Weekend City Guide :: Prague

Weekend city guide

I’ve got the travel itch, and I’m not sure whether these Weekend City Guides are helping or hindering that desire… This week’s Weekend City Guide brings us to Prague. Prague is beautiful and its somewhere I’d go back to in a heartbeat, to further explore the city, but also the rest of the country. Tyler did end up going back 2 years ago on a guys trip. I don’t think that trip would enrich this guide very much, unless you’re into strippers…

weekend city guide

After finding our Airbnb, which had super cute details (like the coffered ceilings) and not so cute features, like the shower was a tub in the kitchen, and the toilet was outside and the whole floor of the building shared it…. but it was in a prime location, so it worked for us. Our first stop, as it always is, food. We landed at Lokal, it was on the same block as our Airbnb and was highly rated on Yelp.

weekend city guide
The start of our tab

We got a bunch of beers, sausages, tripe soup, deep fried cheese and some other delicious things all for about $40 CAD. The food was delicious, they have a limited menu that is different almost daily, but the food does not disappoint. The restaurant itself is more of a tavern, one long room with tables on each side and the kitchen at the back. The waitress puts a piece of paper down on the table and they just start bringing you beers until you say stop. Each beer that gets dropped off gets marked on the paper. We were both really impressed and really full with this sort of service. If you didn’t say no more beer fast enough there would be a fresh beer on your table.

weekend city guide
Astronomical Clock

We were a short walk to the main square, which is really beautiful both day and night. The buildings in the square are of a Baroque style architecture and that continues down all the winding, cobblestone streets. The Prague Orloj, or astronomical clock on the main square is real tourist attraction. It is estimated to have been built in 1410 and has had many upgrades and repairs. It has lots of gothic sculptures, an hourly “show” of figures that come out (like a coo-coo clock) and keeps track of moonphases, months, zodiac (sun locations), and the old Czech timing system of when the sun sets. Definitely catch it at the top of the hour to see it chime, but also check it out when the crowds haven’t formed.

weekend city guide
Old Town Square

The main bridge, Charles Bridge, connects the Old Town to Prague Castle. It is a pedestrian only bridge, and features 30 baroque style statues along its walls. All of these statues have been replaced by replicas since the 1960s, with the originals placed in museums. This is a really lovely walk, with great views. Although depending on the weather you might want to reconsider as the wind coming up the river can be harsh. We were traveling in November, and Prague was the coldest place we went on the whole trip. Given the elevation, this wasn’t surprising. We even got to see some light flurries.

Prague Castle has some decent views (even on a cloudy day), but they do a changing of the guard ceremony, and there are some tourist traps along the way. We hadn’t done much research on Prague, this was the first city we ever traveled to without doing much research, and we felt pretty guilty about it. But we still had a great time, and would love to go back. One of the few souvenirs I brought back from the trip was a pair of Garnet Earrings (no idea if they are real, but hopefully they are).

weekend city guide
Freezing Our Tails Off

We did a decent amount of shopping on this leg of our trip. There is a “main drag” with Wenceslas Square and the National Museum at one end and stores along both sides of the street. At the other end, you get closer to the Old Town Square and can find little alleys and streets that will twist and turn until you get to the square. We were about half-way through our trip at this point, so a little shopping was in the cards anyways, as we’d blown through some shoes and pants by then. Plus, like I said it was cold as balls and the stores were warm.

weekend city guide

We woke up one morning and made our way to a laundromat to wash our clothes. We had walked past some food carts on the way and decided to head back their direction. This was so good. It was basically a gnocchi noodle with sausages, and a white cheese, and bacon. It was delicious. Of course we followed this up with funnel cakes, which we would continue eating constantly in Budapest as well. There is lots of shopping in Prague; though the exchange rate doesn’t make anything cheaper or “worth” it.

weekend city guide
Cheering on the Home Team

Of our 3 evenings in Prague, two revolved around food, and all revolved around beer. One night we headed to a hockey game to watch Lev-Praha vs Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg (KHL team). This was a pretty fun night. I don’t recall much about the game itself, but that the fans were INTENSE. They did not stop banging their drums and horns, yelling, and cheering, and singing. They were standing the whole game cheering Lev-Praha on. It was pretty fantastic. Also they served healthy sized beers at the game. The barn itself, was awesome for acoustics. Even though there weren’t that many fans in attendance, you couldn’t tell by their volume or the way the sound traveled through the rink.

