Sunday, December 11, 2016

Back home

Day 9:  Early flight

Our flight departed from Prague at 650am and we wanted at least 1.5 hours to get through check-in and security.  I booked a ride to pick us up at the ungodly hour of 445am.

The hotel kindly prepared breakfast boxes for us.  We paid up and waited for our ride.

And it didn't come.   I tried to call but (was rattled and had no coffee) couldn't get through.  The receptionist called on my behalf and found out that I had booked the ride for the next day, yikes, and no one was coming for us.  Numbers are really not my strong suit!

The receptionist called for a cab.  I made sure he told them that we'd need to pay by credit card.

The cab arrived by 515am.  The driver looked like a rode hard and put up wet Fabio.  He drove very carefully and didn't seem to intuitively know the airport route.  Thankfully traffic was very light.

We arrived at the airport around 550am.  I got out and left husband to pay the fare.  I went inside to figure out where to check in.  It was taking a while for husband to meet me.  Finally he showed up and said the driver couldn't run any of our credit cards.  Husband had no CZKs or Euros so the ride was free.  He said "Fabio" got frustrated and told him to get out of the cab and left.  We felt really bad about not paying the fare.  But there wasn't much we could do with out cash.

We checked in and got through security without problems, whew!  When we went to board, the Lufthansa gate agent stopped husband and told him he had to check my carry-on.  She said it wouldn't fit in the bin.

He said he wouldn't check it (it had my laptop, our souvenirs, my essentials).  She was unpleasant and seemed to target my husband.  We noticed many other people getting on with bigger, fatter cases. We rearranged some stuff, showed the bag in the bin, and her more pleasant coworker cleared us.

We arrived in Frankfurt with plenty of time before our flight. We ensured our seats were what we expected and waited to board.  It was a long few hours back to Houston.  The idiots in front of us kept their seats fully reclined the ~entire~ flight, even before we took off and while taxi-ing to the gate.  She also threw her scarf over the seat back, interfering with my little TV screen (I stopped that in a jiffy).  A child behind us kept throwing up.  It took awhile for baggage to arrive for the connection to New Orleans but I was back home in the lovely warmth and humidity before too long.

Travelling in winter is my least favorite thing but Vienna and Prague (and Dresden) were great, as was our company!  We hope to do it again soon.

1.  Husband must always check my numbers!  Having a ride booked for the wrong day almost cost us our return home.
2.  Keep a little cash, if possible, in case the credit card doesn't work.
3.  Gate agents can go on power trips but they really can stop you from travelling.  As unfairly enforced as it seems to be, having the correct carry-on sized bag is crucial.
4.  Economy sucks.  Not being able to choose your own seats in advance (thanks to archaic code share rules between United, Lufthansa, and Austrian Airlines) sucks more.  I will not be booking code share again, if at all possible.
5.  I look forward to our next Christmas Markets trip in 2020.
6.  My Marmot Chelsea coat was the best $200 I've ever spent.  I loved my Costco 32 degree long underwear and my Smartwool gloves and socks.  My bargain Columbia boots were comfortable for long days of walking and kept my feet warm.  I was a lot less cold this trip than in the past.
7.  Travelling with J & G was super fun.

Next:  Santorini, the Peloponnese, Meteora, and Athens Greece.  May 2017.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Prague's treasures, day 2

Day 7:  Prague Castle and environs

The breakfast at the Archibald at the Charles Bridge was really, really good. Great variety of everything.  The only let down was the coffee which was out of a machine and mediocre.

The plan today was to tram up to the Poholorelec stop, visit the Strahov Monastery Library, the Loreta Chapel, and the Prague Castle complex.

It was another beautiful day in Prague.

The tram ride from Malostranska Namesti to Poholorec was very picturesque on this gorgeous day.  We got off and, as usual since we didn't have a good map, struggled to find the way to the Monastery.

We finally found the right direction and arrived in the pretty complex.

