Taste of Prague

The highlight of our time in the Czech Republic's capital was the Taste of Prague food and culture tour. The charming bed and breakfast we stayed at arranged for a babysitter to take care of our children so that my husband and I could venture out on our last evening. The plan: to indulge in cuisine that has been revitalized in the years following Prague's communist past. Below are photos from the tour and a description of all the deliciousness we sampled at each place. Prepare to drool!

My husband and I met our tour guide Jan and another couple who signed up for the tour in front of a church, off the beaten path normally packed with tourists. Jan kicked the evening tour off with a shot of slivovitz (plum brandy). The drink kept us nice and toasty on the chilly walk to our first destination: Sisters Bistro, which serves open-faced sandwiches called chlebicek. While there, we sampled beet root puree with goat cheese and walnut, as well as smoked mackerel with potato salad and red beets. Normally, I can't stand the taste of beets, but these sandwiches were delicious!

Our next stop was right next door. At Nase Maso Butcher Shop, you can purchase carefully prepared meats to cook at home or they will grill it for you at the shop. We sampled ready-made dishes such as meat loaf on bread, sausage with mustard, and pork lard with cracklings. Every bite I took was flavorful, making me wish my husband and I knew about this place earlier in our stay so we could have made a repeat visit. 

Food wasn't the only thing we were feted with on this tour. We enjoyed Czech wines at Vinograf, cultural anecdotes from Jan, and gorgeous views of Prague architecture lit up at night.

What was also wonderful about the tour was that we didn't have to stress about taking notes about every restaurant. Jan assured us that he would email a description of each eatery we visited, allowing tour members to focus on eating, drinking, and - for those so inclined - taking photos. How handy, especially for bloggers like me! Below is a description of the heartiest meal on the tour, which I wouldn't have been able to adequately describe without Jan's email:

At Cestr Steak House, located in the old Communist Federal Parliament building, we were treated to Pilsner Urquell fresh from the tank; beef neck that was slowly stewed with paprika sauce and sour cream; beef golden muscle slow cooked in goose fat for 16 hours; pickled fried carp with red peppers, shallots and dill; Czech escargots boiled in root vegetables, baked in mushroom, and served with Sabayonne mousse; Czech carp roasted on butter and served with cherry tomatoes; grilled chicken with truffle stuffing and truffle sauce; sautéed carrots and spinach; beef steak tartare with fried bread and garlic; beer ice-cream; and egg nog. I enjoyed the food at Cestr and the darling copper pots some of the dishes were served in (Although, I admit to not taking one bite of the steak tartare or relishing the escargot.) I also learned that while I never enjoyed foam in beer while living in states and Singapore, foam on a fresh Czech beer is a whole new experience - it's meant to be enjoyed much like foam topping a well-made cappuccino

We finished the tour the sweetest way possible, with four Czech desserts at an elegant belle époque cafe called Cafe Savoy. According to Jan, the sweets we tasted are vetrnik (round windmill chaux pastry with caramel and cream filling and caramel glaze), venecek (chaux pastry with vanilla cream and sugar glaze), apple strudel, and laskonka (two coconut merengue with a rich chocolate filling).

The tour was a great way to spend our last night in Prague, but you'd be just as happy starting your vacation in the city with this tour. Taste of Prague gives you a packet of maps and recommendations on sights to see and places to eat during your stay. Oh, and mints - which are much needed after all that hearty fare!


How To Escape The Crowds In Prague

Even though we traveled to Prague after the New Year holiday, there were still plenty of tourists lining up to see the city's major attractions such as Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, and Old Town Square. But I'll let you in on a little secret: if you want to escape the crowds, all you have to do is say Vyšehrad ten times fast. 

Can't do it? Well, then put on your walking shoes and I'll show you how to get to a historical fort where you can enjoy views of Prague unfettered by too many visitors.

You can certainly reach Vyšehrad by taking public transportation, but I highly recommend walking along the river for as long as you can. You will be rewarded with the beauty of Prague's Charles Bridge and the architecture of the town's buildings.

Along the way, find a lovely spot to take a family photo. If there are puddles nearby, you can jump in them too.

Warning: you may see bright-yellow penguins and giant babies on your journey!

But don't let them distract you from enjoying the gorgeous scenery.

