Category Archives: Czech Republic

Bucket list dreams

Growing up in a small Ontario city, one dreams of having the chance to see and maybe even live in exciting cities of the world. But how many of us actually get to do that?  I am sure people would be surprised to hear that many of us do!

I am one of those people. I grew up in Welland, Ontario ~ a small industrial city in Southern Ontario, close to Niagara Falls.  I enjoyed growing up there. I had lots of friends, school was fun for the most part, but then I turned 16 and I started dreaming of moving away. Toronto and New York City were the big cities that I wanted to see and live in! 

I did end up moving to Toronto when I was 19. I stayed a few years, moved to London, Ontario and got married. Yet I still had that itch to see more than Southern Ontario. I just could not see myself being brave enough to get out in the world. 
A few years ( and a divorce) later found me and my daughter heading to New York City. One of my bucket list items came off my list!! 
Single motherhood became my most important job then and so the bucket list had to wait.

A move to Calgary and discovering a new confidence in myself found me looking at European opportunities to work. A trip to Italy in April 2014 took another bucket list item off and added so many more to it!!!  I knew I had the courage to make a move.

In November 2014, after quitting my job, I moved to Prague to start a new life.  Teaching English was never on my bucket list but its enabled me to see London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Dresden, and now China. And I have a career now ~ not just a job.

I loved growing up in Welland and I wouldn’t trade my memories of my childhood for anything, but I am so proud of myself to have made it as far in the world as I have.  I can only hope that I inspire my children to live life with all their potential and to see just how far they can go, with hard work and a bucket list!!

​39 years old, with 13 years experience!

Happy Birthday to me!!!
This is birthday number 3 for me traveling abroad, and my 52nd in this awesome world.  It really has been an amazing journey, these 52 years, and while I know deep down that I am NOT middle aged (because, really, who lives to be 104 ~ not many of us!), I do not feel my age at all. And I attribute this to doing what I want and loving what I do!  

I turned 50, a milestone birthday, in Prague, and while it was not exactly the day I had in mind, it was definitely memorable turning 50 in Europe! A weekend trip to Cesky Krumlov on my own was just what I needed after that monumental day.

At 51, I was on my way to Berlin for a short holiday to celebrate my birthday. I enjoyed celebrating on my own as it gave me a chance to reflect on my life, what I had endured and how it had turned out at the time. Celebrating one’s birthday may sound lonely but it really wasn’t. I was in an exciting European city, enjoying new sites and sounds and food.  This was when I made the decision to make a change. China and other Asian countries were on my list but obviously China won. And while China can be challenging, I don’t regret it at all!

So now here I am, turning another year older in another country and it really is exciting!  I have made many friends here who I know are going to be lifetime friends. I have discovered a side of me that I never would have found had I not jumped into this new life ~ that side being the incredible patience I have for teaching young children, and loving them all so much.

I don’t know where I will be next year to celebrate my 53rd birthday but no matter where I will be, you can be sure that I will make it the best day possible and that I will be grateful for being there!

Choosing a better life

My life has been anything but easy. I have experienced challenges with every turn in the road of this life. It has only been recently that I have chosen to embrace every challenge and conquer it.

Czech Republic was one of my biggest and most challenging roads to take. Leaving my family, my comfortable job and a steady pay cheque was the scariest thing I have ever done. With a strong desire to succeed and to show everyone, especially myself, that I could do this, I put my nose to the grindstone, worked hard, worked long hours teaching, and succeeded. With the willpower and determination I knew was needed, I gave it all my all and was rewarded with amazing students and great new friends.

While moving to China can be seen as a huge move, and it was, because of the experience I already had moving away from my family, the transition was much easier to cope with.

If you have a strong desire to see the world, if you are willing to sacrifice the comfort of the known, if you want to be challenged, then you can have this life too. You just need to reach out and grab it.

Traveling without credit ~ it is possible!!

Living a credit~free life is liberating but also challenging. In North America, most people live their every day life with at least one credit card in their wallet. For a long time, so did I. It’s been many years since I have given up the credit life. Has it been challenging? I would be lying if I said no. I have become frugal and disciplined in recent years.

There are many advantages and disadvantages of living and traveling with no credit.
One big advantage is you learn to spend only what you have and what you can afford. I do not live above my means. And there is not much impulse shopping!


Another advantage is learning to budget your money. I have become a master at budgeting, and also a little obsessed with Excel spreadsheets. I am very proud of my ability to budget as well as I do!
Many people are surprised that you can travel with no credit card. Europe and China are very willing to take cash as payments for hotels. Airline websites will take debit card payments. Bus and train tickets can be purchased this way too. It’s all about researching and finding the right websites.