We toured the Library which was just gorgeous. Unless you pay extra and make special arrangements, you can only see it through openings in the main hall.  I really wished I'd prearranged a tour.  No pictures allowed.

We walked out to the view behind the restaurant.  It was spectacular!

From the Strahov Monastery we made our way to the Loreta Chapel.

From Loreta, we headed down to the Prague Castle.  I was struck by the beauty of this building which I later found out is the Schwarzenberg palace.  It's a renaissance building with a sgraffito facade.  It has become the National Gallery and houses a permanent collection of Bohemina, Renaissance, Mannerist and Baroque art.  I think it would be worth a visit on a dubsequent trip.

Schwarzenberg palace.
Maybe we were naive, but none of us expected the crowds we encountered on this December day at the Prague Castle.  The line for security wrapped around for a mile (maybe a slight exaggeration). The Rick Steves guide was inconclusive about whether there was a better entrance.  We definitely did not feel like waiting in the line.  We browsed in the tiny Christmas market then bailed in favor of lunch.

We used my 2gis app to find the Uraka Hotel which I'd read about online. I had made note of it because of it had good lunch fare and a fireplace near the Castle.

It felt very off the beaten path!

We passed a house astronomer Tycho de Brahe lived in 1600.  J's dad is a fan.

We arrived at Uraka and, around the corner, the guys were stunned to see a nude photo shoot on this very cold day.  This immediately vaulted up to their favorite place! LOL

Our lunch was very good.  The food was tasty.  The servers were friendly and accommodating.  They showed husband and G all around the hotel after lunch.  It was a very good break.

Pretty decorations in the courtyard.

Quite refreshed, we walked back down to the Prague Castle complex.  The lines for security had just about disappeared.  We breezed through and made our way to the ticket office.  We bought Circuit B which included St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, St. George's Basilica, and Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower.  We would only have two hours to see what we could.


This is a federal building, where the president works 

The first and most important order of business was St. Vitus Cathedral.  It is huge, it is old, and it is impressive.

The outside was just as impressive as the inside so we snapped a few photos while looking for the ---

There it is! (duh)

There was a small Christmas market here

We had enough time for a quick visit to the Basilica of St. George and I liked this place very much.  It felt serene.  They were setting up for a concert and I imagine it's a lovely setting for that.

We wanted to spend our last few minutes before closing on the Golden Lane.  We arrived at its entrance to a massive crowd.  We decided to wait and eventually the gates were opened and we all trudged through.  It was not possible to stop in any of the shops.

The sky was beautiful so I climbed up one of the buildings and took some photos, along with a few other people.

We made it to the courtyard of a restaurant just before it closed down.  We took a few more pictures of the gorgeous sunset before we headed out.

It was our last night and we had taken our guide Jason's recommendation to try Monarch, a tapas restaurant, not far from the hotel.  Prague is really walkable!  It was a nice meal even if it didn't exactly scream Prague, Czech Republic.

We walked over to Old Town Square and decided to have desert on the roof at the Hotel U Prince (where the Black Angels Bar is).  It was cold out there but a perfect way to say farewell to Prague.

One last meander about the Old Town Square market with its gorgeous Christmas tree.  It was very crowded!

Husband and I had a 650am flight back home.  We told J & G farewell and we'd catch them in New Orleans.

1.  The Prague Castle complex is probably always super crowded.  Plan accordingly. Maybe go early?
2.  Next time I'll plan ahead and pay extra to get into the stacks at the Strahov Library
3.  Research better for a final night dinner spot
4.  The rooftop at the U Prince Hotel is fantastic
5.  I really liked Prague.  I hope to return one day
6.  Find the equivalent of a Streetwise map for Prague (why did they have to go out of business?!?)

Next:  Back home but first a little anxiety.

Back home

Day 9:  Early flight Our flight departed from Prague at 650am and we wanted at least 1.5 hours to get through check-in and security.  I bo...