Day 16 – The penultimate day

I can’t believe we only have 2 full days left in China.

I was awake at 4 am, so checked into our return flights. The trip has flown by.

We are having a lazy day today. Our host has offered for us to wash all our clothes so we have a clean case to go home with. I’m not good at letting others do things for me, but accept. I have work the very next day when I get home l, so this will help me.

We go to brunch at another ex-pat complex. After all the food I have eaten, pouched egg and salmon on crusty toasted bread is just what the doctor ordered.

Back at the house, while the girls get to the washing, the boys play pool. They really are competitive.

When you stay with people in China you have to register at the police station within 24 hours, so while the boys played we went off to register.

Tonight we are going out for dinner. It’s called the lost plate! You get onto a tuk tuk and are taken to 4 different restaurants ending up at a pub.

As Beijing are preparing for the 70th anniversary of China’s peoples republic, there were warnings of potential traffic jams and road blocks, so we decided to head into the city early.

We parked up not far from the Hutongs. As we drove, I recognised some of the restaurants we had eaten in whilst with Viking.

We arrived with plenty of time so went to a pub that sells a massive selection of draft beers.

We were a bit peckish so I ordered some spicy nuts and crackers. When the crackers arrived, the guy serving us poured what looked like water over them. I thought it was a bit odd, but as it hit the bowl the crackers were in, steam came off it!

The crackers was absolutely amazing. I thought whatever he had done would make them soggy, but they were so crisp. They were also cold but very tasty.

We eventually headed to our meeting place for the tuk tuk ride. Again we were early so found a lovely place opposite for another quick drink.

A word of warning about drinking anything in China! What goes in must come out! The toilets are not always great! Most are just holes in the floor and many don’t have doors on them!

There was due to be 10 of us on the trip, with maximum 4 to each tuk tuk.

4 of the group were running late so we were given a beer to keep us going.

Eventually 2 of the 4 arrived, but we had to leave without the other 2 as they were under pressure to get us around before some of the restaurants closed.

Just as we were heading off the final couple arrived so they managed to catch us up.

The tuk tuk ride takes you through the Hutongs. They are very windy. It is great seeing into the alleys, peoples houses and bars etc.

Our first stop was for noodles. They were amazing. I learnt on the Viking trip that Shanghai to Xi’an is rice country. Once at Xi’an it’s noodles, so we have only had them a couple of times on the trip. These were the best I’ve ever tasted.

Next was a Mongolian BBQ. We had a couple of dishes here. The first was a beef dish cooked on a griddle, the next a lamb one along with mushrooms. I don’t eat lamb but the beef was delicious. They give you a pot to which you add chilli, garlic and another seasoning to your liking. When the meat is cooked you dip it into your mix before eating.

Throughout the evening there was unlimited beer or soft drinks, which you would take from restaurants to tuk tuks etc.

The third stop I wasn’t sure about as I heard it was a pie. I had no reason to worry, it was the best pie I’ve ever had. I’m not sure what the pastry was made of, but I would say it was steamed, although the bottom was caramelised.

The pies were served with a selection of dishes.

To go with this, they gave us a bottle of the fire water to share. I did have the one shot but no more! It is lethal. Hubby couldn’t say the same. The boys in the group finished the bottle off!

The final restaurant we had About 5 more dishes which included my favourite dish – Kung Po chicken, before heading back to the pub we had started our evening at. Another beer was included in the tour.

It was gone midnight by the time we had finished and it had been an absolutely amazing experience. I would certainly recommend it.

I think we were all ready for our bed by the time we got home!

Eating and drinking in Krakow

You will never go hungry or thirsty in Krakow! There are absolutely loads of options open to you !

The big decision is, do you want food on the go, in a relaxed or formal setting, inside or outside !

When we go away, we like to eat local food. You will find a MacDonalds everywhere in Krakow, but there is no way you would find us eating there. We can have one of those at home!

The weather for us was gorgeous, so it was perfect for sitting outside!

We were staying a few minutes from the main square, so we tended to gravitate there!

There are many restaurants running around the square. Each have their menus on boards outside, so you can check before committing yourself.

Don’t worry if you think the menu is limited in some, they have just put a selection on display! Ask them for a full menu.

Most staff speak very good English, so if you have any specific requirements, they are happy to cater for you.

On every corner you will find a little stall selling ‘Precels’! These are rings of bread, and delicious, perfect for eating on the go. They come in various toppings, cheese, sesame, spicy and salted. At only 1.8 PLN (approximately 45p) they are a bargain! We had them the day we were running for the train to the Salt Mine, for breakfast, as well as to take to airport when we left!

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If you want to sit down, don’t be fooled by the price! Most meals are under £10! That doesn’t mean the portion is small! Oh no! This is one of my dinners ! It was a starter but I had it as my main!

