Simply beautiful Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia is the perfect destination, whether you’re after romance, rejuvenation or adventure. A genuine, natural landscape of gorgeous palm-fringed beaches, miles of unspoiled rainforest and the majestic Piton Mountains, are sure to indulge every taste.

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During our visit to Saint Lucia we stayed at the beautiful Coconut Bay Resort and Spa on an all inclusive basis. The hotel is divided into two sections – the Harmony section which is for adults only, and Splash, designed especially for families.

We wanted to see as much of Saint Lucia as possible during our stay so we booked a trip through Viator called the Soufriere Island Delight half day trip. This trip was fantastic – we had a scenic drive to the town of Soufriere through traditional Caribbean fishing villages, tropical rainforest and banana plantations along the way.

We had beautiful views of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed twin Pitons. The Pitons are two mountainous volcanic plugs (also called a volcanic neck or lava neck). The Gros Piton is 771 metres high, and the Petit Piton is 743 metres high and they are linked by the Piton Mitan ridge. Saint Lucia’s local brand of beer made by the Windward and Leeward Brewery is named after the Pitons!

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As part of the half day trip we also visited:

Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens and Mineral Baths 

The Diamond Botanical Gardens (also known as the St. Lucia Botanical Gardens) is a 6-acre area with a river running through the estate called Diamond River. The river is black through the volcanic mud and there are mineral deposits on the river’s banks.

The centrepiece of the gardens is the colourful Diamond Waterfall. This beautiful waterfall is approximately 17 metres in height and is a mixture of rainwater and volcanism fed by the Sulphur Springs. The water is laced with minerals, sulphur, copper sulphate, magnesium, iron, manganese and calcium, all which contribute to the kaleidoscope of colours that appear in the rock behind the falls. The rock face changes colour depending on the mineral content at that point in time.

Superman, in Superman II, flies between the Pitons and then pauses before Diamond Falls and picks the beautiful bird-of-paradise plant to give to Lois Lane.

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Diamond Waterfall
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Diamond Waterfall

Sulphur Springs

Sulphur Springs (described as the World’s only drive in volcano!) consists of mysterious boiling pools of dark water which emit the pungent smell of sulphur. Sulphur Springs were deemed by folklore as a place where one’s soul meets death.

The creation of the sulphur springs, came from a weak spot in the crust of the enormous collapsed crater creating an upheaval of lava 410,000 years ago. The water located at the center of the springs boils at roughly 340 Fahrenheit (170 Celsius) creating large plumes of steam. The water coming out of the spring is blackened by a chemical reaction between the high content of sulphur and iron. The spring water also contains large deposits of copper, iron oxide, alkaline, lead, calcium oxide, and carbon.

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The Sulphur Springs are a popular tourist destination in St Lucia due to their ability for tourists to literally drive up to the edge of the springs. Up until the mid-1990s, tourists were able to walk right up to the end of the tar-colored pits however following a terrible accident where a local tour guide fell through the crust into a pit and received second degree burns, the formation now has restricted viewing to a platform a few hundred feet away.

A couple of hundred yards downstream from the springs, the water temperature is still hot (around 110 Fahrenheit or 45 Celsius), but cool enough for tourists to enter and give themselves mud baths!

 

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After our amazing trip to the Botanical Gardens we went for lunch at a restaurant high in the hills with beautiful views of St Lucia. Lunch was shortly followed by a trip to a rum distillery for some rum tasting!!

Speaking of rum… on the way back to the hotel we passed this beautiful place where some scenes from the film Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed…

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A truly beautiful place to relax with loved ones with lots to see and lovely friendly people to show you around!

Addicted to Lush Take Two!

Ok, so I thought I had a Lush addiction when I wrote my first Lush blog but since then I have spent even more time scouring the internet and popping into my local Lush for more products to test out! And I have to admit, I’ve really enjoyed doing it! Here’s some of the latest Lush products I’ve tried and tested over the last few weeks –

Blackberry Bath Bomb

Apparently, the Blackberry bath bomb was the first ever Lush bath bomb, and is still one of their most popular today!

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The Blackberry bomb is a beautiful lilac bath bomb with the word BOMB printed on the side of it. The key ingredients of the Blackberry bomb are bergamot and frankincense, and obviously a Blackberry flavour. I did find the scent of this bomb to be more flowery than fruity, however.

This bomb is a fast and quick fizzer! After only a few seconds the bath water turns a beautiful shade of lilac and a nice surprise can be found in the centre of the bomb!

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This is a really refreshing bomb and definitely one I would buy again. It makes your skin very soft but is not too oily like some of the other bath bombs available.

Sakura Bath Bomb

This is a Japanese themed bath bomb – Sakura translates as “cherry blossom”. The bomb has lemon oil, orange flower blossom, mimosa and jasmine. I really like the scent of this bath bomb, and it’s a pretty pink and purple colour.

