A Taste of Prague

Prague: Where hotel rooms have chandeliers

Boutique Hotel Constans Prague

You know. Casual.

And tourists fill every square inch of the city.

Gate to Mala Strana

So busy today! I think I saw more tourists today than I’ve seen anywhere else combined.

Also, apparently there was a hockey game? USA vs. Czech and the USA won! Which is only great when I’m not in Prague, trying to take pictures of a beautiful building that no one cares about because there’s a game! on! the! giant! TV!!!

Old Town Square

I couldn’t beat them, so I got a beer and a dog and joined them. Go USA! (sorry Czechs…)

Prague sausage

The time is fast approaching when sausages and beer will lose their appeal. I’m not there yet but I can see it in the distance. How do these Europeans live on a diet of bread, beer and sausages without dying of scurvy? I don’t get it.

I’ve been here only a couple of hours but my favorite thing in Prague so far is the Charles Bridge. It’s part of the old Royal Road, a procession route for newly crowned kings of Bohemia to travel to their castle. Here’s the view off the bridge into the Staré Město, Prague’s Old Town

Staré Město Charles Bridge

The bridge is lined with statues and joins the Old Town and the Mala Strana, the Lesser Town where the castle resides.

Charles Bridge

The sun sets directly over Mala Strana and shines through these gorgeous gates on either side of the bridge

Charles Bridge

So far, Prague is pretty cool. More tomorrow.

Charles Bridge

Touring around Berlin

East Side Gallery

I have been without a decent map! For a normal person in a big, foreign city that’s ridiculous unless aimless wandering is the point. With my abysmal sense of direction, it’s absurd. My natural state is aimless wandering. I need physical help to stay on course.

My lack of direction dates back to my childhood. My parents have a well-loved story from my 8th grade year when we lived in Guatemala and every day for weeks we walked to and from the language school. One day I got sick and had to go home alone and I couldn’t. Literally had no idea where I was. Cried… wandered… asked for help… and truthfully I don’t remember who helped me but I finally made it home.

As an adult I’ve learned to pay more attention but directions are still a mystery to me. In the US I depend on my GPS but here in Berlin my phone doesn’t work. I’ve done an awful lot of backtracking and looking at street signs and checking my terrible maps that lack important street markings. Sometimes I’m only a block off but it takes me about 10 minutes to figure that out.

I have other skill sets. I promise. But getting around in the world without backtracking and time wasting isn’t one of them.

Anyway, I finally got a little moleskine city notebook for Berlin, which I LOVE because it’s tiny and compact. But around this same point yesterday I realized that I also had no real scope of the city of Berlin. I’ve gone a few places and walked around but Berlin is gigantic and sprawling. I wanted a quick way to orient myself so today I got on the hop-on hop-off bus.

I know. I know. SO touristy. But you know what, it did the job. I hit all the major landmarks in an afternoon. And while I only got off a couple of times, I took copious notes about the stuff I want to see later.The nice thing about being here for so long is that I don’t have to see everything today. That’s such a luxury that I rarely get while traveling.

Also, the Hop on/off buses in Berlin get scads of hate online but I had a great experience with City Sightseeing. I would just caution future bus riders to choose the live commentary option. The recorded commentary was wretched.

Here are some high points from today :

German Sausage Grillwalkers

Of course you know I’m going to start with food that is completely unrelated to the bus. But come on! This is a German sausage on a tiny bun cooked by the guy in the background who is also wearing his sausage grill! That’s an unbeatable combination. The New York Times thought so too. The sausage was great but needed more condiments, a complaint I have about most food.

Moving on to the TV tower:

TV Tower Berlin

Tall. Pointy. And for some reason a photo op. You can go up inside it to an observation deck if you want to pay 12 Euros (!) and there’s  a revolving restaurant in that glittery disco ball that serves allegedly mediocre food. I don’t know. It’s kitschy, it dates from the Soviet reign, it’s one of the tallest things in town and the East Berliners call it the Tele-asparagus. Now you know everything I know.

