Tag Archives: Gate 1 Travel

My Trip to Central Europe – Part 2

Greetings!  Here’s Part 2 of my November trip to Central Europe.  Today’s post will include my time in Prague, Karlovy Vary, and London.

Day 4 – Prague, Czech Republic

Our tour’s last stop was Prague, and it’s a truly stunning city.  It was barely touched by bombs during the second World War, so it’s a wonderful place to see historic architecture dating back centuries.

Charles_Bridge1

After checking in at the hotel our group took the streetcar down to the Charles Bridge.

Infant_Jesus2

Infant Jesus 1

I also visited the church of the Infant Baby Jesus, whose altar is over-the-top ornate. The statue of the baby Jesus has hundreds of lush, ornate outfits, and the church is a pilgrimage destination for many.

Group_dinner

That evening we had a group dinner at a local restaurant. The food wasn’t spectacular, but a lively older gentleman played music (keyboards, trumpet, violin and vocals!) and it was a fun outing with my tour mates.

Day 5 – Touring Prague (Last day of the official tour)

We started our day at Prague Castle up on the hill. We only saw a tiny bit of the castle complex, but what I did see was fantastic! We started at St. Vitus Cathedral, took in the changing of the guard, and looked out over the river and the city.

St.Vitus_Cathedral

St. Vitus Cathedral’s main entrance

St.Vitus

St. Vitus Cathedral interior.  Wow.  Just wow!

St.Vitus2

There were at least 6 stunning windows this size and shape featuring colorful scenes.  

St.Vitus3

Another view of St. Vitus Cathedral

Changing_of_guard

The changing of the guard on Castle Hill

astronomical_clock

We also visited Old Town Prague, and saw the famous astronomical clock. The square there has a bit of a carnival feel, with live music, horse drawn carriages, and street performers – oh, and loads of tourists. I wandered the streets and did a bit of shopping that afternoon.

clock_detail

Closer shot of a section of the astronomical clock

Czech Pub

That night I grabbed dinner in a pub that seemed to be a hangout for locals – Restaurace U Parlamentu. People drinking beer (Czech’s love beer!), smoking, and visiting with friends. I have an aversion to cigarette smoke, but put that aside in order to take in a non-touristy scene.

goulash

I had Czech goulash with dumplings, and was super curious about the table of eight older men who were drinking, smoking, and visiting at the table next to me. I wish I’d been able to tell what they were talking about – who they were. :]

Day 6 – Old Town Prague

After sleeping in and grabbing some breakfast, I took the streetcar to Old Town and visited a few antique stores. I also visited the lovely Tyn Cathedral and the Old Jewish Cemetery.

Jewish_Cemetery1

Such history…

fall_foliage

The fall leaves were just gorgeous

  leaf  

Jewish_Cemetery3

Later in the afternoon I crossed the Charles Bridge again and revisited Lower Town, and then had a picnic in my room for dinner.

LowerTown

Lower town

picnic

Hotel room picnic with food from the market near the hotel…

Day 7 – Karlovy Vary

KV2

For my last full day in the Czech Republic I signed up with a local tour company and took a day trip to Karlovy Vary. Approximately 2 hours away, this town is known as a bath town because of the numerous mineral hot springs. People come from all over to take in the healing waters, and I tasted water from at least four of the springs. They didn’t taste too good, but I like the idea of improved health. :]

hot_spring

One of the springs we drank from…

KV1

Our tour meandered through the town, stopping at many of the springs and the geyser. We had lunch, and then had time to wander along.KV_hotel

I saw the Grand Hotel Pupp, which was in Queen Latifah’s movie “Last Holiday” and the Bond film “Casino Royale” – fun. Mostly I just wandered, and drank in the sights of the lovely town. It was such a treat to be there and to see another part of the Czech Republic.

KV_horse

I loved this horsie – so cute and sweet natured! :]

KV5

KV_canal

Happy to be spending time in Karlovy Vary…

Back in Prague, I saw the astronomical clock do its “on the hour” thing again, and had a tasty dinner before heading back to the hotel, packing, and preparing for my trip home.

Day 8 – Missed connecting flight and my night in England

Mel_and_Queen

So, yeah. I was supposed to be home Saturday evening. Unfortunately, I missed my connecting flight at Heathrow in London. Booking agents are supposed to allow one and a half hours between flights, and I only had one hour and ten. I didn’t get to the next terminal (you’re bused to other terminals), through security and to my gate in time, so I stayed overnight in London. I wish I could’ve gone to London proper and seen more than the airport area, but by the time I got to my hotel it was too late and it just wasn’t in the cards.