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When put into the bath, the bomb doesn’t create any colour at all which I was quite disappointed about, but once the bomb dissolved, the scents of jasmine and mimosa become much more apparent. Unfortunately, the colour of the bath water isn’t much to talk about either – hardly any colour, just a bit of murkiness!

One of the strongest scented bath bombs I’ve used and very refreshing and uplifting, and leaves your skin beautifully smooth, just not much to look at I’m afraid! Ideal for those who are new to bath bombs and prefer the smell of a bath bomb rather than a colour show – for example I got my Mum and Mother in Law one of these each for Christmas to go in their Christmas Eve boxes.

Candy Floss Showder

Presented in a box reminiscent of the old-fashioned washing powders, this is the first Showder product I have tried.

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Candy Floss Showder contains calamine powder, clove bud oil and vanilla absolute, and the ylang ylang oil and vanilla gives the showder its sweet candy floss aroma. It includes granulated sugar to help exfoliate and polish the body, and the calamine to soothe the skin.

One thing which annoyed me straight away about this product was that it is a product which is designed to be used in the shower, yet it is packaged up in a cardboard box which is almost impossible not to get wet in between uses and will of course just disintegrate after getting wet a couple of times. I note a lot of Lushie’s on Instagram decant their showders into pots and bottles which are far more suitable for shower and bath use! I think I may have to look into this – especially due to the price of the product (£15.95 a box!).

I also found generous helpings of the product were required as it didn’t foam up at all, and if you weren’t quick enough, you’d find most of the product being washed away down the plug hole! I can’t see my box of Showder lasting as long as I had anticipated when I bought it!

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I do think it is a great gimmick, but I can’t see myself using this as an alternative to shower gel on a regular basis – due to both the price and practicality really! Overall I was a bit disappointed, I didn’t even find that the granulated sugar in the product was at all exfoliating. My top tip – use it in the bath rather than the shower – at least you have half a chance of mixing up a decent paste to use rather than it just being washed away down the plug hole! Afraid to say once I’ve used this up, I doubt I will be buying anymore….

Scrubee

How cute is he?? In case the name hadn’t given it away – he’s a bee!

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The dark striped areas are ground coconut shells and ground almonds, which give quite a harsh but natural exfoliation. The rest of this lovely little character is a solid body butter made of shea and cocoa butter which makes your skin feel beautifully soft and moisturised. It is a strange sensation when you first use it because it is really buttery and quite oily but works so well on keeping your skin soft so bear with it!

You may have already guessed the magic ingredient in Scrubee is honey! Scrubee smells delicious and the amazing scent stays on your skin long after using it.

This little guy has had rave reviews since its release – it has now been made a permanent Lush product after proving to be so popular. I missed out on getting one for a long time so I was so pleased when I finally got my hands on a couple! Just be careful when using in the shower – I stupidly balanced mine on the shower taps and as they got hot my poor little scrubee started melting and made the floor of the shower very slippery!

After a couple of uses the coconut shells and ground almonds start coming through and he starts to look more like this:

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A highly recommended product – grab one as soon as you can! I’m so pleased I bought a couple!

Fizzbanger Bath Bomb

A plain looking little guy, but don’t overlook it for this reason! Fizzbanger is another one of my favourites! This bath bomb is apparently known as the Big Friendly Ballistic and is based on the Road Dahl character “BFG”.

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Amazing blue and yellow coloured froth swirls around the bath along with the crackling of the popping candy which can be found inside this brilliant ballistic!

The Fizzbanger contains cinnamon leaf oil, Petitgrain oil, ylang ylang oil and gardenia, but the scent is almost lemony and is very refreshing, so it would be ideal for a morning bath to set you up for the day!

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Fizzbanger is a slow dissolver, beginning with yellow foam with an apple scent, which eventually became mounds of blue foam, resulting in a lovely green shade of bath water (think Slimer from Ghostbuster’s green!)

Once the middle of the bomb is cracked open, you will find a little piece of paper with the word “bang” written on it, which floats to the surface of the bath water. This bomb is a real character and demonstrates some amazing bath art once it gets fizzing!

Think Pink Bath Bomb

A lovely bright hot pink shimmery bath bomb! Apparently this version is the more updated version of the Think Pink bath bomb which only became available earlier in the year. After reading a few blogs of other fellow Lush fans I understand this came as a bit of a shock to them first of all, but after testing the updated version, everyone seemed happy with the tweaks which had been made!

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Think Pink is a fast fizzer and as soon as it hits the water it releases mounds of pink and white foam which soon turns the water a beautiful pink colour. When the core of the bomb is cracked, mounds of silvery lustre are released. This isn’t obvious at first, but more noticeable once the bomb has dissolved and the water has settled.

This lovely bomb contains tonka, vanilla absolute, lavender absolute and neroli oil, so its scent is both sweet and fruity and the lavender scent was very, very subtle in my opinion. Although not the best bath bomb for skin softness I’ve tried, it’s definitely not the worst either.