The Basics

Accommodation: Our Airbnb was in a great location; but given that it was basically a studio, and there was no private bathroom in the suite, I wouldn’t recommend it for families. That toilet was freezing cold to use in the middle of the night!

Transportation: There is public transit; trains and buses. I don’t recall having any issues figuring it out. Again, we walked most places, but did use the bus to get to the hockey game and the airport.

weekend city guide
Funnel Cake

Food and Beverage: Eat as many fucking sausages as you can. They are so good. Like SO GOOD. We are sausage people and Prague still has the top dogs. Also FUNNEL CAKES.

Watch Out For: Pick Pocketers; as with anywhere in Europe. Also if you are going to buy any sort of Garnet jewlery, you should be able to ask for and receive a certificate of authenticity with it.

Things We’ll Do if We Get a Re-Do: In general, a bit more research and explore the city more, including getting outside of the Old Town. There are a bunch of underground tours; and although it was recommended to us at the time, we never got around to it was the underground wine cellars.

Traveling with Kids: I don’t see any reason to not bring a kid to Prague. I don’t recall there being very many stairs to get to any of the view points; so you could opt for a slightly bigger stroller with bigger tires; rather than a small one that is easy to fold up and carry up stairs.

Weekend city guide

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Weekend City Guide :: Venice

weekend city guide

The first few days of our honeymoon in 2015, we spent in Venice, Italy. We got a sweet deal on our flights through YVR Deals ($575/ticket RT) and we figured, hey, why not? We arrived around 10pm and made our way through the streets in the rain to our Airbnb. It was a single room in an apartment with a shared bathroom and kitchen. It was in a great spot and we didn’t have any complaints. One day the roommate’s dog even wandered into our room, so, bonus!!

On our flight over we had a layover in Amsterdam, on King’s Day no less, for 10 hours. We had been to Amsterdam a few times as a layover on previous trips so we were able to make use of our time having been there before. I had taken a couple Adavan on the flight over; literally as we were taking off, and it had zero effect, until about 7 hours later. I fell asleep so hard, that the plane landed and completely deboarded before a flight attendant came over and shook me awake. Tyler, trying to keep her from waking me until he had all our stuff ready to go.

weekend city guide
King’s Day in Amsterdam

Eventually no amount of coffee was going to keep me awake. We walked to a hotel we had stayed at before and asked for a room for a couple hours. Yes, we did that. We ended up paying for a full night, and crashed for 3 hours. It was the most expensive nap of our lives, and also to this day, one of the best.

weekend city guideAnyway, back to Venice; our little nap the day before meant we never actually managed to switch over our sleep schedules while we were in Venice. We just couldn’t push through the afternoons without a nap (often missing dinner), and we would be wide awake at about 2-3am. This was unfortunate, but it had a few perks. Once we realized we were both awake, we’d snack on whatever we had in our room, chatting with family/friends at home.

weekend city guide

Around 5am we’d get up and head out. We’d start roaming the streets just as the sun was starting to come up, grabbing coffees and breakfast food when we could find a coffee shop open. We were able to cover a lot of ground, and it made for some really beautiful pictures. Both of us have talked about how much we enjoyed this part of our trip. The quiet, the sunrise, it was just so beautiful and memorable.

