Cheap Day of Bars and Fun: Prague

IMG_5057
Joystick Arcade Bar. Prague, Czech Republic. February 2019.

Every time I find that my travel budget has gone awry I don’t have to look much further than my stack of food and snacking receipts – and yes, I am counting drinks here since eating and drinking generally go hand in hand.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t indulge in some local cuisine – local food and drinks are huge parts exploring local culture – but I might suggest going somewhere properly local instead of somewhere set up for tourists or food you could get cheaper and still indulge your non-local food needs.

We accidentally spent a whole day bouncing around checking out the food and drinking scene – well, as much as you can dragging two teenagers (and their parents) around with you. I say accidentally because our plans for the day were short, not well thought out, and then kept falling through. We started at the Mucha Museum – it was fun but for the price, I don’t recommend it for people who aren’t already fans – and then went to the Jewish Cemetary but none of the tickets options suited us and were more expensive than our group was willing to put in.

For lunch, I broke my own rule, but in the end, it was well worth it. We had a few people who, for all their want of travel, could not handle eating out of their comfort zone; hence, we were on the hunt for a good burger joint.

We ended up at Sad Man’s Tongue Bar and Bistro in Old Town. This is an Ex-pat (the UK kind rather than the US), dressed in a hipster-retro vibe – it’s all pinups and the rockabilly sentimentality, rather than your usual US soda shop aesthetic you see in American counterparts. The burgers, fries, and every drink we ordered were fantastic. Just be aware that when they warn you about a large or messy burger, they mean it! For what I’d prefer to pay for lunch, this was expensive, but it was really reasonable for what we ordered.

On top of the aesthetic and food, we love this place because of the service and the awesome manager. Everyone was lovely but at the end of the meal Ryan (just being Ryan) struck up a conversation with what ended up being the manager – he really wanted to know what inspired the theme (we’d been discussing their accents and wondered if it was a big ex-pat crowd working and as customers). Turns out that most people working here are ex-pats but they get a huge mix of customers.

The conversation ended up leading to drinks on the house and the manager writing us a list of cool bars to check out. Some of these were just cool local hangouts, where others had more tourist draw but he said they were well worth it.

In the end, we ended up at two of his suggestions (and I am sad to say I misplaced this list between then and now).

First up was Hany, BanyUpon entering and first interaction, we were a little underwhelmed. This is definitely a locals place on a small street, and we were obviously not from around here. The bartender was a little terse, at least by American standards but the longer we sat, the better I felt about it.

The owner of this pub is a huge fan of Pulp Fiction, so posters and memorabilia are everywhere – this is the reason it ended up on our list. But the best part of this pub is that everything is cheap! We were only here for a drink and an easy afternoon, but we could have happily hit here multiple times to eat based on the smell of pub food and prices. I had a grog and it was a little different than I’d expected but I really enjoyed it. I think Hany, Bany is were Ryan convinced me that trying Grogs whenever they are on the menu should become our own personal tradition.

And then on the far end of the spectrum is the Joystick Arcade Bar. This one was a little bit harder to find (its entrance is inside a small shopping center) and going down the stairs made us a little apprehensive. But then you open the door!

Along one wall is a mural of classic videogame characters and then walls of videogames and pinball machines. You will need cash – you can exchange for coins at the bar – but it’s all really cheap. I didn’t get a drink here (our first two stops were enough for me) but Ryan and I loved playing Dance Revolution with the teenagers in the group. Ryan is far too good at this game, for anyone who is interested.

To keep things under control, you should definitely take out any cash you want to spend and you are cut off as soon as you run out!

Will I visit these bars when I head back to Prague this summer? Maybe. Even so, I will definitely be mentioning them as real possibilities.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Advertisements
Cheap Day of Bars and Fun: Prague

Planning Prague: Save Money

DSC_5172
Prague, Czech Republic. February 2019.

Anyone who has read this blog longer than the revival knows that I am a girl who likes to go with a plan. I am all for being spontaneous but if you want to see as much as you can and in turn save money that could be put towards future travels my answer is always the same: go in with research and a plan.

As I have said, now that I am married and traveling in very different circumstances, I am much more aware of every new expense in our lives and weigh the money we spend very carefully.