London_residential

However, after breakfast on Sunday I did go for a walk in the area surrounding the hotel. I saw some residential streets, visited a park where some adorable kids were playing soccer, and got a tiny bit of a glimpse of life in England on a Sunday morning. The missed flight isn’t something I would’ve chosen, but I made the best of it and saw yet another tiny bit of the land of some of my ancestors.

London_park

Sunday at the park…

London_garden

A cute front garden in the residential area…

London_street

Standing on English “soil” – so cool!

Summing It All Up

I really enjoyed all the countries and places I visited. I had the best time, and am so thankful for all I did and saw! I’ve just provided highlights here – otherwise this post would be (even more) forever long – but I hope you enjoyed a peek at my travels. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Oh, and if you’re interested in a similar trip, I’d totally recommend Gate 1 Travel’s Affordable Central Europe trip. Gate 1 did a great job (except for the London connecting flight timing – LOL) and this is my second time touring with them. (Also went to Peru with Gate 1) I added two days at the end, which worked out well, and hope to travel with Gate 1 again. Next on my list? Maybe Thailand, India, or China.  Something to work towards…

Warm regards,
Melody

Posted in travel | Also tagged , , , , Leave a comment

My Trip to Central Europe – Part 1

MN_overlooking_Pest

Greetings! I hope you’re all well and happy, and hope you have a wonderful December. Whatever holidays you celebrate this December, may they be joyous. :]

I traveled to Central Europe last month, and thought I’d share some of the photos here. I went on a quick tour with Gate 1 Travel, and had a fantastic time. The trip started in Budapest, Hungary, went on to Vienna, Austria, and finished up in Prague, Czech Republic. I also took two excursions to Bratislava, Slovakia (Woo hoo – a fourth country!) and Karlovy Vary – which is west of Prague. Bratislava was a half-day, and the Karlovy Vary excursion was the whole day. Since this would make a very long single post I’m breaking it up into two parts, and the second post will be shared tomorrow. Part 1 will include my time in Budapest and Vienna, and Part 2 will include my time in Prague.

This trip fed my spirit in so many ways. Not only did I have a change of scenery and see new things, the artist in me was jubilant. The architecture, fall foliage, and overall environments were truly amazing. I was also able to see the work of many masters at the Albertina Museum in Vienna, something that this art major was super happy about. Seeing work by the masters in a museum in Vienna? Pretty freaking cool!

The eternal student in me was happy to learn so much about these places I’d heard about but had never been to. Kudos to all the guides on the trip who taught me so much – particularly our Tour Leader, Dean. He kept our group of 40+ on track, taught us along the way, and always had a big smile on his face.

I was also so thankful to have an opportunity to travel to parts of the world that some of my ancestors reportedly hailed from – including Austria and the Czech Republic.

Day 1 – Budapest, Hungary

My time in Budapest was brief – one day of sightseeing – but I saw so many wonderful things.   Our tour started at Hero’s Square then moved on to Castle Hill where we saw the stunning Mathias Church. We took in views of the Danube River and the city Pest side of the city from the Fisherman’s Bastion.

Mathias_Church

Mathias_interior

View_of_Pest

Next came an optional afternoon excursion that took us to the Great Market Hall, where many locals were shopping. I did a bit of shopping and grabbed a quick bite to eat.

MarketHall2

Market_Stall

The second stop was St. Stephen’s Basilica. The stunning architecture housed the mummified hand of St. Stephen. Oh my!

St.Stephen's St. Stephens2

The final stop of the afternoon was the Parliament Building. Amazing architecture, Hungary’s Crown Jewels and a changing of the guard were just a few hightlights…

Parliament

Parliament_meeting

Parliament_detail

Day 2 – Moving on to Vienna, Austria

It didn’t take long to get to Vienna, and we stopped in the center of town for an hour or so before meeting a local guide for our tour of the Schonbrunn Palace. Schonbrunn Palace was spectacular! The “modest” summer home of the Hapsburgs, it’s truly stunning. Unfortunately photos aren’t allowed inside the palace, but some of my favorite details included the blog room with hand painted wallpaper, an exquisite room walled and furnished with inlaid wood, and “the backyard”.

Schonbrunn_Palace

Schonbrunn_oak_tiles

Schonbrunn_backyard

Schonbrunn_sunset

Schonbrunn_walkway

I took the subway from the hotel to the Karlsplatz stop and found some dinner. I was proud of myself for managing the subway in a foreign land on my own, and enjoyed seeing the buildings lit up at night.

Vienna_night

Day 3 – Bratislava & Vienna

I jumped at the chance to go across the border into Slovakia, and really enjoyed the morning’s trip. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia, and we went to the historic old city center. Some of the buildings and architecture I saw date back 500 years. Crazy and cool. :] Many famous musicians lived, studied and played there – like Beethoven.

