Thursday, January 31, 2013

Czech Guide : Getting to Prague

I've been living in the Czech Republic for at least 3 and a half years so I think I am a pretty good guide to the Czech Republic for foreigners. I figured, why not help you out and make a guide series about all things related to coming here, even if just for a visit, what to see, eat and do. And so, I find it only normal that I should start with the gateway to this country at the heart of Europe (such a cliche, I know): the Vaclav Havel Prague Airport.
Here is the map of the airport, on the website. I quite like the airport, there are 2 terminals: 1 for Non Schenghen and 2 for Schengen countries. To get to the buses you have to walk straigh out of any of the terminals. Quite straightforward, for an airport. When you are in a new place, especially in a busy, crowded space, you never know where to look first. In Prague you basically just have to look straight ahead and you will see a sign for the bus or the subway. The Prague underground or metro, doesn't reach as far as the airport, yet, but you can get a bus which will take you to the end of either metro B - Zlicin or A - Dejvicka.

Bus 100 takes you to Zlicin, a trip of 15 minutes, here you will be on the Western outskirt of Prague. You will be close to the highway D5 going to Plzen and Germany so this is where you can find buses going in that direction. Also there is a shopping center, Metropole and of course, the Metro B, yellow line which will take you to the center of Prague in about 40 minutes.

Bus 119 takes you to Dejvicka metro station in about 20 minutes and from there to the rest of Prague by tram or metro in about 15 more minutes. Or you can take 179 to Nove Butovice. These two may be the best if you want to reach the old town of Prague or the Castle area.

And the map of the Prague Metro from Wikipedia.
 I usually count 2-3 minutes per stop plus 2 for transfers. As you can see on the map, there are 3 transfer stations: Mustek, Florenc and Muzeum, arranged in a triangle. The system is barrier free but you must purchase a ticket and validate before access. You can use one of the vending machines or the ticket booth or even buy a ticket at the news stand. Everything about ticket sales, here. What about prices? You have to buy the tickets depending on the time you will spend in transit and the number of areas you transit. But it's quite simple and you should just remember the 90min for 32 czk or 30 mins for 24 czk. From the airport you will need to buy the 90 minutes ticket plus a supplement for luggage. And do pay, or else you'll meet with the dreaded revizor!

I think this is all about getting to the centre of Prague from the Airport. I don't mention the taxis which are, as everywhere else, expensive. If you do take one of the two yeloow cab companies, make sure you take the voucher for the return trip, you'll have a discount. There is as well the airport express bus going to the main train station but I find it not very handy as you have to cross all the city and sometimes during rush hour. The subway system is really very good.

If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to ask. In any case, I will write more about surviving in Czech Republic as a tourist and not only.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Wedding inspiration : Lemons in water

I think this can be great on a table at your wedding but also in your house, on a warm summer day. Yes, you may say, but this is like lemonade with flowers. True. But still pretty if you want to have something more in your vase than the stems of the flowers. Besides the lemons or limes (or cucumbers, why not) can help your flowers last longer because of the sugar in them.

You can try the simple, just floating around look or the more complex, all together look. Mix limes and lemons or just one of the two, the possibilities are numerous to give a pop of colour to your table decorations.

If there is no source on the photo, just click on the picture.

Friday, January 25, 2013

My balcony in spring

Or at least the way I hope a part of my balcony will look like. I have two balconies, one to the street, facing West and the other, quieter, facing East. The Eastern balcony will be for veggies but the West one is for the flowers to overflow onto the street below, a place to have a coffee in the morning.

Source: via Ioana on Pinterest

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Robots in Paris

I don't know what is the story behind or if there is any link, but I saw a lot of these robot mosaiques when I was in Paris during the holidays.They were mainly on the corners of buildings, both on the left and the right bank. I think they are cute, whatever the message, it must not be so evil.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The red couch

I have a red couch in my flat and I can tell you it is a bit difficult to decide how to decorate around it: So here are some ideas.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Quotes from the Godfather Part I

I recently saw the Godfather trilogy and because it's full of interesting quotes, I wrote some down because yeah, I collect quotes. Here are some of the best from part I, of course by The Don and Clemenza.