On top of all that, we were traveling with new people and every time that happens you have to take into consideration what other people may want to see, their budget, group or individual game plans, and their style of travel – but that is another post….

I tried to do something a little different this time around when it came to visiting Prague. I still used Google Maps – there really is nothing better for tracking where the things you want to see are and how long it takes to get from one to the other! – but instead of doing a day by day breakdown, I broke the city into parts and started from there:

Basically, I found that I had three areas, plus Charles’ Bridge that I would really want to explore:

OLD TOWN PRAGUE

We were staying just outside of Old Town so we walked through here pretty consistently. In this section was Church of Our Lady Before Tyn (which is one of the locations that inspired Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle), Old Town Hall and the Astronomical Tower,  and finally, The Estates Theater.

SOUTH OF OLD TOWN

This is all below Old Town but still walkable, at least if you have decent walking shoes which are kind of a must in Prague. South of Old Town is much more spread out but unless you have tons you want to do in this part of the city, it’s easiest to keep it all as one section.

The southern part of the city contains The Sex Machine Museum which is on the border of Old Town, The Mucha Museum, Wenceslas Square and the National Museum, and the Dancing House. There are also art pieces by David Cerny, a local street artist, throughout this section of the city, so just wandering is a great option here!

CHARLES’ BRIDGE

This one pretty much covers itself and it’s free unless you buy any of the knick-knacks from the vendors lining the bridge. The views of and from the bridge are spectacular, but beware of your timing! This is a huge thoroughfare so you can definitely get run over by human traffic if you stop in the middle and it’s so crowded getting a clutter-free picture really is impossible.

ACROSS THE RIVER

In terms of what to see and how you can save money, this side of the bridge is where you will probably spend the most time and money! You have The Prague Palace Complex which includes The Old Royal Place,’The Story of Prague Castle’ exhibition, The Cathedral of Saint Vitus, Saint Wenceslas Cathedral, The Church of Saint Adalbert, Saint George’s Basilica, Golden Lane (Daliborka and Powder Towers), and The Rosenberg Palace; Petrin Hill which houses a park and a couple of attractions (we’ll talk about these in a future post) as well as The Monastery and a couple other restaurant options; There are also a few beautiful gardens if you are there in spring or summer – namely The Grotta and Havlicek Gardens; and finally, Lennon’s Wall, however, I heard from friends that this one was pretty covered over by graffiti and underwhelming.


Now this isn’t to say we hit all of this, because it is a lot but had we made some different choices, our three days really could have handled this load. Still, that doesn’t answer how it saved us money.

Prague is a party town that is also full of history, so if you don’t plan on partying all weekend and you don’t mind wandering about 5 minutes outside of the tourist district, you really can find great places to eat and see for really cheap. It also seemed like everywhere that was touristy had pretty amazing deals for families, so as long as you avoid the traps, even a group with kids can save!

Let’s get the big one out of the way: The Palace Complex.

Talking about this will be a post all on its own, so we are going to stick to budgets here. The price for this attraction is broken down into different circuits that group the varied attractions within the complex so you can pick whatever works for your group. We picked Circuit A which has everything listed above after the Palace Complex – this had the best price for the most places within the complex.

Of course, it doesn’t cover everything; some things you can only purchase on their own, but it was an amazing day for Ryan and I. Plus, this ticket let’s you explore over the course of two days, so if you want to space things out, you absolutely can.

And again, about the affordability with children: Ryan and I spent the same amount of money on these tickets as our friends and their two kids! The only downside is that these family tickets requires the family stays together going into every exhibition and you can only enter them once – it is litterally one ticket for the entire family.

Going into the Towers at Old Town Hall and the Astronomical Clock have a similar family deal.

Petrin Hill can be a money hole if you don’t go in prepared (it is pretty minor, however, every penny matters, right?), especially because not all the attractionas are as good or strong as others but you can buy a ticket for about seven dollars to get into everything – I honestly recommend the Tower, but everything else is kind of a bust.

Finally, everything else of note was either around ten euros, for donation which gets used for upkeep, or completely free.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Planning Prague: Save Money

To Splurge or to Save.

180
A Disaster in Planning: The hours of misguided hiking with all our baggage (in more ways than one!). Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Summer 2013.

