EATalian Wedding

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1st century ruins at Villa Il Cardinale

Italy has always had a special place in my heart. It was where my parents took me for my first trip abroad when I was 9 as a First Communion Present. It was a long trip from Poland and as we drove, we stopped in different cities across the country starting with Turin, Padua through Assisi and ending in Rome. At least that is what my memory from 20 years ago tells me. What else does it tell me? That I saw Pope John Paul II, threw a coin into The Trevi Fountain with a wish to come back to Italy, ate lots of pizza and gelato. Ah yes, Italian cuisine…about that later.

Angie and Russ’ Wedding was the reason I happily made it back to Italy for the fourth time after 10 years of absence. Who would resist going to a destination wedding in one of the most romantic cities in the world? In fact, Angie and Russ got engaged in Rome and decided to seal their love in the eternal city. How romantic is that?! The ceremony and the reception was held in a historical estate just outside of Rome, Villa Il Cardinale, that dates back to the 1st century. The villa itself was built in the 16th century and absolutely took my breath away. The architecture, the decor, the smell of history made me feel like I was in a movie. But it’s really the ancient ruins surrounding it what make it a magical place especially for a ceremony like this.

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The Flower Children
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The walls of the 16th century Villa 

We all know that Italian cuisine is one of a kind. Having worked at an authentic Italian restaurant owned by a family which was deeply rooted in its Bolognese tradition, I know that it’s not only about spaghetti, lasagna or pizza. Italian kitchen is all about art, tradition and celebration: the art of mixing the right but simple ingredients to create extraordinary flavors, the tradition of making homemade pasta and aging perfectly tasting Parmigiano Reggiano, and celebrating it all with a glass of delicious Sangiovese.

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Parmigiano Reggiano and Parma Ham on the appetizer table

I wouldn’t expect anything less from a wedding in Italy. However, what I did not expect having never attended one, was the amount of food that would be served. I always thought that Polish weddings were overflowing with food while American ones had a scarcity of it and you could easily walk out from them hungry. But the difference between Polish and Italian way of serving food is that at a Polish wedding you come and go to/from the table throughout the night as you please because the dishes are being served throughout the night. At an Italian wedding you have a sit down 25 course 3 hour dinner after which you fall into food coma and have no energy to move on the dance floor. Ok…maybe not 25 but it felt like it. You also have no way of getting drunk either due to the heavy carbs filled (delicious) meals which can be good for people who cannot handle their alcohol.

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The 4 course menu with 6 main dishes 

The reception started with an obligatory glass of champagne and a long table of appetizers that included: Oysters, Shrimp Cocktail, Buffalo Mozarella, Parmiggiano Reggiano Cheese, Parma Ham, and Fried Calamari amongst others. Because I was starving by that time, I devoured enough to call it a full meal. Mistake. From there, all guests were seated down at a beautifully decorated long table where, next to my name tag, I found a full course dinner menu:

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My first thought was: “How am I going to choose one dish from Primeri and Secondi if it all looks so good?” Quickly enough, I realized that I won’t have to choose when, without being asked, I received the first plate – Pasta. Oh my…heaven on earth. I couldn’t stop eating despite telling myself “slow down, there are 5 more courses coming.” My favorite though, were gnocchi with gorgonzola cheese and walnuts, a dish to die for. By the fourth meal, I lost my ability to eat another bite, which was unfortunate because I really wanted to try the Beef Stracetti but after sipping on Lemon Sorbet, which is to clean your palate, I said “enough.” However, it wouldn’t have been a full meal if I didn’t have a bite of dolce from a sweet corner, which I miraculously managed to fit in two hours later.

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Quill Pasta Del Poggio Style 
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Rice with Scampi Veloute 
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Potato Gniocchi with Gorgonzola Cheese 
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Mixed Grilled Fish – 1st dish from Secondi Piatti (I stopped myself after this one)

The rest of the night was spent on sipping Italian wine or hand crafted cocktails and dancing the night away. The wedding was chic, romantic and classy and I wanted it to never end. I wish all the best to the lovely newlywed couple in their new life together!

