There and Back Again

Well, I’m finally back from my first solo trip overseas and, rather miraculously, I’m back in one piece and no major dramas! No lost passports, cards or luggage. I did get lost many times, particularly from train stations where my bearings were consistently wrong and stubbornly, I would only ask for directions once I realised that the place was taking much longer to get to than stated. I later learned that if I was certain that I was going the right way, it probably meant I should be heading in the opposite direction!

Over three and a half weeks, I travelled to Seoul, Vienna, Bratislava, Cesky Krumlov, Prague, Teplice, Auschwitz, Krakow, Tatra Mountains in Slovakia, Budapest and finally London. I loved all the places I visited but I especially loved Cesky Krumlov, an UNESCO listed town with most of their original buildings and castle preserved from Medieval times.

Cesky Krumlov

Everything was just so picturesque including its state forest where I went for a three hour (mostly downhill) bike ride – the first time I’ve been on a bike for nearly seven years! Somehow, I made it (except for three strenuous hills) and I only crashed once and it was into a fence five minutes away from our finishing point. It was either crashing into an old man hobbling along or the fence. I think I made the right decision. πŸ™‚ In Cesky, I also picked up two books from a charming little bookstore named Shakespeare & Co. (is this a chain?).

Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore in Cesky

Since my pack was so small (50 litres) and I wanted to travel light, I had made the decision to only buy books that were unique to that particular region. From the bookstore, I selected two books about the Czech Republic – one specifically on Prague and the other containing folklores from regions all over the Republic. Sadly, I only managed to find these sort of folklore books in Cesky Krumlov and so didn’t pick up anymore books until London.

In Vienna, I stopped by their National Library and famous State Hall. The baroque style hall was beautiful but it did somewhat empty of character and I was a little disappointed. Perhaps it was because the library was in the middle of being digitised which is fantastic but, nevetheless, the library was still stunning.

The State Hall - Outside

The State Hall with the bored security guard

Two level of shelves. The frecoes (?) on the roof were also stunning.

There were secret doors hidden amongst the shelves. πŸ™‚

The stunning upper level. I love how the light just hits the statue.

The beautiful roof frescoes. I could have just laid on the ground to stare at them.

While I managed to pop into various bookstores (Budapest was absolutely peppered with great little bookstores), I didn’t do anything else too bookish. However, I did manage get my first snow experience! That’s right, I’d never seen snow until I went to the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. Not a bad place to experience your first snow. πŸ™‚ The mountains were absolutely stunning and the place was pretty much deserted since it was in between seasons.

Tatra Mountains - The frozen lake

Tatras - that odd thing sticking out is the old ski jump

And, of course, my first snowman πŸ™‚

Another highlight from my travels would have to be meeting other bloggers in London. πŸ™‚ I met the lovely Claire (Paperback Reader), Kim (Reading Matters), Polly (Novel Insights) and Sakura (Chasing Bawa. Also, thanks for the Pocky! They were a great sustenance during those long queues :-)) a few hours after reaching London at Waterstones cafe and, although I was a little tired and sleepy, they provided me with such a warm and friendly welcome and weren’t short of suggestions or handy tips! πŸ™‚ Unfortunately, I forgot to take some pictures. The next day, I met Another Cookie Crumbles, who took time out from her busy schedule, and we had more scones and tea at Harrods and sat talking until we were asked to leave since Harrods had closed half an hour earlier!

In total, I spent nearly five days in London and it was nowhere near enough. The days just flew by incredibly fast and I didn’t manage to do half of what I wanted. I’m suspecting I may have dallied away the time in the many bookstores I disappeared into. I loved Charing Cross and found great little second hand bookstores including one that stocked second hand Persephones. Persephones! I also spent a couple of days tracking down the bookstore. My silly map (although to be fair, it was a bus map) didn’t have Persephone’s street on it and I didn’t write down directions. When I finally found it the next day, I was elated!

At last! Persephones!

