Posts Tagged ‘autumn’

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autumn wonderland (Prague, October 2012)

October 22, 2012

This week, Toby and I spent four days in Prague for our post-moving-house holiday – going away in the summer is passé darling, and we got it for a bargain having only booked it the Friday before! In fact, visiting Prague in the autumn felt like the perfect time to experience the city, as it was comparatively quiet to what one would expect (no stag dos) and the parks were full of trees’ leaves changing colour. It was a little bit chilly without being unbearable, and as we ended up doing a lot of walking, it wasn’t too hot to hike around in. It would have been lovely to have seen snow, but when we arrived on Tuesday morning, the city was shrouded in a somewhat forbidding but very atmospheric mist, which lifted as the day wore on (most days the weather followed this pattern, although Wednesday was a gloriously sunny day). Our hotel (Designhotel Elephant) was modern, comfortable, and conveniently located. I’ve posted a photographic summary on my tumblr, but I’ll go into a bit more detail with the snaps below:

Our flight was ridiculously early on Tuesday morning from Gatwick; in the future I would very much prefer to fly to and from Heathrow (getting home from Gatwick on Friday evening was even more horrendous). However, once we were on the plane I put my phone on Flight Mode and took this stunning picture of the sunrise above the clouds out of the plane window. We touched down in Prague at 9am and after dropping our belongings off at the hotel, we went for a walk along the river to get our bearings:

Before long, we found ourselves standing at the famous Charles Bridge (which I was familiar with from Kanye West’s video for “Diamonds From Sierra Leone”). As we walked along, there were many stands with artists offering to draw the typical caricatures, a band playing “Wonderful Tonight” (which was quite romantic), and a creepy man with a stuffed monkey playing what sounded like fairground music.

We left Prague Castle for another day, and wandered back towards Old Town Square just in time for the midday chiming of the Astronomical Clock. On our way, we also saw a cool sculpture by David Černý called Hanging Out:

Although it seemed fairly serendipitous at this point that we happened to arrive just as the clock was going to chime, over the next few days we seemed to show up on the hour at Old Town Square, and navigating our way through the crowds watching the clock became somewhat tedious. We next headed to what became our favourite café in Prague for some lunch: Bakeshop Praha:

2pm came along, and we were officially able to check into the hotel, which we did. We promptly fell asleep, went out for dinner at a nearby pizzeria, and that was the end of our auspicious first day in Prague.

Day 2

Feeling well-rested, we headed downstairs for an underwhelming breakfast (never has so much choice been offered, and yet so few options be actually viable) and then made our way across the river to climb up to Letná gardens. Thus began the theme of hiking up extremely long and steep flights of steps. The view however was fantastic, and we also saw stood by the Metronome of Prague (which has a cable with many shoes attached). Letnà gardens were absolutely beautiful, and with wonderful weather we had a relaxing stoll through the park.

We made our way back to the city centre and wandered through the Jewish Quarter, seeing the Spanish Synagogue and the monument to Franz Kafka. This part of town also has the Prague equivalent of Sloane Street, containing stylish boutiques for Dolce & Gabbana, Bvlgari, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci and so on.

In the afternoon, we went on a riverboat tour, which has become a holiday tradition for us. In the sunny weather, the city looked resplendent and amidst the tourists using their iPads as cameras, we got a few more beautiful snaps of the city. It was also nice to have a sit down! Especially as afterwards, we made our way to Wenceslas Square (the only slight disappointment of the trip, as it was covered in big chain shops – including Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and other British institutions, which was weird) which was more of a strip, and wandered to the former site of the National Museum situated at the top.

After  some well-earned rest back at the hotel, we headed out in the evening for a traditional Czech dinner – I had beef and dumplings (slices of bread dough) in lots of gravy, with cranberries and a dollop of whipped cream! It was a little odd, but quite hearty and rustic and extremely delicious! Toby had pork schnitzel with potatoes, which was also reportedly yummy. I also had a nice black beer to round off the night – and we discovered that apparently, smoking in bars / restaurants is still legal in Czech Republic! When I was younger, I remember thinking that smoking around food wasn’t really very considerate, but now having been removed from the smell of smoke in a bar for so many years, it actually gave the whole establishment a more cosy ambience. Interesting!

Day 3

As if we hadn’t done enough exercise for one holiday, today we made a huge tour of Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral, followed by walking around to Petřín Hill and down the steep slopes to Kampa Island for a beer, and then back home for sleep! The weather started off overcast but was deceptively warm, as we crossed the Charles Bridge once again and hiked up to the castle gates, where we happened to be just in time for the changing of the guard. Two troops of Czech soldiers, dressed immaculately in navy suits, marched about in a square-dance formation, eventually exchanged a standard, and then trooped back the way they came, keeping time to a brass band playing from the windows of the castle courtyard. Equally intriguing was an eagle which kept trying to get inside one of the castle windows, and a stray golden retriever that appeared from nowhere to roam around the courtyard (luckily post-changing of the guard). Toby and I nicknamed these the Eagle of Prague and the Dog of Prague, whose job was presumably to catch the Eagle of Prague. We never found out if he succeeded.

