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Sunday, January 11, 2004
Preston to Prague
We arose before dawn, drove to Blackpool airport, and said quick goodbyes to Clare*'s parents at the curb. I haven't been harassed at an airport since I started pulling back my hair, but in the wee-hours haze I forgot to do so this time, and as if by clockwork we were stopped by two British police upon leaving the ticket counter and interrogated separately with a variety of random personal questions. Simultaneously, it was announced over the loudspeaker that we had to go to the baggage inspection area to attend the hand-examination of our checked bag. So I tied up my hair while being interrogated, and I swear he suddenly got this "oh, you're ok" look on his face, threw in a few chatty comments about his own security experiences during travels to Australia, and sent me on my way. I waited for Clare*'s return from the baggage inspection (it was technically checked under her name) and we marched through security and straight onto the plane, just a minute or two to spare. After lunch and killing time at Stansted airport, we switched carriers from RyanAir to EasyJet and were off to Prague.
Approaching Prague by Air:
A bus and a couple subway rides later we emerged from the underground:
But it was now dark outside, so I didn't get any interesting pictures. :)
We hoofed through the dark, slushy streets in 2 degree weather to our first choice accommodations in the hopes they'd have something available on the spot. The travel guide indicated they had suites for 900 to 1600 Koruna per night (US $36 to $64), but when we arrived the old fella working the counter--who essentially didn't speak a word of English (or French or Swedish or German except for a few numbers)--immediately indicated "No, Sorry" when we gestured for accommodations for the night. He then said something about an apartment, and 1000 Koruna, which we took possibly to imply he knew of someone in town who was renting an apartment out, but on further gesticulations we resolved he wished us to wait until an English speaker happened through, which we did while digging through Lonely Planet for nearby second choices. It wasn't too long before a (barely) English-speaking gent passed through, and he translated that this place was only open as a hostel during the holidays. Everyone had that "oh well, sorry, good luck" look, but we pressed for more elaboration on the "apartment" and discovered that we could certainly rent a whole apartment by the night for 1000 Koruna, right here. (Doh!)
We booked a couple of nights. It is quite capacious:After quickly settling in, we wandered the streets in search of dinner, and found half a dozen fairly similar restaurants within a couple of blocks--despite the streets being otherwise dark and empty. We ordered what was described as a fried chicken roll, and beef in a mushroom sauce, and got a delicious lightly battered chicken breast stuffed with ham and cheese, and a huge cube of juicy steak ladled with mushrooms. (Along with a pineapple juice, a glass of wine, and tip, it came to 450 Koruna, or about US$18.)
From there we wandered to the Globe Cafe which was purported to have free internet access. It doesn't, but it does have fee internet access, and the option for laptop hookups so I may try syncing up my journal at some point while I'm here. Live entertainment was just finishing when we arrived. English (in various accents) seemed the predominant language here.
And they have yet another way of doing hot chocolate:
That's some rich, bitter chocolate sauce on the bottom, steamed milk in the middle, and whipped cream on the top. Very tasty!
Finally, here's the view out our window in the morning, as I write this entry:
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