Tag Archive: family

What? Bones in a church??

What? Bones in a church??

Last September we visited the “Bone Church” in Kutna Hora with my friend, Elsa.  It was such a strange, creepy place!

Ahhh, another quaint European church...not!!

Ahhh, another quaint European church…not!!

Looks can be deceiving. It looks picturesque and peaceful from the outside.  But on the inside it is no ordinary church.

The graveyard on the church grounds.

The graveyard on the church grounds.

It looks as if the Adams Family decorated the church! All of the decorations inside the church are made from human bones. Seriously??  Seriously!!

The next logical question is: Where did the bones come from?


The chandelier contains every bone in the human body!

The bones come from the victims of plague in the 14th century, and from victims of the Hussite wars in the 15th century. Thousands were killed in these events; apparently they were buried in mass graves on the church property.

This is the coat of arms of the Swarzenburger family.

This is the coat of arms of the Schwarzenburg family, who used to own the church.


Close up of the coat of arms above: worthy of Pirates of the Caribbean!

Why so many bones in one place, you ask??

The legend goes that the abbot of Sedlec monastery, known as Jindrich, brought back a handful of soil from his travels to Palestine, and sprinkled it on the cemetery. This made it a popular burial site for the nobility of Central Europe.



The number of burials outgrew the available space during the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century. So they began to dig up the older remains and stored the bones in the chapel.

The decorations came from the bones of 40,000 people.

It is estimated that the chapel contains the bones of 40,000 people!

There’s an urban legend  that a monk went crazy and made things from the bones. Another legend is that the bones were first piled in geometric shapes by partially blind monks who were taking care of the chapel. Sounds like an answer my nephew Aaron would make up while playing the game Balderdash (a game where you make up crazy answers to questions and try to get the other players to believe you)!!


The Schwarzenberg family bought the monastery in 1870, and they commissioned a local carver, František Rint,  to  get creative with the bones…as “a reminder of the importance of human life and inescapable death.”

Am I really posing next to a chandelier of human bones? Odd!!

Smile for the camera while we pose next to a chalice made of bones surrounded by skulls: STRANGE!!

You can find out how to get to Kutna Hora from Prague here:


A big thank you to my friend Elsa, for these photos. My camera battery had died on the way.

After you leave the church, shake off the creepy feeling, and walk on to the picturesque town of Kutna Hora, a UNESCO World Heritage site. I’ll write another post to show the “lovely side” of Kutna Hora!

While doing research for this post, I found this awesome quote by Greg, writer of  Outside Prague, a great website about the lesser known towns and cities of the Czech Republic.


Greg writes:

“Visitors to the bone church often describe it as macabre, eerie or creepy and I once asked the lady at the desk if she ever felt bothered to be working there. She flipped her hand in a dismissive way and said “Pfft! They’re only bones, they won’t hurt you; it’s the living who scare me”.

Good point.”

From the castle walls!

From the castle walls!

We have hosted more than 50 guests since we moved to Prague in 2011!  Many more will visit us this year. Below is my top ten list of things to see and do in Prague if you have only a short time.  I’ve also included our favorite inexpensive restaurants (main dish for under 200 CZK ($10/8E) near the sites.

1. Prague Castle and Gardens

Take a picnic lunch with you to the gardens.  Or stop at the outdoor restaurant on the way down the hill to Malostranska. It is surrounded by an ancient vineyard and has the most spectacular views of Prague.  They usually advertise dessert and coffee for 99 CZK($5/4E)…other items are quite expensive.

See my post for insider tips about Prague Castle:


The view of the castle from the gardens.

The view of the castle from the gardens.

2. Charles Bridge and Old Town Square

Going inside the clock tower is quite interesting. By some crepes (palacinky) from one of the food stalls in the square and enjoy the excellent people watching opportunities.  Don’t eat at one of the cafes around the square unless you don’t mind paying exorbitant prices!

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

Old Town Square in 2010.

Old Town Square in 2010.

