt like we were the only boat in the ocean that day. I will never forget that sunset – thank god it didn’t rain!
The icebergs that drift on the shores of Iceland’s black beaches look like diamonds shimmering in the sun. They float downstream into the ocean from the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon on Iceland’s southeastern coast. You’ll find large chunks and small pebble-sized bits that will melt at the touch of your hand.
These are some lilies that my mom planted in the yard of her house. She planted them while I was living there. Lilies are very interesting in that they only bloom once a year, and not for very long. You get to enjoy each bud for maybe a week or so before it crumbles and dies. But the cool thing is, that once you’ve planted them, they will always grow back, every year. Kind of a Zen thing really, when you think about it – something might be regular in your life, but you only get to enjoy it for a little while.
So cherish it while you can.