Posts Tagged ‘Marks & Spencer’

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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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another dream.

August 23, 2009

If you know me, you know that I quite often have very strange dreams.  This is the third vivid one I’ve had this week, after one where my French assistant from university, Anna Winterstein, had come to take me to France in her truck with her boyfriend, except we drove through Clifton to get to Moscow, and from Moscow we were going to drive to France in this truck.  Dreams ≠ logic.  And the worst part was that in the dream, Anna Winterstein was a murderer and a child molester, having slept with a 15yo girl in one of her classes (this is clearly taken from an article I’d been reading in the Metro during the day, where a female music teacher had been convicted of the exact same thing); I pleaded with my dad not to send me with her, but he wouldn’t listen!

Then, I had another dream also set in Moscow (added scenes set in St. Petersburg) where me and my father had to pick up all the rubbish off the streets.  I don’t know why I have been so fixated on Russia in my dreams lately, I’m not reading anything to do with Russia, and I haven’t really come into contact with anything Russian over the last few days.  But last night’s dream was not related to Russia, but instead had elements from Italy and Spain, combined with Bristol (of course).

I was at home with Dad and it transpired that I was supposed to be on holiday in Italy somewhere, but we’d come home for a couple of days in the middle of the holiday for a break from the holiday.  However, I was secretly going to sneak away back to Italy.  Me and my friend Tom Main (from school, I haven’t seen him for years) were on the patio outside, and we had to distract our next door neighbour Julie so that I could get inside and pack my suitcase and leave without her seeing.  We looked through the gap in the breeze block (which was in the pattern of a flower) and then we started singing Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” in eerie high squeaky voices.  Sure enough, Julie came out of the house next door and into the garden to investigate.  We crept back inside out house and I went to start packing my things.  Then Tom Main disappeared and my other friend from school Flick Waite (again, not seen or spoken to her in years!) appeared in the front driveway.  She asked me if I was ready to go, and I said I wouldn’t be a minute, just packing my suitcase.  My dad was sat in the lounge and I decided to tell him upfront that I was going, he said “fine, if that was what I wanted to do”.  I went upstairs to my room to pack my things, and I was folding up my blankets from the bed and packing my phone charger and some cds and things, and I remember thinking I had to hurry because otherwise Flick would go without me.  She called my phone after 15 minutes and asked where I was, I said that I would be down in a minute.  I shoved more things into a suitcase and then ran down the stairs and realised I had forgotten to pack any clothes, but then that all the clothes I needed would be back in the wardrobe in Italy.  I went outside to meet Flick, and we got in a taxi and disappeared.

The next thing I remember is being in a car with my dad and Nonna, driving to a Spanish airport (I think it was Spanish because the scenery reminded me of Spain).  We were in a race against time so that we didn’t miss our flight, and also because I had the vague idea another car was chasing us.  My dad was explaining the different routes we could take as he drove, and he said that it was good to go the way we were going because we could drive any direction we liked.  The motorway was gridlocked but then suddenly two parallel tunnels appeared, a round one and a square one.  My dad explained that we were lucky because we could go through either one of them.  We drove into the square tunnel, and it turned into a computer game where we had to navigate twists and chicanes and avoid crashing into the walls.  The tunnel underground was made of beige square paving slabs.  Occasionally, there would be a car (it was like a sporty sleek red stock racing car) moving slowly towards us, but we would drive around it and eventually we made it out of the tunnel and to the airport, which was on a boat (!) in a harbour.  We got out of the car, and ran onto the boat and looked around duty free (there was an M&S) while we waited for the plane.

Then I don’t know what happened to the airport but I was at my godmother Margaret’s house, and she was looking through old photos which were up on a big slide projector on the wall.  I don’t know why, but she started laughing and joking about something, and I thought it was at me.  She told me not to be so silly, but I was convinced that she thought I was stupid for some reason in the photo, so I started sulking and eventually I went home.  Mum and Dad were at home, and I sat at the table with Mum, where we had a brief conversation.  Mum asked me if I remembered the Christmas where we both went shopping and bought Mariah Carey perfume.  I said yes, but then I hid my wrist under the table because I was wearing a different perfume and I didn’t want her to know.  So I changed the subject and told them about Margaret making fun of me and how upset I was, because I felt that she wasn’t respecting me as an adult.  Dad was sat in his chair watching tv, and told me not to be so stupid, and that older relatives are allowed to tease you when they want.  Mum told me to ignore him and said she understood how I felt, and not to take it personally because there was nothing wrong with me and I did not overreact.  I walked up to Dad in his armchair and I realised that his arm and his foot were deformed, like a thalidomide baby.  He looked quite grumpy and tried to get me and mum to shut up so he could watch his programme on tv.  I woke up a couple of times, drifted off, reminisced about parts of the dream and tried to make sure i would remember it when I finally woke up properly.

If anyone can shed any light on what any of this dream might mean, go for it!  Because honestly, I have no idea 😉