Bucket List Destinations: Prague

Prague 1000 Bucket List Destinations: Prague

I’ve never been to Prague, Czechoslovakia, but it was love at first sight. It was back in the 80s, at the height of my obsession with  INXS, and particularly, singer Michael Hutchence. If you’re at all familiar with their music and their videos, you probably know I’m referring to the video for the song “Never Tear Us Part.”

Michael sang this romantic love song around various locations of Prague, including Charles Bridge. It was a perfect fit for the song and the man, and implanted a deep desire in me to see the city before I die, a desire that has not lessened one bit in almost 25 years.

Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and if you love that old school architecture and high Gothic embellishments, boy is this the city to visit! It was spared much of the damage that other nations received during World War II, and as such, now has one of the most varied and extensive collections of architecture you will find anywhere in the world: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Gothic, Art Nouveau, Cubist, Neo-Classical and ultra-modern.

I’ve often looked into taking a course to teach English as a second language, and when considering the classes in an international setting, product is my first choice destination. I obsess over it. Apparently I’m not alone, as Prague is now ranks sixth among the most popular cities in Europe for visitors behind London, Paris, Rome, Madrid and Berlin.

Lest you think this city is nothing more than a pretty picture, remember that before was the Czech Republic, it was Bohemia, and the birthplace of the term “Bohemian.” Aside From the obvious tourist attractions, some more unconventional sites to check out include Bunkr Parukarka , a 1950s cold war bunker turned techno night club. Housed underground in what was a 1950s nuclear bunker, this quirky nightclub welcomes revelers through a graffiti-covered door that juts out from a hillside.

And if you really want a rough things up after hours, go to the suburb of Zizkov, with more than 300 bars in the neighborhoods to square miles. No need to dress up for these dive bars, where you can expect your beer in plastic cups. That should give you little feel for the neighborhood.

For a more open space outdoors, ride the railway to the top of Petrin Hill, Which has an eclectic assortment of attractions in itself: a miniature version of the Eiffel Tower, a mirror maze, and  the Church of St. Michael–a 17th century wooden building relocated from a village in the Ukraine.

And of course, there’s food. You knew that was coming, right?

In get your food, beer and accommodations all in one at the 550-year-old  Hotel Midvikdu. As this is the home of the infamous X-Beer 33 with it’s alcohol content of 11.8% (the strongest in the Czech Republic), the accommodations will come in handy. They ferment this dark lager for six months in an oak barrel. Fortunately, they also have a menu that guarantees you won’t want to drink on an empty stomach: half of duck with potato, white bread, bacon dumplings, red and white cabbage; larded roast beef with rosehips sauce and croquettes; boar steak with baked apple cranberries and potato chips; and their signature Brewers pork steak with homemade beer sauce, bacon and fried onion, with a side order of french fries.

That almost sounds American.

food Bucket List Destinations: Prague

Or if you want to go high-end La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise, but allow plenty of time for this six course tasting menu, which can take up to three hours to complete. It seems they no longer have the “gelatinous tomato meringue that melts to release honey and balsamic vinegar,” but I’m sure they have found plenty of suitable replacements surprise and delight your palate.

I found some fantastic images on Flickr by Moyan Brenn under CC ATTRIBUTION AND NO DERIVATIONS licensing, so I included a gallery below–check out the wonderful photos on his site. And, of course, the video that inspired me so much to add Prague to my bucket list.

If this sounds–and looks– good, you may want to consider a couple of great tour options to drink in Prague. Monograms offers independent tours of Vienna and Prague, over six nights. Your in country transportation, hotels, breakfasts and must see site admissions are included, as well as having your own city guide available to consult. And without the big herds of a traditional tour. If 2 1/2 days in Prague isn’t enough for you, you can add on a four-day Prague city package. Or just do the four-day package on its own. Vienna to Prague starts at $1497 pp, and the four-day Prague tour starts at just $663 pp.