This week, I was talking to a friend who is planning a trip for himself and his family, and he was talking about how hard it is to stick to a budget and he has no idea where to cut corners that will not cause an uproar from the rest of his brood.

In planning any trip, this is one of the hardest questions you will be faced with and, unfortunately, there is really no cut and dry answer – no specific place you can always cut down on.

The question you really have to ask yourself is: what do you want out of your trip?

If you love food, why would you skip out on trying out local foods even if they pushed your budget a bit. If you can’t sleep unless only you are in a single room with all your luxuries, that’s where your money has to go (you cannot not sleep when traveling). And on and on and on.

This in no way means that you shouldn’t have a limit, but it does mean that you need to work on what you will regret giving up.

My friend is currently trying to convince his family that renting an apartment in London is the best plan since most of their budget has been spent on expensive lodging elsewhere. London hotels are so expensive and every flat I’ve rented has been cheaper yet very well maintained – really think about how you can get around those higher prices whenever you can and your budget will thank you.

On the other hand, my sister and I tried to skimp on lodging when we went on out UK trip which led to the disaster that was Stratford-upon-Avon. The hostel we booked was miles outside of city center which meant that by the time we walked there, all the sights were closed down for the day. I’m all for exercise, but I would have much rather have spent more money for closer accommodations that would have let me spend more time wandering rather than marching.

It’s really about what you are going to regret in either money you miss out on or in the experience you don’t get because you are worried about money.

In London, we went to an attraction called The London Experience which (thank god(!) was free) ended up being a bad cheesy historic horror show followed by a bad horror maze filled with all the worst features of horror mazes, including the dreaded, static-filled squeeze machine. Again, we got in for free because of the London pass, but otherwise we would have had to spend money because the description was bad and we assumed it was a real history tour.

Then in Edinburgh, we opted out of going through the castle because it was too expensive and we had plenty of other things to do. Now, however, I regret not just doing it. I’ve heard great things about it since coming home and would love to compare it to all the other castles I’ve explored.

Yes, these are all relatively small things in terms of the great scope of all the things you will do when traveling but you can never guarantee the chance to do these things again and you will have to go back out and pay your bills so the balancing act is an important one. Your best bet in all things is to find a happy medium and really work on the fine points of budget to travel.

It’s all pretty self-explanatory but if you want to plan it out research, research, research. Start with making a list of the things you don’t want to or can’t skimp on; food, lodging, castles, full tours, ect. or pick a theme you can’t miss out on and build from there. Keeping yourself specific and then building your working budget will truly be your best friend. Finally, leave wiggle room and don’t sweat days (as long as it’s not most days) that you go a bit over budget.

So go, plan, budget, research, wiggle and, as always, have fun!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

To Splurge or to Save.

Traveling (Comic) Cons…

5 days round trip to Boston Comic Con and the truth of the matter is: I am so tired.

Today is the fist full day back in the California time zone and, as I was barely on Boston time, I feel like my whole internal clock is stuck in Wonderland – time means practically nothing at all to my body right now. Add in some post-travel, recycled air crud, amplified by the ever present pot-con crud, and I’m not in tip-top shape.

But, alas, onto some big points on traveling for any kind of dress-up/costumed cons:

1. Check and double check your luggage

I have definitely pulled brain blanks multiple times in packing for cons and, as a complete detail-oriented freak, this never goes well. For my first Doctor Who convention, I bought solid white velcro shoes for one of my Rose Tyler costumes and, of course, I left the ruddy things sitting in my room. Luckily, we were an hour away from homeand my dad was coming into the area for a class so it was easy to meet up, say hi, and pick up my shoes. You can’t do this, however, if you have flown across the country.

So yes, check and double check all the details of every outfit and costume you’ve planned for your weekend and – at least for me – this means packing a few mundane outfits but I’ll cover that in a moment or two.

2. Look carefully at the time/season when you are traveling

Most people going to a con have bulky pieces and that is a major pain no matter what season you travel in, but in the peak seasons, this is just insane. It’s bad enough with more people bringing more carry-ons in lieu of high check-in costs overfilling the regular cabin space, but with clunky cosplay gear, this doesn’t work at all.