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Croatia: The Yacht Week 2016

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Floaties are an essential part of TYW experience

Oh, what a week it was…a week of sailing on the Adriatic Sea waters, a week of relaxing, exploring, meeting super cool people, partying every night, and sleeping under the stars being woken up by the raising sun. That’s of course not the full list, but I need to stop myself from revealing too much 😉 Let me tell you, if you have never heard of The Yacht Week (TYW), here is your chance to learn about it; and if you’ve ever hesitated whether to go (as I did at the beginning), here is my chance to convince you that you are missing out (well unless you have a sea sickness…then it sucks). Don’t get me wrong, I am in no capacity marketing TYW, there were lots of flaws in the process, about which I may or may not tell you, I simply want to focus on the amazing experience I had in Croatia.

Let me start off by saying that I actually didn’t spend a whole week on the boat. Not because I couldn’t handle a tiny bathroom with no running water (yes, that happened to our boat – flaw no 1) shared with 7 other people (nota bene my friends), or for any other reason I can’t imagine at the moment, but because I would have missed my own graduation. Bad planning, right? Honestly, when we scheduled that with a group of MBA friends (or rather when I was literally bullied into the idea), I thought that 4 days stranded on a boat are more that enough. NO WAY! Knowing what I know now, a week is the optimal timeframe you need to be looking at. Leaving in the middle of TYW was not only a logistical nightmare (flaw no 2), but a FOMO (fear of missing out).  Imagine you need to leave a long awaited party at midnight because you are 18 and your parents gave you a curfew. You feel the pain. Anyways, don’t make that mistake.

Back to the beginning. My trip to Split, from where the boat was leaving, was a long one – more or less 18 hours (from Poland!). Croatia is a very popular summer destination, therefore buying tickets way in advance helps not only with the price but with proper connections. As I decided to join the party at the last minute, I had to bare the consequences. Unfortunately, I missed seeing Dubrovnik (well, I saw a glimpse of it from the bus while traveling to Split) which is a gorgeous city, and the one which serves as Kings Landing if you’re obsessed with Game of Thrones series as I am. But I’m definitely coming back to see the Croatian land(ing).

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Split
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The beautiful Hvar Island

I want to tell you a few key things about supplying your boat because that’s the first thing you want to do before you get on it. Well ok, you can either have a host on your boat who will take care of everything for you including shopping, preparing your every meal (unless she’s too hangover to make you breakfast) and cleaning. In that case, you only need to worry about supplying your boat with booze and ice. As it comes with price, here are some tips on the self-service scenario. Your shopping cart should be filled with lots and lots of bottles of…water (I know what you were thinking!) Give and take 3 liters per person times the number of days times the number of people on your boat. Don’t worry, it will fit. Somewhere. In terms of food – you don’t really want to cook, but if you want to prove your skills as the MasterChef of your boat, make pasta and only when the boat is already moored. Otherwise, making a michelada is challenging. So that leaves us with lots of cold cuts, bread, snacks, fruits and veggies if you wish. As you get off of the boat every night, there are restaurants in which you can eat dinner before heading out, or you can get food deliveries in some ports too, so you won’t go hungry if you’re worried about it. Other necessities include (solo) cups, napkins, toilet paper (!), and trash bags. Every few days you’ll be able to access a store should you run out of something, so don’t really buy 112 bottles of water right away (don’t question my math). Oh! And don’t forget to buy floaties in advance! One of the best parts of your day in the water.