3. Jewish Quarter and Museums

Allow several hours to see this area, as there are six sites to visit in the Josefov district. Here’s a link to find out information about the ticket costs and other information:



The Jewish Cemetary

The Jewish Cemetery

My friend took this photo in the Spanish Synagogue before we were told no photos are allowed.

My friend took this photo in the Spanish Synagogue before we were told no photos are allowed.

Find your way to the Cartouche restaurant for an interesting atmosphere and decor that makes you feel like you are in a tavern from the 1700’s. It has a pricier menu but there are a few Czech and other dishes for 199-249 CZK.


Inside the Cartouche.

Inside the Cartouche.

Celebrating our 10th anniversary last year!

Celebrating our 10th anniversary last year!

4. Wenceslas Square

It’s a pleasant walk from Old Town Square to Wenceslas Square.

This is looking towards Old Town Square. The blue building will be on your left if you are in OT Square heading for Wenceslas Square.

This is looking towards Old Town Square.

Nate with dear friends Curt and Sandra, AKA Doc and Marmee.

Wenceslas Square with dear friends Curt and Sandra.

The Powder Tower and Municipal house are also a short walk away from Wenceslas Square.

The Powder Tower. There's an interesting little museum inside.

The Powder Tower. There’s an interesting little museum inside.

This is the view from the Powder Tower.

This is the view from the Powder Tower.

If you have some time, stop in at the Museum of Communism…

LOVE this sign!!

LOVE this sign!!

If you are hungry, try one of our favorite restauranst in Wenceslas Square: O Balouna.  It says “Traditional Czech Restaurant” on the outside. Here’s the website:



It’s a few doors down from the Thai Massage place with big tanks of water in the window, where tourists sit with their feet in the water, allegedly getting their dead skin nibbled away by the fish. I say allegedly because my friend Elsa tried it and didn’t notice a difference…but it was a great photo op!

She said it tickled!

She said it tickled!

Elsa attracted lots of attention...she is in photos of other random tourists who stopped to watch.

Elsa became a tourist attraction…she is in photos of other random tourists who stopped to watch!

5.  Stroll along the river and rent a paddle boat.

Take a walk along the river from Charles Bridge heading south. After passing another bridge (Most Legii) and the National Theater (Narodni Divadlo)  you’ll see a small bridge leading to a little island (Slovanski Ostrov) which is pleasant to walk around.  You can rent paddle boats from here.

Our river walk in 2011.

Our river walk in 2011.

When you are ready for a meal, enjoy one of our favorite restaurants, Club Cestavalu (Caravanserai on the sign outside, a mint green building across the street from the island). The food is Arabic and Lebanese, with Indian menu choices as well. They have unusual photos of exotic places as part of their decor.  They also have some free exotic snacks for the brave of heart (which I was not)!


What are they holding? Why does Nikolas look like he is going to throw up?

What are they holding? Why does Nate look like he is going to throw up?

Fried grubs! Nate and Andy said they tasted like fried styrofoam!

Fried grubs! Nate and Andy said they tasted like fried styrofoam!

Another favorite restaurant of ours is Grosseto’s Marina. We love taking guest here because the views of the city and of Charles Bridge are spectacular, and the prices are reasonable.


The view from the boat is outstanding.

It looks like a boat but it isn’t.

6.  Take a boat cruise on the Vltava River.

There are many different companies with a variety of cruise options, from a quick one hour spin to a several hour dinner cruise.  Our favorite is Prague-Venice, because it is a one hour cruise on a small boat which takes you through some hidden canals as well as along the Vltava.  Currently it costs 290 CZK ($14/11E) and includes a drink and ice cream.  You can buy tickets from the guys in white sailor suits at the end of Charles Bridge on the Old Town side.


You can see the boat sign behind Nate. We also went to a concert in the church behind him.

This is the area to buy the tickets. Taken in 2010

Cruise with Grandma and Grandpa, summer 2012.