A beautiful bath display however I was rather disappointed with the scent – I didn’t find it anywhere near strong enough, but to be honest this wouldn’t put me off buying Think Pink again, and think this bomb would be great to give as a gift to friends.

Purple Fun Bar

Fun bars are a squidgy versatile product (like play-dough) which can be used as a bubble bar, shampoo, shower gel, soap and you can even shave with it!

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Fun Bars consists of several different colours and flavours – Blue (lavender scent), Pink (Vanilla and Sweets flavour), Purple (Blackcurrant/Blackberry smell), Green (Lemon and Lime flavour), Red (Mandarin and Orange flavour), Orange (Orange Flavour) and Yellow (Vanilla flavour).

It is recommended that you break a bit off the fun bar to use a bit at a time, and keep the remainder somewhere cool so it doesn’t “melt”. I must admit, I use mine just like a bubble bar – pull off a chunk and crumble it under running water and soon your bath is full of lovely bubbles!

The second Fun Bar I tried was the Purple one (blackcurrant/blackberry), and to be honest I was so disappointed with the pink fun bar I used last time I wasn’t particularly bothered about using this next one, but the purple fun bar smell is much stronger than the pink one, and this time I was happy because I got some pretty coloured bath water out of it too! Definitely won’t bother with the pink one after this – will keep trying all the others to see which I like best.  Although I’m not overly fussed with the fun bar product, they do make nice bubbly baths which leave your skin feeling lovely and soft.

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I hope you enjoyed my second Lush blog – after having a stressful few weeks I’m getting through the products far faster than I thought (especially the relaxing bath bombs!!) so I get the feeling another Lush blog will follow shortly……

FYI – I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this week Lush made an announcement that a load of their products would be discontinued. The items discontinued shockingly included two bath bombs in this blog – the Fizzbanger and Blackberry bath bombs which I am most disappointed about. To make matters worse, another of my favourites which I blogged about in my last Addicted to Lush blog is also being discontinued – this bath bomb is Lava Lamp! The fourth bath bomb I am upset about being discontinued is the Frozen bath bomb, which I am going to blog about as part of my Christmas Lush blog in December. Seriously, grab as many of these amazing products as soon as you can!

For a full list of products which are being discontinued, visit the Lush website.

The good news is that they are replacing these products with a whole new range of “jelly” based products – I have already ordered some and hope to review these within the next month so fingers crossed they have got rid of some of our all time favourites to make way for some even better products….

A Mexican Adventure

Mexico has always been a really popular destination for a lot of my friends, and some of them revisit year after year. I wasn’t particularly bothered about the destination itself but Chichén Itzá has always been near the top of my bucket list!

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We stayed in the Occidental Grand Xcaret hotel in Riviera Maya on an all inclusive basis. We choose this hotel because it’s full of animals and tropical plants in spectacular gardens, and has two Mayan ruins and a cove where you can swim with tropical fish.

Those who know me very well know that I absolutely love lizards and iguanas so I was in my element in Mexico!! Great big huge lizards EVERYWHERE!! Wish I had brought them home!! Hubby and brother in law weren’t so keen though!

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We also had a couple of really lovely parrots living in the hotel!

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Located next to the hotel is the Xcaret eco-archaeological park. The park features river formations, five outdoor pools (three of them fresh-water pools, one adults-only salt water pool and one kids’ pool), a swim-up bar and a private cove with soft white sand and so much more it would take too long to list here! Find out more information here.

Whilst we were here we saw tropical birds, huge marine turtles, jaguars, and manatees. We did the tropical jungle trail and admired the paradise river. There is so much to do here we were kept occupied for the entire day!

In the evening we attended the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular which was an amazing performance depicting Mexico’s rich culture and history from pre-historic times all the way to modern day times through dance and other performances. The show was well worth a watch!

The best part of the holiday was our trip to Chichén Itzá which we booked through Viator.

Chichén Itzá is a world-famous complex of Mayan ruins, a massive pyramid known as El Castillo dominates the six and a half square kilometre ancient city, which thrived from around 600 A.D. to the 1200’s. The city may have had the most diverse population in the Maya world, a factor that could have contributed to the variety of architectural styles at the site. Chichén Itzá is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico; an estimated 1.4 million tourists visit the ruins every year!!

El Castillo (The Kukulkan Pyramid)
Possibly the best known construction on Chichén Itzá is Kukulkan’s Pyramid – a pyramid approximately 75 feet tall. Kukulkan Pyramid was built for astronomical purposes and during the vernal equinox (March 20) and the autumnal equinox (September 21) at about 3pm the sunlight bathes the western balustrade of the pyramid’s main stairway. This causes 7 triangles to form, imitating the body of a serpent roughly 37 yards long that creeps downwards until it joins the huge serpent’s head carved in stone at the bottom of the stairway!

