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Day 10: Czech list: Prague! Check!

Sunday, November 29

Mercedes Benz for a cab, not too shabby.

After spending our last full day and evening in Budapest, we finally got to our hotel around 10:30pm. As expected we were tired from all of the day’s excursions. We went to the business center and printed a few things we needed for Prague. All this time, for some reason, in my mind I had us leaving for Prague via Budapest’s Keleti station. So Nancy asked the front desk information how to get to Keleti via a taxi. Once I printed our itinerary, there was no “Keleti” word at all. I showed my printout to the front desk clerk, and he said, I was right, we weren’t leaving from Keleti. Instead, our bus to Prague leaves out of Nepliget. 

Oh man! So glad we checked. Once we got everything settled, we headed for our room, but instead of packing, Nancy fell asleep, while I wrote my Day 9 blog entry. By midnight, I decided to quit and sleep. Nancy, on the other hand, got her second wind, and she started to pack. Next thing you know, it was 4am, and we had to get up. We made it downstairs shortly before 5am, our cab driver was already outside waiting for us. The ride to Nepliget was quite short, roughly 15-20 minutes. Our bus departure time was at 6:15am.

To Prague by train or by bus?
Will gladly take Student Agency Express Bus…again!!

It’s a good thing that we got to Nepliget bus station early. I had no idea where to go to wait for our bus. I wasn’t exactly looking for a Greyhound bus, but it was a bus that I booked using a suggested website from one of the folks on TripAdvisor – Student Agency. I was told that no matter what we take, a bus or train, the travel time is pretty much the same (7-8 hours). The difference? There’s free Wi-Fi if we were to take a bus. That was the deciding factor. The Student Agency bus also offered free drinks, free entertainment (music and movies). The total for this 1-way bus ride for the 2 of us was only $33 USD.

So back to Nepliget, I couldn’t see any sign pointing to Student Agency, so naturally, I asked one of the guards. He asked me to follow him outside of the station and pointed across the street. The Student Agency buses do not leave from the bus station, but on marked spots outside of the station. It was a bit of a challenge looking for the sign outside, but Nancy and I followed our instincts and looked for the other visible sign – the crowd build up. Voila, that’s where we found our yellow Student Agency bus. We checked in, and found our assigned seats very close to the driver.
Researched and blogged by en route to Prague

 Once on board, we were told that the Wi-Fi works best once we are in the Czech Republic. I was kinda bummed, BUT, it actually worked out. Nancy and I slept like a log from 6am until 10:30 am, that’s when the bus took a 1/2 hour break at a gas station. After the break, I was already fully charged and started to write this blog. The internet was spotty in some areas, but it got better as we moved closer and closer to Prague. Overall, I was extremely delighted that we took a bus using Student Agency and would highly recommend it.

The bus arrived on time at 2:00pm at Praha Florenc bus station. I made arrangements for a private car service to take us from the station to our hotel. I was told to meet Donna, our driver, and she was waiting while she held a sign with my name right outside Burger King. She was very helpful, spoke English quite well, and gave us tips about our visit. We got to our hotel by 2:30pm. Thanks, Donna.

Welcome to Prague

Park Inn Prague
We finally made it to our next home, the Park Inn Prague. As I mentioned, this hotel stay is also at no cost to us due to using Club Carlson points we earned. First impression, the hotel looked new, and I was right, Matej (Matthew), the front desk receptionist, told us that the hotel was recently renovated six years ago. It used to to be a printing shop for newspapers. When we looked around, lots of blown up memorabilia of the old days prior to it becoming a hotel. Matej assigned us room 402, and we made our way to the elevator and then we stopped…..I said, wait a minute.

Ask and you shall receive
I wondered if I got an upgrade since Club Carlson Gold Members (which we are) get an upgrade. So I went back to the front desk, and asked if there was an upgrade available. After a few seconds, “how about a corner business suite with a 90-degree view of the Vltava River – the longest river in the Czech Republic?” Although he didn’t have to sell the idea to me, the business suite was three times larger than the original room he gave me. Gladly, I accepted. To our sweet suite, we headed straight!

We unpacked, rested for a bit, showered and headed back downstairs. We were able to get our transportation ticket directly from the hotel. The ticket was valid for all kinds of transportation – trams, metro (subway). The key thing that I read up on was the need to validate the newly purchased tickets – Subway: before entering the subway, buses and trams: right after getting on them.
Website pic of our corner suite

Off to see Prague
From the hotel, we made a quick right and walked down for a couple of blocks to the nearest tram stop at Vynto. The tram arrived, we validated our tickets in this yellow apparatus. After 4 stops (about a 10 minute ride), we made it to Staromestska, that was where the tram stopped. I remembered the map, and the place we were headed to was going away from the river (on our left side), therefore, we headed towards the right side. I followed my iPhone’s Google Maps and we were eventually led to St. Michael’s Monastery Baroque Hall. We had about 1 hour to kill before show time, and we didn’t realize that we were at the Old Town Square, home to many ancient building and magnificent towers and churches. Surrounding the square were the following notable sights – the Old Town Hall Tower & Astronomical ClockTyn Church and St. Nicholas Church.

Old Town Winter Holiday Fair
We must’ve timed this vacation perfectly. Everywhere we went to during this trip back to Europe, there was always a winter holiday market. Prague’s market boasted of loads of gastronomic proportions. We had to give the local food a try and opted for Old Prague Ham with cabbage potatoes

and bacon. It was quite deceiving because they posted the price by weight, but they served it huge portions. We, along with lots of tourists, received bigger portions than our minds had desired. Oh, well. I’m over it. Let that be a lesson-learned…..the ham though….it was juicy and tender. There goes our very first meal in Prague.

The Best of World Musicals
While we were still in Budapest, I checked a few Prague websites and looked at upcoming events. Once I saw the listing for Star Night with The Best & Famous World Musicals, it was a no brainer. Sold. Unlike the Opera in Budapest, this show was quite intimate. It was held in the Baroque Hall of St. Michael’s Monastery. There were no more than 100 seats. As we entered, we saw piano, a couple of harps and a slightly elevated stage. Nothing fancy here, until the performers walked in. It was not a full orchestra, just a lady who played the piano, and man who played the saxophone. 

There was one soloist. For about 1.5 hours, we were serenaded with a few holiday music, and then on to the best world musical songs. While the soloist sang 99% of the songs in English, it was her powerful rendition of Les Miserables’ On My Own that caught my attention. It was sung in the Czech language. I’ve heard that song sung a gazillion times, and it was just as magnificent in Czech as it was in English. Brava! I wish I had recorded that song on video. Another great moment was listening to Miss Saigon’s I Still Believe. It was not sung by the soprano, but it was a duet with piano and the sax. It was fantastic. There were no microphones, but the acoustics of the Baroque Hall made the sound hauntingly beautiful. That’s it, that was our first night in Prague. Thanks for following.

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