Cruise with Grandma and Grandpa, summer 2012.

There are several other options.  I have heard good things about the Jazz Boat.


We did a dinner cruise with the Zidek family. That's Vikki and me:)

We did a dinner cruise with the Zidek family. That’s Vikki and me:)


Sunset is a great time for a cruise!

There’s also another cruise option, free with your transportation ticket!  It’s a little boat that zigzags along the river; especially fun for kids. We found it when we were walking along the river and hopped on.

The free boat (with your valid public transport pass).

The free boat (with your valid public transport pass).

7.  See an opera or ballet.

We  have seen three operas and one ballet and have really enjoyed them…even Nate (although he looks bored in the photo below)!  You can pay a lot of money to sit up close, or you can sit up high in the middle for 480-530 CZK ($25/20E) at the Prague State Opera. You will have a great view of the stage and orchestra, and the acoustics are great.

If you forgot to pack your opera clothes, it’s ok…at least in the cheap seats:)

The Prague State Opera House.

The Prague State Opera House.

Buy your tickets from Bohemia Tickets.  They don’t add a surcharge like other sites.  You can purchase them online, or get them when you are in Prague.  Go to the Mustek metro stop and follow the Na Prikope exit. The address is Na Prikope 16.  If they try to tell you they don’t sell the lower price tickets, tell them a local friend told you that they are available (unless they are truly sold out, which you can verify online).


In front of the Estates Theater.

In front of the Estates Theater.

8.  Go to a classical music concert in one of the beautiful churches or other historic buildings like the Rudolfinum or the Municipal House.

We went to one at Saint Salvatore Church and loved it! The music, acoustics, and atmosphere were outstanding.

Waiting for the concert to start.

Waiting for the concert to start.

9.  Take the funicular up to Petrin Hill.

It’s free to ride the funicular with your valid transportation ticket.  Take a picnic lunch and enjoy it in the gardens at the top. Climb the “Prague Eiffel Tower”.

There's a nice view of Prague waiting...

There’s a nice view of Prague waiting…

Kids--big and small--will love the mirror maze at the top.

Kids–big and small–will love the mirror maze at the top. Taken in 2010.

Head down the hill...

Head down the hill…

Quench your thirst with the world's best beer--or apple juice:)

Quench your thirst with the world’s best beer–or apple juice:)

10. Take a day trip to Karlestejn Castle.

The castle was founded in 1348 by King Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor. It is easy to get here by train from Hlavni Ndrazi.  See the websites below for how to walk to the castle from the train station…it’s good exercise!  The town below the castle is very picturesque, with many options for restaurants and shops.  Souvenirs are cheaper here than in Prague.



Taken with our friend Vanda in summer 2010.

Taken with our friend Vanda in summer 2010.

This was taken in March...the views are more spectacular in spring, summer and fall.

This was taken in March 2012…the views are more spectacular in spring, summer and fall.

It's pretty fun to stand on a real drawbridge!

It’s pretty fun to stand on a real drawbridge!

So, that’s my list!  There are so many more wonderful things to see and do in Prague.  I’ll get to them in a future post.  Are there any other places you would count in a top ten list?

Plaza de Espana, Seville

Plaza de Espana, Seville

We had a wonderful eleven-day vacation in Spain last month.  We visited Seville, Cordoba and Granada.  Usually we use public transport when traveling, but discovered going by train within Spain is very expensive.  We stayed with friends in Seville and Granada, but the location in Granada was outside the city, so we needed to rent a car.

Since I am the family travel agent, I went online to research car costs, and was delighted to find a compact car that cost about $34 a day with insurance included.

The Alcazar gardens in Seville.

The Alcazar gardens in Seville.

When it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t good or true!  Here are our lessons learned:

Tip #1: Go with a well-known, proven agency and read the fine print in the offer.

