Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Ferdinand comes to stay

My colleague has the most adorable Sheltie puppy, called Ferdinand (named after the Czech beer). I met the little fluff ball last week when we went on a day trip to Cesky Krumlov together (more of that another time). Wherever we went, he would get adoring glances and people running up to say "Jezis! To je krasny!" (OMG, he's so cute!).

Imagine my delight when I was asked to look after Ferdinand for a weekend while his owner went away to Germany!

Here's what the little fella got up to during his stay:

Satruday - exploring in the garden

Sniff, sniff, sniff

Hmm, is it edible?


Racing back inside

Tired out

Sunday morning - what's going on out there?
A much better view from my flower pot throne!
I had such a great time with Ferdinand and also met a lot of people. Czechs love dogs and I think I spoke to more people this weekend than I have in the whole time I have lived here!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

I Love Paris in the Winter Time

I finally made it to Paris last weekend. Beautiful, beautiful city of lights. I was lucky enough to live in Paris for a year in 2000/01 when I was a student. Going back 12 years later brought back a lot of good memories. I managed to fit in a lot of sight seeing as well as visits to some of my old haunts and met up with two friends I hadn't seen in years.

On Friday evening I did a lot of walking. My colleague was keen to visit some of the main sights, so we started off at the Eiffel Tower. I had never got to it from Trocadero before, but the view was brilliant. It does look amazing at night.

We walked over the bridge and under the tower.

After some dinner in a traditional little bistro we decided to keep walking through the city and headed towards the Champs Elysees. By this time it was 11:30pm and I was amazed that a lot of the shops were still open. I resisted the temptation and we walked up to the Arc de Triomphe. It was actually really nice to do some touristy things, as when you live in a capital city you often avoid such crowded places.

The next day the sun was shining brightly - really perfect weather to head to Montmartre. I hadn't been to the cemetery there before. It was like a little town for the dead with road names and even rubbish bins. Although, I don't think the deceased use those.

The tombs were incredible. I found this row under the bridge, which carries the road above, particularly fascinating.

Lots of famous people are buried in the Montmartre cemetery - mainly writers. Degas is there somewhere too.

We walked on to La Butte Montmartre and scaled the many steps to Sacre Coeur, dodging the myriad bracelet makers and handbag sellers.

I don't think I've been to Sacre Coeur on such a clear, bright day. The views out across Paris were breathtaking (as was the trek up there!).

After the obligatory croque madame in a nearby cafe, I headed off on my own to do some shopping. It was so busy at Boulevard Haussman though, that I didn't stay long and instead went to one of my favourite places   - rue Mouffetard for a wander round. I used to spend a lot of time here when I was 20. I love the little shops, cafes and restaurants. It was much the same except for the price of my grand creme. I did gulp when I looked at the bill and saw €5.20.

I'm pleased to say it was a very good coffee and I had a table on the terrasse with overhead heaters. I wrote a couple of postcards and watched the world go by. Ah, Paris...

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

An Unexpected Trip to Dresden

My first foreign trip of 2013 was supposed to be to Paris. Unfortunately, the snow put a stop to that as my flight was cancelled. At the last minute I decided to go to Dresden instead. Only 2 hours by coach from Prague, it makes a good weekend destination. The last time I was in Dresden was 2001, so I was sure there would be lots of new things to discover.

Boris the backpack waits at Burger King for the Friday night Eurolines coach to pull in.

I stayed at a very nice "aparthotel" on Louisenstrasse, which just so happens to be the restaurant, bar, cool-small-independent-shop part of the Neustadt. I was recommended a walk up Louisenstrasse and onto Alaunstrasse and then on into the city centre, which I'm really glad I did.

First stop was Fruehstueck at the very pleasant Cafe Eckstein (corner of Louisenstrasse and Alaunstrasse). There are various breakfast menus to choose from as well as a "build your own" breakfast.

Freshly-baked rolls, Edam and a Bio-Ei - my perfect breakfast :)

Fortified by a hearty German breakfast, I was ready to head out into the cold (-6 that weekend!). I stumbled across the arty part of Dresden known as the Kunsthofpassage and spent way longer than I meant to there. It has lots of lovely little craft shops and interesting architecture. So nice to see artisans making and selling all in one place.

Before I made my way further into town, I made a warm-up stop in the form of a savoury muffin and fruit tea at Fraeulein Lecker.

Muffin burger!

It was then time to head through the snowy streets and over the Augustusbruecke.


Dresden Altstadt from the Elbe.

Dusk on Augustusbruecke

I was particularly pleased to see the East German Ampelmaennchen when crossing the road. There are also female versions with pigtails and a dress! 

Green Ampelmaennchen at dusk.
I was excited to find some Ampelmaennchen earrings at the station just before I headed back to Prague and had to get them. Nothing like a bit of Ostalgie (East German nostalgia).

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Trains, planes, coaches, ferries and automobiles to Sicily and back

When you live in the Czech Republic it is a good location for getting to most places, but getting down to Sicily to meet friends from Australia and Denmark for a yachting holiday on the dates we had chosen proved a little complicated. For added fun, we decided to use as many different forms of transport as possible. 