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Getting a daily dose of vitamin D
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Boat rafts as seen from up high

Our boat, named Corvo, had 7 people plus a captain. One important thing about the captain – you feed him and pay for his meals and drinks when you’re out and about! The crew apparently is paid peanuts and they count on our tips, so tip your captain accordingly. The thing about our boat was that it was already beaten up and we ended up, as I already said, with no running water (weirdly enough, there was water to flush the toilet). So the evening ritual was to jump from boat to boat using other friendly boats’ showers. Might have been a bit annoying asking for it but thankfully TYW people were chill and generous plus it was a great networking opportunity. Ok, I’m getting sidetracked…You might wonder if we were bored for 4 days on the boat. Nothing like that! The whole idea of TYW is to sail from island to island every day or every other day with all the boats, make rafts and jump the boats to meet people, party in a different place every night, and sightsee the islands (Hvar!). One of the best parts of the day though, for me, was to get up in the morning, put on a bathing suit (if I haven’t slept in it already) and jump to the refreshing water, or lay out on the deck of the boat and sunbathe while sailing to our next destination. I feel relaxed already just thinking about it. Getting our hair down under the moonlight was not bad either. Every party was organized in a super hip, open air place where we danced till the morning hours to the summer beats being spined by great local djs. This was complimented by a melting pot of super fun, open minded, and culturally diverse crowd.

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Don’t forget your country’s flag!
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View form right by the airport in Split

To get off the boat and come back to reality was one of the hardest parts of the trip. Not to mention that the hardest was actually getting to the airport from an island, which nearly resulted in missing our plane. Despite some bumps on the way, I would do TYW again in a heartbeat. If anyone wants to join me, holler! We’ll have a blast 🙂

 

The luxury of Luxembourg

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Neumunster Abbey

I never knew much about Luxembourg, except for the fact it was the “Lux” part in the union of neighboring countries of BENELUX. And why would I? It’s a tiny, tiny landlocked country with population of over 100k in the main city of Luxembourg (just like in my hometown in Poland!). When I told friends I was traveling for 2 days to Lux City for interviews, they were horrified by the fact that I might consider it for living! I’ve hear comments like: “it’s boring”, “there’s nothing to do”, “if you like big cities, don’t even”, and “it’s good for families.” But, of course you can’t make any judgements until you see it yourself. So I was hopeful.

Not many know that Luxembourg’s GDP per capita is >$100,000, making it the 2nd highest in the world right after Qatar (in PPP terms). I’m not kidding, check it here. Approximately 80% of the population are expats or live outside the boarders of the country (in France, Germany, Belgium) and commute to work every day. In restaurants and hotels you can hear mostly French, and often German, but everyone seems to speak English, so it’s not a problem if you don’t know any other language especially that Luxembourg is home to all sorts of international companies, including Amazon’s European HQ.

True, Lux City is small but it’s full of young, ambitious professionals, who make the most out of their time in that tiny country. Next to hiking, biking and rock climbing on the weekends, you can easily travel to neighboring countries as the distances are, obviously, relatively small (4 hour drive to Paris and 2h drive to Brussels). The city also offers plenty of restaurants and bars where people hang out after work. The streets are clean and safe, distances are walkable, and public transportation is reliable for those who live further from the center. On the other hand, the downside of living and working in Luxembourg is the feeling that nothing is permanent. Co-workers often come and go, changing geographies, or companies, and friendships that you made over the past few months disappear as fast as they appeared. After all, majority of the people move to Luxembourg not from their own will, but for employment. Through my past experiences of moving and adjusting to new situations, it’s not a problem anymore. I can get the best out of every place I go, so I am ready for what comes next. Anywhere.

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Neumunster Abbey and the view on upper Luxembourg
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View from the above
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Sunset over a castle

Madrid in Retrospect

Time flies when you’re having fun, they say. I could not agree more and I would add, that it also flies when you’re busy as never before in your entire life. It’s been 10 months since I arrived in Madrid…who could believe?! I certainly can’t when I think about the days when I begun to meet all the wonderful people I have in my life now. In looking back at my beginnings in Madrid, I find these photographs from Parque de Retiro taken by my friend and a great photographer, Mario, last fall. His art work can be found here.

Thank you Mario, for capturing the beautiful moments on a sunny day in Madrid.