I didn’t.  I LOATHE reading fine print! We booked with Marbesol. Marbesol?? When we arrived to pick up our car, we discovered that we had a “meet and greet: pick up with a full tank and bring it back empty”.  Sounded good to me when I booked, but I didn’t read that “the company may charge you for gas”.  We were told that we would have to pay 108 Euros for the privilege of bringing the car back empty (no refund for a partially full tank) AND we’d have to pay an 800 Euro deposit because the insurance didn’t cover everything. The car was tiny, and we knew a tank of gas would be much less than 108 Euros. Our other choice was to pay 129 Euros, which included full coverage, but we had to bring the car back with a full tank.  So, we chose the second plan. Our good deal was now a not-so-good deal.


The Albayzin in Granada

Tip #2: Read the contract carefully before you purchase.

Full coverage may not be full coverage!  When we returned our car, the couple ahead of us had the misfortune to have a fender bender.  Nothing serious, but they were relieved that they had purchased full insurance. The agent congratulated them on having full coverage and said they only had to pay 245 Euros for the time the car would be out of commission for repair work.  They argued that they had full coverage; but the agent said it didn’t cover the days the car would be out of commission.  ARRRGGHHH!

The Albayzin; the Moorish quarter of Granada.  Notice the Alhambra in the background!

The Albayzin; the Moorish quarter of Granada. Notice the Alhambra in the background!

Tip 3: Don’t pay for insurance with a third party company when you book the car online.

The few times that we have done this, the “independent party insurance” never covers enough, so you end up purchasing additional insurance from the car rental company.

We got to see an authentic flamenco concert. We were the only tourists there!

We got to see an authentic flamenco concert. We were the only tourists there!

Tip #4: If you are going to a major European city, don’t rent a car!!

Even if you park it and use public transport, parking fees are 15+ Euros a day. Public transport is usually much more efficient and cost effective.


The amazing Mezquita Mosque-Church in Cordoba.

Tip #5: If you do rent a car, rent the smallest possible car that will fit you and your baggage.

Our car was tiny, but driving in Granada was very stressful because there were dozens of tiny one-way streets that would be more aptly called alleys.  They had treacherous two foot metal posts about six inches on either side of the car that lined the alleys (to prevent parking).  The street/alleys were so narrow that Andy sometimes had to do a three or four point turn just to make a right or left turn!

Parking garages often have insanely small parking spaces, with only about eight-foot aisle between the front of your car and the car opposite.  We spent almost thirty minutes trying to get our tiny car into a tiny parking space!


That’s how close another car parked to ours!

Tip #6:Update your GPS!

Our Garmin is two years old, and as we were driving to the airport there was a split in the road in real life, but only one road on our Garmin.  Then our Garmin told us we were driving on unpaved roads and wanted us to turn around, when in reality we were on a newly built highway.  Fortunately we eventually found our way to the rental agency, but there were a few stressful moments!

We will do another car rental for a Germany-Italy-France trip in the summer, and we will hopefully learn from our own mistakes.  We hope you can learn from our mistakes as well!  Do you have any tips for us?

The Alhambra!

The Alhambra!

We recently went to Spain for our Easter holidays.  After visiting Sevilla we went to Granada. The Alhambra is amazing!  Enjoy the photo essay:)

Tip #1:  Book your tickets to the Alhambra as soon as possible; it gets booked up well in advance. You will be given a morning or afternoon or evening time, with a specific time to enter the Nasrid Palace.

Tip #2:  Try to see all of the rest of the Alhambra complex before your time to enter the Nasrid Palace.

You enter and can stroll through the Alhambra complex until it's your time to enter the Nasrid Palace.

You enter here and can stroll through the Alhambra complex until it’s your time to enter the Nasrid Palace.

Granada is the capital of the province of Granada, in the region of Andalusia, Spain.

Looking out over the Albayzin, the Moorish Quarter.

Did you know…….?

The view from the Alhambra, looking over the Albaicin, the old Moorish Quarter.

Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains by the Darro and Genil rivers.

This is the palace of Charles V, Grandson of Isabelle and Ferdinand.

