Christmas prepping in Prague
By Elloise Bennett
Prague is a city of rainbow-colored buildings, charming art deco cafes, winding streets, and soaring spires – it’s not for nothing that this city, with its long and rich history, is known as the “Paris of the North.”
Visiting Prague has been on “To-Do” list seemingly forever. But I wanted to avoid the summer tourist hordes and beat the snow, so I decided November is the perfect Prague time and I could go there to do my shopping and prepping for Christmas.
It was already cold enough to bundle into scarves and gloves, but the city was not too crowded, and I had the added bonus of seeing the twinkly Christmas lights lighting up the famous vistas of the Charles Bridge.
Northern Europe is also famous for its Christmas markets – a great place to do your Christmas shopping in a setting that gets you in the mood for good cheer. Prague’s Christmas market was set up in the Old Town Square, and did not disappoint!
Wandering through the stalls you can check out arts and crafts, beautiful fabrics, locally-made jewelry and wrought-iron decorative items like candlesticks and medieval-looking door knockers.
But best of all, you can also sample the wines that they sell in pretty little gift boxes. Wines that can be heated up for a cold Christmas evening, or honey wines that are a great dessert complement. Roaming between the stalls with a warm cup of the mulled yumminess is the way to shop!
Or stop at another stall and try a Trdelnik: the Czech equivalent of a cinnamon roll. Literally, dough rolled onto a wooden pike and then baked over the fire. These bakers keep the pikes rolling so it’s crispy on the outside, and fluffy inside, and the cinnamon flavor mingles with the woodsy flavor of the smoke.
Shopping beyond the edges of the Old Town Square and the market ranges from throngs of tourist shops that offer the same Bohemian garnets and silver earrings and Bohemian crystal glasses, to Pařížská Street with Prada and Gucci and Louis Vuitton. The Palladium Shopping Center (smartly built into the ruins of a monastery) on Náměstí Republiky (Republic Square) has everything in between!
I found the shopping in Prague fascinating – partly because it’s inexpensive (for Europe!), partly because no world economic crisis was in evidence anywhere, and partly because it makes me very aware of how much has changed in Prague since the days of the Velvet Revolution. Exploring the streets, you definitely cannot help but ponder the fact that Prague has survived wars, Hitler, and Communism. Of course, part of the reason for the brightly painted colors on the walls is to celebrate that survival, but the spires, the Baroque curls, the lovely squares, the luxurious palaces – those are all also testaments to survival.
You see that survival in the new businesses that are flourishing: Shops, cafes, and restaurants – some with a very traditional approach, but others with a modern twist to pull in not only the tourists, but the locals who want to spend and enjoy.
So if you are like me and shopping and museum visits work up an appetite and a desire for a glass of wine, here are two great spots to try:
- For a cozy cup of coffee, luscious chocolate cheesecake, or fantastic homemade pork dumplings, stop at Angels Coffee! Located in the square behind the Tyn Church (walk down the alley to the left of the church if coming from Old Town Square), this welcoming café is a great blend of comfortably cozy, modern art on the walls, and great views of a quiet courtyard that is a nice escape from the crowds. Good for an afternoon pick-me-up, or a nice meal – they have a great wine list and friendly staff that make excellent menu recommendations. They feature local art on the walls, and have deep chairs to sink into and rest weary feet after a shopping or museum day!
- For a chance to wear your fancy new Prague jewelry to lunch or dinner, don’t miss out on a stop at Host Restaurant. Located in a stairwell hidden off one of the streets in the Prague Castel complex, this restaurant is a good example of the old-new Prague. Gleaming black lacquer bar, striped walls that evoke a Baroque-meets-now feel, incredible views of Old Town Prague, and gleaming wine glasses – all complement the sparkle of the owner, Pavlina, and her team. The food… sigh.
