EuroTrip 2014: Getting There
Money belts were not invented with the vanity of middle-aged men in mind. You spend all that time trying to work it off (not very successfully) only to put it back on (much more successfully) in the form of money and passports. Seems unfair. You also wonder how necessary the thing is. Is it really safer than keeping my credit card in my front pants pocket? Or am I just insulting everyone around me? Excuse me while I dig out this money from the belt I only wear in your country because I don't trust any of the folks around here. Ultimately I only used it when we traveled from one city to the next. The rest of the time it was stashed.
Our two-week-long trip started well: a nice conversation at SeaTac airport gate with two young French women returning from visiting relatives in the states. (Their father is American, so they have aunts, uncles and cousins in Florida, Oklahoma and Washington state.) Both women are in law school and enthusiastic about the U.S. When I asked what they liked about the U.S., they mentioned, in order of increasing enthusiasm, the people, the cities, and the junk food. They were apparently returning to France with bags and bags of Cheetos. Fromage, schmomage.
Big news for me? I actually slept on the flight to Amsterdam. For five hours. I never do this. The key seemed to be some combination of beers, ear plugs, those nightshade eye masks they pass out on KLM, and Xanax. Even so, at Schiphol airport, I wasn't exactly wide awake, and thus a bit insulted by a Ryan Reynolds L'Oreal ad reading, “LOOK SHARP, NOT TIRED.” Nice airport message, Green Lantern. Note to L'Oreal (as with Microsoft): It's probably not good if the involuntary response to your ad is: “Fuck you.”
P, who didn't sleep on the flight over, and who had a low-blood sugar moment at Schiphol, felt nauseous for the quicker flight from Amsterdam to Prague, but recovered quickly. She'd booked, through our hotel, a cab ride into town, so we had a guy waiting for us and holding a BRADBURY sign. His name was Josef, and he turned out to be typically Czech: charming, multilingual, and with a face that looked like he could've played a mob extra in “Eastern Promises.”
The ride into Prague's old town, Staré Mesto, was picturesque, and just kept getting better, until, half a block from our hotel, we drove by the Powder Gate or Prašná Brána—a 15th century gothic gateway to the city. It was early evening of what seemed like a long day, but was in fact (for us) about four in the morning, so we had that groggy, stupefied feel. After checking in, we wandered a few blocks before taking the concierge's advice on a restaurant, Hybernia, just across the street from the hotel. I had the kabob, which was good, but P was less impressed with her food. P, newly gluten-free and vegetarian, knew she would be in trouble.
Our greeting in Europe after a long, tired journey.
First night in Prague: P in front of the Prasna Brana.
Again with the Prasna Brana: I could never capture its magnificence.
The first dinner.
My first kabob and Pilsner Urquell ... which you can get at Trader Joe's. *Fin*