Dream trip day 76 Rugby, Kafka’s head, drinking with the locals

Began the day with a nice walk down Národní Street and taking a right at the Lego Muzeum for coffee.

I received the largest cup of coffee I’ve ever had, probably more like 2 cups sized vessel. I’m already nervous about spilling hot coffee on myself as it is, what with the small handle and all.

All the coffee I spilled went into my saucer and not on me so I was all good.

It sprinkled rain as soon as I left so I ducked into the restaurant portion of the brewpub I was in the night before.

Always stick to your gut if you feel lost and just turn around. I stumbled into the basement and encountered a table of Czech men who immediately stopped eating once they saw me.

They just stared saying nothing. I was surely lost and definitely in the wrong place.

“Pivo, beer?” I asked.

Men continue to stare for about 10 seconds.

“You are in a private place. This is a private group. Not allowed” One finally said after even more staring.

I held up my hands and backed away as they continued to stare at me.

I knew going down those stairs felt like a bad idea!

I was soon in the main restaurant where I walked to the bartender. He was much friendlier.

“Please sit down, it is better for you.” he said, motioning to a waiter. He extended his hand to a table nearby. “Sit please.”

Ok so no standing at the bar here. I always feel weird eating at a restaurant with waiters by myself.

Scanning the menu, I decided cold and rainy weather called for soup, specifically beef noodle soup and a beer.

Within 5 minutes I had a beer then a large bowl with small reservoir in it appeared. It was like a sombrero sized hat bowl!

The waiter had a ramekin of noodles he dumped into the bowl, then with a small kettle poured steaming broth over the noodles.

It was quite peppery soup and the noodles were delicate, handmade. I felt more and more refreshed with each bite.

At most tables were racks of big pretzels that people snacked on while sipping beer. I hope they realize this isn’t like chips and salsa at a Mexican joint. They will charge you for these snacks, but there isn’t a sign advising their cost $.

Some places would add all manner of hidden charges to you bill so you had to be vigilant looking at your bill before paying.

I’d seen a couple arguments from groups with their waiter and the manager over these hidden fees. Its what places would do to tourists, they know you’re not coming back so they try to squeeze as much money as they could out of you.

It was really the only surprising practice I saw in a lot of countries. It really bummed me out, but hey, sometimes these fees were due to rude behavior or demands by the table.

I had no fees on my tab so I gave my waiter a few korunas tip.

To my great pleasure, the sun was out drying the streets.

Taking a new route, I came across the other Kafka statue in town, the Head of Kafka. It was a wonderful installation of his head in sections that took about a minute to separate and then reassembled.

It reminded me of that liquid, terminator robot and was quite pleasant to watch.

I had a tip from a friend about a great Mexican food place a short walk away. Hey weird I know, but I missed spice, sabor. Very few things I ate had any spice aside from black pepper and I missed heat.

I crossed the city square, passed an Irish Pub I had thought about checking out. It was full and loud on the patio. My sign to avoid.

Finally I located the spot. I was the only one in the joint so I joked with the waitress a bit as she instinctively lead me to the outside patio.

“This is where you want to sit, it is nice day. You’re fine, its slow for lunch, order whatever.” the waitress advised me with a smile.

Chorizo, eggs with tortillas arrived soon after and yes there was spice, finally.

I asked for green sauce, too, as the dish came with red salsa. I was happy dipping tortillas into the sauces and feeling some heat.

After my satisfying meal I walked back through the Jewish Quarter to further investigate some of the sections we didn’t hit on the walking tour.

Clouds blew in once I arrived to the cemetery hill, which was only accessible for a fee.

Most of the placed I wanted to see in this part of town had a fee to enter so I just walked up and down the streets admiring the free views of houses and synagogues from the outside.

I was a bit salty about fees after hearing about the Prague Library, Clementinum, one of the most beautiful places in the world, was only accessible via high tour fee, no photos inside and extra if you wanted to climb to the top.