The menu at Host has great variety: Czech traditionals like Gulash are there, but I recommend a venture into the other smart new approaches on local favorites. I tried the pork sirloin served with a creamy mushroom sauce over a caramelized port-wine reduction, paired with potatoes mashed with onions and herbs. Let’s just say, you need to have dinner at Host to experience the melt-in-your-mouth pleasure for yourself!
And through it all… happy exploring!
Seeing the lights
Eric and Dianne Schurman of New Annan help Islanders get into the Christmas mood with their unique wrought iron decorative displays.
Eric and Dianne Schurman of New Annan have been putting an extra special shine on Christmas for close to a decade now. And their ever-expanding unique series of pre-lit large-scale wrought iron pieces at Malpeque Fine Iron Products, such as candy canes, skating couples, snowmen and more, have been popping up on lawns, hospital grounds and town halls across Prince Edward Island.
“It’s something we didn’t even expect, but we decided to go with it,” Eric says of their venture into the large-scale wrought iron Christmas decorations.
In fact, when they formed their wrought iron business in 1998 their mindset was purely focused on kitchenware and garden items.
Then about eight years ago the Prince County Hospital Foundation approached them about getting a few things made for the annual Lights for Life program.
The City of Summerside then requested a piece, prompting them to forge ahead in a new production direction.
“We started making them without lights and then people wanted the lights on, so we started making them with that,” Eric says of their Christmas displays, which are now strung with rope lighting.
Their bevy of decorations includes everything from snowflakes, snowmen and stars to angels, gingerbread men, candles, Christmas trees and even a huge lawn spread of Santa and his reindeer.
“Every year we add a piece or two, like this year we added the lollipops and the gingerbread men,” says Dianne.
They now create almost 200 pieces annually.
And every year they donate a piece to the Prince County Hospital’s Lights for Life campaign, which now boasts a huge collection of Malpeque Fine Iron decorations.
Municipalities such as Cornwall and Kensington are plugged into to their festive pieces as well.
“And quite a bit of it goes out of province, too,” Dianne adds.
The lawn at their New Annan shop is festooned with the festive spirit in the month leading up to the big day, causing quite the stir with Christmas light lovers.
“People will drive by just to see them all lit up,” Dianne smiles. “They’re just so pretty at night.”
Inspired interiors: Hooray for Hollywood’s glamorous look for home
Sally Falk Nancrede
There’s plenty of sparkle in tree ornaments this season, from teal to turquoise and glitter. Icicles drip a foot long from trees, gold mesh ribbon dazzles and ornaments are afire with jade and gold sequins. On the home front, dusty teal was one of the fashion colors for fall at the recent High Point Market where numerous companies showcased Hollywood style.
Below is a chair designed by Angelo Sumelis for angelo:Home. The Sutton armchair is retro with tapered wood legs and 1930s moderne Hollywood overtones. And it’s shown in a modern turquoise damask. It’s glam, not glum.
Tempaper offers a jade and gold quatrefoil print that’s right out of Tinseltown. Wallpaper is making a comeback, and Tempaper is a great apartment or college option because it’s removable. Check out the website tempaperdesigns.com to see an array of temporary designs that can jazz white walls.
And in lighting, the new turquoise chandelier from Currey & Company is the piece de resistance. It’s a giant Christmas ornament, sure to bring a smile year round.
Turquoise and jade polished glass beads are strung and applied by hand to form the Hedy chandelier, which is as beautiful as the 1940s movie star (Hedy Lamarr). The shape is classic, the interpretation is wow.
The Hedy chandelier is part of the new part of the new Marjorie Skouras Collection. Skouras is an interior designer from Hollywood. So the collection is a melding of West Coast style: cosmopolitan, sophisticated and casual at the same time.
“This collaboration is born from a love for unusual design and oddities like taxidermy, faux bois and seashells,” says Cecil Adams, creative director for Currey & Company. Skouras represents “an international point of view,” he says, and “the forefront of what’s happening in interior design today.”
IND.I.A. SPA’S BIRTHDAY
Ind.i.a is a company as solid as steel, the kind of steel which proclaims history, passion, difficulties, and progression at the same time. It is made up of a group of companies which all started and began 40 years ago.