Of course there are disadvantages. A huge disadvantage is not being able to get air mile rewards and bonus points. Many travellers I know have talked about the perks they receive from air lines ~ seat upgrades, even free flights. It’s not possible without a credit card, at least I have not discovered any yet.
Another disadvantage is in North America and traveling. Hotels want credit card information to reserve a room. Car rental companies won’t even consider renting a car without a credit card. While I understand the reasoning, I think it’s unfair to the people who travel on a cash~only basis.
Living and traveling in Europe and China has been quite simple as almost every place willingly takes cash for payment ~ including hotels. I am unaware if there are debt problems here in China as there are in North America, but it has been very nice living in a country that is so accepting of cash.


So don’t tell yourself that you can’t travel because you have no credit card ~ it’s definitely possible! It’s just a matter of discipline, budgeting and a lot of research. If I can do it, anyone can!

Friendships and the internet

We all have friends, near or far, that are dear to our heart.  We have new friends we meet when we travel and live abroad. We have old friends from another time in our life who we will keep in touch with on occasion. Then we have our best friends, who, no matter the distance, can make us feel like we are sitting together, having a coffee and exchanging our days even when we are an ocean away.
I have many friends all over the world ~ in China, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Australia, South Korea, Great Britain. And of course in North America, particularly Canada. I have met many of my friends from traveling and on the internet. But there is one friend who is my dearest friend and, thanks to the internet, we have become closer than I ever thought possible.
We were best friends in high school, inseparable. College came and we remained close until men entered our lives and we both moved to different areas of Ontario, and started our families. We kept in touch for a few years but, as it happens as we marry and move around, we drifted apart. 
Fast forward to my 40th birthday and my mother invited her to my party. We reconnected and kept in touch through social media but not as often as I had hoped.
Last summer, when I headed to Canada for a visit before coming to China, we spent an afternoon together. And something clicked. I think all the struggles we had during those years had kept us from being close. However, we matured and with that, came a brand new light in our friendship. 
Since then, we talk almost every day, sharing what is going on in our lives, counseling each other with hard decision making, offering comfort in a difficult time when needed. I value her friendship now more than ever. I look forward to hearing her voice messages, to hear what’s happening in her life and sharing my life with her.
Friendship doesn’t have to be face to face to be close. Thanks to social media, we are all just a click away. And I am so grateful for that day last summer that reconnected me with such a great friend.
We should value all the friendships we have. Life is too short not to!

For the love of food!

​”There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”  George Bernard Shaw

Food. I love food. All kinds of food. Growing up in Canada, I ate the usual food. Hamburger, chicken, vegetables. Nothing overly exciting but I enjoyed it all. 

 
Once I moved out on my own, got married, etc.. I discovered a whole new world of delicious food. 
I have tried many Czech dishes and many Chinese dishes. But which cuisine is the best?  This is strictly my opinion but here are my comparisons:

1. Czech dumplings v. Chinese dumplings. No comparison. China wins hands down. The dumplings are little pockets of heaven with so many different fillings to choose from, including fruit, handmade while you wait. They melt in your mouth, dipped in soy sauce and garlic, and fill you with happiness. Czech dumplings don’t do any of this.
China 1 ~ Czech 0

2.  Czech coffee v. Chinese coffee. 

Another easy choice. Czech wins. The coffee is rich, aromatic, hot and served in adorable cafes. Chinese coffee is mediocre at beat.
China 1 ~ Czech 1

3.  Soup ~ this one is more difficult to choose. Czech republic has delicious soup ~ garlic soup, potato soup, mushroom soup, all so unique and so delicious. The garlic soup has such a distinctively bold taste yet does not leave you with garlic breath. The potato soup and mushroom soup are flavourful, and filling, and a perfect way to start a meal. China has noodles. Big beautiful bowls of chewy noodles bathing in a delicious swirl of broth, laden with vegetables and an egg. The egg confused me at first but oh my goodness it makes the soup even more delicious. This is a tie for me ~ kudos to both countries for making stupendous soups.
China 2 ~ Czech 2

4.  Produce ~ this is another easy one. China surprised me by having such an astounding variety of produce. Fresh juicy watermelon in the summer, sweet mandarins in tbe winter, with a glorious assortment of other fruit available. Vegetables abound. Leeks, potatoes, pumpkin, squash, onions, mushrooms (okay Czech has amazing mushrooms too). The availability of so much good produce is one reason why I have managed to stay so healthy here. China wins this one.
China 3 ~ Czech 2

5.  Breads and pastries ~ this is close for me. Czech has pastries, from apple strudel to chocolate filled croissants, cakes and cookies everywhere ~ well it is Europe. But don’t dismiss China. They have very good bread ~ soft buttery bread. They have these custard filled tarts with the pastry so light and flaky they melt in your mouth. Wafer cookies, fruit filled cakes ~ all so delicious. Czech wins though for this one big reason ~ chocolate. Need I say more?
China 3 ~ Czech 3

