2016 has brought me to places that I dreamed of since childhood, like English country (albeit no heather covered hills – yet), places I should have visited long time ago, like Rome, and (twice!) place that can pull strings I did not know existed. After all those years…It is all in one home away from home, and an adventure, and a mystery of medieval cellars, inner city courtyards, and yes, you guessed it: cafes. Here is my pick of those that speak to me most. Happy travels in 2017, everyone!
Charlotte – plac Szczepański 2
Nowa Prowincja – Bracka 3-5
Camelot – Świętego Tomasza 17
Bunkier Cafe- pl. Szczepański 3a
Singer – Estery 20
Dwa Okna – Józefa 40
Mleczarnia – Beera Meiselsa 20
Fairytales happens when you believe in them. In the power of ordinary, imperfect, wabi-sabi that is….The power of little, but emotionally charged things, the power of imagination, the power of child-like (not childish!) enthusiasm. I headed to my hometown in Southern Poland recently knowing that some lovely objects are waiting there for me, thoughtfully gathered by my Father just for my photo storytelling. An old kitchen hutch, a table with peeling paint, but gorgeously preserved top by years of oil cloth cover up, a bench. They all come from an old log cabin home nestled on my parents property waiting to be re-invented, re-imagined and hopefully relocated, although this might prove too ambitious…
But in the spirit of living in the moment, I gathered and styled a little scene in my parents’ shed with fruits and flowers from the garden. There is something immensely satisfying about stepping out the door into the morning autumn fog and gathering the branches and flowers by the armful, fruits by the basket, and forgetting about the crispness in the air and working with bare hands to style, nest, experience. Then, there is always my Mom’s cake and tea to melt into…
Labor Day weekend here in New England means, inevitably, apple picking. The season opens for honeycrisps and ginger golds, ready or not. Some years it is still very summery and feels like going apple picking might be premature. But once you get to the orchard, even on the hottest day, there is always that Indian summer feeling. Slightly hazy, gold hued air, and a patch of grass under the gnarly tree that invites day dreaming…
The rolling hills around Harvard, Massachusetts, where we go, are also steeped in the Shaker history. With a little imagination and help of books and a map you can still walk the old village path and envision life as it was, in this rural community. My favorite is the herb drying shed, the activity so simple and universally understood centuries later. I have been influenced by the Shaker style furniture and decor for quite some time. It has almost Japanese style simplicity, but it is also firmly based in the East Coast rural way of life and the necessity and utility need in each object. But that will be subject for another post. Let’s return to the orchard for that end of the summer feel, shall we?
Almost 26 pounds of apples later, the action moves into the kitchen. Even though honeycrisps are best just for eating raw, I managed to fit in a small apple tart into the day. This was a new recipe that calls for brushing the apple with peach jam halfway through the backing and decorating it with caramelized walnuts. All and all pretty sweet, so I skipped the powdered sugar, even though it probably would have looked really good in the photo!
I did not expect to be so smitten by the food culture in Rome. I know, seriously, how was that possible? How many cookbooks on Italian cooking can be found in an average bookshop? How many cooking shows are out there? Well, I do have an excuse here – I hardly ever watch tv. But the true reason is different, and so prosaic…that is downright silly. Years ago, I worked in an American-Italian cafe as a cook. Menu was very limited, and while the wood oven pizza, which I had nothing to do with, was great, the pasta with alfredo sauce or shrimp scampi must have turned my taste buds off. I could not understand how anyone would gobble down so much pasta with plain cream, and keep coming back for more. If this was Italian cooking, I was not buying into it.