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Ferias de Sevilla

 

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My IE Business School Crew

Only six days after coming back from South Africa, I’m embarking on another trip. This time it’s a very quick one, down south of Spain, to Sevilla.  I could not pass this one by, as I was dreaming about going to Ferrias de Sevilla since last year when I saw it on Snapchat Story (that’s how you find out about things these days).

Ferrias is a week long festival where women and men get to dress up in their finest traditional outfits – women in spectacular flamenco dresses and men in suits with sombreros. Every evening, people dance sevillana, drink wine, and eat tapas. All of this takes place in casetas, special tents that are temporarily built for the fair and beautifully decorated.  These casetas belong to prominent families, groups of friends or associations and you need to know someone to get into one of them. Our group was lucky enough to be invited to one of the tents by an IE student from Sevilla, which made our experience unforgettable.

We arrived to Sevilla at 3pm on a Saturday. Girls changed into traditional outfits that we collected last minute in Madrid and the guys put on their finest suits. When we got to the fairground, we were transported into another world. Our heads were turning left and right as we were watching spectacular outfits, beautiful women and handsome looking men. I’m glad we collectively decided to dress up and blend in the crowd because we felt a closer connection with the tradition and culture of that place. We were taught how to dance Sevillana and had an absolute blast all night. Another great trip with a great group of friends. Check!

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Beautiful dresses at the fairground
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The rain didn’t stop us from having fun
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Managed to put together my costume few hours before
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True Sevillanas!

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas from Poland! 

I’m so happy I could have shared Polish Christmas tradition with my two friends from B-School who traveled with me to my hometown. That was especially a new experience for Celia, from Peru, and Ariel, from New York, who came to Poland for the first time.

As my parents and sister stayed in Chicago and celebrated Christmas with our Canadian family, we spent it with my grandparents. I couldn’t get enough of my grandmas delicious cooking and probably, scratch that – for sure, gained a few. The 6 days I was at home were a constant feast consisting of pierogi, noodles with poppyseed (traditional Polish Christmas dish), fish, all sorts of meats and of course homemade cakes and cookies.

I also threw a little party for friends who came from all over to spend Holidays with their families. It was great to see them, talk and laugh like we were still in high school. Although almost 10 years passed from our graduation, every time we see each other it feels like it was just yesterday and that’s the best part of going home (apart from grandmas home cooked meals of course :)).

  

Berlin

My first stop during the Holiday Break was Berlin. I had passed through that city many years ago but never had an opportunity to actually see it, and I’ve heard interesting things about it. Following the history path, along with few friends, I signed up for a walking Nazi tour. Our tour guide – an Irish history geek, was a gem. He was full of interesting facts and stories and his voice was loud and clear so everyone in the back could hear him 🙂 We started at the Brandenburg Gate, stopped by the Reichstag building for a quick history lesson of how Hitler came to power, continued to Soviet Memorial, Holocaust Memorial, Hitler’s Bunker site and finished with some more dark Holocaust stories. The evilness of World War II strikes me over and over again. More than 60 million people died, of which 10 million were Jews.

 The most famous Graffiti on the Berlin Wall “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love”                                                                         

 More or less 70 years ago, Germany was only for Germans as they were considered to be the superior race. It’s interesting to notice now, that these times are long gone and Germany has one the most diverse population in all of Europe. Berlin is full of Turks who own delicious Doner Kebabs – a perfect late night food, Middle Easterners, and other Europeans, especially Poles whose language I could hear all over the city.

Berlin is a strange city. On one hand people are free to drink on the streets, so you can see them with bottles of beer and other alcohol on the streets and in public transportation. You can see drunk people, drugged people, and bizarre looking people. But on the other hand, people follow the rules – they do not cross the street on the red lights and sort the trash religiously. I followed some rules and broke others. I walked around with a beer in my hand but I also crossed the street on the red light and took public transportation without a proper ticket. I guess you can call me a rebel!

  Traditional German Christmas Market with Glühwein, or mulled wine, which I couldn’t get enough of. 
    Spotted Santa drinking Glühwein.