Enough negative reviews on multiple travel sites convinced me it wasn’t going to really be worth the money and I felt if you paid anything then you supported the velvet rope exclusivity and gave it credence as a practice.

Thunder made me pause a moment under a bench to research a pub to wait out any oncoming rain.

Ah ha, one was only a few blocks away so I fast walked in that direction, arriving just as raindrops fell on my head. Those raindrops are falling on my head, they keep falling.

This was a very cool Irish pub. Instead of futbol on the telly as I was used to, today a  rugby match was on. So violent and without pads!

I chatted with the friendly barman who was indeed Irish. We were joined by a very pretty girl with mohawk dreads that reached her waist.

They swayed back and forth like a pendulum as she walked around the pub serving pints or ducking outside under the awning for a smoke.

We talked about the city and why he lived there vs Ireland. His wife liked the city, he thought it was just ok. They planned on retiring back home once they saved enough.

The only other people inside were a couple chaps playing darts and watching the rugby match after their 3 throws.

It rained outside while large plates of roast beef and potatoes arrived for the workers to eat. I stopped asking question so they could eat and watched the rugby carnage unfold.

There were many autographed photos of famous visitors all over the wall near the bar.

What made these pics more interesting was they all seemed to be taken around closing time so lots of big smiles or narrow eyes haha.

After the rain I walked back to my side of town taking in the fresh ozone smells that follow a good downpour.

I was in search of a locals watering hole that was completely Czech. The guy that told me about it said they don’t try to speak English so be prepared to say pivo (beer) and další (another).

A wooden door was the only indication I’d arrived to my destination. What I found unique about Czech pubs was usually only 1 beer on tap. Definitely made it easier on me and less wait times since you didn’t have to stand behind a dude asking for local recommendation or what types of hop were used.

An older bartender didn’t respond when I asked for a pivo, he methodically and gracefully placed my glass under the tap until it overflowed, then he plopped it down in front of me, beer spilling all over.

After taking my money he used a squeegee to push the beer into a sink.

I stood off to the the side with a good view of both the entrance and the tables, all of which where full.

Overseas it was very common if 2 people are seated at a 4 top table for 2 others to join them. Rarely was there an empty seat or strangers in a pub. Most people talked to each other including people they may not know.

No one had their phones out like I saw in the UK and US.

I overheard an Australian couple talking about their trip. They mentioned a tower on the west side of town that was inside a lush garden.

I knew what I was going to do tomorrow thanks to them and tried to join them for a pint when another couple sat down.

They were the only people speaking English in this pub and I had missed my chance.

May as well get another glass.

The bartender saw me walk up and held up 1 finger and I nodded, “Další, prosim.”  

He had been doing the same thing for so long he had his process down cold: pour beer into glasses, then set onto bar for waitress. Pick up used glasses, dunk them into sanitizer, then water, and place onto drying area. Repeat. He was a graceful machine.

I alternated watching him and the couples at the tables smoking away.

After my 2nd beer it was onto a noodle joint for some dinner. Duck breast with noodles and peanuts in a spicy red sauce.

There was small store near my hostel with a large beer selection and I decided to try to meet some people in my hostel vs sitting in another pub. I’d done that all day thanks to the rain.

I selected a couple local beers I’d not seen before and took the stairs up to my hostel.

There was a couple trying to book a flight and were immersed in their computer.

A few guys had a small  bottle of some liquor which they passed around, finished, then headed out into the night in the span of 5 minutes.

Perhaps this Asian girl…no headphones on, chatting on her phone.

I stared outside taking a slug off my beer.

Song: Dvorak  Slavonic Dance, Op 72, No 2 in E minor

Beer: Staropramen

Dream trip day 45 Hanging with Alex, beach, burritos n beer

I’d gone asleep presuming I’d have until noon before I’d leave but not so. A loud knock on the door? ‘

‘Quien es?’ I ask behind the door.