Don Corleone
"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse." 
"A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man."
"Never tell anybody outside the family what you're thinking again."
"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."
"It's a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes."

I'll put some more from the Part II and III soon but I think the first part was by far the best; What do you think?

Monday, January 21, 2013

What to do in Paris - Notre Dame to La Defense

If you remember, I visited Paris with my parents over the holidays and wrote about it here and here. We had just under two days of visiting so we tried to make the best of it. This post is the second part of Day 2, after visiting the Marais district we head to the Notre Dame on Ile de la Cite.

This is a typical tourist spot so we could barely get a decent photo from in front of the Cathedral, especially since some stairs had been built in front, for the people to watch the show of lights which takes place at night.
Another queue of people was waiting to get on top of the towers. I never went up the Notre Dame but I imagine the view must be spectacular, sitting in the middle of the whole city.

I suggested to go around the back of the Cathedral, this is one of the overlooked spots of Paris, behind the Notre Dame there is a beautiful and quiet park which unfortunately was closed but here is a picture, below. The bridge just next to the park is a favourite of lovers who put chains on the rail, something I've also seen on the Pont des Arts.

At this point we were already quite hungry and wanted to eat in a Parisian bistro. I already told you that Marais is a good place to eat, but maybe the best known area for eating out in Paris is the Quartier Latin. So we went towards the Sorbonne, but not before we stopped by the book sellers for a souvenir.
The Area around the Boulevard St Michel and St Germain de Pres is full of restaurants so we chose one and sat down for a late lunch and a coffee. If you feel like walking some more, you can continue to Jardin de Luxembourg, where the Senate is located in a beautiful Palace or you can visit the church of St Sulpice, as well in the area.
We decided to go towards the Louvre instead, passing by rue Mazarine which had commemorative medals on almost every house, one being the house where Champollion lived when he deciphered the hieroglyphs. Crossing the Pont des Arts, we had yet another beautiful view of Paris.
The Louvre is just in front and it seems as huge as it is.  We crossed the courtyards and saw the magic line of Paris, from the Arc de Triomphe du Carousel to the Arc de Triomphe to the Grande Arche in Defense, one straight line. This is how I got the idea to go to Defense.

Tip: if you visit the Tuilleries gardens and would like to visit a museum but think The Louvre is too big, try the Orangerie which houses some paintings by Monet, the Nympheas as well as some Cezanne, Modigliani, Picasso.
The metro line 1 which we took from Concorde to la Defense is fully automated, you can sit in front of the wagon and see when the train goes out of the tunnel, quite impressive.  But what is more impressive is this area of sky scrapers which the Parisians did not want so they built it far from the center.
And this is the end of the journey for us because after some shopping in the big shopping center close to the Arche, we headed to the hotel to again drink some cidre, watch tv and get ready for an early wake up because my parents had a flight to catch.

I think I've showed you you can see and do a lot in just 2 days in Paris. My advice is to take more time than that but if you only have 2 days, follow my tips and you will not be disappointed.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

NY list of 46 Places to go in 2013

I really liked this list when I saw it on Facebook. I don't agree with everything, I would move some down, like Marseille (way down) or up like Ireland or Casablanca.

And the fact that caught my attention is the Jeseniky mountains in the Czech Republic, number 23 on the list. I haven't visited this part of the country but it has been on the list for a long time. As many other regions of the Czech Republic, this one must be just as pretty as in the picture. Just take a peak at my post about a glimpse of the Czech Paradise.

Do check out this list, maybe it will inspire you.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Wedding inspiration: DIY bouquet

I already told you I have many ideas for my wedding and many were DIY ideas. Some cam through, some were completely lost in the creative process and never came through and some were just too time consuming to be worth it at the time (I had other last minute priorities). One of the projects I did not have time for any more but would have loved to do myself, was to make my own bouquet. It's really easy: here is how.
Source: via Ioana on Pinterest

And here you have my own, I think rather successful trial. It does take some time to make and you need a second person to help you a bit but in the end, if you use some more colours, it can look great.
And one more point about the bouquet, you will most likely end up throwing it at the end of the evening (hopefully to the friend you hope to see next) so make it pretty but don't over do it.

