Friday, November 30, 2007

Prague, Czech Republic

On to part 2 of my Eastern Europen trip update......

So Monday morning (Nov.19) at 6am, we arrived in Prague....or Praha as they say it there.....or my fave was Praga (as the Italianos say). After a disturbing night on the train, I can't really think of a happier moment in my life than the one where I stepped off the a beautiful foreign country.....and was greeted by our driver who was totally hot. Quite unexpected since my mom taught me that there aren't any attractive men in Eastern Europe--I guess that was only HER part of EE. :)

We went to our apartment which was soooooo cute and of course I didn't take any pics but I think Caro and Shiloh did so I'll have to get some from them and post later. We took naps and got ready and headed out around 10am.....

And the Charles Bridge is pretty much the first thing we saw. I had heard and read about how cool it was....but really it exceeded all expectations! It is 3/4 of a mile long--cobblestones of course, and lined w/statues on either side. Plus my fave thing is that vendors are set up all along and you can browse their beautiful artwork, jewelry, etc. as you walk. Here's me and Christy on the bridge, w/Old Town Prague behind us....we were heading that way....

And here's a self-portrait of the four of us on the other side of the bridge--with the Castle district behind us now. You can't tell by the pic but it was much colder this day--we were all a little shocked. But we were also well prepared so that helped....and so did the delicious hot cocoa that is more like liquid chocolate! :)

We then continued on the to Old Town Square....which includes so many amazing buildings. This is the Tyn (Teen) Church. Yes, it's a church, not a castle. This was hands down my fave building on the trip. I love how it looks oh so sleeping beauty castle (the way her castle should be---not pink and friendly looking). I took this pic from the top of the Clock Tower.....

And this is the clock tower. It chimes beautifully every 15 min....and has moving parts, 12 apostles, etc. :) Loved it, of course.

Our own personal Rick Steves (Christy Banker) was so excited to see the statue of Jan Hus in the Old Town Square but when we got there we had to look around to find it.....sadly it was under construction. :( But when we got to the top of the clock tower, we caught a glimpse. He did something cool for Czechs and Christy was teaching her students about it the week before....but of course I already forgot. So Christy when you read this you'll have to comment on why you like him, what he did, etc.

If I had to narrow down what I like to do most when traveling, the answer would be shop! My favorite thing to shop for in Prague was crystal necklaces. :) And of course I only bought them at Czech Art Glass because they are "probably the best!"

Why would I want to buy from anyone else? Anyway I bought so many--and yet I already feel like I grossly underestimated what I needed and how many colors I should get. (sigh)

In the afternoon we wandered down to Wenceslas Square, which is really more like a street w/a park in the middle. This is kinda like Prague's Times Square (people, shopping, hot dog stands, etc.)

We stopped for a break and to get warm and drink some hot cocoa....even though I really think I just had a Coke Light. hmmm.... this was such a cute cafe I had to snap some pics.....

And I'll be honest that the lighting in this pic is bad so I shouldn't post it (sorry Shiloh)--but I just think we look so happy that I couldn't help it!

Shiloh and I were constantly snapping photos of different images that we think will make cool stamps--so here's one example. I love it--but now in hindsight I wonder if I love the purple and gold and Christmas look more than anything...

Ok so this is the first photo on Tuesday in Prague. After crossing the Charles Bridge again, we climbed an overlook tower. Here's a pic--just a typical pic of what it is like to look out over Prague. Other than the crystal, this is what I loved most (ok maybe the two are tied). But the buildings were just so amazing and stacked on top of each other and I just loved it!

This one is the Charles Bridge from the same tower. The Castle hill is on the right and the Little Quarter (where we stayed) is on the left.

Next we headed to the Jewish quarter and toured the Jewish Museum, which is really a big string of sights. Mostly Synogogues and....this old old old cemetary. For hundreds of years, Jews were only allowed to use this small area for burials--so you can see by the headstones that they ended up stacking them (not just the headstones).