When I found myself in Rome this June for Bay and Orellana food photography and styling retreat, I headed for the familiar ingredients, to taste the waters. Pasta with porcini mushrooms? Bring it on, I have never heard of anyone ever ruining anything by adding porcinis, after all. Follow along for a feast of color, taste, and simple elegance. Rome, as I see it…
Stop 1: Cafe alfresco dining
Stop 2: Dessert hour at the Apartment
Stop 3: Alfresco lunch in the country
Rome has been a complicated destination for me, for years. The complicated kind of love…I remember days when I was in high school and one summer my brother and I tried to convince my parents to drive to Italy from our southern Poland home. We took the map, drew somewhat straight line, taking the Alps thankfully into account, and pleaded with all our might to head south. The car, a Polish Fiat, would probably survive the trip, my parents’ pockets, not so much. It was the old Eastern block days, when no one could travel outside of Eastern block, unless proved a significant amount of funds in dollars (!) available for each day. So… we went to Hungary instead, which I consider just as delightful to this day. But Italy…
Fast forward to my university days in Krakow and the first year exams in law school: the dreaded Roman Law. Widely regarded as the natural thinning process for first year students. I did pass, the second time around, but something wilted in me, I did not want to hear anything vaguely Roman…I mocked the innocent travelers to Italy mercilessly, despite having evidence to the contrary from my own brother and sister-in-law! Let’s just say, the ‘dolce vita’ was not doing it for me. Until this June. Sometime mid spring I saw photos from Sif Orellana’s and Signe Bay’s photography retreat which they held in Rome and I nearly wept. Soooo much beauty. So here I was, wide awake at 4 in the morning, signing up for their second retreat in June called “A Roman summer feast“. Stay tuned for food styling and photography storytelling post, but now let’s explore Trastevere, Rome. Off the beaten path, of course.
I adored Trastevere, from the moment I arrived. The trolleys, just like in Krakow, down to number 8, which goes along Viale di Trastevere. The piazzas, the churches, the flea markets…I chose to arrive early before my retreat and I stayed at the Villa della Fonte, just around the corner from Piazza di Santa Maria. Windows open, I soaked up the sounds of simple life celebrations.
In Trastevere, and later at the end of my trip in Monti, I have visited the most magnificent, spellbinding churches:
- Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere
- Basilica di Santa Cecilia in Trastevere – with a gorgeous 12th century Last Judgement fresco by Cavallini (in nuns’ choir, very limited hours!)
- Chiesa di San Francesco d’Assisi a Ripa – with Beata Ludovica Albertoni sculpture by Bernini above
- Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli – with Michael Angelo “Moses” sculpture below
- Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Monti
My last night in Rome I spent in Monti, sitting on a tiny balcony of The Blue Hostel room and looking over quiet courtyards, rolling clouds and cats playing on a rooftop of a neighboring building. Peroni from a can never tasted better…I watered the potted jasmine on the balcony and went to sleep thinking about the planned morning adventure at Panella. And adventure it was, I recommend you folks brush up on the coffee lingo before you order. Let’s just say ‘cortado’ met with a blank stare. I have desperately replaced my order with macchiato, which got an approving nod. That and a buttery, flaky cornetto ensured that I will return. Promise.
Rome deserves whole paragraphs, if not books, on its magic. Sometimes loud and colorful, sometimes elegant, sometimes understated and mysterious at the same time. It is impossible to separate history and contemporary life. Here are a few captured moments that evoke the spellbinding word to me most. Welcome to the corners of Trastevere, Rome.
It has been rather unseasonably cold in Boston this spring. My courtyard garden as well as the community plot are still looking gray and drab. It was tough to get inspired to create this year’s theme for the garden. That is correct, this year I want to create a themed backyard. Subtle, inspired by my latest upcoming travel destination, and really an ‘interpretation of’ rather than imitation. The idea crystalized on the same day that I received lovely message from one of the hosts of my photography workshop. “Count the days!” she wrote, and I am. The same day I was attending landscape architecture lecture series at the Gardner Museum and it all came together, as I was marveling at the cascading nasturtiums: A Roman fairytale.
Part 1 of garden inspiration: Inner courtyard at the Gardner Museum.