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The Great Ball Court – Archaeologists have identified thirteen ball courts for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame in Chichén Itzá, but the Great Ball Court about 150 metres to the north-west of El Castillo is by far the most impressive. It is the largest and best preserved ball court in ancient Mesoamerica and it measures 168 by 70 metres! A whisper from one end can be heard clearly enough at the other end 500 feet away and through the length and breath of the court as the sound waves are unaffected by wind direction or time of day and also night. Legend says that the winning captain would present his own head to the losing captain, who then decapitates him. While this may seem very strange reward, the Mayans believed that this to be the ultimate honour!

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At the base of the high interior walls are slanted benches with sculpted panels of teams of ball players. In one panel, one of the players has been decapitated; the wound emits streams of blood in the form of wriggling snakes.

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At one end of the Great Ball Court is the North Temple, also known as the Temple of the Bearded Man. This small masonry building has detailed carving on the inner walls, including a center figure that has carving under his chin that resembles facial hair.

Built into the east wall are the Temples of the Jaguar . The Upper Temple of the Jaguar overlooks the ball court and has an entrance guarded by two, large columns carved in the familiar feathered serpent motif. In the entrance to the Lower Temple of the Jaguar, which opens behind the ball court, is another Jaguar throne, similar to the one in the inner temple of El Castillo, except that it is well worn and missing paint or other decoration.

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Tzompantli – The Wall of Skulls
The Tzompantli structure at Chichén Itzá is very interesting structure, where the heads of sacrificial victims were placed. The platform walls of the Tzompantli have beautiful carvings – the skull rack itself, scenes with human sacrifices, eagles eating human hearts and skeletonized warriors with arrows and shields.

Platform of the Eagles and the Jaguars
The elaborately carved platform is located on the central plain between the Temple of Venus and the Platform of Skulls. The pedestals that top the platform are crowned with serpent many heads, over which it is believed that there had been standard bearers in the form of jaguars. The figures of jaguars and eagles devouring hearts are said to represent the warriors who were responsible for obtaining victims to sacrifice for the gods. The “Eagle Knights” were archers who attacked the enemy before all other soldiers fought hand to hand. The aggressive eagles which sculpted on the walls of the platform are the symbol of these elite vip group of archers who stood out on the battlefield because they wore clothing of feathers from the bird for which they were named.
The “Jaguar Knights” were believed to be the army fiercest members, modeled after those found elsewhere in the Central Mexico. They fought hand to hand, with wooden clubs tipped with obsidian knives. They covered themselves with armor made of jaguar skins and also helmets of jaguar heads. The figures of jaguars represented the soldiers who were often charged with obtaining prisoners for sacrifice to the Gods of city.

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Platform of Venus
There are two different structures with this name at Chichén Itzá, the first is located at the Great Plaza and the second one is located near the Grave of the High Priest. In the corner of one of its panels, there is a Serpent Bird Man, which is considered to be the Quetzalcoatl-Kukulkan’s representation as the ‘Morning Star’. The Round Platform, one of the few buildings so shaped in Chichén Itzá, held a small stone-paved area and a container with offerings. The function of these buildings was probably as podiums for rites, ceremonies or dances.

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The Temple of the Warriors is one of the most impressive and important structures at Chichén Itzá. It consists of a large stepped pyramid fronted and flanked by rows of around 200 carved columns depicting warriors. All square columns are carved with Toltec warriors; in some places they are cemented together in sections, painted in brilliant colors and covered with plaster. The Temple of Warriors has a broad stairway with a plain, stepped ramp on either side, and each ramp has figures of standard-bearers to hold flags. On the top there are serpent columns which had S shaped supported wooden lintels (which are now gone) above the doorways. Astronomical signs and decorative features on the head of each serpent are carved over the eyes. On the top of each serpent head is a shallow basin that could have been used as an oil lamp.

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El Caracol, the Observatory, is a unique structure. El Caracol means ‘snail’ in Spanish and is so named due to the spiral staircase inside the tower. It is suggested that the El Caracol was an ancient Mayan observatory building and provided a way for the Mayan people to observe changes in the sky due to the flattened landscape of the Yucatán with no natural markers for this function around Chichén Itzá. The observers could view the sky above the vegetation on the Yucatán Peninsula without any obstruction and Mayan astronomers knew from naked-eye observations that Venus appeared on the western and disappeared on the eastern horizons at different times in the year, and that it took 584 days to complete one cycle. They also knew that five of these Venus cycles equaled eight solar years. Venus would therefore make an appearance at the northerly and southerly extremes at eight-year intervals.

Of 29 possible astronomical events such as eclipses, equinoxes and solstices believed to be of interest to the residents of Chichén Itzá, sight lines for 20 can be found in the structure. 

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The High Priest’s Grave is the name given to this pyramid because it contains an ossuary (which is a communal graveyard) beneath its foundations. The High Priest’s Grave includes a pyramid about 30 feet high with four stairways on each side, with a sanctuary in the center and a gallery in the front. The sides of the stairways are decorated with interlaced feathered serpents.

