Monday, July 23, 2007

Prague - Czech it out

Well it has been a week since I came back from Prague but that's ok. As most of you probably know I am giggling over the title of my post and also laughed really hard whenever I saw anyone who bought the t shirt that said "PRAGUE - CZECH ME OUT."

Let me give you some advice - GO TO PRAGUE. Preferably GO NOW. Prague was absolutely gorgeous. The city is super old with lots of really cute alleyways and buildings that make you feel like you are part of another world. The only thing that kind of snaps you out of that reality is the fact that there are thousands of tourists everywhere and a lot of them like to do things like: eat shirtless in a restaurant (true), eat shoeless in a restaurant and prop their feet up on the chair besides (also true). Anyway, despite these freaks, we LOVED Prague.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon and took the bus and metro from the Prague airport. Everyone speaks English very well, which was a huge help because I just have not found the time to study Czech since I have been here. Anyway, the cost of the transport was 1 CHF (about 80 cents).

We crossed the historic (and touristy and crowded) Charles bridge to get to our hotel, a cute yellow building just maybe 50 meters from the bridge. We knew it as the Hotel Archibald but apparently it was called like the U Mostova Kampa or something like that. If you really are interested let me know. It was perfectly situated and had an AWESOME breakfast - Euro things like yogis and granola and croissants but also toast and eggs and bacon. And it was included. The room was fine, a little weird because it was 2 single beds pushed together IN bedframes, but I guess that's common for Prague. Not air conditioned which was not awful and we were even there on probably the hottest weekend ever.

So we checked out our Frommer's guidebook and chose a "moderate" (I will come back to this) priced restaurant for our dinner that evening, which had a fabulous view of the city, right on the river, just 2 minutes walk from our hotel. It was called Kampa Park and we ended up making a 6pm reservation in order to make sure we would get the view. In the meantime, we took a boat cruise along the Vlata river, which looked much less clean than the Chicago river and a far cry from the beautiful-you-can-see-clear-to-the-bottom-even-from-a-plane Rhone which runs through Geneva. But we got a free beer and ice cream, so what the heck. Anyway it was midly interesting, and I did get an opportunity for a lot of nice photos. We learned a TON about the floods in 2002, which made me wonder what they talked about before 2002. But it was pretty ridiculous - the water level raised like 5 meters or someting like that (picture 3 yardsticks) and flooded the entire city.

After the "cruise" we went to freshen up and then to dinner. Prague is supposed to be cheap, especially since they are still on the koruna and have not yet switched to the euro. However it has still gotten pricey, I suppose to take advantage of all the sucker tourists like ourselves.

Anyway, we had a PERFECT table, right in the corner with a view of the whole sun drenched city and river. It was absolutely beautiful. After a glass of Moet & Chandon (which I later found out cost 17 EURO) it looked even better and so did everything on the menu. We finally decided to be risky - Justin tried beef carpaccio and I had raw scallop and sea urchin sashimi - to start. We were both happy with them. For our entrees, I had an amazing seared tuna with red curry risotto in a nice broth, and Justin had duck with foie gras (which I had never tried before, but I realized what all the fuss is about - goooooooood). Finally we polished off our bottle of wine with a very good cheese plate of 5 cheeses - which our waiter named differently 5 different times. The setting was magnificient and so was the food, so although we were a little shocked with the bill (let'st just say that 2 nights in the hotel was cheaper than this meal), because it was so special, it was worth it completely! Although I stopped trusting Frommer after that based on the price quotation...

After dinner we walked around and had a beer in one of the various squares in Prague and then later wandered back to our hotel. The next day, after the aforementioned awesome breakfast, we went to Prague Castle which was really cool. The grounds were enormous and we saw a very old church - like a no frills cathedral - at St Georges Basillica, then also walked around in this building which kind of looked like the great hall of Hogwarts. We also took a walk down Golden Lane, a row of very small houses where originally the castle servants lived, but later named as such because alchemists used to frequent there. Sweet!!! We bought a few items and then headed back into town.

Randomly, we stumbled upon a photo exhibit of which the subject was Chicago! It was a bunch of nice aerial photos which I admit made me a little homesick. After that, we had a nice pizza lunch with cold Czech beer and then we went jewelry shopping!!

Prague and the Bohemia is apparently famous for its garnets. After being misled by Frommer once again (to a famous garnet shop which upon arrival, informed us that it did not sell garnets), Justin and I visited a few stores and eventually I struck a deal to get a necklace and some earrings. We stopped for a few drinks on the way back to our hotel in Wencesclas square, a very cool part of town. After a short nap and cooling off laying in front of the fan (it was at least 32 or 33C every day we were there and NO shade), we set off to find a traditional Prague dinner. I found some beautiful wine glasses on the way at BLUE (the area is also famous for its glass and crystal).

We found another great place for people watching near Wencesclas Square and settled upon some dark beers, "grandma's" potato soup, beef goulash and "monrovian sparrows" which was basically pork, almost like brisket, with red cabbage and dumplings. That traditional Prague food is good, but it sure is filling! Our waiter(s) were nuts and in the end annoying about demanding a tip when we were paying with a credit card (once we explained we were paying in cash, they backed off). That was the one slightly annoying thing - restaurant service was very marginal yet they still expected and in fact a lot of times demanded a tip, and also you got charged for "free" things like bread. Overall not enough to really change my feelings about the trip.

Sunday we had just enough time to enjoy the awesome breakfast again and hit the duty free at the airport (which I have come to really love...we bought some Czech liquor called Becherovka and also some Bohemian Sekt champagne..each less than 8 bucks). One more day in Prague would have been nice, but a weekend is definitely enough. So I recommend everyone go...and come visit me on the way!!

Photos of Prague (most of you have probably seen by now, but so pretty...)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Justin goes to Switzerland

Well as I have broadcast to pretty much everyone, Justin got here on July 2. The past 2 months were extremely difficult for whatever reason; maybe the 2 hardest of the assignment so far. So I was really REALLY looking forward to him coming here.

So a lot has changed since he got here!!

First, if I leave messes at home when I go to work, they are cleaned when I get back. Same with that my groceries magically bring themselves home and my errands magically complete themselves.

Seriously though it is so nice to have him here. We have never lived together and been able to spend time together so easily which makes it super fun. The first 2 weeks were pretty relaxed, we did a lot of cooking and watching tv shows and movies together and going for walks into town. We also celebrated my 27th birthday (yay!) which Justin made really special with nice things with champagne and cheese and a good dinner out and walk around Geneva.

The only thing which hasn't been good is the weather, but that finally improved at the end of last week. It was 55 degrees the day before my birthday. This is not Chicago!! I did also have a housewarming party ("Cremellaire") on July 6 where almost all of my work colleagues came. It was a "great success" especially mine and Justin's guacamole and bruschetta recipes! The weather was perfect for that, and warm enough for me to wear a dress on my birthday, and then perfect in Prague, so I can't really complain.

Now for Prague...that might have to wait until tomorrow.

Since You've Been Gone

Hello hello? I am so sorry for my absence!! Well a lot has happened in the past few weeks which kept me busy:

I went to Norway - this recap is posted back in my June posts now because I drafted it a while ago. But definitely go check it out, because it also has PICTURES!! yaaaaay

I turned 27

And we went to Prague

So I will do as best I can a whirlwind recap of all of those things and include some photos! Here we go...