This is the palace of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, grandson of Isabella and Ferdinand.

You can read more about Charles V here:


Now we are in the Nasrid Palace.

This was the view from the Nasrid palace for the sultans of Granada, and later for Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, and their descendants.


The rooms, courtyards, and gardens inside the Nasrid palace are stunning!


The city has been inhabited since the dawn of history; first by Ibero-Celts, then by Greeks, followed by Romans and Visigoths.


Moorish forces under Tariq ibn-Ziyad first took the city in 711.


Granada was a Muslim kingdom for almost 800 years.

It became the capital of a province of the Caliphate of Cordoba.

It became the capital of a province of the Caliphate of Cordoba.

The ambitious Ibn al-Ahmar established the longest lasting Muslim dynasty in Spain : the Nasrids.

The ambitious Ibn al-Ahmar established the longest lasting Muslim dynasty in Spain : the Nasrids.

The Nasrids aligned themselves with Ferdinand III of Castile in 1238, and became a vassal state of the Christian kingdom of Castile for 250 years.

The Nasrids aligned themselves with Ferdinand III of Castile in 1238, and became a vassal state of the Christian kingdom of Castile for 250 years.

The Nasrid sultans were responsible for building most of the palaces in the Alhambra.

The Nasrid sultans were responsible for building most of the palaces in the Alhambra.

In 1492 Muhammad XII (known as Boabdil to the Spanish) surrendered Granada to Ferdinand and Isabella, Los Reyes Católicos, after a long siege.

In 1492  Boabdil  surrendered Granada to Ferdinand and Isabella, Los Reyes Católicos, after a long siege.

The 1492 Alhambra decree forced the predominantly Muslim population to convert to Roman Catholicism or face death.

The 1492 Alhambra decree forced the predominantly Muslim population to convert to Roman Catholicism or face death.

Many fled the inquisition to their ancestral lands in North Africa.

Note the intricacy of the work behind Andy.

The gardens were lovely!

Many Muslims fled the inquisition to their ancestral lands in North Africa. The Jews were also expelled after the Alhambra decree.

The fall of Granada ended the eight hundred year long Islamic presence in the Iberian Peninsula.

The fall of Granada ended the eight hundred year long Islamic presence in the Iberian Peninsula.

Isabella's prodigy Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas, leading to the Spanish Empire, one of the largest world empires for hundreds of years to come.

Isabella’s prodigy Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas, leading to the Spanish Empire, one of the largest world empires for hundreds of years to come.

Tip #3:  Get the following historical novels  to learn more about these fascinating people and the amazing Alhambra:

I read an excellent book, The Queen’s Vow , by C. Gortner.  It was a historical novel about Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.  It made the Alhambra, Granada, and Seville come alive for me. Gortner’s second book, The The Last Queen: A Novel, was about Isabella and Ferdinand’s daughter, known as Juana the Mad, was also excellent.

Did you know that Isabella and Ferdinand’s youngest daughter, know to history as Katherine of Aragorn, was the first wife of Henry VII?  Phillipa Gregory’s The Constant Princess  is a great book about Katherine’s(born Catalina) life, including her early years spent in the Alhambra, after the conquest.

We also got the Kindle Edition of Rick Steve’s Spain 2013 and really liked it.  I usually prefer Lonely Planet guide books, but I had read bad reviews about how their ebook functions.

So, that’s the Alhambra! What do you think of it?

My Amazing Year!

My name is  Nate  and I’m seven years old.  Tomorrow I start the new school year.  I’m excited to go back to school!  But first I want to tell you about my amazing year.

It started during the big winter storm in February 2011.  My mom and dad told me we were moving to Prague! My dad got a teaching job there. We had a big garage sale, sold our house, and  then flew to Prague in July 2011.

Now I live near a castle!  I go to a great school with great teachers.  We get lots of breaks during the school year.

