Friday, 1 May 2015


Our special weekend has arrived - we are off to Prague to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. It starts with an hours drive to Stansted airport as EasyJet don't do a Luton-Prague route. Stansted is a much larger and much nicer airport than Luton, more modern and spacious. Valet parked the car and time to check in. With a nearly 2 hours to wait, what better way to start the weekend than with a bottle of champagne at one of the airport bars.

Another smooth flight in clear skies, a Mercedes Limo (special occasion!) to meet us at our destination and soon we are arriving at our accommodation for the 2 days - Residence Agnes. A small boutique hotel renowned for its service, 5 minutes walk from the heart of town. We are greeted by Mikayla and whilst completing our reservation, we were offered complementary drinks and nibbles, so far the friendliness of the staff living up to its reputation. Up on the 4th level of the hotel, we have an attic room with complimentary wine and fresh flowers awaiting us, and a complimentary mini bar - it was a lovely welcome.

Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic, and is nicknamed "the City of a Hundred Spires". The heart of its historic core is the Old Town Square which we reach in a short stroll. It is surrounded by Gothic churches, baroque buildings, cafes and people everywhere. We hadn't realised it was such a popular tourist destination. On one side of the Old Town City Hall is Prague's medieval astronomical clock - first installed in 1410, making it the 3rd oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working. On the hour as the bells ring out, it performs "The Walk of the Apostles" - a clockwork show for the hundreds of tourists gathered below.

Old Town Square - packed with tourists by day ..... 

                                                              .... and long into the night.

                                                     6.00am - while most people are still sleeping

We walked from the square to the Vltava river which has numerous  bridges joining the Old Town and the New Town. The Charles Bridge is the most famous, an old stone Gothic bridge adorned both sides with 30 statues of saints and with towers at both ends. It is a pedestrian only bridge and by 9.00am, you can hardly move for the tourists crossing the river. Along with the masses of people, there are numerous artists, performers and vendors selling their wares and entertaining the crowds. It is an interesting walk across, somewhere you could just sit and people watch for hours. It is beautifully lit up at night, the saints giving an ethereal effect and a lovely romantic stroll  with fewer tourists around.

                        The Charles Bridge in the background - Pete and I stopping to watch the swans.


                                       Horse drawn carriages down the pretty tree lined streets

Essential for a few days in Prague is a good pair of walking shoes as many of the streets and pavements are cobbled. It is no place for stilettos (and yet we saw a few gingerly making their way along)!! Horse drawn carriages are a popular way to see the Old Town, clip clopping their way down the cobbled streets, as well as vintage car rides. And Segway tours are all the go with dozens of locals touting for your business. We opt to pound the pavement as we usually do and spend the rest of the afternoon zigzagging the alleyways and bridges enjoying the sunshine and our new surroundings.

        One of the largest statues and close up of the bottom half - amazing detail

                                        Lovely archways leading down to the cobbled streets of Prague

Next morning after a hearty breakfast, its time to head back across the river and up to the top of the hill to Prague Castle. It's a good constant uphill walk but we follow the crowds and are soon at the top for the best views over the city. It is the official residence and office of the President of the Czech Republic so therefore has 24 hour guards at the entrance with a change of guard ceremony daily at noon. After a few hours wandering around the cathedral and beautiful gardens, we stop for a well deserved drink at a small cafĂ© perched on the side of the hill with a view to beat most. Looking down across blossoming trees and green gardens, you can see the river and its bridges and across to the Old Town.

       Different views of Prague Castle.                        The decoration is etched into the stucco.

       Our chilled beer stop with a view back from Prague Castle looking back across to the Old Town

The way down is a lovely shaded meander through the Petrin Gardens where I have to stop at the biggest magnolia tree I have ever seen. Prague has many pieces of sculpture scattered throughout the city, some modern, some old, some funny and some very serious. A thought provoking one we came across was a monument to all those who were repressed under the communist regime.
"The memorial to the victims of communism is dedicated to all victims not only those who were jailed or executed but also those whose lives were ruined by totalitarian despotism"
                                      An interesting and somewhat different fountain ......? We all know what sort of contest they are in!
                                                          Now that's a magnolia tree!
                           Not sure what this one was representing either - certainly a talking point.
We had a lovely dinner out that evening to celebrate our anniversary, a restaurant on the banks of the river overlooking the Charles Bridge and watching the various cruise boats meander up and down the river. We opted to forego the dessert and look for one of the pastry vendors in town to try a Czech speciality - Trdelnik - a pastry rolled in sugar and spice and roasted over coals. But the weather had changed, the drizzle had started so we headed for the hotel - the pastry could wait till tomorrow. On arrival back at Residence Agnes (as with each time we walked in the doors) we were greeted with the offer of a drink - water, beer or wine. Declining, it was off to bed.
Our tableside view
Today was our anniversary and breakfast was great as usual made even more special with a bottle of Piper Heidsieck. We had a celebratory drink with our host Frank, who then offered us a complimentary airport transfer as a gift. We checked out of the hotel leaving our backpacks for storage for the day. It was spent walking through the markets, watching the various entertainers, smelling the wonderful aromas of ham being cooked over the coals, and the dessert. We finally got our pastry - not too heavy, not too light, just sweet, and we didn't even take up the offer to have the inside lined with chocolate!! The weather was changeable and went from sunshine that was burning our skin to heavy showers with everyone running for cover. Even when we returned to the hotel mid afternoon to get a brolly (this is after we had checked out in the morning), we were still greeted like family and offered a drink. I have never known of this level of service before.

                                       A Czech speciality - Trdelnik - roasting over the coals
                 An interesting busker at the Sunday markets ! Yes - there was a clear gap between them
As we had a late flight out of Prague back to Luton, we found ourselves a lovely little restaurant just down the road from our accommodation. We had walked passed it many times on our way home and it always seemed to be packed with diners, so figured the food had to be good. Chez Marcel - it was only 5.30pm and we were the only patrons so far that evening. The meal was the best we had taken in Prague (and the others were very good), beef and lamb that melted in your mouth. As passer byes stopped to read the menu outside, we kept giving them the thumbs up sign and soon had a few other diners joining us. As a result of the walk-ins, we were given a glass each of traditional Czech liquer -  Becherovka. Wow - Slivovitz on steroids!! As Pete had an hours drive to Luton at the end of the flight, I drank his as well as my own. What a way to end an amazing weekend in Prague. It has topped our list of all the destinations to where we have travelled this past 12 months.  

               Now that's a bottle of red. Pete at Chez Marcel - our last dinner in Prague. 

A shot from the Charles Bridge looking south
We had been looking forward to Prague for a long time and it didn't disappoint in any way. The city, the people, our accommodation, the service - it will long be a favourite spot of ours.


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