Friday, January 18, 2013

What to do in Paris when you have two days - Le Marais

We had a great first day, walking all over Paris and you can read all about it here. On the second day we were already a bit tired so we slowed down a bit. We took the underground (or metro) which as I mentioned was close to the hotel and visited the Place de la Bastille and the Opera de la Bastille.
It started to pour so we did some souvenir shopping in a place just off Place des Vosges where we found affordable prices. Place des Vosges brings me back memories of my first visit to Paris: it's a very quaint place, lots of art galleries, sometimes there are people playing under the arcades. In the middle of this square there is a park and sometimes, on summer days, you can sit and watch children play with their grandparents.Unfortunately it was raining so we just stayed under cover and gazed in art galleries. We saw bronze statues of modern men and delicate paintings. If you want some art during your visit to Paris, check out these galleries in Place des Vosges.

In fact the whole neighbourhood of Marais is interesting and my mum said this was her favourite spot in Paris. The streets are what you imagine when you say Paris with a French accent. This is also one of my favourite parts of Paris: there are many shops and restaurants around and they are usually quite affordable and diverse. Also, the mix of tourists and locals is so that you feel like home. Walking down these streets you can stumble upon a specialized ballet shop or a statue of Victory or just behind a massive door, the gardens of the Archives. Or you can just try one of the ethnic restaurants, here you will find all of them, from the standard Chinese or Lebanese, to the more sophisticated Japanese to a restaurant dedicated to some small country you didn't even know had a special cuisine. Of course, there are the French restaurants as well. But I still think the most known place to eat in Paris must be the Latin Quarter, more about that soon, now some pictures of Marais.

Unfortunately you are never far from the crowds in Paris and we quickly arrived at the Centre Pompidou where a huge lot of people were waiting in line to visit the Dali exhibit. By the way, I heard it from several sources that if you went to the exhibit during the night (they have a nocturne) you don't have to wait in a kilometre long line.

Not far from Centre Pompidou is the Town Hall, a very easily recognisable building with many statues on the front. The skating rink in the Town Hall square was more water than ice because of the unusually warm temperature but the kids seemed to have fun, nonetheless.
This post is getting picture heavy so I will cut it now, telling you that we crossed the Seine again, to Notre Dame and leaving you with a picture of Conciergerie.
I will put up the last instalment on Saturday with nice pictures of Notre Dame against a cloudy backdrop, more streets of Paris and skyscrapers. As you could see from my story, there are a lot of things you can do in just 2 days of walking around Paris. You must be willing to walk, though this is just the exercise you need after you had lunch in French restaurant.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What to do in Paris when you only have two days - Day1

Or rather what to do when you have a day and a half to spend in the most romantic city. I recently spent time in Paris, between Christmas and New Year and since I had about 36 hours to show my parents around, I had to do some research and think about what I wanted to see most of all.

Forget about visiting any museum in such a short amount of time. You need at least 3hrs for any serious visit to a Parisian museum. If you do want to visit a museum/go up a tower and so on, buy tickets online, it will save a lot of time. The waiting to visit monuments in Paris is legendary. Take your walking shoes and if you dislike walking, then, sorry, this is not the guide nor the city for you.  Also check the subway map in advance and remember the direction of your trains.

My parents and I started off in Montparnasse train station and went straight to a hotel on Rue St Georges, close to Pigalle. The area is great if you are on a budget: many theatres, restaurants, bistros, supermarkets and the subway within a short walking distance.We arrived before the check in time so we just left our luggage at the front desk and went to explore the neighbourhood of the artists: Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur. We wandered the streets, making our way up to the Basilica. We were able to see one of the best views of Paris. If you decide to skip the visit to the Eiffel Tower, you can replace it with the view from the Sacre Coeur which is even better because you can see the tower from up here.

