Foodie Haven in Prague

Hey everyone!
I’m counting down the days: only 19 more to go before I’m back in Canada! And yes, despite all of the awesomeness that is Europe I am really looking forward to being back home; but more on that later!
FOOD!
I had done my research prior to coming here, so I knew that there were plenty of vegetarian options in the city. For instance, The Vegan Backpacker has a post from 2010 and it made me drool.
So what have I found?
First of all: PEANUT BUTTER! I literally eat PB everyday back home, so finding it was the highlight of my day! Also, in the large Tesco Supermarket they have soy-meat! Awesome! So, if you have access to a kitchen, cooking for yourself is really simple!
Anyways, back to the important bit.
Dhaba Beas

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Lucky for me this place is less than a minute walk from my hostel and it’s really affordable! I’ve spent less than 100 Czech koruna ($5 CAD) each visit, and I’m always in a food coma by the time I finish eating.

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Pictured above: some sort of bugler-wheat salad, cabbage rolls in a tomato sauce, a samosa and some mango chutney (yummy!) and a sweet bread pudding. Obviously it’s an Indian restaurant, so curries and potatoes are plentiful. I’ve eaten here 3x already, not only because of the price, but because the options change, so it’s a surprise each visit! So far, Dhaba Beas is my favourite veg find: delicious, nutritious and affordable! Also, vegan items are clearly marked!

Country Life – Cafe and Store
I read about this place on Vegan Backpacker, and I was really excited to try it out! So, what did I think?

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Just like Dhaba Beas, Country Life is buffet style and you pay by weight. The options were plenty-a salad bar, a variety of hot dished including a vegetarian style goulash typical in Czech. There was also Pizza, lasagna and roasted potatoes with a spinach sauce. They also had many dessert options, but I was looking for the highly acclaimed Vegan Kokoska (look at this Vegan Backpacker post). But, no luck! There were cakes, but none really caught my eye.
I (stupidly) did not take a picture of my purchases but it was less than what I usually get from Dhana Beas. A cucumber-dill salad, some ‘tenderloin sauce with chick-peas’ and some potatoes with spinach sauce. Cost: 193 Czech Koruna – double the price of Dhaba Beas, and not worth it. The only reason I plan on returning is to look for the dessert!
The store was small but had a lot. But, unless you are staying a while or cooking for more than one, I think a $5 dinner from Dhaba Beas is a way better idea.

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*sidenote: Country Life is closed Saturdays*

Friend’s Coffee House
I have a ‘secret’ to share: I usually find hidden gems via the website Spotted by Locals. There is a version for many major European cities: London, Berlin, Paris, Prague, Barcelona and Lisbon (just to name a few).
I found a write-up for this cafe via this site.

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I had some fresh ginger tea with honey (so good) and treated myself to a home-made carrot cake. The cake was perfect: fluffy, cream-cheese icing in the middle and on the sides and soft raisins and pieces of walnuts to add a bit of crunch. It was fairy large, and it was the type of place I felt like I could sit for hours reading or writing. And, they have free wifi! I hope to return one more time: I just read on their site that they have a library and a food menu!

Globe Bookstore and Cafe
This isn’t really a hidden gem, as most English speaking expats in Prague surely know of its existence. It’s not just a cafe, but also a bookstore (English), bar and restaurant!
I stopped in to look for the third installment of Game of Thrones (no luck) and decided to stick around for some more ginger tea.
Their menu is extensive and includes many vegetarian and even vegan options! The staff are all English, and they also have happy-hour specials. It can get fairly busy, and the crowd is a mix of students, professionals and travelers. They play jazz in the background, and there is enough light to read, but it’s dim enough to have a feeling of intimacy. 45 Koruna for a tea isn’t the best, but given the atmosphere and the area I would definitely pay it again! And yes, I do plan on returning to nibble on some menu items, so stay tuned!

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Campanulla Cafe
When you head over the the John Lennon Wall, you’ll pass an adorable cafe.

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Had myself a ginger tea with lemon and honey, and because the staff was so very friendly I’m going to suggest that you stop in and do the same!

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Trdelnik is a typical pastry made by rolling dough around a stick, roasting it over a fire then rolling in while it’s still hot in sugar and walnut pieces.
I didn’t need to eat it, but the smell was too much to resist.

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Prague: A must see at night

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This is the view I had as we made our way into Prague.
If you know me, you should know that autumn is my favourite season.
1. I think it’s the most beautiful with all of the colors of the changing leaves and how crisp everything looks in cooler weather.
2. I love wearing sweaters, scarves and hats!
3. I don’t necessarily like the cold, but there is something to be said about having that chill in the air and how clean everything feels (no more constant sweating in Ontario humidity).
4. Autumn means Christmas is just around the corner: family and food (apple pie, pumpkin pie, tofurkey, Mumzie’s amazing cheesecake, cookies, muffins, hot chocolate, gravy, stuffing and so much more).

Anyways, the site of the colourful trees gave me goosebumps!