At some point, cross a bridge and continue walking along the river until your feet can't take it anymore. Then, duck into a restaurant like Cafe Amandine to rest and reenergize. From here, keep walking or, if you must, hail a cab to Vyšehrad. Upon arrival, there is a church you can explore, as well as a cemetery that serves as the final resting place to notable Czech composers, writers, and artists, among others. 

Don't forget to enjoy the view too.

Your children may not care about the view however, because unlike the rest of the city, they will actually have room to roam. 

As the sun sets, head back into town for a well-earned pilsner.

There are no guarantees in life, but when we visited Vyšehrad we only saw about a dozen people and most of them appeared to be locals. I hope you find the area crowd-free too if you ever visit the walled fort! 


Valentine's Day Gift Guide For Travelers

Valentine's Day is around the corner. If you are still trying to figure out what to get your love, you are in luck! Below, I share three classic gifts with a twist that any travel-loving man or woman in your life would adore.

1. A box of chocolates. I know this sounds cliche, but who doesn't like a box of chocolates - especially when the sweet treat hails from a place that is special to you and your loved one? When zChocolat, which is based in France and works with World Champion Chocolatier Pascal Caffet,
sent me a beautiful mahogany box filled with 12 heart-shaped chocolates and an assortment of their their most popular recipes, I knew it would be the perfect gift to give my husband. Not only is he a chocolate fan, but the gift serves as a reminder of a country that will always hold a special place in our hearts.

2. A food tour. Instead of going out to a traditional dinner, sign you and your partner up for a culinary adventure! It is a great way to try new places to eat while learning about the food and culture in your area. In Prague, we took a tour of the city's eateries and it was the highlight of our trip. In Singapore, where we live, I am drooling over food tours that takes people to everything from hawker stands to gourmet restaurants.

3. A staycation. You don't have to travel far to feel like you're on a romantic vacation. Book a room at a local bed and breakfast or hotel and use that as a home base to explore the city you live. As a couple, visit sights that you two have always meant to visit but never got around to before thanks to hectic schedules.

Happy Valentine's Day!


A Glimpse Into Prague's Past

Hello friends! Are you ready for another post about Prague? I hope so, because I still have quite a few highlights from our time in the Czech Republic's capital to share with you, including how we spent our fourth day there.

When you think of Prague, images of a looming medieval castle and storybook-looking buildings may come to mind. But the sights we saw on day four of our visit gave us a glimpse into other chapters in Prague's history.

We started our day at the Jewish Museum. Despite the name, which may conjure visions of one building filled with artifacts, the museum consists of six Jewish monuments that include several synagogues and a cemetery. Together, they are the remains of a once thriving mini town called Josefov.

There are a few moments from our visit that will always stick with me, including the sadness I felt when I learned the thousands of names on the walls in the Pinkas Synagogue memorialized Czech victims of the Holocaust. There were a staggering 77,297 victims, according to our Lonely Planet guidebook.

While walking around the Old Jewish Cemetery, which was founded in the 15th century, my five year old daughter peppered me with questions about the densely packed tombstones, the symbols carved into them, among other things. It was definitely one of those moments when I realized that thanks to travel, her world just got bigger. Anyway, I answered what questions I could and vowed to look up what I couldn't. If we ever find ourselves back in Prague, we would like to return to the Jewish Museum with a tour guide to learn more about the people and history of the area than we can glean from books and placards on the wall.

We left the Jewish Museum, intending to go back to our hotel. However, our tummies started grumbling en route and we couldn't resist popping into a restaurant called Kalina, which food-tour company Taste of Prague recommended. As soon as My Traveling Troop walked in, we noticed suited-up businessmen conducting power lunches and we were a bit unsure whether we would be welcomed with our two little kids. But the waiters immediately sat us at a table, provided my one year old with a high chair, and handed both kids coloring paper. Our food, which was a mix of gourmet Czech and French cuisine, soon followed. Each and every dish was divine!

We worked off our meal in quick fashion, chasing our littlest one as he chased birds. 

Thanks to the scrumptious meal, we had energy to burn and decided to visit another museum nearby: the Communism Museum. There was peeling paint on the walls and the whole place smelled dusty. But the artifacts truly took us back in time when Czechoslovakia was part of the Soviet Union.

History class dismissed!

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