My recent trip to England started with a whirlwind day and a half in London. From the moment I resurfaced from the tube station at Holborn coming from Heathrow Airport, the game was on. I was meeting my brother for a day (him en route to Scotland, me making my way to rural Dorset), the time was short. We bumped into each other outside the station, what are the odds. Our meeting place was carefully pre-arranged at the hotel cafe, with plan B and C of course, knowing me…We dropped the bags and instantly headed down the first street that looked interesting. We meandered through Soho, posed for touristy photos in West End, hid from the rain in the National Gallery (free!) and listened to a recital practice at St. Martin in the Fields church. And then, there was a lot of talk and catching up in the hole-in-a-wall Bradleys Spanish bar, which felt more Tangier than London. Follow along!
Stay: Hoxton hotel. Just to be super thorough, I stayed in both locations, Holborn and Shoreditch. Different vibe neighborhoods, but the same great service and decor!
Eat: Hoxton Grill (above) and Lyles, which I adore for interiors and coffee. I caused some raised eyebrows, walking from the street and insisting on purchasing bag of beans. As a souvenir. Without properly sampling the cuisine, that is. All worth it though, it ended up being one of the best coffees ever, according to Carl. Now I will be forever searching Belleville Brûlerie Paris…
Neighborhood pick: Shoreditch. In a nutshell, Cambridge, MA meets Williamsburg, Brooklyn with a little more edge.
Accessories: This trip was done with carry on luggage only, I brought two bags. My shoulder bag is Jack Wolfskin Camden Town . Mine is gray, purchased 4 years ago and still in perfect shape (machine washed several times). It serves as my camera bag, since it fits perfectly my Nikon DSLR5100 with 24-70mm lens. The other one is Everlane Twill Weekender bag purchased specially for this trip. Works for the city and the country. I really could not picture myself rolling my regular suitcase down the country lane in my wellies…
I saw the Gold Hill in Shaftesbury on Instagram some time ago and frankly, I thought it was at least a little bit doctored image…How could this fairy tale really exist! When I arrived in Shaftesbury recently for a photography retreat with Marte Marie Forsberg, I made sure to arrive the afternoon before. I needed my time with Gold Hill. I left the bag at the hotel and instantly went for a stroll through town. I admit, I was a bit chocked up when two minutes later, following the crooked path behind the church, I saw the cottages of Gold Hill. I even took a selfie (gasp!) for my parents.
At 4pm in the afternoon, there was no one there, I had it all to myself. Eventually, I shared ‘the view’ with a gentleman walking the dog (very proper English, I might add) and a couple of kids returning home from school. Another words, a bliss. I walked up and down several times.
Some of the cottages are well lived in, one was undergoing renovation, others I hear, are vacation rentals these days. Since it was mid March, the season has not really started yet. I could smell grass and wood branches being burned on nearby fields and cleared gardens, but for the most part it was a lovely, sleepy mood, draped in hazy, steel blue skies.
It always comes down to flowers for me. The slightest chance that I get to hold a few blooms and arrange them, photograph them, re-enact a ‘story’, and I am there. Never mind it is across the Atlantic. That is how I felt about this workshop and opportunity to style and photograph alongside Marte Marie Forsberg and her special guest Anna Potter of Swallows and Damsons.
On a brisk March Saturday morning we stepped into a room filled with flowers. Not just any flowers. Flowers that you dream about, but rarely see by the bucket. Jonquils, lilacs, ranunculus, roses, tulips and lots and lots of eucalyptus and brambles! Anna did a demonstration and expertly arranged a quick swoon-worthy looking arrangement (with foraged bramble branches!). Then, it was out turn.
From the moment I picked up a copper vessel the time just flew by. All of a sudden it was afternoon and time to take my arrangement (above!) into a taxi to be whisked off to a lovely countryside restaurant on the grounds of a walled garden. Then the surprise Marte Marie was telling us about…Alice in Wonderland tea, cake and prosecco afternoon party in an old mausoleum. It was never consecrated, slowly falling into romantic ruins. A perfect backdrop for a story. We carried flower arrangements and chairs, in our wellies, to this moody spot. Snowdrops carpeted the woods…
As for Marte Marie’s collection of tea cups and plates, we got the opportunity to experience her countryside sources too. We visited a small antiques shops and larger antique centers. No cups for me, carry on luggage only, but I left with lovely copper pitcher, which will make debut on the Easter table.