Monday, February 16, 2009

Praha, Czech Republic

The Prague trip was an opportunity for a “bromantic” weekend over Valentine's Day with one of my best friend visiting from California who I hadn’t seen since moving to London. It was successful in the sense that we caught up properly and shared in some good drink and food, but my impressions of Prague itself were as follows. I should add the disclaimer that we went in the middle of February, an off season time to visit Prague and for this reason it is possible that my perceptions are a bit skewed. My wife went a few years back during the summer months and absolutely loved it. I did love the architecture. The built environment of Prague is the main reason to visit, (Prague Castle, Old Town Square, Charles Bridge, etc.). Prague was one of the only major European cities not to have been destroyed during World War II, so the architecture is well preserved and original, mainly in the Baroque, Gothic, and Neo-Classical styles, absolutely amazing.

We stayed just around the corner from the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square, so the location was perfect, within close proximity to the major sites, restaurants, and bars. It was bustling enough during the day given how cold it was outside, absolutely blistering cold in fact. I have come to find that I’d rather it snow if it’s going to be that cold. Something about the dry cold is so much worse (I felt the same when we visited Beijing in January). After a while of sightseeing outside you just want to head indoors to stay warm. If it snows, I feel it somehow warms things up a bit (might be irrational, but it’s just something I’ve discovered in my own experiences). Perhaps it is because when there is cloud cover, as there would be if it were snowing, it traps additional warmth inside. Notice how in colder climates, the sunny clear days are often times more freezing than when it’s overcast (this is always the case in London). So for this reason, we spent a big proportion of our time indoors and drinking in order to stay warm!

My only real gripe about Prague was the unsavory crowd that came out at night. I was a bit surprised to see this side of Prague and I’ll keep things G-rated for the purposes of this blog, but we saw some seedy things going on that we didn't expect. Again, it might be due to the fact that this was an off-time to go and that certain elements are more dominant with fewer crowds.

Overall, Prague is a must if you’re going to be in Europe, just be aware of the time of year you go. We had a surprisingly decent Mexican meal at a place called CzechMex. We also ate a ton of goulash which was a tasty, hearty way to stay comfortable in Prague’s blistering, windy February cold. Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge are the main sites and you can easily complete the whole trip in no more than two days. -- Keenan

Monday, February 02, 2009

Snowy Day in Londontown

I am contributing to this blog after a long recess (during which I allowed my wife to take the reigns of our London narrative). I have a lot of new things to report on my end including several sidetrips around England, Germany, and Spain, but these will have to be split up among different posts in order to do them justice.

My absence from this blog has been interpreted by my friends, family and my wife as a sort of "disinterest" in blogging...While there is probably an inherent mild disinterest in broadcasting every waking experience and encounter, I think it has more to do with the depth and speed at which I've been settling into London.

After three months, London feels like home. I've settled into our flat just north of Clapham Common and have established work and social links that have normalized my otherwise expatriate life.

However, as an expatriate I should be more diligent about reporting experiences and issues that could be of use, or at least of interest, to others in my situation, which is why I am renewing my vows to Londoncosmopolitan.

I thought it would be appropriate to start with my experience of waking up this morning to a blizzard in London. Typically, snow in London is rare, lasting only a few hours on the ground at best. We've had an arctic freeze blow in from Russia over the weekend and I've attached photos of the Clapham Common area, my neighborhood street, and a couple of views from my office in Canary Wharf to demonstrate what a severe snowstorm in London is like. All buses stopped, only a couple of tube lines were running and all overground trains were disabled. Not sure how long this will last, but I expect to be just as bad, if not worse tomorrow. These photos were taken along my morning walk from my flat through Clapham Common, to the Clapham Common tube station.

This is quite rare and is apparently the worst they've experienced in 18 years. So on that note, it's great to be back. More to follow.