Our running tour of Prague

winged lion prague 2The Winged Lion Memorial – a thank you from Great Britain honoring the 2,507 Czechoslovak airmen who served in the Royal Air Force during WWII.

Hello from the Czech Republic! I’m currently biking around South Bohemia with two girlfriends (follow my adventures on Instagram here) – if you haven’t been to the Czech Republic, add it to your list! It’s a beautiful country with warm, friendly people – we’ve had so many great experiences! We flew into Prague and spent a couple of days there before we started biking. I found this running tour of Prague, and it sounded like so much fun that we booked it for our second morning. Our guide, Marek, met us at our apartment at 7:30 am, and took us around the tourist areas of the city, pointing out landmarks and good places to eat.  We covered about 4.5 miles, but Marek let us set the pace, which as a beginning runner I greatly appreciated. It was a great way to get some exercise, especially after being cramped in a plane for the overnight flight just a day or so before, and as a bonus, we saw the tourist areas when they were blissfully uncrowded! Here are some of the things we saw…

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The Babies – these sculptures used to be “climbing” up the side of the TV tower in Prague, but now reside in a park on Kampa Island. We never did figure out why they have no faces…if you know, please enlighten me!

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The John Lennon Wall – a spontaneous tribute to John Lennon when he was assassinated, this wall became an expression of hope for freedom during the Communist years. Every night, the government would paint over the graffiti, and every day, new graffiti would appear. We saw it with one other tourist at 8 AM; later that afternoon, we returned and there were close to 200 people at the wall.

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The Wallenstein Garden – built in 1623, this geometric, early Baroque garden used to be private, belonging to the adjacent palace.  Now, open to the public, the garden is a peaceful place with free-roaming peacocks, including some rare white peacocks.

white peacock pragueThe white peacocks of Wallenstein Garden

radio memorial prague

Memorial to Dr. Milada Horakova –  a Czech politician, she was convicted of fabricated charges of conspiracy and treason, then executed by the Communist Party in 1950. The memorial is in the form of a microphone like the one she stood in front of during her show trial, where she was given 30 seconds to speak in her defense. It honors her and all those who stood up against totalitarianism.

fruit market pragueA local market, founded in 1232!

And last but not least…

Charles Bridge prague

The Charles Bridge – the most famous bridge and an iconic sight of Prague, the bridge was practically empty when we ran across. Later that afternoon, it was full of caricaturists, souvenir stalls, street performers and tourists!

We loved our running tour of Prague – if you’re a runner, I highly recommend it! If you’ve done a running tour somewhere, let me know where and whether you enjoyed it!

**This post is not sponsored; we just had such a good time we wanted to spread the word!**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Day Out in Baltimore

water-3199668Photo courtesy of Pixabay

I’m adding a new post to my Wednesday Wanderings series today. For Mother’s Day weekend back in May, I traveled to Baltimore to spend time with my sister, aunt and cousins. All of our mothers are gone, so we spent Friday and Saturday that weekend celebrating the fact that we had, and are, kick ass moms. We laughed, shopped, chatted, ate and just generally celebrated being together for the first time in over a year. On Sunday, I met up with my son and a family friend in downtown Baltimore for a day of exploring. It was such a fun day!

me and boysMe and the boys!

We started late morning at Miss Shirley’s Cafe at the Inner Harbor for brunch. They don’t take reservations, and of course everyone was eating out for Mother’s Day, so we were told it would be a 90-110 minute wait. No worries! We walked a block over to Barnes and Noble, where we spent a lovely hour and a half browsing (and buying) books. I’ve read that due to Amazon, brick and mortar bookstores like Barnes and Noble are in danger, so was happy to do my part to keep B&N alive 🙂 Once our wait was over, we headed back over to the cafe.