Between the first two pillars is a square stone-lined vertical shaft in the floor which extends downwards to the base of the pyramid, where it opens up on a natural cavern. The cave is 36 feet deep and when it was excavated, bones from several human burials were identified along with offerings of jade, shell, rock crystal and copper bells.

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After our visit to Chichén Itzá we were lucky enough to visit the Ik Kil cenote. A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. The cenote is open to the sky with the water level about 26 metres below ground level. There is a carved stairway down to a swimming platform and the cenote is about 60 metres across and about 40 metres deep. There are vines which reach from the opening all the way down to the water along with beautiful small waterfalls and there are also black catfish which swim in the cenote.

Hubby was very brave and jumped into the sinkhole but seeing as I am not a good swimmer I thought it best I just stood back and took photos! A very beautiful and calming place despite the huge amount of tourists passing through!

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I’m so pleased I got to go to Mexico and see Chichén Itzá! A really lovely location and great hotel! The only downside to our visit was the scores of mosquitos we encountered! Even the locals and the lovely people working at the hotel said they had never known there be so many at that time of year and the sprays and creams were just not keeping them away! It was frustrating at the time but looking back at all these amazing memories and adventures I think it was well worth being bitten for a few days!

Winky Lux Lip Balms

A few months ago I came across these amazing lip balms on Instagram and I knew as soon as I saw them that I had to have them in every colour!

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Check out these Flower Balm Jelly Lip Stains by Winky Lux!

This balm stain applies on clear then reacts with your skin’s pH levels, uniquely creating the perfect shade of pink lips!

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Each Flower Balm contains a real chrysanthemum in the colour of your choice. Plus these amazing balms are coconut scented!

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So far I have found the balms with Green, Yellow and Pink flowers, but there are also Blue and Purple versions available. I’ve bought several for friends for their Birthday’s and they absolutely loved them!

You can order your Winky Lux Flower balms from Beauty Bay (£13.00 each) or I recently came across this set from ASOS where you get the Pink, Yellow and Green balms for £25.00 with a lovely free gold makeup bag – this set sells out very quickly because you save 35% on the total cost of the three balms so grab it while you can!

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Our anniversary in Prague

I’ve been meaning to visit Prague for ages now, everyone I’ve spoken to who has visited says it is a beautiful place with lots to see. I originally toyed with the idea of visiting during December for the Christmas markets but as we are moving home in the next few months we settled on a long weekend away for our eight year wedding anniversary instead.

I’m so glad we made this decision – the weather was beautiful during our visit and we stayed in the Prague 1 area which meant every place I wanted to visit was within walking distance.

Some of the lovely places we visited during our visit included –

Prague Castle

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Prague Castle is a castle complex dating from the 9th century. It is the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room inside it.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, occupying an area of almost 70,000 square metres. The castle is among the most visited tourist attractions in Prague attracting over 1.8 million visitors annually.

The history of the castle began in 870 when its first walled building, the Church of the Virgin Mary, was built. The Basilica of Saint George and the Basilica of St. Vitus were founded under the reign of Vratislaus I, Duke of Bohemia and his son St. Wenceslas in the first half of the 10th century.

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The view from Prague Castle

During the Hussite Wars and the following decades, the castle was not inhabited. In 1485, King Ladislaus II Jagello began to rebuild the castle. The massive Vladislav Hall (built by Benedikt Rejt) was added to the Royal Palace and new defence towers were also built on the north side of the castle.

The last major rebuilding of the castle was carried out by Empress Maria Theresa in the second half of the 18th century. Following his abdication in 1848, and the succession of his nephew, Franz Joseph, to the throne, the former emperor, Ferdinand I, made Prague Castle his home.

The Black Tower

The Black Tower is one of the oldest existing buildings in Prague. It was built in 1135 as an eastern gate of the Romanesque fortification of the Prague Castle. You can still see the former gateway there in the ground floor, it is walled up now.

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The Black Tower belongs to the area of the Supreme Burgrave’s House at Prague Castle. Its name “Black” originates from the time of the big fire of the Prague Castle in 1541 – its walls remained black for a long time. The tower had also been called “Golden” in the era of Emperor Charles IV in the 14 th century as its roof was covered with gilded plates of lead.

The Black Tower was mainly used as a prison, as well as most of the towers at Prague Castle and many inscriptions written by prisoners can still be seen on the walls of the tower.

The Black Tower looks almost the same as it did after some modifications in 1538. The depository of the archaeological discoveries of the Prague Castle is kept here.

St Vitus Cathedral

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert is a Roman Catholic metropolitan cathedral and is the seat of the Archbishop of Prague. Until 1997, the cathedral was dedicated only to Saint Vitus, and is still commonly named only as St. Vitus Cathedral.