In the last minutes of was such a sad time for me each day around 4:30 when there was no more sun. :( So you can see in this pic I was happy holding on to the last of it. Red bag in hand is necklaces. :) The other thing about this pictures is it's another random street.....I could've taken a picture of every street b/c they were all this perfect!

And we ended the day at Cafe Per Lei......mmmm crepes (or pancakes as they called them). This was one of my fave meals on the trip. Lots of atmosphere and lots of great, funny and entertaining conversation! :)

OK I still have one more day in Prague left....but there are too many pictures so I'm going to have to do a separte posting. Thanks for reading all this--hope you're not too bored. If there's something you want to see or hear more of, let me know in your comment. :)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Budapest, Hungary

Yes, it's true, I'm finally back! And it's time for my trip update. :) I am going to do a different post for each the first one is Budapest!!

I arrived at 9am on Saturday, and had a few hours before anyone else got I set out to see the town. I walked down this amazing street and ran into this Rynek which means Market and I think they just call it Market Central or something like that. There is produce, meat, cheese and bread on the ground floor and souvenirs and cafes on the upper level. It was soooo amazing and so much to take in!

Shiloh arrived around 1pm...but Caroline and Christy did not b/c they missed their connection in London. :( So after a little nap, we indulged in a delicious dinner at....Burger King! Shiloh had been in Frankfurt for 3 weeks so in her words, she was ready for a little American food--no more bratwurst! :)

Caroline and Christy arrived around 6pm....and one of the greatest things about traveling w/3 other people is having 4 cameras on hand so I didn't have to worry about catching every little thing on you will see gaps in my photos b/c others were taking the pics. :) So the next pic is the next day.....

We toured the Parliament building--and saw Hungary's crown jewels (which Christy was particularly fascinated with! :)

And we went to mass at St. Istavan's cathedral (amazing choir!). And then climbed to the top for an amazing view of Buda and Pest! Here's me and Shiloh in a self-portrait (prepare youself for lots of these b/c they are my favorite!! :)

Then we went to some amazing places in Buda (Matthais church, yummy cafe for lunch and the Budapest castle). Then we walked back to the hotel across the Chain Bridge. This picture wasn't nearly as posed as it looks--they were all just walking ahead of me and I told them to turn around and smile.

Then we headed off to the train station to catch our night train to Prague. Here we are, in the freezing cold, watching the board and waiting for our gate to be announced....

Aahhh the comfort of our Couchette! We had the luxury of 6 bunks for only 4 people! :)

Caroline looking very cozy and sleepy in her sleeping bag.

Me after my exhausting climb to the top bunk....which by-the-way was waaaaay less comfortable than the middle and lowers (unfortunately I didn't realize that until after a sleepless night).

Well at least someone is happy! This is Christy....obviously before we got fined 50 Euro each for not validating our Eurail passes correctly! Which was awful...but it was better than being kicked off the train in Nowheresville, Slovakia at 4am!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm Off!

Tomorrow morning I leave for my Thanksgiving trip to Eastern Europe!!!! I CAN'T WAIT!!! If I could bottle the happiness I feel right now--it'd really be RICH!! So....cramming to leave town hopefully explains why I've been so absent and why I missed Top Ten Tuesday this week. :( Sina didn't let us down though so go look at hers. Really, the only free minutes I've had in the past week or so have been spent watching this:

If you haven't seen this show, I HIGHLY recommend it!!! It's what I've been waiting for since Alias ended!!!

