Monday, March 31, 2008


As April arrives, I'm reminded that no matter what the UK says, it's spring pretty much everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere.  In that vein, I've begun my bi-annual sartorial and musical change up.

I absolutely refuse to wear boots past March so all my tall leather boots have been lovingly stuffed with old rolled up magazines, slipped into dustbags, and placed in their boxes.  They've been replaced with ballet flats, wedges, Converse All-Stars and Pumas.  I also cannot stand the thought of wearing heavy wool sweaters so they, too, have been relegated to my out-of-season closet (i.e. the guest room).  My wool socks and scarves and tweed coats have met the same fate.  There may be days when I will freeze but that's the price I pay for my principles.

What all this means for my iPod is out with Pete Yorn, The Shins, Coldplay, Whiskeytown, Damien Rice, Heather Nova, Joshua Radin, Rogue Wave, Nick Drake, Ray LaMontagne, The Raconteurs and late Dave Matthews Band and in with Jack Johnson, G. Love, Lucinda Williams, Tift Merritt, The Beautiful Girls, Gipsy Kings, Cowboy Mouth, and early Dave Matthews Band.

So c'mon Spring.  I'm ready and waiting.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Archery?!? WTF?

Today was probably one of London's nicest days so far this year.  Too bad we were just a little too tired to get out and enjoy it.  I'm not naming names (Beth and Rino) but last night, wine was drunk, a sticky toffee pudding was mauled, board games were played, insults were thrown, accusations of cheating were hurled, goodbyes were said, hugs were doled out and when you throw in a "spring forward" that makes for quite the evening.

P.S.  The title of this post is an inside joke so don't anyone go busting their brains trying to figure out the reference.  Only the four of us and Geena Davis think it's funny.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Czech it out.

I don't know how it happened. Last week the forecast for Prague was basically this: "Bring yo umbrellas, bitches." And we got there. And there was no rain. Many clouds but no rain. Very very cold. But no rain. And it was good. Then we woke up on Saturday. And there was no rain. And not only was there no rain... there was blue sky and sun. And lots of it. And it was great. Then we woke up on Sunday. And there was no rain. There was grey sky and then sun and then grey sky and then there was a little bit of rain. But it quickly turned to snow. Big fat flakes of snow. For about ten minutes. Then there was about a half hour or so of rain. But that was about it. A few more flakes here and there on Monday but that was all the precipitation we had to deal with. I'm convinced it's because we brought umbrellas and our North Face rain jackets.

But enough of my weather report. Back to our regularly scheduled programming... A note on our hotel - Aria Hotel in the Little Quarter. I highly recommend it. It's a music themed hotel and each floor is named after a different genre (we were on the opera level) and each room is named after an artist or composer. They give you an iPod for your room loaded with music from each of the genres they represent - how cute is that?!? And the room keys were little music notes with magnets on them that opened the doors - how cute is that?!?! I especially love these caricatures painted on the building...

First things first, food and beer.

After our bellies were full, we walked across the Charles Bridge and gaped at all the statues along the way.

And rubbed a martyr or two for good luck...

The arch of the tower on the Old Town side of the bridge

And then we headed to the Jewish Quarter to see the cemetery and Pinkas Synagogue. It was a very sobering experience. The walls of the Pinkas Synagogue are covered in the names of some 80,000 Jews from Bohemia and Moravia who went to Terezin concentration camp and never returned. The cemetery is the result of there historically being only a small plot of land allocated for Jewish burials so the graves are literally piled on top of one another - layers and layers deep. It's estimated there are about 12,000 tombstones here but many many more actual people buried.

After leaving the Jewish Quarter, we happened upon Old Town Square and lo and behold, there was an Easter Market!

And if experience tells me anything, it's that where there's markets... there's FOOD. We had been in the market exactly 2.5 seconds when I decided I would simply perish if I didn't get my chops on one of these cinnamony rolly thingies. Cooked over smouldering coals! That's quality.

Cinnamony rolly thingies = me happy.

Giant chocolate bunny = Jason happy.

These things are amazing. They're a Czech Easter tradition and are real eggs, hollowed out and hand painted with intricate designs. We picked out six and bought them and as we were walking away, I say to Jason, "How do you feel about six more eggs? I'm feeling a twelve egg centerpiece." Words I never thought would come out of my mouth.

Church of Our Lady before Tyn in Old Town Square, with some Easter Market decorations making an appearance in the foreground.

Old Town Hall, which houses theeeee...

...famous Astrological Clock.

Some art nouveau architecture in Old Town.

After some shopping and a cafe stop, it was starting to get to the magic hour for taking pictures so we wandered around Old Town for a bit longer and enjoyed the scenery.

Church of Our Lady before Tyn again.

The back side of the same...

Storch House - this has a painted facade that depicts St. Wenceslas on horseback.

Little Town and the Castle area as seen from across the Vltava River.

Old Town Bridge Tower...

and Church of St. Francis...

