Leaving on vacation

In general since we don’t regularly plan vacations, I’ll head off for a week or two on the motorcycle. Rita will occasionally go with me but generally not. We both have entirely different styles and requirements for rides. Last year Rita said we should go somewhere in 2011 and I agreed. She looked at several places including South America, Morocco, and even Nepal. Eventually she settled on Prague in The Czech Republic. She spent quite some time looking over tour options and we’d get several packets in the mail. Eventually she had a Prague guide book with lots of dogears and highlights showing where we should go. She even got the hotel picked out and planned on changing hotels for the last two nights to splurge a little. She even got on a Nomad website to find folks who live house sitting. They move from place to place with just a minivan. In this case, they came on Sunday and will be leaving Wednesday morning after we return.

We had several things to get together prior to going including getting our passports renewed. We had them for our trip to Jamaica years ago and they’d recently expired. Of course we also had to pack what we were taking. As this was going to be a walking only vacation; we’ll be in a hotel downtown and within metro or bus of all destinations, Rita made sure I had my walking tennis shoes. She was also packing light, planning on washing clothes during the week. I packed for each day and had an extra, check-in bag but punted a couple of items after Rita mentioned washing.

So Tuesday morning we left the house in the hands of Nomads and headed to DIA at 8am. On the way, I snagged a last picture of The Rockies.

Rita found an off-airport parking lot called The Parking Spot with a $5 a night fee off of Pena Blvd. It had a shuttle over to the airport so we didn’t have to walk to the terminal again. We checked in my bag at the door, the line at the desk was quite long and headed to security. The line was moderately long, about what you’d expect for 11:30am but we made it through with a minimum of fuss. Rita did forget to remove the bag of liquids again though.

Our first stop was JFK Airport in New York. We were about 45 minutes late getting in. We had to get to Concourse 3 but didn’t know how short of going out of security in this terminal and back in on the other side. We stopped at a Delta desk to ask and the lady pointed us to a shuttle service that runs between terminals. We caught the shuttle right as it was leaving and headed over to Concourse 3. It was pretty cool in that we saw Irish airlines, Egyptian, United Arab Emerites , Israeli And others on the Tarmac.

We stopped at several places looking for something Rita could eat before stopping at Balducci’s. Rita got a carton of Chili and I picked up a tuna on rye, a cupcake and a cream soda. Rita wasn’t sure if we’d get a meal on the plane so we wanted to be prepared.

Rita wanted me to get some Czech Crowns in case we needed it for tips or other small change requirements in Prague. I stopped at a currency exchange place but unfortunately they only had 200 crown notes and there was a $10 charge if we got less than 500 crowns so I blew that off.

I got back to the waiting area in time for the plane to start boarding. Our pass caused some sort of alert and Rita was pulled to the side but when I came up, he just tore a piece off and let us on board. We’re on the plane! We departed JFK at about 7:30pm after being 14 in line. Interestingly, whatever was said in English by the flight crew was then repeated in Czech. This was an 8 hour flight due to a tailwind getting us into Prague about an hour earlier than expected. The flight was generally uneventful. We had three movies and they served dinner (chicken) and breakfast (English muffin and egg).

I took about a 30 minute nap on the flight to New York and maybe another 30 on the flight to Prague. I don’t think Rita got even that much. We did swap seats though about half way so I could look out over the ocean. I snapped a pic as the sun was rising.

Generally there was cloud cover all the way but as we approached Prague, you could see the edge of the clouds and start seeing land below.

There wasn’t anything particularly odd about the land, nothing that indicated we were in a different country and were maybe over Illinois or Ohio in the US ๐Ÿ™‚ As we approached Prague, you could see the city spreading out.

We arrived in Prague at around 9am and wended our way through customs to get my bag, then to the exit. We used the ATM to get 3.000 crowns (they use periods the way we use commas and vice versa). We tried to break a thousand crown note at the kiosk but he turned us away so we tried the change booth but they don’t break bills, they change foreign currency. Eventually we hit the bus kiosk and got a ticket which let us break the 1.000 note. I did go back for the drinks we left at the kiosk though ๐Ÿ™‚

The ticket is good for 75 minutes on whatever public transportation there is. We were taking the 119 bus to the Dejvicka stop, the last one on the Green line and heading down to Namesti Miru.

The exchange rate is about 17 cz to the dollar. If you use 15 to the dollar as a rule of thumb, you can make a quick estimate of cost. For example, Rita was looking for a red pen at a store. We stopped in at a department store and found pens for 59,00 which works out to a bit less than $4.00 (round 59 to 60 then divide by 15 to get 4). It works out to be $3.47 actually but you can get a quick estimate by doing the 15,00 to $1 estimate and fudge it down 10%. We just now did a quick estimate. Rita said it was 20,00 to go up the tower. I estimated it to be about $1.25. The actual cost is $1.17.