Wet Meatball Fountain Berlin

And speaking of food, Berliners call this fountain the wet meatball… They’re good with the food funnies.

Here’s an actual destination, The Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

Also known as the Arch of Peace and formerly part of the Berlin Wall. The square on the other side is called Pariser Platz, which is notable for ritzy Hotel Adlon where Michael Jackson dangled his baby Blanket over a balcony …


See? Never say I never gave you nothin’.

And finally, a moment of peace known as the Tiergarten


Also called the green lungs of the city. In the middle of the park is the Victory Column

Victory Column Berlin

You can climb up the column to that little cupola and behold the wonders of Berlin for only 3 Euro. It’s 285 steps but whatever, right? It’s not a trip to Europe unless there’s an unreasonably tall tower to climb for views of the city.

The views are stunning

View of Berlin from Victory Column

In the far off background you can see the TV Tower. See how I brought you full circle?

Except for one last thing to reward everyone who’s gotten this far.

Yesterday while waiting for the subway I definitely saw a guy wearing a green silk burqa.

Yes, a guy. Yes, a burqa.

He had his whole face covered but he was 6′ tall and he walked like a cowboy so I was relatively certain of his gender. Plus, under his burka he rocked a pair of black satin leggings and knee-high stiletto-heeled snakeskin boots. It was a pretty sweet get up. I should have asked for a picture because maybe it was Banksy?? But even though I was 97% sure he was male, there was still that 3% chance she was a Muslim call girl in between gigs. And who knows the proper etiquette for that situation? Certainly not me.

So, there you have it: Meatballs, grill walkers, baby dangling and Muslim call girls. That’s a day right there.

More tomorrow. XOXO

Maine Lighthouses

Turns out this is as close as I got to Maine Maple Sunday

1802 House pancakes

Blueberry pancakes with Maine syrup at my b&b . Pretty solid breakfast so I’m ok with not seeing more sugar shacks.

Crazy cold today. The thermometer said 28. And this is the second day of spring! So… what to do in March when it’s 28 degrees out? If it had been cloudy, I’d have felt completely justified staying in watching movies, reading books, napping… You know, vacationing. But it was sunny and beautiful and I just didn’t think I could be inside all day. Plus, I didn’t really believe the weather could be that cold because the sun looked so great from a warm vantage point in the house while eating pancakes and sausage.

Note to self: in the future, believe the weather forecast.

I decided to get out and see Maine lighthouses, figuring that the drive along the shore would be gorgeous and I’d be in the car for most of the trip. This was all true until I reached Portland Head Light and realized that lighthouses, by their very nature, are not easily accessible by car so I’d have to climb up to them, which means being outside. Outside where the 28 degrees enhanced by 26mph winds actually feels like 9 degrees.

In a word, freezing and very windy.

Portland Head Light

It is lovely, though. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a native of Portland, thought so too because he spent a lot of time here and even wrote his poem “The Lighthouse” about this particular light. This is Maine’s most photographed lighthouse. Now you don’t have to brave the 9 degree temps to see it. You’re welcome.

The advantage to freezing weather is I had no trouble parking but it didn’t make me want to stay long. So I wandered about until I couldn’t feel my fingers and then hopped in the car and headed off to the next lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth.

Lobster Shack lighthouse

This lighthouse is on private property but allegedly is visible from the public Two Lights Park. I didn’t find that to be true and instead stumbled upon it looking for The Lobster Shack. The Lobster Shack wasn’t open so I’m calling this the Lobster Shack Lighthouse. I don’t know what it’s really called.

The next lighthouse was the most brutal experience and all my pictures are crappy and out of focus because the wind was blowing so hard I couldn’t keep my phone steady.

Spring Point Ledge Light

Spring Point Ledge Light down a very cool granite rock way but this is as close as I got. I simply couldn’t stay warm or focus my camera so it seemed like a waste of time. In summer, this is probably amazing because that rock causeway is all giant pieces of granite with big spaces in between requiring a bit of good jumping judgement to get down there.