View of Prague Castle

During the October mid-term break we went to Barcelona, Spain. It was just 2 1/2 hours to fly there.  I got to see Park Guell, designed by Gaudi.  Mom says he is a famous architect. I think he was inspired by Dr. Seuss!

Parc Guell, Barcelona.  Missing my two front teeth!

The Sanctuary of Sagrada Familia by Gaudi
What’s with the umbrella??!!

If Dr. Seuss went to church, this would be it!

In February we took the night train to Krakow, Poland.  It was so fun!

This was our sleeping compartment! It had three bunkbeds and a sink.

We stayed at a friend’s home and took care of their turtle.

I got to feed the turtle every day.

The salt mines were so cool!  We walked 65 flights of steps down into the earth.  Here’s what we saw:

We were thankful that we could take an elevator back to the top!

The miners needed a place to go to church. Sometimes they stayed underground for days!

One day we went to Nowa Huta.  It was built in the 1950’s as an example of a perfect Communist city.

After Communism fell, this is what they named their main street:

Yes, it’s Ronald Reagan Square!

In April we flew to Venice for Easter break.  I got to see St. Marco’s Square.

I love chasing pigeons!

I went on a gondola ride!

Then we took the train to Florence.  We saw the Duomo, Florence’s famous cathedral.  We spent Easter morning watching the exploding fireworks cart.  It’s a tradition that comes from the  1500’s. We went to lots of art museums.  My favorite part of Florence was eating gelato ice cream every day!

Dad and me in front of the Duomo.

We saw lots of cool statues, including Michaelangelo’s David!

Italian gelato ice cream rocks!

In May we drove for the day to Herrnhut, Germany with our friends.  That’s the place where modern missions started.  We went with friends.  It was a 2 ½ hour drive.

Suzanne, Moriah, Kelsie, me.

Moravian Christians fled persecution and settled here in the 1700’s.

This is the “Prayer Tower” where there were always people praying, 24/7.

In June the Zidek family came to visit us.  We went on a dinner cruise on the Vltava river.

Mom and Vicki being silly on the boat!

We took the train to Pilsen with the Zidek family to see the Pilsner Brewery.

Dad says Czech beer is the best in the world!

In late June my Grandma and Grandpa came to visit us.  It was so fun to show them Prague!  Here’s Grandma and me at the entrance of Prague Castle.

Is the coast clear?

We were celebrating Grandma and Grandpa’s 50th wedding anniversary!

We went to an opera called Carmen at the Prague State Opera House. We also went to an organ and violin concert at St. Salvatore Church. We heard the music of Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Brahms, and Handel.

St. Salvatore Church, near Charles Bridge.

Mom said I was an angel!

We took the train to Vienna and stayed with good friends at their hotel.  We saw Schonbrunn (summer palace of the Hapsburgs), St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Mozart’s house, and had lunch in a café.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral was built in the 1200’s!

Grandpa was speechless!

We took the train to Dresden.  Then we drove to Wittenburg.  Here’s Castle Church where Martin Luther posted his 95 theses!

This is “THE” door!

Marin Luther preached here!

Next we went to Leipzig, home of Bach, who is one of my Grandma’s favorite composers. Here’s Tomaskirche, where Bach was Cantor. We also got to see the Bach Museum.

We went to a service here where the Tomaskirche Boys’ Choir sang.

The singing was amazing!

After Grandma and Grandpa left we went to Czech Switzerland, on the border with Germany.  We went hiking with our friends to Pravcicka Brana, the biggest natural land bridge in Europe.

Narnia was filmed here!

We hiked 10 miles that day.   Mom and Dad said I was a real trooper!

The view from the to

We stopped for lunch and to play.

At the end of July we flew to Paris.  My big sister Sam met us there!  We had so much fun!

The Eiffel Tower!

My wacky Mom with the Arc de Triomphe!


Inside the Cathedral of Notre Dame!

Then we stayed 12 days in the French countryside, near Blois.  We saw  several chateaux.  Chateaux really look more like palaces than what you’d think a chateau would look like.