Bratislava

Bratislava_door

Bratislava_Building

Bratislava_tree

Bratislava_streetcar

Bratislava_fall

Back in Vienna I visited the spectacular St. Stephen’s Cathedral (no mummified hand in this one! I had a late lunch/early dinner of bratwurst with fried potatoes and sauerkraut – it was yummy! Next I visited the Albertina and was treated to the work of artists like Picasso, Monet, Matisse, Renoir, Munch, Kandisky and Magritte. There was also a whole exhibit on Miro. I finished up a wonderful day with Apfelstrudel at Café Mozart and took the subway back to my hotel.

Stephens_Cathedral_Vienna

Stephen's_detail

St.Stephens_Vienna

Durer's Hare

Albertina

Apfelstrudel

Tomorrow I’ll share the rest of the pictures from my trip. I hope you’ve enjoyed Budapest and Vienna!

Warm regards,
Melody

Posted in travel | Also tagged , , , 4 Comments

A Photographic Tour: Peru

img_0777

I traveled to Peru In September of 2009, and took part in a Gate 1 Travel guided tour.  It was my first trip to South America and I was so excited!  By the time I departed I’d been planning and doing research for about three months, and couldn’t wait to experience the country for myself.  My preparations paid off – and I also had good luck. My trip was fantastic, and virtually everything went smoothly.  No sickness or other calamities befell me, and I’ll always look back on this trip with wonder and gratitude.  My tour director, Lucero, was great and I thank her for herding our group through her home country with such care and attention to detail.

Not counting the days I flew in and out of Peru, I was there for seven days.  The time flew by, and I wish I could’ve stayed longer.  I hope to return one day, as there is still so much left to see (the Amazon, Nazca, the coastal region), but it was a great introduction to Peru.  What a charming, colorful, and unique country!  The history was fascinating, the textiles were mind-boggling, and the food was tasty.  Oh, and the scenery? Stupendous!  I was in heaven, taking in the incredible stone work at Machu Picchu, the lush vegetation in the mountains, the cracked adobe dwellings in the Andes, and the deep blue water of Lake Titicaca.

I took hundreds of photos, but will only share a few.  Here’s a brief photo diary of my trip to Peru.

San Francisco Church and Convent

img_0487

This church, located in Lima, is famous for its catacombs full of bones.  It made me a bit nervous to go down into the catacombs – not because of the bones, but because Lima is in an earthquake zone!

Cusco – 11,203 feet Above Sea Level

img_0530

When we landed in Cusco, in the Andes, I could definitely feel a difference in the altitude.  My heart was beating more quickly – like I was exercising, though I was just walking in the airport!

The Sacred Valley & A Little Llama

img_0560

img_0557

The Sacred Valley was gorgeous, and I made a friend.  It was my first llama sighting and contact!

Friendly Locals & Gorgeous Textiles

img_0566

img_0571

We stopped at a weaving cooperative near Chinchero.  Peruvian textiles are mouth-wateringly beautiful.

Chinchero Market

img_0582

img_0578

The Chinchero market was incredible.  I felt as though I’d stepped into the pages of National Geographic!

Machu Picchu

img_0781

img_0847

Breathtaking!  Mindblowing!  Machu Picchu’s incredible natural beauty and spectacular masonry are unforgettable.

Plaza de Armas – Cusco

img_0974

img_0984

Back in Cusco, I enjoyed Qorikancha, the cathedral, and the Plaza de Armas.  I met this gentleman near the Plaza.  Such a wonderful face and such colorful hats!

Sky High – 14,200 Feet Above Sea Level

img_1081

This is what 14,200 feet above sea level looks like.  I was moving my flatlander self around carefully!

Lake Titicaca

img_1134

img_1194

We visited the Uros Islands on Lake Titicaca – amazing!  People live on floating islands made of tortura reeds, and it was fascinating to get a glimpse of their way of life.

Coolest Boat Ride Ever…

img_1186

Yes, I was a really happy camper.  I LOVE to travel!  And riding on a boat handmade from tortura reeds was pret-ty fantastic.

Return to Lima

img_1239_0

img_1244

We ended our tour where it began – Lima.  After some shopping at the Indian Market I finally tried some of Lima’s world-famous ceviche and understand what all the fuss is about.  It was delectable!  I recommend Alfresco if you’re in Lima and want some great ceviche.

Please post a comment if you have any questions about Peru and my adventures there.  It’s an incredible destination.  And though you’ll want to be prepared and a bit cautious, you’ll be fine if you read a few guide books and/or visit Lonely Planet’s website.  It’s well worth the effort.  Viva Peru!

Warm regards,
Melody

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Posted in art, life in general, nature, photography, restaurants, travel | Also tagged , , , , , 6 Comments