Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Czech out of Prague

Old Town Square

Over the next few days in Prague I managed to see a lot of the City. I took another walk around the Old Town Square in daylight and discovered a small Salvador Dali exhibition. The Old Town Square also houses the Astronomical Clock which has the features of some crazy dials, a skeleton, the Apostles and some other strange moving figures. Tourists flock to see the clock chime and do its little show every hour. After that I sat down in the shade of the trees in the park with a hot dog I bought from a street vendor and just relaxed in the mid afternoon sun.

Astronomical Clock Tower

Astronomical Clock

My street vendor Hot Dog

After a few days in Prague I had become a bit restless so I had booked a one way bus ticket to Budapest. In my last evening I had the most amazing dinner at this local restaurant of steak with mushroom sauce and saukerauty/coleslaw hybrid. The sauce was out of this world, I’m actually getting hungry just thinking about it, and if I ever return to Prague to hope I can find this place again and have seconds!

Steak with mushroom sauce and saukeraut/coleslaw

That night I was meeting up with the Sir Toby’s group again as we were checking out some bars and clubs near their hostel. We had a few drinks at the hostel and set off to the Cross Club, these bar that looks like it is constructed out of junkyard parts. It’s a huge bar with several floors and a substantial outdoor area, very good for summer pre-drinks. But we wanted to dance so we headed off to Mecca and danced the night away until the sun came up.

Cross Club Entrance

Inside Cross Club

More Cross Club

Czech into Prague

Me, enjoying the view from Prague Castle

So we stayed a few weeks in Rome and Alex had to visit his family in Capua, which is a town near Naples. After he was trying to tell me in the lead up to our trip, how bored I would be and how I wasn’t allowed to go to Naples I decided on the morning he was leaving, to take a solo side trip of my own. I wanted to either go to Prague or Budapest and looked for the cheapest flight out of Rome. Flights to Prague were the cheapest so I booked my flights that morning and I was up and away flying by the afternoon.

Vltava River

I arrived in Prague and waited for my shuttle to my hostel. I met two English girls, Sophie and Rachel in the shuttle and we exchanged numbers so we could do a pub crawl together. I settled into my hostel the Czech Inn and took a walk around Prague for the rest of the afternoon. I marvelled at the old world beauty of this city which was highlighted by dimming light of the summer sunset.

Charles Bridge

I woke up the next day and had the breakfast at the hostel cafe and set off to explore Prague. I took the tram in the city centre and decided to walk along the river and walk across Charles Bridge up to Prague Castle. It was a beautiful and sunny day, perfect for a nice stroll. On the way to Castle I stopped for lunch at a cafe at which I decided to try the Goulash and Dumplings, which probably wasn’t the best decision in 34 degree weather but I wanted to try some traditional fare. I washed it down with the Czech beer Krušovice which ended up being my favourite Czech beer. I sat in the beer garden and just chilled out drinking beer and chatting to the waiter, it was a perfect start to my afternoon.

Restaurant's Beer Garden

Krušovice Beer and Goulash with Dumplings

After quite a steep walk uphill, I finally made it to Prague Castle and I was rewarded with the most spectacular views of the city. I took a tour of St Vitus Cathedral and the Castle grounds learning about all the history of the buildings, some of which dates back to the 9th century.

Entry into the Prague Castle

St Vitus Cathedral

Inside St Vitus Cathedral

That night I was to meet the girls for a pub crawl, something which Prague is renowned for. There many different companies running the pub crawls, all of which meet in the Old Town Square which causes a lot of confusion! Thankfully I found Sophie and Rachel and some other people from their hostel, Sir Toby’s. For around AUD$15 we went to about 4 or 5 (details got hazy after the third place) clubs around Prague.

Underground Bar

We had unlimited shots and beer at the first place where a lot of drinking games were played. We walked in a huge group from club to club and had free shots as we entered, I don’t know how we managed to stay on track and with our group. The last place we went to was a 5 level extravaganza where each floor had a different type of music; one politically incorrect example was the ‘Black Music Floor’.

More of bar

I left quite late in the night intending to catch the tram back to my hostel; unfortunately as I walked to the tram stop the streetlights of Prague had other intentions. Just before I reached the stop all the lights flickered and went out, I was plunged into darkness. Being by myself, I freaked out and hailed the first cab I saw and managed to get to my hostel safe and sound.

Monday, December 20, 2010

When in Rome.........

The Coliesum

So after KL we flew to London where we had another overnight stay in the ever so exciting Stansted Airport. Luckily we a lovely room at the Radisson Blu where we slept and chilled out until our flight to Rome. After some arguments over luggage weight with RyanAir we were off and on the way to Rome. It was all very exciting as Alex had not been home for around 10 years, so we are excited and anxious to arrive to see his home city and his family.