I went a little crazy in the store and would have bought far more books if I had more room or the muscles to carry them. I was more than thrilled to find that they had a special on if you bought three books. I also bought some of their lovely postcards and a bag. Ah, if only there were more stores and books like Persephones (especially in Melbourne :-)).

So: my final holiday book loot. I did have to buy an extra bag in the end but nothing terribly extravagant.

Holiday Book Loot

  • The Adulterous Woman – Albert Camus (this was waiting for me at home).
  • Odour of Chrysanthemums – D. H. Lawrence
  • Through the Wall – Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (I’ve been wanting to read this since Novel Insight’s review)
  • The Tooth – Shirley Jackson
  • The Feminine MystiqueΒ  – Betty Friedan (this was also waiting at home).
  • Sweet Valley Confidential – Francine Pascal. Yes, I know but I couldn’t help it (I’m looking at you, Another Cookie! πŸ™‚ ). It’s also a gift for a friend.
  • Two Prague Stories – Rainer Maria Rilke
  • 22 Czech Legends – Alena Jezkova
  • Frost in May – Antonia White
  • Farewell Leicester Square – Betty Miller. A lovely gift from Another Cookie Crumbles.
  • The Carlyles at Home – Thea Holme
  • There Were No Windows – Norah Hoult
  • Miss Buncle’s Book – D. E. Stevenson
  • The Blank Wall – Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
  • Miss Ranskill Comes Home – Barbara Euphan Todd

Bookmarks

I also got two bookmarks. Quite restrained, in my case. One from Prague and another gifted from the lovely Claire. πŸ™‚

Ah, Persephone

And finally, the Persephone bag which I love. I think I had the whole Persephone experience. πŸ™‚

Finally, I managed to only read two books: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson which I absolutely loved although it was quite disturbing and What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt. I still have a mixed reaction to that. And now, what should I read next? I obviously don’t have enough books.

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38 comments

  1. What an exciting trip and it was lovely to meet you Mae! Cesky Krumlov looks enchanting. I’ve only been to Prague which was like a little jewel too. And I’m glad you got to do some book shopping:)

  2. Great post, I really enjoyed reading about all the places you went to! So pleased that you enjoyed your trip to London and that it was sunny for you. Also, how amazing to have your first snow experience, and somewhere so pretty. Your book stash is fab and I hope that you like Petrushevsya (and that I haven’t built it up too much!!). It was really lovely to meet you and I had a splendid day πŸ™‚

    1. Yes, I think the sunny weather really made my trip to London that much more better. People are quite jealous although I don’t think I’ve experienced the ‘real’ London yet since it wasn’t dreary or rainy!

  3. Welcome back! Your trip looks fab! Isn’t the first snow experience fantastic? For me it was at the Grand Canyon.

    Loved your photos. Thanks for sharing them.

    1. Thanks Marg! Snow at the Grand Canyon?! I didn’t even know it snowed there! Look at us aussies – going to exotic places to experience our first snow. πŸ™‚

  4. Ah, you are back … do you have the travel bug now? Anyhow, sounds like you had some fantastic experiences. Great summary and love the photos. Isn’t it nice to meet people who share interests? Such a treat.

    I look forward to your reviews of the books you read while away.

    1. I think I do, Sue, alas I think I do. I’m already planning another holiday in my head. It’s quite nice and pretty amazing to think how blogging has changed the way we can meet people.

        1. Either the U.S. with a friend (New York, San Fran), but I think I really want to go back to Austria and go to Salzburg then Germany, or Mongolia/Tibet/Nepal. I flew over central Asia and it was so beautiful. It’s in the middle of nowhere but it’s gorgeous.

  5. Glad you had a safe journey back! Was really nice to meet you!

    Can’t believe you actually bought Sweet Valley Confidential – in a twisted sense, looking forward to your thoughts on it!!

    Looks like an amazing haul otherwise – looking forward to your thoughts on them in due course. Good luck figuring out where to start.

