That was amazing.
Like, breathtakingly, wonderfully, heart-warmingly, and quite surprisingly amazing.
It is not often you will hear me speak with such an open heart. But the last few days have been so enjoyable I feel it is important to share.
After a family orientated Christmas where I very much enjoyed having my children on the big day, the boy and I packed last minute to fly out to Warsaw for the New Year.
Being not of a geographically knowledgeable background, in all honestly I had no clue as to where we were going really. I mean I knew it was in Poland but other than that I was pretty much flying blind (obviously I was not actually flying, that would just be crazy. Especially since my geography is so poor. Though they do seem to have all manner of wonderful gadgets and gizmo’s which tell you where to go, so it may not have been all bad. Anywhoo).
It was such a busy time beforehand, we had barely prepared ourselves to go away but we made it to the airport in record time and before we knew it, were sat on a plane taking the obligatory going-on-holiday selfie.
British Airways, as always, surpassed themselves in shiteness, announcing only after we have been delayed for some 45 minutes and then taken off, that there would be no hot food. Or cold food for that matter, other than crisps and nuts.
On a flight duration of 2 hours and 50 minutes leaving at 11:25am (and therefore passing over lunchtime), this was less than ideal. Add to that the fact we had polished off several bottles of Champagne the night previously with family and were ever so slightly carb/hangover hungry, and you can begin to get an idea of the mood the further we flew over the Atlantic. Or Pacific. Or whatever stretch of water it is that runs between England and Poland.
I will say that the staff were superb. Friendly and helpful (a little heavy on the make up for my liking, but nice nonetheless, always making for a more pleasant flight) and seemingly equally perturbed that no food would be on offer, more so that there is no notification of this before you are air bound and therefore not giving you the chance to buy food to take with you from the airport.
We landed in Warsaw to brilliant blue sky and bitter cold so the excitement soon kicked in. My beautiful friend was waiting for us in Arrivals with her gorgeous man and so we were whisked off to the impeccably clean public transport to head for Central Warsaw and find our hotel. To say it was reasonably priced was the understatement of the century! For less than £1 we had up to 75 minutes of travel on any mode of public transport and therefore made use of the train and a tram to get to our final destination.
When you go to another country to visit someone, there is something quite wonderful about the arrival of your baggage followed by the hop skip and jump (ok slightly hurried walk) through the nothing-to-declare customs doors. The sliding doors parting slowly, heads bobbing left and right, searching through the crowds to then be greeted by your loved one, a smiling face and open arms really is a special moment.
My special someone in this country I had come to visit, is a lady who, two years ago, changed my entire world. When she came into my life, pretty much everything was different. Or at least, that is how it feels now.
Within a week of her arrival, she enabled me to spend the final days with my grandmother. This lovely lady landed in England with little English, no knowledge of the area, greeted by three “high-spirited” children (apparently I missed my calling for diplomacy), and a rather frazzled me. She made no complaint, found her own way round, took the duty of care of the children seemingly in her stride, giving me time. The one thing in the world I needed at that moment.
Two weeks later, early on the Sunday morning, my grandmother took her last breath.
It was the most painful and heartbreaking moment of my entire being.
That same day, my husband boarded a plane from South East Asia and came home to the UK for a week to look after the children while I made funeral arrangements and was with the rest of my family.
My special someone also remained with the children, though I was later instructed to bring her to the family home with the children where I was staying, where thankfully she had the courage and the intelligence to tell me she had been approached in an entirely inappropriate way and would need to leave my family as soon as possible.
Of course I was horrified and more sorry than I could have expressed at the violation to this beautiful young girl, barely 18 years old, who had left her home country and put her trust in my family to take care of her whilst in our employment.
It was not my failure. But I felt somehow responsible and was distraught at what had happened.
After some days, my someone special came to me and said she did not wish to leave us. That she needed me to protect her but would stay and support me and my children through what was set to be the most difficult times of my life.
And I could not have gotten through the next 6 months without her. She gave me space. She gave me freedom. She gave me peace in times my world was falling/had fallen apart.
She did not judge. She silently supported. She made Christmas decorations with my children. And ate chocolate late at night. She even had the occasional late night Baileys coffee with me.
At times I’m sure she felt somehow responsible for the collapse of my world as I knew it. Or at least parts of it. But I hold no blame for her. Quite the opposite if truth be told. She gave me life. She showed me truth. She put her trust in me and showed herself to be trustworthy and sensible and head strong. Things I wholeheartedly aspire to be.
When she left me in May, I felt lost and alone without her. She had become my silent partner. My strength. The smile in the face of each shitty day.
But we kept in touch. And she found a boy. And he loves her dearly. And she moved to the city. And is making a life for herself.
And so it was that when we were making New Year plans, we decided to go and visit her. And I could not be happier that we did. She welcomed us into the arms of her country and I instantly fell in love.
Warsaw is the most beautiful city. The buildings are colourful and shapely and unique and full of history. The benches play the music of Chopin and the food tells a story of family.
We walked and we walked and everywhere I looked I saw something I loved. The architecture is stunning. Churches and restaurants and apartments and hotels. The pavements are clean and the pathways are wide.
The food is to die for. Every morsel that passed my lips had me mmm-ing and ahhh-ing in delight. Such taste sensations, such hearty food, stunning soups, delicious dumplings.
Given that Christmas is over there was still such a wonderful atmosphere all around. Markets still open, the ice rink still going. Mulled wine readily available to warm your frozen fingers at any time.
I loved it.
I loved it all.
It took me less than 24 hours to work out the secret to staying warm in this cold winter weather.
Double up on everything.
Socks (one short pair and one long).
Scarf (one smaller one wrapped tightly round and a big thick one over the top of your coat).
Gloves (I actually had one pair of gloves and then put on a big pair of woolly mittens with fleece inside).
Seriously. It’s the way forward.
I was not cold! And I am one of the coldest people on earth.
I always like to do a hop on hop off bus tour when I arrive in a city. I believe it is the best way to get your bearings somewhere new and also to see the highlights and enable you to make a more informed decision of where you want to go and what you want to see in more detail.
We started our journey on the first day and agreed we would do a complete circuit and then do “hop off’s” on the second way round but of course everywhere was so beautiful we ended up getting off at the very first stop in Old Town. Love it!
What a truly enjoyable way to spend both the end of the year and the beginning. And to be in the company of two of my favourite people in the world.
It is a rare and beautiful moment that I genuinely feel at peace.
But there’s a lot to be said for taking time.
And being with the people you love.
The ones who are good for your soul. Who will hold your hand and walk with you when no word is needed. Who share your love of magical places and wonderful people.
It’s the New Year. Everywhere you look, talk of new beginnings.
My main aim for this year is to get to the end of it in one piece. That’s enough for me. But with the right people and the right places, I can escape every once in a while and just be.
Thank you to my special someone.
And of course to the boy, whom I love with all my heart and more.
Happy New Year.