We then had an awesome dinner that was about two doors down from our hotel which was great since we were so tired from the long day. It was mostly traditional Czech food and I got a cassoulet that was about the size of my entire torso, as you can see. I managed to eat roughly one-eighth of it. Mostly the cheesey/potatoey eighth. I'd like to point out here that I have posted this wildly unflattering photo of myself all so you people can see my giant cassoulet. Don't say I never did anything for you. (I'd also like to point out that not only had I been awake since 4:00 AM at this point, but I also had dealt with Easter weekend airport security queues, flown for two hours, and spent all day sight-seeing. That is all. You may now judge me if that's your thing.)

As previously mentioned, we awoke on Saturday to a wonderful surprise - sunshine and blue skies!

So we immediately went to the rooftop of our hotel to check out the view.

St. Nicholas Cathedral in the Little Quarter. (There's also a St. Nicholas in the Old Town.)

Our walk up to Prague Castle...

St. Vitus's Cathedral as seen from across the Stag Moat.

The facade of St. Vitus's.

The gothic spires and a flying butress or two.

The rear of the cathedral.

St. George's Basilica.

The view down a narrow lane.

Golden Lane used to be home to lots of goldsmiths in the 17th century. By the 19th century, it had degenerated into a slum but was eventually cleaned up and turned into a tourist trap. In all seriousness, it was really cute but I do think it's bullshit they charge you an admission fee to walk down a street. Not to mention it was crazy-crowded.

The colorful buildings.

I don't really know what's going on with this. We walked out the other side of Golden Lane and there it was.

Bridges over the Vltava River as seen from the Castle area.

A view of Old Town and Charles Bridge.

Er, oops? Let's try that one again...

That's better.

Next, we happened to walk up on Rudolfinum, the home of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. And lucky us, there happened to be a concert that evening. There were tickets still for sale and since Prague is well known for its classical music scene, we snapped up a couple.

A concert of a different kind... Umm, was anybody aware that this band was still around? Correct me if I'm wrong here but did that earworm of a song "Tubthumping" not come out around 1997 or so? And were they or were they not a "one hit wonder"? Perhaps Eastern Europe is a reservoir of 90's bands with mild fleeting success? Maybe the Soup Dragons will be playing live here soon? Or The Divinyls? Oooh, oooh! Or The Heights?? That joint "How Do You Talk to an Angel" was HOT!

Hail Mary....

....full of hotdogs.

After strolling around for a bit, taking in more architecture - art nouveau...

...and otherwise...

...we popped into a marrionette shop to get some gifts for our nieces.

After a rest back at the hotel, it was time for our evening of music. First up was our classical concert at 7:00. It was a program of some of my very favorite pieces by Verdi, Mozart, Bizet, Pachelbel and Bach and a few I wasn't that familiar with by Dvorak. After that was over, we headed over to Agharta Jazz Club for our 9:00 reservation. There was a great band from Switzerland playing and we stayed out way too late for old people. Unfortunately, our camera battery was dead so we don't have any photos from the evening. So just trust me when I say it was a fantastic night.

Easter morning we headed back to the Castle area to visit the Loretto. It was really lovely because the bells were constantly playing songs for the holiday.

The frescoes on the ceiling of the cloister.

Then to see St. Nicholas Cathedral in Little Quarter. I've seen quite a few cathedrals in my day, and in fact, I've become sadly blase about them sometimes. But I have to say that this one still managed to take my breath away when I walked in. It was truly truly beautiful.

The ornate dome.

Afterwards, we were off for eats. This is what the great outdoors looked like before lunch. Take note of the blue sky.

Ding ding ding. We have a winner. Any place that starts out with hanging pretzels on your table is ok by me.


And this is what the great outdoors looked like upon leaving lunch. Snow! Note the not-so-blue skies.

After the precipitation abated, we headed for New Town. Umm, soooo... New Town. How do I put this delicately? Not so much going on there except the National Museum and the monument to St. Wenceslas.

Well, that's not exactly true... per say.... There was this pub. Pivovarsky Dum I think it was called? I think you'll forgive me if I don't get the name exactly right when you see just what went down at said pub:

I know. I still can't believe it either. But they can't just go offering these things up and not expect people like us to take it as a personal challenge. The best part is that we were dying laughing and saying "Oh, let's order it just for fun! We don't have to actually finish it! It'll be a riot!"

A riot, you say? Hmmm....

Yes, a "riot" is just what this looks like, no? The worst part is that we went back to the hotel afterwards and said we'd "just lie down for a little nap" before dinner. That was at 8:00. Cut to 4:00 AM. I think you can fill in the rest.

On our last day we decided to take a little boat tour.

Which Jason found particularly enjoyable due to the free gingerbread cookie....

...and the free Pilsner Urquell.

And for our final trick, the Lennon Wall. There's a whole story why it's called the Lennon Wall but frankly, I've been writing this post for what feels like 40 years right about now so I'm not really feeling like looking it up at the moment. You've got Google. Use it.

So long, Prague.