I'll be back on the 26th. Hope ya'll have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Top Ten Tuesday: Albums

This week, the topic is favorite albums of all time. This topic has a special place in my heart because it is the foundation of my friendship w/Sina. :) Not because we have similar albums on our top 10 (I think we would if we listed our top 20) but because the first question I ever really asked her was "What are your top 5 albums of all time" and she immediately rattled them off. I was speechless....and I knew that was the beginning of a very deep and meaningful relationship! :)

1. Millennium, Backstreet Boys. I love this album. It's difficult to listen to w/out getting emotional. :) I bought it in Tokyo while on study abroad during graduate school.....yes....I made a few of my friends postpone our sightseeing so I could get it....that's how bad I wanted it. Needless to say, I got a few weird looks. :) I love these songs. I love these voices. And I love all the memories that are now attached to this music. Fave track: I Want it That Way.

2. Immaculate Collection, Madonna. Really, how could this album NOT be on every female Gen Xer's list? I can't think of another that defines my generation like this one. And even after my Rents had a sit down w/me about all the reasons Madonna is evil, I still love her. In fact, maybe that is why I love her. :) Fave track: Like a Prayer.

3. Black & Blue, Backstreet Boys. This album is a soundtrack of two of the funnest years of my life. Every single song has so many memories attached. Fave track: Get Another Boyfriend.

4. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Sarah McLachlan. Sarah's songwriting is so interesting--especially the lyrics. I just love this album....especially the wide range of songs and how different and amazing they all are. Fave track: Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.

5. Cowboy, Erasure. This album taps into the wonderful, difficult, emotional, and fabulous two years I spent in Provo. Fave track: In My Arms.

6. These are the Special Times, Celine Dion. This is the only Christmas album that I listen to during the year. I love all of Celine's songs because her voice is just so amazing. But this album is my favorite. Fave track: Happy Xmas (Was is Over).

7. Confessions on a Dance Floor, Madonna. I was totally skeptical that I could still love Madonna's music as much as the old reliables. This CD completely surprised me....I love love love the danciness of it....not to mention the pink glitter shoes and mirrorballs that are everywhere on the album artwork. It's so much fun and also just so interesting to listen to. Fave track: Forbidden Love...and Hung Up.

8. ABBA Gold. This music was so instrumental to my life as an Aggie. I think their sound is completely genius. This album is one reason why I am sure I was suppposed to be an adult in the 70s. Fave track: Lay All Your Love On Me.

9. On the Radio, Donna Summer. Hill sent me this album from her mission and it was instant and true love. This is one of the few albums that I can listen to from start to finish w/out skipping a track. Fave track: Love to Love You Baby (of course! :)

10. Mirrorball, Sarah McLachlan. Sarah's voice live is sooooooooo amazing!!! I think it takes an amazing artist to sound better live than on a CD. Plus after you've seen a concert, hearing the live version is an automatic ticket back to that moment. Fave track: I Love You.....and Fear.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Halloween is the funnest holiday--and this year was no exception for the West family. Hillary always has a party at her house--and when my my family has parties, there are always 2 things you can count on: delicious food and fun games! But this year we actually played a game where no winners were declared, and we didn't have any fights! We played the Singing Bee and everyone had their turn belting out a familiar tune. I highly recommend this game for family parties--it became more of a sing-a-long than a game. :)

Here's the first group of arrivals.....

L to R: Me (80s roller skater), Mikey (zebra), Pop (Cleopatra), Zoey (Glitter witch), Ally (naughty witch), Carmindy (lamb), Zane (Viking warrior), Hill (festive witch).

Jeff and Aubrey arrived next--and by the time I snapped this photo Jeff had already taken off his Soviet officer coat and moustache. :( And you can see that witch was indeed the theme for the evening--Aubrey chose Glam Witch. Oh also--you might notice a little jack-o-lantern in this photo--otherwise known as Chaz. Or Tank, as all of us are so affectionately calling him right now. Well all of us, except Zane--who calls him Carl. :)

Even Mom and Dad dressed up this year....aren't they cute?!?!

And here's a close-up of one darling little Glitter Witch.....wearing my roller skates. They made me commit to taking them roller skating on Saturday---that should be interesting. :) Isn't this the cutest costume you've ever seen? (yes, those are black glitter witches on her tights!)

Can't wait til next year!!! :)