‘Your 9am wake up call his here! We are cleaners can you open the door?’ Came the reply.

Gone were my plans of a leisurely morning coffee and shower.

I packed up quickly and headed over to the hostel.

It was very close to the apt, literally straight down a street near our apt. Picked up a coffee along the way.

Was able to actually check in and get a room despite the early hour, they said they had an open bed.

Joined Alex in the lobby, we were off to meet his friend and perhaps get some lunch.

His friend took us to a small cafe and told us to order moscatel, a local wine drink. It was good and I’m not a big wine fan. It wasn’t sangria but wine, spice and fruits.

Our friend had to leave after a couple glasses but showed us a couple vegetarian spots.

We settled on a Middle East place and I saw moussaka, a dish I’d heard of but never had.

Turned out it was eggplant and mushroom dish, vegetarian, it tasted good as did the jasmine rice. Big fan of jasmine rice.

It had looked like rain all morning but cleared up quite nicely after lunch. Beach time!

It was fairly expensive to rent an umbrella once on the beach,but Alex wanted one so he wouldn’t burn.

We took turns swimming and watching our stuff. Off to one side a woman is tanning topless, I note.

Many times guys walked by saying: Mojitos, cerveza, massage? Wait wtf, yes an older lady was offering a beach massage though I didn’t see anyone take her her offer.

So many guys walked by that saying no grew tiresome so I just laid down for some rays and wound up sleeping a bit.

When it was my turn to swim, I slowly waded in up to my knees before stopping. A bit chilly.

I look around and slowly eased in a bit at a time while children and parents splashed.

I resolved to just jump in water next time, get it over with vs this drawn out acclimating process. It’s the worst.

Floating in the water is one of the best things in the world. I smile wide, I did it, really did it! I’d gone on a long vacation and was swimming in the ocean in Europe on a Sunday.

After sunning and drying off awhile we had to pack up. A match was on later.

Back to the hostel for showers and change of clothes.

Metro to the one place we’d know the game would be on: Irish pub by La Famila!

Another bit of a blowout and this place isn’t serving food as they are packed and have a tiny kitchen.

We turn the corner and Alex spies a burrito joint, yep here it is. How we missed this place I don’t know as we walked by it many times.

A shockingly delicious burrito, a bit spicy even, awaited us, even got some cold ac here. The Irish pub is old and doesn’t have cold air though it sure needs it.

A couple doors down was the craft beer Barcelona bar so I took Alex in.

We had a couple pints, Alex even got a shot at last call, I had to use the restroom so I missed out.

We taxi back to the hostel, I made an argument it was a nice, short walk, Alex countered we’d walked enough the day before. Indeed.

I waved goodbye and said farewell. Good times with this guy in 2 countries.

Once again I would be alone.

Beer: San Miguel

Song: Aphex Twin Alberto Balsam

Dream trip day 44 Gaudi Park, walking, scenic city views

We agree to meet Alex in front of La Familia round noon 30.

Train up to Gaudi Park for its scenic view of the city.

We follow signs to the entrance and see hills and stairs at nearly 45 degree incline, fortunately there are escalators we can use most of the way up.

More stairs and we are at the top.  Might have had a good view but lots of trees block the city below.

One apt nearest the park has a message about consumerism and US for all to see: occupy and resist.

Find Gaudi’s house, museum. Seems the city wasn’t doing anything with this area so he redesigned it, now a major tourist stop.

Truly amazing views of the entire city from atop the park. You really gain a scale of how big La Familia is as its by far the largest structure in the city.

Back to the metro to the far south, near the port for more views from sea side.

We are heading to Park Grüell and Montjuïc castle, more walking up and we missed that there was a bus that drops off at several points along the mountain.

We get lost after ascending a hill and find ourselves walking near a highway.

Back up through a garden, round restaurants until we see gondola cars like you’d see at a ski resort.