The Big Empty: Travel photography on Hwy 8

The Big Empty: Travel photography on Hwy 8

Most people come home from a trip with nice photos of sunsets, beaches, and smiling tourists. I come home with travel photography of abandoned buildings, barren landscapes and roadkill. Or at least I did on this roadtrip from Tuscon to San Diego. Obviously I travel with my camera with a little different agenda than most people. I’ve always been drawn to the desert for so many reasons I don’t even understand them all. It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth… and one of the most deadly. It’s ruthless, yet there’s something about looking across that vast horizon with the sun beating down on you, but storm clouds gathering in the distance. Or slivers of late afternoon sunlight peeking through the clouds, selectively lighting the mesas. There’s a great monologue in the film “25th Hour” where Brian Cox is supposed to be taking his son, played by Edward Norton, to prison in New York. He talks to him about making a wrong turn and just driving west to find a small town for him to disappear and start over, and while the whole thing is powerful, there was one part in particular that stood out to me.

“Every man, woman, and child alive should see the desert one time before they die. Nothing for miles around. Nothing but sand, and rocks, and cactus and blue sky. Not a soul around for miles. No sirens. No car alarms. Nobody honking at you. No madmen cursing or pissing on the streets. You’ll find the silence out there. You’ll find the peace. You can find God.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

There are things a lot more pathetic than a table for one

There are things a lot more pathetic than a table for one

“Is that a snide smile from the hostess? Did that couple just snicker and whisper behind their napkins? Is there anything more pathetic for a single woman than having to utter the words “Table for One?”

I read that the first time and, to put it bluntly, it really pissed me off. After being single and childless my whole adult life, the idea that someone could really think that dining alone, or going to a movie alone, or simply sitting at a bar and having a cocktail alone was such a  horrible thing and a great shame is beyond ludicrous. Keeping one’s own company and enjoying the pleasures of life without the need to make small talk is, indeed, one of the greatest joys in life.

Really. I swear to you.

So to answer the question: Yes, there are many things more pathetic than a single woman asking for a table for one.

  • Staying at home
  • Making a microwave dinner… or two, cause those suckers sure are small
  • Going through a fast food drive-thru instead of a nice restaurant
  • Eating dinner with a co-worker you really don’t like for the sake of having another pulse at the table, because god knows you don’t spend enough time with co-workers you barely tolerate already
  • Going out on a date with a man you don’t like so you aren’t sitting home alone, because you certainly can’t go out alone on a weekend. What will people think?
  • Using a service that will match you with a woman you don’t even know so you can dine together to avoid “embarrassment” and fill your meals with inane conversation or awkward silence. But you’ll look good to other diners, and that’s all that matters, right?

I should note the author of this piece agrees with me, and was responding to an article on CNN.com about a new “service” that matches up single women with other single women so they don’t have to dine alone.

Really? Is this the high school cafeteria modern businesswoman-style? Junior high?

Fortunately, I learned a long time ago to embrace being able to dine in peace and often find myself smiling to myself just a little at the pure joy of just keeping my own company. And when you do that, the people around probably aren’t wondering why you are such a loser sitting there alone, but envying your freedom from their boring date or their whining kids, and their fear of doing exactly what you’re doing.

You are now an international woman of mystery. Embrace your solitude. And turn that silly notion that it’s a bad thing on its head.

To read the quoted article by Elisa Doucette, visit Forbes.com. You never know, it just might inspire you to run out to that fancy restaurant by yourself. Or even start a whole blog based on the notion that our own company is more than good enough.

A cowboy breakfast, Colorado style

There are many benefits to traveling off-season besides the obvious: missing the huge crowds and the elevated prices. When you visit a town in its off-season travel, you get a rare chance to really get to know the locals, and hang out like they do. Normally, when you’re looking for restaurant, a crowded parking lot is a good sign that there is good food, if you’re willing to wait. But on this particular day in Ouray, Colorado, I just didn’t feel like waiting, so I went to the restaurant with the empty tables.