At the airport, we hopped on the 119 bus. We had our tickets of course but there were little boxes in the bus. Rita looked in the guide book and found that we needed to get the tickets stamped. Rita stood up at the first stop and quickly stamped our tickets. We got off at the end (Dejvicka) and on to the metro to head to our stop. The escalator was quite long. The underground was used as a bomb shelter as well so the metros are deep in the ground.

We got off at Namesti Miru and up to the Peace Square.

We headed up the street to find the Anna Hotel.

There were lots of interesting designs instead of concrete for sidewalks. Folks even got store names in the sidewalks outside their storefronts.

We checked in without any trouble getting room 205 which was on the 3rd floor if you could the lobby as the 1st. The room is about 10×15 or so with two single beds, a bureau, desk, and small tv. The shower is fairly large and a sink is in the entry way. The toilet is in a small room to the side in the bathroom.

After getting unpacked and all, we put our gear in our bags, my wallet and iPhone in my front pockets and headed out on a walking tour. One of the warnings in the guide books was pickpockets. It advised keeping your wallet and other gear in your front pockets. I left my house keys in my backpack and Rita had provided a couple of shoulder bags for our gear; maps, books, and other stuff. I also put my camera case on my belt and attached the camera on a ring on the case. This kept it somewhat secure. I put my iPad in my shoulder bag in a pouch inside the bag. I also carried my passport in my bag in the zipper pocket that was closest to me.

We headed down the street to a long set of stairs but took the path to the right and around the school.

There are lots of sights to see while walking and Rita took advantage of the cheapness of the digital film to get lots of pictures ๐Ÿ™‚

On the other side was a beer garden then a wide panorama of Prague.

I snapped pics of course then we headed towards the tv tower. It’s the tallest point in the city and has baby’s crawling on the outside.

We walked through the Jewish Ghetto and to the Jewish cemetery. In the mid 20th century, Jews weren’t allowed to expand the cemetery so they had to bury their dead on top of others in the cemetery.

We also checked out the tv tower getting a few pics. The construction of the tower is very interesting. There seems to be a difference in opinion on whether it’s a good thing or not though.

We continued on looking for other sights and spotted the church with a large clock in a tower. There are a lot of clocks in Prague. At one point a woman with a bicycle and child stopped to ask if we needed help.

We wended our way back to our room. My feet were hurting a bit and I needed to use the facilities. I almost wasn’t able to stay awake while sitting so we both hit the sack for a brief four hour nap. We woke a 6 and headed out looking for sights and dinner. With the smoking by a majority of folks and the time difference, plus Rita giving me the food she couldn’t eat on the plane, I wasn’t all that hungry.

We headed down to Wenceslas Square spotting lots of interesting sculptures but also seeing full sized advertising banners draped on historic buildings.

In addition, there’s a lot of graffiti. It’s everywhere marring walls, windows and even ground level statues.

At the far end of the square, we headed left and wandered about in the area. This was where we got Rita’s pen after stopping in at several stores without much luck.

We also stumbled on a church behind buildings on the street.

After a bit, we headed down to The Legion Bridge to find a place for dinner. The Prague Castle was lit up so I snapped few pics then we headed out to find a second place, an Afgan restaurant.

We went down a couple of side streets in the gathering darkness but didn’t find it. Eventually we gave up and headed back ti the main street. We headed back to the Square and to the left. We did look at several places to eat but Rita would pull out her converter and decide it was too expensive.

We found the Astronical Clock at 9pm and got a few pics along with hearing it go off at 9. It didn’t ring but someone at the top played a horn. Pretty cool.

We continued on finding places were closed. Eventually we headed back to the Square we stopped at one place, but at 9:30, it was almost empty and Rita said this probably wasn’t a good place to eat. Eventually we simply stopped at a hotdog kiosk on the street and got hot dogs on cooked onions. Rita said hers was pretty good. As I wasn’t that hungry, I wasn’t all that impressed.

We hoofed it back to our room and here we are. It’s almost midnight but only getting on to 6pm at home. We’ll try to get some sleep but we’ll see how it goes.

It is a little chilly, not too bad although humidity is high so I’m clammy.

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2 Responses to Leaving on vacation

  1. Jeff says:

    Great report. Did you do it on your iPad. Via wifi?

    Need pictures!

  2. Freejack says:

    Yep, on the iPad via wifi. We’re taking pics but posting on Facebook for now. At the moment we don’t have an easy way to upload although I may figure something out soon.

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