We take a break, it’s got to be 80 and we’ve been walking up hills all day. Time for water and an ice cream.

We take refuge under a tree but soon a couple girls seated near us run away and point up: a group of birds are roosting in the trees and shitting at will.

We still aren’t sure what it is we are going to see when we reach the top but still solider on.

Cool views are about it as far as free attractions go once we reach the top. There is an old fort with admission but only Jeremy goes in to wander around.


The three of us find a bench and discuss Brexit and how English politics works. I learn MP literally means Member of Parliament, duh me!

We decide to head down to a small cafe for refreshments.

We learn how expensive the ride down in the gondolas is and it doesn’t end at the bottom either, stops about half way down so likely better for ascending trips.

Jeremy joins us and we all enjoy a beverage and a cool breeze for a change.

Jeremy locates the bus stop and sure enough a red bus swoops by to take us down the mountain!

We pass by the Olympic village that we thought was on the top of the park. Didn’t look like too much to see but you could walk around inside the stadiums.

The bus drops us off near La Rambla and we are in search of a bar to catch the evening match.

Usually we have no set destination for dinner or to catch games and while it can be frustrating and unsuccessful at times, most of the time we stumble on a great place like BrewDog, a Scottish brewery and they have several pubs throughout Europe, including Barcelona!

Got a seat next to huge screen and ordered burgers.

After returning from a restroom break I find a guy in my seat who then moves and remains at my feet the rest of the match. I’m shocked neither he or I kick over his beer resting near both our feet.

Alex is in town another day so we decide to meet up at his hostel in the morning.

Jeremy and Si have very early flights, sad to see them leave.

I figure I’ll stay at his hostel for the night too, seems close and inexpensive.

We make a stop at the groc store to get a couple beers.

The night ends watching a whodunnit murder mystery about an accountant at a resort. I don’t stay up to finish it but seems like he did it.

Song: Michael Bloomberg and Al Kooper Fat Grey Cloud (Live)
Beer: Five AM Saint

Dream trip day 43 FC Barcelona, Alex joins, more futbol 

Our friend Alex, who I hung out with in London, asked to join us in Barcelona as he had never been.

We texted and agreed to meet up when he was in town later that day.

Took the metro a long way to FC Barcelona stadium. Its a huge complex.

There are several restaurants and memorabilia shops leading into the arena.

A short wait and we had tickets. Self guided tour, just stay in the marked areas.

We enjoyed some grilled sandwiches before we entered the stadium.

The stadium is covered in the saying, mes que en club, more than a club. This phrase is no marketing ploy, the organization essentially begins as a political group who enjoyed playing futbol.

Over the years they’ve pushed for an independent Catalonian state, helped schools teach Catalan as well as youth soccer clubs. These are more like foster homes as many players are from rural, poor areas and move into the dorms.

What can I say, they had an impressive interactive history museum and I hipped myself to all this knowledge!

Oddly, there was a German bar near the stadium so we had a pint.

The beers are served by a lederhosen clad waiter who notices our FCB bag and mentioned that the club president is a regular, was just there a few hours ago, actually.

The day wears on but haven’t heard from Alex, so another beer.

Alex has landed but not at his hostel so we head back to the apt to meet him once he is ready.

He is staying close so it’s easiest to meet at La Familia as its a metro stop as well as something you have to see while in the city.

Post up at our fav Irish pub for the game and find Alex.

Beers and conversation flow.

The game is a blowout, 4-0 at half.

At the half we go in search of food to an Italian spot nearby.

Many discussions about futbol, Brexit and our previous destinations ensure over pizza.

Back to pub for last call and discuss the next day’s activities.

I become separated from the group and engage in a long talk with a local.

I made it about 1 min talking in Spanish as he asks me about why I’m drinking the most hipster beer in Barcelona.

‘Because Moritz is cheap!’  I Replied.

We laugh and switch to English, the others join.

Things are jovial for awhile, then turn dark as he talks about Spain, his soon to be born son and of course, immigrants.

