Day 11 – Prague

Previous:  Day 10 – The Vatican

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Our WizzAir flight landed at Praha Airport smoothly but the plane took ages taxiing down the runway onwards to its allocated gate. 

But we are not complaining because it practically toured us past all the planes parked on the tarmac, a truly fascinating experience if you are a planespotter!  Big planes, small planes, propellers of every kind, colourful designs and logos….it’s aviation tourism sans the guide!

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While waiting at the luggage carousel to collect our bags, we noticed several boxes scattered on the side and as we looked closely, there were passengers assembling bicycles!  So this is how you do it if you wish to go on cycling holidays!  

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Our airport pick-up was already waiting at the Arrival section.

A taxi driver in his mid-40s, he has been living in the Czech Republic* for the last 30 years.  He says he prefers to live here than in his native Bulgaria which is reeling with unemployment problems.  But he also misses the standard of living during the Communist era when everything was cheaper.  Since the advent of tourism and visiting Americans exalt to high heavens at how cheap Prague is, the cost of living has shot up through the roof! 

 * Following the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, in 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully split into two states: Czech Republic and Slovakia

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The hotel we stayed in offered a breakfast buffet which was included in the room rate, unbelievably cheap, but we are not telling them so they don’t put the tariff up!  It has 11 rooms spread in three floors, an old building with grandmother-style staircase like this one.  It may be the most charming staircase in the planet but it’s actually unsafe walking half-step at a time.  I did fall on the second day, lost my balance as I missed a step! 

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Public transport is impeccable.  Trams come and go in frequent intervals.  Although Prague is walkable in all directions, a 72-hour unlimited ticket costs only a little over 12euros.

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Stare Mesto (Old Town)

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Street musicians at Charles Bridge at sunset

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This stone bridge is lined with ancient baroque sculptures of Jesus, the Virgin Mary as well as of various saints and patron saints.

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Left the hotel as early as 6am the next day to do a photoshoot while the tourists are still sleeping.  What peace …. to find an almost empty Charles Bridge at this time of the day whereas it was packed yesterday, the numbers doubling nearing midnight.

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A wedding couple on a 7am photoshoot at the Bridge…good idea!

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Another couple doing an acrobatic kiss!

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Romancing by the Old Town Bridge Tower..

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The strange characters up on the Tower

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They are the third wedding couple I have seen on photoshoot that morning!  The early bird catches the worm, as they say.

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Tourists are starting to arrive.  A tour group is easily recognizable by the clone bags they carry.

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I see romance everytime I am in Charles Bridge

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No, it’s not a pilgrimage site…it’s just the bridge

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Walking up the Castle is the only way to view Prague’s panorama

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Foreground is the Castle district.  The New Town (background) together with the Old town (Staré Mesto) are split from the Castle district by the Vitava river. 

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The Baroque-style Loreta Monastery, the real pilgrimage site. 

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Inside the monastery is the so-called Loreta Treasure which contains valuable treasures from the 17th annd 18th century, among them are monstrances*, cups, altars and other votive objects. The most famous is the Diamond Monstrance (above) with 6,222 diamonds. It is a gift from Countess Ludmila of Kolowrat, who got more than six thousand diamonds as a wedding gift from her third husband. In her last will she wrote that a monstrance for Loreta should be made of these diamonds.

* A monstrance is a ritual vessel used in Roman Catholic services to display the consecrated Eucharistic Host during adoration.

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Vestige of the gothic Prague Castle

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St Vitus Cathedral, located inside the Castle grounds

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Changing of the guards at the Castle takes place every hour but noontime is the best time to watch as the ceremony includes a spectacular parade and fanfare. 

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The astronomical clock at the Old Town Hall

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The Gothic Church of Our Lady Before Tyn towering over the Old Town Square

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There was a concert going on and people are starting to install themselves

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You can watch how they smoke a ham in the Old Town Square..