As we were flying over the Italian Alps into Italy, seeing the snow covered mountains I couldn’t help but getting the biggest rush of excitement. Italy was Number 1 on the list of places I’ve wanted to go all my life, and to go there with my boyfriend to see his family just made it all the better. As we flew into Rome I could see the famous Roman landmarks of the Coliseum and the Vatican from up above, I could hardly contain myself.

The Forum

As we stepped off the plane the first thing that hit me was the heat! It was very hot and humid, and the second thing that hit me was that I was in Rome! We met Alex’s aunties who picked us up from the airport in a flurry of camera flashes, hugs and introductions. We sped off to his Nonna’s house where we had a bowls of fresh pasta waiting for us. We spent the night catching up with his family while I tried to practice my dismal Italian skills. The next day we bought fresh pizza from the deli across the road and set off to see the sights.

Inside the Coliseum which held 50,000 people for sometimes weeks at a time

Little did we know we would not be home for another 8 hours! We were lost down in the maze that is called the streets of Rome. The map was no help as streets merged and became others and walking in a straight line on the map was not as easy as it sounded. Thankfully Rome is full of gems and we managed to find so many things while we were lost. Among them were the Piazza Navona, the Forum, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. We also did a walking tour of the Coliseum which was well worth the money as we skipped the huge line snaking its way out and we heard the history of this spectacular building.

The Trevi Fountain, a coin thrown in ensures your return to Rome. 3,000 Euro a day is thrown into the fountain

We bought fresh pizza along the way and then stopped in a lovely little cafe for lunch. I had some Ravioli and Alex had a Carbonara which we washed down with some icy cool beers and topped it off with some homemade tiramisu as dessert. It was our first proper day in Rome and we were blown away by this city that had capture my imagination since I was young and made Alex looked back on so fondly. It definitely lived up to our high expectations.

Pasta and beer, can it get any better?

Yes, you can have tiramisu!

Crazy Kuala Lumpur

Park Royal Hotel

As London practically shuts down at Christmas time, and even more so this year, I am stuck at work not doing a lot, so I thought I would get my blog back up and running. I know I started the blog so I could chronicle what is happening while I was travelling and living overseas, but I may have become a tad (okay maybe a lot) lazy. I thought better late and never, and with hopefully quite a few more travels to come I should get my act together and start! Well I thought I would start from the beginning, piecing together what I can from memory and pictures.

It all started on July 4th, quite fitting that the date of my adventure was Independence Day. Alex and I flew out to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for a one night stopover. We arrived quite late so we dropped our bags off at the Park Royal Hotel so we could grab a quick bite to eat. I already knew what to expect in KL from my Malaysia/Thailand trip with Rosie last year so I already knew exactly what I wanted to do in our short time there. We ended up at Pavillion at my favourite food court got some food and had a mixed fruit sago for dessert. I had been craving this since the last time I was in KL and did not disappoint!

Mixed fruit sago dessert

Then we headed off to get some rest so we could be awake nice and early to get some shopping at the street market done before our flight. We jumped onto the Monorail outside our hotel and headed towards Jalan Petaling AKA Petaling St. It was hot and humid so our first stop was a fresh fruit stand. I bought a huge watermelon slice for around AUD50c! The fresh fruit in Asia is the best and so cheap! Alex went a bit crazy and ended up buying 2 watches and a lot of socks, the most random items ever.

We didn’t any room or weight in our luggage so unfortunately we couldn’t buy much more. Although I did have a great hour long foot massage in an air conditioned room, a welcome respite from the heat and humidity. Alex waited outside while I was getting my massage and he had the girls out the front trying to convince him to get a tattoo from them. Luckily they weren’t all too convincing as I think he may have regretted getting a dodgy tatt from a Malaysian massage place!

Jalan Petaling Market

After Jalan Petaling we had more time to kill until we needed to leave for the airport so we caught the Monorail back to our hotel and walked around. I desperately needed my eyebrows threaded so we walked around to find a beauty salon. Unfortunately all we could find were hairdressers and massage places; we walked up and down the street to no avail! We finally walked past a few guys who tried to get Alex to have a barber shop shave. We asked them if we knew of anywhere that did eyebrow threading and they said yes the guy upstairs does it. Two of the guys lead us inside down what looked like a rundown apartment building and into a rickety old lift.

Alex and I look at each uneasily, wondering where they were leading us. As we got out I was sure there would be no salon at the end of this journey but a door opened and there it was. After half an hour of eyebrow treatment by a Pakistani man who apparently did it at all the 5 star hotels in Dubai, I came out some-what decent eyebrows and AUD$5 lighter. I thought this would have to be the strangest beauty treatment of my life, but alas no, Egypt was still to come! But more on that later on. I needed a cool drink after my strange experience so we sat at a cafe had some mango juice and smoked peach sisha until we had to leave.

Sisha time!

Fresh mango juice

This is me failing at sisha, you can tell I'm definitely not a smoker. Though I did get better as the trip went on, we somehow gravitated towards sisha a lot!