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My Prague City Break – Part 2

It’s amazing how exhausting a three week “vacation” can be. I finally feel recovered from my trip through the Baltics, and thus bringing you part 2 of my trip to Prague.

For part 1, click here.

Me & Prague Castle

Day 2 According to Lonely Planet, the Prague Castle is the most fairytale-like castle in Europe. That is a bold statement considering that number three on that list is the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle, Schloss Neuschwanstein (Bavaria, Germany). After seeing both, I would have to disagree with Lonely Planet. The Prague Castle is definitely one of the most beautiful castles in Europe though, and a sight to see while visiting the city.

The entrance to Prague Castle

To call it a castle is somewhat of an understatement. It is more like a little city, complete with streets, a cathedral, palaces and houses. To see everything would take a couple days, but the ‘short visit’ ticket will get you through the main sights in 3-4 hours. If you do choose the ‘long visit’ ticket, rest assured that both tickets are valid for 2 days, so you’ll have plenty of time to see everything.

Cathedral of St. Vitus – Prague Castle

The audio guides were not working the day we went, and on top of that you couldn’t take photos inside many of the sights, so we just walked around, reading the few signs that were in English and taking mental pictures. Tickets for long and short visits to the castle are CZK 350 and 250 respectively. That evening, we booked a table at a famous Jazz bar. But before we went there, we had to go to Prague’s #1 Mexican restaurant, Cantina. I’ll admit that I stumbled upon this restaurant after browsing Lonely Planet as they rank it very high up on their list of places to dine in Prague. Despite our trepidation (Mexican food in Prague? Seriously?) we decided to check it out.

Margaritas at Cantina

It turns out that the Cantina is a very popular restaurant in Prague, and when we tried to book a table that afternoon, we were told they were completely booked. We stopped by anyway and ended up getting a spot at the bar. The food was decent enough considering our proximity to Mexico and the margaritas weren’t too bad either. The restaurant is small though, and I got the impression that even with a reservation parties of two still end up at a small cramped table.

U Maleho Glena

The jazz bar we went to was called U Maleho Glena. This was another place we had to book a table at in advance. The ‘club’ is tiny, but they packed at least 30 people into the room. The music was good, as were the cocktails. The service, on the other hand, was not so good. We ordered a second round of drinks during the break between the first and second set, and the server did not bring them out until after the second set. The bar was very busy, but the people next to us ordered after we did received their drinks promptly while ours seemed to be forgotten. Still, the music was great and it was well worth stopping by to hear some great music.

The Entertainers

Day 3 On our third and final day in Prague, we decided to just roam around the city and take in some of the unique sights. We started the day with brunch at the Grand Café Orient.

The Grand Cafe Orient

The food was divine and it was made even better by the beautifully decorated room. The café was built during the Cubism movement, which is reflected in the design and décor of the café.

The food was amazing!

Coffee time…

And then this!









Next we popped into a confectionery store, where people could watch as they made some of the sweets right in the shop. We watched as this gentleman took this large piece of candy…

And rolled it until it was condensed to this small sweet, while still maintaining the design in the center…

Later in the day, we strolled over to U Medvidku, home of XBeer-33, the Strongest Beer in the World (their words, not mine). Unfortunately they had sold out of this particular beer so we had to settle for one of their other brews. If you’re interested in trying the XBeer-33, I don’t recommend going on a Sunday.

On our way back to the hotel, we stumbled upon an absinth bar. Granted, with a selection like this, it was difficult to miss…

Absinth Bar

Yes, we had a glass, and I can say with utmost certainty that I do not enjoy absinth. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste, or maybe it’s not and the green fairy alone makes it all worth it. Well, there was no green fairy that evening or buzz of any sort for that matter. I think I’ll just stick to my vodka sodas from now on.

That brings me to the end of my Prague weekend break. I highly recommend a stop in this city if  you have time during a European trip. It only needs 2 days really, food and drink are super cheap, and it’s a very easy city to get around.

Ciao,

Sheila

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My Prague City Break – Part 1

Praha

If feels like ever since I began my life in Europe two years ago, I have been hearing about how beautiful, amazing and inexpensive Prague (or Praha) is. Naturally I added it to the list of places I wanted to visit. Finding a travel partner can sometimes be a daunting task, and for the most part I really do not mind traveling alone. However going with someone is usually the better, and certainly cheaper, choice. For females, it is also a much safer choice.

So last fall I found a travel buddy, my old flat mate Sahar, and we got everything booked for a 3-night stay in Prague in mid-October. In just a few weeks I was finally going to visit this city that I had heard so much about.

Let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

The Flight

We chose to go with the budget airline, Wizz Air. It’s similar to Ryan Air and Easy Jet, and they mainly fly to Eastern Europe. Wizz Air flies out of Luton Airport, which is an hour north of central London so it’s not the most convenient airport to fly out of for some people. Still, the return flight, including fees and such was less than £100 per person.

