Well, I turned one year older last Sunday and spent that momentous occasion of being closer to 40 than 30 in Prague with Mr. C and the girls.
First, age 36 is really not much different than age 35. I think my bones might have gotten a teensie bit creakier...but otherwise, I didn't think much about it other than the idea that I'm at the age I considered "old" when I was a kid...thats a little scary. My mom's birthday card reminded me that at my age she was pregnant with her 7th child. Yeah....not gonna happen here....
But...on to Prague which was really a fabulous little trip. We had planned to spend Saturday night, Sunday and Monday in the city...as it turned out we really only spent Sunday there. And here begins the longest ever travel log (complete with photos) of my birthday in Prague...
First - Let me divert your attention and get on my soapbox and say that Expedia.com stinks like rotten eggs and you should NEVER use them to book a trip again.
They totally let us down. We booked our hotel through them, got a confirmation number from Expedia, got a confirmation email from the hotel...but when we arrived...NOBODY answered the security gate. Ok...5PM on a Saturday night in Prague and we (a family with a 7 year old and a 9 month old) stood around for an hour buzzing a security gate.
We called Expedia and explained our problem. They said, "oh well, it looks like the hotel didn't actually book you..." Uhm...excuse me? What about the confirmation from Expedia..."Oh, well, it looks like your credit card didn't go through for some reason so the hotel wasn't expecting you." Uhm...excuse me? What about the confirmation email from the hotel? "Oh, er, uhm...let me put you on hold..." 30 minutes later a new person came online and pulled the shame thing. On hold for another 20 minutes before the lady tells me she has to call us back. I know this is a lie...I asked for her for the name of the agent calling me back. She tells me the agent is "new." Uhm...so? Whats the agent's name? She puts me on hold to "find out" and as soon as I go on hold the line disconnects.
So, thats my soapbox for the day...DO NOT USE EXPEDIA.COM. They lied to us and left us on our own in a foreign country and even after a couple of scathing comments to their feedback/customer service center they STILL haven't found time to comment back to us.
So, off we go to drive around a city we are totally unfamiliar with to find a hotel that can accomodate all of us. We got very lucky...We found one about an hour later...and ended up at the Ibis Hotel...it was perfect. They gave us an overflow room (the handicap suite) which had a pullout for Maddie and we had brought our own little portacrib for Bella.
The hotel ended up being about the same cost and was actually closer to the city than the other one was. We didn't have to use the subway or the tram at all. The biggest negatives were that the converters I brought for my hair stuff didn't fit the plugs so...there are really only a few photos of me from this trip...I looked like a crazy haired lady from America...I didn't complain too much...I took it like a trooper and only once mentioned to John that it stunk that my first trip to Prague on my birthday and I was going to hate ever picture because of my hair. After that I did what I could and on we went...
Maddie and Bella loved the hotel. Maddie made a little nest bed on the floor so we had more room with the pullout pushed back in. She is such a funny sleeper...she ended up halfway across the room and mostly under the beds on both nights. Bella really LOVED the showers. We plopped her in the first night because she'd been a barfy McGee all day long. She would have stayed in this forever...unfortunately, the drain didn't work very well and there was a 1/2 inch barrier keeping it from flooding the entire bathroom and our bedroom. We cut the shower short and I promised her more the next day. :)
She also became fascinated with the mirror...who IS that adorable little girl?
That first night we were all starving and tired. We ate at the hotel restaurant...it was delicious and went to bed right away. I wanted to be sure we'd have an early start to our day of sightseeing on Sunday.
John eating bread and olive oil
Maddie and her Czech soup...it turned out to be a lot like chicken noodle.
Sunday AM I woke up to a little munchkin babbling away in the portacrib next to me...then John and Maddie sang happy birthday and I did an interpretive dance to their rendition. It was a fabulous start and while I know all of you want to see the video of my interpretive dance unfortunately I have to sadly report that it was "accidently" erased. Nobody knows who the culprit is...they are still at large. :)
Breakfast was included in our hotel price and was everything I love about Europe There is nothing like the meats/cheese/bread combination to satisfy one's palate. After eating our fill we we headed out the door to explore.
Our day was essentially a big circle. From our hotel we crossed a bridge to Nove Mesto or the new town center. The view from the bridge was incredible...none of these photos do the actual trip justice.
Really, the name Nove Mesto (New town) is deceiving...it IS the newest part of Prague, but any guesses as to when it was built? Yeah...1348.
I couldn't stop staring or taking photos of the building facades. Can you imagine living in one of these beautiful buildings overlooking the river? Yes, they are old. Yes, the electricity and plumbing is probably terrible. Yes there are probably rats, but the view...I think it makes up for it with the view.
Probably my favorite "new" building was the Fred and Ginger building. The glass is supposed to symbolize Ginger Rogers and the steel/stone part is Fred Astaire - they are dancing. I just really loved the Ginger Rogers side...doesn't she look saucy?
From Nove Mesto we wandered up to the shopping district and the incredible Wenceslas Square. When we turned the corner of the shopping street and saw the square we just had to stop and stare...it was breathtaking. The statue is the St. Wenceslas Statue and the Building at the far end is the National Museum of Prague.