Miss Shirley’s focuses on southern food, and does it extremely well. Their menu is extensive, which makes it so very hard to choose. I debated between breakfast and lunch; cinnamon danish waffles were calling my name, but I decided to go with a cup of vegetable crab soup and the jumbo lump crab & corn grilled cheese sandwich. I figured I was in Maryland, so I should enjoy the chance to have crab while I could! I also tried a Shirley’s Crush – the Orange Crush is a Baltimore alcoholic specialty and Miss Shirley’s version was oh so yummy! The service was great and our food was delish; we longingly eyed the dessert menu before deciding that we were just too full to order anything else. If you’re in Baltimore, I highly recommend a stop here for breakfast, brunch or lunch (Miss Shirley’s is open 7am-3 pm). They have three locations, but the Inner Harbor location is handy for exploring the waterfront after you eat!

water-3279614Fells Point – Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Afterward, we drove down to Fells Point and walked around, poking into some of the shops and enjoying the waterfront views. Fells Point is an area along the harbor which was first settled in the 1760’s by William Fell, a Quaker, who built a store here. After the ship yard was established, the neighborhood expanded to include homes, stores, and bars. The Fells Point Ship Yard produced over 800 ships, including the Continental Navy’s first frigates and the speedy “Baltimore Clippers”  (Click here for more details). The area was home to seamen, sailmakers, merchants and sea captains. Now a residential area, there is an open air market along the waterfront that has been operating since 1786. It was also the setting for Annie’s house and the pier where she sits along the water in the movie “Sleepless in Seattle”, starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.

Fells point

One of my favorite activities when traveling is to find hidden, quirky places and things to see.  I dug around on Atlas Obscura and found quite a few in the Fells Point area, so the boys indulged me. “It’s Mother’s Day; we’ll go anywhere you’d like” were their exact words; what great people they are! We found the Fell Family Cemetery, tucked between two townhouses at 1609 Shakespeare St; the “Vote Against Prohibition” ghost sign painted on the side of a building at the corner of Shakespeare and South Broadway; and the Shot Tower, where lead shot was made by dropping molten lead from a platform at the top, forming perfect spheres as it fell into a vat of cold water at the bottom. Built in 1828, the 234 foot high shot tower was the tallest building in the United States until the Washington Monument was completed after the Civil War (for more details, click here)

**Fun fact: Back in the 1910’s-1940’s, companies would pay building owners for the use of their walls, and hired roving street artists, called “wall dogs”, to paint advertising signs on the walls. Now they are fading so have become known as “ghost signs” – there is actually a book titled Ghost Signs: Brick Wall Signs in America**

Fell Family Cemetery

Fell family cemetery 2The Fell Family Cemetery, 1609 Shakespeare St.

IMG_9878 2“Vote Against Prohibition” Ghost sign

shot towerThe Baltimore Shot Tower

That morning, my husband sent me a text, saying, “Tomorrow is our bulk trash pickup; is it okay if I put our living room out?” Yes, indeed, he put the entire living room into the bulk trash…the rug, sofa, two chairs and ottoman included! After our much-loved sectional succumbed to the effects of boy and dog jumping on it, we had cobbled together an old sofa from my dad and a couple of garage sale/discount store finds as a temporary measure while we hunted for new stuff.  Our “temporary” solution lasted four years; my husband decided that putting it all out in the trash would force us to finally get our behinds in motion and buy a new couch. So the boys and I even did a little couch shopping at Su Casa Furniture, a fun and inviting furniture store.

**Three months later, we still don’t have living room furniture, but we have bought a new rug – baby steps!**

old couch with dogThe “temporary” couch – dog approved, but not terribly pretty!

fort-2498672Fort McHenry – take the water taxi out and enjoy the history!  Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The Inner Harbor at Baltimore is a great destination – there are shops, restaurants, free music performances, a huge Barnes and Noble for book lovers, the Baltimore Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, Fells Point, etc.  A water taxi takes you to various points around the harbor and out to Fort McHenry, bombed by the British during the War of 1812. It was during this battle that Francis Scott Key wrote our Star Spangled Banner; he watched the bombardment from a ship in the harbor. Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles baseball) and M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore Ravens football) are very close to the Inner Harbor as well. History, entertainment, good food, sports and shopping; all in all, a fun city in which to enjoy a weekend!

baseball-3363346Camden Yards – home of the Baltimore Orioles.  Photo courtesy of Pixabay

As always, thanks so very much for reading and let me know if there are any places you’d like me to explore and write about!

