My First Solo Trip: Day 7
This morning I decided to take a walk over to Parliament and Westminster Bridge to pay my respects to the victim’s of the attack. It wasn’t until then that I realized just how close my hotel was to Westminster; literally around one corner and three blocks down. There were still roadblocks and a heavy police presence in the area. I actually stopped and briefly talked to a female officer for a few minutes. There were a lot of others who had the same idea as myself. There were rows on rows of flowers left on the grassy areas adjacent to Westminster Abbey and Parliament. It was very touching. I took a few extra minutes to walk across Westminster Bridge and back as a symbol of solidarity with the people of London before returning to the hotel to collect my luggage. After checking out, I tubed back to Heathrow, terminal 5, for my 14:30 flight to Krakow.
A quick note on my Krakow flight, I opted to fly British Airways rather than Ryanair because I knew I would have to check a bag. After figuring baggage costs, the price for tickets was roughly the same amount so I opted for British Airways, believing the service would be better. While the flight crew was perfectly pleasant, I was surprised to discover that you had to pay for any and all refreshments on this BA flight. I’ve never even flown a budget airline that did not offer a complimentary drink. It wasn’t the cost of the drink that annoyed me, but rather the fact that it took almost the entire duration of the flight before the flight attendant finally reached my seat and took my order because he had to process the purchases of every other passenger on board (my seat was in the last row). By the time the attendant reached my row, myself and the two gentlemen seated next to me, practically threw our credit cards into his hands. It seems that this was a newly instituted practice that BA now has on all short-haul flights and we just happened to have the misfortune of being some of the first to fly under this new practice. I will say that the flight crew seemed embarrassed about the ordeal and went out of their way to apologize and accommodate each passenger’s request.
Another oddity of this trip is that Europe does not follow the same Day Light Savings schedule as the United States, so not only did I lose an hour traveling from London to Krakow, I also lost another hour on my first night in Krakow. It was jet lag level ten this trip.
I arrived in Krakow around 18:00. The airport is small so it didn’t take long to clear immigration and collect my luggage. I knew it would be after dark when I arrived, so I had splurged and booked a car through my hotel. The driver was pretty young and seemed pretty shy or not overly confident speaking English, it took him awhile before he was willing to engage in polite conversation. Finally, we struck up a conversation about music and he told me a funny story about his boss buying tickets to a Justin Bieber show. Apparently, the man realized he could resell the already expensive tickets for four times their original value. He sold them all and then told his teenage daughters that the tickets had sold out before he was able to buy them.
Once I arrived at the hotel, I had a few awkward moments because the driver was unaware that I paying for the ride through my hotel booking and I felt bad that I did not have the cash on hand to pay him directly. We sorted things out at the front desk. I think maybe the driver was new because he didn’t seem too confident about the whole ordeal. Booking the transfer through my hotel was 85pln, or roughly $25 U.S. dollars. Once that was sorted out, I was finally able to check into my room.
I had booked a single room at the Hotel Wielopole, which is located just off of the Old Town, but also within easy reach of the Jewish Quarter. My room was very clean and comfortable and everyone from the housekeepers to the girls working the reception desk were very friendly throughout my stay. Also note that if you book directly with the hotel, breakfast and a free dessert voucher at the adjacent restaurant are included at no additional charge.
Because it was late and I wasn’t feeling too adventurous, I looked for the nearest place to grab a quick dinner on my phone. There is a restaurant attached to the hotel, but it was already too late to be served my first evening in Krakow. There was a place called Vegab just around the corner from my hotel that had decent reviews. I was a bit skeptical since it is a vegan restaurant, but figured I had nothing to lose at this point. I ordered some sort of vegan kebab for take away and went back to my hotel room to settle in and eat. The kebab was a very generous portion and the ingredients were fresh, but unless I decide to become a vegan or a vegetarian, I probably wouldn’t eat there again. The meal was decent, but lacked the flavor of a traditional kebab. One nice thing to note was that because it was vegan, I didn’t have to worry about ordering anything that might contain milk or cheese products. Even though I’m not vegan, vegan restaurants can be a lifesaver when I’m on the go and haven’t planned ahead.