The next morning we slept in to enjoy the fancy hotel, the beds were incredibly comfy. We had planned to enjoy the morning swimming in the top floor pool with panoramic views of the city below, but alas, guess who never read the small print. As I mentioned yesterday, one of the big draws of the hotel was the fact it was quite reasonably priced had nice spa facilities which we planned to enjoy during our stay. So we put our swimsuits on and headed up to the spa floor, only to find out that the pool and wellness centre can actually only be accessed at an additional charge and only at specific times. This was so disappointing and given we had picked the hotel based on the spa facilities definitely affected our overall view of the hotel. Our options were – wait for 30 minutes and then use the facilities with a small fee, pay for access there and then at a much larger fee or scrap the spa plan completely. Given it was our only reason for picking the hotel we compromised and waited the 30 minutes drinking all of the free cucumber water and herbal teas. We finally gained access only to find a crowded pool area with no free beds, a small pool quite far away from the amazing view out of the floor to ceiling windows and a small cramped steam room (sauna was broken). Given the wait and the additional cost I was pretty disappointed and albeit relaxing, we could have done without this.
Absolutely ravenous by this point, we got changed and headed into town for some much needed food. We had yet to eat anything, due to waiting around and it was already after 1p.m. We made our way straight to the Prague Castle area and after some directional issues found the main street, littered with stalls leading up to it. We stopped at Lobkowicz Palace Café for some much needed food and some of their own local sparkling wine. The day was getting better already. We sat outside under the heaters in the freezing cold taking in some beautiful views of the red city below (much better than those from the fancy pool, might I add). I ordered the famous Czech dish of goulash with dumplings which was lovely and hearty to fill the massive hunger hole in my belly. The only downside of the fab views was that the cold got cold really quickly in the minus one degree temperatures.
After our meal and feeling slightly tipsy we wandered up to the main part of the castle courtyard. We spent a long time looking for the ‘castle’ before realising that it is in fact a castle complex you can wander round rather than one specific castle building. Given that the area doesn’t really have a specific building or anything, I can imagine that doing one of the free guided tours would help to bring the area and the specific buildings etc. alive. Instead, we wandered around following the Lonely Planet guidebook recommendations and instructions on the history etc. The castle complex is the largest ancient castle in the world occupying a massive area of grounds, gardens and buildings of almost 70,000 square metres. The St Vitus Cathedral is free to visit and so we wandered around inside with its gorgeous gothic windows it was impressive. It is located in the central courtyard – where they also had a much quieter Christmas Market. We took the opportunity to have some mulled and honey wines and to try the famous Czech streetfood snack of trdelnik – a sort of warm candle-holder shaped donut in a variety of flavours with loads of sugar and cinnamon. They were delicious and it was lovely to experience a less busy market option in the city. After spending a good while taking in the gardens and surrounding royal buildings which we wandered at leisure we headed back down the hill towards the city just as the sun was setting and it was beginning to snow. We stumbled across St Wenceslas’ Vineyard on the east side of the castle and took the welcome opportunity to escape the snow and freezing cold. How many city castles have their own vineyards after all?
The vineyard has an abundance of local wines and the food looked pretty great too, although I can’t actually comment since we didn’t eat anything. It was a lovely relaxing few hours watching the snow hurl against the window outside while being toasty warm in the lovely vineyard restaurant area. The wines of the area are similar to a lot of neighbouring northern European countries with Riesling being particularly well done. After our two bottles of wine and many glasses of the mulled variety we made our way back to the city for a stop at the main square Christmas market again. Perhaps as a result of the weather, or perhaps due to our intoxication levels, there seemed to be less people and so we enjoyed some more warming honey wine before making our way to dinner.
Based on some extensive research we had chosen Siddharta Café – an Asian restaurant which is based within the Buddha Bar Hotel and based upon that concept. We arrived to a deserted restaurant – first alarm bell, despite our reservation (they must have been thinking we were idiots), and despite some flustering by the hostess were shown to a table. The place is renowned for cocktails and that they do very well. Food on the other hand – was genuinely awful. The concept is Euro-Asian fusion but instead was limp and dissatisfying. A small amuse bouche arrived which was unmemorable but I suppose a nice touch with some stale French loaf bread that was heavy and tasteless. When the bakeries of Prague are so excellent, bread like this is a bit of an offence to humanity. At least the butter assortment added some needed flavour. I ordered the mango prawns to start. Some cold and unappetising prawns arrived served on a bed of cubed mango with a crispy naan that I think might have been trying to be a prawn cracker. It was cold and sour and I didn’t finish it. I then moved onto the duck Thai curry that was the blandest, least spicy Thai curry I have ever eaten with huge chunks of un-rendered, fatty duck plonked on top. Even the vegetables in the curry were hard and not cooked through. Nicola’s food was equally bland and disappointing, and so we quickly requested the bill and ordered an Uber back to the hotel to escape the snow and cold outside. After a problematic day the best thing to do was – get wasted on Espresso Martinis in the very expensive hotel bar. At least the cocktails were good! Life Lesson: Not every day will go exactly to plan, and sometimes the best experiences will be the ones that happen completely by chance. Like those excellent espresso martinis!