If you can de-bulk your cosplay, seriously consider it. Between lack of space, cost of multiple checked items,  damage in the transport process and chance of lost luggage, you may well end up without your gear (at least in any shape to wear proudly). However, if you are going to fight to bring your biggest and bulkiest – costs be damned – you must plan ahead. You should try and check in early as a few airlines will let you on in order of priority and check-in (this is if you are pushing the carry on limit). Secondly, you need to show up earlier than the airlines recommended time; this guarantees a higher chance of your bags getting onto the correct plane. If you are late to check in, only you are responsible for your bags not making it in, especially if you are checking multiple items – law of averages goes way up in a time crunch!

This includes post-con luggage! You may travel to the con with one carry on, but if you over shop, that can easily escalate and as stated earlier, travel space can just as easily become scarce. When packing, remember to leave space the first time around in your checked gear and you’ll be able to really work in souvenirs if you haven’t completely overindulged yourself.

3. Check the weather and make your costume choices accordingly

Just as your con gear can get bulky, generally this bulk also increases the heat of your outfit. While convention centers are generally air conditioned (if they are done correctly!) to the point of needing a sweater, there are always areas inside and out that are disturbingly warm.  If you are in a hot region, watch-out for fleece and layers or else make sure that you take breaks outside of your gear to cool down.

If you are close enough to your hotel, go back and forth from costume to mundane clothing as needed and if not, wear light mundane layers under your clunkier gear that you can take off periodically.

Also, take care of yourself. Drink lots of water and pack snacks; there are days where you will barely have time to use the bathroom let alone any of your other necessities. Speaking of, make sure you can move and do things like use the bathroom without help – no one really wants to be your bathroom friend, no matter how much they love you.

4. Plan your budget to suit what you can actually afford

Cons have all the nerd gear you could ever want – and most that you will never need – and all of it more than your wallet can stand in a single weekend. From gadgets, to costumes, to trinkets, to photographs and autographs, everything at the con has a steep price that can add up quickly when you aren’t paying attention.

If you plan out your costs before heading out – buying what you can ahead of time, having money on hand, ect. – you’re much more likely to stick to your budget. Also, make sure that budget fits your lifestyle. If you have a lower income, you can’t spend your whole rent or food budget on trinkets that you are never going to use. Be sensible, nerds!

5. Make a plan to combat your jet lag

Cons are generally short lived – Boston was a weekend which we extended to five days with travel – and therefore, you will barely get used to the time zone you are in before heading back home, leaving you in a state of weird time-limbo.  You can push all the caffeine (beware of the crash) and fluids you want but you really just need to get yourself out on that first morning and go.

Our first morning, my dad and I were scheduled for a 6:30 50 minute run and, between the adrenaline and endorphins, I felt more awake than I expected after getting through the workout. Just make sure to fuel up after because jet lag, no food, and in a calorie deficit, you will not make it through the day.


 

There are obviously many more things that are vital for you to have a successful con and I’d love to hear some of your top things to remember. This being said, I loved Boston Comic con – small enough to handle but wider appeal than my regular stop – but I’ll probably just be sticking to my local favorite, Gallifrey One, for the foreseeable future.

Many more topics to cover from this quick trip, but until the next time,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Traveling (Comic) Cons…

A Pre-Road Trip Check List…

A bit ago, I wrote a post on my desire to get back on the road. Well, this weekend I will get that chance, though not as I had originally planned.

It’s one on my college friend’s final recital up at Sonoma State University, so this weekend my best friend and I will be taking a familiar 6 hour road trip that I haven’t taken in just over 3 years.

We’ve made this drive many (many!) times, but on each trek I was always the one driving…. faster than I probably should have. But this time around, I’ll be sitting in the passenger seat and doing my very best to stay awake… which is more than my regular passengers can say!

While there are definite must-haves when you decide to take off (your favorite snack foods, drinks in a cooler, you know, sustenance!), there are also things to negotiate between your party. Some of these just deal with cost – who covers gas or food and what your manageable and agreeable budget is – while others are just to make sure you and your companions aren’t bored out of your minds.