The Hotel

As I am sure I’ve stated before, I’m not keen on hostels. Perhaps with the right group, on the right trip, for a couple nights, I could get behind it. This was not that type of trip. Prague has a number of inexpensive hotels, including a number of Ibis hotels around the city.

We chose to stay at the Ibis Old Town location, which I highly recommend. It was slightly more expensive than the other Ibis hotels in Prague (by £8 or $12/night), but we couldn’t have been in a more perfect location. Ibis is a ‘no frills’ hotel, but it’s clean, they offer free Wi-Fi, and the rooms are efficient enough for a 2-3-night stay.

Transportation

Prague has a good public transportation system, which you can find plenty of information about online. There are buses, an underground metro and aboveground trams. A 90-minute ticket was less than £2 ($3), and that is plenty of time to get from the airport to anywhere in central Prague. There are 1-day and 3-day passes, but everything is so close in the city that taking the metro or tram is not necessary.

As with many other countries, you must remember to validate your ticket when you start your journey, whether it is on a bus or metro. We used public transportation 2 of the 3 days we were there, and were stopped twice by metro officers asking to see our validated tickets.

Day 1

By the time we got checked in and settled in the room, it was time for some lunch. We eventually wanted to get to the Old Town Square so we tried to chose a restaurant from the ones I had researched before that was on our route. The restaurant we ended up at was called Touch.

Touch, like many good restaurants, is tucked away from the main road on a street that eventually led us right to Old Town. The waiter that greeted us at the door was nice, the specials looked good and the prices reasonable. We were in!

Asparagus cappuccino soup with truffle oil

To drink, the waiter suggested we try some Hot Wine, or Mulled Wine, to help us warm up. We decided to give it a try, along with the asparagus soup with truffle oil (£1.57/$2.50) as a starter and roasted rabbit leg with mashed potatoes (£4.85/$7.75) for the main meal. I rarely order soup at restaurants, in fact, I rarely have soup period. However the asparagus soup at Touch was so delicious that after I tried a little of Sahar’s, I decided to order my own.

Roasted rabbit leg with mashed potatoes

As seen by the photos, the meal was large and tasted just as good as it looks. The entire meal for two people, including tip, came to 550 Czech Koruna (£20 or $30). If you are ever in Prague, you MUST visit Touch. There is plenty of seating, the food was delicious, and best of all it was inexpensive. Our waiter was even nice enough to give us a card for 10% off if we came back.

Just be warned: they are closed on Sunday.

After lunch, we continued to make our way towards the Old Town Square, home of the famous Astronomical Clock. The medieval clock is the 3rd oldest in the world and the only one that is still working.

Prague’s Astronomical Clock

Anyone who has been following this blog knows how much I LOVE to climb to the top of towers and duomos. So when we found out that we could go to the top of the Astronomical Clock tower, I was very happy tourist. The trip up to the top costs 100 Koruna (£3.50/$5.50), and unlike many of the other towers, this one has an elevator to take you up. Given its location in the center of the town, the tower offers a beautiful 360-degree view of entire city of Prague.

The view from the tower

From the square, we continued heading west towards the river. We passed by a number of shops and cafes on our way, including a delicious chocolate shop and one of many marionette shops. Soon we had made it to the famous Charles Bridge. The bridge was bustling with people, painters and even a band! It is also a great place to snap a photo of the Prague Castle.

On Charles Bridge

To keep us entertained at night, we decided it would be fun to try a couple different options. The first night, we made a reservation at The Medieval Tavern. Located west of the river, the tavern offers food, drinks, and on Friday and Saturday nights, medieval entertainment. There are a number of ‘rooms’ (they are more like cellars than rooms) descending floor-by-floor deeper underground, each with a bit of unique flair.

Our Medieval dinner

The food is very traditional, the beer is cold and the entertainment is worth the money!For about £20 each ($33) we ate a medieval meal, drank 3 large beers, a hot wine and were treated to a different show every 20-30 minutes.

Enjoying a beer before the first round of entertainment

The entertainment included a belly dancer, a sword fight, a juggler and even some tricks with fire…

One of the entertainers – A belly dancer with swords

The final show of the night at the tavern

The Medieval Tavern was a fantastic way to spend our first night in Prague and definitely a unique experience. While the tavern is open during the week, the shows only take place on the weekend, and it’s highly recommended that you book in advance.

That’s all for part one of my Prague weekend. Stay tuned for part two (yes, I promise there will be a part two).

Ciao,

Sheila

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Greek Holiday – Part 3

You can catch up on the first two parts of my Greek Holiday here.

Santorini

After Athens, we flew down to Santorini for three days. Santorini is one of the many Greek island in the Cyclades. It is known for the famous white buildings and blue roofs that can be found scattered around the entire island. It is also has some nice beaches, although the weather was not exactly warm enough to enjoy the beach while we were there.

