Unforgettable Paris, PragueBy Maurice Arcache
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Paris is a city not just of fashion and design, dahlings, but gustatory delights as well.
Our days were spent dining in excellent restaurants, doing long walks, and shopping, naturellement.
Jojie Dingcong is crazy over Christian Louboutin (CL) shoes for men, but for four days he could not get inside the store because a long line of customers had formed outside.
On his sixth day of waiting, Jojie was panicking, although the line had gotten shorter. There was disappointment when we finally got in—due to the high volume of customer traffic, all the men’s shoes were to be sold at a separate boutique on Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau.
We rushed to the place under a drizzle and got what we wanted. It was worth the effort, as CL shoes are truly stylish and beautiful.
That night we celebrated our triumph with a fab dinner at Camille’s. Two of our hosts, Edward Garcia and Babette Aquino-Benoit, showed us the way to entertain—that only the French,
and, yes, the Pinoy in them, knew how to.
We then decided to do a sendoff party for Anton San Diego, as he was heading home to Manille the following day. Where to hold the party? If you’re in Paris, there’s no other choice but the Queen club, where we had lots of fun-fun-fun!
Jojie and I went on with our journey to another gorgeous, historical city, Prague. From Paris, it was a little over two hours of pleasant plane ride.
This time we immersed ourselves in the Czech Republic capital’s architectural wonders and splendor.
We settled in the eye-popping, newly refurbished art-deco hotel, K + K, in the heart of the city. Our dear Ilonggo pal, Bibot Nolan, recommended the place.
Old World ambiance
Taking a leisurely walk on cobblestone streets, we imbibed the city’s nostalgic, Old World ambiance, alongside its youthful vibrancy. To our delight, we were right smack beside Prague’s high-fashion shopping district. Our hearts were full of glee, but our wallets and cards were trembling. But spending goes with traveling, n’est-ce pas?
In every city I visit, I always go to the open market where there are organic fruits and freshly baked bread. On our first night we found a bakery a block away from our hotel, right across a très moderne mall.
The bread went well with some jam and blueberries. As we were enjoying our meal, we espied the shops of Armani, Kenzo, Gucci, Mango for Men, H&M, Lacoste, et al.
The next day, after a heavy brunch at the hotel, we started exploring Prague. We took a long walk across the river to see the National Gallery.
We spent a whole day at this colossal art haven.
The following morning, Jojie and I joined a combined bus/walking tour covering the whole city including the Presidential Palace and many historical castles.
But what amazed us the most was the Charles Bridge, which afford fantastic views of the city. Measuring 621 m long and 10 m wide, and resting on 16 arches, the bridge had a monumental Gothic feel, but is enlivened by what one might call an open-air sculpture gallery—with some 30 statues and groups of sculptures exuding a magical atmosphere.
Prague is a small city similar to Paris, but full of history; every nook and cranny is a picture-perfect sight. I could go on and on, but I must thank my perfect host, true pal and southern brother, Jojie Dingcong, no less. Salamat gid palangga!
Sto. Niño Jesus de la Praga
The following morning, Jojie and moi fulfilled our “very purpose” of going here: to visit and pay homage to the Sto. Niño Jesus de la Praga. Its home, the beautiful, quaint Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious in Malá Strana, is extremely ornate. Almost baroque in style, the church is stunning, yet the splendor doesn’t dominate the solemn sight of people praying in pious silence.
After the church visit, we hit the art galleries again and went gaga over a visual feast; we picked up a few huge pieces to bring back home.
That same night I attended a grand orchestra performance held at the town hall on the recommendation of my soul mate Vicky Zubiri. It was so magical, I was completely mesmerized for a full hour-and-a-half.
The cuisine of the Czech Republic, especially in Prague, is rich and filling, derived from Austro-Hungarian traditions. Prague ham is served as an appetizer. This meat is renowned
outside the Czech Republic, too, for its unusual smoked and spicy flavor.
Polévka, the most frequently consumed soup, is of peasant origins—usually with a base of onions, cabbage and garlic.
Pork is particularly popular and eaten in abundance, often served with rice or dumplings.
People here adore sweets which come in different types of pastries and biscuits which tourists can buy from street stalls.
Prague is also home to “liquid bread” or beer; in a number of bars one can find many varieties which are quite inexpensive.
The next day we packed our bags with a heavy heart. Five days in Prague is much too short, dahlings. We headed home to Manille full of unforgettable memories.
Paris and Prague are two of the most beautiful cities in the world, but fair Manille will always be home and I will always love her no less, palangga.