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This road leading to the Old Town square is packed with diners.  The whole time we were having our dinner, we could see the quick turnover of customers. 

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On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by at Chapel Bridge again for some sculpture-spotting 

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Time to scout for tourist fashion

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Sculpture of a kissing couple in Petrin Hill

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“Please, have pity on me…..”

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The morning after……at the bridge

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I liked the complications of the astronomical clock so much that I bought a replica in the form of a fridge magnet

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A naughty souvenir for a naughty friend

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Since the fall of Communism, Prague has become one of the most visited cities in Europe, and naturally, a lot of translation work is required.

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Love that forky art!

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Street art is very much alive in Prague

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Franz Kafka is one of Prague’s famous sons and considered one of the best writers in the 20th century.  The term “Kafkaesque” has become part of the English language.  It resembles the literary work of Franz Kafka which is marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity.

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Prague sky breaking into the night

Paris Photowalk: from Tuileries to Trocadero

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“Column”, a sculpture in sandstone created by Anthony Cragg in 2001
Jardins des Tuileries, 1st arr.

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The Autumn leaves of the Tuileries, 1st arr.

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De-stressing in the city, Jardins des Tuileries, 1st arr.

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A gilded iron lamp holder, Place Vendome, 1st arr.

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The monumentally opulent, Beaux-Arts styled Opéra Garnier, Place de l’Opera, 9th Arr.

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Window display in Galeries Lafayette, Boulevard Haussman, 9th arr.

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Eglise de la Sainte-Trinité (Church of the Holy Trinity), 9th arr.

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Moulin Rouge, Boulevard de Clichy, 18th arr.
Built in 1889, it is the first ever cabaret to appear in Europe. 

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A Cancan mural at the entrance of the Moulin Rouge.  The cabaret is the birthplace of the modern form of the dance.

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The Basilique du Sacré-Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart)
Montmartre, 18th arr.

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Madame Arthur, Montmartre, 18th arr.
This cabaret is famous for gay shows.

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A wedding couple on a photoshoot in the parvis of Palais du Chaillot
Trocadero, 16th arr.

The colour of autumn….in Fontenay de Briis

A Sunday morning walk in the little commune of Fontenay de Briis, in the autumn, is simply spectacular! 

I am extremely lost for words gaping at the fiery colours of the changing season and the English-style gardens.  It is a sight so sublime,  my heart sings with joy at the staggering beauty of it all…

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“The leaves fall patiently,
Nothing remembers or grieves
The river takes to the sea
The yellow drift of leaves.”
– Sara Teasdale

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“Colors burst in wild explosions
Fiery, flaming shades of fall
All in accord with my pounding heart
Behold the autumn-weaver…”
– Dark Tranquility, With the Flaming Shades of Fall

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“Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.”
– Elizabeth Lawrence

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“I would rather have one small rose
From the garden of a friend
Than to have the choicest flowers
When my stay on Earth must end.”
– author unknown

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Fontenay de Briis, a modest commune of about 1700 inhabitants, is 30kms southwest of Paris.

This is the Mairie (town hall) which is attached to the Church of Fontenay

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Vestige of the old church which was built towards the year 1200

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A barometer on the Mairie’s tower

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The old Pigeon House (pigeonnier) which is part of the Chateau.
Pigeons and doves were an important food source historically in Western Europe and were kept for their eggs, flesh, and dung. (source: Wikipedia)

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Read what Colombo has to say….

My wife who loves activities of the Festival Committee asked me to make a reservation, quickly, with the Fontenay Club  for the show, “Enigma”, which will take place right after the Association Day on 10th September, but how to find it out the price, the food and the venue….

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I think H is doing a Colombo…He knows that I am a festivalphile ….

Fête du Jardin

Jardin des Plantes
5th Arrondisement, Paris

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I was surprised to see a family of kangaroo in the Jardin des Plantes!  I thought that you have to fly 27 hours to Australia if you wish to see a real one. 