So budget is really first since that’s the hardest thing to talk about, and if you don’t have the conversation, one person will always be left holding the bag. You and your companions will have to figure this on your own but you must have this talk before going! Trust me, it will save you many headaches.

While I am a fan of fashion and style, if you are in a car for an extended period of time, fashion should take a back seat. Skinny jeans don’t have great stretch or give and shorts or small skirts make your legs/leg sweat stick to your seats. I’m opting for some easy leggings and a long shirt, throw in some boots and a hoodie of warmth. Again, like prepping for an airplane: easy, comfortable, and movable.

As long as there is more than one person, you should have “games” on hand. I’m not talking games like punch-buggy – I’m not allowed to play this game as I’ve been deemed to competitive and aggressive… – or the license plate game.

My best friend and I are total nerds so we’ve recently gotten to highly academic debates over nerdy topics – the most recent was: which would you rather have the Doctor’s (of BBC’s Doctor Who) TARDIS or psychic paper? Can you guess who won?

I like these fun nerd-offs because you can pull from all over the logical spectrum and note episodes if you want. It not only tests your knowledge but gives you quite the lively conversation as well – this helps with the not falling asleep thing. Also, unlike all the purchasable games available now, debates are free! Just steer clear of topics that will cause animosity more than fun whether this be politics, your favorite Doctor, or Marvel/DC.

The other thing that can help you in the case of falling asleep – or better yet, not falling asleep – is a killer playlist. Just like everything else in this situation – you are trapped in a tiny space with other people with no real way of getting out – music must be a mutual decision. Whether this is a mixed playlist that pulls joint or a few of everyone’s favorites or just a rotation of everyone’s favorite radio stations, keep the tunes peaceable.

Just remember, if you opt for radio, if you are going any sizable distance, the radio will eventually cut out the stations you know and you’ll be flying musically blind! Never fun.

So clothes, games, music, money, and food… so the only thing left to consider (along with money) is planning for sleep on journeys lasting longer than a day. This ends with deciding if you want to plan ahead going from point A to hotel B to motel C and so and so forth, or if you want to go as far as you possibly can in a day and then see what’s around when you are able to stop. Either way, it’s good to talk this all out before leaving home to make sure everyone in your party is comfortable.

That’s all and I can’t wait to feel the wind in my hair!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

A Pre-Road Trip Check List…

Cheating or Smarts?

Some quick tips to visiting the Greenwich Meridian.

VIew from the top. Greenwich Observatory hill, Greenwich, England. Spetember 2015.
View from the top. Greenwich Observatory Hill, Greenwich, England. September 2015.

There are so many things to do in Greenwich beyond just standing on a line marked inthe ground (not that that isn’t reason enough for some visitors). From visiting universities to the maritime museum to wandering the cute streets and shops to boat trips to the observatory, this area can easily fill a weekend(+) or a quick day trip given your availability.

But—as covered constantly—you always have to consider some money factors when traveling through pretty much any area.

While the usual wandering around town is sure to save you quite a bit of money—as well as packing a lunch that you can enjoy out on Greenwich Park—here are a few more tips of the money saving variety.

We’ll start off more traditionally and say planning! Plot out your travel including times to find the best and cheapest way to Greenwich. Depending on where you are coming from, you may be using multiple types of transport which (depending on how you are paying for it) can start to add up. Luckily, if you are using an Oyster card, this maxes out relatively quickly on trips like these, so you aren’t spending too much compared to the distance traveled.

Also, if you do have an Oyster card, you can get discounts for the cable car, if don’t mind the heights and spending a little money, that is.

If you are trying to stick with the free model for this visit, however, you should try visiting The Maritime Museum, The Queen’s House, and Greenwich Naval College. These are all right next to each other and run along Greenwich Park.

On a less traditional route, let’s consider why most of us head out to Greenwich in the first place: visiting the Greenwich Meridian Line. The main space where this line is mapped out is held inside the Royal Observatory and this area is chalk full of things to go and see… but they also cost you.

Therefore, if you want the official picture, this also costs you.

If you want to see everything that the admission ticket gives you and you have the time for it, it is definitely worth a look. If you don’t, however, but don’t want to miss the photo op, there are two less conventional options to save that cash:

First, if you can find Park Vista Street—near Park Row Gate—and take a careful stroll down it, you’ll come across a row of large metal dots and a little plaque nearby: these are denoting the Meridian just as much as the one in the courtyard but for nothing more than the time it takes to stroll down the street.