Serendipitous Detours – Old Sheldon Church Ruins, SC

Sheldon Church Ruins better

Today’s post is the first in a new series – Serendipitous Detours. Have you ever noticed that sometimes the BEST things in life are the unexpected twists and turns? On my first bike tour in 2016, we hit a detour along the path, and it ended up being one of my favorite biking days. We rode extra miles that day, but experienced quiet country roads, lovely little villages and even found a WWI/WWII cemetery that looked like it was just a place where a battle took place and the dead were buried right there.

Sheldon Church gate good one

While on a road trip, I love to find quirky, cool places to stop. My family has come to expect this from me (as they get older, they appreciate this talent of mine more); they either tolerate or enjoy my finds depending on the day and the place. Register Cliff, in the southeast corner of Wyoming, is one of my all-time favorite road trip finds. Originally a stop on the Oregon Trail, thousands of travelers stopped to camp and carve their names into the cliff as a remembrance. In one spot, you can see where three generations of one family passed through; the Unthanks engraved their names in 1850, 1869, and 1931. If you ever drive through Wyoming, I highly recommend a stop; it’s not far off the route from Rocky Mountain National Park to Mount Rushmore.

Sheldon Church Side view good

Last weekend, moseying home along I-95 from a week in Florida, I made another such serendipitous find; the Old Sheldon Church Ruins. Believed to be the first building in America built to resemble a Greek temple, and originally named Prince William’s Parish Church, it was built in the 1750’s, and burned by both the British during the Revolutionary War and the Union Army during the US Civil War. All that remains today are Greek Revival columns, walls & scattered graves amongst noble live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. As Lt. Governor William Bull paid for much of the church, locals gave it the nickname “Sheldon Church” after the Bull family’s ancestral home in England.

Sheldon church graves with spanish moss

Today it is owned by St Helena’s Parish Church, and members of the church can get married in the ruins (think Ross and Emily’s wedding from Friends). It’s open from dawn to dusk for visitors. These evocative ruins are just ten-fifteen minutes off I-95 from exit 35 or 33 in Yemassee, SC (depending on whether you’re coming from the north or south). Three picnic tables are tucked off to the side, and in a cooler, less buggy season, the ruins would make an amazing lunch stop, although there are no restroom facilities. I wandered about for 20 minutes or so, but then the bugs drove me back to my car (if you plan to stop in the muggy summer months, bring bug spray). Even so, I quite enjoyed reading the gravestones scattered about and taking photos from every angle. Sharing the spot with only two other families, it was blessedly peaceful and atmospheric. If you are ever passing by (it’s not far from Beaufort), make the time to explore!

Sheldon church baby grave

I’d love to hear about your roadside discoveries! Leave a comment below and let me know about your favorite places!

48 Hours in Austin, Texas

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As they say in Texas, “Howdy”! This edition of Wednesday Wanderings is all about Austin, Texas! My nephew got married there recently, and my mother-in-law asked me to fly in a few days early and play “Tour Guide Barbie” for her and a friend.  They wanted to visit some tourist sights in Austin, and left it completely up to me to plan the itinerary.

Austin has so many amazing activities, it was really hard to narrow down my list, but I tried to think of what my mother-in-law and Sister Fran would enjoy the most. I also threw in a few things I wasn’t sure they would like, but which to me are quintessential Austin experiences (food trucks, tacos and street art). Luckily for me, they enjoyed every adventure I threw their way!

Here’s what we ended up doing…

Austin Ducks – I wanted to start with a Duck tour to give Mom and Sister Fran a good overview of the city, and see if they were intrigued by anything special that I could then add into the itinerary. We got distracted by Shipley Donuts on our drive down from Dallas, so missed the tour time I had targeted for Thursday afternoon. Rearranging on the fly, we decided to tour the Texas State Capitol instead, and made a reservation for the Duck tour on Friday morning. Duck tours use amphibious vehicles left over from World War II; we drove through historic old Austin, down Sixth Street, past the Texas State Capitol building, then splashed down into Lake Austin for a different view of the city. Our driver was hilarious, told tons of cheesy jokes, and even played some 50’s music during the tour (Mom was jamming to “Splish Splash” as we splashed down into the lake) and we had a great time. Some of those waterfront houses along Lake Austin are SPIFFY!!!