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sleeping gondolas

By the time lunch rolled around, our water bottles full of prosecco, we visited the deli, and would head back to our room for a picnic on our bed, followed by a nap. We’d wake up for dinner, then, back to bed, just to start the whole thing over again. Because we were doing most of our exploring before anything was open, we didn’t stop into any museums or art galleries; but there are a ton of them in Venice.

weekend city guide
sleepy Murano

One morning we took the “bus” over to Murano Island, the origin of Murano blown glass. When we left, Venice was starting to “wake up” and get busy, but when we arrived at Murano, the whole island was still basically asleep. We did some more wandering around, and somehow MISSED the “beach” of blown glass. Really not sure how we managed that, but we did. We’ll chalk it up to the costs of doing things while jetlagged.

weekend city guideVenice is somewhere neither of us had on our list, but the fare was cheap and it worked with the rest of our plans. We were totally impressed, maybe having low to no expectations helped. In the end I’m really glad we did, this leg of our trip was so pleasant, and would love to make it back to Italy again one day to do some more exploring.

The Basics:
weekend city guide
our street

Accommodation: Our Airbnb was great, it was on the cutest little street and was great for two people. I wouldn’t stay there with a baby or child though as you’re only in a single room. It’s on the second floor, with an oddly shaped door frame and an even smaller staircase from there to the main apartment. Totally charming, but maybe not baby transporting friendly.

weekend city guide
Gondola Ride

Transportation: You can take a bus from the airport to Venice. Venice itself has no vehicles, scooters, bikes, nothing. You just walk or take the sea buses. You could take a gondola, but they aren’t cheap, are slower than the seabuses, and sometimes walking.

Food and Beverage: Drink Prosecco and Aperol Spritz… but only order one Aperol Spritz and share it the first time just in case you don’t like it. Neither of us liked it, did not understand why we were seeing so many people drinking it. BUT get that prosecco in me!!!! YUM. You’re on the coast so eat up some fresh seafood and enjoy. Everything is delicious.

Watch Out For: The edges of the sidewalks since they don’t end up in grass… just murky ass nasty water. So watch your step. You’ll be doing a lot of walking, so have good shoes. Make sure to use a backpack instead of a roller suitcase, as Venice is “wheels-free”.

Things We’ll Do if We Get a Re-Do: Actually visit the glass beach at Murano, perhaps go inside and do the tours of Saint Marc’s Basilica.

Traveling with Kids: There are many bridges and stairways, make sure your stroller is really light or easy to get your child in and out of. I would suggest forgoing the stroller for your time in Venice and just use a baby carrier. The thought of my kid falling into the waterways makes me very anxious. I would maybe consider using a child harness/leash system. A life jacket might be taking it a little too far… Also check out Sparks and Bloom for more tips on traveling through Venice (and Italy) with a baby!

weekend city guide
Gelato in Treviso

*Hot Tip*: Many of the cheap flights (Ryanair, Easyjet etc.) fly into Treviso, which is just past Venice Marco-Polo Airport. Don’t just fly in and out of Treviso. Make a day trip there at least, even an overnight. We spent most of a day there wandering around while we waited for our flight to Chania, Crete. We really liked Treviso; it was clean, peaceful, and there was plenty of gelato. There is interesting architecture, great food, shopping and there is a professional rugby team; basically just a totally underrated town with plenty to do. You could likely stay there for much cheaper than staying in Venice, and could make day trips to Venice.

weekend city guide

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Weekend City Guide :: Arras & The Canadian National Vimy Memorial

Two hours north of Paris, is Arras. This is the town closest to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Its absolutely beautiful, and très French. In 2013 we arranged to swing out to this town so we could visit the Vimy Memorial for Remembrance Day.

We took the train out to Arras, and when we couldn’t get a cab, we decided to walk to our hotel. Little did we know, we had a long ass walk ahead of us. It was Armistice Day, and a Sunday, and this town was dead. We got to our hotel, where the reception didn’t speak any English. We tried going out to get some lunch, but only found one actual restaurant open and they would only serve us steak et frites. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fantastic steak but to serve it with fries?!

We decided to go explore this sleepy town and stumbled upon a rugby clubCanadian National Vimy Memorial and some houses, but that was literally it. We made our way back to the hotel, grabbing a pie on the way and basically died in our room; spending the entire rest of the day in bed watching Dumb and Dumber on YouTube and eating take out pizza. Thankfully this little rest helped Tyler get over the worst of his cold.