Side note: Although Barcelona was a great city to visit, I don’t think I would go back. I found it over-priced and too crowded, even in low-season and despite being told my numerous sources a taxi would cost mea 30 euro mine cost me 40! I was so shocked! There is a bus but I had to be at the airport for 5am and didn’t feel safe waiting for public transit alone at 330am.
But Prague has excellent transit and there is a bus every 10 minutes (maybe less) that connects you with the metro! Cost? 32Kc ($1.70 CAD). Woo hoo!!
The outskirts of Prague leading to the inner-city were green. Lot’s of space and very clean looking. I knew right then I was going to love it.

Now, I had been sick the past few days, so my plan was to just stay at the hostel and relax but after a free beer from the hostel, and a 20 minute nap, I felt like exploring!

First I had to buy a hat and mitts (oh how I’ve missed you), and then I just decided to try and see as many sites by night as possible.

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The first thing I noticed was all of the large sit-down cafes! They are everywhere! That is one of the things I miss about home, so I was so ecstatic! I guess I’ll have to go to a few and try their pastries (for the purpose of this blog, of course).

FYI: I will post pictures now of what I saw, but a few won’t have an explanation as I wasn’t sure what I was looking at–but that’s half the fun! I’ll go and see them during the day and get back to you!

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The above picture is of the Old Town Square. November isn’t the ‘best’ time to visit Prague because it’s obviously a bit chilly for some people, but it worked out really well for me because that meant less crowds in my pictures! Restaurants still have outdoor seating with heaters, and despite being able to see your breath, a lot of people were taking advantage.
Now, my favourite site of the entire night: the Astronomical Clock.

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If you’ve read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern this clock may remind you of the book. That’s part of the reason I loved it so much. Also, I got some really great photos!
I went around the corner and the most amazing smells hit me: firewood, sausages mixed with the smell of crepes and hot wine. I stood there just smelling the air.

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Next I ventured to the Charles Bridge (Karlův most). I want to see it early in he morning to miss the crowds (and a photo with the morning fog would be awesome, eh?), but thought the evening could be nice as well. Unfortunately the iPhone just doesn’t do night-pictures very well, but I’ll share a few anyways.

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I’ve been in Prague for 8 hours and I’ve already seen so much! Can’t wait to share more pictures with you!
Live Orchestra, city views, parks and of course hot wine and food await!
Xo
PS — only 3 weeks left! Excited and sad at the same time: saxcited?

Holy Toledo!

Hola!
It’s official: I love Spain. The food, the culture, the people, it’s all fantastic! Unlike Paris, where I felt out-of-place and intrusive, here in Madrid I feel like a welcomed guest. You smile at people, and they smile back!
Madrid is lively and sometimes chaotic, so a few hostel friends and my dear friend Pablo (from Madrid) took a day trip to Toledo: the old capital of Spain in the 6th century. It’s described as a medieval city, and yes, it is exactly what you imagine an old European city would look like.

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Te streets are tiny: some so tiny no car will fit down them, let alone be able to navigate the winding paths and sharp corners.
Toledo is a mere 25 minute trip on a high-speed train from Madrid, and only a 21 euro return ticket: well worth it! We walked 15 minutes from the station, up a steep-hill until we came to an entrance. The old city is contained behind a fortress wall, and looks more like a castle than a city from far away.

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We were immediately blown away by the old city streets. The main square was bustling with people, but the side paths were eerily quiet, and you almost felt like you were in a different time-period.

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Our first stop was the famous Catedral (above). We ventured into the free part of the building, deciding that paying 8 euros to look at an old church (filled with tourists) wasn’t worth it.

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Besides, we stumbled upon an old church and opted to go sit inside there instead. There was no one there, except for a quiet nun–observing us from afar. I have never been in a building so quiet.

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We walked through the streets, up steep stairways and then back down cobblestone hills. It was surreal. All I kept saying to myself was ‘I’m in Spain!’

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And of course we stopped for some food! First we sat at a quaint outdoor bar where we enjoyed cervaisas and tapas.

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How much do you think it was?

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Only 1 Euro each! Of course, we were still hungry, and had plenty of walking ahead of us, so we headed next door to the ‘Tavern’ and had a set menu for 11 euros: salad, cod fish, a glass of vino tinto (red wine) and a cafe con leche (coffee with milk) all for only 11 euro! Amazing! Our bellies full we continued to explore, and eventually came to rest in a small park.

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We finished our day of exploring by following a ‘parade’ of jazz musicians playing swing music. And yes, people were swim swing dancing!

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After grabbing some gelato we walked over the bridge and back to the train station where we sat around and played cards. It was the perfect way to end such an eventful day!
So, if you’re heading to Madrid, I highly recommend a day trip to Toledo. Inexpensive transportation cost (and quick) as well as relatively inexpensive food combined with old European charm make this one of my favourite destinations so far!
Next destination: Seville. Porto has proven to be a difficult city to access via train so I may not get to see it. Going to try Lisboa instead!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Urban

The Distillery District in Toronto was the perfect place for this photo challenge. Old brick re-vamped in an area with urban art. Other entries: Weekly Photo Challenge: Urban « Zeebra Designs & Destinations Weekly Photo Challenge: Urban–Calm before the storm! … Continue reading