Chateau of Blois: Joan of Arc was here in 1429! We stayed in a quiet little village outside this town.

Chateau of Clos Luce: This was Leonardo da Vinci’s bed! He lived in Amboise the last six years of his life.

Chateau of Chenonceau.

Sam and Me at Chateau of Cheverny. This is Captain Haddock’s Castle. There was a Tintin Exhibition here!

We saw other cool places in the Loire Valley.  We went to Chartres to see it’s amazing cathedral.  We saw the Castle of Chinon.  We saw the city of Orleans, where Joan of Arc lifted the siege of the English during the 100 years war in the 1400’s.

Inside the Cathedral of Chartres. Joan of Arc is honored in the stain glass. It tells her story.

The Castle of Chinon, started in the 900’s and added to by Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Abby of Fontevraud: Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their son Richard the Lionheart are buried here!

The Cathedral of Orleans.

The inside of the cathedral honored Joan of Arc.

We think this place was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion!

Then we flew home to Prague.  We have been enjoying the last lazy days of summer before school starts tomorrow.

I wonder what adventures I’ll have this year?



Arc de Triomphe!

My family and I just had a wonderful six days in Paris.  We got to see most of the important sights, but not all.  There is always more to see of Paris, for the next trip!  So here are some things we learned, to pass on to other travelers who visit this lovely city. Mind you, these tips are for travelers on a budget.  We are teachers, so we travel in comfort, but not in luxury!

1.    Don’t book pre-packaged tours!

There is no need for tours, not even the “Hop-on, hop-off” bus.  Paris’ metro system is excellent.  There is a metro stop close to all of the famous (and not so famous) sights of Paris.  You just need to spend a little time to figure out the metro map.


No caption needed:)

2.    Buy an unlimited public transportation travel pass (a car in Paris is NOT recommended)!

They are good for metro, buses and RER network trains.

There are four choices: Navigo Decouverte Pass, Paris Visite Pass, and a carnet (book) of ten tickets, or single tickets for 1 Euro 50.

The Navigo Decouverte is the least expensive.  The catch is that it starts on Monday and ends at midnight on Sunday.  It makes financial sense if you arrive between Monday and Wednesday, but not if you arrive in the second half of the week.  You will need a 1 X 1.2” passport style photo (can be purchased at the airport or most metro stations in one of the automated booths for 5 Euros).  Then you go to the ticket window and purchase the pass (5 Euros) and load it with a week of credit.  The pass is good for ten years, so if you return to Paris you can add more credit on it and go.  Be sure to ask for a Navigo Decouverte, not just a “Navigo” pass.  The “Navigo” pass is only for residents, whereas the Navigo Decouverte is for any adult.  If you are traveling with children, you will need to buy them a child’s Paris Visite card.


If you plan to use public transport to and from the airport, and if you plan to visit Versailles, it is best to purchase the Navigo Decouverte that covers zones 1-5.  Round trip to the airport (20 Euros) and to Versailles (12 Euros), and the pass is only 33 Euros.

The Paris Visite Card can be purchased for 1, 2, 3 or 5 days. The price varies depending on how many zones you want.  If you want it to cover Versailles and the airport, it is best to get zones 1-5.



Montmartre, my favorite area of Paris!

3.    Pack a picnic lunch.

Eating out in Paris is expensive, especially for those who earn in dollars or other non-euro currencies. Stop at the local market to buy a fresh baguette, cheese, sandwich meat, fruit, and a bottle of water. Bring along a knife of some sort to slice the cheese and fruit.  There are dozens of lovely places for a picnic in Paris!


My French friend Nathalie showed us around on our first evening in Paris. Yes, that’s the Cathedral of Notre Dame!

4.    See the Louvre for free or for a discounted price.

The Louvre is free the first Sunday of the month. It is discounted for adults, and free for anyone under age 26 on Friday evenings after 6pm.



The Louvre (yes, it’s my photo)!