The next day was Remembrance Day, and there would be a ceremony at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, more intimate than the “official” ceremony on the Sunday. The Monday not being a statutory holiday, meant the majority of the attendees at the ceremony would be Canadian expats and travelers. The ceremony (and memorial) is organized and run by Canadian university students who do placements there.

Canadian National Vimy Memorial
morning dew on the craters

I arranged with reception (via Google translator) to book us a cab bright and early the next morning. We didn’t want to miss the ceremony, or a chance to do a tour of the site. Tyler and I both agreed that this is one of the highlights of our travels. It was a beautiful day, and the ceremony was perfect; respectful, intimate, and it just really hit you, to stand there on Vimy Ridge on the 11th of November with a bunch of other Canadians.

Canadian National Vimy MemorialIf you get a chance to do this, DO IT. Even if its not for Remembrance Day; just get there and do the tour of the trenches. It is fascinating and awe inspiring, and will leave you feeling so insignificant and full of gratitude simultaneously. The students working at the memorial do an amazing job. They know their stuff and are very passionate about it. The tours through the trenches are chalk full of information and the groups are kept small, making it easy to ask questions and get meaningful answers. The memorial is about a 40 minute drive outside Arras, so you will need a vehicle, or you can take a taxi. If you are attending the Remembrance Day or Armistice Day ceremonies, be sure to book your cab in advance and get there early.

Canadian National Vimy Memorial
In the trenches

The town of Arras didn’t seem like much at first glance. But now that it was a Monday things were back to normal. We had clearly made a wrong turn the day before, heading into the more rural area of town. Our cab driver dropped us off right in the centre of town, lo and behold, there is a freaking beautiful city centre! He explained on our drive back from the memorial, that Arras was almost completely leveled during WWI. When they rebuilt it, they did so in a Flemish-Baroque style architecture. This was not a style native to the area or time, but the townspeople liked it, so they went for it! For some reason I have NO pictures of it, I must have temporarily lost my mind.

There are shopping areas, a large square, and underground tunnels you Canadian National Vimy Memorialcan explore. The tunnels were built to connect people’s cellars during medieval times, and then were used during the wars to hide residents and Allied troops from opposing forces and bombs. Our focus on the Vimy memorial and Tyler getting sick, meant we didn’t get to explore much of the town, but we did get to have our first taste of stinky French cheese. We went out for a late lunch and I chose the “Arras-stye Chitterling Sausage”. Turns out it was a pig colon sausage in some sort of white sauce. It was fucking fantastic. Aside from one home cooked meal on this trip, that was the best meal I had. Even after finding out it was pig colon, I said NO RAGRETS! I’d do it again.

The Basics:

Accommodation: This was the hotel we stayed at. It has been updated and looks great in the pictures. Don’t be fooled though, on the map it seems like a quick jaunt, but it is not. It’s a long ass walk. Doable, but you’ve been warned.

Transportation: You can get there by train. You can walk basically anywhere in town, or get a cab. But you will definitely want a cab or a rental to get to the Vimy memorial.

Food and Beverage: Follow your nose! 😉 I’ve been looking for the restaurant we ate at, but can’t find it. I would recommend eating anything cooked in the local “Arras Style” based on the one meal I had.

Watch Out For: Holidays, this place shuts the fuck down and you’ll be nearly stranded.

Must Sees: The town square and the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.

Things We’ll be Doing if We get a Redo: Les Boves (the underground chambers) and Les Carrières Wellington (the underground network of tunnels connecting Les Boves).

Traveling with a Kid: Arras will be fine with little ones, the Vimy memorial might be a little too quiet for small kids? I think it would be a fantastic experience for older kids (maybe grade 5 or 6 upwards).

Have you visited Arras or the Canadian National Vimy Memorial? What are your thoughts or suggestions? What would you do/not do?


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