 

 

The architecture was breathtaking (as you can hopefully see), so we stopped for lunch at a little cafe overlooking the whole of Prague, before making our way round to Petřín Hill for some views which… overlooked the whole of Prague. Truthfully, I have never visited a place that has beauty literally around every corner; be it natural or man-made, Prague is a feast for the eyes and the soul. We didn’t quite make it up to the observatory (after all of the walking, we didn’t have another 299 steps in us) – but I don’t think we felt we needed to either.

 

 

Eventually we cautiously made our way back down the hill (which was as steep as it looks above), across the river via Kampa Island and some honey cake and a beer, to the Dancing Buildings. And that was about it for Day 3, as we promptly fell asleep upon returning to the hotel!

 

Day 4

The day we said goodbye to Prague – we did some souvenir shopping, lots of café-visiting, and it was nice to actually take our time around the city without heading for any sites in particular. We headed to Prague airport in the evening, and I phoned my parents to tell them how lucky they were that I decided to come back, as I was very tempted to stay in Prague! I had an absolutely wonderful time and could really imagine living there, as things aren’t too expensive (or rather, they are cheaper than London!) and the city is clean, crisp and beautiful – I know that I have used that adjective a lot throughout this piece, but it’s true! I highly recommend that if you haven’t been, that you take a trip there at some point – it’s romantic, cultural, historic, modern – a little bit of everything. You won’t regret it.

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a long walk.

October 4, 2012

I am enjoying Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, and I have just read the section where he talks about acquiring a Walkman and being thrilled to be able to block out the sounds of the world around him as he walks through New York. I have long been privy to this delicious phenomenon, and thanks to an earlier conversation about Mariah Carey with Hannah, I decided to start the holiday season early and play Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas II You album as I walked around central London this evening after a pleasant pizza and catch-up with Angie.

I know that really, it’s still fairly early to be listening to Christmas music, but as I walked to Marylebone and Edgware Road (pics below), it felt more like December than October thanks to my iPod and the autumnal nip in the air, and I was wrapped up in the spirit of the moment. In 2 days’ time I will be in a new part of London, with new streets to explore and hopefully new parks to take walks in (especially when they get covered in snow!). I can’t wait for the experiences that await me in Chiswick, and I look forward to a magical holiday season too! 🙂

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seasons change.

October 16, 2011

Here in London, over the last few weeks it has been unseasonably mild and humid, but now we are in the middle of October we are finally having some wintry days. The sky is cloudy (but backlit by sunshine, so it looks pleasant as opposed to overcast and dull), and there is a decided chill in the air. And rather than complaining about the onslaught of shorter days, it is actually quite pleasant and refreshing to be able to wrap up warm against the elements and brave the outdoors on the way to work.

When I was younger, I used to prefer the colder months because I didn’t cope very well with the heat. On top of that, summertime = wasps, which are my only phobia, and they used to drive me crazy as a child (I like to think I cope better these days). But honestly, nowadays I like all of the seasons for different reasons. Spring is lush because it feels romantic (not just because of, but including Valentine’s day), and the days are getting longer and the evenings are getting lighter. The trees and flowers are coming to life and everything looks really pretty. Summer is nice because it means holidays, late evenings outside (or out!) in the sunshine, beautiful late-night sunsets and other cliché-but-true attributes. Plus, when we actually get some warm weather it is lovely to wear light clothes, although all of the sweating is quite unpleasant and makes me want to pass out in surrender to the humidity. Autumn is pretty with all of the changing colours of the leaves (parks are amazing at this time of year), and the aforementioned chill in the air helps to wake me up in the mornings as I step outside the house. And I love winter – although after a while it gets impractical and annoying, the snow is very pretty, and I think that my winter wardrobe contains my favourite and most fashionable clothes. I love snuggling up to Toby underneath lots of blankets on a winter weekend morning, and one of my favourite winter memories is from just last year, when Toby and I trekked through the London slush to go to Somerset House and the ice-rink in their Skate park. Plus, I really enjoy Christmas – it means Mariah Carey’s Christmas albums (both of which I adore), lots of shopping, and lots of love shared between friends. It really warms my heart.

I guess that despite the fact that I like all of the seasons, and that the early twilights can be quite dreary and depressing, winter is actually still my favourite of all of the seasons after all. Or to be more precise, the period in October/November on the cusp between autumn and winter. The sky is still clear and the sunshine can still shine brightly, but it’s cold enough to put on my long black French Connection coat, my fingerless gloves and my boots, and go for a walk through the Kensington streets, leaves crunching crisply underfoot. Mmm. 🙂