Our trip started with an overnight coach from Brno to Venice. Taking 9 hours and costing only €50 it was much more comfortable than I had imagined. We arrived early morning and had our first Italian coffee in a little cafe near the station.

Capuccino love

We had a couple of days enjoying Venice with its beautiful canals and bridges.

And of course the venetian masks and Aperol flavoured gelato!

From Venice we flew with Alitalia to Palermo in Sicily and then took a train along the coast to the tiny village of Falcone.

Sicilian coast from the train

Although Portorosa is only a few kilometres away from Falcone, there are no buses on a Saturday to the port and also no taxis! We had to get the yacht rental company to come and pick us and our luggage up in the car to get to the marina.

Portorosa - waiting to board the yacht.

The next morning we set sail for the Aeolian Islands. It was a little overcast, but there was a good breeze.

Putting up the main sail!

Plotting the course.

The thing I loved about being at sea, was the peace and tranquility - nobody around for miles.

Early morning sun over the Tyrrhenian Sea.

 But occasionally a local would putter past in a boat.

We headed to the island of Salina and arrived at the port mid-morning. It was a scorching hot day.

Reversing into our berth.

Then it was time for lunch - a very nice 3 course set menu with a crisp, white wine.

We headed back to the yacht and set sail for our next destination - Panarea. We arrived in the evening and headed onto the island for a cocktail.

Panarea at dusk with Stromboli in the distance.

The next morning we set off early to head over to Stromboli and had our morning cup of tea on the way.

Soon Stromboli came into view - breathtaking. The best part of the trip was seeing Stromboli erupting at night. Sadly my camera was not good enough to capture any shots of that, but the orange lava shooting up into the starry sky was unforgettable.

We dropped anchor off of Stromboli and there was time for a quick visit to the volcanic beach. I loved the black sand.

I'm not exactly sure where you are supposed to run to on an active volcano if a tsunami strikes!

We decided to run for the pizzeria instead :)

Lunch time on Stromboli

Next stop was Lipari. I headed into town early the next morning and enjoyed the views across the bay as well as a wander round the little grocery and souvenir shops. The main thing to buy here is jewellery made from obsidian. I got myself a nice little bracelet as a memento of our trip


Once back at Porto Rosa the next morning, we had to get up early to catch virtually the only train of the day across to Messina.

That night we caught the night train to Rome, which goes onto a ferry to cross the sea to the Sicilian mainland. After a bumpy overnight journey we arrived in Rome, with a few hours to see the main sights before we caught our Sunday evening Wizz Air flight back to Brno.

Quick stop-off at the Vatican

Back in Brno we got a taxi back home - I was too tired for the bus and tram!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

The Posh Side of Prague

Many tourists go to Prague for stag dos and cheap pivo, however, there is a chic side to the Czech capital. When our Tasmanian friends came to visit, we decided this would be the perfect excuse to check out all those fancy places we had walked past and read about, but not tried out yet.

We found the hotel Pure White online and made a reservation through, as reserving through the hotel website was not that straight forward. The photos of the hotel looked great and when we arrived we were not disappointed. The entrance and reception area is stunning and the rooms are modern and tasteful with some nice touches.

Double room at Pure White

Toilet and wet room with rain shower

The best thing about Pure White is the price; for a 4 star stay, €53 a night is excellent value.

Once we had checked in and freshened up, we decided to head into the centre of Prague. First stop was the beautiful Zdenek's Oyster Bar. I had walked past this little place, tucked into a side street, not far from Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square), on a previous trip. The bright Veuve Clicquot parasols caught my eye and I knew I had to come back and try it some time.

At night, the interior of the bar is simply gorgeous. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

I was a bit dubious about having seafood in Prague. After all, the sea is a long way away. However, our Australian friends were happy with their Marennes oysters and my shrimp and prawn platter was very fresh and much bigger than expected for the price. We each had a glass of 2004 Veuve Clicquot, which was served with complimentary caviar.

We left the sultry interior of Zdenek's Oyster Bar for another dimly lit establishment: Hemingway Bar. This cocktail bar only opened about a year ago and as you can probably guess is decorated with photos of American writer Ernest Hemingway. Upon stepping inside you feel as though you are entering a gentlemen's club (not of the Spearmint Rhino variety, but the old fashioned London variety); there are leather sofas, book cases and lots of dark wood.

The cocktail menu has some classics, but also a good list of house cocktails that I had never tried before. I went for the "Walk in the Clouds". The pink pepper on the top and the white chocolate syrup made it really unusual, yet delicious. My OH had a "Hemingway's New Fashioned", which comes in a small bottle inside a book!

Many more cocktails ensued, naturally. Well, with the bar being open till 1am, it would have been rude not to, wouldn't it?

Cherry Julep

 Apricot  and White Chocolate Caipirinha and Six Fingers Cat

It was great to have a little luxury for an evening and better still, it cost us a fraction of the price it would have done in London or Hobart.