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There is a small zoo in this 23.5 hectares of Botanical Park.  I saw at the entrance that they even have a lion and a collection of reptiles.  I saw these deers at the fenced grounds and I was hoping this guy would stand up and pose for my camera but he prefers to slob.

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It’s only in this park that I saw a big kiwi tree.  They are usually low and climbing like vines.

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Many gardens, public and private, shared or belonging to the church, schools or hospitals are open to the public this weekend in observance of the Fete du Jardin.  A lot of activities were prepared for all ages and one of them is the free Guided Visit by an expert gardener.  Here, the guide is explaining to us the different styles of gardens, this particularly is Alpine where only low plants can grow at high altitude.  

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An interesting flower similar to orchid

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Inside the greenhouse, we saw this tropical tree that grows a network of surface roots.

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Plants that grow on rocks

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In the desert zone of the greenhouse is a cactus that produce a flower the shape of a star.

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The spikes of a cactus.  What a symmetry!

Two fêtes in one

France seems to have a festival being celebrated about each day of the year and for a Festivalphile like me (yes, I just made that up as there must be a term for it somehow..) I must attend!…… especially if it is all about food, gardening, photography…..Incidentally, the Salon de la Photo is happening next week and I already have free tickets for H and me, hurray!!!

Last Friday the 23rd, was the Fête de la Gastronomy, the next day or the whole weekend actually, was the Fête du Jardin.  Unfortunately, I missed the former, but the latter I successfully attended and that will be my next post after this.

Now what happens when you get to “experience” both gastronomy and garden all in one day, in one place and with H as company? 

I call it Sublime with a capital “S”! 

Why?  Because it blissfully quenched our five senses:  hearing of the birds singing, sight for the artistic way the food was served, the explosion of colourful flowers in the garden, touch of the semi-formal table setting set in rustic surroundings, smell of the floral and herbal scents wafting in the air and taste for the divine courses served one after the other …  this is truly Gastronomie Française!

   

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It all started in a fortified 17th century farmhouse turned restaurant in a little commune of Saint-Cyr-sous-Dourdan.  

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Thirty-nine kms southwest of Paris, we always drive past this medieval-looking stone structure with a brick red cone roof and a courtyard bedecked with flowers and antique displays.  It has a restaurant with a façade so charming it reminds you of the covers of country home magazines.  

We promised ourselves that we shall dine there one day …

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That day came last Sunday.  The patron (owner)  met us at the entrance and were extended the warmest reception even shaking our hands as if we were his guests. 

When he asked if we made a reservation, my heart stopped, I thought we would be turned away if we said no.  But when he directed us to a table dressed up in dark burgundy, it’s like we won the lotto! It was a lucky day!

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I like dining in classic restaurants but nothing excites me more than French dining in a rustic setting…

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Old things combined with the earth’s natural bounty is like Art in three-dimension

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While we got seated in the garden, others preferred the “grange” (barn).

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This is the menu board which gets shifted from table to table.  They give you enough time to think so not to worry…although it’s quite difficult to make a decision when there is so much to choose from!

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The star of the show, the food. 

This is H’s entrée:  Terrine campagnarde maison (home-made country Pâté)

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My own entrée:  Croustillant de fromage de chevre et lard (crispy goat cheese and bacon)

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The main dish where I would applaudingly give the title …….”To die for

Agneau de 7H au thym et au romarin (Lamb of 7H, in thyme and rosemary)

7H means the meat is braised in the oven for seven hours until it becomes ultra-tender, moist and full of flavour.  haricot.JPG

The green beans that accompanied the lamb, not only artistic but it tastes ephemeral!

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And the dessert: Fondant chaud au caramel (hot fudge caramel, with ice cream)..I think I’m in heaven…..mmmhhhh

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Despite the 49euros bill including the table wine, it is definitely worth every centime…. After all, money cannot buy the experience of dining like a King!

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Dining experience over, it’s now time to enjoy the flowers..

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