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This cathedral is an excellent example of Gothic architecture and is the largest and most important church in the country.  The cathedral is located within Prague Castle and contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors. 

Construction of the Gothic Cathedral began on 21 November 1344 and King John of Bohemia laid the foundation stone for the new building. The patrons the Archbishop Arnost of Pardubice, and Charles IV, King of Bohemia and a soon-to-be Holy Roman Emperor, intended the new cathedral to be a coronation church, family crypt, treasury for the most precious relics of the kingdom, and the last resting place of patron saint Wenceslaus.

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The entire building process came to a halt with the beginning of Hussite War in the first half of 15th century. The war brought an end to the workshop that had operated steadily for almost a century, and the furnishings of the cathedral, including dozens of pictures and sculptures, suffered heavily as a result. As if this was not enough, a great fire in 1541 substantially damaged the cathedral.

Golden Lane

Golden Lane is a street situated within the grounds of Prague Castle. Originally built in the 16th century, to house Rudolf II’s castle guards, it takes its name from the goldsmiths that lived there in the 17th century. 

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Golden Lane consists of small houses, painted in bright colours in the 1950s. The street originally had houses on both sides, but one side was demolished in the 19th century. A fee must be paid to enter Golden Lane, and many of the houses are now souvenir shops. There is also a museum of medieval armoury which runs along the top of the small houses and is really fascinating so is well worth a visit.

House number 22 used to belong to the sister of writer Franz Kafka, who used this house to write between 1916 and 1917. Jaroslav Seifert, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1984, lived there in 1929.

Dalibor Tower

Golden Lane is connected with Dalibor Tower, which used to be a dungeon. Dalibor Tower is also well worth a look!

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The community of prisoners condemned to live in Dalibor Tower varied greatly over the centuries. Apart from wrongdoers from the nobility, there were also burghers, craftsmen and serfs from the countryside who were serving sentences here. From the beginning, the burghers of Hradcany served as guards in performance as part of their duties subjects. They were not relieved of this task until King Ferdinand II issued a mandate on 22 September 1628, commanding the Royal Chamber “to have the offenders at the Dalibor Tower guarded by an artilleryman or craftsman serving at Prague Castle, should the need arise”.

The first and perhaps the most important prisoner at Dalibor Tower was the knight Dalibor z Kozojed. Dalibor was imprisoned in 1496 shortly after the tower was built, not only because he had backed the rebels against Adam Ploskovsky z Drahonie, the merciless feudal lord of Litomerice, but also because he had illegally confiscated the property for himself. After two years of bread and water he was sentenced to “the forfeiture of his chattels, his honour and his head”, and on 13th March 1498 he was executed on the courtyard of the Lord High Burgrave. Only much later did the romantic legend of Dalibor and his fiddle arise…

Out of boredom, so it goes, Dalibor learnt to play the violin so masterfully in prison that people came far and wide and listened, enraptured, to his soul-stirring playing. It is in the chronicle of Jan Frantisek Beckovsky of 1700 that you first come across the Czech maxim “necessity taught Dalibor how to fiddle”. The reality of Dalibor’s musical talent was, however, quite different: the “fiddle” was a nickname for an instrument of torture, a sort of rack on which the convicted man was stretched until “out of necessity” (under pressure, in suffering), the victim began to “fiddle” (change his tune, confess). A considerably altered version of the story of Dalibor appears in Josef Wenizig’s libretto for Bedrich Smetana’s Dalibor. The opera premiered in the Provisional Theatre on 16th May 1868, the day the foundation stone of the National Theatre was ceremoniously laid.

Frantisek Tengnagel z Kampu, Chancellor, Privy Councillor of Arehduke Leopold of Passau, and an intriguer at the court of Rudolf II, was condemned to an especially harsh imprisonment for his political plotting and in particular for his part in planning the Passauer invasion of Bohemia. After repeated torture he was eventually released and banished from the country.

Count Frantisek Antonin Spork, a liberal nobleman, patron of the arts and sciences, and builder of Kuks, was imprisoned in the Dalibor Tower in the winter of 1720 because of disputes over an inheritance. To spite his opponents, he had the cell in which he spent almost three months decorated with numerous maxims and religious thoughts. They were then printed and disseminated throughout Prague. After serious illness Count Spork was released. To commemorate his confinement in Dalibor he founded a charity for burghers of Prague who had been condemned to prison for not paying their debts.

The noblewoman Marie Katerina Zahradkova z Eulenfels – one of the few women residents of Dalibor Tower was imprisoned here in February 1732 as an accomplice to the murder of her husband. The great age difference between her and him, as well as his violent nature, led the young Marie Katerina to contrive an attack by robbers, in which her husband was killed. After four years imprisonment in Dalibor she was taken, half mad, to the prison in the New Town Hall, where she spent another 20 years. A contemporary, the knight Jenik z Bratric, mentioned in his memoirs how this unfortunate woman often cried out at passers-by from the window of her cell on the ground floor, desperately rattling the bars from her window “acting mad in every respect”.