There are three or four popular towns on the island: Fira, Oia and Kamari. We stayed at the quaint Hotel Anassa in Kamari, which is on the southeast side of the island, near the airport.

Kamari Beach

Kamari can best be described as a beach town. A long strip of restaurants, bars and shops line the beach and offer both indoor and outdoor seating. A number of the restaurants even had their own beach chairs and umbrellas for customers.

One of these restaurants is the Prince Bar & Restaurant. After getting settled at the hotel, we took a walk down the main road in Kamari and decided to have a late lunch at the Prince mainly because it was the busiest of all the restaurants. Patrons equal good food and service right?

Well, in this case, it did. The weather was perfect, so we sat outside and took in the weather, the view and the delicious food. For lunch, I chose to order the moussaka. It was delicious!

Of course, being on holiday and with the weather so nice, enjoying a beer with lunch was a natural choice 🙂 The service at Prince was great and the servers were extremely nice. We enjoyed it so much that we ate there again on our last day.

I absolutely love Mythos Beer!

That evening, still full from our late lunch, we decided to just take a walk through Kamari and perhaps stop in somewhere for coffee and dessert. I’m not sure if it were there early in the season, or if it evenings in Kamari are generally quiet, but there weren’t every many people out.

So again, we chose a restaurant that looked the busiest. We ordered baklava (when in Greece…) and Greek coffee. I’m pretty sure the baklava they brought us was the largest piece I have EVER seen! Here is half of it…

Greek coffee is most similar to Turkish coffee, so mom had the brilliant idea that we should turn them over when we finished and attempt to read our fortunes. This practice is known as Tasseography, and you can read more about it here.

So what was my fortune? Well, here’s a photo of my cup. Feel free to comment with you think you see.

What do you see in the coffee grinds?

On our first full day in Santorini, we decided to explore the town of Fira. Fira is the capitol of Santorini and it is the most central of all the towns. All of the local buses go through Fira and it is arguably the most popular with tourists.

*Side note – Local buses are not frequent, but they are on time. Check the schedule, and arrive 10 minutes or so before the time. The cost was around €2 per person, and tickets can be purchased on the bus.

Artifacts from the museum in Fira

Another artifact - made from pure gold

There was one historical museum in Fira, but otherwise it is a great place to walk, shop, eat and ride a donkey.

That’s right, a donkey! Okay, it was actually a mule, but advertized as a donkey. Let me explain…

The town of Fira is at the top of a steep mountain by the sea. This was also the location of the old port. Thanks to modern technology, a cable car has been built to transport people from the town to the old port and back. However the old path that zigzagged up the mountain is still there, as are the mules that would carry people and their things up and down the mountain. These days visitors have three choices when it comes to getting up or down the mountain: the cable car, walking the old path, or riding a mule.

The view from Fira down to the old port

My dad and I chose to take the cable car down and then ride the mule back up the mountain. I think this was the best decision considering how bumpy the mule ride was and how scary that would have been going down hill. Mom took the safe route back up on the cable car, but that meant she was able to get some photographs of us embarking on our journey.

My ride up the mountain

All smiles on the way up!

Even dad was having a good time!

Me and my new friend

When we safely made it back to the top of the mountain, it was time for lunch!

I did some research and found a fantastic place called Ellis Restaurant in Fira. Ellis is tucked away on the mountain, but very easily accessible and boasts a magnificent ocean view.

The highlight here was, without a doubt, the beer battered eggplant (aubergine) with pita and tzatziki sauce. It was delicious!

Beer battered eggplant at Ellis

Their Greek salad at Ellis was also one of the best (and prettiest) we had on the trip.

The Greek Salad

Again, the service here was fantastic, and I’m not just saying that because the waiter brought us free homemade dessert!

Yummy!

I would definitely say that Ellis gets the award for best meal in Greece. If you’re ever in Santorini, be sure to have a meal there!

Our excursion boat Jason

On our last full day in Santorini, we booked a boat excursion around the island. Now, had the weather been about ten degrees warmer (Fahrenheit), this would have been a fantastic way to spend the day. The boat made stops so you could go swim, and took us from the southern part of the island all the way to the northern town of Oia. Needless to say, we did not swim, but at least got a great view of the island from the water. I was also dying to visit Oia (pronounced E-ya), so it was still a great day.

Oia is most famous of the white buildings and blue roofs. That combination can be found throughout Santorini, but the ones in Oia are the most photographed and recognized.

Here are some photos from our amazing day on the boat and our visit to Oia.

I'm on a boat!

A man actually lives here

The town of Oia

And that concludes our trip to Santorini!

Stay tuned for the fourth and final part of my Greek holiday, as we head to the island of Crete.

Ciao,

Sheila

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