    1. I know, I can’t believe I bought it either! I was so embarrassed taking it to the cashier (and I was also buying some tacky Royal Wedding souvenirs too!). But it *is* a gift for a friend. We were crazy about Sweet Valley as kids. I’ll need to borrow it after her!

  6. Yay!! Sounds as if you had a wonderful time. I crashed on my bike when I tried to ride it again after 20 years of not riding one. Don’t feel bad. I’m sure the fence forgave you.

    Ah! Persephone! It’s like heaven without the clouds.

    1. Thanks Ti! Wow, 20 years *is* a long time! I’m so amazed at how one can never forget how to bike ride. I wonder why. I was still a little wobbly though but thrilled that I could still ride with no problem.

      Persephone’s are the best, aren’t they? A girl followed me on my search when she saw how determined I was to track down this little bookstore!

  7. Did you go to the Lamb’s Conduit location of Persephone?
    I like your selections.

    When I was in London during April, it was unusually warm and sunny, so I left my umbrella at my friend’s home.

    I like your pictures. Very nice.

    1. Yep, I went to Lamb’s Conduit. Isn’t that the only store? I do like the unusual name though.

      I turned up in London with a heavy coat and jumper on the first day, expecting some sort of coolness in the weather. Alas, it was quite hot and I was left sweating because my room wasn’t read yet! But, I’m not one to complain. πŸ™‚

        1. That is sad but I was quite glad, and surprised, to see the Lamb’s Conduit store was quite busy when I visited it mid morning.

  8. It was great to meet you Mae. Love your pics. I must get myself to the Czech Republic again. I went in 1998, just as it was opening up to tourism, so I suspect it’s very different now.

    (Apologies for delayed comment on this post; I’ve been away and only got back to London late on Weds night.)

    1. No worries, Kim. I hope you had a great break and had a respite from the Royal Wedding madness. The Australian media went nuts.

      It must have been quite an experience when you visited Czech Republic. Where did you go? It’ll be interesting for you to compare the difference and see if any town retained their charm. I was quite disappointed in Prague.

  9. I especially loved your pictures of the frozen lake (Winter being my favorite season bar none), and how wonderfully exciting to see such good blogging friends and the Persephone shop itself!! I’m so happy for you all, and wishing I could have been in the background vicariously enjoying the pleasure of friendship and tea.

    1. Thanks Bellezza. I love winter too but I suppose the Australian winter is quite different from the winters of the Northern Hemisphere. Our winters are a little wimpy in comparison! It was really nice meeting up with such lovely people all the way across the world. πŸ™‚

  10. Ahhhh…sounds like an amazing trip! Lovely photos too. I especially love the pictures of the snowman..too cute. It seems like you did a lot of spontaneous stuff. πŸ˜€

    Shakespeare and Co. – Is this the branch of the one in Paris? I first heard about it when I was at Tara, and it seemed so lovely and quaint! Here is the link: http://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/

    On another unrelated note, I disappeared off FB again (too much stupidity on the newsfeeds to take in), but I remember one of us owes the other an email..I think! Anyways, catch up with you soon! xx

    1. Thanks Kavi. I wondered about Shakespeare and Co. I know about the one in Paris since that’s quite infamous but I’m not sure if it’s a chain.

      Completely understand about FB. I’m not on it much anymore but I did post up heaps of pictures from my trip if you’re interested. I’ll probably take them down in about half a year since I’m a little paranoid about FB’s security! And i think I’m the one that owes you the email!! πŸ™‚ Will rectify that really soon!

  11. Glad to hear you had such a wonderful and safe trip! Now you’ve probably seen more of Europe than I have πŸ˜‰

    Your books look fantastic, looking at other people’s books makes me nearly as happy as looking at my own πŸ˜€

    1. Thanks Bina. I was, still am, at how big and yet still small the world can be.

      I love looking at books too. There’s something oddly comforting in them. I’m always drawn to them in decorating magazines too.

    1. Thanks Cristina! I’m so glad I decided to do it alone too. Honestly, the place I went to were so beautiful. It would have been extremely difficult to take a bad picture!

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