6. Signature dishes ~ this is the deciding category. Czech has sausages. So many mouth watering sausages, on chewy rolls with mustard, sizzling and popping in your mouth with that first bite. My mouth is watering just thinking of this!  Czech also has svickova, a dish containing meat, with bread dumplings, cranberries and whipped cream, with gravy poured over it all. It’s not a healthy dish but it is delicious. Even the dumplings are good served this way (probably because it is drenched in gravy!).  Czech is famous for its meat dishes ~ all kinds of meat. Pork knuckle, beef brisket. All so very good!!  China also has a wide variety of dishes to try.  Dumplings and noodles of course. Ma la tong. Chicken with peppers and ginger served with rice. Rice dishes! Pork, beef, fish (I am not a fan of the fish dishes though ~ too bony for my liking). They all have their own unique quality and taste. And all served with vegetables.  This one is going to China. With the healthier dishes and the wider variety to choose from, it is definitely the winner.
China 4 ~ Czech 3
China has a healthier cuisine, but I still miss the Czech coffee and pastries.  

Czech Republic ~ my top 10 places to see

​I lived in the Czech Republic for almost two years before moving to China. It is my second hone, after Canada, so I thought I would share my top 10 places to see there.

1.  Cesky Krumlov ~ without a doubt, this is the most beautiful, quaintest, peaceful town I have ever encountered. The history, the magnificent castle and its grounds, the food. Many people will visit only for a day but to get a real feel of the town, you need to take your time, walk through the alleys, visit the shops and imagine you are there back in the medieval era. Spend a weekend at one of the quaint bed and breakfasts. It is worth it! 

2. Konopiste ~ again it is a castle town. This country has so many castles to see but this should be near the top of your list. Set away from town, surrounded by trees and the prettiest lake, is a castle out of a story book. I spent about 5 hours wandering through the grounds, having a picnic by the lake, and people watching. A stunning site to see.

3.  Karlstejn ~ another castle but so much more. This castle is built above a town, and the town is a site to see on its own! The many shops selling uniquely Czech goods, the aroma of the food (sausages ~ oh the sausages!) ~ its a short train ride away from Prague and a wonderful place to spend a day.

4. Prague Castle ~ my friends will be shocked to see this is number 4 on my list! This Castle has my soul ~ it is a magnificent place. The gardens, St. Vitus Cathedral, the quiet alleys, the incredible views of Prague.  There is one special spot in my heart for this Castle. Its amazing to see anytime, but at night, when most of the tourists are in a pub drinking pivo (beer), this place is magical. Serene. Take the time to go at night and you will understand.

5.  Charles Bridge ~ you simply cannot visit this medieval city and not walk on the famous bridge!  There is much to see ~ statues, the Vltava River, the buskers, the people. It is very busy on weekends so try to go on a weekday. 

6.  Divoka Sarka ~ at the end of one of the tram lines is what looks like a big forest area. But once you wander down the hill and are enveloped with the trees and the cliffs and the bubbling creek, you will know why this is on my list. It was my place to escape. Its quiet with an occasional group of people biking, or walking, or having a picnic. Whenever I was having a stressful day, I would get on the tram and walk. You can walk for hours and I did many times.  It had an interesting history as well. Many battles happened here and you will see signs throughout the park but not in English.  

7.  Kutna Hora ~ the town with a church of bones!  I am not kidding ~ there is a bone church in this town!  It is fascinating and quite spooky at the same time. It will chill you!  The town also has a beautiful square and incredible views.

8.  Old Town Square in Prague and the Astronomical Clock ~ one of the main attractions of Prague is the Astronomical clock. Definitely stay and watch the hour chime in and watch the clock’s animation. Then go and enjoy the square. Jan Hus Statue, the horse and carriages, the aroma of food ~ try trdelnik (a pastry) or langos (its like fried bread with sauce ~ its different and popular).  Wander through the narrow cobblestone roads and turn a corner and you will find even more sites and pubs!

9.  Wenceslas Square ~ so many shops!! And this is where you will find the best sausages. Well all of Prague has amazing sausages but you will find a lot here. Oh how I miss the sausages.  

10.  Letna Park ~ in case you couldn’t tell, I love walking. And this park is the best for that because it not only has wonderfully wide paths, and parks for kids, but at the end ~ you will come to the Letna Beer Garden. I could not end my list without including this place, and Czech beer. The views of the city are absolutely the most incredible, and the beer is cold. And yes you can get sausages here too!  Try Kozel, or Gambrinus ~ its a favourite place for many people to go to in the summer.

I could go on and make this a top 100 list ~ I have such incredible memories of this amazing country.  It is not a country to miss if you are in Central Europe.