He has decided to take off to Asia I think, out of the country as he is concerned about lack of jobs and Muslims, how is letting in foreigners in a depressed economy a good future for his family? He believed his kid may have to learn Islamic  customs and hey what about the hajib, maybe he will have a daughter someday? What about Christian traditions? Oh like nuns habits, where they cover their heads? But that’s different…

No movies tonight, been a long day.

Song: Freddie Mercury Barcelona

Beer: Moritz

Dream Trip day 40   Valencia to Barcelona, Santa Familia, craft beer

We had an afternoon train so breakfast was croissant and coffee.

Located a different train station than the one we arrived at as this one had a much faster train for some reason, guess it was an express vs local ?

Turned out train wasn’t a time saver after all. Just outside a city we stopped to pick up people, but waited longer than usual.

An announcement in Spanish states roughy an hour delay.

We were allowed to exit and I overheard the conductor explaining a car hit a train ahead so we had to wait until the wreck was removed from the tracks.

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Seems my Spanish is improving, at least my comprehension.

Si and I explored looking for beers, followed some guys to pub in the station but you had to exit the platform to enter.

Elected not to risk missing the train and found bev car that sold us cold beers.

The train took off just as we sat down so I’m not sure if the guys in the pub made it back in time.

Rolled into Barcelona and it was hot.

Negotiated the stunning amount of people around the Santa Familia cathedral.

Still impressively large, still under construction.


Our apt was a few blocks away and we located it with ease.

A cool local met us at the door arriving via motorcycle.

Our apt was one of the few I’ve seen with AC. It’s usually open a window for ventilation.

Decided to locate dinner and walked for blocks, even locating what seemed to be an authentic Mexican spot that was full.

Just sat down at the next spot on a corner with empty table, they were all tapas so likely all fairly similar.

Ordered Diablo sausage which was small, chorizo bits, in very greasy, red oil along with potato and cheese balls.

Jeremy once again had fried peppers and papas frites.

On the walk back to the apt we saw ‘craft beer Barcelona,’ we had to stop.

Had a few pints and likely since they were closing up, they gave us a plate of empanadas.

Santa Familia at night is quite a spectacle, probably because it’s finally quiet and you can see most of it as there are few tourists out.

Beer: La Rambla

Song: Micah P Hinson Yard of Blonde Girls

Dream Trip day 39   Valencia parks, nude beach, rabbit paella

Woke up round 10 and luckily we had a washer in the apt again.

Jeremy and Si did much better at picking Airbnb than I did. Theirs always had a washer, near metro and individual rooms.

Washed all clothes in what turned out to be the longest wash cycle I’ve ever encountered, over an hour.

Told them to get Bfest without me as I still needed dry time.

Met them at groc store near apt wearing damp clothes and we restocked the cupboard as we ate a noticeable amount the night before.

Jeremy and I picked up night beers for later.

We read the Valencia mercado was one of the oldest and best in Spain, it did not disappoint.

Huge indoor market with small vendors selling fruits, nuts, raw meats of all types plus a large fresh fish section.

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There were signs all over posting that Valencia had a unique and best horchata so I tried one.

It was much sweeter, made with rice milk and not chocolatey like Mexican style horchata.

I selected a couple meat, fish empanadas which where good and fresh. Larger than what I’ve seen in US, Mexico too, which are more bite size.

The entire city is surrounded by a park so I felt we should investigate it.

Walked through a lush green zone that used to be moat, then hunting grounds for royals, passing by many joggers and bikers.

Sat at small food stand and had a radler, beer with lemon.

Decided to get rail tickets so off to train station.

No discount this time, popular route.

I suggested we check out the pier, beach as it was only mid afternoon.

Long train ride and confusing transfer we missed to board the final train to beach so we had to walk through grimy neighborhoods enjoying the cool ocean breeze.