That is a litre of beer next to it! It was filled with a selection of meats including, chicken, pork, Polish sausages and beef, with sauerkraut in a dry sauce! It was very filling so the bread wasn’t eaten!

Other local dishes include Bigos (hunters stew) which is also served in a bread bowl, smoked sausages, Pierogi(dumplings), which are stuffed with a variety of fillings ranging from cheese, minced meat, cabbage and mushrooms.

Don’t forget the good old pork schnitzel too! These are also usually the size of a dinner plate!

And one of my hubby’s favourite, the pork knuckle! Be careful when you choose this option as some are a set price, others are charged per Kilo! This is the one my hubby ordered! It was 1.2 kilo ! Way too much for 1 person!

Every meal is served with bread, but rarely butter. If you want it, ask. I’m sure most restaurants would be happy to provide you with some!

What was lacking for me though was the lack of vegetables. Some dishes came with potatoes but that is all. You will need to order vegetables and salad as an extra!

My tip would be to order your drinks, look at the menu, and then look what others have had ! It will give you an idea of how it’s served, and more importantly, the portion size!

You can share a main, or even ask for a doggy bag!

If you are visiting the Salt Mine, I would recommend the sausage for lunch ! For 15 PLN, you get a large sausage, bread roll and a bottle of Coke, which is less than £4! It’s delicious!

We had most of our meals at the same restaurant. Why? It was sooo good! And the beer was the cheapest we had found ! 17 PLN (£4 ish) got you a litre of their local beer! It was one of the very few without patio heaters, but as we were lucky with the weather it didn’t matter!

So what was that restaurant ? Sukiennice! It’s named after the building it’s located in – Cloth Hall! Sukiennice is its Polish name.

Breakfast was also the most reasonable we saw! Scrambled eggs (3 eggs) wit bread was only 9 PLN (less than £3), you could them add extras such as bacon, mushrooms, cheese etc for only 1 PLN (25p)!

I opted for one of their bagels for breakfast. Beetroot, rocket and walnuts. Oh wow! What a taste delight! At only 9 PLN (just over £2), it was a bargain!

Beetroot is a traditional food item of Poland. Most restaurants will have a delicious beetroot soup on its menu, served hot and cold!

They had a good selection of tea and coffee too!

Because it is on the square, you get to people watch, while eating, which I always enjoy!

They also have a cosy basement for late night tipples!

Another restaurant I’d recommend is Chopin! It’s on the opposite corner of the square!

The head waiter was such a charmer! When I tried to make a joke with my friends that they didn’t serve alcohol, he joined in. He told the group they only sold potato water, grape water and hop water! Aka vodka, wine and beer!

I had one of the very few salads here! Roast beef! It was cooked to perfection and at only 23 PLN (less than £6).

When in Krakow, I would also recommend a walk to the Jewish quarter. There are also some lovely restaurants there too!

I’m sorry but I can’t remember the name of the one we ate in, but wow, it had the best bread I’ve ever eaten!

I had had a big lunch, so wanted something light for dinner! I chose a mushroom soup, served in a bread bowl! The soup was good but the bread, out of this world ! If you had the hunters stew here, it also came in the same bread bowl.

The bread was firm enough to hold the liquid, but light and flaky to eat! I wish now I’d asked how they made it! I can still taste it today, a week later!

On our last day, we had lunch at Max 18 in the square! I had chicken kebab, salad and chips! Again a really large portion of food!

What was exciting though, was behind my shoulder, in the next restaurant, they were filming! I asked our waiter what was happening. It was a scene for a local Soap Opera! I didn’t recognise the main man, but still, it made for an interesting lunch !

I’m usually a wine drinker, however it’s a bit more expensive in Poland, so I stuck to the beer!

Local beers are really easy to drink. Price ranged from 10 PLN for half a litre, to 17 PLN for a litre at Sukiennice Restaurant. So basically £2.50 to £4.00.

The two we mainly drank were Tyskie and Zywiec.

When in Krakow, it would be rude not to try their specialty!  Vodka!  At home, I love toffee vodka, but here, I would strongly recommend the cherry and hazelnut.  If you like Ferrero Rocher, you will love the hazelnut one in particular!  Its like a liquid version of it!  It was so nice, I had to buy some at the airport to bring home!  At only 16 PLN a bottle (£4), it would have been a crime not to!

All restaurants will offer a range of soft drinks too.  The homemade lemonade is also a really good choice, if you don’t want anything alcoholic.  You don’t get tap water on the table, so if you do want water, you will need to pay for it.

When you pay the bill, they will also give you a little shot of cherry liqueur, which is really really nice!  It certainly leaves you wanting a second!

Krakow is definitely a place worth a visit.  Make sure you try eating and drinking local specialties.  You won’t be disappointed!