Monday, October 27, 2008


Andrea and I went to Prague last week. If you don't have a lot of time, I'll leave it at this: If you go to Prague, bring sensible shoes.

Still with me? Okay, let's carry on.

In case you don't hate us already, Prague wasn't our first choice. We originally booked a first-class trip to Belize with Aeroplan points. About three weeks before our flight left, we got a call informing us that our flight was no longer 'economically viable', and had been cancelled. Oh, and all the money that we'd spent on our hotel? Yeah, that was down the tubes.

In case you weren't aware, Aeroplan can cancel your flight at any time, and all they have to do is refund your miles and your cash. My favorite part - and, of course, no one at Aeroplan told me this - was that our flight had been cancelled in May, but that Aeroplan didn't see fit to inform us of this fact until September. When I pointed out that this was a rather lax view of customer service, they told me to pound salt.

So, here's my recommendation: if you currently collect Aeroplan miles, switch to something else. Anything else. Personally, I'm going for the RBC Avion card. Also: I have so not given this up.

To add insult to injury, we had a week that we needed to fill, and still needed to fly somewhere. So, we had to suck up our pride and go back to Aeroplan to get our flight. After much trial and error, we found a flight to somewhere interesting that didn't have a $600 fuel surcharge hanging on for the ride. Destination: Prague.

We decided to spend the whole week in the one city. A.) I wasn't in the mood for death-travelling, and B.) It's the kind of city that you can take a week to see. Oh, and C.) Pints of beer cost less than $2.

We left this past Thursday at around 2:00 pm. Andrea left work early, while I'd spent the day packing and tidying up around the condo. (The joys of being "retired".) The flight was more-or-less a straight shot, Ottawa to Frankfurt overnight and then a quick hop to Prague on Friday morning.

I don't mind transtlantic travel - the drinks are free, and those new entertainment centres are actually pretty decent. I drank a few Heineken, watched Get Smart, and promptly fell asleep until around 8:00 am. Unfortunately, due to the time change, that meant that I only got around 3 hours of sleep that night.

The flight from Frankfurt to Prague was decent. Lufthansa knows how to do in-flight food, that's for sure. None of this triple-reheated, dehydrated, rehydrated junk they serve you on most airlines. For breakfast, they served two small pieces of bread with a slice of cheese. And you know what? It was tasty. Unlike the tomato-sauce-and-whipped-beef mixture that Air Canada served the previous night.

We stayed at Hotel Sonata, which is between the New Town and Old Town, out by the National Museum. It was a four-star boutique hotel but, just like Cuba, four-stars in Europe are not like four-stars in North America. The decor was orange but stylish, and they served a pretty good breakfast. Also, despite being just off a major road, it wasn't very noisy.

As far as the hotel staff was concerned, they always seemed to give the impression that you were bothering them, and that they had more important things to do than talk to you - like surf the Internet and stare at the floor tiles.

Our first meal was a disaster. I asked for a nice local restaurant that served traditional fare. What we got was over-priced, dried-out Czech "specialties" served by someone who might well have a degree in hucksterism. But, we learned our lesson - in the future, we would read the menu posted on the outside of restaurants, and I'd stay away from the Becherovka - and the rest of our meals were great.

If you go to Prague, be prepared to walk. A lot. Andrea and I would spend as much as nine hours walking over the course of a single day. Over the course of the week, we probably spent more than two full days walking.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, seeing as there's a plethora of delicious, sugary, fattening foods and cheap pints to be had. Walking's also the only real way to explore Prague, as the best parts of the city are not to be found in some guidebook, but are found in that cafe or restaurant tucked into a side street that no one's ever heard of.

Don't get me wrong - the touristy stuff is actually pretty good. There's beautiful architecture in the square, and the castle is beautiful. The beaten path has terrific stops on it, like the Reduta Jazz Club and Cafe Louvre. But, you know what? I'm going to miss the mulled wine they serve out of carts, Godmother Pizzeria, a mug of Grog at the Last Call, and the locals assuming (against all odds) that we're just a couple of Czechs sitting down to a meal.

The week came and went much too quickly.

Well, enough of that. Time for the photos.

Labels: , , ,

The National Theatre in Prague

Labels: , , ,

A Small Orchestra Performs in one of the Castle's Churches

Labels: , , ,

One of the Churches at the Castle

Labels: , , ,

The View from the Mini-Eiffel Tower

Labels: , , ,

Prague Wall Art

Labels: , , ,

A Cart That Serves Both Mulled Wine and Sausages - and Happiness

Labels: , , ,

The Main Drag, as Seen from the Museum

Labels: , , ,

Obligatory Tourist Shot Blocked by a German

Labels: , , ,

Obligatory Tourist Shot

Labels: , , ,