The final lighthouse of the day was the smallest cutest most petite lighthouse I’ve ever seen in my life.

Bug Light

And it’s called Bug Light! Adorable! I wanted to just scoop it up and put it in my pocket. The winds weren’t quite as fierce here, even though it’s just on the other side of the bay from Spring Point, so I walked up and around and stayed awhile with the bug. Seriously, so cute.

After a freezing lighthouse expedition, a beer and a dog sounded like heaven.

The Thirsty Pig

The Thirsty Pig in Portland specializes in local Shipyard brews and hot dogs of all flavors and compositions including a vegan dog, probably filled with flowers and berries. Mine was a hot Italian dog with Thai chili sauce to mix all my ethnicities and I washed it down with a porter. Warmed me right up. I highly recommend this place. Their bar is a tiny place full of copper and wood tables as well as bartenders that know their business.

If you happen to be in Maine looking for lighthouses in warmer weather, head down the coast to Kittery and see the Nubble Lighthouse

Nubble LighthouseYou can’t get close but the view is pretty, as is the drive down highway 1.

Let’s see if the third day of spring ends up any warmer, shall we?

Coney Island Dogs in Detroit

Somehow Coney Island Dogs have nothing to with actual Coney Island in New York City. How strange is that?

But they’re an institution in Detroit so I felt I should give them a chance because I love local fast food whether it’s a banh mi in Saigon


or a garbage plate in Rochester, NY


And clearly, the Coney Island Dog falls much closer to one end of that spectrum than the other…


Tah-dah! It’s a chili dog with mustard and onions. Super exciting, yes? So exciting, in fact, that I had two, although that was more for story than the actual dog.

It seems that in 1917 two Greek brothers opened a Coney Island hot dog stand and then decided they couldn’t work together but neither one wanted to get out of the Coney Island Dog business. So they parted ways and one bought the next storefront over and opened his own store, resulting in two Coney Island Dog restaurants next door to each other.


Such is the Detroit desire for Coney Island Dogs that these two places are both open and thriving almost 100 years later, run by descendants of the warring brothers and serving identical product.


This is Lafayette’s Coney Island Dog and the one above is the American Coney Island Dog, a fact I only know because I captured the American Coney Island logo in the picture… I had to try them both to see if there was any difference and (sorry Detroit!) I can’t tell the difference.

But I will say that American Coney Island has a clean, up-beat sparkly tourist vibe and Lafayette has more of a dive diner for locals-only “no soup for you!” sort of situation going on.

Either way, rock on Detroit! I saw more people in these two restaurants than I saw on the streets the whole week I was in town so they’re doing something right.

I’ve gone to look for America

America is:

Uncle Sam

(Be careful his bow tie is really a camera!)

America is beer on a hot summer day

Trader jose beer

America is: yellow beer + blue water = green beer.

green beer

(Very America, but for a different holiday…)

America is: face stuffing

hot dog eating contest

The hot dog eating winner (Gus) took the crown by consuming 8 foot long hot dogs with a minimum of “excessive bun debris.”

America is: people who put their hands in the air to catch any free thing flung at them

Gimme a T-shirt!!

Even when it’s a T-shirt with a picture of this guy…

Mr. hot dog

American is: free “airbrush tattoos” composed of glue and glittter

"Airbrush tattoos"

America is: singularly compelling signs

Fried Treats and Things

I believe this deep fried twinkie (definitely a “thing”) is part of a long running quest that began in Scotland over a decade ago.

Deep fried twinkie

What’s more America than deep frying a twinkie and topping it with whipped cream AND powdered sugar?? Nothing. That’s what.

Anticipation in lawn chairs. Very America.

And the moon rose over an open field…

FireworksAll this America? I’ll take it. Any day.

Happy 4th, ya’ll!

Me and Noelle