Found beach but no one into idea of feet in the sand so posted up at a pier restaurant for beers and views.

Restaurant overlooked the beach and several ladies were sunning topless.

I noted a couple wading in, woman covering up her chest while guy splashed her.

They ended up damn near going at it in the water so she loosened up and waded back to the beach exposed.

Navigated back to apt via several train changes.

Dinner mission was to find paella as we had to have it in country.

Located a nice spot near the apt and sat down.

Si told me Valencia paella is unique as its not seafood, but rabbit and chicken.

It was delicious, the rice had a crust on the bottom and sides plus rice was a bit wet too. Fall off the bone rabbit and chicken, super delicious.

Jeremy stuck again with peppers and bravas papas.

An older man sauntered up pulling an amp and guitar. Proceeds to sing a Spanish song.

Then he breaks into CCR Proud Mary and totally kills it to the cheers of many seated outside. He was very entertaining.

We walk around the cathedral after eating and it’s much better sight lit up.

Popped into the pub that held out apt keys for last call.

Back to the apt as we prepared for the early bar closing and enjoyed groc beers.

It sprinkled rain most of the evening, we were covered by a mesh net on the patio so we were unaffected.

Beer: Cruzcampo
Song: Patty Asher Let it Be

 

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Dream Trip Day 38   Madrid to Valencia by train

We awake and pile up my bedding onto the actual beds.
One of the nights, the small fan we borrowed from the entry was kicked and now had a broken foot so we stood it back up so it looked normal.

Quick metro ride to rail station. Now we could get a ticket to Valencia.

We got upgrade seats as they are running a special 1st class with 15% discount but we had to ask in order to obtain these tickets.

The train didn’t have many passengers, even in 1st class with discount. Lots of empty seats.

It didn’t occur to me a meal was included until the smell of pasta and chicken began to waft into our car.

This meal felt odd as our train ride was less than 2hrs so you got on, meal served and then you’re in Valencia.

A couple metro stops and many turns through a residential area and we had arrived.

The keys to our apt were in a small pub a block away, just asked guy for our hosts keys and we had them.

Our apt was a couple blocks from the wall that used to surround the city, a very large, tall door between two towers is now chained open, leading into old downtown.


Narrow cobblestone streets were the norm here, few cars.

Found a small pub and caught the final half of the afternoon match.

The big one was later that night so we had about an hour to find a cool pub.

Located an English pub and sat in the last seats at the bar.

Soon the place was beyond packed, shoulder to shoulder, hard to move.

The screen was behind us and due to the crush of people, made sitting very difficult.

We gave our seats to a couple girls in front of us as they asked us to rest due to walking around all day feet pain.

Everyone made a bit more room for the girls in chairs, but not for us. It was a good move as we now had a bit of standing room at the bar.

It was England vs Iceland game so lots of yelling at the screen by a large British contingent.

“They played like shite!” is the overwhelming consensus by the England fans as they file out.

I negotiated many people and stairs to find the restroom far in the back, only to return to see just Si. He said to follow him outside.

Jeremy was at a table with a couple girls. We sat down and chatted with them.

They were a new couple from England, the girl closest to me didn’t seem entirely gay as she placed her hand on my knee repeatedly and clung to Jeremy or my arm on several occasions.

She was really drunk I concluded. Confirmed when the waiter told us it was last call and she ordered a water then pulled out a 20oz soda bottle filled with gin from her purse.

We all took turns drinking her ‘water’ until it was empty, laughing and sharing stories about our apparently epic trip. The girls were impressed we’d been all over.

As it turns out most everything closed at midnight in our part of town so we had no food options. We had missed dinner as the English pub stopped food service prior to the match except for fries and chips, easy prepared options.

Back at our apt we found a surprisingly full fridge and well stocked shelf. Late Night cooking, combing ingredients not usually mixed but at this time of night went together perfectly.

Song: Miles Davis Concierto de Aranjuez (Adagio)
Beer: Maes