I walk the line. Greenwich Prime Meridian Line, Greenwich, England. September 2015.
I walk the line. Greenwich Prime Meridian Line, Greenwich, England. September 2015.

The second way in is a little sketchy but easier. When you are at the top of the hill looking at Flamsteed House (the building with the big red ball), look to the left and you’ll see a black gate where people (who paid for the ticket, mostly) are exiting. You can open this gate from the outside and walk a few feet and there you will find a smaller but still very real golden line marking the path of the Meridian line.

While this feels sketchy, there is no sign telling you not to enter, no security stopping you, nothing. Basically, it’s an honor code or as my friend decided “a savvy traveler test.”

This is just a judgement call: if it bugs you too much, don’t do it; if it doesn’t, go for it. I still recommend subtly and taking the picture quickly, but, hey, do what you need to do, right?

Anyway, hope you find this useful and travel well,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Cheating or Smarts?

Book Nerd: The Strand, NYC.

A different kind of book store.

A tiny glimpse. The Strand bookstore, New York City. March 2015.
A tiny glimpse. The Strand bookstore, New York City. March 2015.

If you end up in New York City, there really isn’t a shortage of sights to see and things to do. But as a book nerd, you are also spoiled for choice when it comes to really interesting bookshops to check out (and there are tons of lists to check out for ideas).

When it comes to beauty (at least form the outside), the Strand won’t stick out much, but if you have an afternoon to wander the stacks, you won’t be disappointed.

Upon walking in, the atmosphere makes me feel almost as if I’m walking into a book version of Ollivanders—a magical place where you could wander for hours waiting for the right book to find you. However, I also felt a bit like Belle walking into the Beast’s library—I could wander here forever and never run out of new worlds to explore.

What makes the Strand really unique is that it’s more than just a book store for the new, but a place you can go to buy or give used books a chance to be discovered and turned into someone else’s favorites through the Book exchange on the first floor; this supplies the cheap and used book carts that surround the store on the outside.

The floor map. Strand Bookstore, New York City. March, 2015.
The floor map. Strand Bookstore, New York City. March, 2015.

If you are looking to get in and out of a store with exactly what you want quickly, efficiently, and without much fuss, this is probably not the store for you. This isn’t to say you couldn’t manage the task, but you’d probably have to go directly to one of the help stations and have them find and retrieve the book for you. Why?

The stacks of the Strand are so tall and close, at times it was hard to see what books lied along the very top shops, let alone get to those books if the one you want is up there (and unlike the Parisian stores I’ve been to, there aren’t any public access ladders to make use of).

However, even though the store sometimes feels like an overwhelmingly large maze, everything is pretty neatly laid out with a clear and handy map next to the stair case. With four floors (more like three and a half nook) of books to wander, it’s a good thing too.

As we’ve talked about, there are tons of different kind of book nerd nirvanas and if you are a wanderer with a taste for in a mix of new prints and books with character and storied pasts and no shortage of time and a desire to wander and explore, the Strand is the place for you, my book nerd.

I’ll be honest, I had originally not planned to visit The Strand—my trip was so busy, time wasn’t really my own with the amount of people with us, and the store didn’t really stick out among any of the lists I was looking at.

Beautiful Classics. The Strand, New York CIty. March, 2015.
Beautiful Classics. The Strand, New York City. March, 2015.

But thank goodness it ended up along our path between destinations on a relatively empty afternoon (as I’ve mentioned, the people I was with weren’t really seasoned for the long walking/exploring days needed to get the feel of a city that never sleeps—most ended up sitting around as my sister and I explored the shelves only to hop in a taxi to the hotel to call it a night—in the middle of the afternoon!)

Anyway, despite what you may see in the picture lists that talk about the NYC bookstores ‘you must see when you have the chance’, the Strand is a great stop to go and explore the world of new and old books—and unlike the library, you get to keep the books! So go for it, Book hoarders, and explore. I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed in your afternoon among the shelves.

I know I wasn’t.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Book Nerd: The Strand, NYC.