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Texas State Capitol – We did a couple of laps around the Capitol before finding the parking garage, so we saw it from several different angles as we approached (it used to be the tallest building in Austin, but is now surrounded by skyscrapers). Once we parked, we walked a block over to the Capitol and waited about ten minutes to join the free 30-minute guided tour (they do have a self-guided tour pamphlet if you don’t want to do a Guided Tour, but our guide pointed out a few things I missed on my own, so I recommend the guided version).

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I particularly enjoyed the chandeliers in the Senate and House chambers (the lightbulbs spell out TEXAS) and the 130 year old elaborate door hinges. In the floor of the Rotunda, there is a huge mosaic depicting the seals of the six flags under which Texas has flown, which is beautiful. Portraits of every Texas governor hang in the Rotunda (each time a new governor is elected, they shuffle EVERY PORTRAIT to keep them in chronological order with the newly elected Governor’s portrait in the right spot!

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After the tour, we walked over to the Capitol Visitors Center, which has a gift shop and exhibits about the history of the Capitol, the XIT Ranch (Texas ingenuity at work…instead of paying for the Capitol building themselves, the Texas state government sold thousands of acres in West Texas to a group of businessmen from Chicago and used that money to build the Capitol), and a little bit of Texas history. Sister Fran was excited to see a small exhibit about O. Henry, as she is a big fan of his writing. We wandered the Capitol grounds, which are open to the public as a free city park, and enjoyed watching some big black birds put on a mating show for the females hanging about.

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For dinner that night, I took Sister Fran and Mom to a food truck area on Burnet Road, where several food trucks are parked, so they’d have lots of choices. It was their first time experiencing food trucks, and I wasn’t sure they’d enjoy the food truck scene, but they both LOVED the adventure! We ordered from three different food trucks and shared everything so we could taste a variety of foods. For dessert, we ate doughnuts from Gourdough’s -they were HUGE and so good! We tried the Dirty Berry and the Son of a Peach – both were delicious and we rolled back to our car when finished.

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Friday morning, we started with the Duck tour, then stood in a long line at Torchy’s Tacos for lunch. Torchy’s is a local chain which started as a food truck, and they have TONS of different kinds of tacos. The owner experimented a lot when he first opened, and whenever he heard a customer say “Those are da** good tacos”, he would add that experiment to the menu! Torchy’s now has locations in Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma, so if you get the chance, do go enjoy!

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After lunch, we headed to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. There is an IMAX theater, an interactive film about the early days of Texas and tons of exhibits. My favorites were “The Texas Cowboy in Hollywood”, the clips of musicians who have played at Austin City Limits (from the beginning all the way to current times), and the replica of the facade of the Alamo after the famous 1836 battle. A particularly evocative touch were the artifacts embedded into the floor in front of the facade in the exact spots in which the originals were found after the battle in March 1836. They also have the original statue from the Capitol Dome.

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After the museum closed, we made a beeline to the HOPE Outdoor Art Gallery. It’s the only paint park of its kind in the entire USA, which over the last seven years has become a popular space for Street Artists and Muralists to showcase their large scale art. Unbeknownst to me, Sister Fran is a big fan of street art, so she took loads of photos! We were lucky to see several artists at work while we were there and had fun picking out our favorites from the layers of art.

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**If you want to see the HOPE Outdoor Gallery in it’s original location at 11th and Baylor Streets, visit before June 2018, when it will be demolished. The gallery moves at the end of 2018 to a new location at Carson Creek Ranch, 30 minutes east of the city, where it will occupy a six acre site and offer art classes.**

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Once we‘d had our fill of street art, we ran by the airport to grab some other family members, then headed to Hopdoddy Burger Bar for dinner, where we had amazing burgers and were impressed by the servers’ ability to layer multiple plates upon their arms and wind through the crowd without spilling! (If you’re getting the impression that we mostly ate our way through Austin, you’d be absolutely correct – the food there is SO GOOD!)

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That’s how we spent our 48 hours in Austin – we had a blast! Mom and Sister Fran kept saying they felt like they were on vacation…I reminded them that they WERE on vacation. Personally, I am still waiting to see the world’s largest urban bat colony at Congress Avenue Bridge. It wasn’t the right time of year for the bats, so I’ll just have to go back – my brother and my godson both live in Austin so I have plenty of reasons to visit!

What are your favorite things to do in Austin?? I’ll add them to my list for my next visit!