The last prisoner left the Dalibor Tower after the introduction of the new judicial system in 1781. With this Josephinian reform the old provincial court and the court of the burgrave were abolished, and with them the towers at Prague Castle ceased to be used as jails.

Lennon Wall

The Lennon Wall or John Lennon Wall was once a normal wall, but since the 1980s has been filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and pieces of lyrics from Beatles’ songs.

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In 1988, the wall was a source of irritation for the communist regime of Gustáv Husák. Young Czechs would write grievances on the wall and this led to a clash between hundreds of students and security police on the nearby Charles Bridge. The movement these students followed was described ironically as “Lennonism”!

The wall continuously undergoes change and the original portrait of Lennon is long lost under layers of new paint. Even when the wall was repainted by some authorities, on the second day it was again full of poems and flowers. Today, the wall represents a symbol of global ideals such as love and peace.

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Love Locks

Love padlocks (also known as Love Locks) are a custom by which padlocks are attached to a fence, gate, bridge or similar public fixture by sweethearts to symbolise their everlasting love. If you walk along the Lesser Town, very close to the Lennon Wall,  you will see small locks on the gates over the canal.

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Legend has it that when you find your true love you carve your names on a lock and lock it onto the gate and then throw the key in to the canal – so we did! On our 8th wedding anniversary too which was very apt!

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Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge is an historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river. Its construction started in 1357 under King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century.

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The bridge replaced the old Judith Bridge built 1158–1172 that had been badly damaged by a flood in 1342. This new bridge was originally called the Stone Bridge or the Prague Bridge but has been the “Charles Bridge” since 1870. As the only means of crossing the river Vltava until 1841, the Charles Bridge was the most important connection between Prague Castle and the city’s Old Town and adjacent areas. This “solid-land” connection made Prague important as a trade route between Eastern and Western Europe.

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The bridge is 621 metres long and nearly 10 metres wide. It is protected by three bridge towers, two of them on the Lesser Quarter side and the third one on the Old Town side. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues originally erected in around 1700 but all now replaced by replicas.

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The Old Town Bridge Tower

Old Town Bridge Tower is a gothic monument located at the Old Town end of the Charles Bridge.

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It was built in the late 14th century, during the rule of the Emperor Charles IV. It was designed by the architect Petr Parléř and is one of the most astonishing gothic-style buildings I’ve seen.

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Clementinum

The Clementinum is a historic complex of buildings which originally hosted the National, University and Technical libraries. The Technical library and the Municipal library moved to the Prague National Technical Library in 2009 and it is currently in use as the National Library of the Czech Republic.

The Baroque library hall inside Clementinum is known for its interior, including the ceiling artwork by Jan Hiebl, and has been described as the most beautiful library in the world. I was absolutely devastated when we arrived here because it is currently closed for restoration and isn’t open to the general public…. it was right at the top of my list of things to see in Prague too….Google the images of it and you will see why!

Powder Tower

The Powder Tower or Powder Gate is a Gothic tower which is one of the original city gates. It separates the Old Town from the New Town.

The Powder Tower is one of the original 13 city gates in Old Town and construction began in 1475. The tower was intended to be an attractive entrance into the city, instead of a defensive tower. The foundation stone was placed by Vladislav II and the city council gave Vladislav II the tower as a coronation gift. 

The gate was used to store gunpowder in the 17th century, hence the name Powder Tower or Powder Gate. The gate suffered considerable damage during the Battle of Prague and the sculptures on the tower were replaced in 1876.

Church of our Lady Before Týn

The Church of Mother of God before Týn, often translated as Church of Our Lady before Týn, is a gothic church and a dominant feature of Old Town. It has been the main church of this part of the city since the 14th century. The church’s towers are 80 metres high and topped by four small spires.

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By the beginning of the 15th century, construction was almost complete; only the towers, the gable and roof were missing. The roof was completed in the 1450s, while the gable and northern tower were completed shortly thereafter during the reign of George of Poděbrady (1453–1471). His sculpture was placed on the gable, below a huge golden chalice, the symbol of the Hussites. The southern tower, however, was not completed until 1511, under architect Matěj Rejsek.

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After the lost Battle of White Mountain (1620) began the era of harsh recatholicisation.  Consequently, the sculptures of George of Poděbrady and the chalice were removed in 1626 and replaced by a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, with a giant halo made as a result of melting down the chalice.

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Old Town Square

Old Town Square is a historic square in the Old Town quarter. It is located between Wenceslas Square and the Charles Bridge.

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The square features various architectural styles including the Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn, and a medieval astronomical clock located on the Old Town Hall.

The Baroque St. Nicholas Church is another church located in the square, while the tower of the Old Town Hall offers a panoramic view of Old Town. An art museum of the Czech National Gallery is located in Kinský Palace.