There was quite an expensive Christmas market on the hill, lots of enticing food and expensive little gifts. We decided lunch would be sandwiches from a supermarket right at the foot of the stairs were they even had a microwave oven and the price is a fraction of what we'd have paid on the hill.

We continued our walk heading south to the Grands Boulevards. These large avenues, designed by Mr Hausmann (of the Avenue of the same name), have changed the face of Paris, making it the city we now know. If you are a shopping fan, do head out to Les Galleries La Fayette on La Fayette street. This is the heaven of shoppers, the Harrod's of Paris. The other interests are the interior décor and the spectacular view from the upstairs terrace. Like I always say, the best way to see the Eiffel tower is not from up the tower. Just check these pictures, you'll recognise some landmarks such as the Notre Dame, the Opera, The Dome.
Next we went towards the river Seine, passing by the Opera and Madeleine, stopping by to window shop some more at Laduree on Rue Royale. Place de la Concorde was busier then ever with the big ferries wheel heving been installed there so we continued across the bridge to the Invalides and the Eiffel Tower.

As I said, with so little time on our hands, we didn't go up the tower, instead we once again crossed the Seine to the Chaillot Palace (great way to see the Tower btw, and have your picture taken with it in the background). We wanted to see a bit of the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees before heading back to the hotel. This area is so full of tourists during the holiday season that we were more than happy to find the metro.
We finished our first day in Paris with cider and taboule, watching TV in the hotel room. Perfect way to end a nice, on the budget, day in Paris. Here you have our complete itinerary. Come back for Day 2, I'll try very hard to put this up on Friday.
View Larger Map

Monday, January 14, 2013

How to care for your poinsettia after Christmas

The holidays are really over now and you are stuck with a symbol of Christmas you'd like to keep for next year and have it bloom again: the poinsettia. Well it will be tricky but the internets say it could be done.

As a disclaimer I have to say that my plant lost it's leaves nearly as soon as I brought it back home from the store. So if I am now trying to preserve it is because I am stubborn but also because I neglected it during the holidays when I was not home and to my surprise it is doing quite well, maybe better then before.

The internet says I am to trim just under the flowers and then leave the plant as it is, in a sunny place until Spring. Then, when the nights are warm, I could even take it outside, anyway, give it lots of light. If come summer the plant is too big, I should repot it in a bigger pot or inthe same pot and maybe even trim it a bit. After Sept. 21st, I am to keep it in a dark place from 5 in the evening to 7 or 8 in the morning. It needs about 15 hrs of total darkness a day to develop those red leaves. After end of November I can already take it out and hopefully come next Christmas I will have a nice colored plant.

I don't know why this plant from Mexico is such a Christmas hit, must have something to do with the American consumerism and I have never had one that lasted past the holidays but I would like for my green thumb to work magic on this one plant. Do tell me if you ever managed to make one bloom and have colored leaves in the second year.

Picture from my plant does not look so well, in fact it has a total of 3 green leaves..

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Wedding inspiration: Wine bottles and cork

I'll share a secret with you: I got married last year. It was a fabulous affair, really, all we could've hoped for and more, family and friends, lots of DIY, dance, fun, good food, good music, great memories. Now I have plenty of inspiration for a lot of posts about how to design your wedding, décor, catering, lots of tips about organisation, and more.

I had lots of ideas but did not get to use them then so I am sharing them now with you. One of these ideas was a theme around bottles of wine and cork.

I love the idea of using bottle corks as name card holders. I have also seen this at a wedding themed around the vineyard and I can say it does look nice. Besides, it's easy project to make and you can involve your loved ones.

Source: via Ioana on Pinterest

Source: via Ioana on Pinterest

Bottles can be great as centrepieces, either used as simple, clear vases or candle holders, either painted or covered in some fabric.

Source: via Ioana on Pinterest

If you don't want the stems of the flowers to be seen, you can put the corks in the water like in this gorgeus flower arrangement.

This is not everything you can do around wine bottles and corks. You can also use wine crates as centrepieces, you can put the table number on labels on the bottles, cut and glue together several cork plugs to make table mats... There are so many ideas, no wonder I had a hard time choosing my wedding décor.
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