Back in 1971, Arch. Bruno Gonzato started the company, Ind.i.a, to produce amphibian means of transport. Ind.i.a, with the initial letters coming from the Italian name Industria Italiana Anfibi, later was changed to Arteferro.
To sponsor this business he first started producing wrought iron scrolls, which is a very common item throughout the Vicenza area.
Within a very short period, Bruno Gonzato realized that his business is much more fascinating that he could have ever imagined, and decided to start investing in this market. Following his instinct, the art and passion of wrought iron was able to transmit.
Ind.i.a has grown through much experience and magnitude to become a group of 22 subsidiaries worldwide, all producing and distributing components, forgings, and finished products of wrought iron and stainless steel through three different name brands: IND.I.A, II Grande Fabbro, and Arteferro Inox.
The expansion has not undermined the love for tradition which marks out this ancient art. To this day Arch. Bruno Gonzato still considers himself a craftsman rather than a major manufacturer, always running his company looking for innovation and design.
He is helped by his wife Stefania, whom is also an architect and designer, as well as his daughter Francesca and sons Matteo, Davide, Dario, and son-in-law Andrea. Through the will of letting second generation grow in managing the industry, it sets a solid base for the future and grants continuity of the company’s philosophy and quality of the brand Ind.i.a.
Eiffel Tower ‘to be turned into green jungle’
The Eiffel Tower could be transformed into a giant green “jungle” covered in 600,000 plants as part of an environmental scheme.
By Peter Allen
In a controversial plan that could change the Paris skyline, £65m pounds could reportedly be spent on making the Eiffel Tower the most “ecologically correct” tourist attraction in the world.
But many have already expressed outrage that the world famous Iron Lady, which attracts 7 million visitors a year, could be altered beyond recognition.
Ginger, an engineering company which specialises in ecological projects, is behind the scheme, estimated to be completed within two years. The firm is adamant that the rebranded tower will become a “green lung” for the whole of Paris.
It would see the 1,063ft tower turn into a flagship of ecotourism, introducing thousands of baskets of plants, as well as a state-of-the-art irrigation system made up of 12 tonnes of rubber tubing.
Ginger estimates that it will give off 84.2 tonnes of CO2 and absorb 87.8 tonnes, making it “carbon positive”.
A spokesman for Ginger said: “The project was confidential but the schedule indicated by Le Figaro is right.” It would see seedlings being grown at nurseries around Paris until June next year, and then hung around the tower on hemp poles attached to the structure until June 2013.
But SETE on Wednesday expressed “incredulity” at the project, with a spokesman saying the first they had heard of it was “in this morning’s Figaro”.
The controversy deepened when Jean-Bernard Bros, Paris’s tourism chief, said he was “not associated in any manner whatsoever to a proposed revegetation of the monument”.
Visitors queuing up to visit the global icon on Wednesday said they were “absolutely astonished” at the plans.
“The whole point of the Eiffel Tower is that it is an engineering masterpiece,” said Anil Singh, who was visiting with his wife and two children from Delhi, India.
“We have come to see the wrought iron – if we wanted to see a hanging garden we would go somewhere else.”
Laurent Martin, who has lived in Paris all his life, added: “It is typical of the ridiculous green schemes which are introduced everywhere nowadays.
“This is an example of a city which is prepared to waste money at a time when nobody can afford it. It is quite scandalous.”
The tower was built in 1889 by Gustave Eiffel, and was originally the entrance arch to that year’s Universal Exposition – a world fair celebrating French engineering.
At first it was criticised as a blot on the landscape. But it was soon revered as a striking piece of modern structural art, and is now the most popular tourist attraction in the world with an entrance fee.
It is by far the most prominent symbol of Paris, and indeed of French culture, featuring in countless films, documentaries, photographs and paintings.
Eiffel originally had a permit to allow his tower to stand for 20 years, but it avoided being demolished after becoming a valuable communication beacon during the First World War.