At Christmas and Easter, markets are held on the square which resemble medieval markets. The Christmas Markets on the Old Town Square are the largest Christmas markets in the Czech Republic and are visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors from the Czech Republic and abroad. In 2016, CNN rated Prague’s Christmas Markets among the world’s best!

Town Hall

When I came home and started reading about the Town Hall, I wished I had taken more pictures of it as I couldn’t believe how much history it had! You can read more about Old Town Hall here.

Astronomical Clock

The Prague astronomical clock, or Prague orloj, is a medieval astronomical clock first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still operating.

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The Orloj is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town Hall in the Old Town Square. The clock mechanism itself has three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; “The Walk of the Apostles”, a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures—notably a figure of Death (represented by a skeleton) striking the time; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months. 

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The astronomical dial has a background that represents the standing Earth and sky, and surrounding it operate four main moving components: the zodiacal ring, an outer rotating ring, an icon representing the Sun, and an icon representing the Moon.

The background represents the Earth and the local view of the sky. The blue circle directly in the centre represents the Earth, and the upper blue is the portion of the sky which is above the horizon. The red and black areas indicate portions of the sky below the horizon. During the daytime, the Sun sits over the blue part of the background and at night it sits over the black. During dawn or dusk, the mechanical sun is positioned over the red part of the background.

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Written on the eastern part of the horizon is aurora (dawn in Latin) and ortus (rising). On the western part is occasus (sunset), and crepusculum (twilight).

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Golden Roman numerals at the outer edge of blue circle are the timescale of a normal 24-hour day and indicate time in local Prague time, or Central European Time. Curved golden lines dividing the blue part of dial into twelve parts are marks for unequal “hours”. These hours are defined as 1/12 of the time between sunrise and sunset, and vary as the days grow longer or shorter during the year.

Inside the large black outer circle lies another movable circle marked with the signs of the zodiac which indicates the location of the Sun on the ecliptic.

The Orloj suffered heavy damage on May 7 and especially May 8, 1945, during the Prague Uprising, when the Germans fired on the south-west side of the Old Town Square from several armoured vehicles in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy one of the centres of the uprising. The hall and nearby buildings burned along with the wooden sculptures on the clock and the calendar dial face. After significant effort, the machinery was repaired, the wooden Apostles restored by Vojtěch Sucharda, and the Orloj started working again in 1948.

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As you can see the building is still undergoing extensive ongoing restoration work.

Wenceslas Square

Wenceslas Square is one of the main city squares and the centre of the business and cultural communities. Many historical events occurred there, and it is a traditional setting for demonstrations, celebrations, and other public gatherings. The square is named after Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia. 

Formerly known as Koňský trh (the Horse Market), for its periodic accommodation of horse markets during the Middle Ages, it was renamed Svatováclavské náměstí (Saint Wenceslas square) in 1848.

Wenceslas Square is lined by hotels, offices, shops and fast-food joints. Wenceslas Square is also a popular location for stag and hen parties.

Food and Drink

I’m afraid for our anniversary meal we visited Hard Rock cafe – not very authentic I know but I love their twisted mac and cheese!! Plus we’ve made it a bit of a tradition to visit Hard Rock cafes all over the world – so far we have visited New York, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Miami, Marbella and Barcelona Hard Rock cafes!

Whilst exploring I was delighted to learn that fried cheese seems to be a bit of a speciality in Prague! I took full advantage of this tradition of course!

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You also must try the goulash if you get the chance – hubby had some for his dinner which I managed to dip a few of my chips in and it was delicious!

Before we even arrived in Prague I knew I had to try a Vetrnik! This picture does not do it justice – it was absolutely HUGE! Three attempts and I still couldn’t finish it, but it was worth feeling sick for hours afterwards!

A Vetrnik is choux pastry with vanilla cream and caramel cream inside, topped with thick caramel flavoured fondant….

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Although these are spotted all over the world nowadays, I finally got the chance to try a Churro cone! An ice-cream shaped cone made from delicious sugar sprinkled fried dough pastry with a dollop of yummy ice-cream on top – need I say more??

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The drink Prague is most famous for of course is beer, and there’s certainly no shortage of places to go to partake! For those who prefer a sweeter taste than that of normal lager, try the Czech dark beer. Other beer brands you will find in the local pubs and bars include Pilsner Urquell, Krusovice, Bernard, Staropramen, Budweiser Budvar and Velvet.

If spirits are more your thing, try the Becherovka, a herbal liquor made out of several secret plants which is said to be good for digestion and to have medicinal properties. Becherovka is also used in some cocktails.

Fernet is another herbal beverage which comes in different variants, Stock (bitter), Citrus (lemon) and is best served  cold or with ice.

Also give Slivovice a try – an alcoholic beverage made from plums, but you can also find different flavours of this drink such as pear and apricot.

Prague is a beautiful city full of amazing history, beautiful architecture, and delicious food and drink – this years wedding anniversary will certainly be one to remember!