1/19/15

A Royal View From Prague Castle

I once read that Prague Castle, which is perched on a hill overlooking the city and Vltava River, is the largest ancient castle in the world.


I believe it! My Traveling Troop visited the royal abode during our recent trip to Prague and could have easily spent days exploring the castle's residences, churches, and gardens. Alas, with so much to see and do in the city besides the castle, we only spent one day walking around. Here is a glimpse at what we were able to see during our visit:

The changing of the guard,




intimidating statues,



a throne and dazzling crown,



the stunning architecture of St. Vitus Cathedral,




a lovely queen,


a knight in shining armor,


and a view fit for royalty.




Finally, it was time for My Traveling Troop to bid na shledanou (good bye) to Prague Castle and work our way down the hill to our hotel to plan another day of sightseeing. 

1/17/15

Prague's Old Town Square

Hello family and friends! We recently returned from a two-week trip to Prague, Czech Republic and Vienna, Austria. I finally have a chance amid my jet-lag haze to sit down and catch you up on our latest European adventure. So sit back, grab a cup of joe (or perhaps a pilsner, since I'm kicking this post off in Prague), and let's get started!

I must admit that our first day in Prague was a bust. Although we arrived in the morning with the whole day ahead of us to see the sights, My Traveling Troop was tired after the 14-hour flight from Singapore. All we wanted to do was curl up into little balls and sleep the day away at the charming bed and breakfast Dům u velké boty (House at the Big Boot) we called home for the week.

Needless to say, we woke up on day two bright eyed and eager to see all that the storybook-looking city had to offer. And what better way to make up for lost time and see the major attractions than joining a tour?! 

Having read positive reviews in our Lonely Planet guidebook and on TripAdvisor, we decided to join the Prague Royal Walk Free Tour. According to the company's website, there was a tour starting at 10:00 a.m. that day. With less than an hour to spare, we scrambled across the famous Charles Bridge and into Old Town Square to find the tour guide. Unfortunately, we were the only ones to show up at this hour and the tour guide didn't want to show just the four of us around. Nope! She preferred to wait until more people showed up. We were disappointed, but tried to understand. The tour is free, but the tour guides work for tips. Plus, another tour started in an hour, giving us plenty of time to explore the lovely Christmas market in the square. 








Finally, 11:00 a.m. arrived and enough people showed up for the tour to kick off. In fact, there were around 100 people at this point! Just as I was starting to worry how on earth we would be able to hear a guide over 100 people, two tour guides split the large group in half and we ended up with a gentleman named Callum as our guide.

Callum recommended we head back into the square and watch the show at the Astronomical Clock before the tour kicked off.



At the top of the hour, 12 apostles passed by the little doors above the clock. The show only lasted a few seconds. Underwhelmed, we walked back to Callum who launched into an interesting story of the clockmaker known as Hanus. Apparently fearing competition, Prague Councillors didn't want him building another beautiful clock elsewhere in Europe, so they ordered that Hanus' hands get chopped off, his eyes gouged out, and tongue removed. Hanus supposedly got revenge by having his servants lead him up the stairs of the clock and jumping in, jamming his body into the clock mechanism. It didn't work for more than 100 years. Ouch.

Callum's historical vignette made the beautiful clock even more interesting to see, and we were happy with the decision to join the tour. Unfortunately, by stop three our kids were shaking from the cold (both have tropical blood and used to 80-90F degree weather each day!). 

One of the many good things about a free tour is that you don't feel too bad about bowing out early. We warmed up at a nearby restaurant over our first ever goulash and schnitzel, which the grownups chased down of course with fresh Pilsner Urquell from the tank. (Friends, we may be getting the watered down version back in the states! It is delicious in Prague!) For dessert, we headed to the Chocolate Museum close by and polished off our day with a visit to the Gallery of Art Prague to see important pieces by Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol. 








We learned during this exhibition that power outlets and even cans of soup can be seen as art. 





In the end, My Traveling Troop didn't tour the whole city like we originally envisioned. However, we saw plenty in Prague's Old Town Square and had a lovely time.

1/1/15

Arc de Triomphe And Togas

My favorite New Year's Eve will always be the time years ago when my then-fiance and I celebrated our engagement in New York City. But ending 2013 on top of the world at the Arc de Triomphe and kicking off 2014 with toga-clad Parisians is a close second.


I remember we got a late start heading to the Arc de Triomphe on New Year's Eve 2013, in part because we walked by a restaurant near the apartment we were renting and couldn't resist popping in for a meal.







We left Cafe Constant in good spirits thanks to the delicious food and fortifying drinks. If you are ever in the Eiffel Tower area (7th arrondissement), do yourself a favor and stop by.

With full tummies, My Traveling Troop slowly made our way to the Arc de Triomphe. As we got closer, I started worrying that there would be a long line to get into the famous Paris monument. I was right. It was long! Thankfully, however, the line moved quickly and soon we found ourselves gazing at striking views of Paris.






The details of the arch below were worth checking out too. 







Eventually, we decided it was time to head back to the apartment, whip up a dinner, and then tuck the kiddies in bed.

As midnight approached, my husband and I grabbed some bubbly and went onto the balcony overlooking the Rue Cler, which was still adorned with twinkling Christmas lights. 



Finally, midnight arrived! We toasted to the New Year and waited to see if anything would magically happen. We weren't disappointed. As our gazes drifted across the street, we saw what we believed was the reflection of a twinkling Eiffel Tower in someone's apartment window. 


Then, a group of Parisians donning togas burst onto their respective balconies — a sure sign of the fun year ahead!


Bonne année!






 
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