5.    MUST SEE: Paris by night on a cruise on the River Seine!

Our eighteen year old daughter, Samantha, offered to babysit her seven year old brother, and we took her up on it! We arrived at Bateaux Mouches around 10:30pm (It doesn’t get dark until 10 pm in the summer).  Paris by night is magical!! There was commentary in six languages: French, English, German, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese. We got to see many of the places we hadn’t been able to see yet.  In retrospect I would do the cruise at the beginning of our stay, because you cruise past amazing sights you could plan to go see in the following days.



Paris by night!

6.    Avoid Versailles on the weekends!

We didn’t, and it was horribly crowded.  Take the RER train: it is a short, pleasant ten-minute walk to the palace from the train station.  Once you arrive, divide and conquer, if you have two or more in your party.  Send one person to stand in the massive line to buy tickets (or better yet, buy them online ahead of time, or at the ticket shop across from the train station).  The other person can wait in the massive line to get into the palace.


The Hall of Mirrors!

7.    HIDDEN GEM: Take a day trip to Chartres! 

I am a Lonely Planet Guidebook junkie, but all it told me that was worth seeing was the magnificent 13th century cathedral.  Wrong!  Chartres is a lovely medieval city, perfect for strolling the quiet streets and it is oh-so photogenic.  Go to the tourism office and ask for their free city map: it has an easy-to-follow walking tour.  Discover more medieval churches, quaint houses with flower boxes, a canal, and more! Best of all, it wasn’t mobbed with tourists.  We found a great place to eat with reasonable prices, right opposite the cathedral (thanks Lonely Planet).  It is called Café Serpente.



The lovely town of Chartres!

Enjoy your stay in this wonderful city!


Place du Tertre in Montmartre.

Yesterday my husband Andy and I celebrated our one year anniversary of moving from the U.S. to Prague with our seven year old son.  What an adventure it has been!  During the school holidays we’ve been to Barcelona, Krakow, Venice, Florence, Herrnhut, Germany; Vienna, Leipzig, Wittenburg, and “Czech Switzerland”.  And each time we come “home” to Prague!

But WHY did we move to PRAGUE, you ask? The short answer is because Andy got a teaching contract at an international high school. The long answer is because I’m an adult Third Culture Kid (TCK) with an unquenchable wanderlust, and Andy is now also addicted to travel.

David Pollack developed the following description for third culture kids:

 “A third culture kid is an individual who, having spent a significant part of their developmental years in a culture other than their parents’ home culture, develops a sense of relationship to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Elements from each culture are incorporated into the life experience, but the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar experience.”1

“Children are TCKs for many reasons. Some have parents with careers in international business, the diplomatic corps, the military or religious missions.”2 

I am a TCK because I grew up in India for four years of my childhood, from age seven to eleven.  Why did I grow up in India?  That’s a story for a later post.

There has been much research done on TCKs, and one finding is that many TCKs have an unquenchable wanderlust, which stems from the cross-cultural and high-mobility aspects of their upbringing.  That’s me!  I am a travelholic.  I feel more alive when I am in another country, in another culture. I love being part of an expat community, learning a new language and how to get around in a foreign country.

Prior to our move to Prague, we were living in Wisconsin, raising our son Imageand our daughter, Samantha, now 18. Sam is eleven years older than our son as she is my husband’s daughter from his first marriage. So we decided that when Sam graduated from high school and went away to college in 2011, we would look into finding jobs teaching overseas.

Long story short, Andy got a job offer from an international school in Prague. So we sold our three- bedroom house and most of our belongings, packed up six suitcases and three carry ons, and landed in Prague on July 18, 2011!

It has been a truly amazing year, with so many great memories.  Our son is thriving in his international school and he absolutely loves traveling and experiencing new adventures.  Our son doesn’t realize it yet, but he is now a TCK, growing up amongst other TCKs. Hence my desire to finally start this blog, with the help of our daughter and technical advisor, Sam…who, by the way, we will be meeting in Paris on Wednesday!