I was greeted at the door of The Silver Nugget by a huge black dog wagging his tail at me, and a cowboy reading the newspaper in the corner. He told me I didn’t need to be scared of the dog, which I wasn’t anyway and we were the only folks in the whole place. Turns out the cowboy was the proprietor and the cook and the waiter on this particular weekday in Ouray, before the full ski season hit and many while businesses were on vacation.

OurayRidgewayJan2013 037 A cowboy breakfast, Colorado style
I decided to get the front here breakfast just because of the something different: your basic eggs and hash browns but with an Idaho rainbow trout on the side instead of bacon and sausage. As my cowboy friend went into the kitchen to cook my breakfast, I walked around the restaurant snapping photos and chatting with him about the town. I make no secret that this is one of my favorite towns in Colorado, and a must do travel destination if you like small towns and like to mix with real people who are friendly and welcome visitors. This place is no exception.

When he served up my breakfast, he chastised the dog to stay away. As if. When the cowboy cook went back to the kitchen to busy himself, my canine friend trotted back up and sat there patiently begging the whole time, hoping I would drop a little fish or some eggs either accidentally or on purpose.

On purpose, in this case. How could I resist a face like that?

OurayRidgewayJan2013 030 A cowboy breakfast, Colorado style
The Silver Nugget is right on the main drag in downtown Ouray, Colorado, and if you do decide to make a visit, make sure you bring cash because they don’t take debit cards. prices are reasonable and you can get a wide variety of old-fashioned hearty breakfasts or a Gravalanche of yogurt, fruit and granola. Later in the day, try a burger or veggie sandwich, or even pizza.

The food is tasty, and the company is friendly without a long wait, not that you should be in a hurry anyway. At least if you hit it at the right time, during off season.

There are many benefits to traveling off-season besides the obvious: missing the huge crowds and the elevated prices. When you visit a town in its off-season travel, you get a rare chance to really get to know the locals, and hang out like they do. Normally, when you’re looking for restaurant, a crowded parking lot is a good sign that there is good food, if you’re willing to wait. But on this particular day in Ouray, Colorado, I just didn’t feel like waiting, so I went to the restaurant with the empty tables.

I was greeted at the door of The Silver Nugget by a huge black dog wagging his tail at me, and a cowboy reading the newspaper in the corner. He told me I didn’t need to be scared of the dog, which I wasn’t anyway and we were the only folks in the whole place. Turns out the cowboy was the proprietor and the cook and the waiter on this particular weekday in Ouray, before the full ski season hit and many while businesses were on vacation.

OurayRidgewayJan2013 037 A cowboy breakfast, Colorado style
I decided to get the front here breakfast just because of the something different: your basic eggs and hash browns but with an Idaho rainbow trout on the side instead of bacon and sausage. As my cowboy friend went into the kitchen to cook my breakfast, I walked around the restaurant snapping photos and chatting with him about the town. I make no secret that this is one of my favorite towns in Colorado, and a must do travel destination if you like small towns and like to mix with real people who are friendly and welcome visitors. This place is no exception.

When he served up my breakfast, he chastised the dog to stay away. As if. When the cowboy cook went back to the kitchen to busy himself, my canine friend trotted back up and sat there patiently begging the whole time, hoping I would drop a little fish or some eggs either accidentally or on purpose.

On purpose, in this case. How could I resist a face like that?

OurayRidgewayJan2013 030 A cowboy breakfast, Colorado style
The Silver Nugget is right on the main drag in downtown Ouray, Colorado, and if you do decide to make a visit, make sure you bring cash because they don’t take debit cards. prices are reasonable and you can get a wide variety of old-fashioned hearty breakfasts or a Gravalanche of yogurt, fruit and granola. Later in the day, try a burger or veggie sandwich, or even pizza.

The food is tasty, and the company is friendly without a long wait, not that you should be in a hurry anyway. At least if you hit it at the right time, during off season.