Looking up from the bottom
In front of the National Museum
Looking from the National Museum back to the shopping district
We also had the opportunity to watch a couple of teens get grabbed by the police for trying to break into a phone booth...Maddie was, of course, mesmerized by the action...and having just experienced her first lesson on stealing (a blog for another day) she was particularly interested in what was going to happen to them. The good parents that we are we immediately started throwing out phrases like "dark dank prison cell" and "throw away the key for 50 years" and "bread and water for the rest of their lives" just to make sure she REALLY got the "do not steal" lesson.
And...of course, what is a city if you can't find a Mini-Limo painted pink with the sexy gogo girls logo? (Don't tell anyone, but I would totally drive this car. It would require my black lace up boots and a feather boa, but really...who wouldn't want a chance to tool around in a sexy pink mini-limo?)
It was just about lunch time at this point so we decided to head into Stare Mesto or "old town" to get some grub and see the main sites of Prague. One thing about Prague is that there is a Pilsner Urquell restaurant on EVERY corner. Its like Starbucks in the US...or McDonalds. Actually, disturbingly enough there was also a McDonalds every couple of blocks. That I found sad, but the Pilsner restaurants were kind of funny...so we chose one for lunch and had PIZZA! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I know it looks unappetizing in this photo, but really...it was DELISH.
One more thing we learned about restaurants...they put out pretzels and such on the tables (note the pretzel hangy thing behind Bella?) and then when you eat them thinking its free with your meal you later find out they cost you $2.50 each. Bella was the only one who had one...and was quite funny...she kept holding it like it was a cigar or something...between that and her juice bottle she looked like that one old actor that always had a drink and a cigar in his hands...can't remember his name, but you all know who I mean...right?
Just a few tidbits before we get to old town...
This is the theater was where Mozart's Don Giovanni premiered...spooky isn't it?
John's new fangled massage parlor girlfriend...they had an awful lot of those massage parlors around.
Tadum! We just happened to walk by the Communist Party Headquarters building. Thumbs up to communism...(or not....)
Now..on to Stare Mesto, which as I mentioned before has the distinguished title of "old town" as it was established sometime in the NINTH CENTURY. That is OLD...makes my 36 years seem like nothing. As we entered the main square I couldn't help it...I stopped and tried to take it all in...UNBELIEVABLE. It was beautiful...breathtaking....magnificent.
What more can I say about Stare Mesto except the photos don't do it justice. John said he loved watching my face as I took in this beautiful part of the city. I've heard Prague is the most beautiful city in Europe and now I know why. I also heard that its one of the dirtiest...but whoever said that hasn't lived in Milan, Italy. We wandered for about 45 minutes and peeked in the churches and other buildings while waiting for the infamous astronomical clock to strike 3:00PM and the clock show to start.
I'm not sure what I expected for this clock show, but it started with the skeleton pulling the chain and the bell ringing...then doors opened and a series of men came by looking out over the clock...they were all fake...I think they were supposed to be Saints? I'll have to look up the whole story on Wikipedia.
We left Stare Mest and headed toward the Charles Bridge (karlova most)to end our day back on the other side of the river near the Castle and only a mile or so from our hotel.
A few more things we saw along the way...
Along Karlovy Vary (the street...)
Maddie was fascinated by the little Russian Babushka Dolls...guess who is probably getting some for Christmas?
Puppets were a big thing in Prague...all the tourist shops had puppets for sale and this was an actual puppet theater.
Before crossing the bridge we stopped to take a few photos...
The Charles Bridge was unfortunately under construction. It kind of killed the view and the ambience a little bit to hear jackhammers and see scaffolding, but we still got a good glimpse of the Prague Castle, we examined the baroque statues that line the bridge and looked at all the wares being sold by the street carts. It was interesting to just stand still for a minute and observe. The noise, the smells, the wind in the air, the sun shining, the languages from around the world, the jackhammers, the dust...the bridge was packed with people. Some were in a rush, some meandered, some had a purpose for crossing, others just stared over the edge at the river below. I really enjoyed my time on the Charles Bridge.
We finished the day off walking from the bridge back to our hotel.
Bella was such a trooper all day long...two naps in the snugli and look how happy she still is!
This is what we walked on most of the day...really...how do you wear heels on cobblestone like this?
On the way, John saw an interesting building that took us off the beaten path and into the memorial area for John Lennon...I have no idea what the whole locks on the fence thing is...but apparently a "real" John Lennon fan would know? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
Graffiti...I get the "Imagine" reference here...I'm not a total Beatles dimwit...although some may disagree...
We also stopped in a park and just relaxed our tired toesies for a little then meandered through the art gallery that was open and free.
Any clue whats going through Bella's mind here other than world domination?
We found it! We found it! The same sized tree that Billy Coleman cut down in Where the Red Fern Grows. Maddie was so excited.
On the banks of the Vltava River. (No, I didn't mispell it...there aren't any vowels in the Czech language...)
The art gallery had some cool mirrors. We call this one Maddie Mind Freak...in honor of that one Mind Freak magician that floats in the air.
Really...I can't take him out in public anymore.
Maddie is kissing tushy here...ha ha ha...I love that.
We finished our day off at a crepe restaurant. It was really delicious and the perfect birthday dinner. I treated myself to a blackberry currant slushy of sorts...a spinach, ham and cheese crepe and a piece of tiramisu...Happy Birthday to me!