tuesday things

Happy November and Happy Election Day! Did you vote? I did and felt like I was back in grade school stressing about properly filling in the bubbles on a scantron during a pop quiz. Nevertheless, there is no feeling more American than casting that ballot! (In case any of my fellow Dems need this after tonight: Chicken Soup for the Democratic Soul.) My polling location was so wonderful. The volunteers were friendly and they even had a table with coffee and donuts set out!

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Isn’t the picture from my November calendar just perfect? Hard to believe my birthday is in two days – 30. Eeek! – I’m not sure what the celebration plans are, but I know that my mom, Kathy and Carin are coming in town and I’m promised that Saturday will be a lot of fun. I am just happy to have five days off!

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Euroadventure 2014: Happy Birthday, David!

We managed to get out and about at a decent time Saturday morning. It was Dave’s birthday and we were headed straight to the Prague Castle via the #22 tram, which took us west across the Vltava and through the Little Quarter. Our stop was also directly in front of the castle entrance, and though for a second I was confused, the hoards of people confirmed we were headed in the right direction. Before entering the grounds, we I stopped to take a picture with the guards at the entrance.

with the Prague Castle guard

with the Prague Castle guard

Inside we bought the short tour tickets, an audio guide to share and a photography permit, which we could have done without considering no one was policing the taking of pictures at any of the sites. The audio guide was super helpful, especially with my y-splitter so Dave and I could each plug in our headphones. Rick Steves has a great guided walk as well, but it was nice to just listen to commentary and have the opportunity to look around rather than keeping your head in a book half the time.

Our first stop in the castle was St. Vitus Cathedral. This is the soaring building that can be seen from most anywhere in Prague, as it sits atop a hill. Construction began in 1344, but the church was not officially finished until 1929. Inside we saw beautiful stained glass, tombs of many great Czech saints and kings, intricate carvings (a beautiful relief of Prague) and sculptures and far too many large tour groups. (Hint: Click on the pictures in these galleries if you want to enlarge them.)

Next we toured the Old Royal Palace, with a massive Gothic-style hall that has been used for a great variety of happenings, from banquets to markets to jousting. I was fascinated with the high flower-shaped vaulted ceilings and chandeliers in Vladislav Hall. Dave was disappointed that the display of Czech crown jewels only held the replicas.

The palace exit put us in place to enter the Basilica and Convent of St. George, the oldest surviving church within the castle grounds, originally founded in 920. Taking a seat in the pews, we were happy to rest our feet and I was once again amazed with the ceiling, which was a deep, rich wood accentuated by the light stone walls. Walking toward the altar we passed under old archways and by beautiful frescoes then followed the stairs down to the crypt where tombs of several historical figures are kept. Just before exiting, visitors pass through a chapel dedicated to St. John of Nepomuk, where a skull and bones are enclosed under the altar. (Rick Steves says they aren’t real … but I say believe what you like.)

We were nearing the end of our audio guide rental (word to the wise: pay the extra money for an “all day” rental rather than the three hours for the regular rental) so we decided to listen to a bit of the commentary around the outside of the buildings about various sculptures and fountains in the courtyard areas. Snapping pictures along the way, we were glad that the morning tour rush had subsided a bit.

After turning in the audio guide, we made our way to the last main site of our castle tour, Golden Lane. The narrow street is lined with tiny colorful houses that were originally built to be homes for those who worked at the castle and on the grounds. Eventually it became a popular area for artists, and at one point Franz Kafka spent a couple years writing in #22. Now the houses are filled with souvenir shops, a pub and museums of sorts. At the end of the lane, we stepped into the creepy torture chamber in a medieval dungeon. It was super creepy especially as Dave began to fit in …

At this point we were ready to sit down and eat, so our mission was to find a nice spot with outdoor seating and maybe a view. We visited a couple places Dave noted on his list, but struck out twice. Finally we settled on Malostranska Beseda Restaurant in Little Quarter Square across from the Church of St. Nicholas. As it was after the lunch rush, we scored a nice table outside perfect for people watching. We toasted to Dave’s birthday with Czech wine and beer, ordered salads and hearty main dishes – beef and dumplings for Dave, gnocchi and lardon for me.

Stuffed, happy and ready to continue, we walked through the Little Quarter’s little boutiques, making our way toward Kampa Island and the Lennon Wall. We found several “love lock” covered bridges and allowed ourselves to stroll a little more aimlessly, enjoying the quaintness of it all while the storm clouds rolled in – luckily the rain blasted through pretty quickly while we ducked into some shops.

It was finally time to walk the pedestrian-only Charles Bridge (after almost three days in Prague) and I was fully prepared with the guidebook to provide history of the various statues. We took note of the spot where St. John of Nepomuk was thrown off the bridge after being tortured for refusing to tell the King his wife’s confession secrets.

Returning to our hotel, we showered and dressed up for Dave’s birthday dinner at Bellevue, a riverside restaurant with beautiful castle view. I made a reservation far enough in advance that we were even able to get window-side seating perfectly timed with sunset. The menu offers several tasting options and we both decided on the “build your own” version with wine pairings – Dave chose the broader European wines, while I decided to go local with the Czech wines. Presentation was perfect, the food exquisite and service exceptional. We enjoyed all the wines, especially one from Italy, and Dave got a nice pre-dessert treat from the restaurant staff and then an after dinner surprise back at the hotel!

There is so much more that we could have seen and done. I definitely would like to go back, but after three busy days, I was ready for our next stop – Vienna!

 

Love, The Greatest of All Things

Happy February, y’all! On Saturday I thought about my New Year’s post and tried to keep the same resolve for channeling that joie de vivre on a monthly basis rather than waiting for the start of a new year. It was a productive and fun-filled day that started with an early trip to the DMV. Now that I have a true permanent D.C. address, I felt that it was time to trade in my Texas license.

I have to say that this was definitely a moment of reflection and loss mixed with a twinge of excitement for all the wonderful memories to be made in our new home. (Don’t worry though, it’s just a piece of plastic with an address printed on it –  Texas will always be my “home!”)

That afternoon Dave and I took a trip to Union Station for some errands and accidentally ended up eating there because we were too hungry to wait until we got home. While we were there I called my dad to wish him happy birthday, and he wondered where we were going since we were at the train station. It was a bit odd, but Union is actually home to several stores and also a lot of eateries ranging from food court style to a couple nice sit-down restaurants. Dave got a new phone from the Verizon store and some work shirts from Jos. A Bank, while I was able to pick up foundation from MAC.

The walk each way is one mile, and once we got back home we went on another walk to take Daisy to Lincoln Park since it was also her birthday! She had a lot of fun running around, but also took a moment to stop and smell the “roses.” :)

HBD to our crazy pup Daisy! #funinthepark #aquariuspup #whatsyoursign #latergram

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We ended the day with a football movie marathon (Remember the Titans, We are Marshall and Invincible) and tears. Lots of tears!

Finally (since you know I love calendars) I want to share with you my new pic for the month of February. I just L-O-V-E it! This month I challenge us all to give and receive love every day – whether it’s your family, friends, significant other or a total stranger – as love truly is the blessing of the greatest worth.

Also, you have my permission to eat all of the cookies.

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